SOCRATES ON POETRY AND THE WISDOM OF SIMONIDES

D Futter

Abstract


In books 2 and 3 of the Republic, Socrates criticizes Homer and
Hesiod for telling the greatest falsehoods about the greatest things; in book 1, he assumes that Simonides is a ‘wise and blessed’ bard who knows the truth. Socrates’ position on the authority of poets seems contradictory. Can this tension be resolved? I argue that it can be.  Building on but revising Nicholas Pappas’ suggestion that Socrates’ charity in interpreting poetry is a form of disrespect, I show that the contradiction in his position is not in principle but in use. Socrates assumes that a true poet must be a knower of the good; however, in book 1, he uses this assumption to absolve Simonides from error, whereas in books 2 and 3, he infers that Homer, Hesiod, and other lesser figures are not true poets. This difference in use is to be explained by changes in interlocutors and a material concern with early childhood education.

Keywords


Plato; Socrates; Republic; Simonides; Socratic method; poetry

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/65-0-1023

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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