Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pappas, Nickolas. "Plato's Aesthetics." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY June 27, 2008.

If aesthetics is the philosophical inquiry into art and beauty (or, today, 'aesthetic value'), then Plato's aesthetics is a rich subject—maybe too rich. For the striking feature of Plato's dialogues in this regard is that he devotes as much time as he does to both beauty and art, but treats the two oppositely. Art, mostly represented by poetry, is closer to a greatest evil than any other phenomenon Plato speaks of, while beauty is close to a greatest good. Can there be such a thing as 'Plato's aesthetics' that contains both positions? Perhaps Plato is better described as working through an exploratory aesthetics, seeking to discover the subject's vocabulary and issues. For this reason his readers might not find a single aesthetic theory in the dialogues. But for the same reason they are uniquely situated to watch core concepts of aesthetics being defined: beauty, imitation, inspiration. The subject calls for careful reading. If perennially footnoted by later philosophers Plato has also been perennially thumbnailed. Clichés accompany his name. It is worth going slowly through the main topics of Plato's aesthetics—not in the search for some surprising theory unlike anything that has been said about him, but so that background shading and details may emerge, for a result that perhaps resembles the usual doctrine-summaries as a human face resembles the cartoon reduction of it. . . . Read the rest here: Related page: Griswold, Charles. Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy December 23, 2003.

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