First aesthetics



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PLATO’S “FIRST AESTHETICS”

BOOK V OF THE REPUBLIC
THE BEGINNING AND PROXIMITY
Book V continues the discussion of virtue and vice in souls and cities that was begun at the end of Book IV. But it is immediately interrupted by Polemarchus and the other interlocutors, all of whom want Socrates to explain the remark he made in passing at 423e-424a about the guardians possessing their wives and children in common. Socrates’ lengthy response to their request occupies the majority of the book (451c – 471c). In it he makes the revolutionary proposal that children should be brought up by the city rather than by their biological parents, and that men and women with the same natural ability should receive the same education and training and do the same kind of work. Hence there will be female guardians and rulers in the Kallipolis, as well as male ones. Many of Socrates’ remarks suggest that these proposals apply to everyone in the Kallipolis, not just to the guardians (455e), but there are other indications (450c) that they apply only to the guardians alone. It must be admitted that Plato has not been as explicit and clear on this matter as we might wish.

Glaucon agrees that a city of the sort Socrates has described would be the best one, but he wonders whether or not it could ever really come about (471c-e). After some important clarification of the nature of the task (472a-473c), Socrates undertakes to show that it could. The smallest change that would transform an already existing city into the Kallipolis is if its kings or rulers become philosophers or if philosophers become its kings or rulers (473c-e). This proposal, Socrates thinks, is likely to produce even more outrage than those about women and children (473c), but he thinks that outrage will subside when he explains what true philosophers are really like (474b-c).

The remainder of Book V is occupied by the beginning of Socrates’ portrait of these philosophers, which consists of a complex argument intended to show that only they can have access to forms and that without such access knowledge is impossible (474c-480a).
The analysis of Book V may, of course, proceed, so to speak, chronologically and close to the text, following strictly the order of the topics in the conversation. However, shall we proceed in this way and start necessarily from the beginning? If we stay true to the way the entire dialogue takes place, we will see its unevenness. Socrates raises an important issue, then he abandons it seemingly on purpose in order to build tension and curiosity of his interlocutors. They in turn often impatiently interrupt him and ask him to return to what they deem important and not fully clarified. So the conversation really vibrates; if I can use the theory of physics, interference is produced and a state of resonance is reached when oscillations match - and this match takes place when a new argument is added to a seemingly complete definition that has already reached consent. Often in these cases there is a pause, awkward silence, some participants directly "go out" of the conversation, as is the case with Thrasymachus. Not coincidentally, the image of the sea is present in the dialogue – the questions and answers come in tides, stronger and weaker. The first severe shock wave that Socrates must repel is how "friends have all things in common". If the guardians are friendly with each other, they should not only have common education and merit, but have to share everything in common among them, including wives, children, material possessions. However, “the biggest and most difficult is the third wave”. That is the most paradoxical question: Is the ideal city realizable? "How it's possible for this constitution to come into being?" (472b). It is this question which serves as an beginning which the conversation constantly returns to, albeit from a different point. The same dialectical way of thinking is applied in the dialogue The Statesman, but it is assumed that there might be another starting point, i.e. the return is not always to the same place (topos). I assume here that these beginnings (archaï, principia), "return points" in question are, so to speak, organically linked and mutually reinforcing. Socrates in Book IV suggests that justice may be examined on a larger scale (polis) and on it can be discerned in the individual. He even claims that “if we could previously examine justice on the larger scale, there would be less difficulty in discerning her in the individual.” “… if there be a difference in the individual”, he continues, “we will come back to the City and have another trial of the theory. The friction of the two when rubbed together may possibly strike a light in which justice will shine forth”. The same narrative or flow from one beginning to another is present in Book V; however, the difference is that the light is brighter due to the paradoxical nature of the questions from beginning to end. The image of the sea facilitates the understanding, if we remember the widespread metaphor after Plato about the philosophic method as "nautilia", sea voyage with a single goal - to find the ultimate principle of existence. Such a principle can be compared with the principle of gravity which governs the waves. The ultimate one giving birth to the multitude. The examination of the multitude, leading to the idea of ​​uniformity. This is the idea of Plato when he introduces the hunt metaphor to his method - the hunter does not follow a straight line chasing his prey and often revolves in a circle. In fact, Plato's metaphors, such as the sea, the hunt, and the friction are not just illustrations or techniques of poetic language. Let’s not forget that Plato's dialogues are both philosophy and fiction in its purest form, a fine art that can create ideas and images much better than any other art. Metaphors are actually the aura of the concepts and definitions, they are the delineated circle of light to which the expansion of the conversation reaches. It is inside this circle in the process of expansion that crystallization of the basic philosophical principles takes place, always re-entering the circle richer due to their rotation in the multitude of things and well-founded into the fundamental principle. About this method of "crystallization" of the mind after circling for a long time around the multitude of things, their images and knowledge about being speaks Plato himself in his Seventh Letter as a five-stage path towards truth.

I hope that, although short, the aforesaid convinces us that the beginning of our conversation can take this starting point, which Socrates's interlocutors constantly return to, as well as he himself does it, sooner or later. This return is of special interest in Book V. And I am going back to it at the end to suggest that it be a fundamental understanding of the field of philosophical aesthetics, as a central idea of ​​what was said in Book V of The Republic.

The term "being" is used in various senses, but with reference to one central idea and one definite characteristic, says Aristotle in Book IV of Metaphysics (1003b), in such a way as healthy refers to health. Therefore, we must observe the principle of correlation which crystallizes in ancient philosophy in the principle of knowing a thing through a similar one. We are bound to attribute the perfect things to perfection, or such do not exist, to establish the extent to which they carry perfection in themselves, the extent to which they participate in it and resemble it. In this case, the idealized community of guardians (the healthy) refers to the central idea - the ideal state. On the other hand, Aristotle in Book III of The Republic examines in detail the meanings we attribute to "principle" (arche). Generally speaking, it may be what comes first, a logical beginning, the way it is in induction and deduction, but also something else that I suggest we understand here – the beginning of a study could be the one, starting from which we disclose the subject in the best possible way and achieve its essence as completely as possible. The principle of the best is the principle of Plato – and Aristotle does not criticize and does not forget his teacher.

But what would be the best for us at the beginning of 21st century after thousands of years of interpretations of The Republic, more voluminous than the work itself and selective in nature, based on what appealed to a given time or person? When medieval theologians talk about "our Plato," they disclose that any reading of Plato is a type of appropriation. The question is whether, how and why we appropriate - and this is no longer just a matter of honesty, to reveal in advance the attitude and method we employ to analyze the work. Because it is clear that a classical philologist and an analytic philosopher will read The Republic differently and everyone will find something important. Both, however, may wonder about the claim of the famous French philosopher Alain - Alain on Happiness (Propos sur le bonheur, 1909), namely that "Plato is always closer to us than we think" -seemingly casually said words, stories that "resound deep within us," or as Heidegger put it, touch us deeply in our essence. Alain cites the famous myth of Er, in Book X of The Republic. According to the myth imprudent souls in the afterlife, which are free to choose, cannot break away from their desires and they are punished in the next life. Alain simply suggests that we, who do not believe in the afterlife, take the same journey, here and now, every day.



Can we then assume that there is such a part of Book V, which we repeat every day? I would assume that such a part refers to those whose Socrates describes "like philosophers", "those who love the sight of truth", "who belives in beautiful things, but doesn't believe in the beautiful itself "," the lovers of sights and sounds "who" like beautiful sounds, colors, shapes and everything fashioned out of them "-" the many just things "," the many doubles "(476b). For those admirers of "beautiful things" Socrates does not speak negatively, in contrast, he evaluates their "intermediate" position as "lovers of opinion" (480a). It is known that there is a right opinion, which is not true, but it is not misleading and is mid-way between knowledge and ignorance. They are in the middle of that way of love (eros), that ladder, which Plato describes in one of his most famous dialogues Symposium (211b-c): the erotic path of knowledge involves moving “ever onwards for the sake of that beauty, as though using ascending steps, from one body to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, from beautiful bodies to beautiful practical endeavors, from practical endeavors to beautiful examples of understanding” until wondrous beauty flashes all of a sudden. The flash reminds us of the spark we have to get to understand Justice. Eros is a philosopher who wants to reach the beauty of justice. But he must do something else as well: releasing himself of bodily sensations through prudence (phronesis) to transfer the "terrible power" of the prime attraction to his supreme object, namely "the beautiful itself". And no wonder - throughout the Republic justice is examined as well as "beautiful itself". Even if today we are not metaphysicians, as Alain says, nonetheless we belong to the same movement when assessing the beauty of everything around us, visible and invisible. We attain the truth only when we love its beauty – that is what all Platonists after Plato repeat. But perhaps we continue to have “an idea about beautiful" and understand what "the beauty of truth" means not only because we admire the colors, sounds, things, but there is yet another reason referred to in Book V. To understand it, we must focus on the Greek text, translated in English as follows: "fashioned out of them": τὰ ἐκ τῶν τοιούτων δημιουργούμενα. "Demiourgeo" refers to the artistic technique, to the way in which man creates using his skill (techne). That is, although they cannot see the nature of “the beautiful itself" (to kalon), people recreate it in their daily activities. Such a conclusion is also quite close to us. And probably it is also the first step in the understanding of creativity in general. In The Symposium there is another very famous passage (205c), in which the prophetess Diotima says that in his endeavor to attain beauty man actually creates beauty" - the word is poiesis. Therefore, the creation of Plato is creation of beauty and holds a much higher position than his evaluation of poets or arts, of which he speaks in many places in The Republic, including Book X. In brief, in Book V Plato introduces the idea of ​​a creative power (dynamis). Dynamis after Plato (and for Aristotle in particular) begins to mean potentiality, what has been given by nature, which is ready to be taken out into reality (energeia), ready to start its existence. Book V clearly distinguishes dynamis according to what it is intended for: the things or the beautiful itself. The distinction is as important as the conclusion in the end of Book V, that "lovers of opinion" (philodoxous) do not coincide with lovers of wisdom (philosophous), because "the opinion and knowledge are different powers" (478b). Dynamis is used in both singular and plural. Here Platonism shows another hidden "vulnerability" and Aristotle does not fail to develop a plurality of powers.

To sum up, we may approach Book V with view to proximity: first, the proximity of the questions raised to us today, and second, the proximity in time and topics which I would describe as an attempt to interpret Plato from "inside" via dialogues close to The Republic. It is no coincidence that The Republic was written at about the same time as The Symopsium, The Phaedrus and The Phaedo, the so-called "middle dialogues" with the most developed metaphysical views, which relate mainly to 1) the fundamental principle of existence and being - the principle of the best, and 2) the role of love for beautiful that opens the way to one of the most profound aesthetic theories.


THE BEAUTIFUL DREAM AND THE AWAKENING OF “FIRST” AESTHETICS
Not many studies in the history of philosophy suggest that the most important for us is the third and final part of Book V, starting from 472c to the end (480a), offering a conclusion put forward powerfully in Book VI via a number of related metaphysical questions. Let's follow the logic of the narration to return to this assertion.



To define beauty, most people start from their immediate experience of beautiful appearances. They like one thing or another thing, one person or another person or even they like one thing in a person and dislike another, thus forming an opinion about beauty. Socrates argues that precisely in this mundane fascination with beautiful things and the inability to break away from them, people dream. However, the dialogue does not search for what and how many the just and beautiful things are or whether certain things can be just and unjust, beautiful and ugly at the same time. It searches for what is justice and beauty. To find it, the rule of the Sophist Protagoras "Man is the measure of all things" is introduced "paradoxically". If we discover what justice is like, will we also maintain that the just man is no way different from the just itself, so that he is like justice in every respect? Or will we be satisfied if he comes as close to it possible and participate in it far more than anyone else? (472b). This means that models of a perfectly just and a perfectly unjust man are necessary to find out what their relationship to happiness is (472c), to investigate their fate, and to find out who is most similar to these two models. But Socrates warns: "But we weren't trying to discover these things in order to prove that it's possible for them to come into being". Therefore, the measure (metron) "man" is not a specific person of sophists. The model of man in one respect, so to speak, is "tried out" in real situations. It is expected that this pattern is unlikely to match anyone or anything, so its function is to discover just what is closest (the principle of close approximation).  The narrative which introduces an aesthetic argument, an example of painting, actually speaks of three people: the first one who paints a portrait of the "most beautiful human being" (472d-e) and everything, "every detail of this picture", is presented adequately; the second one, the one painted on the portrait, and the third one, the actually existing handsome man, who most likely does not correspond precisely to the portrait on the canvas. The fact that the portrait cannot come to life, says Socrates, does not lead to the conclusion that the painter is worse. On the contrary, the only perfection is the power of painting, dynamis, which has already been mentioned, and is the same power, the capacity to paint, that is to set up mentally an ideal state. "We were making a theoretical model of a good city" (472e) in the way the artist paints his most beautiful person according to his mental idea of beauty. Here again, we hear a very interesting aesthetic argument that Plato uses elsewhere: although the work of the one who creates in words a model of a perfect man or a perfect state resembles the work of an artist, "the painting in words" is more valuable because the word is more plastic and can sculpture any complex picture in motion. Moreover, the word can superimpose several images. Socrates shows this in Book IX, when he paints a really strange verbal portrait of the human soul.  At this point (473a-b) there is a distinction between theory and practice, which affects each philosophy. "Is it possible to do anything in practice the same as in theory? Or is it in the nature of practice to grasp truth less well than theory does? "The analogy with the artist who cannot paint anything more perfect on the same canvas as opposed to a thinker is clear. Practice is limited. It "captures" partially the idea and enslaves it in one aspect, while the idea itself continues being whole only in theory. Here the logical consequences for the philosopher himself, the first of the three who has the power to "draw", i.e. to see the beautiful in theory, as an idea, and to create it in practice, become clearer. Socrates is ready to paint the portrait of the philosopher, according to an aesthetic principle again, and he does it after 474c.

The philosopher is the one who loves (the verb means "respect" as well) the whole, not "one part of it" (λλ πν στργοντα: 474d). The reason is that in this way he reaches the truth. But which truth? Glaucon wants to be reminded what is said about the love of the whole (the all, the one), because he has forgotten the way Socrates has proved in Book IV, 438a-b, that the "eidos "of virtue is one". Socrates makes a rather sharp satirical remark that it is Glaucon, an "erotically inclined man", who should be good at remembering the "erotic necessities" and how beautiful boys attract everyone with different features of their appearances (474e).  So do the "worshippers of Eros", all lovers of wine, the ambitious ones and the rest, aspiring to something diverse (475b-c). But, as was mentioned at the beginning of the dialogue, the desire in general is different from the desire for something specific, so the one who desires is the one who desires the whole. Such is the philosopher. He loves the total wisdom, not one or another part of the wisdom (475d). Furthermore, there is a difference in the strength, intensity of desire - a philosopher is only the one who, so to speak, has strong appetite for knowledge, "who readily and willingly tries all kinds of learning, who turns gladly to learning and is insatiable for it". Leaving aside the comparison with the lover of food and the casually introduced analogy with insatiable appetite for different tastes which later gives rise to an aesthetics of the taste, then this passage is remarkable with its conclusion that philosophy remains a fundamental desire, linked with pleasure - the pleasure of diverse learning. And the pleasure is par excellence a theme of aesthetics. In fact, in his later dialogues, Plato distinguishes more clearly the pleasures of the senses from joy that brings a new idea: that is, the senses delight and thus are deceived, while the mind is happy, happy with the truth, feels happiness. It was not by chance that philosophical happiness was called eu-daimonia in antiquity. As Socrates defines it in Apology and other dialogues, this is the intrinsic, divine power daimon, which prevents the philosopher from injustice and needless misbelieves and in rare cases leads him to divine inspiration, akin to the inspiration of poets.

But Glaucon at this point clearly understands one thing and does not understand another. He understands the thesis of fundamental desire and pleasure inbred in philosophers, but does not perceive the limitation introduced by Socrates. The pleasure of the philosopher does not extend completely and indiscriminately on everything. Pleasure itself is not whole, but it is the pleasure of all knowledge. That is why he suggests: "Then many strange people will be philosophers". "The lovers of sights seem to be included, since they take pleasure in learning things"; in the same way lovers of sounds, mentioned at the beginning, must be included as philosophers, because they run to and fro, and crave to hear as much as possible. "Are we to say that these people - and those who learn similar things or pretty crafts - are philosophers?” asks Glaucon.

At the beginning of the lecture I suggested that this issue makes Book V very close to our time. But I am going to leave it to you to compare the response: "They are like philosophers" (475d) with what Diogenes Laertius says about Plato, namely: "XXXVIII. But he employs a great variety of terms in order to render his philosophical system unintelligible to the ignorant. In his phraseology he considers wisdom as the knowledge of things which can be understood by the intellect, and which have a real existence: which has the Gods for its object, and the soul as unconnected with the body. He also, with a peculiarity of expression, calls wisdom also philosophy, which he explains as a desire for divine wisdom. But wisdom and experience are also used by him in their common acceptation; as, for instance, when he calls an artisan wise (sophos). He also uses the same words in different senses at different times".

In Book V, however, the logic resulting from the portrait of the philosopher is clear: philosophers "are those who love the sight of truth" (475e). Note Socrates’ answer! Philosophers do not just love the truth, but they "love the sight of truth". The sight is an aesthetic faculty, which proves to be fundamental and comes first when the beautiful is distinguished from the ugly and from everything else in reality (476a). After this differentiation the beautiful is "ready" to be examined as beautiful itself.

Here I go back to the assumption that the third part of Book V is the most important to us. There are historical facts that we cannot ignore. First, Plato himself at a later age, when he wrote his greatest dialogue Laws, revised his views on both the community of women and children in the state and philosophers-rulers. Then we have the testimony of Diogenes Laertius, author from 3rd century AD. In his encyclopedia of philosophers The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (Book III, 79), he briefly noted: “Philosophical discourse was originally uniform, concerning itself solely about natural philosophy; then Socrates added to it a second character, the ethical: and Plato a third, the dialectic: and so he brought philosophy to perfection”. And also: “Plato was the first person who defined the notion of the honourable, as that which borders on the praiseworthy, and the logical, and the useful, and the becoming, and the expedient, all which things are combined with that which is suitable to, and in accordance with nature”1.

I cannot explain why the English translation uses “honourable” for the Greek kalon (καλοῦ πρῶτος). Probably because kalon is a broad concept and is often rendered by “noble”, a synonym of civilized, that is a quality of a citizen – civis. In fact, at the end of Book V kalon is used with its primary meaning “the beautiful itself”. Now, if we go back to Diogenes, we learn that Plato was the first who defined the notion of the Beauty via dialectics and thus led philosophy to perfection.



So if we divide the entire Book V in three parts, the first one may be called ethical, the second one - political, and the third one - aesthetic, assuming that Socrates speaks in the first two parts, while in the third one it is Plato himself. Outlining an area related to the issues of aesthetics is a modern approach, as far as such an outline lacks in antiquity. The aesthetic issues in antiquity refer either to the nature of arts or, which is more important and more difficult to understand, to a deep ontology (theory of being) and its matching epistemology (theory of knowledge). Being exists, not in a neutral way, but in a beautiful way. Therefore, being may be translated using the concept "to kalon", "the beautiful itself". The peak of this aesthetic ontology is formulated at the end of Book VI, where Plato expresses “the most paradoxical" in our point of view metaphysical statement: beautiful-and-good is not essence (ousia), but "still transcends essence in dignity and surpassing power" (509b), being that on (in Latin “esse”), which is achieved in the truth. That whole being, the true philosophers search for. In this sense philosophers are witnesses to the truth of existence. For Plato's ontic aesthetics the following principle is valid: only the Beauty is truth, it is the real prime cause which generates all essences. Not exactly "the beautiful", but the idea of ​​beautiful, the Form of Beauty, which alone is "itself”. The ideal City, Kallipolis, has a deep-rooted cause to exist. It partakes in the idea of ​​beauty (to kàllos), it is beautiful and for exactly this reason it is possible in truth. Beauty in Plato is an ultimate goal - it attracts everything to itself through love, because only beautiful evokes love and becomes a cause for everything. Being (to einai) is in movement, it “come to be”(gignesthai), because it loves. Aristotle (Met. 991b) also noted that it is stated in the dialogue The Phaedo "that the Forms are the causes both of being and of “coming to be” (to gignesthai).

What so important did Plato say in The Phaedo which started from Book V? - Something simple, at the same time complex. Through the mouth of Socrates, who is very close to death, a truth of "the last resort" is stated, because Plato’s principle of knowledge is to find "the most valuable, the worthiest and meritorious things" (timotera)2. The most valuable discovery is as follows: “A man need examine nothing but what is best and most excellent; for then he will necessarily know also what is inferior, since the science of both is the same.” (Phaedo, 97c)3.

It is strange, but in the dialogue Cratylus (439d) Socrates admits that he dreams to find "absolute beauty always such as it is”, something in itself good and beautiful, which refers to all existing things. As if beauty is calling him in his dream (kalon is derived from kaleo, "to summon”, appeal, the same verb, which is the basis of the Assembly of the polis - "ekklesia"). Therefore, oneirotto, dreaming, in this passage lacks the negative meaning we find in the passage 476c of Book V. Plato once again plays with the relationship between imagination and reality4. In the first case it is not enough for Socrates to see various beautiful things while awake during the day, so in sleep the temptations of the beautiful meetings are missing and he is not distracted, he "sees" beauty in itself. The result is a beautiful dream5. It is possible during the day because the dream can be remembered, the beautiful dream to become a day-dream, “an ideal while awake”, a clear and conscious desire to see the image (imago) with the help of mind and the form (eidos) of the beautiful itself. This is possible thanks to the power of imagination (vis imaginativa). Therefore, the power of imagination is included in the power of knowledge (vis cognoscendi)6 with a fundamental goal - to find the truth about the whole. The truth of the whole is its Beauty. Therefore, the day dream discovers it. This is what it means for a man to be wise (sophos), according to Socrates. This conclusion is clearly formulated in the later dialogue Theaetetus (167a-b): many people claim to be wise, but to some things look one way, to others – another. Socrates says: “or should the claim be made that the sick man is ignorant because his opinions are ignorant, or the healthy man wise because his are different; but a change must be made from the one condition to the other, for the other is better. So, too, in education a change has to be made from a worse to a better condition”.

As it becomes clear that conclusion repeats the fundamental principle in The Phaedo which Socrates leaves to both his interlocutors and next generations. If, therefore, we agree that it is wise to change conditions, we may see, distinguish good from bad, ugly from beautiful. But it is also wise to say that we see the truth while asleep and awake, in reality. Because we live in two states, in a “mixed” life, and as is stated in Theaetetus (158d) “in each state our spirit contends that the semblances that appear to it at any time are certainly true, so that for half the time we say that this is true, and for half the time the other, and we maintain each with equal confidence."

In this sense, we can repeat that Plato was the first one, who defined Beauty in a subtle, dialectical way: seeing beauty in a dream, seeing beauty in reality, seeing parts of beauty in both states, but the goal is to reach its unity. It is possible to see vaguely the unified one in a dream, but we can see it much better when our consciousness is awake. Actually, we are not talking about opposites, but about a transition in degrees of confidence. True philosophers who awake to the "unmixed" life only reach the highest level of confidence, where they see the immutability of the Idea of ​​Beauty, its identity, the coincidence of all opposites.

The aforesaid grounds my assumption that Book V lacks such a strong opposition between sleep and wakefulness, as is usually claimed, and it is a matter of degrees. In the way there is no opposition between guardians and philosophers-rulers, between men and women, but degrees in possession of good qualities, there is no deep dichotomy between "someone who believes in beautiful things, but doesn't believe in the beautiful itself" – the one, defined as a dreamer, and the another, who is "very much awake", "someone who ... believes in the beautiful itself, can see both it and the things that participate in it and doesn't believe that the participants are it or that itself is the participants "(476c-d). It is true that Socrates calls the latter, those who have knowledge "the opposite case". But there are two important details, which we should capture in the dialogue. First, by “dreaming” Socrates means especially someone young (475c), who does not know yet what is useful.  The one, however, who is keen on tasting knowledge, "is rightly called a philosopher". It turns out that in the beginning eagerness is enough for someone to be designated as a philosopher. He is good at "love" (philo-) because he is young, and the only thing he needs is his love to be well-targeted, well-managed by the one, "who could lead him to the knowledge of it" (476c ). The singular used here makes us think that Socrates describes Glaucon and himself. All the rest, the "lovers of sights and sounds", who are like philosophers, are in plural. A proof of the special attitude to Glaucon is the following observation of Socrates: “It would not be easy to explain to someone else, but I think that you will agree to this.” (475e). We are told at another point that Glaucon, like Socrates, admires beautiful boys (the erotic returns here in the background as a subtext), though the former loves bodies and souls, that is still aspires to the beautiful knowledge, while the latter claims that his love is sublime and refers only to souls, or the knowledge of the truth. Both of them match the image of the philosopher and it can be assumed that Glaucon is still "sleeping", while Socrates is the awakened philosopher who agrees to direct him, since Glaucon is willing to "spend his time" and to learn (475e). This directly corresponds to the interpretation of Plato's assertion that few reach the truth: Glaucon is one and differs from "many people", he is the “best of men” (477d).

It is more interesting, however, to note another thing: Glaucon is just the embodiment of the mixed, of intermediate, of opinion, which aims to become knowledge. Both opinion and knowledge are powers, but opinion has a different power from knowledge (477b). What is the difference? Here Socrates, or rather Plato, develops his deep-rooted epistemology, based on the main ontological view of the relationship between einai and gignesthai. "Powers (dynamis) are a class of the things that are that enable us - or anything else that matter - to do whatever we are capable of doing" (in Latin translations the word used is “facultas”). .. "A power has neither color nor shape nor any feature of the sort that many other things have and that I use in my own case to distinguish those things from one another. In the case of a power, I - said Socrates - use only what it is set over and what it does, and by reference to these I call the same power" (477b-d). The knowledge is the knowledge of being, on - "as it is" (“what is that it is and how it is?”: ᾿Επιστήμη μέν γέ που ἐπὶ τῷ ὄντι, τὸ ὂν γνῶναι ὡς ἔχει), i.e. knowledge refers to einai and gives definition to life. Knowledge is one and uniform by reference to uniform and immobile being. The truth of this knowledge is achieved in the idea, the idea of ​​the beautiful. As a different by nature power, the "opinion opines" (doxa doxadzein) and his reference is "gignesthai" (to become, the becoming from not being to being), the movement, the plurality, the being as it "become". For "gignesthai" is possible "to distinguish one thing from one another". There are many possible opinions on different images and forms of the beautiful. Therefore, opinion is an analytical faculty, while knowledge is a dialectical power, which is not limited to synthesis. This power presupposes something profoundly different. Probably daimon?

It is difficult to say whether right here at the end of Book V, Plato gives a clear answer about the relationship between opinion and knowledge, as to whether opinion is an intermediate power, which sees "between being and not being" (479d), which "wanders" between knowledge and ignorance, and may lead to a higher degree without any radical change. To change the name from "opinable" to "knowable", the power of thought must change its subject, its reference, and ultimately its sight. The sight must become a gaze, focusing on one point, The Idea of ​​Beauty. However, the dialogue between Glaucon and Socrates is completely possible, it goes and "becomes" so that Glaucon can find out who is the true philosopher. If he can understand this, if he can understand the philosopher’s knowledge, namely that "the beautiful itself remains always the same in all respects", as well as "the just is one or any of the rest", then he will understand why philosophers should govern the ideal state. Justice is the same as Beauty. The just City is a beautiful city - Kallipolis7.

Finally, Socrates said something simple: understanding and the love of wisdom - philosophy is a matter of capability, of a developed and educated talent. This talent Aristotle describes using a beautiful metaphor: "tender skin". Therefore, it is necessary for the lover of wisdom to be sensitive, to possess sensibility to visible beauty and invisible Beauty, for Ideas, where the beautiful coincides with Justice and Good.

In any case, the conclusion of these researchers, who see the "waking up" the birth of Platonic aesthetics at the end of Book V is clear: only the idea of the ​​"Beautiful itself" can rule the proper, orderly thinking about beauty. Through this idea the appearances, fading out in time, are distinguished from eternal ideas. The appearances are perceived by the senses, while the eternal ideas are perceived by intelligence. It seems that there is a kind of break, gap, or border (in Greek chorismos) between sensitive and intelligible. Those who cannot get distanced from the senses, the lovers of sights, cannot bridge the gap, but what is more important, they do not see the rope, the relationship between sensitive and intelligible. This relationship is the reason: the intelligible is the cause of sensitive. Therefore, sensitive relates to intelligible as its cause and emulates it, pursues it (mimesis). In this imitation the Idea of ​​Beauty plays the role of a model - the notion here is "paradeigma".

To see the reason means to wake up - and begin to emulate paradeigma. Plato discovered another important reason: if the reason for being is the Good, then the reason to be able to know all beautiful things in the world is the intelligible Beauty8. The answer to the question: “How does it work, how is it possible the lover of sights and sounds to bridge the gap?” is the same as the answer to the question how to make an ideal state reality.  Via a minimal change, but only at first glance, or rather with trans-formation of love. The lover must extend his love to (epi, pros) knowledge of being itself, he can "transfer" one form of love into another form.

THE SAME BEAUTY OF A GOOD CITY – PLATO’S EUTOPIA
In a Good City, Kallipolis, the philosopher is a philosopher just because he has a power, potentiality to see the Beautiful itself and can distinguish its essence (ousia) from its partial, movable and concrete forms. [479 e.] “And, as for those who look at many fair things (πολλὰ καλὰ) but don’t see the fair itself (αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ καλὸν) and aren’t even able to follow another who leads them to it (ἐπ’ αὐτὸ ἄγοντι), and many just things (πολλὰ δίκαια) but not justice itself (αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ δίκαιον), and so on with all the rest, we’ll assert that they opine all these things but know nothing of what they opine”.9

The last assertion of Book V is very important, because the idea of Beauty “leads” all reflections, who “make a pattern in speech of a good city”. We have a dialectic ratio: Kalà (beautiful things) – kalòn (beautiful itself); dikaia (just things) – dikaion (justice itself); and we also have the identification of beauty with justice. This ratio – in mathematical sense - makes a difference, de-fine-s (i.e. de-limit) who is “lover of wisdom”, but at same time shows that he knows the beautiful things and is able to create a proportional relation of the models.

In fact, the whole first half of Book V elaborates on which are the forms of all the rest and what is the order, by which we find and assert that they can be “lead”(ep’auto agonti) from the beautiful itself. After he has heard the elaborate argument about the women, the common property, the upbringing of children, and the bearing of the guardians in time of peace and war, Glaucon, as a smart interlocutor, believes that Socrates has gotten carried away and has forgotten the main question: “I think that if one were to allow you to speak about this sort of thing, you would never remember what you previously set aside in order to say all this. Is it possible for this regime to come into being, and how is it ever possible? (471c). He contends, self-assuredly that there are many more “good things…that are left out in your account”. It seems that if this regime is established, all things will be possible, and that is why there is no need to talk about them: “…don’t talk any more about it” (471d). Glaucon has already demostrated his quick understanding and impatience when Socrates begins to enumarate the natural necessities. He quickly defines that those are “not geometrical but erotic necessities, which are likely to more stringing than the others when it comes to persuading and attracting the bulk of the people”. “Very much so”, affirms Socrates (458d) and again – in order of example – delimits the ugly, the irregular intercourse, from the good and beautiful, which are “sacred marriages”(458e).

I can guess and suggest that Socrates purposefully speaks at length about erotic necessities: they are more persuasive for many people. Among this multitude, there are already fewer people, one can begin to notice, for whom at the higher stage of knowledge, the geometrical necessities are more persuasive, i.e. the delibeartions of reason, the arguments of phronesis. These few people, like Glaucon, are “lovers of learning” and stand halfway on the path of philosophy: they are capable of forming a correct, proper opinion. For this reason Glaucon contends he can “see many more good things”, many more “geometrical forms of the good”. And, on the other hand, there are also the “few”––the philosophers, who see the “metaphysical necessity” of kalon itself; the necessity, which is, in fact, the aesthetic freedom. The great myth of Er in the end of the Republic speaks about this transition from the forms of necessity (ananke) towards the free choice, aided by the personal daimon. It seems that with reaspect to the necessities, we have again a spiral elevation. For Plato, the coercive conclusion is extremely importnat: the liberation from necessity is attained by the greadually more clear sight of the truth, the Beautiful itself. That is why the few, uniques, the philosophers, are at the end of the day freed from any other necessities and are “autonomous”; they obey only that which they alone find as best, as Socrates asserts in the dialogue Crito, 46b-c (the part, which commentators later name “The principles of Socrates”). This logic concern about the philosopher-rulers: the unique city must be governed by uniques. In the case of Book V for me, however, is more important the first “hidden” answer to how is the ideal city possible. If “all the rest” follow the main Idea in an “order of necessities”, if “each one must mind his own business according to nature” (453b), necessarily the time will come, when people like Glaucon begin to create and see independently many more “good things”, thanks to the right leading, of e-ducation (the same sense of leading and following), in brief, thanks to the paideia. Kallipolis comes into being through paideia. Thus, I suppose, we can understand best what Socrates says in Book II, by urging his interlocutors to: “to make a city in thought from the very beginning and our necessity will create the city itself”.

In Book V the notion of the good and right education, paideia, is introduced via a beautiful metaphor: the children must be equipped with wings (467d-e), so as to fly away, under the right governance, like the little birds, which fly away from the nest and commense an independent life. They are educated to take risks and to participate in some wars, and in others, not. Their educators encourage and protect them at the same time. I guess that Socrates’s example with the war is not fortuitous: the war is one of the most ugly and dangerous things, so the children learn to distinguish the forms of goodness from the forms of badness very early on. They learn to be courageous: the same courage is necessary in the fight with the vices, and in the care of guardians for the common good.

Shortly put, precisely paideia is the first good “place” (eu-topos), where the ideal city is realized. This fact has been overlooked by the very first critiques, which talk about Plato’s u-topia as the impossible things in an inexistent place.

But there is one more practical argument, which Socrates introduces in the whole first part of Book V and which is central question in the dialogue Hippias Major. The beautiful in an ideal city is bound with the beneficial, which can be subtended by ordinary life10. I have already suggested that here Socrates is looking for the beautiful-practical in the ordinary life, while Plato prefers the possible paideia to impossible practices. The education seems more realizable.

In the beginning of Book V (449a) Socrates has taken the task to show the four forms of badness in the city and the individuals. This theme is abandoned at a certain point and taken up again in Book VIII, where he enumerates olygarchy, democracy, timocracy and tyrrany and the respective bad qualities in the human, which correspond to these regimes: greediness, the excessive changeabilty of the unstable character, the excessive love for honor, cruelty, and injsutice. But here we have to hear the anchient understanding, present already in Homer: the bad is ugly, the good is beautiful. The proof for the coinciding of the ugly and bad is found in the description of the tyrant, whose character Socrates delineates in Book IX: he is monstrously ugly – and monstrously unjust. In the conversation Socrates has intended to start from the distinction of ugliness – so as to reach the idea of the beautiful. If the ugly is scattered, partitioned, the beautiful is ordered, unified, and friendly. Then, the first condition for a good city seems evident – peace, cooperation, common property, including that of women and children, according to the principle “the things of friends are common”. Socrates eveidently has hastened with the paradoxical forms of unity, which matter for ordinary life (449e) and for that reason has to look at the regime “from the beginning”(450a-b). Here not only the criticised Thrasymachus, but also Aristotle see the weakest spot in Plato’s utopia. Aristotle devotes the first two books of his Politikà, so as to criticise what has been said in Book V: according to him from this excessive aspiration towards such an excessive idea of unity, the polis ceases to be a polis (Politics, II 1261a-b). After all, the last two books, however, recreate Plato’s Politeia with the difference that in the base is found not the unified, singular (the beautiful itself), but the beautiful patterns, formed by the beautiful, useful and practical things. Politikà (things with respect to the polis) is a term not inadvertently in plural.

Since it has been and continues to be written a lot about Plato’s “utopia”, even whithin the terminological frames of feminism, communism, and “philsophocracy”, here I want to note only that which seems important to me and is not discussed so often. First, let’s not forget that the City is a living organism with body and soul. The unity of body and soul is understood as koinonia, harmonic community, i.e. the human being is a micro-model of society. The body, for its part, is also one human nature in two modalities11 – male and female. As with the human, the body must be beautiful and kept in shape. This is why Socrates makes an effort to show that the best women and men can both be guardians – what is important are the qualities by nature. The women can be reasonable and virtuous and are not forever bound with the female behavior, like in Euripides (gunaikofron tumos), with the notion of “thelù”, “female” as the “basement” of desires. Also, the rulers and the subjects “make” one human being, who feels pain or pleasure from one or another part of his body (462d). Since the goal, end of the city is to be happy as possible (465b-c), each group has to be given the opportunity to increase its pleasure and receive the prober rewards for its qualities. This is why the beautiful and courageous young need to receive that honor, which according to Homer and Hesiod by right belongs to the “golden generation”(468d), and the relations between the separate peoples must be by the model of the civilized greeks (by the way “civilized” is to a great extent a translation of paideia). The barbarians and the greeks are examples of the difference between riot and war: here, we hear the old idea that in the unified city there cannot be any turmoil, the same way that it is more civilized for a certain conversation to be dialogue, not controversy (471c). All this makes an evidential benefit “and this and what went before are fine”, summarizes Glaucon.

What is paradoxical here, in fact, is that Socrates’ argument that: “the beneficial is fair - kalon - and the harmful ugly” (457b) does not come up after the obvious benefits of the peace, civilization and dialogue, but after the obviously most unacceptable suggestion that women must practice together with men, for there is noting ugly and shameful in that. I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that here Plato somehow “covers” his teacher and takes the risk to be criticized for this truly vulnerable place in Book V. First, for him shame remains a societal virtue, if we read carefully the dialogue Protagoras. Second, if we search for Plato’s first inspiration in Book VI of the Odyssey, where the island of the Phaeacians is presented as The Heaven of Earth, we will find Odyssey, who is ashamed of his nakedness, who has been taken by Nausicaa, one of the first images of the beautiful-and-good (kalon-kai-agathon). Lat’s not forget that in the Laws Plato revised those very suggestions. In any case, as I attmpted to show, for me the most important is where Plato builds upon the ordinary relation between the beautiful and useful, and makes a transition from the erotic towards the geometric necessities and lays the foundation of a metaphysical aesthetics, which searches for the evolution of opinions of Beauty in ratio with absolute Beauty. Justice is the same Beauty and so it abides by the same order of love (ordo amoris). The Republic in time receives the subtitle On Justice. However, the Idea of Beauty is not an empty, abstract form, rather she is the life, internally fraught with concrete forms, which can never deplete her. And when we see the beautiful with our minds, we need to see that, which in reality is closest to it––so as to bring them togethr according to the same principle of “smallest changes” (473b). It turnes out that the ideal city, paradoxically, exists here and now: we just need to see its correspondent “good places” (eu-topia) in the reality.


* * *

Allow me to once more agree with Alain that Plato is always much closer to us then we think. It is possible, with respect to aesthetics and the love of beautiful, that we roam araound in the same way as the punished souls in the myth of Er; to roam around in appearances and ambiguities. At the same time, when we read Book V, we feel how much Plato is far away from us. His fundamental views are close to us because they have amazing universality. But they also have vivacity, for if we agree with the emperor Marcus Aurelius, “only the fundamental views are alive”. And we, in our particular time, awake now for one vivatious universality. The pleasure of reading12 is very crutial, for it can grow into love for wisdom, in philo-sophia, because the “matter” of philosophy is life, especially the life which can be, which must be. In this sense, I can agree with Karl Jaspers, who in the Introduction to philosophy (1950) says that each of us becomes a philosopher to the extent to which he understood Plato.

And if we have to remember only one thing ––let it be the reason why one of the ancient rulers came to Plato: “I came to you, Plato, because you awake the young for the good and the just”. If we add the “the beautiful” next to the just and the good, the sense will be the same.

Lidia Denkova

Department of Philosophy and Sociology

New Bulgarian University - Sofia


1 The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. Translated by C.D.Yonge. – In:

http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/diogenes/



2 On the meaning of Plato’s “timotera” see Thomas Szlezak in his book “Platon lesen”. Friedrich Frommann Verlag, 1993.

3 According to Leibniz, Discours de metaphysique, this principle of the best and most excellent of reality (lesquis et lessentiel) transforms the “geometric reasoning” of mind into metaphysical, thus being a foundation to which every philosophy returns.

4 Perhaps it is not by chance that Aristotle devotes a whole tractate on dreams, On Dreams.

5 In Slavonic languages there are two words to distinguish between “dream” and “day-dream”.

6 These definitions belong to the great Platonist of 15th century Nicholas of Cusa who formulates Plato’s thought in his tractate “De posse-esse” “Is”, “is in beaning” only, that “might be”. By “might be” is meant the best. In this sense the dream projects present onto future and provides for its reality; everything we are doing here and now is with view to future.

7 The notion of the aesthetic state as a sublime form is developed later by Friedrich Schiller in letter 27, On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795).

8 Plotinus, Enneads.

9 The Republic of Plato. Second edition. Translated with notes and an interpretative essay by Allan Bloom, p. 161.

10 Diogenes Laertius: LV. Beauty also is divided into three kinds. For there is one kind which is praiseworthy, as that of a beautiful face. Another which is useful, as an instrument or a house, and things of that kind which are beautiful, with reference to our use of them. There is also a beauty with reference to laws, and habits, and things of that kind, which is likewise beautiful, because of its utility. So that beauty again is looked at in three ways, with reference to its praise, its utility, and to our use of it.

11 We can remember the myth of Aristophanes and the “double” humans.

12 This pleasure of reading Plato’s dialogues is specially treated by Thomas Szlezak in the cited work Platon lessen.


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