Plato Attack on Poetry


During the time of Plato Gods and Heroes were represented in an unfavourable light. Hence they were subjected to severe criticism by the philosophers and educationists. Thus poets were considered to be inferior to the philosophers and orators.

Plato’s Attack on Poetry

Plato being much aware of these things and being profoundly influenced was not in favour of poetry at all. His attack on poetry can be explained by dividing it into three categories:

  • Morals Grounds
  • Emotional Grounds
  • Intellectual Grounds

Moral Grounds

  1. According to Plato poetry does not contribute to the social morality as the poet narrates the tales of the pleasant vices of the man.
  2. As Gods and great heroes were represented as corrupt, hence for Plato their admiration by the poets could corrupt the young minds.
  3. The poets are “divinely inspired” and thus their literature is quite non-rational. They give free play to their thoughts. Thus the poets, their emotional frenzies and the lack of moral restraint can afford no safe guidance moral or intellectual.
  4. Poetry makes the reader imitate the characters in the story. Thus one who imitates a female part tends to grow effeminate.

Emotional Grounds

Plato divides the human soul into three parts-rational, spirited and appetitive. The poetry always focuses on the third part of the soul i.e. the appetitive or the desire as it gives great pleasure at the moment. Thus reason is ignored in the poetry which henceforth becomes full of vices.

Intellectual Grounds

Plato has criticised poetry on intellectual grounds as well. The poets are ignorant of cognition of truth as they imitate the appearance and not the reality. Thus poetry cannot be considered to be the valid source of knowledge.

Plato attacks poetry on moral, emotional and intellectual grounds and thus throws light on its uselessness and its corrupt influences.

His point of view is entirely utilitarian. In the ideal state of Plato, “no poetry should be admitted save hymns to the gods and oration on famous men”.