Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Why Mimesis Matters...

I'm not surprised - as a classicist and a critic - that I have become obsessed with mimesis. To the extent that I understand anything (that is, hardly at all), I believe that mimesis, as introduced by Plato, is the closest thing to a theory of human behaviour.

The accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed. In a contract, performance is deemed to be the fulfillment of an obligation, in a manner that releases the performer from all liabilities under the contract.

Ah, consumerism: you have an answer for everything.

Okay, I am conflating two ideas: Plato's notion of mimesis, which translates (roughly, of course) as imitation, and the contemporary English ideas of performance. I looked up the ancient Greek for 'perform', and it isn't mimesis. It's prassein or diaprassein, which shoots my blurring of the concepts out of the water. And there are distinct words for 'performing (in a play)', 'performing (public service)' and 'performing (a sacrifice)', which sinks it (to mix an aquatic metaphor). 

Bear with me a while. This isn't one of those I have a point blog posts. It's a slow working-out of a half-baked idea, that has gone soggy. 

Let's talk Plato. He said (and I never forget that he might have been joking)

Mimesis is bad! Let me be clear.
Do a copy, make the thing disappear.
Above or below, there is a place
Where real things are, this sets the pace.
Beneath them, in a physical plane
Are the copies of pureness

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