Alien Pleasures: The Exile of the Poets in Plato's "Republic"

Dissertation, Boston University (1994)

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Abstract
Previous attempts to elucidate the meaning of Plato's exile of the poets in Republic X fall into two groups: they either dismiss the exile of poetry as marginal to the dialogue's main argument or they understand its logic in relation to only one, among several, fundamental Platonic doctrines advanced within the dialogue. In Alien Pleasures: The Exile of the Poets in Plato's Republic, I argue that not only is Book X's exile of poetry an integral and important part of the dialogue but it is also the site where all of Plato's most innovative and controversial theories are finally inextricably bound together as one complete philosophical system. Further, I explicate how Plato uses his whole philosophical system to deploy a definition of the poetic effect as essentially dangerous to and subversive of the values of the philosophical life. ;The dangers of poetry are explored in four separate chapters, each of which examines a distinct aspect of Plato's uncomfortable relation to poetic creation and experience. In Chapter One, I concentrate on Plato's definition of the metaphysical dangers of poetry, both a disguised and false imitation of divine production and of philosophical discourse. In Chapter Two, I suggest how Plato enacts an epistemological break with prior definitions of poetry so to define it as the most deceptive and dangerous speech possible. Chapter Three concentrates on the operations of the poetic image in Plato's ontology. I argue that Plato conceives the poetic image as the most dangerous kind of representation, removed as far as ontologically possible from the reality of the forms. The final chapter concentrates on Plato's conception of poetic grief and the psychological dangers poetry poses to the ethical and rational individual. I demonstrate that the pleasures of poetic passion are of a different order than those of to epithumetikon. Furthermore, unlike these desires, poetic passion cannot simply be mastered by the exercise of reason. Rather, Plato argues, spirit must first be aligned with reason and all the distinct parts of the soul harmonized in order to counter the irresistible attraction to the alien pleasures of poetic passion
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