Against Mimetic Poetry

Christopher Janaway

in Images of Excellence

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780198237921
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597800 | DOI:
 Against Mimetic Poetry

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A discussion of the arguments against mimetic poetry in Republic Book 10. Plato criticizes poetry and drama, especially tragedy and Homer, on the grounds that, in engaging the emotions, they appeal to an unstable emotional part of the psyche and subvert reason, while yet seeming to proceed from, and transmit, knowledge. He is concerned that poets are regarded as possessing and conveying knowledge in the sphere of ethics, when in fact they have only an ability to produce pleasurable and convincing ‘images of excellence’. On the basis of epistemological and psychological arguments, mimetic poetry is banished from the ideal city.

Keywords: drama; emotions; ethical knowledge; Homer; mimesis; Plato; poetry; psyche; Republic; tragedy

Chapter.  11560 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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