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In Praise of Plato's Poetic Imagination - Sonja Tanner

In Praise of Plato's Poetic Imagination

Paperback Published: 1st September 2011
ISBN: 9780739143391
Number Of Pages: 264

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Plato has often been read as denigrating the cognitive and ethical value of poetry. In his dialogues, the faculty that corresponds to the poetic �the imagination �is located at the lowest level of human intelligence, and so, it is furthest from true understanding. Simultaneously, Platonic dialogues violate Plato's own alleged prohibitions against quoting and imitating poets, and much of the writing in the dialogues is poetic. All too often, the voluminous literature on Plato dismisses Plato's poetic formulations as merely the unintended contradictions of an otherwise meticulous author. This book asks whether such a reading, found virtually everywhere in the literature, does not miss the mark. Given that, throughout the dialogues, Plato formulates ideas so precisely, utilizing carefully crafted images and structures, is it possible that his flagrant and performative poetics are mere mistakes? Or, is it possible that commentators interpret the dialogues in this way because they have missed something truly significant in Plato's understanding of the cognitive and ethical dimensions of human existence? Keeping this possibility in mind, should we not ask what the poetic and creative arts do for philosophical understanding? How do they contribute to true understanding? This book approaches this question by analyzing the role of the imagination in Platonic dialogues. It argues that critiquing poetry by poetic means, just as arguing against mim sis mimetically in the Republic, or writing against the written word in the Phaedrus, constitute performative contradictions that bear significant philosophical meaning upon further examination. The book re-examines the nearly universal assumptions in the literature that judge Plato's poetics to be an oversight or an error that must be corrected by other, more serious and important ideas about the acquisition of true understanding. Thus, the book begins by examining dialectic, and suggests that the elusive examples of dialectic referred to in the divided line are the dialo

Industry Reviews

Tanner's book is a creative exploration of Plato's use of the imagination and its many layers in the dialogues. She offers substantive contributions to the 'quarrel' between philosophy and poetry and to contemporary hermeneutics of Plato. -- Marina McCoy, Boston College
In this lucidly written and engaging book, Sonja Tanner provides an innovative interpretation of the concept of imagination in Plato's dialogues. Tanner not only rethinks the role imagination plays in Plato's portrayal of the uneasy yet productive tension between poetry and philosophy, but also extends her analysis to modern debates about the relationship between literature and philosophy. -- Dmitri Nikulin, Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Scholars commonly depict Plato as the archenemy of poetry. This view stems in large part from Socrates' harsh treatment of poets in Republic II, III, and X; however, it also rests on the questionable assumption that Socrates spoke for Plato. Such an assumption, Tanner (Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs) insists, flatly ignores the role of literary form in Plato's work. When one takes into consideration that Plato wrote dialogues, not treatises; that the dialogues have poetic features; and that they often violate Plato's alleged prohibitions against quoting and imitating poets, Plato's attitude toward poetry emerges in a different light. Far from being opposed, philosophy and poetry are very much intertwined for Plato; the form of the dialogues contributes to their content. Vital to understanding this relationship is the imagination, though not only in what Plato says of it explicitly but also in how it functions within the dialogues themselves. In the end, though not everyone will agree with Tanner's self-professed 'continental' approach to Platonic studies or find her arguments compelling, her monograph will certainly generate much thought and scholarly discussion. Recommended. * CHOICE, November 2010 *
By the time Plato takes up the question of how we are to speak truthfully, the quarrel between the two imposing forms of such speech-philosophy and poetry-was already 'ancient.' And it remains a question that is unsettled and unsettling today. Rather than insisting upon a quarrelsome relation, Sonja Tanner argues that this matter is best understood as an infinite dialog that enriches those who engage it, and she shows how imagination assists in the birth of wisdom. Thus begins her real contribution to a conversation that must never end. -- Dennis J. Schmidt, Pennsylvania State University

Introduction Chapter 1. A History of the Ancient Quarrel?The Philosophical Side Chapter 2. On the Side of Poetry in the Ancient Quarrel Chapter 3: Imagination in the Sophist Chapter 4. The Pharmacological Structure of the Imagination Chapter 5. The Unity of Form and Content in Platonic Dialogues Chapter 6. Imagination and the Ancient Quarrel

ISBN: 9780739143391
ISBN-10: 0739143395
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 264
Published: 1st September 2011
Publisher: Lexington Books
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.2 x 15.5  x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.4

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