Beauty The study of Plato on beauty must begin with one pronounced warning. Readers can take this distinction between the Greek and English terms too far. It is more tempting to argue against equating words from different languages than to insist on treating them interchangeably. But even given these qualifications the reader should know how to tell what is beautiful from what is kalon. To begin with the two terms are commonly applied to different items. They have overlapping but distinct ranges of application.

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Beauty The study of Plato on beauty must begin with one pronounced warning. Readers can take this distinction between the Greek and English terms too far. It is more tempting to argue against equating words from different languages than to insist on treating them interchangeably. But even given these qualifications the reader should know how to tell what is beautiful from what is kalon.

To begin with the two terms are commonly applied to different items. They have overlapping but distinct ranges of application. A passage in Plato may speak of a face or body that someone finds kalon, or for that matter a statue, a spoon, a tree, or a grassy place to rest Phaedrus b. Even here, however, it is telling that Plato far more often uses kalon for a face or body than for works of art and natural scenery. As far as unambiguous beauties are concerned, he has a smaller set in mind than we do Kosman Calling virtue beautiful feels misplaced in modern terms, or even perverse; calling wisdom beautiful, as the Symposium does b , will sound like an outright mistake Kosman , — David Konstan has rejuvenated the question by emphasizing the beauty not in uses of the adjective kalon but in the closely related noun kallos Konstan , Konstan As welcome as this shift of focus is regarding Greek writing as a whole, it runs into difficulties when we read Plato; for kallos carries strong overtones of physical, visual attractiveness, and Plato is cautious about the desire that such attractiveness arouses, as the sections below will show.

There are fine suits and string quartets but also fine displays of courage. Of course we modern English-speakers have fine sunsets and fine dining as well, this word being even broader than kalon. That is not even to mention fine points or fine print. Today most agree that Plato wrote it, and its sustained inquiry into beauty is seen as central to Platonic aesthetics. The Hippias Major follows Socrates and the Sophist Hippias through a sequence of attempts to define to kalon.

Hippias had a reputation for the breadth of his factual knowledge. He compiled the first list of Olympic victors, and he might have written something like the first history of philosophy. But his attention to specifics renders him incapable of generalizing to a philosophical definition. After Hippias fails, Socrates tries three definitions. These are general but they fail too, and—again in classic Socratic mode—the dialogue ends unresolved. Although ending in refutation this discussion to e is worth a look as the anticipation of a modern debate.

Philosophers of the eighteenth century argue over whether an object is beautiful by virtue of satisfying the definition of the object, or independently of its definition Guyer Such beauty threatens to become a species of the good.

Within the accepted corpus of genuine Platonic works beauty is never subsumed within the good, the appropriate, or the beneficial; Plato seems to belong in the same camp as Kant in this respect. On Platonic beauty and the good see Barney Nevertheless, and of course, he is no simple sensualist about beauty either. Despite its inconclusiveness the Hippias Major reflects the view of beauty found in other dialogues: Beauty behaves as canonical Platonic Forms do.

It possesses the reality that Forms have and is discovered through the same dialectic that brings other Forms to light. Socrates wants Hippias to explain the property that is known when any examples of beauty are known essence of beauty , the cause of all occurrences of beauty, and more precisely the cause not of the appearance of beauty but of its real being d, c, d, c, e, b.

Nevertheless beauty is not just any Form. It bears some close relationship to the good d , even though Socrates argues that the two are distinct e ff. It is therefore a Form of some status above that of other Forms. Socrates and Hippias appeal to artworks as examples of beautiful things but do not treat those as the central cases a—b, e—a.

So too generally Plato conducts his inquiry into beauty at a distance from his discussion of art. But the Republic and the Laws both contain exceptions to this generalization: Lear , The three features of beauty in the Hippias Major apply here as well. Ultimately moved by desire for what is beautiful the poet produces works of verse.

And who would not envy Homer or Hesiod d? But aside from these passages the Symposium seems prepared to treat anything but a poem as an exemplar of beauty. Then almost immediately Socrates speaks of cultivating a fondness for beauty among the young guardians. Their taste for beauty will help them prefer noble deeds over ugly vulgar ones b—d, c. How can Plato have seen the value of beauty to education and not mentioned the subject in his earlier criticisms?

To be sure, the dialogue finds beauty in vase paintings and music; but it takes pains to deny that beauty appears in poetry.

Republic 10 calls the beauty of poetic lines a deceptive attractiveness. Plato mentions no other Form in the Symposium; beauty is Form enough. Philosophers meet this beauty in an experience in which they consummate their deepest love while also attaining the loftiest knowledge.

Many passages in Plato associate a Form with beauty: Cratylus c; Euthydemus a; Laws c; Phaedo 65d, 75d, b; Phaedrus b; Parmenides b; Philebus 15a; Republic b, e, b. Plato mentions beauty as often as he speaks of any property that admits of philosophical conceptualization, and for which a Form therefore exists. Thanks to the features of Forms as such, we know that this entity being referred to must be something properly called beauty, whose nature can be articulated without recourse to the natures of particular beautiful things.

See especially Phaedo 79a and Phaedrus c on properties of this Form. On one hand it bears every mark of the Forms.

It is an evaluative concept as much as justice and courage are, and it suffers from disputes over its meaning as much as they do. The Theory of Forms mainly exists to guarantee stable referents for disputed evaluative terms; so if anything needs a Form, beauty does, and it will have a Form if any property does. An individual F thing both is and is not F; in this sense the same property F can only be predicated equivocally of the individual e. Republic a—c. Here beauty does better than most other properties at meeting the criteria for Forms and non-Forms.

Odd numbers may fail to be odd in some hard-to-explain way, but the ways in which beautiful things fall short of their perfection are obvious even to unphilosophical admirers. Physical beauty is again atypical as a Form that human beings want to know. This is the second reason Plato makes beauty such a frequent example of a Form.

The philosophical merit of things that are equivocally F is that they come bearing signs of their incompleteness, so that the inquisitive mind wants to know more Republic c—d.

But not everyone can read those signs of incompleteness. Soft or large items inspire questions in minds of an abstract bent. Therefore, beauty promises more effective reflection than any other property of things.

Beauty alone is both a Form and a sensory experience Phaedrus d. Those optimistic moments are not easy to sustain. Plato is ambivalent about visual experience. Sight may be metaphorically like knowledge, but metonymically it calls to mind the senses, which are ignorant Pappas , These desirable effects also explain why Plato speaks grudgingly of beauty in art and poetry.

For him the question is not whether poems are beautiful even perceived as beautiful , and subsequently whether or not they belong in a theory of that prized aesthetic property. Another question matters more than either poetry or beauty does: What leads a mind toward knowledge and the Forms? Things of beauty do so excellently well. When poems or paintings set the mind running along unphilosophical tracks away from what is abstract and intelligible, the attractions they possess will be seen as meretricious.

The corrupting cognitive effect exercised by poems demonstrates their inability to function as Plato knows the beautiful object to function. The corrupting effect needs to be spelled out. What prevents poems from behaving as beautiful objects do?

You engage in the act of imitation in order to produce an imitation. Mateo Duque was of much help in thinking through issues in the coming sections. He uses that word in a technical sense that describes what actors do in a play, and with suggestions of fraud or concealment. The first part of this passage, mainly in Book 2, condemns the images of gods and demigods that Homer and the tragedians have produced, both blaspheming and setting bad examples to the young e—c.

Already this way of differentiating storytelling styles is irregular, as if one analyzed walking into pure walking, running, and a combination of the two—which would be curious enough—and did so as a method for understanding running. Such an analysis would be marking the act of running as failed or deviant walking. Socrates defines imitation, develops two arguments against it, and finally proclaims that no poetry of this type will be admitted into the city that the Republic is founding. The presentation of character is, notably, a process ambiguous between the act of writing or composing the words of a character like Agamemnon, and the act of reciting performing, acting out the words.

The ambiguity lets Socrates deploy more than one argument against the presentation of characters. The main argument is blunt but clear, and plausible enough. What the new city really does not want is the presentation of base types, because acting such parts fosters the behaviors that are found in the persons being mimicked c—e. Attempts to read this impersonation as attention to appearance alone Lear have the advantage of unifying Book 3 with Book 10, but they lose the psychological simplicity behind the argument.

If acting a part does lead to taking on the characteristics of the part, then in one respect Plato has a powerful point and in another respect is generating a misleading argument. The point is powerful inasmuch as it lets Plato ban all portrayals of vicious and ignoble characters but not the portrayals of brave soldiers, philosophers, and other wholesome types.

Moreover the basic factual premise is believable. Playing a coward or a sadist could well make an actor more cowardly or sadistic. Actors today comment on how a role changed them, presumably by just this mechanism. Even this most plausible part of the argument runs into trouble. Alongside villains one finds women, slaves, animals, musical instruments, gears and pulleys, and sounds of water. And these last examples presuppose what the argument means to show.

Sounding like machinery does not make the imitator more like a gear or pulley; it must be a deranged practice only insofar as all impersonation is deranged.

And that is what the argument was aiming to prove.



Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, How does the materiality of language re-assert itself as a transformative agent in reading canonical writings from a post-humanist perspective? How do we exceed, today, the ideologies of retro-humanism in the various forms it takes on the right and the left? How much has a mimetic bias to the traditions of interpretation constituted a conservative politics of its own, and is there, today, an anti-mimetic or anti-representational politics located in the activity of reading.


Anti-Mimesis From Plato to Hitchcock

So occluding the sense of performativity, or ritual exchange, which offers us an alternative way of understanding architecture, along with the rhetorical value of a troubling pleasure coupled with the rhetoric of the outside the rhetoric of eternity ; a rhetoric associated in a one-sided fashion with the terms Beautiful and Sublime. Indeed for the re-grounding of the understanding of the role of consciousness in constituting architecture through its performative functions. Architecture performs identity. Suggesting a recasting of the latter two terms as useful in describing the workings of the effects of a broad -that is inclusive- range of cultural phenomena. Mimesis I Definitions… Concerning the art of the copy from the mirror of Nature to the mirroring of the heavens, the copy of the map of the stars, the motions of the Hand of God. Where the hand of finite inscription passes without warning into the inscription of the Infinite Hand.

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