Life of Poetry

The Life of an Instagram Poet
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Socrates posits that there are Forms or Ideas of beds and tables, the maker of which is a god; there are imitations thereof, namely beds and tables, produced by craftsmen such as carpenters who behold the Forms as though they were looking at blueprints ; thirdly, there are imitators of the products of the craftsmen, who, like painters, create a kind of image of these objects in the world of becoming. The tripartite schema presents the interpreter with many problems.

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Let us focus on one of the implications of this schema, about which Socrates is quite specific. The poets don't know the originals of i. Even putting aside all of the matters relating to arts and crafts technai such as medicine , and focusing on the greatest and most important things—above all, the governance of societies and the education of a human being—Homer simply does not stand up to examination ce.

And what, apart from their own ignorance of the truth, governs their very partial perspective on the world of becoming? Socrates implies that they pander to their audience, to the hoi polloi b3—4. This links them to the rhetoricians as Socrates describes them in the Gorgias. At the same time, they take advantage of that part in us the hoi polloi are governed by; here Socrates attempts to bring his discussion of psychology, presented since book III, to bear.

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The ensuing discussion is remarkable in the way in which it elaborates on these theses. How would a decent person respond to such a calamity? This may be a sketch of Socrates himself, whose imitation Plato has produced.

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By contrast, the tragic imitators excel at portraying the psychic conflicts of people who are suffering and who do not even attempt to respond philosophically. Since their audience consists of people whose own selves are in that sort of condition too, imitators and audience are locked into a sort of mutually reinforcing picture of the human condition. Both are captured by that part of themselves given to the non-rational or irrational; both are most interested in the condition of internal conflict. Onlookers become emotively involved in the poet's drama. So the danger posed by poetry is great, for it appeals to something to which even the best—the most philosophical—are liable, and induces a dream-like, uncritical state in which we lose ourselves in the emotions in question above all, in sorrow, grief, anger, resentment.

What does a day in the life of a poet look like?

In her book of essays, The Life of Poetry, Muriel Rukeyser embraces poetry as an essential agent of change. The book begins with an. The Life of Poetry 1st Edition. Muriel Rukeyser (Author), Jane Cooper (Contributor) Muriel Rukeyser answers this question in The Life of Poetry, a book that just keeps coming back in time for each new generation.

That is why poetry, with its throbbing rhythms and beating of breasts, appeals equally to the nondescript mob in the theater and to the best among us. But if poetry goes straight to the lower part of the psyche, that is where it must come from. He does not separate knowledge of beauty and knowledge of good. It is as though the pleasure we take in the representation of sorrow on the stage will—because it is pleasure in that which the representation represents and not just a representation on the stage or in a poem —transmute into pleasure in the expression of sorrow in life.

And that is not only an ethical effect, but a bad one, for Plato. These are ingredients of his disagreements on the subject with Aristotle, as well as with myriad thinkers since then. The poets help enslave even the best of us to the lower parts of our soul; and just insofar as they do so, they must be kept out of any community that wishes to be free and virtuous. Famously, or notoriously, Plato refuses to countenance a firm separation between the private and the public, between the virtue of the one and the regulation of the other.

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What goes on in the theater, in your home, in your fantasy life, are connected. Poetry unregulated by philosophy is a danger to soul and community. The poets have been characterized as making claims to truth, to telling it like it is, that are in fact—contrary to appearances—little more than the poet's unargued imaginative projections whose tenability is established by their ability to command the applause of the audience.

That is, the poets are rhetoricians who are, as it were, selling their products to as large a market as possible, in the hope of gaining repute and influence. The tripartite schema of Idea, artifact, and imitator is as much about making as it is about imitation. Making is a continual thread through all three levels of the schema. The Ideas too are said to be made , even though that is entirely inconsistent with the doctrine of Ideas as eternal expressed earlier in the Republic itself and in all the other Platonic dialogues.

Their effort has to do with discovery rather than making. Forms, images vs. Nowhere in the Republic does Socrates mention the poet's claim to inspiration. Indeed, that claim is pointedly omitted in the passage in which Socrates talks about the beginnings of the Iliad e2—a5; see Bloom's note ad loc. Socrates implicitly denies the soundness of that claim here. Given his conception of the divine as Idea, such a claim could not be true, since the Ideas do not speak, let alone speak the things which Homer, Hesiod, and their followers recount.

The result is that the poets are fabricators even of the appearance of knowing what they are talking about; this is not inconsistent with the Ion 's characterization of poetry as inspired ignorance. Does the critique of poetry in the Republic extend beyond the project of founding the just city in speech? I have already suggested an affirmative answer when discussing book II. The concerns about poetry expressed in books III and X would also extend beyond the immediate project of the dialogue, if they carry any water at all, even though the targets Plato names are of course taken from his own times.

It has been argued that the authority to speak truth that poets claim is shared by many widely esteemed poets since then. Controversies about, say, the effects of graphic depictions of violence, of the degradation of women, and of sex, echo the Platonic worries about the ethical and social effects of art. The Gorgias is one of Plato's most bitter dialogues in that the exchanges are at times full of anger, of uncompromising disagreement, plenty of misunderstanding, and cutting rhetoric. In these respects it goes beyond even the Protagoras , a dialogue that depicts a hostile confrontation between Socrates and the renowned sophist by the same name.

What is the fight about? Socrates asks Gorgias to define what it is that he does, that is, to define rhetoric.

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And he asks him to do it in a way that helps to distinguish rhetorical from philosophical discourse: the former produces speeches of praise and blame, the latter answers questions through the give and take of discussion dialegesthai , d10 in an effort to arrive at a concise definition, and more broadly, with the intent to understand the subject. Gorgias is forced by successive challenges to move from the view that rhetoric is concerned with words speeches to the view that its activity and effectiveness happen only in and through words unlike the manual arts to the view that its object is the greatest of human concerns, namely freedom.

Life as a Poet 1

But persuasion about what exactly? Gorgias' answer is: about matters concerning justice and injustice b7. But surely there are two kinds of persuasion, one that instills beliefs merely, and another that produces knowledge; it is the former only with which rhetoric is concerned.

The analogy of this argument to the critique of poetry is already clear; in both cases, Socrates wants to argue that the speaker is not a truth speaker, and does not convey knowledge to his audience. As already noted, Socrates classifies poetry dithyrambic and tragic poetry are named as a species of rhetoric.

Its goal is to gratify and please the spectator, or differently put, it is just a kind of flattery. Strip away the rhythm and meter, and you have plain prose directed at the mob. It's a kind of public speaking, that's all a6-c The rhetorician is a maker of beliefs in the souls of his auditors a3—4. And without that skill—here Gorgias begins to wax at length and eloquently—other arts such as medicine cannot do their work effectively b ff.

Rhetoric is a comprehensive art. But Gorgias offers a crucial qualification that turns out to contribute to his downfall: rhetoric should not be used against any and everybody, any more than skill in boxing should be. Although the rhetorician teaches others to use the skill justly, it is always possible for the student to misuse it.

This is followed by another damaging admission: the rhetorician knows what justice, injustice, and other moral qualities are, and teaches them to the student if the student is ignorant of them a. It would follow that, in Socrates' language, the true rhetorician is a philosopher; and in fact that is a position Socrates takes in the Phaedrus.

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But Gorgias is not a philosopher and does not in fact know—cannot give an account of—the moral qualities in question. So his art is all about appearing, in the eyes of the ignorant, to know about these topics, and then persuading them as is expedient cf. But this is not something Gorgias wishes to admit; indeed, he allows himself to agree that since the rhetorician knows what justice is, he must be a just man and therefore acts justly b-c.

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He is caught in a contradiction: he claimed that a student who had acquired the art of rhetoric could use it unjustly, but now claims that the rhetorician could not commit injustice. All this is just too much for Gorgias' student Polus, whose angry intervention marks the second and much more bitter stage of the dialogue b3. A new point emerges that is consistent with the claim that rhetoricians do not know or convey knowledge, viz.

Socrates adds that its object is to produce gratification. To develop the point, Socrates produces a striking schema distinguishing between care of the body and care of the soul.

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Kuhn, H. Up until now, the mechanism, so to speak, has been vague; now it becomes a little bit clearer. Woodruff trans. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two sections of the book, titled "Resistances" and "Backgrounds and Sources," which dealt respectively with the places of poetry in society - specifically a society that wages wars - and with critical analysis of Melville and Whitman. Urmson, J. Nonetheless, the implications of the Ion are broad; while Ion is not a poet himself, he bears important traits in common with the poet. McCoy, M.

Medicine and gymnastics truly care for the body, cookery and cosmetics pretend to but do not. Politics is the art that cares for the soul; justice and legislation are its branches, and the imitations of each are rhetoric and sophistry. As medicine stands to cookery, so justice to rhetoric; as gymnastics to cosmetics, so legislation to sophistry.

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The true forms of caring are arts technai aiming at the good; the false, knacks aiming at pleasure bd. Let us note that sophistry and rhetoric are very closely allied here; Socrates notes that they are distinct but closely related and therefore often confused by people c.

What exactly their distinction consists in is not clear, either in Plato's discussions of the matter, or historically. Socrates's polemic here is intended to apply to them both, as both are alleged to amount to a knack for persuasion of the ignorant by the ignorant with a view to producing pleasure in the audience and the pleasures of power for the speaker.

Socrates' ensuing argument with Polus is complicated and long.

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The nub of the matter concerns the relation between power and justice. For Polus, the person who has power and wields it successfully is happy. For Socrates, a person is happy only if he or she is morally good, and an unjust or evil person is wretched—all the more so, indeed, if they escape punishment for their misdeeds. In sum: Plato's suggestion is that rhetoric and sophistry are tied to substantive theses about the irrelevance of moral truth to the happy life; about the conventionality or relativity of morals; and about the irrelevance of the sort of inquiry into the truth of the matter as distinguished from opinions or the results of polls upon which Socrates keeps insisting.

And if these hold, what use is there in rhetoric?