The Evolving Role Of Poetry And The Poet

2408 words - 10 pages

"The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato," claimed Alfred North Whitehead in 1929's Process and Reality. Plato studied under Socrates in Athens, Greece, and showed a deep interest for politics. It wasn't until Socrates death that Plato turned from politics to philosophy. He developed Idealism in opposition to the belief of the Sophists and opened a school in Athens. The Academy was one of the first organized schools in Western Civilization it was here that Plato taught his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato's most famous work is The Republic. In it Plato describes a perfect, or ideal, state. The beginning of the work investigates the true meaning of justice. Towards the middle of the work Plato begins leading into philosophy, and Book X discusses the purpose of art in his ideal state, specifically poetry. Ion, another of Plato's works, is the beginning defense for The Republic Book X. In Ion Plato's main voice, Socrates, pokes fun at the ignorance of a rhapsode who stumbles around Socrates' questions. Plato shows an entertaining side in Ion which is dramatically different from his style in The Republic. Both of the works were written as dialogue between Socrates and another character. Plato's Socrates is simply a character that speaks Plato's mind. That is why the opinion has been offered that Ion was written as a spoof on Divine inspiration, and that had strong convictions against the belief in inspiration.

Aristotle began studying at The Academy under Plato when he was not yet twenty. He continued to study and teach philosophy argument at The Academy for twenty years before beginning his own school. Aristotle began to favor Materialism over Plato's Idealism, and opened The Lyceum in Athens, which boasted such students as Alexander the Great. Aristotle's best known work is Poetics. It is believed to be a private paper that conceivably rotated around The Lyceum. In other words, it was never written to be published. That's why the text mentions things that will be discussed later but never are. The text outlines Aristotle's characteristics for a tragedy as well as responding to Plato's The Republic Book X.

Plato's theory in The Republic says that everything in the world comes from Eidos, or, the Ideal. The Ideal is the one perfect model; everything else is simply an imperfect copy of something else. In "Book X" Socrates states, "There are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates..." (25). The metaphysical path leaves only one truth, one Ideal; so each other component is moving farther and farther away from the truth. Plato's example in a simpler form would claim that a carpenter can create a bed, but he did not create the idea of a bed. To take that object as far away from truth as Plato places poetry, you would have to consider a painter depicting the bed as art. As Socrates...

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