Monday, September 17, 2007

Imitation and Indulgence:
On Why Socrates Banished The Poets From The Republic

At the introduction of Book X of Plato's Republic, Socrates surpises us by kicking the poets out of the city. He regards poetry and poets as detrimental and dangerous. Poets are deceptive and thier poetry corrupts all peoples.

Poets pretend to know all sorts of things of which they really know noting. They deal with things which cannot be known and present scenes so far removed from the truth. Thus they pervert souls, turning them from what is real to what is false.

The poets imitate the worst parts of the soul: the exciteable and colourful parts; whereas the good part of the soul is rational, stable and quiet. Poetry appeals to those worse parts and diverts energy from the rational part to the worse parts of the soul.

Poetry corrupts even the best of souls! Poetry tricks you into sympathizing with those whom have indulgent personalities: those who greive excessively, those who lust inappropriately, and those who laugh at baser things. Poetry makes us feel these very same things. We are decieved into thinking that the indulgence is perfectly fine because we are indulging with respect to a fictional character and to with respect to ourselves, but because we feel this enjoyment, the indulgence becomes a part of us and effect the way we deal with our own lives and we become a character from a play or an epic poem.

Socrates really did not wish to banish the poets, and he regrets doing so. However, he would only allow the poets to return to the city if anyone could properly defend them.

Ref: Notes on the Republic- Book X

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