A Little Platonic Dialogue Never Hurts

Welcome to the first part of my 1, 2, 3….151ish part series on better knowing the Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism. Today is Plato’s day. Granted, he’s been dead for nearly 2400 years, but death did not stop Plato for making fun of Homer. So, why should it stop us from taking a few jabs at Plato? After all, Plato made assumptions about what Homer knew, and we can do the same for him, the difference is only a matter of a few millennia. And really what’s the difference between a few centuries and a few millennia any way? Plato disregards centuries difference, so we should to!

“You’re that smart?”
“Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?”

DATE: 12/21/2009
DURATION: 1:48:29 PM to 3:14:12 PM PST

CAPRI: Hola!
ALIZARIN: Bonjour!
ALIZARIN: I’ve been busy. Time gets away from me sometimes.
CAPRI: Yeah, IK. Whatsup?
ALIZARIN: Studying mostly.
CAPRI: Studying what?
ALIZARIN: I’ve been trying to catch up on my critical theory.
CAPRI: Yeah? Y?
ALIZARIN: I’ve always been a little slack on the subject.
CAPRI: RLY? I never noticed 😉
ALIZARIN: Well you wouldn’t, would you? You are part of the ignorant superficial masses. JK 😉
CAPRI: Ouch, that’s a bit harsh. Where did that come from?
CAPRI: He seems mean spirited.
ALIZARIN: That’s only the half of it.
CAPRI: What’s the other half?
ALIZARIN: He’s an egotistical twit and a bit of a narcissist IMHO
CAPRI: LOL I don’t know if you should be calling one of the preeminent founders of Western Thought a twit.
ALIZARIN: You’re right. I’m just aggravated.
ALIZARIN: I’m apparently slightly deluded or divinely mad, take your pick.
CAPRI: So you’re not the only one flinging names eh?
ALIZARIN: Nope, if he can call me crazy, I can call him things too.
CAPRI: YKW? You shouldn’t take it so personally, its not like he knows you or anything.
ALIZARIN: I suppose
CAPRI: Why does Plato think you’re crazy?
ALIZARIN: Because I don’t have any real knowledge, but think I do
CAPRI: ??? FWIW You clearly know more about Plato than I do. I’ve never read him.
ALIZARIN: Well yes, I know about Plato, but I don’t really know Plato.
CAPRI: That makes no sense.
ALIZARIN: Well Plato used Homer as an example. You know Homer.
CAPRI: On the Simpsons? He’s an idiot.
ALIZARIN: LOL, no the guy that wrote the Odyssey.
CAPRI: Never heard of it. J/K. 😉
CAPRI: I did go to high school.
CAPRI: Yes. 😜
ALIZARIN: Some of my students have never heard of the story.
CAPRI: They’re just playin.
ALIZARIN: Perhaps…
ALIZARIN: Do you know how to fish and shoot arrows?
CAPRI: Actually yes. Boy Scouts was good back in the day.
ALIZARIN: Ok bad example. Do you know anything about sailing in the Mediterranean?
CAPRI: No, never been there.
ALIZARIN: See! How would you know if Homer’s depictions of sailing the Mediterranean Sea are accurate?
CAPRI: I know how to row a boat.
ALIZARIN: That doesn’t count.
CAPRI: Technically a trireme is a giant row boat.
ALIZARIN: But Plato argues you cannot judge something accurately if you have never done it.
CAPRI: Makes sense, I agree with him, but you’re not judging his accuracy.
ALIZARIN: No, but I am judging various qualities of the work.
CAPRI: I have a question then.
CAPRI: Homer was blind wasn’t he?
ALIZARIN: Yes, they say he was.
CAPRI: Then how does he know how to row a boat?
CAPRI: Was Plato a sailor?
ALIZARIN: I don’t think so.
CAPRI: Then how does he know how to row a boat?
ALIZARIN: He did travel. But that’s the point.
CAPRI: Huh???
ALIZARIN: Well Plato argues that the critic is nothing but a representative of a representative.
ALIZARIN: Poets are inspired by God to write something. The poet is God’s representative.
ALIZARIN: The critic is then inspired by the poet to respond. So, the critic becomes a representative of a representative.
CAPRI: I see…
CAPRI: Nope. How does this make you crazy?
ALIZARIN: Technically, I’m crazy because other people are crazy.
ALIZARIN: The artist doesn’t really know what their talking about but are inspired to write about it just the same. Correct?
ALIZARIN: They sound a bit mad don’t they?
CAPRI: As mad as a hatter.
ALIZARIN: Well an interpreter can’t really interpret any thing they don’t understand.
ALIZARIN: But critics like me do it all the time and always think we are accurate. Not only are we reading a work of madness, we are claiming to understand it! So we’re crazy too.
CAPRI: Oh. I get it. It takes one to know one.
ALIZARIN: Precisely! I am on a continuum of craziness.
CAPRI: Cool. Wait…wha???
ALIZARIN: If someone were to read my work of madness on madness and then write a response to it because they were inspired to do so, that someone would be continuing in the divine madness of it all.
CAPRI: I suppose so.
ALIZARIN: Of course, that begs the question: who is more crazy? The one who wrote the work originally, the interpreter of the work, or the interpreter of the the interpretation?
CAPRI: The original author.
CAPRI: Well a magnet’s power diminishes the farther away you move from it.
CAPRI: Move 3-4 paperclips away and it has no power at all.
ALIZARIN: I see your point.
CAPRI: Plato doesn’t think your crazy. You’re just marginally crazy and only by association.
ALIZARIN: Association to you. 😉
CAPRI: I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it! 😛
ALIZARIN: I better get back to work.

*Edited for clarity and quality assurance.

Disclaimer: This conversation is not intended as a substitute for reading Plato. The reader should consult The Republic in matters relating to Plato’s conception of reality and an ideal society. Please be mindful of any symptoms in your writing that may indicate divine madness and seek medical attention immediately.

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