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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 Mimesis first mooted: returns in Rep . 10 Rep . 10 critique of mimetic painting & poetry: epic and tragedy Ontological & epistemological grounds

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plato versus the artists

PLATO VERSUS THE ARTISTS

REPUBLIC 10IN CONTEXT

outline
OUTLINE
  • Plato’s aesthetics in Rep. 10 as extension of critiques in Rep. 2 & 3
    • 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
  • Some specific targets? Scenes from Homer
  • Overall political & cultural critique
platonic aesthetics
PLATONIC AESTHETICS
  • 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
platonic aesthetics ii
PLATONIC AESTHETICS II
  • Plato expresses different views on art & poetry elsewhere
    • Phaedrus: Plato admires mania of poet
    • Ion: poetry beautiful and true
      • But poets/rhapsodes irrational and lack knowledge
      • Have no rational control
      • Operate under inspiration = ENTHOUSIASMOS
    • Republic 10: poet = imitator only
      • No inspiration
      • Plato on poetry: Curb Your Enthousiasmos
    • Apology: Socrates invokes Homeric Achilles as his model!
socratic achilles
SOCRATIC ACHILLES?

Achilles?

Socrates?

socratic achilles6
SOCRATIC ACHILLES?

Achilles?

Socrates?

plato s forerunners
PLATO’S FORERUNNERS
  • 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
why does plato banish epic tragic poetry in republic 10
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, politics
    • 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
athens vs persia 480 79
Athens vs Persia 480-79
  • Spearheads triumph over Persia
  • Marathon 490
  • Major invasion 10 years later
  • Salamis 480, Plataea 479
  • Sets up Delian league
athens post 480 bc
Athens, post 480 BC
  • Spearheads triumph over Persia
  • Sets up Delian league
    • Source of tribute and wealth to protect states from Persia
    • Becomes treasury for Athenian empire
athens the school of hellas
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
    • Cultural festivals:
    • Panathenaia, City Dionysia, etc.

Pericles rules 443-29 BC

athens as cultural leader
Athens as Cultural leader

Theatre of Dionysos

Acropolis, Athens

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

athens home of tragedy
Athens: Home of Tragedy

Euripides, c. 480-405

Aeschylus:

525-456 BC

Sophocles, c. 496-405

some greek writers on art
Polyclitus

Sculptor active c. 450-410 BC

Author of ‘Canon’

A technical treatise

Philosophical overtones?

Parrhasius

Empedocles

Hippias

Gorgias

Democritus

Apelles

Euphranor, et al.

Sources in Pliny

Vitruvius

Polyclitus, Doryphorus c. 445 BC

Some Greek writers on art
athens the school of hellas15
Athens: ‘The School of Hellas’
  • Socrates denounces mainstays of Attic civic and cultural life
    • Rhetoric
    • Tragedy
    • Homeric epic
    • Democracy
    • Legal procedures
    • Political leaders like Pericles, et al.
  • Socrates; seen by many many as dangerously pro-Spartan
  • Oligarchic/anti-democratic

Socrates not a fan

aftermath of peloponnesian war 404 3 bc
Aftermath of Peloponnesian War 404/3 BC
  • Athens defeated by Sparta & Allies
  • Loses empire & Long Walls razed
  • 30 tyrants imposed by Sparta
    • Critias, Charmides, et al.
    • Students of Socrates
  • Democracy restored 403
    • Amnesty granted; no political charges allowed
    • Socrates brought to trial on non-political charges
    • Extreme democrats want him punished
socrates a problem to his city
Socrates: A problem to his city

Death of Socrates,

Jacques-Louis David

slide18

PLATO 428-347 BC

  • Related to oligarchs Critias & Charmides
  • Plato writes dialogues 380s-350s
    • after Athens loses war
  • Dialogues: scope for character, narrative, wit, irony
  • Plato: a great philosopher in own right
    • supreme literary artist
    • also said to be a champion wrestler when young …
slide19

PLATO 428-347 BC

His misspent youth?

republic 2 3 plato on homer and hesiod
REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Plato on Homer and Hesiod

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

homeric poetry in schools
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
republic 2 3 critiques of archaic poets
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)
republic 2 3 critiques of archaic poets24
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
republic 2 3 critiques of archaic poets25
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
republic 10 critique of mimetic painting poetry
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: theory of being
    • Epistemology: theory of knowledge
    • Psychology
    • Ethics & Justice: political implications
republic 10 595 603 on painting poetry
REPUBLIC 10 (595-603): On Painting & Poetry
  • 598-599: Ontology
    • Painting = mimesis phantasmatos
    • Imitation of an appearance; on 3rd remove from reality
    • 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
republic 10 603 607 on epic poetry tragedy
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 political structure of the Republic
    • What makes this better than poets’ ‘lies’?
republic 10 605c 607b the greatest charge
REPUBLIC 10 (605c-607b): ‘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)
specific platonic targets
Specific Platonic Targets?

Hector and Andromache,

Cf. Iliad 6

Priam and Achilles

Iliad 24

specific platonic targets32
Specific Platonic Targets?

Priam and Achilles Iliad 24

specific platonic targets33
Specific Platonic Targets?

Sophocles’ Ajax;

cf. amphora by Exekias, c. 530 BC

next week some responses
NEXT WEEK: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
some responses
SOME RESPONSES
  • Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic:
  • Poetics defends art and poetry
some responses36
SOME RESPONSES
  • Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic:
  • Poetics defends art and poetry
  • Aristotle Contemplating Homer (Rembrandt, c. 1650)