Defining the Ideal in Plato's The Republic
In 1921, Vance Palmer, the famous Australian author and poet, noted, in his essay titled "On Boundaries", that "it is the business of thought to define things, to find the boundaries; thought, indeed, is a ceaseless process of definition". As Palmer noted, humans, by their very nature, attempt to define all things. But, more than that, we attempt to redefine subjects and ideas that have already been defined so that we can better understand what they mean, where we came from, and, perhaps most importantly of all, who we are. Writers, from the beginning of the written word through the present, have, almost in their entirety, strived to cast a new light on subjects that were previously thought to have been completely understood. Specifically, Plato, in his The Republic, struggled to define the ideal in the materialistic world. But, even after accounting for his opposition to the arts, his quest to define the ideal can exceptionally beneficial to the understanding of the theater. Only through an exploration of these definitions of the ideal can one hope to understand them, and, more importantly, redefine them in the hope to create a new understanding of the medium and to move one step closer to perfection.
In his Poetics, Plato defined his view of the world and the ideals that are a part of it. The core of Platonic thought resides in Plato's doctrine of essences, ideas, and forms. Ultimate reality, he argues, is spiritual. This spiritual realm, called The One, is composed of ideal forms or absolutes that exist whether or not any human mind realizes their existence or reflects their attributes. It is these ideal forms that give shape to our physical world, for our material world is nothing more than a shadowy replica of the absolute forms found in the spiritual realm. Plato goes on to say that he believes the poet (or artist) to be horrendous because the poet can only imitate an imitation when they write about any object in the material word.
Plato's reasoning creates an interesting question when one applies his theories on the ideal, and not his opposition to the arts, to the theater. Plato...