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Reviews117 proposal" in fiction is offered. Cebik sees the most likely area for conceptual change in our views of human nature but suggests that these views are such a hodgepodge that any specific innovation is probably unidentifiable. And he rightly observes that genuine knowledge (and thus truth) about human nature has seldom been established beyond strongly held belief. In practice, then, thesis (3) comes to very little. In the end this is a disappointing book. It sets up a useful framework and asks many of the right questions but the detailed probing simply isn't there. University of Stirling, ScotlandPeter Lamarque Plato's Defense ofPoetry, by Julius A. Elias; ix & 261 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984, $36.50 cloth, $12.95 paper. Plato, himself a poet and dramatist of the first rank, banned dramatists and poets from his ideal state. Clearly he recognized the potentially dangerous use to which could be put those gifts of persuasion he himself exploited to such good effect . However, his total exclusion of such kindred spirits must rank, as a paradox, with Parmenides' composition of The Way ofSeeming, Zeno's arrow, and the fact that Hitler was apparently quite inordinately fond ofdogs and small children. The critical responses to Plato's comments in Republic 10 have varied, according to the period and prejudices of the different commentators, in terms ofboth color and tone. They range from Stewart's purple and reverential prose — in which Plato's myths, in translation, are imitative of the style of KingJames's Bible — through the pinkish and outmoded rant ofCrossman's Plato Today to the tendentious pamphleteering of Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies. Professor Elias is at once more positive, yet, philosophically more controversial and, ultimately far more convincing — certainly in his approach, if not in his conclusion. He is the more convincing because of a willingness to accept Plato as a sincere reformer of his day and not merely as an ancestor of whatever "ism" is currently most unpopular. Elias's beliefis that Plato was not only responsible for a devastating attack upon poets as the amoral manipulators of what passed for the public mind, but also for a twofold defense of poetry, within the dialogues themselves. Poetry, suitably composed, was necessary in Plato's view to instruct those incapable of dialectical study (the "economic" class?) and to take dialecticians beyond the limits ofknowledge to be gained and communicated by merely rational means. The former is the "weak defense" of poetry, the latter the "strong defense." To sustain this thesis Elias discussed in detail the attack upon poetry, the shortcomings of dialectic and the myths which he believes contain, ifonly by implication , Plato's weak and strong defenses. Throughout Elias demonstrates his 1 1 8 Philosophy and Literature intimate acquaintance with and broad knowledge of the dialogues. He shows convincingly that Plato was aware of the inconclusiveness of dialectic in the quest for philosophical truth, especially in the areas of metaphysics and epistemology. And, as Elias propounds, illustrates, and tests his thesis, he throws light in passing on many of the major problems ofPlatonic scholarship. This is unsurprising, given the organic and closely structured, even "poetic" nature, of Plato's dialogues. Especially interesting are his comments on Plato's supposed mistrust and contempt for the physical world and Plato's real mistrust of die written word as a valid medium for philosophical exchange. Elias is consistently instructive, lively, and perceptive; in an area of scholarship where accepted doctrines of criticism, naively transmitted, swiftly achieve the status of dogma, Elias is most refreshing. This is true also ofhis demolition of the more excessive effusions of his predecessors in the field. For example he writes of Crossman that his "background in classics before he stumbled into politics gave him a thorough grounding in the texts, but he is betrayed in this book into a by-now dated topicalism. . . ." Crossman's book is now of interest "only because, after a steady diet of religious mysticism it is refreshing to be reminded that Plato was a political thinker of the first rank" (p. 101). He also presents a stinging rebuttal of Popper: "Plato is too complex...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 117-118
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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