Plato postulates that poetry and certain art forms including drama, dance, and painting can only mimic truth - which exists only in an abstract state which he describes as “Forms” . In order to understand this rejection of certain arts and poetry, it 's important to grasp the fundamental idea of Plato 's Forms, how they relate to “truth” in his view, and also how representation or mimicry of this truth is all that we see in art and poetry, and can actually be dangerous because it corrupts us.
Plato 's “Forms” are abstract ideas that represent perfection, explained specifically via Socrates ' example of beds and tables in his dialogue with Glaucon. In the beds discussion, it 's explained that a craftsman can only imitate a bed or a table based on its Form, or perfect ideal, and that this idea is not concrete, but abstract, primarily because what we name a bed/table can encompass many different types of beds/tables, and “...the manufacture of either of these items of furniture involves the craftsman looking to the type and then making the beds or tables (or whatever) which we use ” (65). Therefore, when a craftsman creates a bed or table, it 's only a representation of their ideal, and doesn 't represent the truth of what they are, or their Form.
A broader understanding of Plato 's Forms can be realized in “The Allegory of the Cave”. Plato describes the unenlightened as prisoners watching representations of objects on a wall. They cannot see that these images are merely shadows of objects, which are themselves representations of truth, which exists on a higher plane of knowledge. Nothing that we see or experience in the world is in its real or true form. Everything is either a repr...
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...se. Plato states that reason is what must be sought, and that the arts, poetry, theater, and other emotional triggers distract us from reason.
In conclusion, Plato 's Forms are the truth we all seek. This truth is detached from what we find in the world, and is perfection. The Socratic dialogues in The Republic - in particular the Allegory of the Cave - and in Ion explain what Forms are and how everything we encounter is a representation of truth, and not truth itself. Plato states that certain arts, and poetry in particular, are dangerous to us because they are deceitful by proxy, and they corrupt us by leading us further away from truth instead of closer to it, and that our reason can be dispossessed by madness. Ultimately, according to Plato, we can 't realize perfection in our existence but we can strive for it, as long as we maintain reason and eschew emotion.
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