Plato on Poetry: Imitation or Inspiration?
Article first published online: 18 SEP 2012
© 2012 The Author. Philosophy Compass © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 7, Issue 10, pages 669–678, October 2012
How to Cite
Pappas, N. (2012), Plato on Poetry: Imitation or Inspiration?. Philosophy Compass, 7: 669–678. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2012.00512.x
- Issue published online: 18 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 18 SEP 2012
A passage in Plato’s Laws (719c) offers a fresh look at Plato’s theory of poetry and art. Only here does Plato call poetry both mimêsis “imitation, representation,” and the product of enthousiasmos “inspiration, possession.” The Republic and Sophist examine poetic imitation; the Ion and Phaedrus (with passages in Apology and Meno) develop a theory of artistic inspiration; but Plato does not confront the two descriptions together outside this paragraph. After all, mimêsis fuels an attack on poetry, while enthousiasmos is sometimes used to attack it, sometimes to praise it. The explanation evidently lies in Plato’s understanding of drama, which in the Laws has grown more precise, from simply the presentation of characters to the presentation of multiple characters engaged in dramatic conflict.