Plato was an artist himself, writing beautiful dramatic dialogues, which are most unlike the more modern philosophers like Kant or Hegel who write philosophical treatise. This distinction becomes important in how Plato Is read in comparison to other philosophers. In the mainstream philosophy of our time the most common way to read a philosopher's writing is through a collection of excerpts from many writers on a certain topic. These books are great for getting a lot of different views but unfortunately they destroy the messages contained in non philosophical treatise type writing, such as Plat's.
Flats writing can not be taken out of context with excerpts. It would be Like taking Machete's speech from Shakespeare play Macbeth and saying that Is Shakespearean philosophy on the meaning of life, It simply does not do Justice to the writer and their work. The Republic Is about searching for Justice In the human soul, it is also about leading Glaucoma away from a political life because he has a possibly tyrannical soul (Palmer, 33-34)2. The arguments used to bring about these two points cannot be taken out of context from the book to portray a different theory of Plates.
The prejudices against Plates philosophical writings usually come from taking an excerpt and applying logical analysis to prove his arguments invalid which simply displays a lack of understanding of how Plato writes. How Socrates came to talk to those in the dialogues, why he is talking to them, and what is not said is Just as important as what Is said in the Platonic dialogues, they are all dramas and should be read as such. Now that we have some reasons for doubting the common criticism of Plates views on art from The Republic.
I would like to demonstrate specific reasons for doubting sides to bring about the perfectly Just city in speech and follow up with Socrates own criticism of this city and his reasons for doubting its relevance. The city in speech brought about with The Republic begins with the end of Socrates seeming refutation of Trashcans which Glaucoma rejects and restates the argument for further scrutiny (AAA-361 d). The argument is over whether it is a better life to live perfectly Just or perfectly unjust.
Glaucoma states the argument as such "For I desire to hear what each is and what power it has all alone by itself when t is in the soul”dismissing its wages and its consequences. "(Bloom, Bibb) After some convincing, Socrates accepts the challenge to defend Justice (ICC). In taking on this feet, Socrates contrives an easier way to spot Justice in the soul. He claims that justice in the soul is like small letters and hard to see while Justice in a city is like big letters and will be easier to see (ICC-d). So Socrates sets out to creating a perfectly just city in speech to flush out Justice in the soul.
Whether or not this is a decent attempt to find Justice will be dealt with later by Socrates himself. The first city created, or the first stage of the city, is based on a "city of utmost necessity' and grows only to the size of a small city (Palmer, 16; Bibb-371 b). Glaucoma rejects this simple city and wants one with more luxury (ICC-d). Socrates believes the first city created was the true and healthy city but he agrees to create a "feverish" city (IEEE). This forces the city to grow much larger and to take land away from neighbors to support it and, in doing so the city will need an army (37th-e).
Attendants urges for a discussion of how these "guardians" of the city will be educated and reluctantly Socrates accepts and says like men telling myths within a myth we will educate the guardians (Palmer, 16; 37th). Socrates, in his own creation of this city in speech, is claiming here that he is telling a myth, and further, that the education of the guardians is a myth within a myth. This, ironically, is the beginning of the education of the guardians in which Socrates brings about his famed censorship.
Socrates continues to give clues to his disapproval of his own argument, as if he is just putting on a show at this point. After discovering Justice in the city, Socrates ants to find out if it corresponds to Justice in the soul, remember the big and small letters. Socrates says "We were, I believe, saying that in order to get to the finest possible look at these things another and longer road around would be required, and to the man who took it they would become evident, but that proofs on a level with what had been said up to then could be tacked on.
And you all said that would suffice. And so, you see, the statements made at that time were, as it looks to me, deficient in precision. If they were satisfactory to you, only you can tell. "(Bloom, Bibb; n reference to Dodd) Amazingly, Glaucoma accepts what Socrates called a deficient argument on both occasions, although the serious reader probably should not. (As Palmer, 23, remarks: "Heretofore, the arguments were so lacking in precision that they may have been without any value whatsoever (AAA-b). ) Socrates to tell how it could come into being (471 c-e). Glaucoma forgets, as most readers do, that the city was not created for the purpose of creating a city but for discovering Justice in the human soul. Socrates reminds him, in length, of his mistake and what the true purpose of the city is (Bibb-Bibb). Glaucoma's demand that the good city in speech be realized measures exactly the degree to which he has not understood the Republic. (Penetrate, 123)3 As seems to be true for anyone who believes Socrates was trying to create a true city, and therefore, any regulations Socrates makes within this city. Further evidence for this is evident later on when Glaucoma declares that the philosophers will not mind the business of politics because he finally understands the nonsensical nature of the city. But, Socrates again reminds him of what they were really talking about and that the philosopher will mind the equines of the city within himself, he will mind the business of his own soul (Palmer, 32).
Although the city in speech within The Republic does not seem to represent a real city and should not be taken as a literal attempt to create a perfectly Just city in reality, the fact remains that Plato does seem to be very hard on the artist, especially the poets. The image of the cave sets up mankind as looking at the shadows of artifacts displayed on the wall of a cave by the poets (Palmer, 28; AAA-51 AAA). This gives good reason for Socrates being so hard on them in the creation of the city in beech if the poets are the ones deceiving mankind.
Today, of course, poets are not an influence on political life and it would seem ridiculous to accuse them of writing false poems. In Athens and ancient Greek culture, the poets were a major influence. They were the authority on the gods and on virtue. In fact, they were the only authority that would be quoted in a trial or by a representative of the people. They would be very well known by almost all inhabitants of Athens. "The poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind" (Penetrate, 223). It was not the arts homeless which Plato was attacking but their significance in politics.
Plato was attempting to replace the poet's authority with the authority of philosophy or of reason, which would seem most natural to anyone today. Plat's true intent in his criticism of the poets is brought up later on in The Republic when in book X he attacks Homer specifically. He compares Homer to the likes of an artisan that makes objects or anything he wants including gods through representation (ICC). Glaucoma claims that this man could only be a sophist (59th). The implicit problem that Socrates poses with the poet is that he does not give an explanation of himself.
Homer talks about virtuous people and the fantastic deeds they do but these heroes do not praise the poets for their deeds. The poet seems to have no place in his own writing and their "Speech seems to be subordinate to the deed. " Of the people they are praising (Bloom, 430). Socrates claims that the poet is an imitator of an imitator, in that, the poet appeals to the people and what they want and is only popular if they approve, he must follow the popular view. The people's view is shaped by the legislator who lays down laws in view of what he believes would be natural law (Bloom, 432).