Although Plato was an excellent storyteller, and his dialogues are true literary masterpieces, he considered art to be dangerous. The philosopher believed that painting, literature, music, and visual arts can strongly influence character formation; thus, they must be strictly controlled. Plato’s influence on the development of Western philosophy, including aesthetic theories, is massive, which makes the consideration of his ideas essential. In particular, his views of original Forms and their imitation as physical objects illustrate the philosopher’s opinion on beauty and art.
Plato believed that there are ideal prototypes of all objects, imperfect copies of which are presented in the physical world. The philosopher also included the concept of Forms ideas, which then are distorted and modified in reality. Thus, everything in the world exists only in the form in which it succeeds in imitating ideal prototypes. For Plato, the world of Forms is rational and immutable, while the world of physical objects is irrational and impermanent. Since the soul and mind belong to the ideal world, a philosopher’s true life consists of cognizing Forms and striving for their most accurate imitation.
In his dialogues, Plato explains art as a copy of a copy and calls it dangerous due to its ability to evoke emotion. Since objects of reality imitate ideal Forms, and artists then depict these objects, they imitate an already existing imitation. Thus, Plato presents art as dangerous, as it only displays appearance, but not reality. The philosopher believes that art evokes unnatural feelings in people and makes them seek not the truth but satisfaction and delight. According to the ethics of virtue, virtue is achieved through the habit and experience of contemplating and performing the right actions. In turn, art offers a person not so much justice and truth as mutability and emotionality. Thus, Plato views art as dangerous because it imitates the ideal and distorts it, leading people to delusion.