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PLATO VERSUS THE ARTISTS. REPUBLIC 10 IN CONTEXT . OUTLINE. Plato’s aesthetics in Rep . 10 as extension of critiques in Rep . 2 & 3 Homer, Hesiod criticised on religious, educational grounds Mimesis first mooted: returns in Rep . 10

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PLATO VERSUS THE ARTISTS

REPUBLIC 10IN CONTEXT


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OUTLINE

  • Plato’s aesthetics in Rep. 10 as extension of critiques in Rep. 2 & 3

    • Homer, Hesiod criticised on religious, educational grounds

    • Mimesis first mooted: returns in Rep. 10

  • Rep. 10 critique of mimetic painting & poetry: epic and tragedy

    • Ontological & epistemological grounds

    • Psychological and ethical reasons also

  • Plato’s use of/reaction to earlier thinkers

    • Presocratics, Sophists, et al.


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PLATONIC AESTHETICS I

  • Inseparable from

    • Education

    • Ontology: theories of ‘being’

    • Epistemology: theories of knowledge

    • Psychology

    • Ethics & Justice

    • Politics

  • Issues addressed elsewhere in Republic

    • Plato addresses legacy of poets: Homer, Hesiod, et al.

    • His intellectual precursors

    • Poets seen as teachers of religion, ethics, law


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PLATONIC AESTHETICS II

  • Plato expresses different views on art & poetry elsewhere

    • Phaedrus: Plato admires mania of poet

    • Apology: invokes Achilles as his model!

    • Plato is himself a supreme literary artist (and knows it!)

    • Ion: poetry beautiful and true

      • But poets/rhapsodes irrational

      • Operate under inspiration = ENTHOUSIASMOS

    • Republic 10: poet = imitator only

      • No inspiration

      • Plato on poetry: Curb Your Enthousiasmos


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PLATONIC AESTHETICS III

  • Anticipated and contradicted by other Greek thinkers

    • Xenophanes c. 570-480 BC

    • Heraclitus, active, c. 500 BC

    • Protagoras, c. 490-20 BC

      • Antilogica said to contain everything in Plato’s Republic!

      • But Protagoras sees poetry at the heart of education

    • Gorgias, c. 480-375 BC

    • Democritus, c. 465-380 BC

    • Dissoi Logoi - sophistic treatise c. 400 BC

      • Ethics

      • Epistemology

      • Aesthetics


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Why does Plato banish epic & tragic poetry in Republic 10?

  • Cultural issues to be explored

  • Centrality of poetry in Archaic & Classical Greece

    • Vehicle for social values, mores,

    • History, education, cultural identity

    • But also a lot more…

  • Greece in 400s till largely an oral & visual culture

    • I.e. not ‘bookish’

    • Literacy a public phenomenon = reading aloud

    • Paintings, statues, buildings also shape & reflect public sentiment & ideology


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Homeric poetry in schools

  • Recitation of Iliad & Odyssey

  • Seen as educative

    • Religion, lore, ethics

    • Herodotus, Plato, Xenophon

    • Cf. Aristophanes Frogs

  • But criticised early

    • Xenophanes & Heraclitus

  • Iliad very complex in ethics


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REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Plato on Homer and Hesiod

Homer: Iliad and Odyssey Hesiod: Theogony & Works and Days


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Art, Epic & Tragedy in Classical Athens

Theatre of Dionysos

Acropolis, Athens

Cf. Pericles: ‘Look on her power and become a lover of the city.’ (Thucydides)


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Athens: ‘The School of Hellas’

  • By 450 BC Athens is imperial power

  • ‘ Periclean Golden Age’

    • Funeral Speech

    • Thucydides’ History book 2

  • Athens as cultural centre

    • Intellectuals

    • Sophists/philosophers

    • Poets

    • Playwrights:

    • Home of Tragedy and Comedy: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, et al.

    • Cultural festivals:

    • Panathenaia, City Dionysia, etc.

Pericles rules 443-29 BC


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Athens: Home of Socrates

  • The self-professed gadfly of Athens

  • Denounces

    • Pericles

    • Tragedy

    • Rhetoric

    • Democracy

  • Championed by Plato

  • Views presented in Republic and elsewhere


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Socrates: A problem to his city

Death of Socrates,

Jacques-Louis David


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REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Critiques of Archaic poets

  • Book 2: 377c-383

    • Homer and Hesiod tell salacious stories about the gods:

      • Castration of Ouranos by Kronos

      • Kronos’ cannibalism

    • Questionable theology

    • Poets wrong teachings re gods’ actions and natures

      • Cf. Xenophanes on Homer and Hesiod

  • Stories affect listeners & shape their soul

    • Power of poetry one of its problems for Plato

    • Recurs again in Republic 10

    • Must be censored (even if true! Rep. 378b)


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Saturn (=Kronos) Devouring his Children

Goya

Rubens


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REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Critiques of Archaic poets

  • Book 3: ethical qualms raised

    • Achilles vs Agamemnon: insubordinate, greedy

    • Heroes fear death - bad example for Guardians

  • Possible responses:

    • Allegories of Homeric poetry by Theagenes, et al.

    • Plato/Socrates assumes depiction=endorsement

    • Ignores Nestor’s attempt at reconciliation

    • No aesthetic differentiation

    • Cf. Democritus and Gorgias focus on emotive pleasure of poetry: anticipate Aristotle’s Poetics


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REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Critiques of Archaic poets

  • Mimesis: 395b & ff

    • Poet/rhapsode’s performative art

    • Violates one-person/one job rule of Republic

    • Affects poet and listeners - emotional power again

      • Fall under its spell

      • People become assimilated to characters they see, hear

      • No aesthetic differentiation again

      • But concedes mimesis of good men acceptable: 398b

    • Plato contrasts with diegesis (=prose narrative)

    • No meter, harmonies, hyper-stylised language

    • implications for Rep. 10


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REPUBLIC 10: Critique of Mimetic Painting & Poetry

  • Mimesis now rejected

    • Psychology, epistemology, education

    • Theory of Forms

    • Outlined in books 4-9 of Rep.

  • Painting used as extensive analogy for mimetic poetry

  • Both media subject to Plato’s

    • Ontology

    • Epistemology

    • Psychology

    • Ethics & Justice


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REPUBLIC 10 (595-603): On Painting & Poetry

  • 598-599: Ontology

    • Painting = mimesis phantasmatos

    • Imitation of an appearance

    • Couch example and invocation of Forms

  • 600-601: Epistemology

    • Painters and poets = ignorant, so, too, their public

    • Operate at 3 removes from truth & deceive public: 598c

    • User/maker/imitator argument

  • 602-3: Psychology

    • Painting plays havoc with our senses

    • Seductive, erotic, magical language used

    • Mimetic art as courtesan (hetaira) to our senses

    • Epithumetikon vs Logistikon


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REPUBLIC 10 (603-607): On Epic Poetry & Tragedy

  • Psychology

    • Meter, harmony, music beguiles us

    • Seductive, erotic, magical language used (cf. painting)

    • Grief: tragedy, etc. panders to ‘irrational’ and emotive elements in us

      • Epithumetkon implied

    • This part is opposite to ‘what is best in us’

      • Logistikon implied

  • But NB the ‘noble lie’ behind the poltical structure of the Republic

    • What makes this better than poets’ ‘lies’?


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REPUBLIC 10 (605c-607): ‘The Greatest Charge’

  • It corrupts the best of us (cf. painting)

  • NB its emotive power

    • pleasure in sympathising with sufferings of others

    • People assimilate Homeric tragic characters’ behaviour to own lives

    • the more you indulge these emotions, the more you encourage them

    • no cleansing katharis here

    • Poets destabilise our psychological ‘order’

    • Justice = Psychological order

    • Mimetic poets to be banned (!)

    • but encomia to good men allowed (607a)


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Specific Platonic Targets?

Hector and Andromache,

Cf. Iliad 6

Priam and Achilles

Iliad 24


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Specific Platonic Targets?

Sophocles’ Ajax;

cf. amphora by Exekias, c. 530 BC


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SOME RESPONSES

  • Plato ignores moments in Homer of heroic restraint of emotion; Achilles and Priam again

  • Gorgias on cleverness of audience (B23)

  • recognition of artistic fiction

  • Cf. Dissoi Logoi on painting and tragedy

  • Aeschines and Isocrates (orators, active c. 410-350) provide opposite evidence to Plato

  • Democritus - other people’s suffering can make us count our blessings and help


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SOME RESPONSES

  • Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic:

  • Poetics defends art and poetry

  • Aristotle Contemplating Homer (Rembrandt, c. 1650)


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