Platone, il 'trompe l'œil' e l'ombra

Linda Napolitano


In Resp. X, an unusual "natural illness" (πάθημα τῆς φύσεως) of human sight is mentioned: We perceive near objects as large and far objects as small; large objects that are far away, moreover, appear (proportionally) smaller than faraway small objects. On the basis of this pàthema, the notion of σκιαγραφία (usually translated as 'chiaroscuro painting') is conceived: skiagraphìa changes the natural inner proportions of things (both painted and sculpted) in order to satisfy the specific points of view of those who will look upon them. Ignorant of the rules of perspective, the ancients sometimes employed a mechanism of 'cast shadows' (shadows projected at a distance), particularly for scenes (σκιαγραφήματα) and gables of temples, intended to be seen both from a distance and from below. Similarly, according to Pl., dramatists represent the pleasure and pain experienced by their characters at the moment as greater and deeper than any pleasure and pain they may experience in the future, and thus their characters as subordinating their behavior to this 'false' perspective on experience. In both cases, the perspective – in skiagraphìa, that of sight; in poetry, that of the soul's morality - is pathologic. But the soul should be trained to recognize and manage pleasures and pains that are truly great and deep, and not suffer the illusion aroused by their 'cast shadows'.

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