Pleasure, Tragedy and Aristotelian Psychology

Classical Quarterly 35 (02):349- (1985)
Aristotle's Rhetoric defines fear as a kind of pain or disturbance and pity as a kind of pain . In his Poetics, however, pity and fear are associated with pleasure: ‘ The poet must provide the pleasure that comes from pity and fear by means of imitation’ . The question of the relationship between pleasure and pain in Aristotle's aesthetics has been studied primarily in connection with catharsis. Catharsis, however, raises more problems than it solves. Aristotle says nothing at all about the tragic catharsis in the Poetics except to state that tragedy accomplishes it. Though he gives a more complete account of catharsis in the Politics, the context of this passage is so different from that of the Poetics that its relevance is questionable. A more promising, but largely neglected, approach to Aristotle's theory of tragic pleasure and pain is through a study of his psychological works. Here, Aristotle describes a number of emotional and cognitive responses to kinds of objects that include works of art. These descriptions support an interpretation of the Poetics according to which a tragedy is pleasurable in one respect and painful in another, and pity and fear, though painful and not in themselves productive of pleasure, are nevertheless essential to the production of the oikeia hēdonē, ‘proper pleasure’, of tragedy. This interpretation has the advantage of not depending on a particular view of catharsis. It also makes much better sense than alternative views, once its seemingly paradoxical aspects are explained with the help of the psychological works
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/S0009838800040222
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 22,675
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Susan L. Feagin (1983). The Pleasures of Tragedy. American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (1):95 - 104.
Stacie Friend (2007). The Pleasures of Documentary Tragedy. British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
Ryan Drake (2010). Wonder, Nature, and the Ends of Tragedy. International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (1):77-91.
J. Gosling (1973). More Aristotelian Pleasures. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 74:15 - 34.
Elisa Galgut (2009). Tragedy and Reparation. In Pedro Alexis Tabensky (ed.), The Positive Function of Evil. Palgrave Macmillan
Aaron Smuts (2007). The Paradox of Painful Art. Journal of Aesthetic Education 41 (3):59-77.
A. R. Manser (1961). Pleasure. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 61:223-238.
W. B. Gallie (1954). Pleasure, Part II. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 147:147-164.
Gilbert Ryle (1954). Pleasure, Part I. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 135:135-146.
Verity Harte (2004). The Philebus on Pleasure: The Good, the Bad and the False. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 104 (2):111–128.
Aaron Smuts (2011). The Feels Good Theory of Pleasure. Philosophical Studies 155 (2):241-265.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

25 ( #168,129 of 2,121,929 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #100,408 of 2,121,929 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.