Plato's Ion and the Ethics of Praise

of 30

Please download to get full document.

View again

All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
PDF
30 pages
0 downs
2 views
Share
Description
Plato's Ion and the Ethics of Praise
Tags
Transcript
  2010145. Destree. 04_Capuccino. 1st proofs. 2-12-2010:10.36, page 63. 󰁣󰁨󰁡󰁰󰁴󰁥󰁲 󰁦󰁯󰁵󰁲 PLAO’S  ION   AND HE EHICS OF PRAISEC󰁡󰁲󰁬󰁯󰁴󰁴󰁡 C󰁡󰁰󰁵󰁣󰁣󰁩󰁮󰁯Mypaperaimstoestablishtwothings:()whatexactlyisthemainsubjecto Plato’s Ion, and accordingly () or what purpose Plato wrote it. ()In my view, and contrary to the mainstream interpretation, Plato’s Ionis not a dialogue about poetry and the poet as a proessional 󿬁gure:Socrates’ interlocutor,Ion oEphesus,is actually nota poet,but themostamous o Homeric rhapsodes. His proper task, according to Plato, isto communicate to the audience Homer’s thought and, in this way, tobecomehis‘mediator’( hermeneus ):therhapsodeis,ontheonehand,theauthorized depository o Homeric wisdom and, on the other, the living voice able to transmit it. His mediation is worthy o Plato’s philosophicalinterest or it is not an exegesis o Homer’s verses (aiming to establishwhat Homer really said), but a praise o his paideutic value and o themodelolie heproposes:Ionisthenapraiser( epainetês )oHomer,whorecognizes and promotes his authority in both ethical and political lie,by inciting the audience to emulation with his meaningul praise o thepoet.()Plato’s purposeistoshowhowtheethicsunderlying thiskind o praise—apraisenotonlyoamodeloliebutaboveallotheauthorityo such a model—is dangerous (i) because persuasive but groundless (oneis praised not because he is wise, but is wise, because he is praised) and(ii) because it promotesa dogmatic and passive style o lie and thought.Te ethics o praise is then essentially incompatible with philosophy.I. Te  palaia diaphora  between philosophy and poetry has posed, untilour days, several difficulties to the interpreters o Plato, who have at-tempted, on the one hand, to ascertain its srcin and historical develop-ment, and, on the other, to 󿬁nd some point o equilibrium in the ‘innerquarrel’betweenPlato thephilosopherand Plato thewriterortheartist. 1 1 Pl.  Rep . X, b–. Whether it is an  ancient quarrel   or only an  old   one, on thebasis o two possible acceptations o   palaios ,the typical scholarly attemptis to trace back its srcin and undamental stages, and the different positions can be located betweentwo opposites: on the one hand the denial that any real quarrel between philosophy andpoetry every existed beore Plato’s work (rom Collingwood [], , to Nightingale[], –) and, on the other, the recognition o such a quarrel in the history o    󰁣󰁡󰁲󰁬󰁯󰁴󰁴󰁡 󰁣󰁡󰁰󰁵󰁣󰁣󰁩󰁮󰁯 2010145. Destree. 04_Capuccino. 1st proofs. 2-12-2010:10.36, page 64. Wherever its roots might lie, and independently o any inner con󿬂ict,the criticism o poetry occupies, as a matter o act, a non-trivial part inPlato’s philosophical re󿬂ection: onecan consider, or instance, its impor-tanceinthe Republic ,wherethecriticismopoetryoccupiesthreebooks,andamongthem,signi󿬁cantly,the󿬁nalone.Plato’sanalysisistwoold:ontheonehand,itconcernsthe nature opoetry,especiallyinthecaseothephilosophicalre󿬂ectionsinthetenthbookothe Republic ;ontheother,ithastodowithits value ,withregardtotheroleopoetryinhumanlieandits unction within the  polis . Tis second aspect is the object o the eth-ical re󿬂ections on poetry in the dialogues; paradoxically, Plato devoteshis long preliminary inquiry to this aspect: until the tenth book o the Republic  he never asks himsel ‘What is poetry?’, but he investigates itseffects by re󿬂ecting on its utility; as or its nature, he limits himsel toshowing what poetry, as a matter o act, is not. 2 I will devote my paper to this  preliminary inquiry  , starting rom the Ion . I believe that this short dialogue can be a good starting point, sinceestablishing its main theme is a quite controversial question which isstrictly related, as we shall see, to the value o poetry according to Plato.In particular, I shall try to answer two questions. Te 󿬁rst one concernsprecisely the dominant theme, the ‘hidden heart’ 3 o the dialogue: is or philosophy until Plato, as a kind o thread which concerns various levels: on this c.the recent work o F.M. Giuliano, the most complete and, in my opinion, best availablestudy o Plato’s poetics (Giuliano [], especially –); I do not agree, however,with his traditional interpretation which makes the  Ion  a dialogue on poets and poetry,attributing too little importance to the 󿬁gure o the rhapsode, who remains actually theonlyinterlocutoroSocratesinthedialogue.GiulianoalsoaddressesPlato’salleged‘innerquarrel’, showing that the ambiguity is not in the attitude o the philosopher towardspoetry, but in the nature itsel o the latter (–); Maruˇsiˇc (), cap.  and p.  reaches the same result independently. But c. also, beore them, Verdenius (), –. 2 Unlike whathappensinthecaseso rhetoric( Gorg  . d, e–d) andsophistic( Soph . c–d), o whichthenatureis inquired inthe󿬁rstplace.It is interestingtonoticethat, whereas or the ethical virtues the starting question is ‘what is it?’ (e.g.  La . d–), in the case o the alleged  technai  the question concerns initially the  technitês  ( Gorg  .d), to know what is his art (e–a), and only later the art itsel, to know itsobject (c–d). On the  nature  o poetry, c. Giuliano (), cap. III; the topic istackled by Plato starting rom a question about the nature o mimesis ( Rep . X, c),to reach the conclusion that  all   poets are imitators according to the general de󿬁nition o  mimesis  whichollows romit (eff.). Temoresigni󿬁canttextsconcerningthe value o poetryareinsteadthe  Apology  (a ff.),the Ion ,the Gorgias  (b ff.),andbooks II–IIIo the  Republic . 3 Verdenius (), . I am glad to acknowledge my debt to W.J. Verdenius, withwhom I share the initial question ‘pourquoi et avec quelle intention Platon a écrit l’ Ion [?]’ (p. ) and some general theses about the  Ion  (c. Capuccino ).  󰁰󰁬󰁡󰁴󰁯’󰁳  󰁩󰁯󰁮   󰁡󰁮󰁤 󰁴󰁨󰁥 󰁥󰁴󰁨󰁩󰁣󰁳 󰁯󰁦 󰁰󰁲󰁡󰁩󰁳󰁥  2010145. Destree. 04_Capuccino. 1st proofs. 2-12-2010:10.36, page 65. is not the  Ion  a dialogue on poetry and poets, which as such sets thephilosopher (Socrates) in opposition to the poets, thus enacting a new stage o the  palaia diaphora ? Te second question concerns, instead, thedominant character o Plato’s inquiry on poetry, starting again rom the Ion : is it, at the end o the day, a criticism or a praise? 4 II. Let us begin with the 󿬁rst question: i by ‘poet’ we mean  narrowly  someone who composes or recites verses proessionally, or composedor recited them in the past, the answer to this question is  no , or theollowing two reasons.. First o all, Ion o Ephesus, Socrates’ interlocutor in the homony-mous dialogue, is not a poet. Moreover, he is presented in the dia-logue itsel as a well-determinedproessional󿬁gure, therebydistin-guished rom the poet: Ion is a renowned Homeric  rhapsode . Tisis a  matter of fact  , then, which we can extrapolate rom the  mise enscène  o the dialogic 󿬁ction and rom the choice and characteriza-tion o the interlocutor (a–c).. Te second reason  is an  exegetical   one,and concernstheposition o the rhapsode in the chain o divine inspiration, which in the way it works resembles a magnetic chain o iron rings attracted by amagnet: just as the magnetitsel in virtue o its strengthattracts the󿬁rstringothechain andthesecondonethroughit,and soonuntilthe last one, so the Muse attracts to hersel the inspired poet,  e.g  .Homer, who in turn attracts the rhapsode, who 󿬁nally captures theaudience, closing the chain o enthusiasm.  I.e . every ring turns outto exercise the Muse’s power, on her own concession,by a  principleof transitivity   o inspiration borrowed rom that o magnetism:the poet is attracted by the Muse and attracts the rhapsode, therhapsodeisattractedbythepoetandattractstheaudience(dff.).Tese two reasons are, as a matter o act, strictly related. Several doubtshave been advanced concerning the choice o Socrates’ interlocutor, anitinerant Homeric rhapsode who proclaims to be amous, and indeedthe best, but is otherwise unknown to us; and i we trust Xenophon’s judgment—whether it depends on Plato or not—it seems that in the 4 C. Giuliano (), : ‘[...] corre l’obbligo di conciliare le contrastanti concezioniche [Platone] elabora sulla poesia. Le soluzioni proposte sono tanto varie quanto nume-rose, per un problema tuttora aperto’.   󰁣󰁡󰁲󰁬󰁯󰁴󰁴󰁡 󰁣󰁡󰁰󰁵󰁣󰁣󰁩󰁮󰁯 2010145. Destree. 04_Capuccino. 1st proofs. 2-12-2010:10.36, page 66. V–IV century 󰁢󰁣 rhapsodes did not enjoy, at least among educated peo-ple, a particularly good press. 5 Consequently, according to the prevail-ing interpretation, the real object o Plato’s inquiry would be poets andpoetry,whichenjoyed muchmoreprestigein Greekcultureatthattime. 6 Tetypical argumentothosewhosupportthisinterpretationisan afor-tiori  one: the rhapsode and the poet are both, in act, rings o the samemagneticchain(unlike,  e.g  .,thesophist,withwhomsomehavealsotriedto identiy Ion). 7 Andtheactthattherhapsodemightrepresentthepoetis justi󿬁ed on the basis o the aorementioned principle o transitivity. Inthis senseboth intermediate rings, poet and rhapsode, exercise the samepower o inspiration by divine dispensation, respectively on the rhap-sode and on the audience, and thereore they are interchangeable; butthe poet—and this is the strongest argument—remains nonetheless thedirectinspirerotherhapsode,andsotheormerappearstoenjoyapriv-ileged position vis-à-vis the latter. 8 Actually, there is an essential difference between the positions occu-pied by the rhapsode and the poet in the chain (and so we come back tothesecondreason),adifferencewhichallowsustore-evaluatehisdignity as a Socratic interlocutor: although they are both intermediate rings, theobject they are conjoined to is not the same. One extremity is in com-mon, namely their connection point, that, as we have said, determinesthe superiority o the poet over the rhapsode, even in space (the poetis  above ). Te other extremity is different: as or the poet it is the supe-rior one, the Muse, and this close contact with the divine srcin wouldseem to guarantee, once again, the dominant role to the poet. As or therhapsodeitisinsteadtheineriorextremity, i.e .theaudience,theelementwhich closes the chain. I would like to demonstrate that, despite appear-ances, this,  i.e . the position o the rhapsode and not that o the poet, isthe real privileged position, and that, consequently, the rhapsode (andnot the poet) is the  direct   object o Plato’s interest in the dialogue. 9 5 X.  Mem . IV , –;  Symp . III . Notice that Xenophon’s negative judgementdoes not necessarily re󿬂ect the commonsense one on the rhapsodes, and consequently does not attest to their loss o prestige in the common opinion: Xenophon’s criticismso the rhapsodes could belong to an intellectual  élite , be independent, or derive rom a(super󿬁cial) reading o Plato’s  Ion . 6 So Murray (), . 7 C. especially the long commentary in Flashar (). 8 C. Giuliano (), : ‘Argomentodello  Ione  èil rapportotrapoesiae conoscen-za’, n. : ‘[s]volto sulla doppia direttrice, che il ponte del rapsodo Ione riuni󿬁ca, dellapoesia e della sua interpretazione’. 9 Scholars have ofen maintained that the theory o inspiration concerns primarily   󰁰󰁬󰁡󰁴󰁯’󰁳  󰁩󰁯󰁮   󰁡󰁮󰁤 󰁴󰁨󰁥 󰁥󰁴󰁨󰁩󰁣󰁳 󰁯󰁦 󰁰󰁲󰁡󰁩󰁳󰁥  2010145. Destree. 04_Capuccino. 1st proofs. 2-12-2010:10.36, page 67. Tis second, exegetical reason in support o the thesis that the subjecto the  Ion  is not the poet as normally understood (i.e. the  professional  poet) is actually a  cluster of reasons  which attempt to de󿬁ne who Ion o Ephesus is and in what his rhapsodic activity consists. On this subject,we can get all the necessaryinormation in the proem, or more precisely in the second part o it, which is a sort o   main proem  which ollowsthe meeting or greetings between the two interlocutors. 10 Here Socratesdeclares thatheenviesoradmires( ezêlôsa )Ion’sactivity, andwe discoverthat,besidesreciting theHomericversesatestivalslike thePanethenaics(or which he has to  ekmanthanein  [...]  ta epê ), the rhapsode has alsoanother activity, which is not attested by any source outside the Platonic corpus . 11 Ion himsel presents it at c as a verbal activity whichconsists in  legein peri , i.e. in speaking  of   or  about   Homer, and cannotcoincidewiththesimpledeclamation( saying   Homer);thisactivityseemstobehispropertask,whatmakeshimagoodrhapsode.TeGreekphrase legeinperi describesonlysuper󿬁ciallytheaspectothisrhapsodicsaying,whose unction had already been introduced in the previous words:the task o the Homeric rhapsode is to become  hermêneus  o the poet’sthought or his audience.Te standard interpretation o what the rhapsodic activity describedin this passage is relies on the  modern  meaning 12 o the term  hermêneus , the poet (about ten reerences to the  poiêtês , against only a couple to the  rhapsôidos ),and since they believe that it is the thematic core o the dialogue, the poets and poetry becomeimmediatelyitsmainsubject-matter(c.nn.,).Itisofenoverlooked,however,that the theory is introduced by Socrates to explain to Ion the excellence o his  legein peri Homêrou , and in the same way it ends with a reerence to the rhapsode’s activity (c. n. ). Giuliano notices the initial reerence, but not the 󿬁nal one (, ): sincehe identi󿬁es the relationship between the poet and the rhapsode with the one betweenpoetry and its interpretation, it is understandable that he avours the ormer. He doesnot differ rom the traditional view, as ar as he does not manage to see in Ion’s activity enough autonomy to justiy Plato’s interest in him, except as secondary to his interest inthe poet. 10 Te proem o the  Ion  can be divided into a short initial part which presents themeeting o the two interlocutors ( minor proem , a–b) and a second longer partwhich introduces the rhapsode’s activity ( main proem , b–a). 11 For a reconstruction o the rhapsodic activity attested by our extant sources I reerthe reader to Capuccino (), app. B. What is especially difficult to pin down is thepraising aspect beside declamation, which characterizes the 󿬁gure o the rhapsode inPlato: o this crucial aspect we have no testimony outside the  Ion . Te only scholars whorecognise its importance are Verdenius () and Velardi (). 12 I reer to the unwarranted attribution o the meaning o modern words, such as‘hermeneut’, ‘exegete’, ‘interpreter’, to the Greek   hermêneus  in its Platonic acceptation.
Related Search
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks