"Human subtlety...will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature.” Leonardo da Vinci
Mimesi (μίμησις), a word that in the ancient Greek world assumes a meaning of essence and origin of art, which was conceptually an imitation of the nature surrounding men.
From a philosophical point of view art for the Greeks is mimesis, in that it imitates things, objects, which in turn are imitations of the absolute “idea” of each group of things and objects; art becomes imitation not of particular things, but directly of the universal idea.
Plato explains through a simple example (La Repubblica – in Book X) the two types of human mimesis that exist if we refer, for example, to the idea of bed. There is an initial and unchanging idea-bed that only a god can create: the craftsman produces the bed on this model (autopoietikè), but also a painter without referring to the idea-bed, he paints a copy of the bed that made by the craftsman (eidolopoietikè mimesis).
On the one hand there is the craftsman is the architect of an icon, a fantastic production based on an ideal model, the craftsman rises to a demiurge, produces a simulacrum that imitate the reality of ideal form.
On the other side there is the imitator painter, creator of a copy, realizes an icastic production, imitates a real icon.
The aim of the art
Regarding mimesis Plato in the second and third book of the Republic writes that artisans and artists should collaborate, producing and imitating objects that are not found in nature, with the other two classes, guardians and philosophers, aimed at the welfare of the state. All, craftsmen and artists, for Plato are imitators, that is, those who “deal with figures and colors or music, poets with their valets, rhapsodists, actors, choreutans, impresarios, manufacturers of all sorts of furnishings, objects for different uses , especially for women’s fashion. ”
The painter, the sculptor, the poet, however, do not produce useful objects but simply copies and therefore the question arises whether they can be part of the ideal state. The affirmative answer is conditioned by the fact that their activity is useful for the good education of citizens. When children listen to Homer’s stories “the young man is unable to judge what is allegory and what is not” and since “all the impressions he receives at that age generally become indelible and unchangeable”, it is “very It is important that the first things heard by young people are fairy tales narrated in the best possible way with the intention of inciting virtue ».
So not a generic condemnation of art as an imitation of an imitation, but the acceptance of it conditioned by a useful pedagogical function to be evaluated through a careful censorship judgment that if negative, even for metaphysical and gnoseological evaluations, can lead to expulsion from the State of poets and painters, “imitators of the object of which the others are craftsmen”.