Philosophy of the Arts

God - religie

Plato and Aristotle on high and low

We presently tend to object to Plato’s critique of art (the art of Homer and Hesiod), that they address and invoke emotions rather than providing us with true knowledge about the world. We object to this argument in the name of what we now call art. And Plato must be wrong, we think, because Homer evidently is art, high art. If we think about contemporary television shows on cosmetic surgery, reality television or talk shows, we may come to think more favourably about Plato’s arguments. Yet, these shows we do not call art. Instead, we treat them as “media”, or low art. Perhaps Plato conceived of Homer in terms of what we would now call low art?
In light of this perspectival switch, we could see Aristotle defending high art (tragedy) when he says that it presents us with profound insights in the lives of the antagonists, in their moment of hamartia, and the subsequent feelings of pity and fear that the tragedy invokes in us, allowing these feelings to be purified in the process. According to Aristotle, tragedy shows us how the gods must have meant the world to be, not how it incidently turned out to be (the latter being historiography’s subject matter)
Perhaps what Aristotle meant was: not all art is as low as Homer and Hesiod are… And the arts that are high are easily defended, both with epistemological arguments and with regard to their emotional effects on us.

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