Platos Criticism on the Role of Art
Plato believed in two theories which actually dictated his views and perceptions as far as role of arts in the society was concerned. His first theory that I am going to discuss in this paper is actually the theory of imitation which he developed through his dialogue known as The Republic. Despite the fact that this theory was developed in his dialogue The Republic, it is the theory that can be claimed that Plato himself had a belief in.
The second theory that I am going to discuss in this paper is the theory Plato developed in his sort dialogue known as Apology. In this theory, Plato considered an artist to under the control of a divine inspiration. According to Plato this made the practice of arts to be dangerous.
Art as an imitation
This idea was not brought into the public attention but he just went ahead to justify why the theory could be held. Painting was referred to as the imitation of natural living things and the designs and colors were their true reflection in nature by Vasari in one of his literature works known as Lives of the Painters.
When Plato considered art as an imitation he had a belief that it imitated events and objects that human beings are able to encounter in their daily lives. In his dialogue the Republic, he was able to suggest that art was just a form that had been copied severally and so the actual art was just a copy of another copy. The experience of art is more or less an illusion than a normal experience. This theory went ahead to suggest that art is a dangerous illusion at its worst and also an entertainment at its best.
The final premise I would like to discuss in this position is the power behind the sterling performances of the artists while in stage. It common to watch our artistes perform so excellently but they cannot explain the reason behind their success. It is also common to realize that an artist of a given genre of song cannot sing a song in another genre fluently. This justifies why I agree with Plato’s position.
It is true that most people still up to date consider a picture as just a representation of a natural thing. A picture is never real in the minds of most individuals so as paints. This premise makes it sensible to think that artists are just individuals who to make their works to look exactly as the actual object.
This is an idea that has remained real in the minds of most people as far as western aesthetics are concerned. The perception has been shedding off over the recent past with more people coming up with several theories about art such as art as communication, art as expression and art as pure form.
The philosophy of Plato on the theory of arts was a very interesting one when given a moment of thought. The artists are able to make copy of forms that are more realistic making the art to be more or less the ordinary experience it actually represented.
Ion, a poet is questioned by Socrates in the second theory of Plato as far as an art is concerned. Socrates through his dialogue with Ion he is able to realize that Ion is unable to recite anything else except of the Homer’s poetry which he recites brilliantly. This experience actual puzzles Socrates because it would have been normal for Ion to be capable of reciting other poetry works brilliantly as he does to Homer’s poetry by the virtue of being an artist.
It is due to this experience that Plato is able to come up with a theory that art is due to divine inspiration because the artist may be under the control of divine powers that make him to be able to recite a given poetry. This dialogue also still justifies art as an imitation because the artist the exact copy of the form. Plato then goes ahead to come to a conclusion that there are no artistic skills and knowledge that Ion possess but he is just under the inspiration of a god.
The dialogue of Ion is sarcastic in its practical form and can be used to justify the theory of art as a divine inspiration by Plato. It is however, very interesting to learn that this theory was not considered elementary by Plato despite the fact that several aestheticians and artists in the modern era are unable to resist the theory. One can therefore become curious and enquire whether artists are normally inspired by their gods.
It is normal to hear an artist confessing that he/she does not even know how he/she was capable of putting up a wonderful show. They are unable to explain the power behind their outstanding performances. It is also true that artists are able to show their audience some facts that none of them can see ordinarily.
In the dialogue of Apology, Plato reveals an artist as an inspired being. Through his dialogue, Socrates gives his audience, the picture of ideal form of beauty, love of beautiful souls, appreciation of beautiful bodies aesthetically and that of sexual love. Arts such as sculptures have been built by artists to show the image of gods and heroes over the recent past. These works of art have got some divine powers on the people that believe in them suggesting that art is work controlled by some unnatural powers such as gods.
The word music which is an art was derived from a Greek word known as Muses, which according to the Greeks were the demigods that inspired the work of an artist. This perhaps is the reason as to why up to the present day several people believe that an artist possesses divine inspiration. The same applies to the word genius which is applicable to most artists. The word was used to refer to an inspiring spirit of an artist that would make him/her to perform extraordinary things. The origin of the two words genius and music presents the origin of the two theories of art that have been presented by Plato.
There are however some problems that are presented by the theory of imitation. The first problem is that Plato and Aristotle believed that music represented the emotions and natural sounds and therefore imitated emotions but it can be argued that one can compose music out of facts alone. It can also be realized that some paintings are derived from abstract works which actual do not imitate anything but these kind of works are then tied to the second theory which suggest that artists are divinely inspired.
I tend to agree with the position that Plato takes as far as art is concerned. It is actually true that very aesthetic work were encounter in our everyday lives are just a representation actual thing somewhere in the part of the world. The artists would always want to produce a painting that is more or less the same as the actual object.
I would like to cite the case of producing a portrait of an individual which requires the artist to produce the exact copy of the real person. What would this mean to an individual who has never seen the person before? I believe it would enable the person to imagine how the owner of that particular portrait appears like.
Another example of artistic work that I would like to cite as I agree with Plato that art is simply an imitation is a picture of a certain object. It is true that a picture is not a true object but is just its representation. No one can justify that his/her picture is him/herself in any context in as much as the two are identical.
Art is dangerous due to its powerful nature
The emotions of an individual can be easily inspired with several artistic works such as painting, music, dance, drama and poetry. People are able to move powerful when under the influence of artistic works.
Plato was able to realize that music alongside drama and poetry when used for the good can be very useful for the development of children. He therefore recommended that they should be included in the education system for the young citizens. Through this act art can be considered to be a powerful that can be used to educate the youths.
Bearing in mind the dangerous nature of art, Plato suggested that the theory be applied only to the youths when the authority was certain that they were ready. This was determined through exposing them to evil and other modes of music that are promiscuous in nature.
Plato alongside other influential people in the history have worried about the influence arts has on the people and the potential to corrupt them. These people from diverse cultures and regions have been fascinated by the power of arts in general. Plato censored arts due to his perspective that it was dangerous. This however has been objected by the westerners in the modern era who believe that they have liberty to listen to, watch or read anything of their pleasure.
However, the situation is very different because Plato did not much regards to freedom by the time he was writing his theories. Plato had a belief that arts were driven by images instead of ideas making it viable to hide the truth rather than expressing it. He also believed in that ideas should be freely exchanged with an attempt to avoid both manipulation and deception.
Plato used a scenario of prisoners that are held captives in a cage that is very dark to express the danger exposed by arts. He believed that if these individuals were allowed to watch the images of artist walking between a wall and a fire while carrying puppets on poles. To the prisoners it would the images will be a reality and not representation.
Upon releasing any of the prisoners, he will first of all meet darkness, and then he would realize the images were not a reality but shadows casted by the puppets held by actors. He would then walk out of the cave to see real things due to the presence of sunlight. The blindness would go away and eventually, the prisoner would come to reality.
Giving this scenario a second thought would mean considering the prisoners who are still held captives in the cave. In case the practice continues for a given period of time, then their minds will be conformed to believe that the images are a reality and making them to believe otherwise would be very difficult. This actually illustrates how powerful and dangerous arts can be to the audience.
Plato believed that due to the power of the arts, he would not recommend it to the children because it would automatically destroy their moral personalities. He believed that if there was no possibility of arts revealing form character and truth in a good, then it was useless recommending it for the young people.
Art in itself was a potential seductive shadow that could easily destroy the perception of individuals as he puts it in his allegory of cave. The allegory can still be applicable in the modern era whereby a youth is brought up to believe in everything he watches in the television and videos without having an access to the actual world. This would be dangerous to the youths because by the time he/she encounters the natural objects he would consider then fictions.
I would like to agree with Plato that art in most case can be both dangerous and powerful. There are several cases and incidences that can be used to justify this theory. I would like to start by discussing the effects of music on the youths of the contemporary world. Music has been used by the artists to control the behavior of most youths across the world. It is normal to get young people using vulgar language that they assimilate from the current musicians. They also strive to cloth indecently as most of the musicians do.
The musicians have planted almost everything negative in the minds of how youths. Most youths who listen to music that preach everything about violence, have eventually turned themselves into violent individuals? Some forms of music generally talks of crimes making most of our youths to become criminals at tender ages. Most of the youths who abuse drugs in our societies will tell you that they hear musicians singing that they are good for their health.
The next work of art I am going to discuss here with the aim of justifying why I agree with Plato that art is dangerous is drama and theatre. Youths who dedicate their whole time watching the actions of their favorite actors would end up behaving the same way after sometimes.
It is true that most of the actions we watch on our videos and televisions are fictions but what would a youth do after watching all these remains the question. It is a fact that he would try to do exactly as he watched and the end result can either be death or injuries.
Wrestling is one of the shows that has made several youths to sustain injuries of even to die while practicing what they watched. This is the reason as to why I suggest that youths should be denied an access to artistic works until they are capable to understand that they are never the reality but just representations.
I would like to conclude by saying that the positions of Plato on the artistic works were dependant on well researched scenarios that make them still relevant to date. It is common to hear our artists confessing that they don’t know what makes them to perform well. It due to powers they do not understand.