Abstract–Painting, Ethics, and Ontology in Republic 5

In this paper I examine Plato’s use of the art of painting in the Republic, Book 5 as a metaphor for the integration of citizens in the harmonious society of the ideal city. In the Republic, Plato presents Socrates as a verbal painter who constructs a wide and diverse range of verbal images (eikones). The majority of these images are highly colorful, ornate and intricate. Yet, the Socratic images which depict the ideal city are always very simple. The harmonious city is consistently presented as an individual: a statue, or an andreikelon. In this paper I take the view that Plato’s metaphors of the ideal city as a single man in the Republic Plato help us raise a number of complex philosophic problems with regard to a) the inculcation of virtues in the inhabitants of the ideal city, b) the attainment of civic unity and harmony, and c) the ‘participation’ of his ideal city (which along with the other sensible particulars belongs to the sphere of Becoming) to the transcendent realm of the Forms.