Plato feared poets would corrupt his idealized Republic through emotional appeals. However, he was using poetic devices himself to create his fictional city.
It was for higher ends like those espoused by Plato that 16th century scholar Sir Philip Sidney defended poetry as ennobling humans and giving them higher ideals. He defined “poetry” as any sort of creative endeavor.
Today, elites spanning the political spectrum use creativity as a weapon for propaganda and their own interests but pretend they are unpoetic rationalists. Ironically, some politicians scapegoat earnest artists who question the status quo.
The rise of “fake news” is a recent name for a phenomenon of creative “truth making” that has been occurring for decades. Pathos rules our public discourse, where influence is primarily wielded through emotional appeals to appetite, conformity, tribalism, fear, love of wealth, and easy answers—even so, we still pretend to honor facts, reason, and ethics.
What to do? Read widely. Remain as cognizant of the rules of logical argumentation as ever, but appreciate the need for art that’s independent from powerful interests. Such art can help posit alternative worlds to what culture, persuasion, and power make us believe constitute our roles and drives.
In sum, seek knowledge from various sources; drink deeply from springs of tradition grounded in reason. Be open to change and enlightenment from creative writers and luminaries who challenge authority and conformism.
There is a dire need for an informed citizenry just when education is being attacked on all sides. Resist!
I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.