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Cognition in Aristotle's Poetics

Heath, M (2009) Cognition in Aristotle's Poetics. Mnemosyne, 62 (1). 51 - 75 . ISSN 0026-7074


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This paper examines Aristotle’s understanding of the contributions of perceptual and rational cognition to the composition and reception of poetry. An initial outline of Aristotle’s cognitive psychology shows that Aristotelian perception is sufficiently powerful to sustain very rich, complex patterns of behaviour in human as well as non-human animals, and examines the interaction between perception (cognition of the particular and the ‘that’) and the distinctive capacity for reason (which makes possible cognition of the universal and the ‘why’) in human behaviour. The rest of the paper applies this framework to a number of problems in the Poetics: (i) If Aristotelian tekhnê is defined as a productive disposition involving reason, how can poetic tekhnê be manifested in the work of poets who work by non-rational habit or talent? (ii) Why does Aristotle believe that the pleasure taken in imitation qua imitation involves rational inference? (iii) What does Aristotle mean when he contrasts history (concerned with the particular) and poetry (concerned with the universal)? (iv) How is Aristotle’s insistence on universality and rationality in the construction of poetic plots to be reconciled with his willingness to tolerate irrationalities and implausibilities?

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2009 Brill Academic Publishers. This is an author produced version of a paper published in 'Mnemosyne'. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: Cognition, History, perception, poetry, tekhnê, Aristotle
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > Classics (Leeds)
Depositing User: Symplectic Publications
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2011 15:41
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2014 01:24
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/156852508X252876
Status: Published
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers
Identification Number: 10.1163/156852508X252876
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/43154

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