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Plato's Republic

by Plato

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Plato's perspective on poetry and its relation to unreality in the Republic

Summary:

Plato views poetry as a form of imitation that perpetuates unreality. In The Republic, he argues that poetry can mislead and corrupt by presenting illusions rather than truth, distancing people from the ideal forms and the world of reality.

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What is Plato's view on poetry and unreality in the Republic?

That's not a question, now is it?

There is certainly a chapter in Plato's Republic called "Poetry and Unreality." It is Chapter 13. Want to know more? The chapter, like the rest of the Republic is a dialogue. This dialogue is between two people, Socrates and Glaucon. The dialogue is about poetry and its relevance to the State. In general, the question being decided is whether or not poetry has a useful place in a good, well-run society. What do you think the conclusion is? Do you want to know?

Well, as it turns out, Plato (who wrote the Republic and all the dialogues contained therein), must have had something bad to eat the day he wrote this chapter, because he seems to have little use for poets, from Homer on down. According to his character, Socrates, and with the agreement of Glaucon, poets are not just mere imitators of imitators, the emotions they portray can be detrimental to people who read or see their works performed. In short, if poets want a place in a good society, they had better watch what they say.

Now, aren't you glad you didn't ask? :-)

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What is Plato's view on poetry and unreality in the Republic?

For Plato, the poets conceal reality.  Whether or not they do it intentionally might be up for debate, yet Plato believes that the poets through their language and creation of artificial reality help to obscure what reality should be.  It is in this realm where poets and philosophers are different for Plato because the latter is driven only to seek "the truth," and does not care about the audience, dramatic conventions, or the alteration of reality to fit an artistic aesthetic.  It is this difference with the poet's need to be accepted by an audience as a reason why the philosopher, in Plato's mind, far outranks the poet and why the poet is susceptible to creating a sense of illusion or "unreality."

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What is Plato's view on poetry and unreality in the Republic?

The previous post is very strong.  I would also suggest that composing an essay on this topic with the word length given is going to be very difficult.  It is a challenge because Plato's views and perceptions of the poets and their ability to mask reality is difficult.  I think that you would want to make sure that there is careful consideration given to the idea that the philosopher, in Plato's mind, is on a singular quest and search for truth.  Plato sees the poet as in search of an audience's admiration.  These fundamental starting points represents a significant reason why the former is going to be able to uncover the reality of what consciousness is and be able to achieve the form, or the highest good.  The latter is going to be consistently clouded and shrouded by what others wish and the desire to be appreciated by an audience, making the quest for truth a difficult endeavor.  I think that being able to point out the difference versus individual quests and the audience component would be important in this essay.

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What is Plato's view on poetry and unreality in the Republic?

Plato considers all artists imitators, or at least he says he does.  He seems to see value mostly in the practical, not the poetic.  He wants people to work to solve the world's problems, not write about them.

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What is the main idea in Plato's "Poetry and Unreality"?

The main argument in Plato's assertion is that poets conceal the reality that the philosopher is trying to expose.  In their desire to want to be appreciated by the masses, the poet essentially that what they are exploring is truth.  It is within this element that a critical contention of Plato emerges.  Not everyone is able to appreciate or fully comprehend the nature of truth, the essence of being.  The poet, for Plato, pretends and does a disservice to the quest in trying to allow others to see what this truth is and through their work, they actually do more harm than good because the poet seeks public adulation, which is fickle and can be contingent on many variables.  This, for Plato, is "unreal" because it does not reveal the form, the very essence of what truth is.  In Plato's mind, the poet's desire to be embraced by others for their work and for public acknowledgement creates a realm that is dependent on popularity and public appreciation, thereby contributing to its "unreal" nature.

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