Anthony Costanza on Plato’s Ion



 Anthony Costanza

Response to Platoís

Socrates speaks of the poet as a madman, one
possessed. He further asserts that it should remain solely the position
of the philosopher to tell the/a story as, unlike the poet, the philosopher
may control and construct the story attending himself to moral or ethic.
Where the poet recites and adorns, the philosopher creates and instructs.
Essentially then, we must view this discussion as an assaults on Ionís
usurpation of Socratesí role as a philosopher in his association/comparison
of himself with Homer.

Ion is a „rhapsode,“ a reciter of Homer, and
despite his „talent“ for dramatics, intonation, and voice inflection?the
seemingly necessary vocal tools of a reciter?his knowledge/understanding
of Homer, specifically in terms of those various „arts“ discussed/featured
in Odyssey, fails to extend beyond his ability to memorize the epic
poem. This becomes important when one considers the role of such rhapsodes
in Greece, as interpreters of Homer, and in that capacity, as, essentially
rewriters of the text. The danger apparent here, Socrates asserts, is in
that the interpretation of Homer, conducted by a rhapsode, is a product
entirely of ignorance.

There are further problems inherent in this
situation emerging out of an audienceís inability to recognize distinctions
between interpretations based on content and on dramatics in order to further
create that dynamic where a choice is made?in order to recognize good,
one must differentiate good from bad. Further, if one chooses good based
upon false information or an ill presentation of that dynamic needed for
choice, good may be bad, or good may the only option available. The danger,
of course, lies within that situation where the false interpretation of
a story is witnessed as fantastic by an audience, and recorded as such.
Socrates fears this state of practice. He, as does Homer, works within
the realm of the spoken word, and while dramatics and adornment may mark
the popularity of the rhapsode, neither is any indication of a correct,
or even valid, interpretation of any art expressed in Homerís poems, particularly
that art of telling a story, where the telling becomes at once a theatrical
presentation, and an interpretation.

Socrates‘ point, concerning the art of the
critique, and the interpretations which emerge out of that critical analysis,
is that the role of the philosopher, remains solely, unlike the mad poet,
in charge of his faculties and in control of his story, especially the
(moral or ethical) meaning of the story. As such, the art expressed in
the story is the conveyance of morality, and the artist, is the philosopher.

To oneiros