I’ve been preparing to teach a philosophy of art course this coming winter, and there’ve been a couple of images from my readings that have stuck in my head.
One of them shows up in Plato’s Republic. But rather than just describe the image, I’m going to add a little drama by having you, dear reader of Scribblerati’s blog, work toward it yourself. And I’m going to do that by putting you into a Platonic dialogue, which basically means Plato is now going to quiz you.
If being quizzed by Plato scares the pants of you—as it rightly should—just think of the quiz as a writing exercise: describe in words the following mental images. Or draw them; drawing’s fun, right?
Ok. Quizzing starts now--
Plato: Imagine a craftsperson, say, a maker of couches.
[Have you got the image in your head? or got it written down? Good. Not so hard, right.]
Plato: Now imagine a carpenter, that is, someone who can make not only couches but chairs, and beds, and cabinets, and all those other nice wooden things carpenters can make.
[Again, the mind can comprehend, no?]
Now (Plato asks) imagine a craftsperson who can make all of the things that humans can make.
[Harder to imagine, but perhaps, just perhaps, there could be someone that talented.]
Last question, and I’m sorry but here I’m gonna have to quote coz it’s just so nicely worded in the original: Now, imagine that this super talented craftsperson who makes all humanly manufactured things also “makes everything that grows out of the ground, and creates all living things…and the gods and all the heavenly bodies and everything in Hades under the earth.” Can you imagine it?
"Oh, sure, easy," you say (if you’re religiously inclined), "you’re just talking about the divine being who created everything."
"No. No. And No," Plato would reply. “I am not talking about a Craftsgod." (Word of the day: Demiurge, The Divine Craftsperson.) "I’m talking about the Craftsperson. As in human person."
Can you picture him or her? Can you? Huh? Huh?
That's the quiz. Post your final answer. A philosophical star for figuring it out. Tune back soon for the big reveal (or, if you can’t wait, find yourself a copy of the Republic and snuggle up.) And no wikipedia-cheating, guys and gals.