The ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry refers to a philosophical question first put forward by Plato and later reformulated as a quarrel between the sciences and the humanities. Plato elaborates a critique of poetry from the point of view of philosophy in his dialogues Phaedrus 245a, Symposium 209a, Republic 398a, Laws 817 b-d and Ion.
- And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may not impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry [palaia men tis diaphora philosophiai te kai poietikei]; of which there are many proofs, such as the saying of 'the yelping hound howling at her lord,' or of one 'mighty in the vain talk of fools,' and 'the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,' and the 'subtle thinkers who are beggars after all'; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient enmity [palaias enantioseos] between them. Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her—we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that account betray the truth. I dare say, Glaucon, that you are as much charmed by her as I am, especially when she appears in Homer?
Philosophy is the yelping hound howling at her lord poetry
The most frequently cited metaphor to illustrate the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry is "(Philosophy is) the yelping hound howling at her lord (poetry)". Poets, ancient source of gods and heroes, accused philosophy of being a “howling bitch shrieking at her master”.
Alternative translations include "a bitch snarling and barking at her master" and "a yelping bitch shrieking at her master."
- The Republic translated by Benjamin Jowett (full text)
- Plato on poetry
- Philosophy and literature
- Book X
- Hard and soft science
- "The Two Cultures" by C. P. Snow
- Philosophy of science
- Metaphor in philosophy
- Quarrel between the ancients and the moderns