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Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in art?

Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in art?
Xyiin
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Posted Feb 10, 2005 - 4:54 PM:
Subject: Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in art?
I just took my first ethics class and began reading the republic so i'm very new to philosophy in general, but in reading about the allegory of the cave, i couldn't help but draw some comparison in the arts. Also a few aspects of art have been confusing me and i'm glad i found this forum, hopefully someone can shed some light onto these questions for me. smiling face

The allegory of the cave basically draws a comparison on the freeing into the real world of a man who lived in a cave of shadows all his life with the kind of insight and higher-level thinking achieved by the philosopher. After the freed man had seen much of the real world, if he were to return (or forced to return) into the world of shadows, his attempts at making the other prisoners understand, as they would probably think of him as being crazy.

Now what i've been wondering is if a such a situation can occur within art (specifically drawing/painting) and music. The specific example i've thought most about in music is the improvised kind of jazz played by Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, etc., as opposed to popular jazz. Today, such jazz is really not that popular, and i'm pretty sure it never really was (even when jazz was most popular, it was mostly pop jazz that was - please correct me if i'm wrong); however i can't help but recognize the genius of many of the best jazz artists, which leads me to wonder whether they are like the philosopher (as plato conceived him) and the freed man, in that they perceive, experience, and play music on a level that can not be understood by the majority of the population (except those who have also achieved such a level).

And perhaps a similar situation can be found in fine art as well? Though I haven't thought as much on the comparison with art, I personally feel that the majority of people can not appreciate true fine art once again because they have not yet achieved such a level.

Perhaps these are too obvious observations, or perhaps they're far-fetched. I can not tell anymore because i've beaten my mind down thinking about it, as i have to decide my major soon (in art or music). Ultimately, i want to find out whether or not a such a higher level in art or music is worth the endeavor, at the expense of being able to reach out to the majority of the world (which i greatly value)?

I apologize for the lengthyness rolling eyes

I'd VERY MUCH like to hear ANY opinions on these comparisons/questions. smiling face
Xyiin
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Posted Feb 10, 2005 - 5:02 PM:

i forgot to add a minor detail.

I personally can not enjoy jazz though i can't help but recognize some of the artists' genius.

similarly for art, i have difficulty enjoying much art considered to be genius, so i would not have reached such a level
Socrastein
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Posted Feb 10, 2005 - 9:00 PM:

Xyiin, I like the parallel you bring up, it reminds me a lot of some thoughts I've been having regarding the martial arts lately, and how Bruce Lee was ridiculed and looked down upon for the way he basically told all the traditional martial artists that they were in chains, bound to their ways and the true martial artist must free himself and express himself as an individual, not as a product of tradition.

I never once thought of the connection between this and the allegory of the cave until reading your thread, and now I think that you do make a very valid and interesting comparison - I would say that this paradigm applies to many things, not just intelligence, but art as well like you have proposed.

mrcollision
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Posted Feb 11, 2005 - 3:34 AM:

I like the analogy. However, what use does art have unless it tries to illuminate the world outside of the cave? In this sense, art is always somewhat restrained by necessity to convey thoughts and experiences beyond comprehension of imagination in a language that can be understood. Is this the only thing holding art back?
Xyiin
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Posted Feb 11, 2005 - 8:50 AM:

thanks for the input

For what mrcollision said, as far as the allegory goes, the prisoners, though trapped in the cave, nevertheless saw and formed beliefs of the limited world they lived in, just as the freed man saw and formed beliefs at a different (perhaps "higher" was too biased) level. Art can still be used to illuminate the world inside the cave; and though such art may seem inferior, i'd argue that its ability to reach out to the majority of the world that still resides in the cave gives it a significance. I suppose it really depends on ur definition of art rolling eyes as some (mostly those who have achieved this different level) would probably exclude the "popular" forms of art from their definition, but personally i'd include both forms in the definition of art.
mrcollision
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Posted Feb 11, 2005 - 9:02 AM:

I see. Well, I hold a view that art is nothing more than the quality in things to convey a concept - this would certainly tie in both forms of art :-)
mestizo
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Posted Feb 12, 2005 - 3:31 AM:

i feel i need to share some of my personal expierences as it may related to this discussion since i've been a practicing artist most of my life.

this is a great bent on the plato analogy. thanks for sharing by the way.

i figured out early on that art was my thing.... that thats what i was suppose to be into... because i felt deep about things and i choose to express my self visually. since i was very litte... maybe 3 or 4 i've been growing to try and replicate or imitate nature... rendering.... realism etc. the laymen (that is those who dont dabble in the fine arts or arts) around here enjoy seeing what they can recongnize... the better something looks like the real thing the more they appreciate it... the more it looks like nothing they can recongnize the more they hate it or think its not art... more like shit
(keep in mind this is what im expierencing around my parts... dont know if its true elsewhere).
So realizing this i have kind of grown up thinking that realistic art is the way to go... that thats what art is and should be.... i was doing it without knowing i was holding this prejudice. I would basically do this type of art because i was taught from the people i hang with or im around when growing up that this realistic stuff is the way to go... i wasnt taught by other artists untill i got to the university setting. It was in college that i found out that thats not what art is all about... that art is deeper then what we can see... and how true it is to the original. Now ive done a complete 180 in my art and ive landed on basically non objective art. ive realized that i need to be as free as possible... that the art i should do is the type of art that is not dependent on what people think.... that this is closer to me being genuine and sincere. as a result im enjoying my new art expierences and feel real.... ive gotten a lot more pleasure from it.... its what makes me wanna wake up in the morning. the laymen now view my work (some...maybe most) and dont respond like they used to because maybe they dont understand... that its all crazy talk. So i really understand this analogy of platos allegory of the cave. in my little world maybe im that guy walking in telling the people chained about the real world and because i have no consideration for telling them on thier level they think of me as simply crazy... or my work is shit. Perhaps its just a copout excuse for my non objective art really sucking major ass... but i know for sure that that non objective art is being done with extreme passion... extreme genuiness... and pleasure like never before.

should i consider talking to the laymen in thier own language to tell them about more being out there and thus freeing them from thier shakles? maybe im just born to be that guy that plays high level jazz music that no one gets for a reason though i dont know what that reason is.

anyways... just thought id throw this in for the hell of it... dont think it adds much to the discussion here... but perhaps it does.



as far as your dilema with trying to choose between music and art.... major in what you feel most passionate about i guess... maybe that will help. what is it that would make you want to get up in the morning for? whatever that is... DO IT!



Edited by mestizo on Feb 12, 2005 - 3:36 AM
Klaatu
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Posted Feb 14, 2005 - 3:59 PM:

I think if we were to properly interpret the meaning of Plato's allegory, it would bring us to the conclusion that art is in fact more of a 'shadow' than anything else- as Plato himself claimed.

Thats because art is a copy of a copy, of course. Its a physical representation of some inner idea or design.

There is some slight truth to this... for example with the jazz greats and some artists, it may be that the horn can only reproduce, or 'copy', the inner thoughts (music in his head) to a certain extent. Or it could be in the way that Plato thought, a picture of a table is once removed from, and thus inferior to, the actual table.

But thoughts are thoughts, and art is art. Its hard to define a 'copy' when the copy does not claim to be the same as the original.

For Plato art is thrice removed; not only is it removed from the object of the senses, but the object of the senses itself is also once removed, a 'copy', of the ideal form.

But art does have its uses. If we continue with the metaphor, we might suppose there are two people in the cave. Once goes outside and comes back in; he paints shadows on the wall that are imperfect imitations of the objects he saw in the light; those imitations are just black outlines on the wall, same as the shadows. The other person will have no idea what is going on, for the most part, but when he sees the art on the wall of the cave it will be of value to him because it might give him a slight hint, a taste of the illumination. The black outlines on the wall will therefore be beautiful to him, but at the same time that beauty will come at a cost; he could love them too much and it would kill his desire to leave the cave. Or would they? They could at the same time awaken and inspire him to leave.


Jack
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Posted Mar 4, 2005 - 11:33 AM:

I think the general thrust of your original post has more in common with Nietzschian-influenced ideas about the artist/philosopher than with anything Platonic. Plato was notoriously (and in my view wrongly) anti-art. It would appear to have been one of his few genuine blind spots. Although, paradoxically, the Theory of Forms has always been popular with artists.

One of Posterity's little jokes, I suppose...
Klaatu
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Posted Mar 4, 2005 - 2:04 PM:

Jack wrote:
I think the general thrust of your original post has more in common with Nietzschian-influenced ideas about the artist/philosopher than with anything Platonic. Plato was notoriously (and in my view wrongly) anti-art. It would appear to have been one of his few genuine blind spots. Although, paradoxically, the Theory of Forms has always been popular with artists.

One of Posterity's little jokes, I suppose...


If Plato was cruel to art, it is only because he is cruel to the sensory, physical world in general, I think.

Plato himself supposedly studied painting in his youth, was familiar with the details of the technique. And his Demiurge was in a way, the artist of a universe, who looked to the perfect forms and imitated them in producing the sensory universe.

For Plato the world itself was a sort of artwork, an imitation.



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