Ion is a very short Platonic dialogue between Socrates and a rhapsode by the name of Ion who specializes in reciting the poetry of Homer. The dialogue explores the nature of poetic and artistic inspiration in a most playful way. If you are interested in literature and the arts, you will really enjoy.
Likewise, if you haven’t read any Plato, this is a great place to start. To offer a taste, here are a few snatches of the dialogue along with my brief reflections. Sidebar: all of my statements are, in a way, questions, not to be taken as definitive answers- scholars and philosophers have been debating the details of Plato’s thought for over 2000 years.
Available on-line: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1635/1...SOCRATES: I often envy the profession of a rhapsode, Ion- for you have always to wear fine clothes, and to look as beautiful as you can is a part of your art. Then, again, you are obliged to be continually in the company of many good poets- and especially of Homer, who is the best and most divine of them- and to understand him, and not merely learn his words by rote, is a thing greatly to be envied. --------- A stroke of true Socratic irony. The idea of a philosopher envying someone preoccupied with wearing fine clothes and making sure they look beautiful.
What a scream. And then to say such a person ‘understands’ Homer. Too much. Plato must have had fun writing this dialogue since he adjudged the philosopher beyond concern with physical appearance and ascribed ‘understanding’ to the realm of abstract, logical thinking.SOCRATES: The gift which you possess of speaking excellently about Homer is not an art, but, as I was just saying, an inspiration- there is a divinity moving you, like that contained in the stone which Euripides calls a magnet, but which is commonly known as the stone of Heraclea.
This stone not only attracts iron rings, but also imparts to them a similar power of attracting other rings- and sometimes you may see a number of pieces of iron and rings suspended from one another so as to form quite a long chain: and all of them derive their power of suspension from the original stone. In like manner the Muse first of all inspires men herself- and from these inspired persons a chain of other persons is suspended, who take the inspiration. ---------- What a crystal clear image! The divine muse is the magnetic stone and the poet is the magnetized ring pulled by the stone.
And the poet inspires others in the same way: the magnetized ring magnetizes a 2nd and a 3rd ring, forming an entire chain of magnetized rings. Applying this to our Goodreads site, Crime and Punishment is written by muse-inspired Dostoyevsky, the novel inspires members to write reviews and the reviews inspires comments and more readers of the novel. Thus, according to Plato, everyone in the chain is muse-inspired. How inspiring!SOCRATES: For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.
---------- Anybody who loves music and has developed a degree of technical expertise in playing a musical instrument knows the experience of reaching a point, a zone, where the music flows naturally beyond the boundaries of the ordinary thinking mind. When a number of musicians play together and share this inspired state – sheer magic.SOCRATES: Then, my dear friend, can I be mistaken in saying that Ion is equally skilled in Homer and in other poets, since he himself acknowledges that the same person will be a good judge of all those who speak of the same things- and that almost all poets do speak of the same things?ION: Why then, Socrates, do I lose attention and go to sleep and have absolutely no ideas of the least value, when any one speaks of any other poet- but when Homer is mentioned, I wake up at once and am all attention and have plenty to say?SOCRATES: The reason, my friend, is obvious.
No one can fail to see that you speak of Homer without any art or knowledge. If you were able to speak of him by rules of art, you would have been able to speak of all other poets- for poetry is a whole. ---------- What a thought-provoking line of reasoning. Applying Socrates’s logic to lovers of novels, when someone can offer penetrating insight into a novel or novels written by one author, they should be able to provide insights into any novel.
I sense a fallacy here but this is such an interesting question, I wouldn’t want to spoil it with an answer.