The Platonic Forms and Art

The Platonic Forms and Art

Plato has a theory that is truly massive. The platonic forms reach in to every possible realm of philosophy, science, linguistics, and math because it offers us a theory of essence. It gives us a theory where each source of language (be it numbers or words) is described as having a perfect from. What about when language, or oven meaning all together, falls apart?

Music we must agree is difficult to pin down as meaning, or embodying only one thing. We could start by saying that some piece of music embodies one form or another when we feel the emotion most central to songs sound.This truly doesn’t seem right because our mood is really going to effect the emotional outcome of the song. Music could maybe find its form in in the kind of mathematical perfection that relates to what we hear. After all the Greeks were the first to measure music according to mathematical proportions. It might be much clearer, in doing justice to Plato’s mentality, that there are perfect forms governing the harmonies or the methods in which music is played to offer up music of higher and higher form capturing. In this model much may come to light. There gives great reason to the idea of Beethoven’s 9th symphonies’ success. Plato could argue that the essential arrangements of notes that lies underneath has very very expertly captured the form that Beethoven was trying to reach.

Formalism has a great standpoint to make in relation to Beethoven, but what about music that is more informal? Humans create music in all kinds of places. In a church, in a bar, in school, in a garage, at festival and parades. Where humans are, music is sure to follow. What about when the music has seemingly no structure at all. When I listen to Charles Mingus or another of the chaotic jazz music, I am hard pressed to find mathematical regularity. Not even sure what that would look like, yet still they reach an incredible range of emotions and sounds.

It looks as though we have arrived at a dichotomy. On the one hand we have the ideas presented in Republic 10. In Republic 10, Plato argues that art is an eikon(image). It attempts to portray a form by simply taking a snapshot of it as a lowly derived source. The less effective the eikon, the further it strays away from the form. If Beethoven’s 9th symphony is an eikon then it must surely be one of the highest eikons ever. It does seem to reach the kind of mathematical eternal perfection that Plato looks so highly at.

On the other end we have the view portrait in in the Phaedrus. In the Phaedrus we get an account of speech-making, and I derive this in to art, where Socrates becomes filled with the muses. He becomes captured by the feeling and produces his speech to soaring heights. I think that it is useful to see jazz in this way. That Jazz captures forms by having absolutely no structural pretense at all. It may even be the best way to capture forms all together. The philosopher Schopenhauer offered music to be artistically unique because it bypasses meaning on the way to the “thing in itself”. In a similar way it looks like music might bypass all “eikons” on its way to the forms. When jazz freely divulges a feeling without ever actually trying or needing to make the audience understand one particular thing or another, it brings us in to the forms in a much fuller way. It might even be that this brings us out of the platonic realm because we no longer need a form to describe the presence of the music, since it need not take shape. My question to you folks is then: do you think that music is actually captured by the forms in the ways I have listed? or do you think that it lies outside of the platonic realm? consequently showing how Plato’s view may be flawed.


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