Plato and Aristotle :
Plato. Attempts to strip artists of the power and prominence they enjoy in his society, while Aristotle tries to develop a method of inquiry to determine the merits of an individual work of art.
Both philosophers are concerned with the artist's ability to have significant impact on others. It is the imitative function of art which promotes disdain in Plato and curiosity.
Both philosophers hold radically different notions of reality. The assumptions each man makes about truth, knowledge, and goodness directly affect their specific ideas about art, For Plato, art imitates a world that is already far removed from authentic reality, Truth. Truth exists only in intellectual abstraction, that is, more real than concrete objects.
The physical world, the world of appearances experienced through the senses, does not harbor reality. This tangible world is an imperfect reflection of the universal world of Forms. Human observations based on these reflections are, therefore, highly suspect.
Art is removed from any notion of real truth, an inherently flawed copy of an already imperfect world. Art as an imitation is irrelevant to what is real.
Aristotle approaches reality from a completely different premise. While his ideas do stand in sharp contrast to Plato's, they are not simply a denial of his former mentor's views. To Aristotle, the world exists in an infinitely diverse series of parts.
Aristotle encourages embracing the particular in order to possibly gain a sense of the universal. There is, however, no universal system of inquiry to investigate each part of the whole. Different parts require different methods of discourse.
In The poetics, Aristotle attempts to articulate a method of inquiry, not a rigid system or standard of evaluation, applicable to tragedy. Tragedy attempts to imitate the complex world of human actions, also it is a manifestation of the human desire to imitate.
The actual process of imitation employed by the artist seems to underscore each philosopher's vision of reality. A Platonic artist lacks any substantial knowledge of the subject that is imitated.
The artist is "an imitator of images and is very far removed from the truth". Plato claims that, because the artist is adept at manipulating the emotional responses of an audience. While it attempts to claim truth as its domain, art as a process of imitation is a deceptive but essentially superficial and imperfect enterprise.
Aristotle describes imitation as a creative process of selection, translation, and transformation from one media to another. Art attempts to imitate human action, not specific individuals. The literary artist seeks to portray accurately the general actions of human life (happiness, misery) within the confines of a consciously constructed sequence of particular events and characters.
Poetry, for example, can thus be described as human action given new form by language.
Tragedy, implies more than the act of copying because the artist is an active participant in the process.
The artist attempts to transcend individual details to provide an audience with fleeting glimpses, insights about the truth of human existence.
To Aristotle, it is the attempt to point toward a broader sense of the truth of human existence, its concern with "the universal'', which makes tragedy valuable.
Tragedy's value, is inherently connected to the process of imitating not only the world as it is known, but the world as it should be.
Aristotle, helps others understand how a tragedy operates in its parts and as a whole.
Tragedy, is to Aristotle an inherently ethical endeavor.
It is this con ception of art which threatens P lato's pur suit of truth. Because artists claim their imitations can speak to the true nature of things. Art widens the gap between truth and the world of appearances, ironically by claiming to beach it. In Plato's idealized Republic or his actual society, the threat art poses to attaining knowledge and becoming good is significant and everywhere. ''The power which poetry has of harming even the good is surely an awful thing''.
Art cannot promote falsehood and remain neutral in this debate. False imitations breed false hopes by claiming to point toward the truth. Since the physical universe Plato describes is itself a pale imitation of its true form, art is also imperfect and must be controlled