In the Republic, poetry is condemned and the poets exiled just because poetry is a successful “imitation.” Imitation is bad for two reasons. For one thing, it is secondary, derived, not the real thing. In that sense it is factitious, however accurate it may be as a copy. A bed, for example, Plato argued, is already an imitation of the “idea” of a bed, the ideal paradigm from which each real bed is copied. A painting of a bed or a description of it in poetry, such as Homer’s description in the Odyssey of Odysseus’s nuptial bed, with its bedpost made of a still-rooted olive tree’s trunk, is at two removes. It is a copy of a copy, so who needs it?

is here "remove" as a noun.and mean: the distance between bedposts? but I don't understand "at two" here.

This passage is from a book named: On literature

This context is about Plato's opinion about poetry.

Correct me if I am wrong.

  • 3
    Think of it as "two degrees of separation." Dec 31, 2018 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


Yes, "remove" is a noun here, but it is obsolete except in a few special senses, and in this idiom: "at two removes" means "taking two (logical, or notional) steps away from something" - in this case, from the Platonic ideal, to the bed, to the image of a bed.

  • Many thanks. Do you mean: the bedposts of bed are in two step away from eachother or the bedpost is in two step away from something else which we don't know what it is? and Do you know the meaning of "still-rooted" Dec 31, 2018 at 18:38
  • 5
    It has nothing whatever to do with the bedposts, @ViserHashemi: it's talking about the conceptual separation from the ideal to the bed, and from the bed to an image of a bed.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 31, 2018 at 18:42
  • The only (barely) common use of "remove" this way is in genealogy. Cousins are said to be so many times "removed" from each other. Each "remov[al]" means their common ancestor is from one more generation previous.
    – K.A.Monica
    Jan 1, 2019 at 0:15
  • @K.A: yes, but what is used in that case is the participle/adjective "removed", not the noun "remove".
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 1, 2019 at 0:46
  • @ColinFine: I can't edit my comment, but I should have written that it is the same idea of "remov[...]" meaning metaphoric and not literal quantified separation distance.
    – K.A.Monica
    Jan 1, 2019 at 2:16

Further to Colin's good answer, consider how the police sketch artists use descriptions provided by witnesses to create the likeness of a suspect, so that they can send out an All Points Bulletin.

Such sketches are at least at one remove from the suspect. They are not a photograph but a drawing based on someone's description.

Now, if for some reason police headquarters does not have the ability to transmit the sketch to a patrol car but must describe the sketch to a police officer over the radio, that verbal description will be at two removes from the suspect:

"A heavy-set bald Caucasian male in his mid forties with a Fu-Manchu mustache, a large amethyst earring in his left ear, and one gold front tooth."

The "remove" or "step" is not an actual physical distance but a logical or conceptual "distance" away from the original. As Colin says, "notional".

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