In this chapter I argue that writers on metaphor have misunderstood Aristotle on metaphor. Aristotle is not an elitist about metaphor and does not consider metaphors to be merely ornamental. Rather, Aristotle believes that metaphors are ubiquitous and believes that people can express themselves in a clearer and more attractive way through the use of metaphors and that people learn and understand things better through metaphor. He also distinguishes between the use of metaphor and the coinage of metaphor, and believes (...) that the ability to coin marvelous new metaphors is a form of literary genius, and he provided an entirely natural origin of metaphor coinage. (shrink)
In his contemplative works on nature, Aristotle twice appeals to the general principle that being is better than not being. Taking his cue from this claim, Christopher V. Mirus offers an extended, systematic account of how Aristotle understands being itself to be good. Mirus begins with the human, examining Aristotle's well-known claim that the end of a human life is the good of the human substance as such--which turns out to be the good of the human capacity for thought. Human (...) thought, however, is not concerned with human affairs alone. It is also contemplative, and contemplation is oriented toward the beauty of its objects. In each of the three branches of contemplative thought--mathematics, natural science, and theology--the intelligibility of being renders it beautiful to thought. Both in nature and in human life, moreover, the being that is beautiful through its intelligibility serves also as an end of motion and of action; hence it counts not only as beautiful, but also as good. The persistent concern of thought with the beautiful reveals what is at stake for human beings in Aristotle's larger metaphysics of the good: in the connection between goodness and actuality that structures his natural science and metaphysics, in his explicit claim that being is better than not being, and in his concepts of order and determinacy, which help connect being with goodness. These in turn shed light on his concepts of the complete and the self-sufficient, on his teleological understanding of the four elements, and on the curious role of the honorable in his natural science and metaphysics. (shrink)
The image of a copy of Praxiteles’ Aphrodite—nude but demurely shielding her pubic region—which adorns the dust cover of Pearson’s superb monograph, Aristotle on Desire</i>), suggests to the casual book buyer that the volume encased therein will explain Aristotle’s thoughts about sexual desire—perhaps as a central part or the paradigm case of his general theory of desire. But the goddess likes being tricky: Aristotle has very little to say about sexual desire (at best it is a subcategory of <i>epithumia</i>, set (...) alongside the desires for eating and drinking and reduced to tactile stimulation), and it is not immediately apparent that he possesses a general theory or account of desire. No doubt, Aristotle discusses many aspects of <i>orexis</i> (Aristotle’s general term for desire) in relationship to human action, in his consideration of the rhetorical manipulation of the emotions, and in his examination of animate motion. But as Pearson notes, neither in Aristotle’s catalog of writings nor in his surviving works is there an Aristotelian <i>peri orexeôs</i>. Pearson’s monograph, which is the “distant descendant” of a Ph.D. completed at Cambridge in 2004, thus is an exercise in detective work which combs through Aristotle’s discussions of desire throughout the corpus (albeit with focus on the ethical treatises, the <i>Rhetoric</i>, and <i>De Anima</i>) in order to reconstruct what a general theory of desire would look like for Aristotle. Pearson does a masterful job at drawing together into a coherent whole many of Aristotle’s scattered remarks about the different aspects of desire and provides a model for textual analysis of philosophically abstruse passages. Along the way, he overturns a number of scholarly orthodoxies (for instance, that Aristotle’s account of <i>thumos</i> retains elements of Platonic <i>thumos</i> or “spiritedness” or that <i>thumos</i> has a unique relationship to the <i>kalon</i> or what is fine) and situates Aristotle’s theory amidst contemporary philosophers of desire such as Thomas Nagle, Thomas Scanlon, and G.F. Schuler. The result is a landmark work of scholarship that scholars working on Aristotle’s moral psychology will need to engage and argue with. Whether the work warrants the adornment of Aphrodite is a question to which I will return in my conclusion. (shrink)
Aristotle’s claim that poetry is ‘a more philosophic and better thing’ than history (Poet 9.1451b5-6) and his description of the ‘poetic universal’ have been the source of much scholarly discussion. Although many scholars have mined Poetics 9 as a source for Aristotle’s views towards history, in my contribution I caution against doing so. Critics of Aristotle’s remarks have often failed to appreciate the expository principle which governs Poetics 6-12, which begins with a definition of tragedy and then elucidates the terms (...) of that definition by means of a series of juxtapositions. The juxtaposition between poetry and history is one such instance which seeks to elucidate what sort of plot exemplifies a causal unity such that the events of a play unfold with likelihood or necessity. Within that context, Aristotle compares history and poetry in order to elucidate the object of poetic mimesis rather than criticize history as a discipline. Viewing Aristotle as antagonistic towards history fails to appreciate the expository structure of the Poetics and obscures the resource which history provides to the poet, a point which I explore by considering what Aristotle would have thought of an ‘historical’ tragedy like Aeschylus’ Persians. (shrink)
Aristotle’s works on natural science show that he was aware of the affective powers of colour. At De an. 421a13, for example, he writes that hard-eyed animals can only discriminate between frightening and non-frightening colours. In the Nicomachean Ethics, furthermore, colours are the source of pleasures and delight. These pleasures, unlike the pleasures of touch and taste, neither corrupt us nor make us wiser. Aristotle’s views on the affective powers of colours raise a question about the limits he seems to (...) place on the affective powers of pictures at De an. 427b15-24, where he implies that pictures do not affect us immediately. In this paper, I examine the contrast between the affective powers of colour and the affective powers of pictures. I argue that colours can give rise to pleasure and pain in themselves and generate emotions incidentally. Similarly, pictures can please us or affect us in themselves and incidentally. In light of this account, I suggest that, on a plausible reading of De an. 427b15-24, the affective powers of pictures as mimetic objects are not immediate because they require an intervening cause in order to be effective. The representations of pictures and statues affect us either with the mediation of deception or with the mediation of interpretation. (shrink)
This book plumbs the virtues of the Homeric poems as scripts for solo performance. Despite academic focus on orality and on composition in performance, we have yet to fully appreciate the Iliad and Odyssey as the sophisticated scripts that they are. What is lost in the journey from the stage to the page? -/- Readers may be readily impressed by the vividness of the poems, but they may miss out on the strange presence or uncanniness that the performer evoked in (...) ancient audience members such as Plato and Aristotle. This book focuses on the performer not simply as transparent mediator, but as one haunted by multiple stories and presences, who brings suppressed voices to the surface. -/- Performance is inextricable from all aspects of the poems, from image to structure to background story. Background stories previously neglected, even in some of the most familiar passages (such as Phoenix’s speech in Iliad 9) are brought to the surface, and passages readers tend to rush through (such as Odysseus’s encounter with Eumaeus) are shown to have some of the richest dramatic potential. Attending to performance enlivens isolated features in a given passage by showing how they work together. (shrink)
This chapter offers a complete account of Aristotle’s underexplored treatment of the virtue of wittiness (eutrapelia) in Nicomachean Ethics IV.8. It addresses the following questions: (1) What, according to Aristotle, is this virtue and what is its structure? (2) How do Aristotle’s moral psychological views inform Aristotle’s account, and how might Aristotle’s discussions of other, more familiar virtues, enable us to understand wittiness better? In particular, what passions does the virtue of wittiness concern, and how might the virtue (and its (...) attendant vices) be related to the virtue of temperance (and its attendant vices)? (3) How does wittiness, as an ethical virtue, benefit its possessor? (4) How can Aristotle resolve some key tensions that his introducing a virtue of wittiness apparently generates for his ethics? In addition to exploring these questions, this chapter challenges some commonly accepted accounts of Aristotle’s views on the nature of the laughable. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to give a new interpretation of Aristotle's account of the emotions evoked in the course of engaging with tragic narratives that would give rise to a coherent account of catharsis. Very briefly, the proposal is that tragedy triggers vicarious emotions and catharsis is the purgation of such emotions. I argue that this interpretation of “fear and pity” as vicarious emotions is consistent with both Aristotle's account of emotions and his account of catharsis and also (...) with his choice of examples for tragedies that trigger catharsis. (shrink)
Richard Janko's acclaimed translation of Aristotle's _Poetics_ is accompanied by the most comprehensive commentary available in English that does not presume knowledge of the original Greek. Two other unique features are Janko's translations with notes of both the _Tractatus Coislinianus_, which is argued to be a summary of the lost second book of the Poetics, and fragments of Aristotle’s dialogue On Poets, including recently discovered texts about catharsis, which appear in English for the first time.
A Distinction of four species of tragedy and epic poetry is laid down, though not explained at length, in two passages of the Poetics, and, as I hope to show, mentioned in another. At the end of the treatise, Aristotle positively says that he has given an explanation of both the species and the component parts of tragedy and epic poetry.
Aristotle'sPolitics1336b20–2 (cited below) proves that in the fourth centuryb.c. there was more than one type of occasion for the presentation of iambic poetry. No surviving ancient testimony describes directly the circumstances of performance of literary iambus in the archaic period. Heraclitus' text which comes from the turn of the sixth and fifth centuriesb.c. suggests that Archilochus' poems, like Homer's, were presented during poetic competitions, but it does not follow that Heraclitus had in mind iambic compositions of the Parian poet.
This paper takes as its point of departure the recent publication of Heidegger’s lecture course Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy and focuses upon Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle’s concept of pathos. Through a comparative analysis of Aristotle’s concept of pathos and Heidegger’s inventive reading of this concept, I aim to show the strengths and weaknesses of Heidegger’s reading. It is my thesis that Heidegger’s account is extremely rich and innovative as he frees up pathos from the narrow confines of psychology and (...) incidental change and places it squarely into the center of the fundamental changes affecting a living being’s existence; simultaneously, however, Heidegger sometimes overstates the ties that pathos has with other concepts such as ousia and logos and highlights exceptional rather than common meanings of pathos, thereby risking the charge of being unfaithful to Aristotle’s text. (shrink)
And in general it is a sign of the man who knows and of the man who does not know that the former can teach, and therefore we think art more truly knowledge than experience is; for the artist can teach, and men of experience cannot. When pragmatism first gained favor in the early twentieth century, some British philosophers like Russell regarded it as evidencing their perception of America’s crude and enterprising spirit.1 The Imperial jab lay in this: that just (...) as business indicates the exchange of products and services to meet basic needs as well as others, for the pragmatist, knowledge is tied to social practices and instrumentality (that is, being able to effect changes in the world). The slight lies .. (shrink)
Stories express hypotheses, interpretations of the world that have a certain degree of probability. To demonstrate this thesis I have adopted the notion of hypothesis, in a sense very close to the Meinongian concept of assumption, and a ‘metric’ conception of the values of the truth or falsity of a proposition – as that has been proposed in several ways by Peirce, Vasil’ev and Meinong. To show the the cognitive value of literary texts, and therefore their truth value, I take (...) my move from chapter 9 of Aristotle’s Poetics, where he holds that poetry is imitative of reality, not in the sense of history – which relates what has happened – but rather, in so far as it expresses “the kinds of things that might happen, that is, that could happen because they are either probable or necessary.” The probable admits variations of degree. By means of an examination of the Meinongian concepts of assumption and objective (i.e. state of affairs), which also allow different modes of gradation, I introduce, with examples drawn from Dante’s Divine Comedy and The Description (Tradimento) by Machiavelli, a theory of degrees of truth that makes it possible to apply the concept of probability to literary as well as to historical texts. Finally, I connect the universal character of the literary text with the ontological notion of incomplete object and argue that a fictional object, as it is incomplete, is not an individual but a type. (shrink)
Although Aristotle's Poetics is the most frequently read of his works, philosophers and political theorists have, for the most part, left analysis of the text to literary critics and classicists. In this book Michael Davis argues convincingly that in addition to teaching us something about poetry, Poetics contains an understanding of the common structure of human action and human thought that connects it to Aristotle's other writings on politics and morality. Davis demonstrates that the duality of Poetics reaches out to (...) the philosopher, writer, and political theorist and shows the importance of the ideal in our imaginings of and goals for the future. (shrink)
The "Poetics" has always had an independence from Aristotle's other writings, even from the "Rhetoric, " and it will always be amenable to being given a colouring by the context in which it finds itself. In the neo-classical period in England - here taken to extend from the last quarter of the 17th century to the last quarter of the 18th - it continued to be regarded as a basic authority. But in the treatment of its text there is a (...) continuing shift of attitude - well before classicism gave way to other impulses. As will be seen, the shift is reflected even in the personalities of the six writers studied here. (shrink)
In an important recent article T. C. W. Stinton reaffirmed the case that in Aristotle's Poetics, ch. 13, has a wide range of application. I do not wish to dispute the general conclusion of what seems to me a masterly analysis of the question but simply to discuss two areas where Stinton's argument may be thought defective–the interpretation of the examples given by Aristotle in Poetics 13, 5 3all and 53a2O–1 and the problem of the contradiction between 13, 53a13–15 and (...) 14, 54a4–9. (shrink)