Plato's Laws II, 2

After we get to the idea that art and moral education are linked, there is an interesting question raised about who is the right kind of judge of the best art. This is presented in a way that might at first seem silly. In fact Plato acknowledges that in the voice of the Cretan. 

Ath. One way of considering the question will be to imagine a festival at which there are entertainments of all sorts, including gymnastic, musical, and equestrian contests: the citizens are assembled; prizes are offered, and proclamation is made that any one who likes may enter the lists, and that he is to bear the palm who gives the most pleasure to the spectators-there is to be no regulation about the manner how; but he who is most successful in giving pleasure is to be crowned victor, and deemed to be the pleasantest of the candidates: What is likely to be the result of such a proclamation?

Cle. In what respect?

Ath. There would be various exhibitions: one man, like Homer, will exhibit a rhapsody, another a performance on the lute; one will have a tragedy, and another a comedy. Nor would there be anything astonishing in some one imagining that he could gain the prize by exhibiting a puppet-show. Suppose these competitors to meet, and not these only, but innumerable others as well can you tell me who ought to be the victor?

Cle. I do not see how any one can answer you, or pretend to know, unless he has heard with his own ears the several competitors; the question is absurd.

It does seem absurd at first. How can you judge the winner of a contest that includes horse riding, and puppet shows, and poetics, and maybe an opera for all we know? It seems as if you're trying to compare apples and oranges, as we say. There's no clear standard against which such dissimilar events can be compared. 

What you have to realize that Plato is raising a metaphor for how a whole society functions. A whole society involves many, many kinds of different activities going on at once. Decisions have to be made about which of them are most important even though they are unlike. The question is really about who should rule, not who should judge the art.

Ath. Well, then, if neither of you can answer, shall I answer this question which you deem so absurd?

Cle. By all means.

Ath. If very small children are to determine the question, they will decide for the puppet show.

Cle. Of course.

Ath. The older children will be advocates of comedy; educated women, and young men, and people in general, will favour tragedy.

Cle. Very likely.

Ath. And I believe that we old men would have the greatest pleasure in hearing a rhapsodist recite well the Iliad and Odyssey, or one of the Hesiodic poems, and would award the victory to him. But, who would really be the victor?-that is the question.

Cle. Yes.

Ath. Clearly you and I will have to declare that those whom we old men adjudge victors ought to win; for our ways are far and away better than any which at present exist anywhere in the world.

Cle. Certainly.

Ath. Thus far I too should agree with the many, that the excellence of music is to be measured by pleasure. But the pleasure must not be that of chance persons; the fairest music is that which delights the best and best educated, and especially that which delights the one man who is pre-eminent in virtue and education. 

This is an approach that is most often credited to Aristotle, who makes a lot of it in his ethics. It is clearly one of the principles he learned from Plato. The best judge of the most virtuous activity is the person who is in fact virtuous. Just as the spectator who has never tried to play football won't understand the nuances of what makes a route pass play especially impressive, so to the person who has never been in a position to have to be courageous may have a cartoonish idea of courage. 

The best judge will be the person who has proven a capacity to do the thing. This holds not just for courage, but for all the virtues -- and therefore for everything, including art, that might or might not be virtuous. 

Ath. And therefore the judges must be men of character, for they will require both wisdom and courage.... He is sitting not as the disciple of the theatre, but, in his proper place, as their instructor, and he ought to be the enemy of all pandering to the pleasure of the spectators. 

So say we all who, for example, deplore the way American entertainment has devolved into cheap superhero fantasies and garbage pop music. 

I'm not quoting at length the Athenian's argument that there are discoverable (even mathematical) principles of music that are eternal and truly good, but it is a version of the argument from the video yesterday. It is well-traveled ground here over the years: things like the pentatonic scale really exist, and so too other demonstrable forms. Plato is appealing to that, in music, and going beyond it to the theatre and to all forms of art. But he's really not talking about art. He's really talking about everything. 

Ath. The inference at which we arrive for the third or fourth time is, that education is the constraining and directing of youth towards that right reason, which the law affirms, and which the experience of the eldest and best has agreed to be truly right. In order, then, that the soul of the child may not be habituated to feel joy and sorrow in a manner at variance with the law, and those who obey the law, but may rather follow the law and rejoice and sorrow at the same things as the aged-in order... And similarly the true legislator will persuade, and, if he cannot persuade, will compel the poet to express, as he ought, by fair and noble words, in his rhythms, the figures, and in his melodies, the music of temperate and brave and in every way good men.

One of our key disagreements with Plato lies here: who gets to judge? Capitalism puts the right of judgment with everyone, insofar as he or she has money to spend. They make different judgments, and many of them judge in favor of superhero movies or garbage pop. 

Likewise people may vote for Donald Trump, whom all the wise know to be the worst of men. They might prefer traditional forms of faith and society, rather than bending the knee to social justice and trans* movements. But that in itself points up a problem Plato has with himself, not with us. He would have wanted his legislator to put that kind of activist to the sword if necessary: to compel, if they could not persuade, such people to comport themselves in accord with the general laws of beauty and right. 

So here lies another problem, and a problem for both of our sides as well as for Plato. None of us are in perfect agreement: our love of liberty enables the perverse, the garbage, the worthless. Plato's love of the rule of the wise, however, enables the Woke; and the Woke, who would find much to agree with in Plato's account, would be horrified to realize that he never meant for them to be the ones who'd be thought fit to judge. That power would have been placed with old men of proven virtue, the most conservative body in any society. 


Christopher B said...

Good stuff, Grim. Thank you.

Grim said...

I'm glad you're enjoying it.

ymarsakar said...

Plato needed to account for the fact that humans can be mind jacked by Satan or the negative devils.

This is good example of how dualities creates those shadows on Plato's wall. The ideal is freedom or American whatever, but the reality is much in shadow and internal conflicts.

But I would also note, that things are progressing in line with my promise. Georgia is causing a detonation effect in the GOP.

By 2021 and 2022, America will be quite changed. Either reformed or destroyed. Either way is fine with me, as Plato's Republic was just his method to deal with death of his father mentor, Socrates. It would not have been necessary had humans been capable of more.

ymarsakar said...

The best judge of the most virtuous activity is the person who is in fact virtuous.

Which is why Aristotle's student, Alexander, decided to conquer the known world. After all, military might and victories are a virtue.

The culture back then thought so even if your culture does not.

Plato was always trying to get rid of the Athenian democratic assembly that caused the death of his teacher, Plato thought. He ended up trying to work it out with this political system, using dialogues to convince people.

What Plato did not realize is that it was not democratic mobs that killed Socrates. Whenever a Son of God or anyone else tries to free humanity in this dark matrix ruled by child rapists and satanic circles (look at America's recent election selections, foreign steal), the dark matrix fights back. Partially by sending obstacles in the path of Socrates. Did you know that Jean De Arc and Wyliff, the first translator of the bible into English, died due to humanity's religious church ruling them as illegal?

Of course they are illegal and must be killed and burned alive to survive as a sacrifice and lesson to the masses. Just like Socrates. Just like John the Baptist. Just like Yeshua of Nazareth. Just like any other human or immortal that tries to stick their head up above the clouds or above the rest of the trees. CHOP. Crabs in a bucket trying to escape. All other crabs pull it down.

This dark matrix utilizes various agents and counter measures, notably mind control and the "great deception" to blind the hearts and eyes of men and women. It often takes the form of accusing people of being what the accusers are. Thus they accuse T red of treason and collusion. In truth, the accusers were traitors and colluding with foreign powers.

This teaching was passed from Plato to Aristotle, who refined it more in the materialistic and non spiritual sense. And then Alexander took it to the logical conclusion, and his death explained what that ended up as. Socrates, a man who chose death instead of unrighteousness, his line ended up with Alexander, who chose to continue killing people. India's gods said no.

Grim said...

Just as swords are always sort-of on topic here, satanic cults and dark matrix talk is always off topic.

ymarsakar said...

That decision will put you into an interesting situation in 2021.

Not even I will dare to tell the Godhead that their plans are "off topic". I have some basic common sense in choosing what to oppose or not.

Grim said...

All shall be welcome that God sends, as Lancelot would say.