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Plato & Aristotle's Views on Art

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Philosopher's Views  on Art

Plato

Plato believed that art was of little value as he was an idealist. He argued that everything seen on earth were simply copies of an original, thus art was worthless as an object/ art is mimicked and hence far from the truth. Plato interprets this to mean that art cannot give the viewer any real knowledge or universal truth about the world as artists are creating works of falsity. And that those that create art must be masters of their craft and knowledgeable, however with every copy, the piece of art becomes inferior, Plato was opposed to these types of art.

Furthermore, he was convinced that art can appeal to and/or evoke dangerous emotions that are destructive to men’s acquisition of knowledge and truth, and overall harmful to society. Hence during his time, he argued for the strict censorship of music and poetry.

Plato view individual artistic ability as a form of “divine inspiration” rather than a “techne” – something that can be taught and learn. He placed artists in a lower hierarchy than people who belong to fields such as medicine, building and arithmetics.

Aristotle

Although Aristotle associated art with imitation, he saw value in art.

He seemed to believe in the notion of an objective beauty. That there were universal characteristics a work of art must have to be objectified as beautiful. He states in the Metaphysics that, “the chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness”.

Aristotle agreed with Plato that art appeals to a unruly side of humanity, however unlike Plato, he viewed art to be beneficial for society, by encouraging animalistic characteristics and allowing oneself to fully express themselves. For example, literal arts can focus on tragedy through displaying flaws of a tragic hero in dramatic forms, this arouses one’s fear and pity. Hence straying one away from committing similar acts and directly improving society. Due to the fact that experiencing art may give a sense of tragedy, this enables individuals to experience a purgation that would rid them of their dangerous emotions.

Furthermore he argued that one’s ability to create art was a valuable “teche” and required the same amount of learning and skill as other forms of craftsmanship. Aristotle viewed mimicry of objects as a positive, as he believed that an artist mimics an object by investigating the object, thus he is knowledgeable on the topic and is teaching viewers. To Aristotle even an unpleasant display of art can be of value, as long as there are viewers that can find ‘beauty’ inside of the particular work of art.

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