“Between Dionysus and Plato: Is there aesthetic thinking in ancient Greece?” by Soumyabrata Choudhury

This presentation will discuss the relationship between art and truth in the ancient Greek city of Athens between 7th century BC and 4th century BC. The main areas where this relationship will be investigated are poetry, theatre and the science of poetics starting with Aristotle in the 4th century. The divine figure of Dionysus will be one key reference under whose name the ancient theatre festival of the City Dionysia was held. However, the figure of Dionysus has archaic roots in Greek culture including rural religion and agricultural cults. The interesting problem arises when Plato in the 5th Century, particularly in his text The Republic measures the Dionysiac event of communitarian performance against the philosophical concept of truth. If truth is the purveyor of some sort of abstract and universal thinking and art is the actualization of something like aesthesis (which in Greek means sensation) then the logical question to arise is whether there can be any aesthetic thinking. This intense contestation to be found in Plato in the 5th century is partly displaced and moderated by Aristotle’s logic of poetics. The talk will conclude with a brief summary of Aristotle’s definition of tragedy in his Poetics – a definition which can be analyzed in terms of both its constructive part which expresses the principle of artistic production (that is, a philosophy of art) and the efficacious part which lays out a schema for the actualization of the artistic effect (that is, the schema of aesthetics).

Abstract Excerpt from “The Svasthya-Rasa-Bodhini” CSP public lecture  on 18 September 2019, by Soumyabrata Choudhury (School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU)


Disclaimer: The opinions endorsed by the speaker is solely his and not in any way endorsed by the organisers.