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Nicomachean Ethics.

Three functions of reason:

1.     theoretical (theoria): grasping the eternal truths which are so basic that they cannot be derived from any higher premises  and reasoning rigorously to conclusions.

2.     making (poesis): bringing something into existence; techne as know-how.  Note that poesis in the broad sense includes all the arts (just like "art," in the broad sense in English).

3.     doing (praxis): fully human action, pursuing reflectively chosen goals through reflectively chosen means, exercising excellence (e.g., courage, self-mastery, justice) so as to activate the potentials of a noble life.



Classification and description of the arts is the basis of (philosophic) science.    Comedy, Epic, Tragedy (definition, p. 70) (which has

the unity of time "endeavors to keep as far as possible within a single circuit of the sun" (70),

the unity of plot: an action that is complete in itself, a whole with a beginning, middle, and end (72);

the unity of character: the person must act in a way that would be probable or necessary, given that type of character.

"The character of the protagonists should be consistent, and the action should be the sort of action those characters would produce under those circumstances. The time of the action should also be unified, so that the plot can be held in memory as one action."  http://www.rowan.edu/philosop/clowney/Aesthetics/philos_artists_onart/aristotle.htm

November 7, 2005.


"Imitation" (mimesis) means setting forth, representing in a broad sense (not necessarily copying).  The term does not have the connotations of superficiality that it has in Plato.  Neither is Aristotle as idealistic as Plato.  The poet represents actions of persons with various kinds of character.  Note that even when the things themselves are painful to see, "we delight to view the most realistic representations of them in art" (68).

            The Suppliant Maidens by Aeschylus drama begins with the arrival of a ship bringing fifty Egyptian women and their father/spokesman to the shores of Argos.  They seek protection from pursuing Egyptian men who would force them into "impious marriage."  The women introduce themselves to Pelasgus the king of Argos by revealing their kinship with the Argives, their special claim to protection.  They narrate their genealogy, a lineage that Aeschylus may not have meant the discerning among the audience to take literally.  To portray these dark Egyptian women as kin to the Argives, as equally the descendants of Zeus, is Aeschylus' spiritual insight.  In modern terms, the universal fatherhood of God is the source of the brotherhood of man.  Even after accepting that the women and their father are originally also Argives, the king has a decision to make, and he is in the throes of uncertainty.  From the outset we were reminded that the will of Zeus is "not easily traced.  Everywhere it gleams, even in blackness."  The king acknowledges, "I am at a loss, and fearful is my heart."  The king's dilemma is that if he protects the women, he risks destructive war with the pursuing Egyptians; if the king does not protect them, the women threaten suicide upon the altar for suppliants, a move that would bring and divine retribution.  What is needed to clarify the decision?  "We need profound, preserving care, that plunges/ Like a diver deep in troubles seas,/ Keen and unblurred his eye, to make the end/ Without disaster for us and for the city . . . ."  In the moment of decision, the crucial factor is "the height of mortal fear," making the king unwilling to offend Zeus, who is also a suppliant li


ke these maidens.  As the king turns to appeal to the people (who sustain his request), he expresses his discovery of the principle of goodness that governs this situation: "Everyone,/ To those weaker than themselves, is kind."



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