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Presentation on theme: "PLATO VERSUS THE ARTISTS"— Presentation transcript:


2 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

3 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

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!

5 SOCRATIC ACHILLES? Achilles? Socrates?

6 SOCRATIC ACHILLES? Achilles? Socrates?

7 PLATO’S FORERUNNERS Xenophanes c. 570-480 BC
Anticipated and contradicted by other Greek thinkers Xenophanes c BC Heraclitus, active, c. 500 BC Protagoras, c BC Antilogica said to contain everything in Plato’s Republic! But Protagoras sees poetry at the heart of education Gorgias, c BC Democritus, c BC Dissoi Logoi - sophistic treatise c. 400 BC Ethics Epistemology Aesthetics PLATO’S FORERUNNERS

8 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

9 Athens vs Persia 480-79 Spearheads triumph over Persia Marathon 490
Major invasion 10 years later Salamis 480, Plataea 479 Sets up Delian league

10 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

11 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 BC

12 Athens as Cultural leader
Acropolis, Athens Cf. Pericles: ‘Look on her power and become a lover of the city.’ (Thucydides) Theatre of Dionysos

13 Athens: Home of Tragedy
Aeschylus: BC Euripides, c Sophocles, c

14 Some Greek writers on art
Polyclitus Sculptor active c 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

15 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

16 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

17 Socrates: A problem to his city
Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David

18 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 …

19 PLATO BC His misspent youth?

20 REPUBLIC 2 & 3: Plato on Homer and Hesiod
Homer: Iliad and Odyssey Hesiod: Theogony & Works and Days

21 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

22 Xenophanes of Colophon, c. 570-480
General skepticism: B34 But still dogmatic himself Critique of conventional religion in art and epic poetry Critic of social conventions Anthropomorphic religion Homer & Hesiod Mythic subject matter (B1) Titanomachies, Centauromachies, etc. Postulates ethically sound sympotic poetry François vase, c. 570

23 Xenophanes: frr. 11,14, 15, 16 B 11: Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything that is a shame and reproach among men: stealing, adultery and deceiving each other. B14: But mortals consider that the gods are born, and that they have clothes and speech and bodies like their own. B15: But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and produce (telein) the works that men do, horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cattle like cattle and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves. B16: The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.

24 Xenophanes’ theology B 23: One god, greatest among gods and men, in no way similar to mortals either in body or shape. B24: All of him sees, all of him thinks, all of him hears. B 25/26: Always he remains in the same place, moving not at all; nor is it fitting for him to go to different places at different times, but without toil he shakes all things by the thought of his mind. Cf. Homer Iliad 1.530 Zeus nods his head and ‘shakes great Olympos’

25 Heraclitus as critic of popular religion
Heraclitus not opposed to religion per se Certain conventional aspects of it People fail to understand nature of divine Dionysos/Hades are one B15 Role of thunderbolt/Zeus in cosmos B64 Homer calls Zeus Terpikeraunos B 32: The one thing which alone is wise wants to be and does not want to be called the name of Zeus. goes beyond Xenophanes But still invokes Zeus Heraclitus by Raphael

26 Heraclitus as critic of Homer, et al.
Trenchant criticisms; competitive intellectual environment B 104: For what is their intelligence or sense? They obey singers and use the mob as teachers, not knowing that many are bad, but few are good. B 42: Homer should be thrown out of the contests and beaten; likewise Archilochos. B 40: Learning many things does not teach intelligence; for it would have taught Hesiod, Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus. B 56: Homer ‘wiser than all the Greeks’ defeated by riddle of the lice. Heraclitus by Raphael

27 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)

28 Saturn (=Kronos) Devouring his Children
Goya Rubens

29 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

30 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

31 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

32 REPUBLIC 10 (595-603): On Painting & Poetry
: Ontology Painting = mimesis phantasmatos Imitation of an appearance; on 3rd remove from reality Couch example and invocation of Forms : 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

33 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’?


35 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)

36 Specific Platonic Targets?
Hector and Andromache, Cf. Iliad 6 Priam and Achilles Iliad 24

37 Specific Platonic Targets?
Priam and Achilles Iliad 24

38 Specific Platonic Targets?
Sophocles’ Ajax; cf. amphora by Exekias, c. 530 BC

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 ) provide opposite evidence to Plato Democritus - other people’s suffering can make us count our blessings and help

40 Poetics defends art and poetry
SOME RESPONSES Aristotle: Plato’s greatest student and greatest critic: Poetics defends art and poetry

41 Poetics defends art and poetry
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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