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Title:Plato's "Ion": An Exegetical Commentary With Introduction
Author(s):Harris, John Philip
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Calder, William M., III
Department / Program:Classical Philology
Discipline:Classical Philology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Plato's brief dialogue, Ion, represents an encounter between the Athenian philosopher, Socrates, and the Ephesian rhapsode, Ion, in which the philosopher attempts to persuade the rhapsode that his ability in reciting Homeric epic stems not from techne ("craft") or episteme ("knowledge"), but rather is a "gift from the gods" (theia moira). In the introduction to the dissertation I argue that Plato's purpose in writing the dialogue is to attack indirectly, via the Homeric rhapsode Ion, the poets' twofold claim that poetry is both a craft as well as a "gift from the gods". Although this double claim is entirely free of contradiction from the poets' (and rhapsodes') point of view, according to Plato's conception of techne and episteme, in which both require the possession of reason and the ability to explain what one does, such a claim must demonstrated to be ipso facto self-contradictory. Plato achieves this aim in two ways: first, he shifts the focus of discussion away from the poetry of Homer as a whole, and narrows it to a particular type of subject matter for which there is a particular professional competence. Thus the rhapsode cannot possibly claim for himself an independent "rhapsodic craft" in contradistinction to that of the particular subject matter mentioned in the poem. Second, in dealing with the poets' claim of "divine inspiration", Plato deliberately misconstrues it so as to mean, not that the poet is an active collaborator with the Muse, but that the poet is simply a passive transmitter, a medium, of a message emanating from the Muse. Furthermore, Plato extrapolates the notion of "divine inspiration" so as to mean "divine possession" which entails that people experiencing such a divine influence must necessarily be out of their mind. Thus, by deliberately manipulating the argument, Plato both belittles the poets' claim to authority while simultaneously seeming to maintain it, his purpose being to replace poetry as a vehicle of education with his own brand of philosophy. In the commentary proper I examine in detail the argumentative structure of the dialogue as a whole as well as specific stylistic, philological, and philosophical matters.
Issue Date:1997
Description:178 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9812613
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:1997

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