Plato Vs Shelley Many works of literature provide responses to much debated topics. Opinions are brought forth by means of rhetorical devices and supported by some type of accepted truth. In two such pieces, The Republic by Plato and “A Defense of Poetry” by Shelley, Plato expresses a belief about poetry that Shelley disagrees with and responds to. Through rhetorical devices such as metaphors and symbolism and the use of deductive logic and Socratic writing, Plato provides a strong, very supported argument while Shelley’s long sentence structure, analogies and metaphors are weak in comparison. The way in which Plato uses deductive logic to express his opinion allows him to fully develop his ideas without making assertions that are incredible.
Plato begins with the idea of the ultimate “maker of the bed”, which he refers to as G-d which is easily accepted by the majority of an audience. Plato believed that there is only one who “makes the essence of the bed,” (44) the single idea and therefore that is the truth. From there he goes to the carpenter. “There is another (bed) which is the work of the carpenter.” (44) And finally Plato defines his thesis through metaphor. He uses a metaphor that compares the work of a poet to a mirror. “Turning a mirror round and round – you would soon enough make the sun and the heavens, and the earth and yourself, and other animals and plants, and all other things of which we were just speaking, in the mirror ..
but they would be appearances only.” (44) The way in which the writing is interactive with two people creates contradictions, which challenge Plato’s beliefs, yet they are still proven throughout. “Why not? For the duller eye may often see a thing sooner than the keener. “Very true, but in your presence, even if I had any further notion, I could not muster courage to utter it.” (43) While this Socratic writing helps Plato to make his argument even more concrete, Shelley uses essay form to portray his ideas somewhat in response to beliefs like those of Plato. Shelley’s writing differs in form from Plato’s in that Shelley’s is more straight forward and seems almost as if it were meant to be preached. “Reason is to the imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.” (429) The analogy that Shelley uses portrays that reason is the basis of the imagination, implying that poetry holds truth, yet it is an idealized truth, which is determined by Plato in The Republic to be essentially false. Shelley uses a similar metaphor of a mirror, as did Plato.
“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” (431) While Shelley is trying to defend poetry, he is still representing is as an image, just as Plato had. Plato uses this mirror symbol more successfully in that he makes the assertion that that in which is imitated, as is a mirror image, is far from the truth. Shelley only states that the image (poetry) is more beautiful than the truth, which is distorted. Plato and Shelley both portray their ideas of poetry through rhetorical devices but Plato’s argument is much more solid. Because of his Socratic writing form and effective use of metaphors, Plato’s devices persuasively outweigh Shelley’s form, analogies and metaphors. Philosophy.