Plato


Plato
(C. 428-C. 348 BC)
  ---- by Alison Ross
  Plato's philosophy exerts a profound influence over modern thought. Immanuel Kant's 'Copernican revolution' in philosophy was styled as an inverted Platonism in which the dependence of a finite consciousness on sensible forms to think ideas reversed the Platonic hierarchy between the intelligible and the sensible. Friedrich Nietzsche, who found Kant's critical philosophy inadequate for such a reversal on account of the primacy in Kant of the moral idea, defined the task of the philosophy of the future as the 'reversal of Platonism' in which the distinction between the real and the apparent worlds would be abolished. Deleuze follows Nietzsche in this task of a reversal of Platonism, but also refines the 'abstract' Nietzschean formula of this task by asking about the motivation of Platonism. In his analysis of this motivation Deleuze finds in Plato, unlike Nietzsche's 'external' critique, the conditions for the reversal of Platonism. For this reason, Deleuze's reversal of Platonism is also better equipped to critique the dualist ontology of Platonism that continues to operate in Kant.
  The motive of Plato's theory of the Ideas needs to 'be sought in a will to select and to choose' lineages and 'to distinguish pretenders' (D 1990: 253-4). In Plato, the hierarchy that distinguishes Ideas from models and copies describes a degradation of use and knowledge. According to Plato, the sensible world is derived from and modelled as a 'copy' on the realm of the Ideas. 'Copies', that comprise the sensible world, mark a graded descent away from the realm of the Ideas to the merely 'apparent' world of the senses. The copying of these copies in art marks a further decline in ontology (use) and epistemology (knowledge). In the Republic, the mimetic mechanism of art leads to Plato's hostility to art as a 'copy of a copy' and to the dramatic arts in particular which dissimulate their status as a copy of a copy. The Idea of 'a bed' is a model untrammelled by sensibility and contains only those features that are the necessary conditions for any bed (that it is a structure able to support the weight of a person). A sensible 'copy' of this Idea necessarily places certain limitations on this form by making it a certain height and colour. However, the painter who paints a copy of this bed copies all the things about the bed that are inessential to its use (that it is a particular colour, a particular height, in a particular setting), but is unable to copy any of those features of the bed that relate to its function (that it has a structure able to support the weight of a person). The restriction of painting to the copying of the mere appearance of the object shows, for Plato, that the artist produces things whose internal mechanisms they are ignorant of. This degradation of use and knowledge in the fabricated object makes art a futile, but harmless activity.Dramatic poetry, however, is dangerous because it produces a spectacle able to suspend disbelief.The spectators of dramatic poetry are inducted into the world of the performance where an actor playing the role of a statesman or a philosopher 'is' this role. For Plato this dissimulation of its status as a copy renders dramatic poetry dangerous to the proper order of the State because it trains in the souls of its citizens a disregard for the distinction between the true and false copy. This distinction in Plato between a harmless copy and the malevolent copy, that itself becomes a model, is the key to Deleuze's project of a 'reversal of Platonism'.
  According to Deleuze the pertinent distinction for the reversal of Platonism is not model-copy but copy-simulacra. The simulacra are those false copies that place 'in question the very notations of copy and model' and the 'motivation' of Plato's philosophy is transcribed by Deleuze as the repression of the simulacra in favour of the copies (D 1990: 256-7). Simulacra are images without resemblance to the Idea. As such they undermine the dualism between Idea and image in Platonic thought, which regulates and grades terms according to a presupposed relation of resemblance to the Ideas. It is because the simulacra are not modelled on the Idea that their pretension, their merely external resemblance to the Idea, is without foundation. But it is also because of this merely external resemblance that the simulacra suggest a conception of the world in which identity follows 'deep disparity', and contest the conception of the world in which difference is regulated according to a prior similitude (D 1990: 261). Thus, Deleuze's 'reversal of Platonism' asserts the rights of the simulacra over the copy. He argues for a pop art able to 'be pushed to the point where it changes its nature' as a copy of a copy (Platonism) to be 'reversed into the simulacrum' (anti-Platonism) (D 1990: 265). In this way, the essence-appearance or model-copy distinctions used by modern philosophers to tackle Plato are shown by Deleuze's genealogy of Plato to be ineffective in reversing Platonism.
  Connectives
   § Kant
   § thought

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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