republic (books 6 - 10)
Yet if he is not the maker, what is he in relation to the bed?
I think, he said, that we may fairly designate him as the
imitator of that which the others make.
Good, I said; then you call him who is third in the descent
from nature an imitator?
Certainly, he said.
And the tragic poet is an imitator, and, therefore, like all
other imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from
That appears to be so.
Then about the imitator we are agreed. And what about
the painter? I would like to know whether he may be thought
to imitate that which originally exists in nature, or only the
creations of artists?
As they are or as they appear? you have still to determine
What do you mean?
I mean, that you may look at a bed from different points of
view, obliquely or directly or from any other point of view, and
the bed will appear different, but there is no difference in reality.
And the same of all things.
Yes, he said, the difference is only apparent.
Now let me ask you another question: Which is the art of
painting designed to be--an imitation of things as they are, or
as they appear--of appearance or of reality?
Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and
can do all things because he lightly touches on a small part of
them, and that part an image. For example: A painter will
paint a cobbler, carpenter, or any other artist, though he knows
nothing of their arts; and, if he is a good artist, he may deceive
children or simple persons, when he shows them his picture of
a carpenter from a distance, and they will fancy that they are
looking at a real carpenter.
And whenever anyone informs us that he has found a man
who knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows,
and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than
any other man--whoever tells us this, I think that we can only
imagine him to be a simple creature who is likely to have been
deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he
thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyze
the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation.