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Aristotle's Theory of Art

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What did art mean to Aristotle? How does he make distinctions between such things as poetic art, history, tragedy, comedy and the likes?

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This solution explains Aristotle's theory of art, which makes distinctions between such things as poetic art, history, tragedy and comedy.

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Let's look at several points to consider, which is followed by an informative excerpt.

1. What did art mean to Aristotle? How does he make distinctions between such things as poetic art, history, tragedy, comedy and the likes?

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher views art as an imitation of life. He develops ways to categorize and evaluate art in his writings.

1. Art is defined by Aristotle as the realization in external form of a true idea, and is traced back to that natural love of imitation that characterizes humans, and to the pleasure which we feel in recognizing likenesses. Art however is not limited to mere copying. It idealizes nature and completes its deficiencies: it seeks to grasp the universal type in the individual phenomenon.

2. The distinction therefore between poetic art and history is not that the one uses meter, and the other does not. The distinction is that while history is limited to what has actually happened, poetry depicts things in their universal character. And, therefore, "poetry is more philosophical and more elevated than history." Such imitation may represent people either as better or as worse than people usually are, or it may neither go beyond nor fall below the average standard.

3. Comedy is the imitation of the worse examples of humanity, understood however not in the sense of absolute badness, but only in so far as what is low and ignoble enters into what is laughable and comic.

4. Tragedy, on the other hand, is the representation of a serious or meaningful, rounded or finished, and more or less extended or far-reaching action -- a representation which is effected by action and not mere narration. It is fitted by portraying events which excite fear and pity in the mind of the observer to purify or purge these feelings and extend and regulate their sympathy. It is thus a homeopathic curing of the passions. Insofar as art in general universalizes particular events, tragedy, in depicting passionate and critical situations, takes the observer outside the selfish and individual standpoint, and views them in connection with the general ...

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