Plato's Analytic Vocabulary
Re-reading classical texts in new surroundings can really change the way they mean. In the case of Plato's Ion, notice the curious position of Socrates' hapless rhapsode. Ion is not a poet, himself, nor what we might call a "critic" or literary analyst, since he has no control of critical methods nor any grounding theory to guide him in applying them. Indeed, he seems like a modern "Method" actor, seeking to be inspired by his role, but unable to explain it or his interpretations. He also operates much like English majors who have not yet studied critical theory, reading in hopes of "inspiration" but unable to predict how that might happen. What do Plato's language, and Socrates' logical assumptions tell you about how Plato would teach us to read and to interpret literature?
1) What is it to "know" something in the world of Plato's dialogues? [Both "Ion" and "Republic" groups.]
2) What is poetic inspiration? (Especially pay attention to the "Ion"'s metaphor of the magnet and the iron rings.) ["Ion" group.]
3) Where does true knowledge come from and what roles might the poet and rhapsode/reader play in true knowledge's transmission? ["Ion" group.]
4) What is it to be an expert at doing something? ["Republic" group.]
5) What is imitation when poets do it (Republic III and X)? ["Republic" group.]
6) What is imitation when readers like the young men of the Republic's ideal city do it (III and X)? ["Republic" group.]
7) Why is "charming" poetry dangerous? (Hint: consider its literal meaning.) [Both "Ion" and "Republic" groups.]
Do you want to test your ability to apply Plato's interpretive rules?