This absorbing study of Plato's criticism of poetry offers a new interpretation based upon central features of both the pre-Platonic conception of poetry and previously neglected features of Plato's various discussions of poetry and the poets. Professor Mitscherling's analysis is unique in that he concentrates on the philosophical significance of Plato's distinction between dramatic and non-dramatic sorts of poetry. Mitscherling shows that this distinction proves in fact to be central to the conception of poetry that Plato consistently elaborates throughout his dialogues. Mitscherling also makes a unique contribution by outlining a possible Platonic aesthetics, which draws on current work in phenomenology and hermeneutics in such a way as to promise an entirely new direction for current work in continental aesthetics. The author employs Gadamer's analyses of the ontology of the work of art, in conjunction with a phenomenological analysis of the aesthetic experience, in the construction of a foundation for aesthetics that is consistently Platonic.
Mitscherling concludes with the hypothesis that Plato's criticism of poetry did not apply to poetry itself, nor was it directed to art in general or the educational system, or the Sophists. Rather, Plato was specifically against the technic of mimesis, that is, the technique of persuading by appearing to be what one is not, or by merely appearing to speak the truth.
Jeff Mitscherling (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) is professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph and the author of Roman Ingarden's Ontology and Aesthetics and The Author's Intention (with T. DiTommaso and A. Nayed).