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Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World$
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Christopher Gill and T.P. Wiseman

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780859893817

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780859893817.001.0001

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Plato on Falsehood—not Fiction

Plato on Falsehood—not Fiction

(p.38) Chapter Two Plato on Falsehood—not Fiction
Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World

Christopher Gill

Liverpool University Press

This chapter argues that Plato's key concerns were with truth and falsehood, rather than fiction, and that in this respect Plato's thought reflected more general features of Classical Greek culture. It examines cases where it seems plausible for us to suppose that Plato is exploring the idea or the practice of fiction, for instance in his theory of poetry in the Republic or in his myths, above all, the intriguing story of Atlantis. Even here, the chapter argues, Plato's core interest is in the moral truth or falsehood of the messages conveyed, rather than the notion or practice of fiction. It is also claimed that Plato's approach expresses a view of the (primarily) ethical function of poetry which is widely shared within his culture, as indicated, for instance, in Aristophanes’ Frogs and Aristotle's Poetics. The chapter closes by suggesting that in the modern world we are fascinated by, and give value to, fiction for specific reasons which did not apply in Classical Greece.

Keywords:   Ethics, Falsehood, Fiction, Myth, Poetry, Truth

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