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10.3: Second Accusation- Injustice Promoted in the Soul

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    See 602c-606d. Socrates’ second accusation, going beyond the claim that poets know less than they pretend to know, positively asserts that their poems are a threat to justice in the soul, and therefore, a threat to human happiness. A soul is just when each part is doing its proper job, and in particular, when the rational part rules and the spirited and appetitive parts follow. Socrates’ accusation is that poetry undermines this state of affairs by arousing and strengthening the appetitive part to the detriment of the rational part’s authority. People enjoy having the appetitive part stimulated through fictional representations, and poets generally give people what they enjoy. So poetry tends to feature displays of lamentation, buffoonery, seduction, and rage. Besides, people who suffer from grief and other disturbances of the soul are relatively easy to imitate; whereas “the wise and quiet character, which always remains pretty much selfsame, is neither easy to imitate nor easy to understand when imitated – especially not at a festival where multifarious people are gathered together in theaters. For the experience being imitated is alien to them.” Because poetry tends to feature unjust souls, and to cater to people’s desires for appetitive stimulation, it “nurtures and waters” in the soul what “ought to wither and be ruled.”

    • Can you think of examples of literary characters with stable, aristocratic souls?

    • Do unjust people make better literary characters than just people? If so, why might that be?

    • What effect does the regular watching of television soap operas have on people?

    • Socrates mentions “jokes you would be ashamed to tell yourself, but that you very much enjoy when you hear them imitated in a comedy or even in private.” What is going on when one laughs at such a joke? Is the appetitive part of the soul being gratified, as Socrates supposes, to the detriment of the rational part’s authority?

    This page titled 10.3: Second Accusation- Injustice Promoted in the Soul is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Drabkin.

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