The Republic

Head vs. Heart: The Legitimacy of Moral Truths in the Works of Philip Sidney College

Since the Greek philosopher Plato banned them from his ideal commonwealth, poets such as Sir Philip Sidney have attempted to defend their work by arguing that poetry and its use of language combine the liveliness of history and the ethical focus of philosophy while simultaneously rousing readers to virtue. Plato believed that poets stirred up unworthy emotions that strayed from reason and logic, making poetry unnecessary and possibly detrimental to the stability of his harmonious society. Yet, Sir Philip Sidney persuasively combats these widespread claims against the legitimacy of poetry by arguing that poetry can be used as a guide for morality and virtue in his piece The Defense of Poesy. In particular, Sidney focuses on two of these controversies: “First that there be many other fruitful knowledge’s that a man might better spend his time in them than in this. [And] Secondly, that it is the mother of lies”(967). While Sydney addresses his responses to each of these claims within this piece, more significantly, he uses the characterization of Astrophil in Astrophil and Stella and the comedic elements of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia to exemplify his belief that the significance of fiction lies in its ability to imitate...

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