Plato’s View of Art [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 27 (2):406-406 (1973)
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Abstract

This book is short on pages but long on valuable content. Oates intends to refute the rather widespread contention that Plato "denied the worth of all the so-called fine arts" by an objective and historical study of the Ion, Republic, Greater Hippias, Phaedrus and Symposium. Since the author himself clearly summarizes his own thought frequently, we here need only present his final conclusion. Every human activity is valuable in direct proportion to its closeness to the domain of the ideas and, specifically, the Idea of Beauty and Goodness. But artistic creation is a human activity. Therefore, it too must be oriented towards the Idea of Beauty. Thus, "the creative artist must be ‘philosophical'" and, since he comes close to Beauty through intuition, also "quasi-mystical", as were Aeschylus, Sophocles, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Michelangelo. So too was Plato himself, whose dialogues are philosophical dramas containing "a more explicit expression of a vision of reality and value than is to be found in epics or tragedies or lyrics". In Oates’ book the only flaws are minor: an occasional awkwardness of style, referral only to scholars prior to the mid-twentieth century, notes are placed at the end of chapters rather than at the bottom of the pages. Even so, the book is well worth having.—L.S.

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