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Plato's The Republic - Essay Example

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Plato's The Republic is a work of philosophy which takes place in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon. And through this Plato seeks to reiterate his views on justice, virtue and the organization of a society which is perfect in every way. In book 10, he propounds what may be the first aesthetic theory pertaining to art and its relationship to truth…
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Platos The Republic
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Plato's The Republic

Download file to see previous pages... At the very onset, Socrates expounds on the evils of imitative art, which is "thrice removed from the truth". He sets out to prove his point by saying that anything with a common name is believed to correspond with the same ides. He elaborates using an example - there are plenty of beds and tables but the idea behind the use of the same belongs to one only. It is the same person who makes "not only vessels of every kind, but plants and animals, himself and all other things" he is the maker. It may be possible for anyone to do the same by holding up a mirror, but that would merely be appearances. Thus in the same way a painter is a mere "creator of appearances". Getting back to the example there are three artisans who make it - one is God, who is and always will be the primary source for every conceivable idea, the carpenter who makes the bed for practical use and finally the painter who merely imitates. Therefore he serves no discernible purpose.
Socrates says the imitator is always far from the truth. He has but a smattering of knowledge which he parades as the truth and simple folks, who know no better, accept it at face value. Poets are usually thought of as veritable founts of knowledge. Homer, the legendary poet for instance is believed to be knowledgeable man, able administrator and an astute observer of human nature. But if that been the case surely he would have been at the forefront of the events in his day instead of relegating himself to the background Thus one must beware of poetry because it amounts to nothing when stripped of its colors and insidious charm.
Thus in a realm where truth has been elevated to the highest possible peak, there is no place for art which is so far removed from truth. Its banishment from the ideal society may however be revoked if it can prove to have its use in upholding truth, morality and virtue instead of detracting from it.
Plato through his speaker waxes eloquent on the need for censorship in art. Not only are the artists negligent with regard to truth but they contribute to moral decay as well. These imitators have no knowledge of what is good, bad or truly beautiful; they merely portray what they perceive as the real thing. The common man is carried away by the lure and charm of the arts and has no way or means of piercing this faade.
Socrates asserts that the better part of the soul is the one which seeks refuge in rationale. Poetry meanwhile appeals to the baser instincts in man. In the face of calamity most people in the grip of reason would attempt to keep calm, without indulging in wasteful and destructive passions. However in poetry, the protagonist would wallow in despair, bewailing his fate in lengthy oration. The audience will get carried away and forget themselves in the process without realizing that "from the evil of other men something of evil is communicated to themselves." Thus it is imperative that, art which is flippant, morally licentious or just plain ridiculous be firmly uprooted from society before it allows the beast in man to run wild resulting in moral collapse and social ruin.

While Plato's views on the role of art in the republic are convincing and partly ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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