Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic by Myles F. Burnyeat

By Myles F. Burnyeat

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But he did no such thing. On the contrary, poetry -the right sort of poetry -will be a pervasive presence in the life of the society he describes. Yes, he did banish Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes -the greatest names of Greek literature. But not because they were poets. H e banished them because they produced the wrong sort of poetry. To rebut Plato’s critique of poetry, what is needed is not a defence of poetry, but a defence of the freedom of poets to write as, and what, they wish.

W e do not merely hear about the son of God. In a certain sense, we hear him. W e hear him in the same sense as we see him on the cross in a picture of the Crucifixion. I have already mentioned that in book X painting is the paradigm that Plato uses to explain the meaning, and the menace, of poetic mimesis. His example is a painted couch, and the point he emphasises is that the picture shows only how the couch appears when viewed from a particular angle- from the side, the front, or some other perspective (598ab).

My prize for the best rendering goes to Jowett. 248 The Tanner Lectures on Human Values justice, virtue, and salvation (41e-42d). On this picture, God sets the goal for which human nature is designed, and himself makes the part of our soul which is able -and duty-bound -to achieve it. “ The picture in the Republic is much less detailed, without the distinction between the Demiurge (mentioned at 530a) and the lesser gods, between direct and mediated creation. But one of the first things the young will be taught by the poetry they hear in the ideal city is that God is not responsible for everything in human life, good and bad, only for the good (379ac; cf.

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