Aristotle Versus Plato

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THE CONCEPT OF IMITATION IN PLATO AND ARISTOTLE
Abstract
Plato and Aristotle argue that artist (Demiurge) and poet imitate nature, thus, a work of art is a reflection of nature. However, they have different views on the functions of imitation in art and literature. Plato believes in the existence of the ideal world, where exists a real form of every object found in nature. A work of art –which reflects nature is twice far from the reality it represents. Aristotle, on the other hand, does not deal with the ideal world, instead he analyses nature. He argues that a work of art does not imitate nature as it is, but as it should be. In this sense, an artist does not violate the truth but reflects the reality. Key Words: Imitation, art, literature, mimesis, etymology, ethic. Introduction

Plato and Aristotle attribute different meanings to the term ‘mimesis’; Plato considers ‘mimesis’ in ethical and political context, Aristotle uses ‘mimesis’ as an aesthetic phenomenon. They both agree that poetry is mimetic but they have different idea about poetry and ‘mimesis’. The present paper aims first to define ‘mimesis’ and explain the historical and linguistic background of the term, then to analyze the concept of ‘mimesis’ in Plato and Aristotle. In literature the word ‘mimesis’ has two diverse applications; it is used “to define the nature of literature and other arts and to indicate the relation of one literary work, which serves as a model.” Plato and Aristotle take ‘mimesis’ to define the nature of art, yet they ascribe different meanings and value to it. Plato and Aristotle consider the historical and etymological background of the term, therefore, it is necessary to know about the linguistic and historical background of the term ‘mimesis’ to understand what kinds of meaning and value they attribute to the concept. Linguistically, the root word is ‘mimos’; mimesthia, mimesis, mimetes, mimetikos, and mimema are derived from ‘mimos’. Mimesthia denotes imitation, representation or portrayal; mimos and mimetes designate the person who imitates or represents, whereby ‘mimos’ originally refers to the recitation or dramatic performance in the context of dramatic action. The mime, which is a kind of banquets given by wealthy man, is most probably derived from mimos The noun ‘mimesis’ as well as corresponding verb mimeisthai refer to the re-enactment and dance through ritual and myth. In Athenian drama the re-enactment is equivalent to acting out the role of a mythical figure and ‘mimesis’ in such a context connotes the imitation of the earlier re-enactment of the myth and rituals. Historically, the word ‘mimesis’ as re-enactment first appears in such rituals, and the historical origin of the term, as located in Dionysian cult drama, coincides this meaning in that ‘mimesis’ in both cases refers to imitation, representation and expression. It is argued that myth, and divine symbols of the rituals are transformed to artistic-dramatic representation through which it became possible to represent the divinity and gods in drama. Tragedy, for instance is the transformation of the myth and rituals. In a different context ‘mimesis’ may refer to identification. People identify themselves by means of their mimetic ability when they see themselves in the other and perceive a state of mutual equality. In this sense, ‘mimesis’ is distinct from mimicry, which implies only a physical, and no mental relation. That is, a person regards the ‘Other’ as equal and assumes the ‘Other’ to be doing the same in reverse. Associated with the physical aspect of ‘mimesis’ is its performative aspect, as an actualization, a presentation of what has been mimetically indicated. Thus, the term ‘mimesis’ is combined with an action-oriented speaking. The term ‘mimesis’ may also refer the simile, similarity and representation; it may refer to the symbolization of the world when we take it as...
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