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In Plato's Ion Socrates discusses with the title character the question of whether the rhapsode, a professional performer of poetry, gives his performance on account of his skill and knowledge or by virtue of divine possession.Ion has just come from a festival of Asclepius at the city of Epidarus, and is full of himself for having carried off first prize...
In Plato's Ion Socrates discusses with the title character the question of whether the rhapsode, a professional performer of poetry, gives his performance on account of his skill and knowledge or by virtue of divine possession.Ion has just come from a festival of Asclepius at the city of Epidarus, and is full of himself for having carried off first prize in the competition. Socrates presses the view that it is divine possession and not acquired skill that is behind the actor's art, but Ion admits that it is the specter of money that really keeps him on his toes. Socrates subjects Ion to his philosophical dialectic, and gets him to admit that because he recites Homer's war stories, he is as much military general as actor. Only then does Socrates seem satisfied that he has made a fool of the actor, whom he accuses of being as shifty as Proteus.Ion admits when Socrates asks, that his skill in performance recitation is limited to Homer, and that all other poets bore him. Socrates finds this puzzling, and sets out to solve the "riddle" of Ion's limited expertise. He points out to Ion that art critics and judges of sculpture normally do not limit themselves to judging the work of only a single artist, but can criticize the art no matter who the particular artist. Socrates deduces from this observation that Ion has no real skill, but is like a soothsayer or prophet in being divinely possessed. Socrates offers the metaphor of a magnet to explain how the actor transmits the poet's original inspiration from the muse to the audience. He says that the god speaks first to the poet, then gives the actor his skill, and thus, gods communicate to the people; the only other option is to be a cheater since Ion does not know of skills in which he recites (military general).Socrates tells Ion that he must be out of his mind when
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