Leading Plato into the darkroom
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Perfection lies at the heart of Plato’s metaphysics. He argues for the existence of a higher realm occupied by the Forms. Every kind of thing we experience in our world – physical or abstract – obtains its origin and shape from its higher, singular, perfect Form, much as if our world were made of dough cut into shapes by stencils. However, we ordinary mortals are not aware of this higher realm because we are tantalized by the senses, and representational art only makes things worse by glorifying appearances. Plato likens our situation to being prisoners in a cave, mistaking shadows on the walls for reality, and not realizing that ultimate existence lies outside in the light. The best we can do is to lead a moral life, to excel, to approach the perfection of our Form. But then the Form of photography appeared, and led Plato back deeper into the cave, into the darkest space possible. This chapter considers the impact of photography on Plato’s metaphysics, and demonstrates the capacity of technology to challenge and generate philosophical thought.
Cazeaux, C. (2013) 'Leading Plato into the darkroom', in Longhurst, J. (ed). On Perfection: An Artists’ Symposium, Intellect: Bristol, pp. 65-83.
Full text added with permission of publisher (17 December 2015)