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Plato believed that teaching people virtue was most important. All of the Greek philosophers believed that poetry "imitate the order and harmony of nature." They also thought that the aims of poetry should be to instruct. The Greeks thought that poetry should not entertain. Therefore Plato viewed poetry as unreliable and even as a little dangerous because it presented an unreal world, which he feared the young people would try to copy and fall into immorality. Plato was most suspicious of poetry because it is not based on rationality like philosphy which attempts to answer everything in a logical way.
Plato defines his ideal republic through an exclusion of poets in general in his great philosophical work The Republic. Plato's idea of poetry is quite an enigmatic one. Though he appears to be rather anti-poetic in certain ways, to be fair to him, there is in all of Plato, a passive acknowledgement of the power of poetry, even when it went beyond his understanding. Apart from the moralist's objection, Plato's exclusion of poets from his republic is primarily due to his problem with poetic representation of reality.
The real in the Platonic sense belongs to the world of the idea or the nuomenal world and not the world of appearance/phenomenon. Poets have no access to the real world e.g. the idea of the bed; what they have access to is the phenomenon e.g. an actual bed. So, they can only represent the phenomenon which is already at one remove from the real. As a result of this, poetry or any art as representation is located twice away from reality. This is Plato's idea of poetry--as something that is restricted to the unreality of the phenomenal world and something that makes a double fault by distanciating it further.
Plato is a great critic and theorist! Although I don't understand much of his writings, I still love him..
Poetry and unreality by Plato
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