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Journal Article

In Quest of Harmony: Plato and Confucius on Poetry

Zong-qi Cai
Philosophy East and West
Vol. 49, No. 3, Human "Nature" in Chinese Philosophy: A Panel of the 1995 Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (Jul., 1999), pp. 317-345
DOI: 10.2307/1399898
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1399898
Page Count: 29
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In Quest of Harmony: Plato and Confucius on Poetry
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Abstract

How Plato and Confucius formulate their views on poetry in light of their overriding concerns with harmony is examined here. Both acknowledge the educational value of poetry in similar terms and set up similar moral-aesthetic standards. Both rank poetry lower than other objects of learning because they find poetic harmony to be less significant than intellectual or moral harmonies. But both take note of the transforming aesthetic experience afforded by poetry in certain circumstances, and identify this experience of the attainment of blessed harmony with the ultimate reality--Truth or the will of Heaven. Despite all these similarities, their embrace of opposing schemes (vertical versus horizontal) of harmony leads to a fundamental difference between their views on the nature of poetry, which for Plato is an epistemological process and for Confucius largely an existential process.

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