Alex Neill

in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279456
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577239 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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Questions concerning the value of poetry have been of interest to philosophers and critics ever since Plato issued his challenge, in Book X of the Republic, to poetry's ‘champions’, to show that poetry is not, as he argued it to be, epistemically and morally a corrupting influence on individuals and society. Aristotle's Poetics is in effect in large part a response to that challenge. Where Plato argued that poetry's appeal to emotion in its audience was degrading, Aristotle argued that the capacity of tragedy to bring about the catharsis of pity and fear in the audience made it, in one way or another (unfortunately the obscurity of the notion of catharsis in the Poetics makes it very difficult to say precisely how), a force for good in the pursuit of psychological and moral health.

Keywords: poetry; value of poetry; corrupting influence; Aristotle's works; catharsis; moral health

Article.  4504 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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