The Importance of Rousseau's Recreation of Platonic Criticism of Art

Document Type : Scientific-research


PhD Graduate in Philosophy of Art, Allameh Tabataba'i University


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in some of his works like the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (the First Discourse) and The Letter to d'Alembert on the Theatre, presented a critique of art, specifically theater, which was in contrast to the spirit of his time. His critique was essentially based on the Platonic criticism of art which was presented in the Republic. After justifying the fact that Rousseau's critique could be considered as a recreation of Plato’s critique of art in the eighteenth century, this article aimed to demonstrate that this critique, besides its significance in itself, could be essential to fulfill a novel interpretation of Plato’s critique. Rousseau, by applying Plato's fundamental ideas in his critique of contemporary art, separated Platonic criticism of art from Plato's unique metaphysical framework. Furthermore, by revealing the eternal core of Plato’s critique, he made it more acceptable and understandable. According to this interpretation, the tripartite distinction between idea, reality and imitation is reducible to a twofold distinction between reality and image. In this view the main point of critique is that art, by intervening between man and reality, prevents the genuine perception of things, which in turn leads to the loss of the authenticity of emotions. As a result, it would disrupt the ethical balance.


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