Classical Quarterly 71 (1):152-169 (2021)

Jonathan Fine
University of Hawai'i, Manoa
A significant strand of the ethical psychology, aesthetics and politics of Plato's Republic revolves around the concept of poikilia, ‘fascinating variety’. Plato uses the concept to caution against harmful appetitive pleasures purveyed by democracy and such artistic or cultural practices as mimetic poetry. His aim, this article shows, is to contest a prominent conceptual connection between poikilia and beauty (kallos, to kalon). Exploiting tensions in the archaic and classical Greek concept, Plato associates poikilia with dangerous pleasures to redirect admiration toward a distinctly philosophical pursuit of the nature of beauty. This is to displace a prominent and problematic cultural sensibility—the aesthetics of poikilia—not to deny that fascinating variety, even in mimetic poetry, may be beautiful. Rather, Plato's cultural critique lays bare an epistemological problem in the ethical psychology of beauty: since they cannot be distinguished from what seems beautiful, how should one respond to fascinating yet dangerous attractions?
Keywords Plato  Pleasure  Poikilia  Beauty  Ancient Greek Poetry
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838821000318
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References found in this work BETA

Philosophy, the Forms, and the Art of Ruling.David Sedley - 2007 - In G. R. F. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256--83.
The Politics of Ἁβϱοσύνη in Archaic Greece.Leslie Kurke - 1992 - Classical Antiquity 11 (1):91-120.
Athena's Cloak.Bruce Rosenstock - 1994 - Political Theory 22 (3):363-390.

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