Plato compares a number of things in this essay

Plato compares a number of things in this essay

But how does this parallel work? Plato occasionally talks as if the soul or some part of it could be imitated by the poet e. Yet we have seen that painting can only reproduce what is external, the appearance of the visible thing. And it does not really seem that even poetry, at least in the case of drama, gives a direct representation of the soul and of its condition, for, as Plato himself says, the imitation is of men who act cf. Thus the imitation of what happens in the soul must take place in an indirect way. There are two, complementary, passages, by Xenophon and Aristotle, in which this view is propounded.

Aristotle has clearly in mind the same situation when he discusses the possibility of imitation of character beyond the domain of music, where in his view this is possible for this doctrine see below, ch. That he has in mind painting and also sculpture as reproducing such signs results from what follows, where he refers to Polygnotos. This mimesis , when applied to persons who act or do something, is always understood as a becoming like someone else.

More generally, it is said of the man of orderly life metrios aner that, when, in narrating, he comes across some saying lexin or acting of a good man, he is willing to announce himself as if he were himself that man hos autos on eikeinos and will not be ashamed of this imitation, especially if it is a matter of imitating the good man when he is acting firmly and wisely, etc.

Plato’s Ethics: An Overview

On the other hand, when he comes to someone who is unworthy of him, he will not seriously make himself like apeikazein heauton his inferior, etc. And this is how it tends to be presented in this same part of Republic III. In b Plato talks of imitations mimemata of actions which are similar to them or their copies aphoiomata , saying it is difficult to perform the actions well when one is good at doing the imitations.

Several of the examples he gives, including that of the imitation of natural noises such as those of thunder, wind, or certain animals cf. Plato himself does not explicitly talk of actions, and adopts a distinction between acting [ prattein ] and imitating [ mimeisthai ], evidently because he does not wish to put them on the same level, but manifestly the imitations are themselves actions, and actions similar to those of which they are the imitations.

This impression is confirmed by the treatment of imitative arts in the Sophist. There they are all treated as productive arts, in that they produce images eidola. It is added I simplify a bit that these images can be produced either by means of instruments or by using oneself i.

Plato - Allegory of the Cave - The Republic - Book VII

In the second case it happens for instance that somebody uses his voice to make it like prosomoion , i. There is the idea that, for instance in dancing, one traces, as it were, figures in the air, so that certain patterns schemata are produced cf. Laws II, c and context, and e , this production thus not being essentially different from the drawing of lines by a painter the same word schema can also be used in this connection.

Painting can serve as a good illustration for all these cases since the most obvious and typical way of producing an image is precisely to produce a picture, especially a portrait.

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Socrates points out that the aim is to make the whole city, and not any particular class, as happy as possible b. Unquestionably they would refer it to that. These objects are projected onto the back wall of the cave for the prisoners to see. Certain colours may be pleasing to the eye because they are particularly brilliant. These imitations do not offer signs which can lead out of the cave. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Socrates had been condemned, but his death was not intended by the initiators of the trial.

This is just what Plato suggests in Republic IV, d. But this is an implication of imitation, not imitation itself, while scholars tend to reduce imitation to emulation and identification. Notice that the imitation concerns the lexis , b2, thus the way of talking and of behaving of a person, i. VI, b-c. It is more plausible to suggest that he gives priority to the second and that he is not completely aware of the fact that the first cannot be wholly assimilated to the second.

His explicit paradigm is that of painting, and any interpretation that is given of his position must take this as the starting-point.

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But, used in connection with painting, the most obvious sense of mimesis , as understood by him, is the traditional one of imitation, with the restrictions that this involves. This conclusion however should not lead us to think that, when he discusses what imitations should be performed by the guardians as part of their paideia , he has in mind the same type of situation which is considered in book X, when submitting to scrutiny the imitations performed by the poets.

The distance between these two treatments becomes more evident through criticism of a different approach that has been adopted by some scholars in recent times. The advantage of adopting this interpretation is that one can admit that his concern with mimesis is the same in book III and in book X of the Republic , i.

But what the painter does serves as a paradigm in the treatment of poetry in Republic X, so that the poet cannot be condemned either for his supposed versatile imitation. It is likely, given the importance that Plato attributes to choral dance in paideia , that he is thinking primarily of what is done in practising it.

For the importance attributed to choral dance cf. Dancing, both because of its connection with music and in itself, is regarded as an imitative practice in the Laws cf. II, d , but this cannot be what is at issue in the question of e, for it must concern what type of dancing should be practised and not whether dancing should be practised at all. For instance dances of war involve the imitation of the movements and gestures of soldiers, such as those of throwing a javelin or of striking an enemy cf. Laws VII, d ff. It is certainly excluded that one imitates an individual who performs a banausic work, thus as belonging to a certain class, but still the question concerns the imitation of an individual.

The reply to this sort of question is that it would be better not to imitate anybody, but if imitation cannot be avoided, this imitation should be restricted to positive models, constituted by people who are brave, moderate, pious, and so forth cf. The passage, thus rendered ad sensum , shows some suspicion towards all such imitation a fact that tends to be overlooked by those who adopt the interpretation I am criticizing. Presumably Plato sees a danger in imitating a hero like Achilles even if he can be taken as a positive hero , because one may assimilate oneself to a character which is not quite congruent with the character one possesses by nature, with as a result an internal contrast, while one should first of all be oneself.

Certainly, by following this line, dance, which is regarded as imitative, would have to be avoided altogether, and this is not the position he wants to adopt. So in the end the argument serves to exclude variety in imitation, by restricting it to good characters, but not without some ambiguity, which leads to the expression of a reservation even about this type of imitation.

The first is that here a distinction is introduced between imitating individuals of good character and imitating individuals of bad character, while this distinction is not relevant to the treatment in book X, where the parallel of poetry with painting is general and not restricted to the imitation of certain objects somehow corresponding to the individuals of bad character. The second is that the question whether the guardians should be imitative is a question concerning what happens to their own souls in performing certain activities if they imitate good characters they will become better people, if they imitate bad characters they will become worse people.

It is true that in book III the poet tends to be discredited for his imitating in an indiscriminate way, but he is discredited in the eyes of other people, while his own spiritual condition is not an issue. The situations envisaged are then profoundly different. I, ch. However, in so far as these activities also involve some skill, one may call them arts in a looser sense of the word.

In this way it becomes possible to give them a collocation inside the system of the arts as a whole. This collocation is not given them by Plato in a direct and explicit way. But, as we have seen above last chapter , a collocation is given to them as a species of the productive arts, in that they also produce something, not a real thing e. Once they are collocated in this way, their collocation in the system of the arts will depend on the collocation of the productive arts as a whole.

There is no space for discussing all the evidence in detail. It may be enough to point out that in Gorgias , ca, he admits a subdivision of all the arts in those which have to do with the body and those which have to do with the soul, with a general subordination of the former to the latter.

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Inside the arts which have to do with the body a hierarchy is prospected according to which medicine is at the vertex, and this must imply an analogous hierarchy in the case of the arts which have to do with the soul, with politics at the vertex as can be inferred from other passages of the dialogue. That politics is at the vertex of the hierarchy of all the arts is in any case suggested with sufficient explicitness in some passages of the Politicus e. A general subordination of all the other arts, which explicitly include those which are productive exemplified by the making of musical instruments like lyres , to those which ensure the competence in the use clearly the use of the products of the former , is asserted in Euthydemus , bd, and there too it is suggested that, among the arts of use, there is a dominating one, which is politics cf.

Thus, by adopting this conception, Plato offers a legitimization of his attitude towards the poets and other artists and towards their products in those works, like the Republic and the Laws , in which the collocation of the former inside the well-governed community is explicitly raised and in which all their activity if they are admitted is supposed to require supervision direct or indirect by the rulers.

Even Aristotle, as we have seen above ch. Plato, in asking the question whether poets and other artists should be admitted to the well-governed city, goes beyond this, for he does not take for granted as Aristotle seems to do that, once education of young people is taken care of, they cannot do great harm, for adults with a proper education will be able to make their choices, avoiding bad influences, while the remaining people cannot be made much worse than they already are and this negative influence may be offset by the fears that are induced in them by the traditional mythology which is expounded by the poets.

According to this classification there are three main types of art, 1 those of use, 2 those of making or producing, 3 those of imitating cf. It can be seen that, on this classification, the imitative arts are not treated as a species besides others of productive arts but as a wholly distinct group.

In any case he has in mind some sort of hierarchy of the arts, for he suggests that the person who possesses an art of use is in a condition to give instructions to the producer of the artefact that he produces, since he has knowledge of how to use that product. Before commenting on this passage, I shall complete this account. It would seem that Plato is making a double assumption, namely that use always requires some art at least in order to be exercised in a satisfactory way and that this art has a directive function as well.

Aristotle, it may be pointed out, did not share the first assumption at least, for he remarks that, for instance, the normal user of a house is its inhabitant and this is not the possessor of some art cf.

Comparing Aristotle and Plato Essay

Politics III 11, a Plato goes on to suggest that the imitator finds himself in a worse condition than the producer, for not only does he not have any direct knowledge of the use of what he has imitated e. He in fact does nothing but imitate what is produced by e. And, as a picture, it will have to be evaluated in a different way.

In other contexts as we shall see in ch. Further, by treating the imitative arts as a sort of play, Plato seems to be admitting that their products do not possess any use or any instrumentality in view of something good.

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Finally, by treating the imitative arts in this way, he does not show that they are subordinate to those arts of use which are also directive, one reason for subordinating them to politics thus being no longer valid. The argument is presented as parallel to the former, since it also leads to the conclusion that imitation is concerned with what is at the third remove from truth cf. There need not be a contradiction between the two, as some interpreters suppose, for the fact that according to the first argument the artisan or producer refers to the idea as his paradigm, while according the second he does not refer to it but follows the instructions of the user, since these instructions concern making the artefact most useful for its purpose, not the shape or constitution the artefact possesses.