Arguments of Plato in The Republic and Aristotle in Poetics

1179 Words Jun 22nd, 2018 5 Pages
What does imitation (mimesis) involve for Plato and Aristotle? Explain its different features.

Mimesis, the ‘imitative representation of the real world in art and literature’ , is a form that was particularly evident within the governance of art in Ancient Greece. Although its exact interpretation does vary, it is most commonly used to describe artistic creation as a whole. The value and need for mimesis has been argued by a number of scholars including Sigmund Freud, Philip Sydney and Adam Smith, but this essay will focus on the arguments outlined by Plato in The Republic and Aristotle in Poetics, attempting to demonstrate the different features of imitation (mimesis) and what it involves for them both. In Plato’s The Republic, he
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Finally, when the artist then creates his painting of the carpenter’s bed, he is not imitating the idea; rather he is imitating the object. This therefore means that the painting (imitation) is at third removed from the ultimate reality of the bed. Moreover, Plato explains that mimesis is ‘a long way removed from truth, and it is able to reproduce everything because it has little grasp of anything… a painter can paint a portrait of a shoemaker or a carpenter or any other craftsman without understanding any of their crafts’. Moreover, according to Plato, many of his contemporaries speak of poets like Homer as though they ‘…are masters of all forms of skill, and know all about human excellence and defect and about religion’ . This poses a problem for mimesis because, Plato maintains, the audiences forget that they are being entertained and mistake Homer’s imitation of human behaviour for real knowledge, believing for example, his false portrayal of Zeus.

Plato’s third objection to imitation (mimesis) is from a moral point of view in which he believes that the more convincing an imitation is, the more it undermines the psychological stability of even the greatest humans. He argues that the essence of any human is to have higher rational principles as well as lower emotional principles but in order for humans to live a life of reason and righteousness, we must encourage our rational principles over our emotional ones. However, he claims that imitation (mimesis) tends to
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