Plato and Poetry: A New Interpretation

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Andy Sanford
article description
A widespread view of Plato's thought on poetry is that Plato was extremely hostile to poetry and that he wanted it banned from the state. It seems certain that Plato believed that poetry could corrupt the minds of the citizens and give them a false view of the gods. I explore what I think are three reasons for rejecting the ubiquitous view and accepting a more nuanced view of Plato's aesthetics. The use by Socrates in the REPUBLIC of a feverish city to demonstrate how justice is to be found in the city is an ironic method for arriving at a concept of justice. Plato has the interlocutors discuss the training of guardians for the feverish city as well and includes the humanities as significant for their training. I argue in this paper that the proposed ban on poetry must be understood in the context of the sick city which Socrates is using as a pedagogical device aimed at triggering insight into how justice can be realized.