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598A - 598D Moreover it is not the Idea which is copied by the Painter, but only the manufactured objects, and even of these he copies only one particular aspect or appearance. Hence Imitation is far removed indeed from the Truth; and only a simpleton will be beguiled by it. πότερα ἐκεῖνο -- ἔφη. In holding that the Art of Painting imitates only τὰ τῶν δημιουργῶν ἔργα. Plato degrades it to the level of photography, and the painter himself to a mere mechanical copyist, whose intelligence does not rise above εἰκασία (in the sense of VI 511 E: see note ad loc. and App. I to Book VII). Yet the highest art has in every age claimed to portray, not the so-called actual, but the Ideal: see for example Arist. Poet. 25. 6 and 17: “It may be impossible that there should be men such as Zeuxis painted. ‘Yes,’ we say, ‘but the impossible is the higher thing; for the ideal type must surpass the reality’” (Butcher's translation), and the recent development of this idea by W. J. Courthope, Life in Poetry and Law in Taste pp. 152, 165, 196 ff. and passim. In the present passage, Plato bases his unfavourable verdict on what must be admitted to be a narrow and scholastic interpretation of his own ontology, but in view of Books II and III as well as 605 C— 607 A below, we can hardly doubt that his attitude was determined in the first instance by educational rather than by metaphysical considerations, and that throughout the whole of Book X he was thinking less of the inherent possibilities of Art, than of actual Greek Art and Poetry considered as the exponents of a moral and religious creed which Plato himself emphatically disowns. See also on 607 A. In any case, the objections which he here urges do not touch the real essence of any form of Art except pure and unadulterated realism. Elsewhere throughout the Platonic writings there are not wanting indications of a juster estimate of the artistic faculty and its possibilities (see for example III 401 B—403 C, and especially V 472 D, and cf. Walter Gesch. d. Aesthetik im Altertum pp. 441 ff., 459 ff. and Stählin Stellung d. Poesie in d. Plat. Phil. pp. 56—65), and the sympathetic student of Plato will find it easy to construct a nobler and more generous theory of Aesthetic Art out of the doctrine of Ideas together with its corollaries of ἀνάμνησις and pre-existence. It is also a historical fact that Plato's own conception of a transcendent self-existing Beauty, ἀεὶ ὂν καὶ οὔτε γιγνόμενον οὔτε ἀπολλύμενον, οὔτε αὐξανόμενον οὔτε φθίνον, ἔπειτα οὐ τῇ μὲν καλόν, τῇ δ᾽ αἰσχρόν, οὐδὲ τοτὲ μέν, τοτὲ δ᾽ οὔ, οὐδὲ πρὸς μὲν τὸ καλόν, πρὸς δὲ τὸ αἰσχρόν (Symp. 211 A), has proved an inexhaustible fountain of inspiration to some of the greatest artists, notably, for instance, in connexion with the Platonic Academy at Florence in the days of Michel Angelo: see Symonds, Renaissance in Italy II pp. 205, 207, 247, 323 ff. Those who have caught the spirit of Plato's teaching will agree with me when I say that the famous lines of Wordsworth on King's College Chapel “They dreamt not of a perishable home, Who thus could build,” are more truly and characteristically Platonic than Plato's attack upon poetry and painting in this passage. ἆρα οἷα ἔστιν κτλ. The painter, as Bosanquet reminds us, operates in two dimensions, and so cannot copy the material bed “in its solid completeness, but only his partial view of it” i.e. the bed as it appears to him from one point of view, a particular φάντασμα of bed. His work, in fact, is σκιαγραφία (II 365 C note). It will follow that Painting is a stage lower than ‘third from truth,’ but Plato does not press the point, and in 599 A and D Poetry—the sister art to Painting—remains as before only τρίτον ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας. See also on μιμητική in B below.
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