By Hans Busk
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Additional info for The navies of the world; their present state, and future capabilities
While this suggestion is passed over in one sentence, and may simply function as Heaney’s own olive branch extended to Plato (in response to Plato’s final peace offering to the poets), it does give rise to a worry about the difficulty of actually escaping from Platonism. However, Heaney’s confrontation with Platonism cannot be so easily pinned down to one such formula. Rather than accepting the terms of Plato’s schema, in fact, we could say that his thought mirrors the ambiguities and complexities of Plato, not in the form of a representation or an imitation of them, but as an agon, a struggle, a kind of wrestling match which counters the moves that Plato makes.
On the other hand, however, there are themes in Heaney’s exploration of poetry which provide a basis for undermining that schema: themes such as the counter-balancing weight of the imagination, and the idea that poetry is capable of an excavation which can have an effect at the level of a culture. While Heaney is undeniably admirable in wrestling with this Platonic schema, therefore, his struggle also shows the dangers and difficulties that face any such strategy. In spite of any such worries, however, we can say that in his poetry itself Heaney has already put into practice an effective overturning of Platonism.
Once the model-copy distinction is rejected, then the very basis of the idea of art as imitation has disappeared. The mimetic model for understanding art is, as we saw in Plato, most conveniently encapsulated in the metaphor of the mirror. By maintaining a fundamental distinction between models and copies, the primary effect of this mirror is to establish a barrier between the work ofliterature and the world. Its aim, in fact, is to block literature from having an impact on the world – in order to preserve that privilege for philosophy.
The navies of the world; their present state, and future capabilities by Hans Busk