“Our rational powers acquaint us with the truth.”
Discuss whether, for Plato, art can also acquaint us with the ideas and the truth.
“There is a long standing tradition, dating back to Plato, of regarding art with suspicion for its power over our emotions, and much of Western aesthetic theorizing has been a response to Plato’s challenge.” (Tanner 68) Plato’s arguments and refusal to accept art as a valuable method of acquainting us with the truth has provided a lasting legacy for the criticism of all art forms today. At first glance Plato appears to hold a totalising view of the arts. He views them generally as futile, a process which not only distracts us from our personal ideas of the forms but is in effect detrimental. These diluted imitations of the forms blur the already minute glimpse of the other reality provided by our reincarnation and our innate capacity to imagine the perfect state of being (see Myth of Er).. Plato appears adamant that the arts are nothing only than a pale imitation of the creator’s concept of the original and perfect form they are attempting to recreate. “The worst fault possible… like a portrait painter whose portraits bear no resemblance to their original.” (132) In this way, each individual component of Plato’s arts can each be categorised in this manner, devoid of true intelligence, and a cheap imitation of an already distant goal. Literature appears at first to contain true and extensive knowledge about the topic it describes, while in fact it is totally superficial. Knowledge is unable to take the form of words. For instance, for Plato a poem often does not contain any three dimensional understanding; a poem cannot answer a question. Plato’s disregard of the arts in the form of stories takes root in the Greek Myths and the Gods which were so prevalent in the classical period. Traditional characters such as Hercules and Zeus are often depicted as violent, vengeful and ultimately fallible. As well as providing...
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Jacquette, Dale. The Nineteenth Century Central Works of Philosophy 3. Ed. John Shand. Acumem 2005. 93- 114.
Jaegar, Werner. Paidaia: the Ideals of Greek Culture Volume II In Search of the Divine Centre. Translated from the German Manuscript by Gilford Highest. New York: Oxford University Press. 210-5.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Ed. Charles b. Schimitl and Quentian Skiner. The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy. Cambridge University Press 1988. 120-134
Sayers, Sean. ‘Art, Morality.’ Plato’s Republic and Introduction. Edinburgh University Press 1999.
Tanner, Michael. The Shorter Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward Craig. Routledge 2005.
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