Five Dialogues of Plato Bearing on Poetic Inspiration

Five Dialogues of Plato Bearing on Poetic Inspiration

Five Dialogues of Plato Bearing on Poetic Inspiration

Five Dialogues of Plato Bearing on Poetic Inspiration

Excerpt

Plato wrote no systematic treatise on philosophy, not because he was not a systematic thinker: all his writings are expressions of a single outlook on reality, a system which though it may perhaps show signs of development, yet always preserves its unity: but he expounded it in a series of dialogues each of which stands by itself complete. In each some separate aspect of life or reality, some separate problem for thought to unravel is the starting-point and centre of the discussion. Only the solutions have a common unity: for all these various problems when discussed lead the inquiry back to a conception of the relation between sense and thought which is the centre of Plato's philosophy. The five dialogues in this volume, however, have been brought together because they all throw some light on a special side of Plato's teaching, his doctrine of the place and importance of intuition or inspiration, however we describe that immediate element in thought which can be distinguished from that other element which is teachable and reducible to rules. In each of these dialogues, though for different purposes and from different points of view, Plato expounds that part of his system which has attracted the attention and admiration of great poets and lovers of poetry, and which when developed by later thinkers who lacked Plato's devotion to exact logical thinking and his interest in science, proved the source of much later mysticism. As Plato wrote no systematic treatise on philosophy, so he wrote no æsthetic. But these dialogues present the materials for a Platonic æsthetic, or rather for an æsthetic in accordance with the general principles of Platonic Philosophy, but which Plato himself would probably have disowned. For we must not forget that if of all philosophers Plato has proved pre-eminently the philosopher of the poet and the mystic, if his system has seemed to lovers of poetry to furnish an explanation . . .

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