Plato's Laws on Correctness as the Standard of Art

Literature & Aesthetics 19 (1):237-256 (2009)


Most readers of Plato’s dialogues would probably think of him as likely to approve more of the old masters than of new art. The old masters were on the whole far more realistic than modern painters—compare, say, Velázquez Innocent X (1650) with Matisse The Snail (1953)2—and Plato often seems to take issue with an artist if he departs even slightly from realism. A long section of the Ion, for example, is dedicated to showing that experts in charioteering, medicine, and other areas make the best judges about what poets say on those subjects, ostensibly because only experts can tell how realistically the poet represents chariots, medical treatments and the like.3 Even more telling is the view, famously expressed in the Republic, which suggests that painters should paint things according to what they actually look like:

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Rick Benitez
University of Sydney

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