Plato wasn’t a fan of democracy.
He also wasn’t a fan of poets or writers or storytellers. Wanted to banish them from his commonwealth. Cast them out.
Why? What crime could poets and writers and storytellers have possibly committed to warrant such treatment? According to Plato, no less than perverting morality and reality. To his mind, poets and writers and storytellers incite emotions instead of the faculty of reason. They can fabricate reality out of thin air. They are illusory.
Even worse, with words and phrases alone they can convince people. With melody and rhythm they can influence others beyond reason.
To Plato, drama is the most dangerous form of story because the writer is imitating things they don’t understand. Thankfully, Plato’s best student saw things differently.
Aristotle felt that drama well told was the highest form of story because the writer seeks to unite harmony, rhythm and truth. Instead of the particular, the writer seeks to express the universal.
Aristotle saw this a good and noble thing. For Plato to denounce poetry and drama and story because it’s not philosophy is absurd. It’s like denouncing a bird for not being a dog.
We’re not creatures of logic. We’re easily amused, constantly swayed, make ridiculous and fundamentally flawed decisions. We fall in love at the drop of hat. We start wars for less.
We’re not robots. We’re human, all too human. We’re be better studying Aristotle than relying on Plato’s false rhetoric and reason-above-all to guide us.
Aristotle’s “Poetics” is the earliest surviving work of dramatic and literary theory. Within it’s pages is everything we ever need to know.
Imagine being able to keep people transfixed with story. What if changing one small element made all the difference?