PHL 230
Instructor: Dr. Bob Zunjic


The Republic

Books 2, 3 & 10

An Outline

The Republic is the most famous and the most ambitious of all Plato's dialogues. In an effort to find answers to the ongoing crisis of the Greek city states Plato devised a very radical reform of the existing political system. As a result the dialogue deals with an impressive array of issues ranging from ethics, politics and education all the way through to art and feminism. Both the scope and the depth of insights make this work one of the greatest books in human history. If the often cited overstatement by A.N. Whitehead, the whole of Western philosophy being just a series of footnotes to Plato, has any backing in his works it certainly refers to the Republic.

The overall topic of the discussion among the interlocutors is the nature of justice conceived as the most comprehensive virtue and cornerstone of a good State. Along the way, however, Plato tackles virtually all areas of philosophy and practical life: from epistemology and ontology to psychology and religion. With the exception of the first book (which is probably an early work), the remaining nine books should be placed in Plato's mature period of intellectual activity (by all likelihood they were written between 370. and 360. BC). This outline covers only those passages of the second, third and tenth book that pertain to Plato's understanding of art.


Title: The word Republic (derived from the Latin res publica) denotes literally 'public matters'. It is the rendering of the Greek politeia which means the constitution of a state; thus the title of the whole dialogue should be understood as signifying the State or state in general rather than any specific type of government (republican as opposed to monarchy). But Plato uses the term also in the sense of a blueprint for an ideal state that should overcome the shortcomings of the existing Greek poleis.


Socrates - Plato's teacher.
Glaucon -
Plato's older sibling.
Adeimantus -
Another Plato's older sibling.
Note: The dialogue does not bring the above characters directly to the stage. Instead Socrates recounts a conversation with Glaucon, Adeimantus and a few others that took place a day before; the parts of the dialogue in which Socrates converses with other personages have been omitted in this selection.

Relevance: The Republic is about human society, its origin, its organization and the conditions of its optimal sustenance. Within this overall theme Plato discusses a variety of topics, including art and its relationship with other areas of human life. The following are some of these relations that are extensively considered or at least broached upon:

Art - Education
Art - Religion
Art - Morality
Art - Society

In addition to the elucidation of the position of art amidst different spheres of social life Plato explains both the function and the nature of artistic production. In doing this he contrasts art with philosophy and gives the palm to the latter. Although he subjects art to a series of extrinsic standards of evaluation (moral, religious, political, and social) his discussion of artistic creativity belongs to the philosophy of art at least in the sense that he raises not only the question of the function but also the one about the nature of art.

Nurtured Nature: Plato does not regard the old dilemma between nature and nurture as disjunctive. For him, both sources of shaping our individuality are important. If we want the good natural potentials of our youth be realized and perfected to their utmost limits we need to provide a proper social environment. This means that the State has to institute a good social and educational system that is able to foster the development of the young men.
Division of Labor Division of labor is the prerequisite for the satisfaction of diversified needs (and good life). In its turn it necessitates a class division. The internal division of the State becomes a problem if the classes do not perform properly their assigned (natural) role. The principle of proper functioning is what Plato calls justice - it requires that everyone does their job. The just constitution of the State corresponds to the internal structure of the individual soul (three classes of the State match three parts of the soul that ideally should collaborate).
Goal: To rear the future guardians of the state (leaders). Why the state needs the guardians? The State needs protection and care as any human individual.
Note: For Plato, the State is both a child and the mother of the citizens. This duality explains why the education of the future elite is tantamount to the right care for the State and why this question stands in the focus of Plato's political philosophy. Plato is not an isolated voice in linking the fate of the State with the quality of its leadership. We also believe that good leadership makes the State stable and potentially prosperous.
Method: A p roper education is critical for the realization of justice because it enables the prospective rulers and guardians to acquire the necessary qualities and skills to maintain the just order in the State. Therefore the educators need to figure out how to raise young men capable to assume their future protective (guardianship) duties.
Note: The question ("smaller enquiry") how to rear future guardians should shed light on the "greater enquiry" ("how justice arises in a State?") was raised in the previous book by Socrates and Trasimachus. It is now being resumed by Plato's brothers (they play devil's advocates for the defeated Trasimachus).


The underlying idea of Athenian education was that it must be comprehensive enough to satisfy the main intellectual, emotional and physical needs of children. Therefore the elementary education comprised not only reading, writing, basics of mathematics, and reciting, but lyre playing and athletic exercises as well. In general, the educational curriculum included two main strains of training each providing tendance for one side of human nature (the body and the soul). The two chief parts of educational curriculum are called Music and Gymnastic respectively:

(A) Music
(B) Gymnastic


Character Building


Note: The idea of a double-track education was not Plato's novelty; it was deeply rooted in the traditional idea of education that well precedes Plato and his time. Plato basically accepted the ideal of a twofold education but thought it should be reorganized and taken away from the private day care schools. In other words he did not discard the traditional concept altogether - he only wanted to correct the shortcomings of the inherited model and to make the State responsible for its implementation.
Plato surmises that a proper educational process for the guardians must address both sides of their nature given the fact that the guardians are supposed to be the watchdogs for the coordination of different parts of the state body that correspond to the different part of the soul.
(1) Physical education targets the appetitive part of human nature (drives, urges, instincts, desires) that need to be tamed and disciplined in order to be able to bring about strength and swiftness along with moderation.
(2) Musical education is concerned with the cultivation of the spirited part (thymos) of the soul. It strives to attain proper receptivity for different aesthetic sentiments so that the individual remains unaffected by negative emotions that may arise both from real life and from the arts.
  Note: The above educational combination is seemingly only dual but Plato quickly relates it to his tripartite division of the soul that leads to the three main human principles which, if properly trained, could turn to practical virtues (see the full elaboration in book 4). The chart below illustrates Plato's tripartite structure in both the individual soul and the whole of society by transfering moral qualities to respective social classes. The rational part of the soul should be given the leading role since its virtue - wisdom - secures the proper relation among all other component.
Tripartite Division
Realm Organ Virtue Class
Rational Part Reason Wisdom Rulers, Counselors
Spirited Part Will, Passion Courage Soldiers,
Irrational Part Appetites, Desires Temperance Workers, Traders
  While wisdom represents the main virtue of the rational part of the soul (needed to distinguish friends from enemies), courage is its counterpart in the spirited part (necessary to enable soldiers to stand the ground). The presence of temperance indicates a balanced union of the appetitive and the rational part under the influence of spirit that sides with reason.
The prevalence of any of these capacities determines the function and the social position of the respective individuals in the State:
Reason - the guardians from whose ranks future rulers will be recruited,
Will - the guardians that will remain soldiers (auxiliaries), and
Strength - the workers along with traders at the bottom of social hierarchy.
  Note: Even though Plato espouses a tripartite model of education (physical, moral and intellectual) he provisionally accepts the traditional duality of gymnastic and music. Hence he discusses here just the physical and ethical sides of education. Only in book 7 he will address the cognitive and intellectual aspects of the whole process.
Topic: The Nature of Gods and Heroes.
True and False Notions - Erroneous and Correct Representations.
Expectation: In book 2 Plato raises the question what are the qualities the guardians need to embody? The answer is straightforward: guardians are supposed to unite in themselves "philosophy" (= 'love of wisdom') and "spirit" as well as "swiftness and strength".
It is obvious that these features combine mental, volitional and physical qualities that are indispensable for every good guardian (soldier or ruler alike).
Criterion: Given the above aim Plato's concern is now to find out how education, consisting of music and gymnastic, should be arranged in order to produce and strengthen good characters of the guardians? He does not have much to say about gymnastic despite his personal experience with wrestling. Obviously he did not think that it poses any problem nor requires revision within the new system. It is clear that working out is good for the body. Therefore Platon was primarily concerned with the impact of music which he wanted to revisit critically. As instituting proper diet and exercise is beneficial for our physical condition so a scrutiny of the effects produced by musical experiences should be helpful in improving the mental and moral state of the youth.
Receptivity At an early age children are most receptive and their nature is most maleable. They act like sponges and this opens the question of the resources and influences we'll make available to them.
Note: Hoelderlin and Heidegger will later stress this moment in terms of both ontogenetic and phylogenetic development (for Heidegger the Greek beginnings decisively determine the whole course of Western civilization).

The beginning is the most decisive moment in the process of child development and character building.
(1) Determines the outcome. (2) Shapes the character.
Children need both physicl and mental education.
At an early age children are not ready for excessive physical efforts required by gymnastic practices.
Therefore education will start with that part of music that can arouse and maintain their attention.

Direct Impact Of the two main components music was by all means a much more important part of education as the soul directly gets impacted by it. (Plato does not deny that gymnastic affects our mental health as well but he thought that its influence was not direct.)
Music In Ancient Greece music could have been understood in two ways:
(a) As music proper - denoting the tonal art (see section 3 in the outline of book III), or
(b) As a collective noun for some arts and sciences, denoting any art or science under the patronage of the Muses (there were nine in number).
In this latter usage the word Mousike in Greek included the following components:
Kind Objective
Poetry in the sense of literature (from story telling to poems and plays), To apprehend the beauty of the good.
Theoretical sciences (arithmetic, geometry, philosophy). To apprehend the beauty of reason.
Music in the sense of singing and playing. To apprehend the beauty of harmony.
Plastic and visual arts. To apprehend the beauty of form.

Note: As a remnant of this broad usage we still apply the word music to different combinations of sound and other components (words, images, movements, etc.)
  Plato uses the term music predominantly in the broad meaning. For him, each kind of "Music" has its specific function in the State.
Poetry Poetry, which was intimately bound up with both instrumental and vocal music, was by far the most important species of art. It had a formative role for the Greeks. This must be born in mind before we ask the questions like "Why pay so much attention to poetry in interpreting Plato?", "Who reads poetry nowadays?"
The best way to answer these questions is to remember that in Ancient Greece:
(1) Poetry was the source of background beliefs.
(2) It was the main form of popular culture (like TV today).
(3) Was recited and sung daily (both in the morning and in the evening).
(4) Was the essential part of educational curriculum.
Literature Poetry should not be equated with the poetry in our sense. Modern counterpart for the Greek concept of poetry is "literature".
Literature could be of two kinds: fictional and non-fictional (history, science, etc.). Plato attaches to both their respective cognitive attributes.
Nonfiction Fiction
True False
  Education starts very early and it starts with music, that is to say with that part of music that we call literature or more precisely with fiction (fictitious narratives = story telling).
Narrowing Down
Fictitious Literature
False Beginning Here Plato accepts as a fact that education begins with something which is by definition false. Given his passion for the truth this certainly poses a problem. But the beginning of education cannot take any other course - the age of children, being entirely unsuitable for physical practices (despite some contemporary attempts in competitive gymnastic), requires to start with story telling (mythology). The question is only whether the stories made up for that purpose are conceived fittingly for children or not.
Imitative Natures Children are like sponges - they absorb everything they see, hear or are exposed to. This fact underscores the importance of proper role models. Aside from their family members that are natural and immediate role models children drew their ideal figures from the stories about the gods and heroes. This is why Plato pay so much attention to the content of the stories and their moral.
Censorship Since the objective of education is character building, and since art has a direct impact on the young, it is necessary to institute a censorship. Thus in order to protect children from negative influences Plato does not shun from open paternalism. We cannot allow our children to be exposed to inappropriate contents. Therefore a commission of censors will be instituted (a far predecessor of our current FCC) to review the existing stories and to "rate" them either by (a) entirely discarding them (this fate will befall the majority), or (b) by editing and approving them (obviously some stories are good and should pass the purge). The process of revisiting the existing fictions should start with the greatest storytellers - Homer and Hesiod, for "you may find the model of the lesser in the greater". Therefore, Plato does not deal with the more popular versions of the grand myths; he believes that what he finds in the greater models will apply to their lesser imitations the majority of which deserve to be discarded. Almost all common stories are unsuitable for children.
  Note: Plato's demand for purging popular stories (fairy tales) and making them fitting for children was masterfully accomplished in our time by Walt Disney. The sanitation was so successful that Disney's versions entirely replaced the vivid originals by Perault, brothers Grimm and H.C. Andersen. Despite some opposition coming from other artists (Tex Avery) and his own creations (Donald Duck) Disney's flat and dull characters serve today as role models for an unreal and false world of pure beauty and innocence. Only recently, the creators of Shrek (Adamson, Asbury and Conrad) have attempted to cast a more relaxed and realistic view on the inherited tales of our Western culture.
Great Storytellers Ancient Greek stories about the gods and heroes were derived mostly from Homer and Hesiod. They were the creators of the Greek pantheon and the founders of Greek education. In that sense they acted as theologians and universal teachers of all the Greeks. But they were first and foremost artists.
  Now Plato reminds us that art in general is just a representation. In particular, however, it could be a good representation or less than a good representation.
Representation Art in General
Accurate Representation - Resemblance to the Ideal Good Art
Misrepresentation - Dissimilarities and Distortions with/of the Ideal Bad Art
Likeness Being a representation art by definition never attains the nature of the original. But it has obligation to come to it as close as possible. If it manages to render the original properly it will show certain likeness and resemblance with the true notions of divinity. Otherwise it will produce erroneous ideas of the divine nature. More often than not artistic representations do not show any resemblance with the original.
Moral Obligations Plato is very unhappy about this kind of artistic liberty. He regards it as the betrayal of fundamental moral obligations and goals. Art has to provide "the models of virtuous thought" and represent the good, not to entartain by means of frivolous images and actions.
The good should be represented through the most perfect beings - the gods. And the otherway round, the gods should be portrayed as good and virtuous. If this is not done properly or not at all it is very unlikely that the children will get the right educational message. Then both they and the State will be harmed.
Failure However, art either fails to do that or is not capable of doing justice to the above standards. It feeds on lies and produces lies.
Variety of Falsity It seems that art is not committed to truth at all. On the contrary it prefers falsity. In order to demonstrate how deeply art is associated with untruth Plato distinguishes all possible kinds of lies and then tries to determine the level of falsity that art displays in them. In principle, telling a lie is a fault, but all lies are not the same. It is interesting to note that some lies are worse than others while some may be better than others or even good.
White Lies The falsity of fictional literature insofar as it is only fictitious is the most harmless kind of lie. It coincides with the very idea of fairy tales - making up stories about events and personalities just to entertain or educate without contradicting the true nature of the gods and heroes. Since we do not possess direct knowledge of the events that happened at the beginning it is almost inevitable to make a falsehood resemble the truth - the question is only does this representation falsify the religious and moral nature of recounted events.
Bad Lie The situation becomes serious when the falsity of fiction turns into a bad lie. "Bad lies" are much worse than sheer fiction because they are basically misrepresentations that distort the true nature of the gods by attributing to them what is contrary to the very idea of deity. Thus they come down to a kind of slander with regard to divinities.
Greatest Lie

The greatest of all lies (being at the same time a "bad lie") is the story recounted by Hesiod about the succession of Uranus, Cronus and Zeus. Its content is blamable not only because of its indecent details but first and foremost because it sets a very bad example according to which children can punish and incarcerate their parents when the latter act wrongfully.
Note: Plato deals with the same issue in the Euthyphro where he opposes any possibility that children could prosecute parents on legal grounds.

Second Big Lie Right after the "greatest lie" about the infanticides and patricides committed by the first rulers of the Greek Pantheon, Plato places the stories about the marital and family quarrels between Zeus and Here and their unfortunate son Haephestus whom they both mistreated and who in his turn sided times with the father times with the mother in their proverbially rocky relationship.

The stories about the quarrels of gods and heroes like the above mentioned ones are questionable on two grounds:
(a) Religious (they are "unholy"), and (b) Moral (they do not represent "virtuous models").
These stories are plainly "unfit" to be told because they convey wrong messages to the young.

Lie Plato demands that the stories with these episodes be eliminated or at least told only to a limited number of people. In contrast, children should be told that there have been never quarrels not only among the gods but also among the citizens. The latter is an obvious lie, but in view of its moral and educational effect a permissible one.
Policy The inappropriate stories should be flatly eliminated from the educational process.
Justification: Such stories cannot be true. Why should we tell the lies contained in these stories? They hinder our cognitive aspirations and are morally questionable.
What if they are true? If they are true they should not be told. No damage will ensue.
Contingency: If they must be told anyway then only to the initiated few. But in that case the agents must cleanse themselves by an unusually huge sacrifice.
Pedagogy Keeping the truth hidden from those who could be confused by it or morally disoriented because of its content is obviously admissible. But Plato goes a step further. If necessary, lying is preferable over the truth and especially over the negative consequences that may arise from disclosing the unpleasant truth. Thus telling to the young that there have been no quarrels between citizens, although a blatant lie, is better than saying that the gods are responsible for human misfortunes ("bad lying").
Bad Lies Good Lies
Quarrels among the gods No quarrels among citizens
Allegory What if the poetical representations are allegorical, that is to say, that they have a hidden symbolical meaning? Even if these stories have an allegorical meaning they are still unsuitable for the education of guardians because they can easily confuse the young minds. Only philosophers can understand how poetical images relate to the perfect nature of the represented. Of course, an allegorical interpretation is preferable over the literal if the latter conveys unacceptable messages but the ideal is always an edifying message.
Note: If we accept the contention that not all people are capable of figuring out the symbolical meaning this would require to temper the wording accordingly. Indeed it seems that Plato allows three different kinds of representations according to the social position of the respective audience.
Common People Popular Representations Literal
Guardians Symbolical Representations Allegorical
Rulers Ideal Representations Conceptual
If we now put together all the different kinds of falsity that Plato distinguishes with regard to the content of fictitious stories we obtain a two-level moral hierarchy of negative and positive lies. It could be represented on one at the same scale with a divide in the middle:
Kinds of Lies  
Bad Lies Distortion of Divine Nature Reprehensible Artists
Spoken Lies Expressing Preconceived Falsity Mostly harmless. Unjustified if fraudulent. All humans
Simple Lies Made up Stories of Events Justified if not offensive Mythologists
Mistakes Erroneous Conceptions Neutral if not affecting the Mind* All humans
    *If this lie plants permanent ignorance about reality in the mind it becomes the worst possible lie.  
Silent Lies Burying Harmful Truths Permissible Founders
Lies in Words Intentional Misrepresentations Useful if Remedial of Harm or Beneficial otherwise

Physicians, Generals,

Good Lies Whitewash of Reality Justified in Absence of Knowledge Educators, Historians
Noble Lies Manipulation and Ruse Commendable for Strengthening Allegiance Guardians
  Almost all of these lies may find application in art. Artists (poets) are guilty or deserved of using them according to the social and moral value of their intentions. Ultimately it is upon the guardians, who are in charge to build the appropriate ideology and outlook, to decide which lies should be permitted and which truths should be banned.
Permissible Lies Since art has to conform to religious and moral expectations artists should procure the examples of virtuous thinking and action and in doing this they may use the last three types of lies.

It is not the obligation of the founding fathers to create appropriate stories - only to sift through the existing ones in order to make sure that these conform to the general rules. The founding fathers are expected to formulate those rules by setting the limits of what is pemissible (setting boundaries means shaping).

In what follows we see Socrates leading the process of critical examination (a.k.a. purging) through the four stages of examination.
The discussion encompasses (1) the appropriate characters of representation, (2) the appropriate way of presentation, (3) the appropriate way of musical performance, and (4) the appropriate rhythm of musical/poetical performances.

Models With regard to the content poets should be primarily concerned to represent the true originals to the best of their abilities. The true models for every realm of human endeavor are to be found in the "general forms" that define the limits of what is appropriate and what is not. These forms should be applied to the gods as the ultimate models and the bearers of truth. This requires a different kind of theology - not the one that simply transfers human weaknesses to the images of the gods (anthropomorphism) but the one that will do justice to the highest qualities of their natures (moral theology).
Function Art needs to adjust to the true forms of divinity because it is a means for a higher goal - the sustenance and improvement of the State. It cannot perform this task if it relies on erroneous concepts and negative models. No matter what kind of poetry we are dealing with their representations must be truthful and thematically appropriate.
Note: Plato divides poetry into three classes: epic, lyric and tragic because all three were composed in verses; today none of these must be in verses, not even the poetry in the narrow sense. Thus his meaning of poetry comes closer to the connotation of literature than to poetry in our modern sense.
General (Adequacy) Rule Gods should be represented as they "truly are". This means, notaccording to populr views:
(1) As being responsible for everything that happens (both good and bad).
(2) As changing their appearance, either by disguising themselves or creating illusion of change.
(3) As deceiving and tricking humns.
Assumption The first requirement is to portray the gods as "truly good".
How does Plato know what is the true nature of the gods? From the notion of God, or better to say, from the rational concept of deity. It is inconceivable that God could be bad - in that case he would not deserve veneration.
Inference If God must be good several implications necessarily follow about the gods and their nature. Plato draws them in the following sequence:
  Represented as they truly are  
1 God is good. Being truly good.
2 What is good is not hurtful. Being not hurtful.
3 What is not hurtful does not hurt. Not hurting.
4 What does not hurt does not cause evil. Doing no evil.
5 God cannot cause evil. Causing no evil.

Therefore God is the cause of only the good things.
  It is wrong to represent the gods as responsible for everything that happens. They are extremely powerful, certainly much more powerful than humans, but they are not capable of wrongdoing. To be sure, they can physically do everything, but doing harm and evil is not compatible with their nature which is good. (Plato does not address the interesting question why the gods do not prevent evil, presumably because they ar not that powerful or perhaps not that much involved in human affairs.)

From the above considerations Plato derives his first principle of representation.

1) What does not cause evil is good.
2) The good is advantageous.
3) God causes well-being.


1st Principle

Qualified Causation

The good causes only good things. Therefore God causes only a few things - those that are good (this principle is contrary to common notions and poetical images of Zeus dispensing both the good and ill). The fact that God causes only good things does not mean that all good things are caused by him. Good things in life are scarce but some are to be attributed to man and his actions. Men are responsible both for all evil and some good things.
Note: Plato here talks about God in singular because he has in mind the general nature of the gods - it is good, beneficial, cannot do any harm and cause evil.
Base Acts Even less should be gods accused of doing despicable things, like not keeping their word or breaking treaties. These are forms of evil just like instigating strife and contention among humans and the gods.
Note: Plato explicitly rejects any involvement of Zeus and Athene in the treacherous attack on Menelaus. This was the work of Pandarus, the leader of the Lydians in the Trojan war. He also vehemently denies that strife and contention among the gods and humans were instigated by Themis and Zeus.

Suffering is undoubtedly a kind of evil. Myths abound with stories about suffering. However it does have anything to do with the gods. The gods refrain from causing evil and suffering except in the form of deserved punishment. Therefore all those examples of torture, murder, and inflicted miseries are either caused by humans or are punishments for some violations of the divine order (cf. the story of Niobe). And those who are punished by the gods are always better for it even though they may appear miserable. But the gods are not the authors of their misery.

Note: Plato clings to the Socratic tenet that crime entails punishment which is a form of good - the perpetrator is better for it. It is therefore the right of the wicked to be punished and nobody is justified to deprive him of that benefit.

2nd Principle:

The second principle of theology states that the gods do not change under the influence of external causes. They are immutable.
  There are four kinds of possible change that are sometimes attributed to the gods.

Variety of Change:

  Real Change   Semblance of Change  
A From without   B From within    

Plato denies any change of the gods both in the sense of A and B (including the subdivision into B1 and B2).

External Influence Plato first rejects change under external influences. Analogy with health: the healthiest human frame is least liable to be affected by external influences. Nothing coming from without could compel the gods to change for they are good, healthy and wise and these characteristics resist any change.
  Healthy Flourishing Good Wisest God
  Body Plant Artifact Soul God
Quality Strongest Healthiest Fullest Vigor Enduring Self-contained Perfect
Outcome Least liable to be affected by food and drink Least suffering from wind and heat Least alterable Least confused Most resistant

The principle of the above reasoning is that the better condition of something is the less liable or prone it is to change. Since God is perfect he is the most resistant to any change.
Transformation The gods can only change by themselves. This is a logical possibility. But it is practically ruled out. Why should they resort to this possibility? Change is a sign of imperfection and thus incompatible with the true God's nature which is pure virtue and beauty. The gods can change only to worse but that would be contrary to the quality of their nature: they are the fairest and best of all beings. Therefore they forever retain their own (one) form. Accordingly, to ascribe self-transformation to God is ludicrous.

The gods remain self-identical and unchangeable. Gods are absolutely simple both in their thoughts and their deeds. Therefore they do not change their shape and appearance - despite popular beliefs.
God is "one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image".
Hence Plato repudiates the polymorphism of the Greek gods as it is portrayed by Homer and Hesiod.
Various Forms Plato dismisses popular stories depicting the gods as assuming "all sorts of forms", changing their appearance or simply roaming the land by night in disguise.
Not even Proteus, who has become the epitome of miraculous transformations, should be accused of changing his appearance, let alone Thetis or Hera or any other god.
These stories are pedagogically detrimental (can scare children) and religiously blasphemous (as they attribute low motives to the deities) in accounting for their changes.
Superstition But the gods, while remaining the same, may induce the semblance of transformation to the mortals. Yes, but they are not evil spirits, demons, wizards or magicians that trick humans. Therefore they do not put forth a phantom of themselves. God does not deceive by sign, or word, by dream or waking vision. Believing the contrary is a kind of superstition. Plato rejects superstitious and scary stories that are supposed to frighten readers (like those about vampires walking by night).
Deception Disguising themselves and deceiving humans is tantamount to lying. All the more as the humans cannot penetrate divine deception. But this is precisely the reason why the gods, being good and perfect, do not deceive. Otherwise they would be guilty of commiting the most eggregious kind of lie. It is therefore understandable that Plato speaks about lying in the continuation of his discussion of change and deception (thus this is not a diggression).
True Lie

To attribute lying and intentional deception of this kind to the gods is in itself a big lie. Being very poweful, the gods could deceive thoroughly. But they do not need that deception no more than using tricks and ruses that are petty. Big deception is incompatible with their nature and their will. To be surethey can induce a powerful deception that would be very believable. Such a deception would generate a true lie because it would plant itself deeply in the sould of man and would entirely blind them for the true foundations of reality. Succumbing to falsity of that magnitude unknowingly or inflicting it involuntarily on oneself is the most serious kind of lie.
Now we realize that the previous table of falsity must be expanded by including the lies that are the most eggregious violation of the educational function of poetry. Plato calls them the "true lies". They could be defined as follows:

Objective Lie
Type Nature Agents Victims Divine Use
True Lie Inflicted or Embraced
Ignorance of true Reality
Artists and their Audience
Ignorance The falsity of the so called "true lies" is the worst of all because it affects the condition of our mind - it occurs without our conscious consent but nonetheless blinds us for the true form of internal or external reality. A "true lie" affects both our language and our mind. Moreover, true lies change our views and apprehension of reality and turn our whole existence into falsity. This fateful lack of knowledge, responsible for the deplorable conditions of the existing constitution, is the "state of nature" that Plato strives to overcome with his enlightenment project.
Unintentional Artists typically do not lie intentionally. They believe what they say or paint is true. But precisely because of this commit true lies and are therefore detrimental. Ultimately it does not matter much whether that condition of profound falsity was self-inflicted or induced through artistic influence. It seriously hinders our ability to understand ourselves and the world and is consequently something both the gods and humans hate the most (nobody wants to be deceived about important matters). The falsity arising from the ignorance of the highest reality settles in the soul and determines negatively our identity and conduct.
Lie in Words Believing in lies could be much more detrimental than spreading them. A lie about higher realities, either produced or accepted, is more false than simple "lies in words". While common lies may be deceptive in some regards their subject is not so important as the one presented in art and received by the audience. And certainly it does not penetrate the inwardness of our mental life since it does not plant ignorance in our mental state. Therefore the damage caused by art and unsuspected consumption of art that produces true lies is much bigger both in scope and depth. For Plato, to bring oneself in a state that makes the person gullible (credulous to lies) is more consequential than to make a false statement of your own in words. The latter is just "an imitation" or "a shadowy image" of a previous affection while the state of mind may remain unaffected. So you may still know the truth while lying in words to other or at least you know that you do not possess the required knowledge when making false statements. Therefore that falsity is not a pure and unadulterated - it retains a semblance of truth (otherwise it would not be believable).
Bad Lies
Slenderous Distortion

Good Lies
Beneficial Distortion

True Lies
Adopted Ignorance

Common Lies

Useful Lie To lie intentionally in the manner of an (unsuccessful) imitation of truth is less damaging mentally than to be ignorant of the truth or to be in a state of self-delusion as to the truth. Plato vigorously condemns the ignorance that leads into self-delusion (pseudesthai) whereas his criticism of untruthfulness stemming from spoken lies remains selective. Whenever the benefit of lying outweighs the harm of not-telling the truth or shading it (against enemies, to save friends, to protect the State or religion) Plato seems to endorse lying (or at least allows whitewash, embellishment). He singles out at least three situations when lying is permissible and useful:
Use Situation Benefit
Against Enemy War, Battle Attain Victory
Prevention Illness, Despondency Save a Friend
Reconstruction Recounting Past Filling Gaps
Deceiving enemy is justified no less than lying to a derranged friend in order to save him/her of hurting herself/himself. If we do not possess direct knowledge of events we are permitted to make sense out of scanty evidence and make what is inevitably false look like truth (this seems to be a valid description of the historical method practiced even nowadays).
  Note: Overall though Plato regards lying as reprehensible especially if it concerns self-awareness and the knowledge of reality. This is the main reason why he chastises the workings of those artists that are instrumental in preventing people to realize the truth about themselves and higher realities.
True Lie Unadulterated Falsehood Affecting Soul Hated by Humans and Gods Contrary to Divine Nature
Lie in Words Shading the Truth Affecting Language Useful for Humans Useless to the gods
3rd Principle
However prone to allow useful lies in the State Plato never ascribes useful lying to the gods - they do not have any need for it and consequently no use.
Therefore the gods are always truthful.
Gods are incapable of any falsehood: they "are simple and true both in word and deed".

They know the past and do not have to distort it or to fabricate the facts (inventions).
They do not have enemies to be afraid of nor friends they are concerned for. Thus they do not need to deceive them for protection.
Deception They do not deceive by words or signs, they do not induce deceptive dreams or images.
Note: Plato repudiates Aeschylus for depicting Thetis (mother of Achilles) as accusing Apollo for the alleged breach of his own promise to protect her son.
  The above principles must be respected in artistic representations.
The following table shows the good along with the bad forms of divine representation.
Forms of Theology  
1 Distorting - telling bad lies. Depicting true nature.
2 Ascribing unqualified causation (including evil). Ascribing qualified causation (of the good only).
3 Ascribing change and susceptibility to external impact. Ascribing permanence and immutability (wholesome).
4 Ascribing self-transformation (deterioration). Ascribing self-identity with the proper image (virtue).
5 Attributing deception and true lies. Attributing truthfulness and self-awareness.
Reformed Art By virtue of a comparison of appropriate with inappropriate representations this table details how religious topics are to be treated in artistic representations within the State. Strictly speaking, there is not much left to represent since the gods are now conceived as perfect and above human frame of reference. The gods of poets are being replaced by the gods of philosophers.
Influence of Art Since the existing art represents the gods as giving birth in blood and violence, as committing incest and disrespecting all family rules, as undergoing all sorts of change and being engaged in different kinds of deception and criminal conduct, poetry is less than a representation. It is a gross misrepresentation of the divine nature standing thus far away from the original.
The problem, however, at this point is not so much a misrepresentation of the gods far removed from reality but a misguided influence of the representations to the political reality of the state. Artistic misrepresentation of the divine conduct entices a really reprehensible and detrimental conduct at the receiving end of the above chain - it directly affects the souls of the audience and transmits the same negative passions into them. The last thing the founders of a State want is to allow the poetic representations of the divine frenzy shape the guardians into the "mad dogs" that may turn against their own citizens.
Ontological status
Cognitive status
Practical Status
True original Self-identity (truth) Absolutely good
Artistic representation Shadow of likeness Relatively moral
Misrepresentation Less than shadow Immoral and bad
Practical Consequences

Art is not practiced for its own sake. It is subservient to the higher goals of the State. Because of the inherent distortions and erroneous concepts that art nourishes the traditional epic poetry cannot serve as the reservoir of our beliefs and values in its entirety. Given the harming influence of many passages in Homer and Hesiod they cannot survive in their current form. It is offensive and justifiably meets condemnation. "Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God." This practically means, such an artist will be denied state support (no taxpayer's money and no national endowment will be available) and his works will not be included in the instruction of the young (it will have no place in education).

Ancient Measures Arousing Anger Refused Chorus Not in Curriculum
Modern Measures Causing Protest Denied Grants No Coverage




Imitation of Virtue
Book III  
386a-392c Unlike book two, which addresses educational needs of children with regard to the religiously inspired stories, book three deals with the young men who are in their teens and need suitable moral instruction for real life situations. Religious and pedagogical concerns are still valid but Plato now evaluates the inherited tales primarily with regard to their moral and practical impact on the youth.
Topic Right from the beginning Plato asserts that religious and moral principles must be accepted "if we mean them (children) to honor the gods", respect "parents" and "value the friendship with each other". However, the two last mentioned concerns are not theological but clearly moral and social.
Honouring Gods Honouring Parents Valuing Friendship
Religion Morality Sociability

Thus, after establishing the true notions about the gods Plato moves to another level where he depicts the forms of morality, human conduct and character building.
Composition The discussion in book 3 could be said to be divided into 4 major parts.
(1) Content
(2) Style
(3) Melody
(4) Rhythm
  The first part deals with the appropriate and inappropriate representations of various states of mind and respective affections (the content of poetical representations).
The second part is about poetical style (the form of representations).
The third and fourth sections (they could be viewed as subsections of the second part) deal with the musical components in poetical representations.
Models In order to understand the emphasis put by Plato on the content of poetry we need to bear in mind that the subjects of poetical representations were the gods, demigods, heroes, great men of the past and great inhabitants of the underworld. In other words, poetry was about the most important beings in the collective consciousness of the Greeks. Having discussed how the representations of the gods can influence the guardians Socrates now tackles their more human counterparts who directly provide models for the future guardians.

Courage is the first desirable feature of those who are to become guardians. For the Greeks, courage was practically equal to fearlessness of death. Courage requires both the appreciation of danger and the ability to overcome fear.

Virtue Corruption
Courage Fear
Manliness Effemination
Firmness Softness


Fear Admittedly fear is the main obstacle on the road to courage. Hence, it is critical both to find out (1) what generates fear, and (2) how to overcome it.
Plato was convinced that nobody can be fearless of death if they believe "the world below to be real and horrible".
The tales about Hades inevitably make the nerves "excitable and effeminate".
Underworld The Greeks did not believe in a transcendent afterlife happening somewhere in the sky. The only form of post mortem existence was for them a kind of vegetative state ("no mind") in the underworld. As a big unknown the underworld was an inexhaustible source of fears. Since courage in the above defined sense comes down to the preparedness for death the images of the underworld were certainly a factor in warfare and consequently they affected the readiness of guardians to defend the State.
Principles In order to diffuse the fear from death Plato advances the following argument. (1) Those who are supposed to stand for freedom must fear bondage more than death.
(2) It would be self-contradictory for them to choose surrender over death.
(3) Death is better than disgrace and slavery.
Therefore death is not the most horrifying thing that can happen (disgrace and bondage are worse).
Consequently, we need to prepare guardians for death if the ultimate sacrifice is necessary.
Note: By the end of the last book Plato indicates some rewards for those who have fallen for the State. In keeping with this (although peppered with a more ponounced intellectual components), Plato defines philosophy as an "exercise in dying" (Phaedo) that ultimately enables the good people to attain the realm of eternal forms.
Embellishment and Censorship Hence Plato takes action on this matter and asks poets to change the tune and instead of vilifying Hades start commending the "world below" so that it could appear less horrid (certainly not an easy task). Plato was more realistic in simply censuring the "obnoxious" passages and the "appalling" names for the underworld although the very abundance of negative images and verses ("ghosts under the earth", "sapple shades") indicates that the deletion of some poetical descriptions will not obliterate the popular conception of the squalid, dark and cold Hades.
  Note: Plato does not deny that poetical descriptions of Hades may have certain charm, but he believes their moral message is destructive. He concedes that these stories may have some other use but insists they should be stricken out because they render the young too excitable.
  Plato assimilates fearlessness both to standing ground in war and firmness with regard to the loss of the dearest ones or of fortune.
Firmness "The good man will not consider death terrible to any other good man who is his comrade."
"And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of fortune, is to him of all men least terrible."
Awareness of Danger + overcoming fear + staying firm in loss

The loss of the dear ones introduces another topic - how to face death of others and material damages.
Virtue Corruption
Equanimity Excitation

Equanimity is not exactly a virtue but rather a sign of strong character. Excessive emotions are incompatible with temperance.

Plato condemns the extravagant manifestations of mourning and stresses instead composure as a sign of pride and self-sufficiency. It is inappropriate to depict "famous men" engaging themselves in excessive grief and beseeching (they befall women or base individuals rather than the role models). Even less to ascribe to heroes and the gods similar emotions.
Note: With his usual psychological acuteness Plato has noticed that in grief we often pity not the lost person but ourselves. "How will I cope with the adversities now that you are gone?" This is why he counters the excessive mournfulness with the idea of self-sufficiency that makes the happiness of a good man his unalienable possession. Unlike Aristotle, Plato believes that it does not necessarily include relatives, friends and fortune.

  A good man who is brave will bear calmly any loss of relatives or friends.
Laughter This does not mean that Plato condones joyfulness over sorrow. The role models of the future rulers are rather stern and withdrawn. They do not laugh and cut lose. Plato applies the same rule for both poles of emotional spectrum: persons of worth should not allow themselves to be overcome by any excessive emotion and laughter is one such emotion. Reason: Laughter easily turns into violent reactions. Therefore laughter is even less appropriate in representing the gods (Plato wants to make them appear serious and stern like the bosses who act themselves).
Affection Defect
Whining, Wailing Getting Weak and Soft
Laughing Losing Control
Composure Along with the factors that hinder people to acquire courage Plato examines the affections that may prevent them to keep composure. He especially targets weeping, wining, whining, weeping, and lamentations. There is no reason to sorrow the departure of somebody who has died for the cause. But there ar many reasons not to get overcome by these negative emotions that make us vulnerable and prone to excess.
The descriptions of sorrowful gods are rather laughable because the gods are emotionless. Attributing affections to heroes may look more natural but it is only more dangerous - for it sets bad examples and can affect the conduct of the audience negatively.
Great Man From this description emerges a picture of a great man that Plato has in mind while portraying the role models for the guardians. A great man is balanced and confident. He cannot be easily excited or moved. "Touchy-feely" products of art are nocious. He is self-confident and balanced. He cannot be easily excited or moved. Excessive emotions are incompatible with his composure. (His emotionless appearance and arrogance make him an ancient counterpart of modern jerks.) Of course, if this i the correct image of greatness, many characteristics attributed to heroes in the epics must be stricken out. The great man (apparentlyly a sexist and elitist) is the "famous man" who owes his celebrity status to his virtue which in turn makes him a role model.
  The left column lists the qualities that a good character is expected to embody. The overarching notion for the positive qualities is temperance (sophrosyne). Its paramount dimension is Self-control (see below). The features on the right side are the product of the "laxity of morals".
The question is now: How to overcome the negative habits and traits developed under the influence of poetry? Here is the list of steps that need to be taken in to address the negative impact of poetry on the young. Here are some of the measures in the order of Plato's exposition:
Do not have fear of death
Commend the underworld as better than slavery
Expunge obnoxious passages that spread fear
Avoid weeping and wailing
Refrain from laughter
Be firm, honest and enduring
Be respectful
If necessary lie for the good
Truthfulness: In book 3 Plato resumes the discussion of lying from the previous book but he approaches the issue from a different angle. The difference is that Plato now unambiguously requires from citizens to tell the truth. Seemingly this contradicts his previous permission to use lies in certain situations. Upon scrutiny, we realize, he only qualifies the previous statements. There is a good reason for this qulification. If temperance requires obedience, the latter couldbe effective only if it excludes lying from the subordinates. Therefore truthfulness is constitutive for obedience to higher authority. The rulers of the State are still permitted to lie for the public good because they know what is beneficial both for the state and citizens.
Subordination The subordinates may lie to each other but under no circumstances to the superiors. On the contrary, accepting this subordination is a sign of growing temperance, which explains the insertion of this excursion on lying in the section dealing with virtues.
Privilege of Lying Thus we have an unequally distributed privilege of lying. By means of several analogies Plato draws the unequal privilege of lying along the following lines of cognitive and social disparities:.
Asymmetric Relations
Superior Subordinate
Rulers Citizens
Physicians Patients
Trainers Trainees
Captains Sailors
Parents Children
Paternalism Those in position of power or authority (left column) are permitted to lie either for some utilitarian purposes or for the benefit of the state (noble lies). If rulers lie that is a kind of medicine, remedial tool, applied either for the sake of prevention (defending the State) or stability (maintaining the internal order). The relation does not hold the other way round. If lying is a "medicine" then it must be administred by the doctors, not by patients themselves. Lying to the rulers (doctors) is misplaced - socially speaking it is the most destructive lie.
  The rulers are so to speak forced to lie and use ruse because the subjects are not always capable to apprehend the truth without succumbing to certain temptations and making false choices. Therefore manipulation is in their own interest especially if the only available alternative is physical force and open oppression.
  Note: When Themistocles lied to the citizens of Athens that the island of Aegina was a threat that was justified because only so he could have gained them over to start building a new fleet which proves decisive in the war against the Persians.
Temperance However, the rule of temperance holds equally for the rulers and citizens. Of course, the rulers are expected to show self-restraint while the citizens shoul demonstrate respect.
  Temperance (sophrosyne) has three sides: obedience, control of drives and control of wantonness.
Obedience + control of appetites + self-restraint
Respect Temperance manifests itself as respect for the superiors, intemperance as disrespect toward them. It is proper to march in "silent awe" of leaders, not to treat them like Achilles treated Agamemnon. Already the abusive language can lead to intemperance (Jesus of Nazareth will regard calling names as a serious moral offense that could entail damnation). Therefore watch your words for impertinence no matter how amusing they may be.
  If we put together all the negative and positive forms of conduct discussed by Plato in this section we obtain the following comparative table of desirable and undesirable human characteristics:
Forms of Morality:
Appropriate Inappropriate
pride mourning
respect insolence
self-sufficiency dependency
self-control incontinence
sternness laxity
liberality avarice
honesty corruption
moderation gluttony
noblesse meanness
endurance weakness
Evaluation of Art Art is not free - it has to perform certain functions. Its value is determined by both religious and moral propriety of its representations. Therefore the artistic licence in expression must be restrained to follow the following demarcation.
Virtue Corruption
Temperance Insolence
Propriety It is inappropriate to depict the gods and heroes (= role models) as being overcome either by sorrow or laughter, or moved by lust, avarice and meanness. These are human weaknesses that do not befit the gods and heroes. Therefore it is unbelievable that Achilles, the son of a goddess and the greatest hero, "was so disordered in his wits as to be at one time the slave of two seemingly inconsistent passions, meanness, not untainted by avrice, combined with overweening contempt of gods and men".
This statement summarizes the three main violations of the temperance norm in Homer's depiction of Achilles:
(1) the cruel and inhuman treatment of the slained enemy,
(2) the consent to return his body for burrial not for moral reasons but owing to a bribe, and
(3) the utter disrespect not only for the superiors but for the gods as well (compare the words directed to Apollo).
  Only virtues and appropriate affections are permissible in artistic representations of the gods, demigods, heroes and guardians.
What kind of actions could be ascribed to different beings shows the following table:
  Lamentations Insolence Incontinence Meaness Avarice
Gods No No No No No
Heroes No No No No No
Common Men Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

In summary, only good actions could be ascribed to the gods, demigods, heroes and famous men. Ordinary men could show examples of virtue but it is no surprise that they sometimes or often fail in displaying good qualities. Therefore they are not role models.
Role Models
Good Actions
Bad Actions
Good Actions
Bad Actions
Common Men
Good and Bad
Impropriety Ordinary people can be represented both as virtuous or as lacking virtues. All possible affections can occur in common men. But there are some restrictions even in representing the lowest and basest people. Four situations (or messages) regarding happiness or justice are absolutely impermissible even in artistic representations of ordinary people:
wicked men are happy injustice is profitable
good men are miserable justice is one's own loss
Misconceptions: The above may be popular views of human life, perhaps even common and widely accepted, but they are morally unsound and for the sake of justice in yje state should never be espoused in art.
Summary Humans vacillate between virtues and vices. But they are supposed to acquire virtues. The virtues in question are the famous 4 classical virtues. They are not all explicitly named and their opposites are not stated in traditional way, but one should realize that excessive fear and sorrow stand for cowardice while excessive laughter and incontinence stand for intemperance. By applying this reading we get the following opposition of good and bad qualities:
Virtues Vices
Wisdom Ignorance
Courage Cowardice
Temperance Impertinence
Justice Injustice
Wisdom The discussion of wisdom is withheld for later. Given the age of the students it would be premature to expect it right now (it requires experience and knowledge). However, the need for wisdom was stressed negatively by the condemnation of the ignorance that is not aware of itself (true lies).
Justice Justice is a kind of general virtue that arises when each and every part of the soul performs its proper function within the whole. The idea of justice determines the propriety of human characteristics and actions. It is the overall principle of a good constitution and good life.

(A) Mode of Exposition
392c-397c Having elaborated the topic of proper artistic representations in terms of admissible subjects and affections Plato moves to the question of how these subjects are presented in terms of artistic means used in representation.
In this way both the matter (topic) and the manner (mode) of representation will be dealt with.
I Subject
II Mode
Matter/Content Manner/Style
Characters and Virtues Kinds of Exposition
Division This second section includes four subsections:
Imitation in Literature (392c-394c)
Educational Requirements (394c-396b)
Good and bad Literature (396b-397c)
Style (397c-398b)
  As representation is here treated as literary the means for it are literary as well (words).
Narration In order to understand the how of representation we must realize that both poetry and story-telling (mythology) are defined as a narration. They are narration in the sense that they are about events, - past, present, and future.
Note: As the very name suggests, mythology is equal to story-telling and the above assertion presents no problem in respect to mythical narratives. But how to understand the contention about the narrative character of poetry if poetry is only about feelings and moods? The answer is that Greek poetry included epics and plays that were written in verses; poems, which nowadays come first to mind as poetry, were just a marginal part of the whole poetical production in words. The bulk of the production was narrative - epic, tragedies, comedies, etc.

  Music Genus Subject Mode
1 Broad - Literature Poetry Writing Events Narration
2 Narrow - Poems Ode Melody Moods Singing

Modes Poetic narration could be conducted in three ways:
1 (a) Simple (b) Imitation (c) Union
Nature Speaking in own person Speaking in person of another Combination of a and b
Author Author appears Author concealed Intermediate
Method Personal Form Form of Assimilation Double Form
Grammar Indirect Speech Direct Speech Mix of impersonating and recounting talk
Examples Dithyramb - Hymns Tragedy, Comedy Epic
Dithyramb Dithyramb was originally a poem in honor of Bacchus (Dionyssos) but later became just a mythical narration about his exploits.
Drama Why are tragedy and comedy classified as imitation? Because they entail speaking in the person of another.
Note: Plato apparently uses the term "imitation" (mimesis) in three close and yet different senses: (a) creative representation of a character, (b) representation or expression of feelings and the moods, and (c) sheer copying of really existing sounds and gestures.
Definition Why does Plato call speaking in the person of another imitation?
Because in that case the artist (a writer or an actor) impersonates another person and tries to assume his character. The "assimilation of himself to another, either by use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character" is assumed.

Impersonation is not a simple imitation of something present and visible but in fact the ultimate imitation that requires the embodiment of a fictional character in your own person. All participants in the poetic reproduction, beginning with the author and the rhapsode and ending with the audience and the reciting child were expected to undergo a kind of "imaginative identification" with the imitated person. But imitation pushes the process to its limits.

Stages of Impersonation
Speaking in the person of another
Assimilating to the person of another by voice and gesture
Identifying with the character of another person
Principle Imitation makes us similar to the object imitated. This is a huge potential for the corruption of character because unworthy models get transfused into the veins of the imitator. The effect is both misleading and demeaning. The former for the audience, the latter for the protagonist.
Mimetic Art: All literature (poetry and mythology) is imitative but some forms are more imitative than others. Hence Plato raises a series of questions on the "mimetic art":

(1) Should imitation be permitted?
(2) If so, should it be permitted in part or in whole?
(3) Or should it be banned altogether?

Wholly Partly Wholly Partly
Fate of Drama Given the entirely imitative nature of drama, the question what to do with imitation ultimately turns into the question should tragedy and comedy be admitted to the State.
This question is not yet posed in terms of bare survival for the dramatic performances - it is now more about the extent of permissible imitation.
At this point Plato is exploring whether the guardians are to be allowed to engage themselves in performances as impersonators = imitators and to what extent. But the stage is set for a more radical solution in book X.

Plato intimates that the above question about the existence of plays may have been already decided by the principle of single expertise.

Rule: One man can only do one (single) thing well.
Specialization: No one can imitate many things as he would do a single one (his occupation in life).
Extension: One cannot seriously play one role in life and imitate many other roles in art. Only a con-artist can pretend to be able to play different roles in life.
Kindred Areas Even in close areas (cobbler and carpenter, comedy writing and tragedy writing, character actor and comedian) it is not possible to acquire equal expertise/excellence.
Human Nature Human nature is "coined into yet smaller pieces" = there is no man in general, a universal man, only men who are this or that. This prevents a single man to be successful in imitating many things and occupations at the same time.
The artist may appear as the "Jack-of-All-Trades" but certainly "master of none".
Effects: Plato was convinced that imitation (impersonation) has several negative effects. They could be broken down into moral, psychological and practical:


(a) It is misleading for the audience.
(b) It lowers the character of the performer (demeans it).
Psychological (c) It splits the character into different personalities (thus impeding the required personal single-mindedness).
Practical (d) One cannot lead a serious life and imitate.
(e) One cannot imitate other professions ("parts of life").
Application The expertise of the guardians (= their craft) is the maintenance of the State. Working for the benefit of the state seems to be a kind of imitation that is subject to the rule of one single expertise. Therefore they should not imitate anything beyond that or at least nothing incompatible with their ends as future rulers.
Exception Of course, Plato was aware that we cannot ban imitation altogether. It is in human nature. Children learn by imitation. The same holds true of future guardians. Thus Plato tries to hit the middle ground and consequently he allows the children to imitate "only those characters which are suitable" ("the courageous, temperate") but not "any kind of illiberality or baseness, lest from imitation they should come to be what they imitate".
Second Nature : Plato was convinced that imitation has an impact on the imitator. The "imitated" character gets adopted and appropriated, at least temporarily. But, by long habituation to the object of imitation, it can become a second nature. Therefore it is not irrelevant what do we imitate.

Note: Is Plato confusing real life with a conventional rendering of life in art? To a certain extent, but he was concerned for psychological and moral consequences of artistic imitations.

Quality The quality of the impersonated character defines the quality of the impersonator and the imitation. The imitated character can even become a second nature of the impersonator. Therefore the guardians will be prohibited to "apply their minds to the callings" of the following people:
Inappropriate Roles:
Subject Imitator
Women Base man
Slaves Base man
Vulgar men Base man
Artificers Base man
Mad men Base man
Animals Base man
Inanimated Objects Base man
Inappropriate Mimicking The guardians shall not imitate animals, their voices and sounds, nor any other natural sounds.
Appropriate Role The only character befitting a future guardian is a good man and this only if the latter is "not overtaken by illness, love or drink, or has met with any disaster". Other characters can be assumed only for a moment, within a good action or in jest.
Allowance: These prohibitions are very restrictive. Still, if the guardians can impersonate good characters while other roles will be performed by actors that do not aspire to assume the highest positions in the State this will leave the drama alive.
Preference: Thus we have reached the answer to the question which style of narration should be endorsed. As far as the manner of exposition is concerned the preference is clearly for the narrative style or a combination of narration and imitation with a desirable predominance of the former.
The narration which does not set any limits to itself in terms of subjects and impersonation is called "unscrupulous". It will consist mostly in imitation while the narrative parts will be severely reduced.
  Acceptable Unacceptable
Imitation of good character of bad characters
Narration of all ?
 Good Art Good literature is thus the one that imitates that what is worthy to become our second nature. "I should prefer only to admit the pure imitation of virtue." Good art stimulates its recipients to become good, not in the sense of simply preaching virtues, but in the sense of directly affecting their psyche.

(B) Style (LEXIS)

From the modes of exposition Plato moves to the question of style. Only now he deals with style in the strict sense. Hence this section is the first one that really deserves the name given to the whole second part dealing with the manner of exposition.
Social Critique The discussion can create the impression Plato is doing a kind of art criticism. This would be a grave misunderstanding of the intent and the status of the dialogue. Plato is not interested in any formal analysis of art. His motives are again purely moral and political. He deals with the poetical forms only insofar as they have or potentially could have morally relevant impact on the public and the performers. If we would venture to label his work it should be called a social critique of art.
Division of Styles Plato's analysis of style centers around the component that would be nowadays regarded rather as music. In ancient Greece, poetry was inextricably tied with music and the other way round. Music in the narrow sense was closely connected with poetry; recitations were accompanied by musical performances and music was incorporated both in the drama and dithyrambic poetry. Thus if we now add musical component to the previous division of narration we obtain the following three different styles depending on how we use rhythm and harmony in them.
2 Simplistic Mixed Pantomimic
Melody Single harmony Several harmonies Variety of harmonies
Rhythm Same rhythm Few rhythms Changing rhythms
Characteristic Virtuous Indifferent Immoral
Reception Boring Charming Popular
Question: Should we admit into the State all the three styles or only one of the unmixed two or just the mixed one?
Reduction: Plato prefers only imitators of virtue but does not entirely exclude the mixed style. However, the regulation should not allow unrestrained change of melodies and rhythms and the "pantomimic gentlemen" (unscrupulous imitators) will not be admitted in the State.
  For Plato, one single calling has all advantages of honesty over deceptive versatility. Plato detests versatility as something disingenuous. Human natures are not manifold - unless corrupted.
Versatile Single-minded
Manifold Simple
Dishonest Honest


Moral Standard

It is obvious that monomimic style will create monotonous music, boring art and flat characters on the stage.
Plato is aware of these shortcomings, but insists that they represent strengths - if we evaluate the matter morally. Charm and popularity are not decisive since they are not conducive to moral values. By keeping art monotonous, he wants to keep guardians focused on their main goal - care for the State.
  A society of experts in which everyone performs their job cannot tolerate a pantomimic art.
Expulsion With all due respect (anointment and garlands provided) the artists who imitate manifold characters will be "sent away into another city" (i.e. banished).


398c-402d This section deals with the music proper (playing instruments and singing). Plato treats music from the same point of view as poetry: how much it is conducive to rearing good characters.

That it has a tremendous impact on people is not to be doubted. Music expresses or instills certain qualities in the soul of the musician and of the listener respectively. Musical training is a very potent instrument in molding the characters. Music directly influences the will and can easily penetrate the inwardness of the soul. Since it affects our inwardness directly we must carefully select musical forms and means. The more so we should regulate musical education, musical training, poetical creations and theatrical performances.

 Every kind of poetry includes musical components but they are most prominent in songs.


Every song (ode) has three parts:
Subject Emotion Condition
Words Melody Rhythm
Logoi Words (lyrics) are the most important part in any song. The role of lyrics has been indirectly discussed in the previous section - hence Plato now shifts focus to melody and rhythm.
Melody and rhythm together provide musical underpinning for a poetic setting - this is what the Greeks called prosody.
Melody Melody (tune) comes second after lyrics. Melodies could be performed in different "moods" or harmonies.
Harmony Harmony is a sequence of melodic intervals. That is to say, it is a series of tones (the Greeks had 4) running up or down in a stepwise fashion (corresponds pretty much to what we call a scale, or key).
Note: Harmony and scale are used synonymously in rendering Plato's terminology because a scale consisted of harmonious relations of a fourth, fifth and octave. It is not be confused with a simultaneous sounding of different tones (our modern meaning of harmony). Scales were constructed by adjusting the pitch of tones within the octave starting from a certain base.

(a) HARMONIES (Scales)

(a) Dorian
Courage   (c) Lydian
D - C - B - A Military use
  F - E - D - C Lamentations
  Strenghtening Character     Weakening Character
(b) Phrygian
Temperance   (d) Ionian
E - D - C - B Daily use
  C - B - A - G (Modern Maior) Useless


  Originally the Greeks had only three scales (those designated as a,b, and c) but later developed four more through the variations of the first three. Thus they got the Ionian (Hypo-Phrygian), Aeolian (Hypo-Dorian: A,G,F,D), Locrian (Hypo-Lydian: B,A,G,F) and Mixo-Lydian "harmony". Plato explicitly deals only with the first three scales and the Ionian.
Assumption: Harmonies are expressive of or conducive to certain feelings such as joy or sorrow, firmness or softness.
Note: This is a very questionable assumption. It is quite possible that what appears to be a correlation between musical scales and emotions is just a culturally conditioned reaction. The fact is, however, that Greek poets and musicians used the variety of scales to convey different emotional states as is the case in any other culture.
Purgation: In keeping with the previous analysis of inappropriate affections, all "harmonies" (scales) that arouse "unbecoming" feelings and states of mind will be banned. Plato leaves only two harmonies that should suffice to generate the appropriate moods both in war and peace. These two (Dorian and Phrygian) are allegedly associated with determination and tranquility respectively. They directly contribute to foster courage and temperance.
Two Strains:
Dorian Phrygian
resolve endurance
courage temperance
necessity freedom


  The Dorian scale was regarded as manly and dignified (thus binding to the collective) while the Phrygian was perceived as emotional and devotional (thus more liberal).
Other Harmonies What will happen with other harmonies? Plato contends that there is no need for other "harmonies" (scales) as they do not contribute to virtues. The harmonies like Aolian (modern minor), Locrian or Ionian are useless and consequently should be eliminated. This includes any variation or combination of them. No complex (panharmonic) scales were to be allowed either; this last provision excludes the Mixolydian scale in particular.
Variety Plato consistently pursues his strategy of purging redundant artistic means. For him, there is no big difference between frivolous impersonation and frivolous experimentation with scales. Imitation and variety or scales are both unsuitable for educational purposes. Therefore a variety of harmonies in music will not be more acceptable than indiscriminate imitation in literature.

Restrictions The choice of "harmonies" (scales) determines the choice of instruments. As a result Plato heavily restricts the use and production of instruments.
Division String instruments, stripped of some extravagant variants created at the time of Plato, will be allowed to a certain extent. Particularly the lyre and the harp are approved for the use in the city. But wind instruments are banned altogether with the sole exception of pipe which is permitted only in the country (for shepherds).
Flute is openly declared to be the worst of all instruments combined (obviously because of its association with irrational desires).

Kind String Wind
Patron Apollo Marsyas
Instances Lyre, Harp, Kithara Flute, Pipe, Aulos
Faculty reason passion
Principle order disorder
Quality harmony disharmony
  Note: Plato vigorously opposed innovations in musical techniques (new rhythms, altered scales, expanded instrumental devices) as directed to entertainment and not to the cultivation of the true sense for harmonies. All innovations on instruments are condemned and strictly prohibited. Even those that can improve the existing string instruments are not allowed. Thus Plato speaks with disdain about the panharmonion - a string instrument on which all harmonies could be played (as on today's keyboard).
Timotheus was credited with the increase of strings of the lyre to 12 and other spurious musical innovations.
Dog of Egypt This is a reference to Anubis, a jackal like god of embalbement; it is an appropriate allusion to the ability of discernment and good judgment when doing purging of any kind.

(c) Rhythm

  The section on rhythm resumes the discussion on harmonies that was interrupted with the digression on instruments. The same principles apply.
  The intricacy of the Greek metrical system requires a brief explanation of the terms employed by Plato.

The basic unit,
a combination of syllables (two or three) like a bar in music.
The number of feet in a line
(e.g. pentameter, hexameter).
The pattern of alternating short and long syllables (e.g. iamb, dactyl, trochee)
(today: a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables).

Goal: Find out which rhythms are "expressive of courageous and harmonious life". Then simply adjust the foot to harmonies so that both can convey the lyrics in the most powerful way.
Principle: Plato believes that rhythms are also expressive of certain moods and affections that correspond to virtues or vices respectively.
Purgation: Only those expressive of courageous and harmonious life will be permitted.
Complex metrical systems can only blur the difference between the good and the bad.
Analogy Glaucon, whom Socrates credits with giving him lessons in harmonies, states that there are three principles of rhythm that define all metrical systems. These three principles correspond in their grounding function for rhythm to the four notes of all harmonies. (However, they are not specified.)
Division: From other sources we know that rhythms were classified in three groups:
isos genos equal kind dactyl
diplasion genos double kind iambus
chemiolion genos middle kind paeon
  Plato mentions only three rhythms from the right column of the above list but adds the Cretan as well about which we know all but nothing. These rhythms display the following patterns of short and long syllables.
Iambic _/
Trochaic /_
Dactylic /--
Cretic ?
Correlation Good and bad rhythms are naturally associated with the good and bad style. This requires intervention from the part of educators.
Deferrence However, for the first time in the process of purgation Plato withholds his final judgment on the propriety of particular rhythms. Despite strong conviction that some rhythms are bad he was unable to separate admissible from inadmissible rhythms. The decision which rhythms are expressive of goodness and which of meanness is deferred to the experts (in particular to Damon who was Socrates' teacher of music). Socrates recollects that Damon "arranged them (rhythms) in some manner which I (he) do not understand, making the rhythms rise and fall of the foot". But he concedes that his recollection of this classification was vague and insufficient.
Note: A hint as to how the final decree will read is probably given in the remark that dactylic rhythm is called "heroic" while Cretic is referred to as "complex".
Dependency Rhythm and harmony should fit the desired style, not the other way round. In general, all musical components are there to support the words (lyrics) which are the articulate expression of our state of mind. This rank-ordering yields the following hierarchy of expressive means with the soul topping the ladder.
Rule Plato contends that both the words (lyrics) and the character of a chosen style depend ultimately on the temper of the soul.
Simplicity = Single-mindedness The beauty and grace of a style are derived from the simplicity of the artistic means used. This simplicity correlates with the simplicity of a "rightly and nobly ordered mind". Therefore it must not be confused with the stupidity of a simpleton - it rather denotes the single-mindedness of a strong character.
Note: In criticizing complexity Plato shows his conservative penchant for simple things and performances. This preference certainly prevented him to distinguish between the complexity which is confusing or purely ornamental and the complexity that creates a more profound unity both in the art-work and the soul of the recipient.
Assumption Grace or absence of grace correlate with good or bad rhythm.
Aesthetics - Ethics In turn grace (beauty) and harmony correlate with goodness and virtue. Ugliness and discord correspond to meanness and intemperance.

Superintendance: Super-intendance of art is not limited to poetry. Control and prohibitions should be extended to all other arts, creative (visual) and constructive (productive) alike. Other artists (sculptors, architects), if they did not comply with the proper forms, will be sent away from the city the way pantomimic imitators and innovative musicians were expelled from the State. This measure is necessary in order to fight moral deformity in all areas of artistic production. No form of vice, intemperance, meanness and indecency in art will be tolerated.
Health: The souls of the future guardians should be protected from all possible moral corruption stemming from the arts. We want to secure a healthy environment for the young.
Aims: However, the aim of musical education is to induce love for the beautiful (first), then love for the good (second) and finally love for the truth (third). The form of beauty should flow into the eyes and ears of the young through the effluence of fair works. The last stage will be the pinnacle of "noble education".
In keeping with his theory of forms, Plato contends that the beautiful and graceful exist also in nature, and that this kind of beauty must be perceived as well.
In brief, musical education should present the good, the beautiful and the truth in their appropriate forms - intellectual, visual and audible (see the beginning of this outline).
Rational Beauty: Carefully calibrated exposure will develop sympathy for the beauty of reason. It will make the soul graceful and will provide a "true taste" capable to distinguish the good and the bad.
Education: Proper musical education enables the young to distinguish the good and the bad and other polarities even if the reason for discernment remains unknown - only conceptual knowledge reveals the rationale for these distinctions. The main division of cognitive, aesthetic and moral categories follows this rift:
Morality Deformity
Health Corruption
Beauty Ugliness
Goodness Meanness
Reason Folly

Banishing Art

Artistic Imitation



In an obvious reference to what has been stated in book 3 (401a) about the expulsion of pantomimic and "indecent art" Socrates reaffirms his negative stance on "imitative poetry". His new position does not leave much room for salvaging art. He quotes the "rule about poetry" (bk. iii) as the best proposition in the constitution as it clearly states that imitative poetry is to be rejected in the ideal State because one man can do only one thing well.
Note: Plato moves from a limited approval of imitative poetry (good characters, good sayings) to an unqualified rejection of any imitation, this is to say, of art.

Justification: All poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding. They disable (incapacitate) reason and make people prone to deception.
Antidote: The only remedy for the harm caused by imitations is the knowledge of their true nature (debunking the deceptive character of imitations). This step requires to overcome the ignorance of the "true lies". Plato suggests that this ignorance could be overcome by acquiring knowledge about ignorance which amounts to (re)acquiring Socratic wisdom about the true nature of art.
Nature: The critical step in this undertaking is to disclose the nature of imitation. What is imitation (mimesis)? In contrast to books 2 and 3, imitation now equals sheer copying or mirroring of reality, which ultimately explains Plato's final rejection of art.
Plato talks about poetry as if all poetry is imitative in this sense and consequently morally bad.
Deviation Cognitively, art is worthless. It is worthless because it deviates from the truth.
Truth = the true form. Art = surface, false appearance.

Truth is to be respected more than appearance and artist. We may enjoy and even admire art and the skill of great artists but their charm should not be put over our reverence for the truth.
Cf. "I like the man but even more the truth" (EN 1096a).

Note: Plato expresses his high esteem for Homer - he is "the captain and teacher of the whole charming tragic company" ("imitative tribe"), but he still does not deserve moral and cognitive respect. As we know, Aristotle will have returned these same words to Plato with regard to his theory of Forms.

Why Plato reaches a negative verdict on the cognitive value of art? And what is the ontological basis for such a judgment? In order to answer these questions one needs to understand the true structure of reality and how it is reflected in (visual) arts.
  Levels of Reality:
One Form: According to Plato's theory of general notions, there is one idea or form over any multitude of individual objects bearing a common name. Thus there is only one idea or model of bed or table for that matter. If there were two paradigms the "third man" argument will apply so that ultimately one form will again emerge over the two.
Plato says that there is only one bed in nature, which sounds very strange because beds are artifacts, but this expression does not denote any "natural" bed (there is none) but the nature of bed. It is one and it makes all particular beds instances of its class by being embodied in them (partially). To say that God has created one form and to say that there is one form by nature comes down pretty much to the same.
Many Artifacts: There is a plenty of beds or tables manufactured by carpenters who make them in the likeness (semblance) of the one ideal form. The immense (actual) variety of particular beds and tables exists based on the existence (ideal) of one singular form for each kind of artifacts. This variety and multitude of beds is not a rebuttal of one form but an evidence in support of it. Without the one form the many would not exist and would not be conceivable.
Multitude of Images: There are many images of beds and tables. These images mirror the manufactured beds and tables as seen from certain angles. They copy them as they appear. They are only appearances. But appearances do not present objects for what they are.
Thus  bed occurs on 3 levels of reality:
1 Form of Bed God (nature)
2 Manufactured Beds Workmen (carpenters)
3 Painted Beds Artists (painters)
  All three kinds of artificers are in a sense  the producers of something (poietes)  but the mode of their products and their respective reality is very different.
Inferiority Art is ontologically inferior to both level 1 and 2 - it is less than a shadow and a semblance of the original. The artist creates illusions, not something real. Art is a kind of wizardry.
Lightness: It is very easy to be an artist - everyone can do it. One needs just to turn around a smooth surface (a mirror) and get the things reflected on its surface. These reflections by far exceed anything the best artist can produce. Reflections are a kind of creation, in a mirror, but inferior to reality (= just mirroring things).
Original: The original is always preferable to any imitation as reality is preferable to illusion. Those who know how to make originals will never resort to copies and especially not to sheer images.
Artificer Occupation Product Status Cognition Outcome
God Creator Forms Original Knowledge Truth
Crafter Maker Artifacts Copy Opinion Belief
Artist Imitator Appearances Image Ignorance Untruth
Untruth: The "image-making brand" of artificers deserves utter disdain because it adopts imitation as the guiding principle in life. Artifacts are an "indistinct expression of truth" = a semblance of existence that cognitively rest on a "correct belief" at best. But appearances are directly untrue - they should not be mistaken for real or true objects.
Things as they are Things as they appear
Reality Appearance
Cognitive Inferiority Imitations are thrice removed from the truth. They are deceptions and illusions.
Artists do not know what they represent. They do not possess sufficient knowledge let alone omniscience. In fact, they do not possess any knowledge at all. Knowledge is not a precondition for artistic creation.
Note: What about the technical knowledge necessary to produce illusions? Plato obviously did not value much the technological artistry which started to show first great results in his days. Apollodorus, Zeuxis, and Parrhasius, developed initial perspectival and chiaroscuro patterns to achieve more realistic effects. For Plato, they were "shadow-painters" both figuratively and literally (they were using variations in tone).
Knowledge of everything Deception
Poetic representation Illusion
Deception Artistic imitations are cheesy illusions. They can deceive only children. They will not notice that the depicted cobbler is not a real cobbler (meaning, they will mistaken the imitation for the representation of a real cobbler).
Use What is then the purpose of art? It seems that it only serves the purposes of noxious entertainment.
Pragmatistic Test In order to show that art is useless for any good purpose Plato raises a series of questions pertaining to the supposed achievements of Homer (he stands representatively for all artists):
(1) Has he cured any patient as Asclepius did? (Plato raises this question rhetorically and immediately drops it as too demanding but only after the diminishing effect has been accomplished.)
(2) Has any State ever been better governed based on Homer's advice? (As was Sparta by Lycurgus or Athens by Solon)
(3) Is there any war that was carried successfully by Homer or aided by his counsel?
(4) Is there any practical invention of Homer? (Like those by Thales and Anacharsis. The former was credited with the measurements of the pyramids and distances on the sea, the latter by the invention of anchor and the potter wheel.)
(5) Has Homer become a personal guide or teacher to anybody? (Like Pythagoras who has founded a special life style.)
(6) Has Homer created an educational curriculum? (Like the sophists Protagoras or Prodicus?)
Medicine Asclepius Health
Legislation Lycurgus Constitution
Strategy Themistocles Victory
Invention Thales Measurements
Guidance Pythagoras Life-style
Education Protagoras Skills
Useless: The answer to all these questions is an unambiguous 'No', which means that there is no practical use in the State for imitative poetry. Thus the verdict must be passed on poetry and it must be negative. It is good for nothing.
Note: Had the case with the utility of poetry been different we should have blamed even more Homer's relative Creophylus for neglecting the great poet. Now this neglect was not a big deal.
Warning "Sweet influence" (external effects, ornate) blinds for the content.
Bloom True beauty is not equal to the bloom of youth which so often fascinates people. But blooming is ephemeral, not lasting.
Superficial Profound
Colors Content
Figures Forms
Ut pictura poiesis What is said on the account of visual artists is accordingly applied to poets as well. Poets are like painters - they rely on colors (words, phrases, musical components) to effectuate the corrosive "sweet influence" on those who do not know (the ignorant, children). Stripped of their colors (melody and rhythm) their products make a very poor impression - they are then left with for what they truly are.

Final Arguments Against Art
I First Reason (lack of knowledge)

  The imitator knows only appearances. Not the true nature (essence).
  Not even workers (artisans) are knowledgeable about the true nature of artifact.
Principle: Truth, excellence and beauty are relative to the use. In other words, cognitive, moral and aesthetic qualities are contingent upon practical use within a society. This results in the following division of arts:
Three Arts:
Arts of using
Arts of making
Arts of imitating
  The above division establishes the corresponding rank-ordering of knowledge and expertise:
Person Quality
User true knowledge
Craftsman right opinion
Artist masked ignorance
User In the realm of practical application the user replaces God - he knows best whether a product is good or not.
The second in knowledge is the maker - he follows the instructions set by the user. If he has a right opinion it is acquired by talking to the user.
Note: The chosen example is not very fortunate because the flute player is himself an artist.
  The artist imitates many things without possessing real knowledge about them. He does not possess even the right opinion.
Conclusion Art is a kind of ignorance produced for the ignorant (cf. true lie).
Consequence: At best it is a past-time (play); at worst it is a deception and hoax.

II Second Reason (irrational appeal)

Weak Faculty:

Art addresses the senses - the weakest link in our cognitive apparatus.


The senses easily succumb to illusions, especially the sense of sight. But all senses could be affected.
Note: Illusionist techniques: trompe d'oeil = the art of conjuring and deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices, perspectival vision, optical illusions, etc.


The credulity of the senses creates confusion.
Calculation: The art of measuring resists the deception and wants to dispel the illusions. But the senses oppose it vigorously.
  This in turn generates tensions, conflicts and contradictions within the soul.


Rational part Irrational part
Prone to measuring Prone to illusion making
Better Inferior
Philosophy Poetry


Vacillation: Thus man is being tossed in opposite directions.
  We do not know which way to take? We need to maintain the unity of our Self.  
Rule of Reason: The better part of the soul trusts measures and calculation.
We need to put our affairs in order as reason deems best. This seems to be the right way to proceed.
Rebellion: However, the irrational part is not willing to comply. The irrational principle rebels and furnishes a great variety of materials for imitation.  
Preference Imitation prefers fitful temper, not composure. The former is easier to imitate and also more popular to the audience.  
Definition: The imitative art is an inferior (activity) who marries an inferior (faculty) and has inferior offspring (illusion).

III Third Reason (character harm)

Heaviest Count:

Poetry harms even the best characters, meaning even strong, patient, enduring, and equable personalities get softened and effeminate under its spell.
Audience Psychology: Imitation arouses sympathy with those who sorrow. We think it is right to empathize with those who deserve pity all the more so as it does no personal harm. Thus the sympathetic element breaks loose while the spectator fancies that there is no disgrace in pitying others.
Sorrow: The pitying person gets overcome by an unseemly emotion of sorrow at the sight of the misfortunes of others. Or at least opposes it with great difficulty.
Weakness: However empathizing with others moves and disarms even the strongest characters who otherwise would be ashamed to show weakness and softness in front of others.
It makes a difference whether we are seen by others or alone. But even when alone we should avoid inappropriate states of mind.
Contiguity: Through sympathy the evil from the other man is transferred to the pitying person. Plato does not believe in cathartic effect of these feelings nor in the possibility of purifying them through substitution.
Laughter: The same holds true of the ridicule. Buffoonery demeans the person who jests or enjoys the unseemly humor. (Plato was the precursor of political correctness in this respect, although not for principled reasons.)
Affections: In a similar manner poetry transmits anger or lust to the audience. In general, it feeds and entices passions instead of extinguishing them.
Unseemliness Plato vigorously opposes the dominance of pleasure and pain as the regulative forces of human conduct. This role must be reserved for reason and law.
Principles of Human Conduct Utilitarian Principles Platonic Principles
Positive Pleasure Reason
Negative Pain Law


Respect Therefore poetry which uses seductive deceptions must be censored or entirely eliminated. Homer is a great poet, but not fitting for education.
Residue The only poetry we need are the hymns to the gods and the praises of great man.
The Muse: The honeyed Muse of poetry should not be admitted to the State.

Moral Validation:

Avoid seductions and distortions of the truth by banishing art and expelling artists.


The ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry must be decided in favor of the former.

Royal Art

Philosophy is the royal art because it determines the value and the use of all artifacts. By virtue of dialectic philosophy gives insight into the true beauty of real forms and hence should be the paradigm of all arts. Poetry cannot match the cognitive achievements of philosophy and therefore must obey its rules. If it rebels against being patronized by philosophy its rebellion would not be any different from "the yelping hound howling at her lord" (as one saying reads).
Condition: Poetry possesses many charms but it needs to prove itself as a viable component of education. The negative verdict could be revised only if it manages to defend itself.


Plato only abstractly allows the possibility that art could successfully defend itself. The burden of proof set by him is so high that his allowances cannot have any practical bearing on the fate of art. The defenders of art must show that poetry is not only pleasant but useful as well which is impossible under Plato's terms (except for the two genres approved by him).



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