Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

4-3-2018

Graduate Advisor

Jon McGinnis, PhD

Committee

Jon McGinnis, PhD (Chairperson)

Eric Wiland, PhD

Craig Boyd, PhD

Abstract

This paper explores the possibility of a cohesive philosophy that recognizes both Plato’s concern about art as a moral danger in the Republic and the aesthete’s—a worthy adversary—position of art as something worth preserving. Plato understood the arts as mimêsis, or imitative and representational. Additionally, this paper suggests that Plato’s take on art extends beyond the limited realm of the performative arts that depict the misguided actions of Greek heroes and gods and how those arts positively or negatively impact the educational development of a citizen of the Republic. Rather, I assert that what he means by “art” is the seemingly all-encompassing realm of artifacts and performative expressions that reflect our overall cultural condition. This paper does not seek to outright disagree with Plato. Rather it seeks first to understand the potential dangers of art as he understood them. To accomplish this task, this paper unpacks his argument that the soul is tripartite (Platonic moral psychology) and the principle of specialization (Plato’s guiding principle for constructing the Republic). From there, once it is understood fully what motivates his concern, the paper’s secondary goal is to resituate his argument and suggest that an overlap exists between art’s aesthetic (intellectual) dimension and its moral dimension. This paper argues that Plato’s problem with art is not within the aesthetic dimension but rather stems from his fear of what might happen when art ignites the passions to side with one’s desires: promulgation of ignorance, disruption of the harmonious balance within the individual, and ultimately, corruption of the Kallipolis. To support this claim, this paper offers examples of contemporary art forms that highlight the distinction between those arts that are a kind of vessel for intellectual engagement and arts that appeal to one’s base desires. Finally, I show that art understood as a vehicle for critical reflection should alleviate Plato’s concern about its moral danger and supports Plato’s thesis on the individual and the acquisition for knowledge. I accomplish this by drawing on Plato’s Divided Line theory and the Allegory of the Cave.

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