Professor L. Buj
Jan 16, 2011
Plato’s Criticism On Deceptive Forms
Plato’s critique of art operates on two levels, the ontological and the
moral. Both levels are interpreted within disdain taste as Plato
proposes that the banishment of art could actually bring fourth a
closer connection between humanity and truth. His argument against
the existence of art as well as its functioning purposes will be further
discussed in this paper.
Plato’s ontological view on the existence of art looks deep within the
nature as well as its overall properties rather bitterly. Plato’s attack on
art does not merely constitute visual art, but rather holds a more
expansive scope reaching into literature and especially poetry. For
Plato, art is accountable for multiple negative influences, which affect
all audiences who try to interpret it. These influences are what Plato
believes hinders humanity towards aspiring truth.
Art for Plato receives negative attention at the moment of creation.
Plato believes that the thoughts processed by the creator and/or artist
are far from original and are alternatively imitations of the real world
which are themselves distant from the ideal Forms. These ideal Forms
consist of the ultimate paradigms in our universe containing truth and
absolute wholeness, thus proposing a problem for Plato. These copies
of copies are referred to as mimesis. During the grandeur search of
truth, mimesis serves the audience deceit and alarmingly leads
them farther from the ideal Forms. As mentioned in the text, “Because
mimesis presents us with an inferior copy of a copy, poetry takes its
listeners away from rather than toward the ideal Forms” (Leitch 43).
The hypocrisy surrounding literature proves to be troublesome for
Plato on a multitude of levels. In the search for completeness, art not
only fails to provide insight toward truth but rather, is actually lying
to you. This mimetic stance held within the nature of art is believed to
be nothing more than fabrication. Plato maintains his argument by
stating that as the audience is deceptively reeled into a degraded mind
state, truth is less obtainable. Introduced in the text, “Because
[Literature] stories are fictional, made up, literature is dangerous; it
produces only lies” (43). Plato not only bashes art on an ontological
level, but also finds problems morally. During deception and
degradation through imitation within text, Plato analyzes the problems
art has within its nature and relates that to the morality of audience.
He argues that if art is further removing oneself from the truth, than it
cannot be in the best interest of man. Thus, banishment of art
would be the only way to restore deception and appease humanity.
Plato begins by focusing on the dangerous elements of art and its
affect on young minds. His argument states, “Now, do you appreciate
that the most important stage of any enterprise is the beginning,
especially when something young and sensitive is involved?” (46). In
this part of the text, Plato is trying to explain that not only is the
young mind fragile enough to easily fall into this created trap of deceit,
but also that ruining the quest for truth at a young age brings upon
negative consequences for all of humanity. Argued furthermore, “No
young person is to hear stories which suggest that were he to commit
the vilest of crimes … he wouldn’t be doing anything out of the
ordinary, but would simply be behaving like the first and greatest
gods” (47). Here Plato is arguing that the falsehood within stories can
Cited: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism.
New York, NY: Norton, 2010. Print.
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