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Art in the Republic

  • D. R. Grey (a1)

The general thesis which I should wish to sustain on this topic is by no means new. It is, briefly, that even in the Republic, where the views on art which Plato propounds are notoriously unsatisfactory to the modern mind, this unsatisfactoriness is not due to any lack of aesthetic sympathy on Plato's part, but on the contrary to what is almost an excess of it. The position as far as I can understand it is this: the true artist (at least for the period of Platonic thought of which the Republic marks the culmination) is the philosopher, and true artistic insight is episteme. The work of art par excellence is primarily the philosopher's own life-that is, the philosopher himself.

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page 296 note 1 In the Classical Quarterly, XXXIII (1939), p. 166.

page 298 note 1 Space forbids a detailed discussion of this theory. But what holds for the educative theory, as against the mimetic theory, holds for the inspirational theory also. It is not naturally allied with the mimetic view; what inspiration or Divine gift of frenzy is needed, if all the artist does is to produce accurate copies? It is only if art is to be prophetic, or to “inspire” in the sense ofrevealing triumphs of perfection to be aimed at, that this kind of view has any point. And in that case it is virtually equivalent to the educative view; it is merely being more explicit about whence the artist derives his authority and information, and the purpose of art remains the same. The doctrine of the Republic must mean that if the artist is inspired, this inspiration comes ultimately from the eidos of Good: that is, by philosophical vision. Hence insofar as Plato may be thought to have the inspirational theory in mind, in this dialogue, he will have similar difficulties with it.

page 299 note 1 I cannot agree with Adam that there is no technical reference here, when it is apparent from 476A that the theory of eide is already known to at least one of the participants. Whether the eide are “immanent” or “trans-cendant” is beside the point, when one realizes what the eide are in this dialogue: for they will be both.

page 306 note 1 Cf. Plato's Theory of Man, Wild John, Harvard University Press, 1948.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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