White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

Should there have been a polis in Aristotle's Poetics?

Heath, MF (2009) Should there have been a polis in Aristotle's Poetics? Classical Quarterly, 59 (2). 468 - 485 . ISSN 0009-8388


Download (172Kb)


Aristotle’s Poetics is concerned with poetry as a universal human practice. Therefore, although Aristotle draws his evidence for tragedy from the Greek tradition, he legitimately abstracts from tragedy’s relationship to any particular social context (such as Athens). Tragedy may be seen as contingently local, but normatively universal: that is, it is a natural human good, which ought to develop in all human societies. That development is natural, but not inevitable, since in any given society it may be impeded or distorted by adverse local conditions. Ethical defects in a community are especially damaging. However, the distinction between unqualified and relative goods makes it possible for Aristotle to acknowledge that distorted poetic or musical forms may have a qualified value for a particular society or social class. The ‘architectonic’ role of politics is consistent with the autonomy of subordinate disciplines. In particular, since poetics is not dependent on politics for access to empirical data about the nature of poetry and its role in human life, it is capable of identifying and challenging political theorists’ misconceptions about poetry.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: The Classical Quarterly © 2009 The Classical Association. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: politics, tragedy, poetry, Aristotle, Poetics, Polis
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 14:49
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2014 01:24
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0009838809990115
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Identification Number: 10.1017/S0009838809990115
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/43155

Actions (repository staff only: login required)