Plato's Republic

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In Plato's Republic, “Socrates” explains art as nothing more than imitation, as evidenced in the bed example, which begins on page 30 and establishes the perfect or heavenly bed as the original, a carpenter's rendering of a bed is an imitation, and a painting of that bed as an imitation of an imitation. “Socrates” goes on to say that if one has the power of creating an actual bed, there would be no reason for one to imitate the bed in art. Therefore, art, as a form of imitation, is inferior, and later on in the piece, inherently bad (pp 36-37). He extends his range with this argument from simply painting to all forms of art, including poetry (pp 36).

This disdaining view of poetry comes into play in another piece, Ion, in which Plato's puppet uses the same sort of logic as in the Republic (which states that art, as imitation, is bad) as sort of a base behind his other arguments. Plato/Socrates begins by establishing (pp 39) that the one most qualified to judge whether a man speaks well or ill on a particular subject is the one with the most experience in that specific field. Once Plato/Socrates gets Ion to admit that neither he nor Homer have any actual experience with war (pp 44)—a problem, because much of Homer's work focuses on that particular subject—Plato/Socrates takes that as proof that Homer and Ion—and, indeed, all poets and rhapsodes—are nothing more than imitators, and with the background given to us in the previous excerpt, one hardly needs explaining to understand why that makes them an evil to society.
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