44 pages 1 hour read


The Republic

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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Chapters 13-14Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 13 Summary: “Poetry and Unreality”

Socrates goes back to an issue raised in chapter four, the exclusion of poetry from the ideal community. He wants this, he says, as “the whole genre of poetry deforms its audience’s minds” (344). What is his justification for this claim? First, he argues that poetry is twice removed from the truth. There is a hierarchy of connections to reality. For example, there is the ideal form of a bed, which is singular and made by God. Next are the forms we encounter with our senses in the real world. For example, there are the multiple variations of different beds made by artisans that we use every day. Lastly, there is the representation of these objects, for instance via writing in a poem or in a painting. These representations are the furthest from true reality and are, to Socrates, useless. 

Socrates considers the counterargument that “a good poet must understand the issues he writes about” (349). His response appeals to utility. If this claim were true, he argues, Homer’s poetry must have had a positive use in the fields of warfare, tactics, politics, or human education, as various philosophers have had.