Aristotle, Borges, Dante, dichtende Vernunft, imagination, intellectual poetry, Leo Strauss, Leopardi, logos, Metaphernbildung, myth, Nietzsche, Omero, philosophy of literature, philosophy of poetry, Plato, politics, prose, Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy, Rancière, rhetoric, Schiller, Schlegel, sentimental poetry, Shakespeare, style of philosophy, thought, transcendental poetry, Valéry
Siamo lieti di annunciare l’uscita della call for paper per il secondo numero di Odradek, che sarà dedicato al tema “The Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy” e curato da Danilo Manca e Alessandra Aloisi.
Submission open: 13th September 2015
Submission deadline: 15th December 2015
Call for papers
The Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy
Editors: Danilo Manca and Alessandra Aloisi
When in Book Ten of The Republic Plato proscribes poetry from the city and refers to a long-standing quarrel between poetry and philosophy, he raises an issue that has since made its mark in the history of Western thought. The aim of this call for papers is to delve deeper into the original meaning of this quarrel, to evaluate the implications it has had for the Western way of thinking and writing, and to explore the different forms the quarrel has assumed, between poetry and philosophy, between literature and philosophy.
Plato’s treatment of poetry looks as resolute as ambiguous. Plato claims that the mimetic art is essentially an imitation of imitation. Accordingly, the work of art is a mere copy of the ideal model that nature already reproduces. Art is therefore seen as twofold far from the truth, whereas philosophy is the love for truth. Nevertheless, this does not hinder Plato from expressing his philosophical arguments by means of dialogues and myths. Could this ambiguity be solved? Is poetry, in Plato’s view, just an extrinsic aspect that the philosopher has at disposal to have a talk with the ordinary people, namely with the men who are still in the cave? Or, rather, is poetry a fundamental dimension belonging to philosophy itself?
Throughout history of Western thought many thinkers took a position on the Quarrel. For instance, Hegel claimed that Plato’s mode of representation belongs to an earlier stage of the concept’s development. By contrast, by employing the notions of “dichtende Vernunft” and “dichtende Denken” respectively, Nietzsche and Heidegger endorsed the idea that philosophy is essentially connected with the poetic production, that is with Metaphernbildung. Another way of understanding the Quarrel is to consider philosophy one of the tools the poet and the writer employ in order to reflect upon their artistic activity. Philosophy plays an important role in the compositional activity of the poet: such role would consist in making possible a meta-literature, that is, a poetry whose point at issue is its own nature. Examples of this are Schiller’s “sentimental poetry”, Schlegel’s “transcendental poetry”, and Borges’s “intellectual poetry”.
Thus, what is at stake in the quarrel between poetry and philosophy is the distinction between myths and logos, thinking in images and thinking in concepts, between the picturing and the inferential arguing, between the imitation of and the reflection upon reality.
To what extent could the poet’s activity be distinguished from the philosopher’s one? To put it in Aristotle’s terms, what does it mean to say that poetry is more philosophical than history because it deals with the universals? And, consequently, what is the relationship between the universals used by philosophy and the ones used by poetry?
In Phaedo, Socrates admits to have often been suggested in dreams to cultivate the art of the Muses. Even though he had always taken it to be an exhortation to do philosophy, only at the end of his life he understands that he was required «to compose myths, not simply to elaborate arguments». On a similar note is Giacomo Leopardi who claims that the greatest poets are also philosophers (e.g. Omero, Dante and Shakespeare) and that the greatest philosophers are poets (e.g. Plato), since imagination is an essential component of poetry as well as of philosophy.
Thus, if poetry and philosophy are activities that stand on the same footing, one may argue that Plato’s thesis against art and poetry, far from dealing with the problem of truth and its representation, has nothing but a political meaning.
By banishing poetry from the polis that is ruled according to philosophical principles, Plato was trying to prevent a free circulation of words and discourses that may divert bodies from their social and intellectual destination. As Jacques Rancière would put it, the reason why Plato himself told stories and invented myths was to justify a hierarchical order and to provide a foundation for a distribution of knowledge and positions which has no foundation itself. From this point of view, the “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy, between falsehood and truth, appears to be nothing but the expression of the never-ending quarrel between equality and inequality, between democracy and hierarchical order. Not differently from philosophy, poetry is a way of using language and of “making” the truth; in other words, a way of thinking and of organizing reality that can rival the one that philosophy promotes.
Consider otherwise the political issue in Strauss’s terms: the genuine quarrel between philosophy and poetry is not concerned with “the worth of poetry” as such, but with the order in which philosophy and poetry should be ranked. According to Socrates, poetry is legitimate only as ministerial to the user par excellence, namely to the king who is a philosopher, and not as an autonomous enterprise. In this sense, the greatest example of ministerial poetry would be the Platonic dialogue because of its capacity to present the non-philosophical life as ministerial to the philosophical one.
The topic of the proposals might include, but need not to be restricted to:
- Any philosophical and/or poetic experience which has nourished and/or questioned the distinction between imagination and thought, myths and logos, and so on.
- The problem of the style of philosophy and the role of rhetoric in philosophy
- Limits and potentialities of a philosophy of poetry
- Features of a literature aiming to be philosophical
- Any political aspects entailed in the Quarrel.
- The distinction between verse and prose as decisive or not to distinguish poetry from philosophy.
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.
The paper can be submitted online via OJS – Open Journal System:
Authors can find submission guidelines at the following link:
All papers will be reviewed according to our peer review process policy: