Plato was the first great figure in Western philosophy to assess the value of the arts; he famously argued in the Republic that traditionally accepted forms of poetry, drama, and music are unsound, claiming they are conducive to warped ethical standards, detrimental to the psyche, and purveyors of illusions about important matters in human life. This view has been widely rejected; but Christopher Janaway here argues that Plato's hostile case is a more coherent and profound challenge to the arts than has sometimes been supposed. Denying that Plato advocates 'good art' in any modern sense, Dr Janaway seeks both to understand Plato's critique in the context of his own philosophy and to locate him in today's philosophy of art, showing how issues in aesthetics arise from responses to his charges. Plato's questions about beauty, emotion, representation, ethical knowledge, artistic autonomy, and censorship are of contemporary relevance as formerly secure assumptions about the value of art and the aesthetic come under scrutiny.
Images of Excellence gives a new and original view of a famous issue in the history of philosophy; it is written not only for readers working in ancient philosophy, but for all who are interested in aesthetics, art theory, and literary theory.
`This book is well argued and well researched, providing a cohesive, readable, thorough, and convincing account of these important first arguments in favor of censorhips, while also outlining some ways in which modern philosophiers have tried to meet Plato's objections ... everyone with an interest in aesthetics will profit from this excellent new approach.'
Elizabeth Belfiore, Religious Studies Review
`a real virtue of Janaway's book is the seriousness with which he treats Plato on the arts ... Janaway succeeds admirably in reawakening us to the depth of Plato's critique of the arts.'
Asli Gocer, Ancient Philosophy
he tries honestly to confront Plato on his own terms, and to nsk what defence we can make of the arts.
`Christopher Janaway's approach cuts through a great many strategic knots.'
Times Literary Supplement
`This is a lucid and thoughtful survey, which is effective both as an introduction to the topic and as a contribution to scholarly debate ... I found very little in the main thrust of the detailed argument of Janaway's book which did not strike me as convincing. I think that it makes a real contribution both as a survey and a suggestive piece of scholarship.'
British Journal of Aesthetics
`He has an excellent knowledge of Greek and of Plato's cultural world. He strikes a fine balance between lucid exposition of the texts, explanation of standard and alternative views and relevant aesthetic theory, and his own interpretations ... His views are often persuasive, and always interesting, meticulously argued, and worthy of serious consideration ... Classicists will learn a great deal from Janaway about what philosophers do and how they do it ...
Non-philosophers will also receive a clear and accessible introduction to the theory and history of aesthetics ... Janaway's philosophical analysis is at a highly specialized and sophisticated level ...
this book makes a powerful statement of Plato's claim to importance in the area of aesthetic theory ... this is a stimulating, enlightening, highly intelligent and well written book ... The book is also well produced.'
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
`Janaway, it is not surprising to find, wants to rehabilitate Plato as a theorist of aesthetics ... Although the point is not a novel one, Janaway has made it carefully and in extenso. Moreover, he tries honestly to confront Plato on his own terms, and to ask what defence we can make of the arts.'
The Classical Outlook
`This gracefully written, jargon-free, and fair-minded study should not only provoke lively discussion among specialists but also be useful to other readers as a clear and systematic guide to what the Platonic dialogues have to say about art. In spite of the fact that those who are very familiar with this topic may not encounter many ideas that seem entirely new, this is a very valuable book.'
Journal of Hellenic Studies
`The complexity of Janaway's undertaking is considerable. To the credit of the book, it provides a consistent, if not always convincing, reading of the diverse discussions of poetry, the arts, imitation and poetic inspiration ... Janaway's reading of Plato is careful and illuminating ... consistently plausible ... his comprehensive survey of Plato's critique of the arts is useful, informative and provocative. It provides a needed bridge between classical
studies and philosophical aesthetics'
Dabney Townsend, The Philosophical Quarterly
`A timely and readable analysis of a notoriously complex subject.'