Aristotle's Defense of Poetry Against Plato

Topics: Literature, Literary criticism, Poetry Pages: 3 (1101 words) Published: January 12, 2012
Aysun BARUT 31.10.11

ARISTOTLE’S DEFENSE OF POETRY AGAINST PLATO IN THE LIGHT OF LITERARY CRITICISM As literary critics, Plato and Aristotle have different opinions on poetry and also it’s social effects. Plato’s Republic is a work which is not directly about literature; but his comments on poetry determine his position to it. He presents us a view of literature in a mainly negative way. Unlike Plato, Aristotle regards poetry as something positive in his Poetics. Thus, they approach the critique of poetry from different perspectives; however it is obivous that Aristotle makes his points by taking Plato’s commentaries into consideration. In this way, Aristotle’s Poetics is a kind of answer to Plato’s arguments on poetry. First of all, it’s clear that both men regard poetry as a form of imitation but they approach to imitation from different perspectives. Plato sees imitation as a copying process, thus it is always beyond the truth. He illustrates this process with a “bed example” in his Republic. In this example, he tries to define a copier man as a three moves away from true being by saying that “(…) We get three beds; one which has true being-God produces that one; one which the workman made; and one which the painter made.” (Book X, pg. 187) So, according to Plato whatever the artist imitates is far from the truth. And a poet also as a copier, have never knowledge of true being. Plato’s this negative view of imitation should be regarded as an idealistic approach because of his worries about the Ideal State. His main concern is the ideological function of poetry. Unlike Plato, Aristotle does not use imitation term as “copying”. On the contary, he regards imitation as an intellectual and creative process. In this point, he rejects Plato’s comments on imitation and he claims that it is something very natural by saying “(…)Imitation is natural to man from childhood, [the humankind]...

Cited: Aristotle. “Poetics” in The Complete Works Of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Brittan, Simon. “The Western Tradition” in Poetry, Symbol, and Allegory:Interpreting Metaphorical Language From Plato to the Present. U.S.A: University of Virginia Press, 2003.
Dorsch. “Introduction.” Classical Literary Criticism. U.S.A: Penguin Books, 1965.
Excerpts from Plato’s Republic and Ion in TKL301 Course Pack and Lecture Notes
[ 1 ]. Simon Brittan,”The Western Tradition” in Poetry, Symbol, and Allegory:Interpreting Metaphorical Language From Plato to the Present, (USA: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 13.
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