On Plato’s Critique of the Arts

Essay by cdicusUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2014

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Catherine Dicus, On Plato's Critique of the Arts, Phil 270, Essay 3

Plato calls for the expulsion of mimetic art in the Republic and the Apology. For example, in the Republic, Plato discredits "any kind of poetry that is imitative" (Book x) and in the Apology, he states, "The poets say many fine things, but know nothing of that of which they speak" (21d). Critiques of Plato's argument suggest that Plato's use of myths and images in his dialogues is problematic. I will argue the opposite: that Plato's use of myths and images in his dialogues are acceptable because 1) his arguments function as the basis for his works and the style functions as decorations to his arguments and 2) Plato meets his own criterion to allow art because his decorations are of the right kind.

Before explaining Plato's argument that imitative poetry is invalid, I must first explain the mimetic theory that Plato bases his findings on and define certain words.

When Plato uses mimesis, he applies the following idea: mimesis is a third step removed from the truth. In addition, Plato's definition of art is simply an artistic object/work that signifies both events and things in nature, such as battles and weddings. [1: Mimesis is a Greek word that means "imitation", but Plato applies a slightly modified meaning to the word.]

I will now explain Plato's argument in detail. Throughout the Republic, Plato's condemnation of poetry is based on two branches of thought: one branch is epistemological, where the mimetic poet generally lacks knowledge, (595c-602b) and one branch is ethical, where poets who do not realize their lack of truthful knowledge, instruct others as if they knew real knowledge (602c-607a). Thus, poetry is created from an agent who lacks knowledge on moral matters. However, such...