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Aristotle on Poetry

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Essay title: Aristotle on Poetry

The great British philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once commented that all philosophy is but a footnote to Plato. A similar point can be made regarding Greek literature as a whole. It may be an exaggeration, but the ancient Greeks created masterpieces that have inspired, influenced, and challenged readers to the present day. Their brilliance is especially evident in the two quarrelsome fields of poetry and philosophy, where we see world of thought of Plato and Aristotle so far-ranging that there is scarcely an idea discussed about poetry today that these two ancient philosophers did not debate.

Plato and Aristotle take apposing attitudes towards poetry in general, and tragedy in particular. In the Republic, Plato condemns poetry and abolishes it form his ideal city. On the other hand, Aristotle dedicates his Poetics to challenges his teacher's condemnation of poetry, and concludes with elevating tragedy above all other poetic types.

Plato uses Socrates and his dialogues with his friends to try to infer logically what would constitute the most just state. The debates on "what is just?" is eventually linked to "What is good?". Therefore, Plato raises the fundamental question of whether the pleasure produced by poetry is good enough for the well being of his state. He came to the conclusion that it is not, because poetry has the tendency to corrupt the youth of his state.

For one thing, poets such as Homer and Hesiod make a "bad representation of what gods and heroes are like" (Plato, 55). Their misrepresentation persuade the youth of the city that "gods produce evil and that heroes are no better than human beings" (Plato, 69). Thus, Plato believes that poets should be compelled to fallow a certain model of representation where "god is not the cause of all things but the good" (Plato, 58) and where heroes do not convey inadequate emotions in public.

Plato also asserts that poets are incapable of conveying the truth since they are thrice removed form it. According to Plato, imitation is far form

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