Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 2

Reason Conquers the Illusion from Nature

7 minutes  • 1338 words

Imitation is only a kind of play or sport.

The tragic poets are imitators in the highest degree. Imitation is concerned with that which is thrice removed from the truth.

Imitation addresses what faculty in man?

A body is large when seen near.

  • It appears small when seen from afar.

The same object appears straight when seen out of the water, and crooked when in the water. The concave becomes convex due to the illusion on colours to which the sight is liable.

Thus, every confusion comes from within us.

This is that weakness in the inferior part of the human mind that is imposed on by illusory tricks which affects us like magic.


The arts of measuring, counting, and weighing come to the rescue of the human understanding. These free us from the uncertainty of greater or less, or more or heavier. The better part of the soul to measure and calculation.

The imitative art is an inferior one who marries an inferior, and has inferior offspring. This inferiority extends itself to sight and hearing with regards to poetry.

Imitation imitates the actions of men, whether voluntary or involuntary. This results in a man not being in unity with himself.


In our example on sight, there was confusion and opposition in his opinions about the same things. So here also, there is strife and inconsistency in his life.

The soul is full of these and 10,000 similar oppositions occurring at the same time. We said that a good man who has lost his son will bear the loss with more equanimity than a man who is not good.

He will moderate his sorrow. He is more likely to struggle and hold out against his sorrow when he is alone. When he is by himself, he can do many things which he would be ashamed of. There is a principle of law and reason in him which bids him to resist his sadness.


But when a man is drawn in 2 opposite directions, to and from the same object, it implies 2 distinct principles in him.

One of them is ready to follow the guidance of the law which would say:

  • that it is best to be patient under suffering,
  • that we should not give way to impatience, as there is no knowing whether such things are good or evil, and
  • that nothing is gained by impatience, because no human thing is of serious importance.

The other principle is grief which stands in the way of taking counsel about what has happened. This counsel is most needed. It says that when the dice has been thrown, we should order our affairs in the way that reason deems best.

We should do this not like children who have fallen and waste time in crying. Instead, we should do it always accustoming the soul to:

  • apply a remedy,
  • raise up that which is sickly and fallen, and
  • banish the cry of sorrow by the healing art.
Yes, that is the true way of meeting the attacks of fortune.

The higher principle is ready to follow this suggestion of reason. The other principle inclines us to remember our troubles.

The irrational, useless, and cowardly have the inferior principle. The rebellious principle furnishes many materials for imitation.

The wise and calm temperament is always nearly equable. It is not easy to imitate or to appreciate when imitated, especially at a public festival when a promiscuous crowd is assembled in a theatre because the feeling represented is new to them.

The imitative poet who aims at being popular does not target the rational principle in the soul. Like the painter, he instead will target the passionate temper, the inferior part of the soul, which is easily imitated.


Therefore, we should ban him from a well-ordered State because he awakens and strengthens the feelings and impairs reason. The imitative poet implants an evil constitution in the soul because he:

  • indulges the irrational nature,
  • manufactures images, and
  • is very far removed from the truth.

This irrational nature has no discernment. It thinks the same thing at one time great and at another small. Our heaviest accusation is that the power of poetry harms even the good (and there are very few who are not harmed).


Imagine Homer or one of the tragedians representing some pitiful hero crying in a long oration. We would give way to sympathy. But when we ourselves are sad, we pride ourselves on being quiet, patient, and manly. The man crying loudly is doing the part of a woman. We cannot praise a person who is doing a shameful thing. Our reason teaches us not to cry loudly.

But poets aim for this sympathy which we get since the sorrow is from another person. We, as spectators, fancy that it is not disgraceful to praise or pity the suffering person because it means that it is not us who are suffering.

The people do not think that when they think of the evil of other men, something of evil is communicated to themselves. In time, the sadness at the sight of the misfortunes of others gathers and becomes more difficult to repress.

This is also true for laughter. There are jokes which you would be ashamed to make yourself. Yet when you hear them on the comic stage, or in private, you are greatly amused.You are not at all disgusted at them and so the laughter gathers strength too.


There is a principle in human nature which makes us laugh. This is restrained by reason, because you were afraid of being thought a buffoon. Comedy makes it come out again. It stimulates the humorous faculty. It unconsciously betrays you into playing the comic at home. The same may be said of lust, anger, and all the other affections, pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every action.

In all of them, poetry feeds the passions instead of drying them up. She lets them rule, even if they should be controlled. Therefore, Glaucon, we should love the excellent eulogists of Homer who say that:

  • he has been the educator of Hellas,
  • he is profitable for education and for the ordering of human things,
  • you should read him again and again to regulate your life according to him.

Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers. But we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry allowed into our State. If you disobey this and allow the honeyed muse to enter in epic or lyric verse, then pleasure and pain will rule the State.

We have previously purged bad poetry out of our State. There is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry, as proven by the sayings:

  • ’the yelping hound howling at her lord,'
  • ‘mighty in the vain talk of fools,’
  • ’the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,’ and
  • ‘subtle thinkers who are beggars after all’

Imitative poetry can be allowed to return from exile only on the condition that she make her defence in lyrical or some other metre. The lovers of poetry, but not yet poets, can speak in prose on her behalf. Let them show that she is pleasant and useful to people.

We too are inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has implanted in us. We want her to appear at her best and truest. But as long as she is unable to defend herself, our argument shall be a mantra to us. We will repeat it to ourselves while we listen to her strains. In this way, we will not fall into the childish love of her which captivates many.

Imitative poetry does not attain the truth. People should be on guard against her seductions. They must not neglect justice and virtue from the influence of honour, money, power under the excitement of poetry.

Yes, I have been convinced by the argument.

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