Here is a new interpretation of Book X of the Republic, which understands this book in relation to the Republic’s central defense of justice and the virtuous life. A metaphysical argument uses the allegory of the cave to understand the problem of poetry as imitation. Appearances can be deceiving; truth need not look like popular wisdom. An ethical argument explains that poetry encourages us to act on the urging of the non-rational part of our soul, thereby diminishing the rational part. Furthermore, since the way our souls react to poetry is as real and as genuine as actual experience, we ought not to respect nor even to listen to the far-from-excellent characters of popular poetry. And so, when read between the lines, Book X asks the reader to act on the wisdom imparted in Books I-IX.

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