Friday, May 12, 2006

Seminar Responses to Plato

Groups in Thursday afternoon seminar put Plato in the dock over his analysis of Drama. Here are some of their thoughtful conclusions: I must say, like them all very much. By all means add yours to the Comments section of this post, or email them to me & I can add them here in the post.

Group "TM"
    1. Plato wasn't giving credit to people, believing that they would be so easily taken in by the drama they saw.
    2. There was a lack of understanding of where the thoughts came from - as people conceive the ideas for dramas, those thoughts are present in people whether or not they see them on stage (they come from somewhere) so the banning of 'detrimental' theatre would only stop the mass communication of those ideas.
    3. There is a paralell between Plato's attempt to control the content of ancient dramas could be seen as similar to modern attempts to control the content of television, print media, and so on.
    4. A circular argument exists with the defence that a rational government would clean up dramas, leading to greater rationality and republican attitudes. If a rational government doesn't exist (owing to destructive influences like drama) then the control that they would exert over those influences would either be insufficient, or misguided.
    5. There is a greatpossibilty of a corrupt governanace using the media as a tool to brainwash people en masse.

Group "LTC"

Since all dramas are considered misleading, all drama should be removed inan ideal society, because even dramas that promote positive values are misleading. Yet, Plato's idea of an ideal society is itself a misleading fantasy (a drama?). There is NO ideal society [i.e. so just who is promoting a fantasy here anyway!]

Group "RM"

The misrepresentation of reality, i.e. drama, could conceivably serve the ideal republic in an educational role. First, there is a purely intellectual and/or conjectural use. I may find patricide and incest abhorrent, and not be particularly desirous of committing either, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in understanding the mindset of a person, e.g. Oedipus, who has committed both. Good drama is a thorough exploration of one possible explanation for Oedipus' behaviour, and the effect it has on him afterwards. The dramatist's empathy for the immoral or polluted subject of his drama need not be permanent; being a rational human being, he can still pass a moral judgment on his characters' conduct.
A second purpose served by drama is that of the negative example (if you can't be a good example, then be a terrible warning, or words to that effect). It shows that sin leads to misery, and illumines the good by defining what the good is not. For example, in Antigone, Creon's stubborness and insistence that l'Etat c'est lui led, at least in part, to the suicides of his wife and son. Plato countered these arguments by saying that reason is a more civilized and more effective (I think) means of education, but later he explained that "the heart" can sometimes control the body where the mind cannot. I asked if that meant that the emotional appeal of drama might make it, in some cases, a more realistic lesson. Plato, I think, replied that empathy, vicarious experience, &c were not necessarily to be desired, as emotions often encourage people to do harmful things.
I think somebody pointed out that presumably rational adults, such as the citizens of the ideal republic, could be counted on the distinguish between reality and the dramatic representation of reality. I added that television has much more verisimilitude than live theatre, which point Plato disputed, saying that television is a representation of a representation of reality. I haven't yet been able to come up with an accurate explanation of what I meant by verisimilitude in relation to television. Woe, lackaday, &c. It did occur to me this morning that vicarious emotions are, with regards to techne, closer to Use than reason. Reason seeks to moderate emotion by distancing itself from... it. It stands to reason, then, that the reasonable discussion of emotion would be more like Representation than Use. But when I say "this morning" I mean "4:30 AM when I was trying to get back to sleep," so maybe this objection will make no sense at all to Plato, who may consider understanding emotion to be an uncivilized pursuit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With regard to the first response to Plato's opinion about drama (i.e.that he didn't give credit to people)I just want to say that denying that we are influenced(taken in) by the drama we watch is a bit hypocritical.We are creatures of immitation and regardless of our level of education most of us are influenced by the ideas existent in the culture we live in.Drama plays an important part in the present culture,hence we cannnot isolate our minds from the ideas promoted by drama.I think Plato was aware of the human weaknesses and by proposing that drama has no place in the ideal society he merely emphasized a trace of the human nature that we all know:we tend to immitate what we see or hear(which is a weakness that Plato couldn't ignore).Since drama is a reflection of a possible action ,nor a real one,it follows that it's deceitful and can make us believe false things as being real/true. I wold interpret Plato's opinion not as a lack of trust in people's ability to discern what's real from what's not,but as an honest acceptance of the weakness that human nature is characterized by.In this sesnse he referred to all people(including himself)not to a certain category of uneducated people which would be taken in by drama.