Plato's Defence of Poetry

Plato's Defence of Poetry

by Julius A. Elias
     
 

Ignorant, irrational and irresponsible: these are the terms used by Plato when referring to poets. Yet the philosopher acknowledged that he was not insensible to the charms of poetry, and many would agree that Plato’s myths are themselves poetry of the very first rank.

In Plato’s Defence of Poetry—the first full-scale treatment of the subject

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Overview

Ignorant, irrational and irresponsible: these are the terms used by Plato when referring to poets. Yet the philosopher acknowledged that he was not insensible to the charms of poetry, and many would agree that Plato’s myths are themselves poetry of the very first rank.

In Plato’s Defence of Poetry—the first full-scale treatment of the subject since 1905—Julius A. Elias demonstrates that Plato offers a defence of poetry in response to his own famous challenge.

This study restores the myths to their proper place in the Platonic corpus by showing their methodological relationship to the dialectic and their substantive connection to Plato’s theories of knowledge, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

While agreeing that for Plato, poetry must be harnessed to the service of truth and socially desirable values, Elias shows that poetry is indispensable to the philosopher: when the audience would reject a more obviously didactic approach, poetry makes accessible and palatable truths demonstrable by reason. Furthermore—and this is the most novel and important feature of this study—Elias argues that the myths embody the indemonstrable axioms of Plato’s system. Plato was aware that in every system, including mathematics, certain fundamental presuppositions necessarily remain unproven. Rather than assert them dogmatically, Plato expresses these undercurrents poetically so as to capture their emotional persuasiveness while defining their relevance. In Plato’s Defence of Poetry, the myths themselves are interpreted afresh in light of these claims.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780873958073
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
06/28/1984
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
261

Table of Contents

Preface

1. THE ATTACK

I. Introduction
II. The poets
III. Religion
IV. The musicians
V. Rhetoric
VI. Philosophical art

2. THE INCONCLUSIVENESS OF DIALECTIC

I. The programme of dialectic
II. 'Socratic' dialectic
III. 'Platonic' dialectic
IV. Collection and division
V. Hypothesis
VI. Philosophy and language

3. HOW THE MYTHS HAVE FARED

I. Philosophy and literature
II. Stewart and the Christians
III. Frutiger
IV. Popper and the Empiricists
V. Findlay and the Intuitionists

4. ESCHATOLOGICAL AND RELATED MYTHS

I. Eschatology (Rep. X, 614A-621D; Phaedrus 246A-249D; Gorgias 522E-527E; Phaedo 107D-115A)
II. Love and the soul (Phaedo 80D-84B; Tim. 69C-72D; Phaedr. 243ff.)
III. Cosmology (Tim.; States. 268D-274E; Laws IV, 713A-714A)

5. POLITICAL MYTHS

I. Origins of State (Rep. II, 369B-374B; Laws III, 676A-702A; Prot. 320C-323A)
II. Anecdotes (Writing: Phaedr. 274C-275B; Grasshoppers: Phaedr. 259AD; Gyges: Rep. II, 359D-360B)
III. Inequality (Metals: Rep. III, 414D-415D)
IV. Equality of Women (Rep. V, 451C-457C)
V. Decadence of Ideal City (Rep. VIII, 545C-IX, 576B)
VI. Atlantis (Tim. 24D-25D; Critias 106A-121C)

6. METHODOLOGICAL MYTHS

I. The theory of Forms
II. Reminiscence (Phaedo 72E-76E; Meno 85C-86B)
III. Sun, Line, and Cave (Rep. VII, 508Aff; IV, 434E-441C)
IV. The ladder of beauty (Symp. 210A-212A)

7. THE DEFENCE

I. Myths: old, new, and Platonic
II. The weak defence
III. The strong defence

Notes

Bibliography

Index Nominum

Index Locorum

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