November 17, 2005
from The Republic
Plato. “The Republic.” Authorship from Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1995. 19-22.
Plato’s quarrel with poetry is the focus of this excerpt. He proposes that poets (and “the honeyed Muse”) be banished from the city, since their influences are antithetical to law and order. Those possessed by the Muse (as mentioned in the Ion) are not subject to reason, and a city full of such individuals is composed of babbling fools. The Muse is positively not to be trusted: “... we have come to see that we must not take such poetry seriously as a serious thing that lays hold on truth, but that he who lends an ear to it must be on his guard fearing for the polity of his soul and must believe what we have said about poetry” (21-22). Poetry (and, perhaps, other creative products) are epistemologically suspect.
Here we see another example of the externalization of inspiration as well as the idea of the classical Author as suspect and untrustworthy due to his possession by this external force.