Comparison Between Aristotle and Plato on Mimesis

Topics: Tragedy, Poetics, Aristotle Pages: 14 (4881 words) Published: March 10, 2012
iA comparison between Aristotle and Plato on mimesis
1. Introduction
Mimesis, as a controversial concept starting from the 15th century, is among the oldest terms in literature and artistic theory, and is certainly among the most fundamental. Developing centuries, the concept of mimesis has been explored and reinterpreted by scholars in various academic fields. The word “Mimesis” developed from the root mimos, noun designating both a person who imitates and a specific genre of performance based on the limitation of stereotypical character traits. Very little is known about “mimesis” until the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato provided the first and unquestionably the most influential account of mimesis. In his wide-ranging work of the Republic, Plato does not simply comment upon an existing notion in this notion of mimesis in this dialogue but radically redefines art as essentially mimetic, is a representation of something else. This notion is so fundamental to the way we understand art that it is no exaggeration to claim that art itself, as a distinct human product, is a Platonic invention. Following Plato, his disciple, Aristotle redefined “mimesis” and put forward his own theoretic interpretation. His Poetics is the single most influential work of literary criticism in the western tradition and, along with Plato’s Republic, is the fundamental text for the understanding of mimesis. Aristotle’s chief subject is Greek tragedy, but his account of this form engages far-reaching question about the nature of mimesis that powerfully revise Plato’s theories. This paper attempts to interpret in detail the concept of “mimesis” in Aristotle’s Poetics and how it is manifested in Aristotle’s illustration of tragedy elements, meanwhile by comparison to analysis its similarities and difference with Platonic mimesis.

2 Comparison between Aristotle and Plato on mimesis
2.1 Similarities
Although it is often said that Aristotle’s account of mimesis in the Poetics is a critical response to Plato’s exile of the poets in the Republic, the relationship between the two philosophers is somewhat more complicated and remains a matter of scholarly dispute. In fact, they do share some similarities. Plato was Aristotle’s mentor, and although he is never named in the Poetics, his presence is unmistakable. Aristotle borrows a number of formulations from Plato. Admittedly, he challenged his mentor’s claims about the nature and effects of mimesis. Crucially, however, he does not question Plato’s basic assertion that all art is essentially imitative, even in his critique of Plato. Aristotle reinforces the conceptual hold of Platonic mimesis. And again like Plato, he contrasts the representational arts with other forms of human inquiry, such as science and history, which are conventionally associated with truth and reality. Moreover, his defense of mimesis also turns on a fundamentally Platonic concern: quite obviously which is reason. Furthermore, even though Aristotle counters Plato’s assertion that mimesis is opposed to reason, and argues instead that tragedy offers quite philosophical insights into human actions. Mimesis, for Aristotle, is a real thing, worthy of critical analysis, but its definition still relies, along with all following theorists, on the framework set up by Plato. A lot of Aristotle’s conceptual holds are traceably deviated from Platonic mimesis; nevertheless, despite these similarities, their difference remains divergent.

2.2 Difference
2.2.1 Definition
Plato defines imitator as “a long way off the truth, and can reproduce all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part is an image”(11). A tragic poet, in his eyes “is an imitator” and is thrice removed from the nature and the truth. Thus for Plato, mimesis is just a mirror of something else and therefore potentially deceptive. Aristotle, however, offers many persuasive responses to Plato’s critique of mimesis. Unlike Plato,...
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