Mimesis and Platonic Forms

Deep inside his new collection of essays Life Sentences, in a discussion of mimesis, in the middle of a paragraph about the Pythagorean world of numbers and the differences between perfect Forms and imperfect appearances, William Gass throws down a challenge: “Put yourself in their place.” He’s referring to the place of the Forms—those poor, elusive abstractions that, according to Gass’s concise rendering of Plato’s theory, are damned to have reality but no animation, Being but no life. To understand them, we can’t do less than consider their predicament from their perspective. And once we’ve come this far, we have to pity them. Think about it: how utterly wretched it must be to exist as a Form, stuck for all eternity as a law of motion that does not move, or as an object of knowledge that “will never know what knowing is.” It might be tempting to strive for the symmetry of something as impeccable as an equilateral triangle, but it would be grim never to experience, or even to conceive as a delicious fantasy, “what it is like to be seen, longed for, touched, loved.

Till the Knowing Ends: On William Gass | The Nation Review of Life Sentences

Dialectic interlocution

The monopoly of judgment, and an audience whose epistemological role has been reduced to zero, lead to a dogmatic conception of discourse and knowledge. It is through an interlocutor who both questions and answers that equality among the participants is realized. If a listener assumes only a passive role and is content with being merely the recipient of the speaker’s ideas, then we can hardly speak of a relationship between equals or of a relationship not based on authority.

Meyer, Michel. 1995. Of problematology : philosophy, science, and language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 76-77

From §2 Dialectic and the Hypothetical Method as a Reaction to the Socratic Logos of ch. 2 “Dialectic and Questioning.”

This entire section is excellent and demonstrates Plato’s turn from the Socratic question to answers, in that questioning cannot lead to knowledge (per Plato).

But for me, this quote is primarily in regards to dialogue and the equality of participants in the conversation.

[Originally posted about a year ago at: http://commonplacing.posterous.com/dialectic-interlocution ]