Plato's Republic

the producers for the public." What, consequently, is the μιμητής? The copier is ό τοῦ τρίτου γεννήματος ἀπὸ τῆς φύσεως (597 e); he is ἐπιστάτης; "he presides and rules over" one way in which Being, the ἰδέα is brought to outward appearance, εἶδος. What he manufactures—the painting—is τὸ τρίτον γέννημα, "the third kind of bringing-forth," third άπέ της φύσεως, "reckoned in terms of the pure emergence of the ἰδέα, which is first." In the pictured table, "table" is somehow manifest in general, showing its ἰδέα in some way; and the table in the picture also manifests a particular wooden frame, and thus is somehow what the craftsman properly makes: but the pictured table shows both of them in something else, in shades of color, in some third thing. Neither can a usable table come forward in such a medium, nor can [188] the outward appearance show itself purely as such. The way the painter pro-duces a "table" into visibility is even farther removed from the Idea, the Being of the being, than the way the carpenter produces it.

The distance from Being and its pure visibility is definitive for the definition of the essence of the μιμητής. What is decisive for the Greek-Platonic concept of μίμησις or imitation is not reproduction or portraiture, not the fact that the painter provides us with the same thing once again; what is decisive is that this is precisely what he cannot do, that he is even less capable than the craftsman of duplicating the same thing. It is therefore wrongheaded to apply to μίμησις notions of "naturalistic" or "primitivistic" copying and reproducing. Imitation is subordinate pro-duction. The μιμητής is defined in essence by his position of distance; such distance results from the hierarchy established with regard to ways of production and in the light of pure outward appearance, Being.

But the subordinate position of the μιμητής and of μίμησις has not yet been sufficiently delineated. We need to clarify in what way the painter is subordinate to the carpenter as well. A particular "real" table offers different aspects when viewed from different sides. But when the table is in use such aspects are indifferent; what matters is the particular table, which is one and the same. μή τι διαφέρει αὐτὴ ἑαυτῆς (598 a), "it is distinguished (in spite of its various aspects) in no way from