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Art, Truth, and Plato

Posted by Brianne Leith on July 24, 2014

By Brianne Leith AGI08AN_Jamuna_Reppert.jpg

Jamuna Reppert PhD of Claremont Graduate University, and an alum of St. John’s Graduate Institute, visited the Annapolis campus July 23 to lecture on "The Relationship of Art and Truth in Plato's Republic."

Reppert described the idea that, "In the Republic, Plato presents us with a moral and ontological condemnation of art. Socrates argues that all art is grounded in appearance and thus removed from a genuine understanding of being. Not only do the poets and painters lack knowledge of the just and good things, their reliance on imitation as an alternative to truth threatens the very foundation of knowledge.”

She refuted, “This demotion of art to imitation is questionable when we reflect on the fact that great art does not simply hold a mirror to nature, instead, it reinterprets what is seen and presents it from an original perspective. Consider Monet’s interpretation of the willow tree, not only does it represent the tree found in nature, it also provides us with a unique perspective of how nature is related to beauty. Although his interpretation is an abstraction of an actual tree, what appears in the painting is the interrelationship between art and truth. Each brilliant brushstroke and vivid depiction of color captures the imagination and thrusts the soul beyond perception toward an understanding of being.”

Reppert concluded, “Not only are we compelled to consider the essence of beauty and truth, we are placed before them in a manner that makes it imperative for us to examine ourselves in relation to these very things. A mere reproduction or imitation cannot elicit such reflection; only an elevated understanding can produce a piece of art, which speaks to the essence of human existence.”

After Reppert’s lecture ended, local college professor Timothy May commented, “The way the lecture incorporated Philosophy and Art together through one of the seminal books of the program really spoke to the value of the College’s offerings such as the Mitchell Gallery to the community as a whole.”


Want to experience a Wednesday night lecture for yourself? Join us July 30 at 7:30 p.m. for Andrea Radasanu of Northern Illinois University, "On the Humanity of Thucydides' Demostheneslecture. Click here to see the full schedule for the Annapolis Wednesday night lecture series.