previous next
[598a] But tell me now this about the painter. Do you think that what he tries to imitate is in each case that thing itself in nature or the works of the craftsmen?” “The works of the craftsmen,” he said. “Is it the reality of them or the appearance? Define that further point.1” “What do you mean?” he said. “This: Does a couch differ from itself according as you view it from the side or the front or in any other way? Or does it differ not at all in fact though it appears different, and so of other things?” “That is the way of it,” he said: “it appears other but differs not at all.” [598b] “Consider, then, this very point. To which is painting directed in every case, to the imitation of reality as it is2 or of appearance as it appears? Is it an imitation of a phantasm or of the truth?” “Of a phantasm,3” he said. “Then the mimetic art is far removed4 from truth, and this, it seems, is the reason why it can produce everything, because it touches or lays hold of only a small part of the object and that a phantom5; as, for example, a painter, we say, will paint us a cobbler, a carpenter, and other craftsmen, [598c] though he himself has no expertness in any of these arts,6 but nevertheless if he were a good painter, by exhibiting at a distance his picture of a carpenter he would deceive children and foolish men,7 and make them believe it to be a real carpenter.” “Why not?” “But for all that, my friend, this, I take it, is what we ought to bear in mind in all such cases: When anyone reports to us of someone, that he has met a man who knows all the crafts and everything else8 that men severally know, [598d] and that there is nothing that he does not know9 more exactly than anybody else, our tacit rejoinder must be that he is a simple fellow, who apparently has met some magician or sleight-of-hand man and imitator and has been deceived by him into the belief that he is all-wise,10 because of his own inability to put to the proof and distinguish knowledge, ignorance11 and imitation.” “Most true,” he said.

“Then,” said I, “have we not next to scrutinize tragedy and its leader Homer,12 since some people tell us that these poets know all the arts [598e] and all things human pertaining to virtue and vice, and all things divine? For the good poet, if he is to poetize things rightly, must, they argue, create with knowledge or else be unable to create. So we must consider whether these critics have not fallen in with such imitators and been deceived by them, so that looking upon their works

1 Cf. Gorg. 488 D, Soph. 222 C.

2 Cf. Soph. 263 B, Cratyl. 385 B, Euthydem. 284 C.

3 Cf. 599 A, Soph. 232 A, 234 E, 236 B, Prot. 356 D.

4 Cf. 581 E.

5 For εἴδωλον cf. p. 197, note e.

6 Commentators sometimes miss the illogical idiom. So Adam once proposed to emend τεχνῶν to τεχνίτων, but later withdrew this suggestion in his note on the passage. Cf. 373 C, Critias 111 E, and my paper in T.A.P.A. xlvii. (1916) pp. 205-234.

7 Cf. Soph. 234 B.

8 So Dryden, Essay on Satire: “Shakespeare . . . Homer . . . in either of whom we find all arts and sciences, all moral and natural philosophy without knowing that they ever studied them,” and the beautiful rhapsody of Andrew Lang, Letters to Dead Authors, p. 238: “They believe not that one human soul has known every art, and all the thoughts of women as of men,” etc. Pope, pref. to his translation of the Iliad: “If we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philosophy which Homer is generally supposed to have wrapped up in his allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this consideration afford us.” Cf. Xen.Symp. 4. 6. Brunetière, Epoques, p. 105, says: “Corneille . . . se piquait de connaître à fond l'art de la politique et celui de la guerre.” For the impossibility of universal knowledge Cf. Soph. 233 A, Charm. 170 B, Friedländer, Platon, ii. p. 146 on Hipp. Min. 366 C ff. Cf. also Ion 536 E, 541 B, 540 B, and Tim. 19 D. Tate, “Plato and Allegorical Interpretation,”Class. Quarterly,Jan. 1930, p. 2 says: “The true poet is for Plato philosopher as well as poet. He must know the truth.” This ignores the ἄρα in 598 E. Plato there is not stating his own opinion but giving the arguments of those who claim omniscience for the poet. Wilamowitz, Platon, ii. p. 313 n. 1 completely misunderstands and misinterprets the passage. Cf. Class. Phil. xxvii. (1932) p. 85. E.E. Sikes, The Greek View of Poetry, p. 175, says Rymer held that “a poet is obliged to know all arts and sciences.” Aristotle from a different point of view says we expect the wise man to know everything in the sense in which that is possible, Met. 982 a 8.

9 Cf.οὐδενὸς ὅτου οὐχίCharm. 175 C,οὐδὲν ὅτι οὐAla. I 105 E, Phil. 54 B, Phaedo 110 E, Euthyph. 3 C, Euthydem. 294 D, Isoc.Panegyr. 14, Herod. v. 97.

10 πάσσοφος is generally ironical in Plato. Cf. What Plato Said, p. 489, on Lysis 216 A.

11 For ἀνεπιστημοσύνην Cf. Theaet. 199 E f.

12 For Homer as tragedian cf. on 595 B-C, p. 420, note a.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1932 AD (1)
1930 AD (1)
1916 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: