The Perspective of Plato and Aristotle on the Value of Art Essay

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The Perspective of Plato and Aristotle on the Value of Art


As literary critics, Plato and Aristotle disagree profoundly about the value of art in human society. Plato attempts to strip artists of the power and prominence they enjoy in his society, while Aristotle tries to develop a method of inquiry to determine the merits of an individual work of art. It is interesting to note that these two disparate notions of art are based upon the same fundamental assumption: that art is a form of mimesis, imitation. Both philosophers are concerned with the artist's ability to have significant impact on others. It is the imitative function of art which promotes disdain in Plato and curiosity in Aristotle. Examining the reality that art professes
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Art is removed from any notion of real truth, an inherently flawed copy of an already imperfect world. Art as an imitation is irrelevant to what is real.

Aristotle approaches reality from a completely different premise. While his ideas do stand in sharp contrast to Plato's, they are not simply a refutation of his former mentor's views. To Aristotle, the world exists in an infinitely diverse series of parts. These various parts are open to human observation and scrutiny. Rather than an eternally regressing truth beyond the scope of human apprehension, knowledge of truth and good are rooted firmly in the observable universe; truth, or at least gestures toward it, lies in existence rather than essence. Aristotle encourages embracing the particular in order to possibly gain a sense of the universal. There is, however, no universal system of inquiry to investigate each part of the whole. Different parts require different methods of discourse. In The Poetics, Aristotle attempts to articulate a method of inquiry, not a rigid system or standard of evaluation, applicable to tragedy. Tragedy attempts to imitate the complex world of human actions, and yet tragedy is itself still part of a larger, more complicated world of human existence. Tragedy is a…