‘Plato’s View of Art’ Review

Michael Parke, Staff Writer

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Plato’s View of Art, by Whitney J. Oates, is a short book that aims to clear up some misconceptions we might have about how Plato viewed art.

I borrowed an older copy from the library and the front cover had no information but the title. Turning to the back cover revealed more: Oates writes “There is a prevalent view that Plato was essentially hostile to art and poetry, in spite of his own pre-eminence as a master of literature.” This view, he writes, is most often taken after reading The Republic, a series of dialogues between Socrates and others (foreigners and Athenians), in which some of the conversation seemingly dismisses the role of art. Oates discusses this, along with literature in the time before Plato and his Theory of Forms (or Ideas), among other subjects. The information provided therein is important in laying the foundation from which an intriguing and insightful conclusion about the role of art arises.

This book is great for those even vaguely aware of the Theory and Plato. It does well in giving an insight into the thinker without going overboard on the historical aspects and skimping on the analysis of his work. And although I am a reader without a strong foundation in this region, I felt comfortable following along. Oates is an accomplished author in this realm, having written on different schools of Ancient Greek thought, its thinkers and drama, and so is reliable, I believe, in his work.

As I have never read this type of book before I can only describe it thus–it feels like a well-thought out piece on a particular subject, which is what it is. Ultimately this exists solely to counter the standard definition applied to Plato’s thoughts on art. And that may have some readers loving this book and some hating it. That’s okay. If you are looking for something different, something that requires some thinking, check this out.


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‘Plato’s View of Art’ Review