Emotion and the Arts

By Mette Hjort; Sue Laver | Go to book overview

II
Fetishism and Objectivity in Aesthetic Emotion

RONALD DE SOUSA


I. One of Plato's Mad Ideas

My problem starts, as do so many, with one of Plato's mad ideas: the thought that we don't really love the people that we think we love, but only something else, beauty itself, of which our lovers merely occasioned the recollection. Thus, progress in love consists in extending our love from the original individual to all those of the same type, and from there to the Type itself:

And if, my dear Socrates, . . . man's life is ever worth the living, it is when he has attained this vision of the very soul of beauty. . . . [O]nce you have seen it, you will never be seduced again by the charm of . . . comely boys, or lads just ripening to manhood; you will care nothing for the beauties that used to take your breath away and kindle such a longing in you. 1

In addition, Plato taught that since art merely copies life, and life is already one step away from the ideal, art is worse than useless. But when he urged us to spurn the products of art as imperfect copies, was it their imperfection that most warranted contempt or their being copies? The question seems more urgent now that we have actually become capable of making copies to an arbitrary degree of perfection, and that we are able to envisage at least a theoretical possibility of copying persons too, whether by cloning or teleportation. 2

-177-

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