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 • 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. 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 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 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 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 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: Plato on Homer and Hesiod Homer: Iliad and Odyssey Hesiod: Theogony & Works and Days Art, Epic & Tragedy in Classical Athens Acropolis, Athens Theatre of Dionysos Cf. Pericles: ‘Look on her power and become a lover of the city.’ (Thucydides) 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 • • • • • Pericles rules 443-29 BC Intellectuals Sophists/philosophers Poets Playwrights: Home of Tragedy and Comedy: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, et al. • Cultural festivals: • Panathenaia, City Dionysia, etc. Athens: Home of Socrates • The self-professed gadfly of Athens • Denounces – – – – Pericles Tragedy Rhetoric Democracy • Championed by Plato • Views presented in Republic and elsewhere Socrates: A problem to his city QuickTime™ and a TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor are needed to see this picture. Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David 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) Saturn (=Kronos) Devouring his Children Goya Rubens 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 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 • 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 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 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’? 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) Specific Platonic Targets? Hector and Andromache, Cf. Iliad 6 Priam and Achilles Iliad 24 Specific Platonic Targets? Sophocles’ Ajax; cf. amphora by Exekias, c. 530 BC 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. 410350) provide opposite evidence to Plato • Democritus - other people’s suffering can make us count our blessings and help SOME RESPONSES Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic: Poetics defends art and poetry Aristotle Contemplating Homer (Rembrandt, c.