Classical Quarterly 36 (2):421-437 (1986)

Elizabeth Belfiore
University of Minnesota
Plato's views on tragedy depend in large part on his views about the ethical consequences of emotional arousal. In the Republic, Plato treats the desires we feel in everyday life to weep and feel pity as appetites exactly like those for food or sex, whose satisfactions are ‘replenishments’. Physical desire is not reprehensible in itself, but is simply non-rational, not identical with reason but capable of being brought into agreement with it. Some desires, like that for simple and wholesome food, are in fact ‘necessary’ and approved by reason. Other appetites, like lust and gluttony, are ‘unnecessary’ and anti-rational in that they are actively opposed to reason. According to the Republic, the satisfaction of these ‘unnecessary’ desires inevitably strengthens the elements in the soul that oppose reason. The desire to weep at the theatre is treated in this dialogue as just such an anti-rational desire. Even a temporary indulgence in tragic pity and fear has a permanent deleterious effect on the soul, although it does not lead directly to any action. This paper argues that a radically different psychological theory, with important aesthetic implications, appears in the discussion of wine-drinking in Books 1 and 2 of Plato's Laws. Though this long passage has been much scorned and neglected, it is of considerable philosophical importance. While in the Republic Plato condemns drunkenness and other anti-rational states, in the Laws he extols the benefits of a hypothetical ‘fear drug’ that could induce a temporary state of anti-rational terror and of wine to produce other anti-rational emotions and desires.
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References found in this work BETA

The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition.M. H. Abrams - 1953 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 12 (4):527-527.
Plato’s Moral Theory: The Early and Middle Dialogues.Christopher Gill - 1977 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 99:176-176.
Plato's Theory of Human Motivation.John M. Cooper - 1984 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 1 (1):3 - 21.
The Republic of Plato.James Adam - 1903 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 23:207.

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