Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Plato's "Historical" Rejection of Art

I just finished reading Plato's Republic for my current research project on Rancière and philosophy (parts of which, I hope, will appear in print sometime soon...). In Book X, after banishing the poets from the city, Socrates admits that it is still possible that the poets could return from exile if its defenders, speaking "in prose on its behalf" show "that it not only gives pleasure but is beneficial both to constitutions and to human life" (607d).

Rereading this passage reminded me of the way that Schelling, who often had neo-Platonic moments, deals with Plato's rejection of art (in the lectures on The Philosophy of Art from 1802-1804). Schelling argues that Plato's stance is merely historical and not philosophical, and that, historically speaking, contemporary philosophy is in a much better position to give a "more comprehensive understanding and construction of poesy." 
Yet aside from this merely historical, not philosophical, opposition, an opposition philosophers readily admit, what is Plato's rejection of the poetic arts -- compared particularly with what he says in other works in praise of enthusiastic poesy -- other than a polemic against poetic realism, a foreboding of that later inclination of the spirit in general and of poesy in particular? That judgment could be applied least of all to Christian poesy [especially Schelling's favorite, Dante], which on the whole just as decisively displays the character of the infinite as the poesy of antiquity as a whole displays that of the finite. [...] The Christian religion, and with it a sensibility directed toward the intellectual and ideal...created its own poesy and art in which such sensibility could find satisfaction (V, 346-347).
But, as I argue in my book, Schelling's philosophy of art and idea of the new mythology does not end with Christian mythology (which he speaks of as a living form in the past tense), rather he announces the possibility of an art and mythology that overcomes the limitations of both ancient and Christian mythology, a new mythology which, incidentally, has its roots in naturphilosophie.

No comments: