There is a famous statement that”there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry”. Well Plato is definitely a person who believes in it. He lived at a time where his city was in disaster after the Peloponnesian war and this helped him to contribute his ability in philosophy as well as literary theories. All his literary theories are influenced by his philosophy. Plato was very critical about the knowledge of the poets in is time. He lived in a critical time where people needed good guidance.
People tend to look up to the poets because they water the desires of human feelings. This attracted people towards poets. This is a dangerous situation if the poets do not know what they should bring forward through their poetry. Plato simply thought that poets write while they are in a trance possessed by Muse the goddess of art and conveying Muse’ ideas through poetry. These ideas poets presented were the weak side of human nature; “our emotions are watered the withered”. Plato reveals two contradictory aspects of poets’ knowledge.Order now
He says poets are responsible for what they write and also they are not responsible for what they write because they are writing poetry in a trance. Homer was one of the poets whom people would believe in any time. Homer basically created the culture of the Greeks. The heroes, the gods, the underworld and war were all Homers creations. According to Plato these are imaginations of Homer. Plato blames Homer for giving the wrong idea of gods and goddesses. According to Plato even if gods have defects they should be created as perfect idols so people would tend to imitate the right way of life.
As stated by the Stafford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “To interpret Homer well, we have to understand what Homer said; to do that, and to support our judgment that he spoke superlatively well, we have to understand the subject matter about which Homer speaks just as we would in, say, evaluating someone”s pronouncements about health. Further, Homer himself must have understood well that about which he speaks. So as interpreters we are making claims about the truth of Homer”s teachings about XYZ; and thus we are assuming that Homer sought to state the truth about XYZ.
When Homer talks about was he doesn’t give us accurate information because he never fought war and he does not know how a general would command or behave in a war because he was never a general. This is well argued by Plato in his work “Ion”. Plato produced three methods on evaluating poetry. The dependency of the poets is it actually their talent or divine inspiration, the role of the poet as an educator and a social reformer and contribution to literature through poetry. Plato protests about the lack of knowledge of poets of his time and about the poets them selves.
He thinks that “Arts” are a “third remove from reality”- the idea of the object /the object/ the representation of the object. It is like a mirror held up to a mirror, they will only be imitations. In “Pheadrus” which relates a myth, humans are the most ignorant set of souls and philosophers know some kind of truth and they are near to Zeus. In Plato’s opinion poets are behind gymnasts and businessmen. So they are not in a reliable place to be creative. He thinks poets are writing in madness.
According to him there are four types of madness or inspirations; madness of prophecy, mythical rituals, poetic madness inspired by Muses and madness of love created by Eros and Aphrodite strongest of all madness. When poets produce a work and publish it they are not near the reader and this is dangerous it would make people understand the subject matter in different ways. Plato also says that some poets try to write without the divine inspiration but they end up making them self justifying divine inspiration.
Plato wants the poets to that it is easy to inspire the irrational part of human nature and poets should not water it. He also ridicules the comparative ability in poets they make an ass look like a horse. Plato gives an example for poets â€“ if a person calls himself a doctor and gives the same pill for all illnesses he should be called a madman. Similarly if poets give their audience the wrong message they will take it as it is. Plato compares the audience to a wild beast and if poets entertain the needs of the wild beast it will get addicted to the entertainment.
Such work” is an inferior son born to inferior parents”. Plato is against the entertainment which is directed towards emotions because by giving space emotions will let people out pour it without control and it will make things worse when worse things happen to them. Plato specifically tells not to represent women in any sort -quarrelling, lamenting, mourning, love or childbirth. Also bad men of any sort-cowards, comic abuse, foul language and madness. Plus any workmen which guardians feel ashamed to imitate. Likewise he introduces three aspects of good poetry.
It should be charming, correct in technique consistency /characterization and set and example to the society. In writing poetry you should be praised by others and not praise other by you. According to Plato only poetry that should be in an ideal state is hymns to gods and poems that praise good men. Plato gives some advice on writing poetry to fellow poets. He thinks the ideal subject matter should be philosophy and the ideal technique should be the form of dialogue. A dialogue in a work will make you have an argument and not be one sided.
In “Laws” he says poets are the wickedest class of unbelievers because they say god can be won over by gifts and sacrifices also makes gain out of the fears and terrors of mankind. He strictly thinks the poets should educate children and statesmen. Since children Previous are the future of the country and nobles are the current rulers they should know how to separate good from bad. A reason Plato gives to banish poets from an ideal state is that they have no say in political views. He also states that there should not be epic and lyrics if they provoke emotions in a negative way.
Plato gives many reasons for his dislike for poetry and we have to keep in mind he had no grudge against poetry but he had issues against the power of poetry. He certainly respects Homer but is critical about the credibility of his work which has influenced many generations. Even though he thinks of banishing poets in his earlier works he brings a better idea of censoring the poems through a board of scholars before publishing. This maturity made him give advice on how to write appropriate poems which would help develop the county.