Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Christopher MiddletonNotes on a Viking Prow
(PN Review 10)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Jenny Bornholdt 'Poems' Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 7, Volume 5 Number 3, April - June 1979.

Desiring the Real, and the Good David Levy

The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists, Iris Murdoch, Oxford University Press, £2.50.

'IN REGARD to knowledge of truths, the artist possesses a weaker morality than the thinker; he does not wish to be deprived of the glittering profound interpretations of life and guards against simple and sober methods and results. He appears to be fighting on behalf of the greater dignity and significance of man; in reality he refuses to give up the presuppositions which are most efficacious for his art, that is to say, the fantastic, mythical, uncertain, extreme, the sense for the symbolical, the over-estimation of the person, the belief in something miraculous in genius: he thus considers the perpetuation of his mode of creation more important than scientific devotion to the true in any form, however plainly this may appear.'

The words are Friedrich Nietzsche's (A Nietzsche Reader, Penguin, p. 125), but the theme is as old as philosophy. We know from a fragment of Heraclitus that even before Plato made his celebrated attack on much of what we call art, the philosopher already looked on the artist with suspicion. The reasons for this are not hard to see. Art and philosophy are in a sense rival methods by which an individual may try to articulate for others his insight into the character of reality. They are often seen as hostile because while, characteristically, art tries to render the unique, particular and passing being ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image