In Quest of Harmony: Plato and Confucius on Poetry

Zong-qi Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How Plato and Confucius formulate their views on poetry in light of their overriding concerns with harmony is examined here. Both acknowledge the educational value of poetry in similar terms and set up similar moral-aesthetic standards. Both rank poetry lower than other objects of learning because they find poetic harmony to be less significant than intellectual or moral harmonies. But both take note of the transforming aesthetic experience afforded by poetry in certain circumstances, and identify this experience of the attainment of blessed harmony with the ultimate reality--Truth or the will of Heaven. Despite all these similarities, their embrace of opposing schemes (vertical versus horizontal) of harmony leads to a fundamental difference between their views on the nature of poetry, which for Plato is an epistemological process and for Confucius largely an existential process.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-345
Number of pages29
JournalPhilosophy East and West
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


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