Ananda K. Coomaraswamy: “A Figure of Speech or a Figure of Thought?”

“Plato, for example, remarks that ‘the expert, who is intent upon the best when he speaks, will surely not speak at random, but with an end in view; he is just like all those other artists, the painters, builders, ship-wrights, etc.’ and again, ‘the productions of all arts are kinds of poetry, and their craftsmen are all poets,’ in the broad sense of the word.  ‘Demiurge’ (demiourgos) and ‘technician’ (technitnes) are the ordinary Greek words for ‘artist’ (artifex), and under these headings Plato includes not only poets, painters, and musicians, but also archers, weavers, embroiderers, potters, carpenters, sculptors, farmers, doctors, hunters, and above all those whose art is government, only making a distinction between creation (demiourgia) and mere labor (cheirourgia), art (techne) and artless industry (atechnos tribe).  All these artists, insofar as they are musical and therefore wise and good, and insofar as they are in possession of the art (evtechnos, cf. entheos) and governed by it, are infallible.  The primary meaning of the word sophia, ‘wisdom’ is that of ‘skill,’ just as Sanskrit kausalam is ‘skill’ of any kind, whether in making, doing, or knowing.”

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