Aristotles Poetics RevisitedAuthor(s): Harold SkulskyReviewed work(s):Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 19, No...
ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED                         BY HAROLD                                 SKULSKY *    Certainphiloso...
148                               HAROLD     SKULSKY    The reader no doubtbe wondering thistimewhy, an es-               ...
ARISTOTLES     POETICS REVISITED                       149Thereappears, think, be little                  I         to    ...
150                                HAROLD     SKULSKY                 uponconceptsof the intelligence            (thoseide...
ARISTOTLE S POETICS     REVISITED               151tude." That neither " proper"magnitude the " proper ar-                ...
152                          HAROLD    SKULSKY                     though number experiences pleasecianscall " elegance," ...
ARISTOTLES   POETICS   REVISITED               153actuallydoesor can happen(see 1451b8-10). Thus Aristotle us             ...
154                           HAROLD   SKULSKY able (1362b5-10);and wehaveyetto discover                whatimpels to pro-...
ARISTOTLES   POETICS REVISITED                  155   So muchforthegenus(audience        involvement).    The differentiae...
156                                 HAROLD      SKULSKY                   that, hisstudy thesituation   It willbe noticed ...
ARISTOTLES   POETICS REVISITED                    157                           (&tonly actuated histrionically aupcVoZ), ...
158                          HAROLD    SKULSKY    These,then, the elements a truly                    are                 ...
ARISTOTLES    POETICS   REVISITED               159   It is, to conclude,regrettable likehis logicand metaphysics,        ...
160                      HAROLD SKULSKYment into an unmitigated       utilitarianism.Moreover,Politics       231341b36ff. ...
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Aristotles poetics revisited, by harold skulsky

  1. 1. Aristotles Poetics RevisitedAuthor(s): Harold SkulskyReviewed work(s):Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Apr., 1958), pp. 147-160Published by: University of Pennsylvania PressStable URL: .Accessed: 23/09/2012 12:17Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact University of Pennsylvania Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the History of Ideas.
  2. 2. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED BY HAROLD SKULSKY * Certainphilosophical problems have displayed exasperating anpersistence.To be sure,centuries steadily of improved dialecticalgadgetry have wrought changes thewaywe ask thesemulish in ques-tions; but thiswas to be expected, despite newwrinkles and the interminology, nuisances the remain. The statusof universals, themeaning mathematical of propositions, thelocusofvaluecan still andbe countedon to quickennew orthodoxies exhumedecayingandschools. Aesthetics, which willbe ourchief concern thepresent in investi-gation, a goodexample thekindofimpasse havein mind. Art is of Irepresents excellence special kind of value, and the theory par awhich pretends elucidate mustoffer ofall a cogent to it first explana-tionofpreference,criterion artistic success." But artis also a a of "socialactivity whoseutility notoriously is obscure, thatnumerous sopractitioners appreciators and downtheageshave feltobliged en- togagein vehement apologetics, showthatit is after a useful to all ad-junct to good living. Thus manyclaimshave been made forit,claimsforthe mostpartquite irrelevant the specialand crucial toproblem preference: is a meansofinculcating of art moralprinciples,according some; others to maintain that it is a modeof perceiving andimportant otherwise inaccessible facts; to others realizesits itfunction imparting unique experiences uniquelysentient by the of lessmento their gifted fellows.These claimsare admittedly besidethemark;theyfailto explain of whya work art,though impeccablein itsmoral tone,irrefutable thepropositions expresses, non- in it and itpareilin the experience conveys, may yetbe dull and ugly. Butthey showthatartmaybe rich itsinfluence life-though do in on quaartit doesnothave to be; foreachof theseclaims, leastin regard at artto somesuccessful works, appearsto contain grain truth. a of History thuscomplicated work modern has the of aesthetics; thediscipline nownotonlyto account thepreferential ofart has for scalevalues (or else to argueplausibly its non-existence), also to for butadjustthevarious incidental claims a which cultivated awareness ap-pearsto support: all goodartis moralor philosophical intent; not inbut thesenseofhumanity thatof profound and truth seemin somecomparatively but noteworthy rare instances enhance value of to thean artwork. Andthistoo mustbe explained. Ostwaldof ColumbiaUniversity his helpful *I wish to thankProfessor foradviceand criticism. 147
  3. 3. 148 HAROLD SKULSKY The reader no doubtbe wondering thistimewhy, an es- will by insay whosetitlepromises new illumination an ancientand well ofthumbed fragment tragedy epic,sucha gratuitous of airy on and setplatitudes the foregoing as shouldbe foisted his goodwill. The onanswer simply is thatAristotles truncatedwork, halfreportorialandhalfprescriptive, in myopinion, is, basedon a comprehensive theoryof artwhich fulfills twobasic requirements have stipulated- the wethoseof precisedefinition the adjustment incidental and of claims.The twoor three perennial cruxes,moreover, thetraditional in inter-pretation thiswork of can be resolved, think, placingit in the I bycontext Aristotelian of and an thought by attempting entirely freshanalysis theprinciples of in implicit thework itself. Teleia Praxisand Other Key Terms The tragicperformance forAristotle is essential defining in thewayin which tragedy and directly graphically represents life. It is a ap,.La, enactment, an which mustbe unified arranged as to rep- and soresent " complete a action," rckcla,juda,Jkq, perfect,single,and entire,requiring nothing to complete essence. At a laterstagewe else itsshallhaveto examine internal the structure characteristic a " com- ofpleteaction," at present mustconfine but we ourselves thegeneral toinformation about the termwhichwe can garner from Aristotlesother works. In hisMagna Moralia (1211bl8ff.), Aristotle the discusses pecul- ofiar intensity paternal love and decides thatit is essentially ac, antivity similar certain to skills: " I mean,forinstance, class of theskills whose purpose performance identical; in theflautists and are asviewhis activity thesameas his rXos purpose(forto himflute is orplaying bothpurpose is and activity), in the case of housecon- butstruction doesnotobtain(forherethere beyond activity, this is, thea separate end): thuslove is actually sortof activity, there a and isno otherend beyondthe activity loving;on the contrary: of thisitself the end" 1; and in theMetaphysics is (1048bl8ff.), discussingprocesses which conduce someexternal to goal,likethatof attenua-tion,Aristotle maintains that,"since theyare not themselves thepurposeof their movement, theydo not constitute action, at an or oneany ratenota complete (TreXea rpa-63). theyare notan end; Forand that movement whichthe end inheres also an action." in is Cf. Metaphysics 1050a23: TO yap epyovTeXOs,v 6 evepyela Tr gpyOV. 5uOKalT0rPooa ev yp7elaXe (TLat Ka(Ta TO6 p7OV, Kac auTelvel Cf.Ethica 7rpos T2v eiTveXeXeav.Nic.: 1151a16:evTals zrpa4ut TO OVCUVKa apx7. r AlsoMagna Moralia1197a9-11: are strictlyotlov7rapaTO KtGaplflev OVK C&Tlv, etc. At leastsomeIL4TLKal, it seems,endsin themselves. translations by All are thepresent writer.
  4. 4. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED 149Thereappears, think, be little I to doubtthatthisconception com- ofpleteactionas self-sufficient and an end-in-itself appliesto the1-ex-tavrpa$ts which of tragic performance (8pa-,ua)is theartistic reproduction.2We may conclude thispointthat the dramatic at representation ofcomplete action, itself as intended correspondingly " complete," not isto be considered tool,a meansto someendoutside itself, a of suchasmental health-whatever incidental results mayissuefrom it. However, play is primarily publicperformance, a a meantto beapproved, thecognoscenti least. All rules, by at eventhatofthefirstunity, mustbe justified reference this effect.Thus Aristotle by totellsus in thePoetics(1459al7-21) thatthepoetis plainly obliged torepresent a complete actionspecifically witha view to eliciting apleasurable experience corresponding form his dramatic in to plot.Our authors insistence pleasure a concomitant plotunity on as of isso frequent that we woulddo well to consider general his view ofpleasure before tracethe relationship we the between spectators andthe" complete action in tragedy, wellas thespecialrequirements " asassumed Aristotle each. by for Firstof all, pleasure wouldseemto represent purest the kindofcomplete action, kindwhich described Met. 1050a34as " ac- the is attualization a transition whichthe exercise a poweris both ": in ofachieved and aimedat, suchas seeing perse (as opposedto search- 3ing); perception, a matter fact, so truly rEXEda7rp thatat as of is a etsanypoint itsduration is always samein form in it the (Met. 1048b20-25). Pleasurewouldseemto be suchan " actualization (evepyata), "foras we are told in the Nicomachean Ethics (Book X, Chap. IV):" Visionseemsperfect any instant, requiring subsequent at not anyaddition complete form. And pleasure to its resembles kindof thisactivity. . . ." Pleasureis moreover consummation every the of hu-man activity (whichis by definition conscious) and does not occur itwithout (dVw re yap EPEpeclas oV ylVeratrSov7, 7racaav rE &Epyetav TEXEtOL v thej5ov). Thus themorerefined sensory faculty themorepre- and theciseits object, purer thepleasure. In Book X, Chapter of the Ethicsthe higher VI that pleasure,whichis bothradiantly clearand morallysuitablefora freeman(fXtKptwS withcontemplation, exercise is identified cat ixevOcptoq), the 2 Cf. Poetics 1450a16:e yyp ta rpa-ywy MlMt1aots oUicavPOpwrco7r aTtJp a&XAa rp&aecOsKal jLov.... Also Met. 1048b,in whichPLosor ivpis mentionedamong the 7rp&tELswhich self-sufficient are (1.28). thatfor 3Cf. Met. I, 1 980a23-24. A perusalof Met. 1048bl8ff. establish willAristotlecompletepraxis and energeiaare synonymous. 4Aristotles of and other observations ethical value-preference clearly a are notmatterof statisticalaverage. The principleis rather: KacaD7rEpov 7roxxaKLS elp7TratKal TqLuLa Ka% Wa EOTr TLa Tq) a7rovkclw TOLavra 67Ta.
  5. 5. 150 HAROLD SKULSKY uponconceptsof the intelligence (thoseideas which pureof the areaccidental). Thus we need not be surprised requires thatAristotletragicpoetry be in somesenseconceptuallypure" (xa0oAov), con- to " insistent structure ( andphilosophical, in this a&X=Xa), since wayaremarkably chastened steadfast and pleasure, one exempt from thelimitations bodily of pleasure,mustof necessity result from con- itstemplation Oavyaarals2OPaS EXEWKaOapeWT6rT [N.B.] (8oKEZ -YOVP X)ckXoaootaKac #Beqatc). It seemshighly probablethat Aristotle Platos PhaedoI in hadmindwhen chosehisterms; thatdialogue clearand distinct he in thecontemplation oftruth dXWKpWV4S, 6iaOT acos Tr &X-O6s) is, as in (Tcr TOVTO regarded the " exercise a facultyAristotle, as of operating its best atupon the best of its objects." More important perhaps, the termused by Plato forthissupremely pleasurableintuitive perception iscatharsis.Of course, in thePoeticsrefers a specialkind Aristotle toofpleasure purification perception, which or of one proceeds from dis-positionssimilar pityand fear.6 If myaccount, to then, correct, is itwillbe necessary to showwhatsuchstatesof consciousness have incommon withphilosophy.In any case,if the dramaand its corre-sponding " pleasure " complete and concurrent are actions, is diffi- itcultto see howa medical utilitarian or interpretationcatharsis of (as rexos) canbe made fit cpyovTo vrapa scheme. to into authors our So farwe haveexplored implications " completenessas it two of " infunctions Aristotelian terminology: theoretically performance, theat every pointin itsduration,ought be an endin itself, a perfect to "activity," of whiletheexperience dramatic poetry correspondingly isfinaland self-sufficient. thedramatic But actionis nota homogene-ous process, pure&npycta, likeliving consciousness se; it is a a or persequence a of with relation parts. Andthus, Aristotle, characterize toits pleasurablenessmoreprecisely, observes (Chap. VII) that goodplays have plot structures " whichare in themselves beautiful," inthe sense is in whichan organism beautiful, whenit attainsa size anproper its kindand displays organization to suggestive design ofor appropriateness.7 Mathematics the supremedistillation is ofbeauty,for" the beautiful residesin arrangement due magni- and 5That Aristotle knewthisdialogue certified Met. 1080a2. is by 6Compare:b&& ovKaG c/f6ov iX Trh TrW TOl,rwp iraOt77TW KOapcLV 7repawovora and(1449b27-28) T 6P&i7r6 Kal c/f6ov5t&a CXov /lAtlJTcwS5El it6OVi rapaTKCV&CiLP TrVirolT7vV, 4acEp6V (US TOVTO ep TOlS (1453bl2-14). lrpctLrpaLpamp COl7rovrTfOP 7 TacvrosTr KaX6 Kal irpbrov Topica 135a13. T0o KaXovI el&7I.Li7yTTa Ta&LS Ka1avo)4erTplaKai roTcopwPayvovMet. 1078a36. With irpCbroV compare Kants Zweck-massigkeit a witha functionless ohneZweck,whichdenotes satisfaction pattern, perfectanalogous our enjoyment an instruments to of adaptation its appointed tofunction.
  6. 6. ARISTOTLE S POETICS REVISITED 151tude." That neither " proper"magnitude the " proper ar- the nor "rangement suchin a utilitarian are senseis substantiated ourown byexperience beauty exclusively its own sake (vide Politics of for1362bl-10); " proprietyis herea metaphor " describing peculiar oursenseof approbation vis-a-viscertain forms. A beautiful thing, Aristotle us,willnever so largeor small tells bethatitsorganization cannot intuited a whole. In temporal be as arts,likemusicand drama, corresponding ofsizeis, of course, the test thememorableness plot.of That thisunified patterning plot ((rcraTaaLs oflrpay/L,dT(v) corresponds the " contemplative to " pleasure have just wediscussed clearenough;theyare theformal perceptual is and aspectsof whatwe have called " complete activity." But the principles ofplotting thenature thepleasure and of peculiar tragedy to are yettobe fully explained. Thereremains further term the Poetics,which one key in servesin part to support the foregoing observations: mimesis, literally " copying." All mimetic arts,in Aristotle, represent our experi- " "enceY though they" representin various " sensesand through variousmediaand concern themselves various with sorts " realthings." of Furthermore " imitation," itsrudimentary in sense, from psy- is a chological viewpoint originof art,and of poetry particular. the in (1)Thisis true tworeasons: roTey6p/al.u/EoatvrUovTO"i for aOc bOZS GpwrotsEKc (2) 7ra0wov Kacd xapeLvTots Tr At4mat raiTras.8 (1) It is perhaps only thepossible human" instinct," the sensethatall infants in mustmimictheir parents order learntheir in to lessons, yettheir first and mimi-cryis itself untaught. (2) Andit is a universal source instinctive ofpleasure, derived, Aristotle tells us, fromthe inferential processes(avXXoyttea0aL) involved recognition, from in and successin learning(JuavdvfLV) whatis being represented(" forif one is not already 9 fa-miliar with object, the thework notpleasequa representation will ").Thus thefundamental character the pleasure mimesis of the of in iskindwe havedescribed, rational the contemplation order com- of andplexity("beauty ") as embodied(in tragedy)in a "completeac-tion." These, then,are the basic conceptsof Aristotelian aesthetics.Thoughvarious things mayexemplify or moreof them-though onevisionexhibits leasttheform " perfect at of though activity," mathe-maticsexhibits that excellence orderwhichmodern of mathemati- sThe coordinates and xac make speculation Te about 1448b20appear rather chimerical. 9 It maybe observedherethat" inferenceis madenecessary the veryna- " by which tureof imitation, mustperforce on conventions translation rely of from one sphere another, therules perspective, conversion 3 to 2 dimensions. to e.g. of of from
  7. 7. 152 HAROLD SKULSKY though number experiences pleasecianscall " elegance," any of mayus fora time(i.e.,makeus desiretheircontinuance),though photo amaybe a rudimentary specimen representation-only of mimetic artcombines thesetraits endsin themselves. all as How it doesthisre-mainsto be seen. of We have seenthatin tragedy polarsituation dramatic the per-formance, involvingplayers constitutes " complete and spectators, aaction,"whosestrictly formal intellectual and aspectis " beauty,"ororderand measure. It is the plot,then,the system component ofevents (aa7Taao which constitutesthe 7rpay,//aTWV), tragedyspurposeand a principle tragedys of intelligibility,0 whichalso displays andmosteffectively arresting that logicalpatterningwhich Aristotle calls"the beautiful." In thePoetics ChapterVIII AristotlepraisesHomerforscrupu-louslyavoidingsequencesof events"of which, one occurred, if itwouldbe neither probable necessary the other-to nor for follow it." event a singleAn integral in " &Arioqov) theone action" explains (7rotEZwhichfollows. In otherwordsthe succeeding eventsmust" be ex- "plained by thepositing their of antecedents; theymustbe suchaswouldhappen (oa yIvo To) if the priormise en scene is assumedtrue. aYI have belabored strict this conditionality becauseit is partand par-cel ofthestructure, beauty(in Aristotelian the terms)oftragic plot-ting:it is not thatthe tragic situation possible thata superior is orplot couldeverbe so (quite the contrary, we shall see); whatis as" possible in drama whataccords " is with thisprinciple probability ofor " conditional " 11necessity (ra &vvaraT, Kara rO EKOs 7rT aavyKacov). To rbbe sure,a historical eventwhosecausal sequence clearmay legiti- ismately madetherawmaterial a tragedy." For there nothing be of isactuallypreventingsome real happening fromtakingprobableornecessary form."The implication apparently thisis rare, is that andcertainly a universal not characteristic episodes humanaffairs. of in Thus the term " universal" (Ka9oXov), we shall soon see more asclearly,properly indicateswhenappliedto plotthatevents and char-actersmaking the " complete up " action are " consistent withthewhole " " of the action. The " universalityof the actionrefers atoclass of events(7rota) whichwouldresult we assumewiththe poet ifthe existence a certain of class (7rok) of men and a priorsituation(see 1451b8-10);it neverrefers a particular to situation which (TI) lo Ta 7rpaiy,.ara Kal o 1ADOosrTXosTrIs rpaO14tas (1450a21-22). apxrt 0 Kai AevoZop &vxi 6 AiOosris TpawcoaLas (1450a37-38). For &px see Met. / I, especially KTX it as of1013al5: "TE 605EV where is defined a principle intelligibility. 11propterpraeterita,simple Cf. 1452al9-not to be confused " ": with" hypo-thetical causa), though is not to be rejected " (sequentium necessity this (1452a7).
  8. 8. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED 153actuallydoesor can happen(see 1451b8-10). Thus Aristotle us tells(1455bff.) poet shouldfirst forth abstract (KaoXo-v) or "A set anblueprint his plots,both traditional of then extend and original,them." Certain eventswill,of course, " external the system" be to 1455b7-8), to the particularpatternof assumptions(co TOVKa0GXov inquestion. This noveluse oftheterm wouldseemto confirm con- ourtentionthat the plot is not universal the traditionally in acceptedsensethatmutato nomine te fabulanarratur.In fact, reasons de forwe haveyetto investigate,Aristotlebelieves thata storywhich not ispossible reallifebut has thecoherent in structure have discussed weis muchto be preferred one which real but causallyincoherent to isand thus,eventhough initialsituation accepted, the is unconvincing. This principle beautiful rational of or order lovedin and for itselfextends,naturally, thecharacters to themselves. Thus in Chap. XVofthePoetics, learnthatthepoetought add personal we to integrityto hischaracterizationidleorwrathful of persons as painters just adda higherself-consistence coherence theirlikenesses. This and tostaunch defense his identity right assert specialquality of and to hiscan makeevenan Ajax a truetragic figure. of of In his discussion the reversals fortune properto tragedy,Aristotleeliminates downfall a depraved the of man. His reasonis "mostenlightening:Such a situation wouldgratify oneshumanitybut it would be neitherpitifulnor fearful .. since we pity the unde- .serving fearforone like ourselves."Thus the term" like our- and "selves is to be understood from purely a moralpointof view; thereprobate thiscase) maybe unlike in a variety respects, (in us of butthe decisiveone is moral. The hero oughtmorally be no less toflawed thanwe,orelsethere couldbe no complication no tragedy. andBut tragedy mustdeal withpreternaturally figures it is to 12 noble ifachieveits effect.That a Medea or an Oedipustranscend ordinaryhumancapacities, either doingor forsuffering,no defect, for is for, a " isas we shallexplain, " probable impossibility alwayspreferable to "in tragedy an "improbable possibility.3No principle, then,couldbe so aliento a view oftragedy basedon Aristotelianaestheticsas thatof de te fabula. of So muchfortheform tragic action. Now it remains us to forconsider the "subjective" dimension the Aristotelian of polarity;beauty(dyEOKao t TJs) as Aristotle defines is not alwayspleasur- it 12See, forexample,1448a18. In Chap. XXV thestructure a tragic 13 of falsehood explained a species is as of fallacy;oncetheaudience " suspendedgenetic has disbelief," causalstructure a willsupportunaidedthe credibility the eventswhichgrowout of the prologue. of1460a18-26.
  9. 9. 154 HAROLD SKULSKY able (1362b5-10);and wehaveyetto discover whatimpels to pro- us longourexperience poeticform, of artistic of and form general. in In achieving characteristic its effect theauditor, on tragedy mustaim at dominating concern successfully his and altering stateof hisconsciousness jEra3aAXXaEvT v OV oVTa 1459b29). The engaging (ro ofinterest (1459b30-31)withvariedpattern the first is step toward thatproducing sublime senseofhumanity of" pity" and " fear and " (4tXcavGp&nrov, eAXEv4v, 0f3,Epov) whichwe are to designate tragicex- asperience. In thisalmosthypnotic domination consciousness, of plotstructure, itscomplication resolution with and (Wns KatXvaL) is calcu-lated to maximize impactof the combined the reversal recogni- andtionon which better the plot hinges. This composite climaxof ac-tionwillnaturally more be affectingit takestheauditor surprise if by (7rapa r4v 8oav). But there willbe an addedsatisfaction it is per- ifceived thenatural as culmination thepreceding of action(St-XjAXAa); 14wonder awe ( T 00avfaaTov), in contemplating or moralconflict againstthe background an unchanging of naturalorder(the orderof thepoets "nature,"that is) is morethan the intellectually orientedpleasureevokedeven by rudimentary imitation.The purely intel-lectualpleasure tracing in causal sequence to be sure,an element is,in the effect, surprise but and awe, lent structure theirlogical bymatrix, arrest the attention and concern the spectator more of farpowerfully inexorably and thansimpler imitation could. Thus thepassions havebeenmadea structural principle, essential tragic to plot(the " end" oftragedy), which Aristotle states follows a passage as inon the legitimate of impossibilities:The poet is nevertheless use "correct introducing [in miracles] he achieves artistic if his purpose...,if in so doinghe renders eventitself someothereventmore the orstriking (1460b25-27) Thus theevolving the" reversal-recogni- ." oftion" is botha beautiful patterning an emotional and crescendo, inwhicheach eventis carefully subordinated the ultimate to effect.This, then,is the emotionally intensified structure the dramatic ofpleasure. This is why"the epic poet constructs plotsdramati- hiscally, in tragedy, concerns as and himself witha wholeand completeactionwithintroduction, development, conclusion: produce and totheproper pleasure a living like thing, single whole(1459al8ff.)." andThe pleasure, purification perception, arrested the of the interest, de- inrives, fact, from interdependence intense the of and feelings sym-metrical structure. Whatthesefeelings in thecase oftragedy are is,of course, to be determined.5 still " 1452al-11. 15The readerwoulddo wellto reread the of Chap. XXVI, in which superioritytragedy explained.The appealis obviously theexperience thepoetry is to of itself,as to itseconomy subtlety, clarity, its concentration. or its and
  10. 10. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED 155 So muchforthegenus(audience involvement). The differentiae," pity" and " fear,"present difficulties,however. Aristotle definestragic pleasureas "proceeding from pityand fearthrough me- thediumofimitation."Each of theseterms, takeit,is equallyessen- Itial; butwe know, Aristotle hisRhetoric in (1385bl3-16;1382a21ff.)assures thatthesepassions precisely us, are pains,and nothing more: {EOs Xb7r s; TEorw 8, qbf3osVEo-To5n) bMr?7rts. If we arecorrect suppos- ining (and the abundanceof evidenceappearsconclusive)that thetragic pleasure coincident is withthecomplete actionand not a sub-sequentataraxy generated homeopathically the purposely from un-pleasant experience theplay,there be little of can sensein identifyingdramatic pityand fear, aroused an explicitly as by mimetic perform-ance,withgenuine pityand fearas described the Rhetoric; is in itno merecontretemps Aristotle that as refers the former TOLOVT(wV to7ra0)/.Ld,crwv. The by nowfamiliar romantic attempt explain to thispleasurablepityand fear beenreenacted has withimpressive dialecticalskillin arecent paperby Schluck;16 the dramatic are emotions purified, weare to understand, the sense in that theyhave becomereactions todangers in implicit thegeneral human situation: Wovor uns " wir imBetrachten Tragodie der fiirchten, eine aus demWesendes Men- istschenselbstaufkommende Gefahr." Also: "Furcht und Mitleid 17in ihrer Reinheit sindeineeigene vonTheoria." As thereader Art 18willnote,thistheory makesa greatdeal dependon our agreeing torecognize say,Oedipusunlucky in, marriage clearand present a dan-germenacing onlyus but our fellow not men. The typical retortisthat all tragedies a sense deal withthe same danger(not the inostensible one), answering the "universality"Aristotle to insistsupon. But,as we haveseen,Aristotle envisaged suchKantian has nosteamrolling stereotyping tragic or of subject matter, overt covert, orin hisuse oftheterm universal."Even ifwe are charitable " enoughto assumewithSchluck thatall tragedies refer thesameuniversal todanger, willbe difficult see howmyfearor pity, it to sinceit is mineand is personal and particular matter no howmanyothers shareit,can be a beatific contemplation universality it remains of if pityorfearin thesenseofemotional disturbance (Xv). Thus thequestionoftheemotion itself remains despite rarefaction nullity its the into ofobject; besides, are forced urgethat Schlucks we to interpretationof KaGoXovis not Aristotles again 1455bff.), (see however muchKantwouldhaveapplauded it. 16K. Volkmann-Schluck, Lehrevon der Katharsis der Poetikdes Aris- Die in Varia Variorumtoteles, (1952), 104-107. 115. 17Ibhid,. 18Ibid.,116.
  11. 11. 156 HAROLD SKULSKY that, hisstudy thesituation It willbe noticed in of for appropriatetragicportrayal reallymakestwodemands, (Chap. XIII), Aristotlenotone: thatthesituation evokepity fear thatit gratify and and onessense of human dignity (To pLMdvOp&nrov). also be remembered 19 It willthatAristotle makesa two-fold demand a higher of pleasure:thatitbe clearand free from bodily taintand thatit pertain theestateof toa freeborn man. Now the " liberal virtues," according Aristotle, toare invariably attended thissenseof humandignity,20 it is to by andthis " philanthropy," according Aristotle, to that tragedy addressesitself. Thusit is notso muchthattheexalted moral issuespresentedin tragedy necessarily a bearing thelifeof theaverage have on audi-tor. It is rather thatin participating therarefied specialethi- in andcal dilemmas the hero,he discovers himself generally of in a unac-knowledged importance, genuine a dignity, latentpower(inherent ain mans estate) of ethicalevaluation. Onlyiftheaudience somehowis to permitted participate activelyin thetrials a hero, a J3EXT&OV, can it experience insight of of this intothemoraldignity man (oaaWpwov),thiskeenly of pleasurable senseof "liberality" (Av0epLwT-r). Consequently, chorus(as repre- thesenting audience)mustbe made an indispensable the participant intheproceeding (1456al9-20) and theactionitself madegenuinely be andimportant significant (arov8ala). For the audience, goeswith- itout saying, cannotenjoya feeling importantof moralachievementunlessthe actionis correspondingly and unlessit can partici- gravepate directly thechorus. Whatis more via significant,cannot it real-ize a genuine philanthropiawithout sense " " a of emotional involve-ment. Now, as we have observed, the tragicsituation one which, isbesides being(preferably) impossible by ordinary standards (thoughinternally coherent), involvesa hypothetical class of events(7rota)and individuals (7roe).21 Thus,ifpityis to be feltat all,in thesecir-cumstances, must be a hypothetical it pity (concerned withcata-strophic av yEVOTo oLa d . . .) just as thefearcan be feltonlythroughidentification a general with typeof man. Whatis evenmorediffi-cult than this,pity,in contemplating in misfortune another, andthisfear, in experiencing as misfortune another, though mutually ex-clusive, mustbe feltat the same time. Thus the emotions not are 19E.g. (1452b37) yap &rpayy0,6rcaurov ToUT rin Ira6TWv, obv&v Pyap 4EX civ SET,oVme Pyap qLXaivOpw7rovoDre Xeetvbv ovre qof3epovkrv. Also the requisitesof tragicactionand speech: Trav fi 1Eeeva fiSewa fi AEya&Xa (N.B.) fi EKoTLa SEfl 7rapaWKEV4EU(1456b3-4). 20 tXavcOpw7r1ta X a&KOXOV0GEfl VGeplOTTl. 21 go--V S KaO6XOV maVT7- yrt roa T7a a7rra 0vl4alveL X&yetv f 7pairetv . . .(1451b8-9).
  12. 12. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED 157 (&tonly actuated histrionically aupcVoZ), but also experienced an byact of imagination whichcan onlybe termed histrionic.It wouldthus be psychologically inaccurate style these states of mind to"emotions ( r6Gq); theyare rather " mental attitudes which anal- areogous to emotions (7otaovTw 7ra6Jq crov). In their roleas the necessarycondition thatmoral of elevation all as which tragedy, mimesis, mir-rors,and in mirroring reveals, thisactiveand imaginative pityandfearare symbolic the communal of solidarity, almostritualistic therapport between performer spectator, and which typified several theevents theDionysian of festival. Before derivingfrom analysis thedramatic this of situationsomeleadingprinciples of Aristotelian aesthetics, will be necessary it todeal withthatsphinxs riddle, tragic catharsis.As we have seen,thesimplehomeopathic theory Weil and Bernaysdoes not fitthe of asfacts;tragedy, complete action,cannotservean external end,it cannot a medication, be laxativeor otherwise. The famous descrip-tionofmusical therapy thePolitics(1341b36ff.) in shows anycase in thattheputative function tragedy already of was fulfilled simple by orgiasticmelody and thus could not be definitive the dramatic ofsituation,with its intrinsicend ( i3Oov) and coincident,culminatingpleasure. Orgiastic melodies, furthermore, specially are serviceablefor theirr8le in " emotionalflushing because they are amoral "(1341a20ff.), tragedy neverbe. as can Ourdiscussion appears, think, substantiate interpretation I to the Iwhich suggested earlier thepaper: the" purification in " alludedtomustbe thatkeenpleasure, untainted or perception,which Plato inhisPhaedo callscatharsis.22 We havediscussed somedetailtheobjects in and manner tragic ofimitation Aristotle them. The technical as saw medium quite as isimportant, without for and conventions traditions there couldbe nomimesis, "intelligibility" no (i.e., no possibility participation). ofFor Aristotlesuchmatters theuse ofstrange as words, lengthened orshortened ones, coinages,and above all of metaphors wereitemsofcommon knowledge whichcouldbe passedoverquickly withimpu-nity. Today,besetas we are by romantic intuitionists the one onside and academicformalists the other, is important us to on it foracknowledge moreemphatically essential the roleof form art,as in inAristotle it, and to recognize craftsmanlike saw execution pre- arequisite successful of art. 22 The use of &la Wkov coo3ov repaLvovaa ... Kac , TrX,forAl .XecuV . c., KTX, is idiomaticGreek, in d q6f3ovs as XMyol. It is common Latin: magnus in uterque timor (HoraceSat. I, IV, 67) and colloquial slangEnglish:" a pity," latronibus or "a holyterror," thelike. and
  13. 13. 158 HAROLD SKULSKY These,then, the elements a truly are of Aristotelian of art. viewArtis an organized activity indulged forits ownsake involving in a " thing made" within framework conventional the of rules, a thingwhich actualized itsbeingexperienced. is in Superiority thequal- inity of art is ceteris paribusachievedto the degreethatthe personinitiated intotheformal tradition emotionally is involved and intel-lectually interested the interpretation in of symbols otherele- orments;elements theirin turn manipulated they so that transcend thelimitations conventional of syntax and provide initiatewithan theorganized experience discovery achievement. of and On thispremise, artistic innovation consists actualizing po- in thetentiality theformal of tradition (say ofdramaor thesonnet), tra- adition which constitutes set of rulesof intelligibility morecor- a or,rectly, participation. of This tradition a complex and in itself is oneis no morethana negative element set of limitations, a posi- or nottiveruleofthumb. The artist recognizes, an inarticulate in way,theprinciples Aristotle forth to a degree able to makecalcula- sets and istions a sort. But more of often, to the since, repeat, tradition, thougha prime requisite, in itself no further theartist is of aid, mustrelyonthe community humanity of between himand his audience fram- ininghis effects. musthave powers empathy He of which willpermithimto predict theseeffects their and impact overand abovethemereexecution recognition an artform.As Aristotle it,poetic and of putsskillinvolves either exceptionally happyintuitions a tendency or to-wardmentalimbalance (1455a32-33). Thus failures formal in innovation, thoseofArnaut like Daniel orSchoenberg Kandinsky, explicable totalabrogations the or are as ofrulesof participation (called "intelligibility ") whichdefine or artgenre, abrogations without introduction thearchai a newart. the of of The spirit aesthetic of Aristotelianism, as interpreted the fore- ingoing is study, eminently realistic practical.As a critical and theoryit is not debarred from application particulars an involved to by ormetaphysical epistemological apparatus. It is not,likethe lucu-brations would-be of Aristotelians (e.g. Boileau), an arid body ofpontifications. is Aristotle vulnerable they hisversion Nor so as in offormalism. For artis,whatever it maybe, a species socialac- else oftivity. Andin suchactivity there be onlyanarchy can without rules Inof participation. literary criticism particular Aristotelian in theviewof art as an interesting of organization experience provides theantidote crude to moralization and thecriticism which rests cogni- ontivecriteria.It does thisby comprehending them:the intensity ofinterest the greater moreprofound universal moral is the and theforce theideasexpressed a work literary of in of art.
  14. 14. ARISTOTLES POETICS REVISITED 159 It is, to conclude,regrettable likehis logicand metaphysics, that,Aristotles aesthetics beenmaligned has becauseof its abuse by gen-erations artpedants pundits. The humanists of and havediscreditedthelatter justas theschoolmen theformer. did This essaywillhaveachieved something havingestablished if, nothingelse,it convincesthequalified readerthatthelast word by no meansbeensaid on hasthe Poetics. APPENDIX A. A further wordon "universality."Schlucksthesison thisscoreis typical thewayAristotelian of metaphysics be romanti- maycallymisappropriated: " Denn die Dichtung," says (op. cit.,108), he" erfasst das nichtwie die Wesenserkenntnis bestimmende Eine alssolchesin der Abhebung gegendas jeweilige Einzelne,sondern sieenthiulltdiesesauf seineWesensart so dass diesein demAugen- hin,blickdes Einzelnenerscheint."However, humanperception all ofindividual objects, Aristotles in view,operates thisway. When inwe see a particular thing, cannotbe recognized known it and unlessits form revealed is to us, precisely in demAugenblick Einzel- " desnen"; thisis whatthe " exemplification a universal means,for of "us as well as for" the master thosewhoknow." Schlucks ex- of "planation," then,doesnotexplain;forI am surehe doesnotmeanusto gather from abstruse his formulation startling the newsthatwhenwe see a dramawe see a drama. It wouldbe, I think, moreaccurateto saythattheparticular dramatic action a representsgeneral classofactions merely sharing not by andexhibiting form, all themem- its asbersof theclasswould, also by displaying minimum excep- but a oftionsand irrelevancies, by concealing and thoseinessential elementsit cannot avoidretaining.This wouldnotgivethegistofAristotlesKaOoXov, I have interpreted but it wouldeliminate as it, the tautolo-gousunclarity thecitedpassage. of B. I cannotjustlyneglect of somemention Professors Gommesfinebook The GreekAttitude Poetryand History(1954) which to ofcontains number worthwhile a observations thetextin question. onProfessor Gomme agrees withme thatcatharsis cannot theendof betragedy.His reason thatAristotle is insists a quitedifferent on end: "tragedys proper pleasure." However, amicusPlato; magisamica veritas. The homeopathictheory Aristotelean of catharsis, withits long and augusthistory,cannot be summarily rejected such flimnsy on its grounds; partisanscouldretort withperfect reasonableness thatthe " proper pleasure "presupposed noneotherthan the beneficial is ataraxyproduced bythetragic thus experience, converting Professor Gommes ownargu-
  15. 15. 160 HAROLD SKULSKYment into an unmitigated utilitarianism.Moreover,Politics 231341b36ff. wouldsupport theircontention againstProfessor Gomme-if he did notavail himself suchadditional of proofs I have sug- asgested. C. Another bookcomes mindwhich to cannot safely outof be leftaccount. It is and perhaps remain bestgeneral will the treatment ofthePoetics; I meanButchers remarkable Aristotles Theory Po- ofetryand Fine Art (reprinted Dover Publications, Y., 1951). by N.On themeaning imitation, of however, find greatscholars I the ac-countrather misleading.He contends thatthe elements theme- ofdiumof imitation, manoeuvres grimaces actors, ex- the and of forample,reflect theirobjectsdirectly, intuitively are interpreted, anddo not presuppose set of conventions note 9 above). a (see They" conveytheirmeaning the forceof immediate by suggestion and awithout conscious process inference.If symbols of theymay becalled,theyare not conventional symbols, but livingsigns (Butcher, 134). But as we haveseen,Aristotle imputes radicalpleasurableness theof imitation the processof inference to (ivXXoyt(gaGat)required to whattheimitationlearn(ju.av0dveLv) represents. Indeedsome conven- aretionsof imitation, therulesof perspective, relatively like recentcontrivances, theirinculcation culturalconditioning a and by washistorical eventof the first importance.In the case of facial andbodilygestures, theirrelation emotion, importance a in to the of culturally determined conventional is framework particularly obvi- of ous; hencethe amazingpropriety ivXXo-ytg-coat, especially cor- as roborated theanthropological by data availableto us (of which Aris- totlecouldhave had littleknowledge). Harvard University. 23ProfessorGomme wouldperhapsagreethattheveryexistence therapeutic of thatmusic at leastan indication " emotional is to flushingis notessential tragedy. "