THE PSYCHOLOGY
OF GREEK ART
REPUBLIC 10 IN ITS CULTURAL
CONTEXT II
OVERVIEW
• Alternative views to Plato in Rep. 10
• Poets, philosophers, sophists, et al. on art
• Greek art in context
– Art and the viewer
• Art and text in combination to produce effect
• Emotions, politics, erotics of Greek art
– Psychological power
– Art as rhetoric
– Plato’s bugbears…?
PLATONIC AESTHETICS I
• Inseparable from
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Education
Ontology
Epistemology
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
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
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Ontology
Epistemology
Psychology
Ethics & Justice
REPUBLIC 10 (595-603):
On Painting & Poetry
• Ontology
– Painting = mimesis phantasmatos
– Imitation of an appearance
– Couch example and invocation of Forms
• Epistemology
– Painters and poets = ignorant, so, too, their public
– 3 removes from truth
– User/maker/imitator argument
• Psychology
– Painting plays havoc with our senses
– Seductive, erotic, magical language used
– Epithumetikon vs Logistikon
REPUBLIC 10 (603-607):
On Epic Poetry & Tragedy
• Epistemology
– Homer is no general
– No victories recorded
– How reliable a source for war???
• Psychology
– Meter, harmony, music beguiles us
– Seductive, erotic, magical language used (cf. painting)
– Grief: tragedy, etc. panders to ‘irrational’, emotive elements in us
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
Poets destabilise our psychological ‘order’
Justice = Psychological order
 Mimetic poets to be banned (!)
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SOME RESPONSES
Plato assumes depiction = endorsement
• does not allow for critical distance of poet and
audience
• Achilles presented as problematic figure in first 2
lines of Iliad
Plato does not allow for psychological complexity
• demands simple didactic message
• how reasonable is this?
Plato ignores moments in Homer of heroic restraint of
emotion:
• Achilles and Priam again
• Plato very selective in critique
SOME OTHER
ANCIENT VIEWS
Poetry a source of pleasure in and of itself: Homer,
Hesiod
Gorgias the orator and Sophist (c. 480-375 BC)
• intense emotional power of poetry and artworks
not necessarily bad (Encomium of Helen)
• on cleverness of audience (B23)
recognition of artistic fiction
• tragedy involves deceit, cleverness and justice!
• Platonic objections turned on their head!
• Cf. Dissoi Logoi on painting and tragedy
SOME OTHER
ANCIENT VIEWS
Aeschines and Isocrates (orators, active c. 410-350 BC)
provide opposite evidence to Plato
• people do not assimilate tragic emotions in their own
lives
• recognise artistic fictions and emotions
Democritus of Abdera (c. 465-380 BC)
• other people’s sufferings can make us count our
blessings and help
• poet composes very beautifully under inspiration:
enthousiasmos
• Homer has a divine nature & designs a ‘cosmos’ of all
kinds of words
SOME OTHER
PLATONIC VIEWS
• 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
ARISTOTLE
Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic:
Poetics defends art and poetry
Aristotle Contemplating Homer (Rembrandt, c.
Jacques-Louis David,
Oath of the Horatii (1784)
Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
Norman Lindsay (1879-1969)
Francesco de Goya,
3rd of May 1808
Goya, Disasters of War
Some Greek writers on art
• Polyclitus
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Sculptor active c. 450-410 BC
Author of ‘Canon’
A technical treatise
Philosophical overtones?
Empedocles
Hippias
Gorgias
Democritus
Apelles
Euphranor, et al.
– Sources in Pliny
– Vitruvius
Polyclitus, Doryphorus c. 445 BC
Anavysos Kouros, c. 530 BC
• accompanied by inscription
• in hexameter (Homeric) verse
• ‘Stay by the grave of Kroisos
the dead man and pity him whom
once in the forefront of battle
raging Ares destroyed.’
• emotive response required
• Homeric/heroic connotations
• cf. Thersites as opposite
• erotic; cf. Tyrtaeus
New York Kouros;
Cleobis & Biton
Anavysos Kouros, c. 530 BC
Dexileos Monument, c. 390
• Inscription: ‘Dexileos, son of
Lysanias from Thorikos, born
under the archonship of
Teisandros [=414/13 BC] , died
under the archonship of
Euboulides at Corinth as one
of five cavalrymen.’
‘Phrasikleia’, c. 540
& Peplos Kore, c. 525
Inscription: ‘Grave
marker of Phrasikleia.
I will always be called
maiden (Kore), having
obtained that name
instead of marriage.’
Cf. Homeric hymn to
Demeter
Persephone as Kore
Berlin Kore, c. 580
Hegeso Monument, c. 400 BC
Ilissos Monument, c. 360 BC
White-ground lekythos, c. 440
Exekias, Suicide of Ajax, c. 530
Sacrifice of Iphigeneia,
Pompeii, c. 100 BC
•In Aeschylus’
Agamemnon, Iphigeneia
is compared to a painting
‘Strikes her killers with an
arrows of pity from her
eyes’
Cf. Timanthes’ painting
and grades of pity on
characters
Zeus & Ganymede, c. 480
Nike of Paionios, c. 420 BC
Temple of Athena Nike, c. 410
Classical Athens:
Art, Eros & Power
Acropolis, Athens
Theatre of Dionysos
Cf. Pericles: ‘Look on her power and become a
lover of the city.’ (Thucydides)
Myron, Discobolos, (orig.c. 460)
•Lucian (2nd century AD):
Lover of Lies
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•Discussion of statue as
combination of different poses
•Sequence of movements
•Not actual appearance, but
conveys kinetic energy
A form of artistic ‘deceit’?
Roman copy
Apatê?
Cf. Other Media
•Lucian (2nd century AD)
• Lover of Lies
•Discussion of statue as
combination of different poses
•Sequence of movements
•Not actual appearance, but
conveys kinetic energy
A form of artistic ‘deceit’?
Panathenaic amphora, c. 530 BC
Apatê?
Artemision god, Zeus (?), c. 460
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Summary: Art as heightened
representation
Heroising aspects
Erotics & desire; pity & longing: pothos
‘deceptive’ aspects (apatê); a ‘sweet sickness’
Cultivates specific modes of viewing
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A visually persuasive & powerful image
Not just an imitation of an appearance
Gorgianic aesthetics anticipates Aristotle
Cf. Plato’s reaction in Republic 10!
• Culture of artistic fiction and emotional
engagement with art objects
– Anticipates much in Aristotle’s Poetics
ARISTOTLE
Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic:
Poetics defends art and poetry
Aristotle Contemplating Homer (Rembrandt, c.
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IMAGES AND EMOTIONS