Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Department of Political Science
Aristotle’s political thought asks the serious student of politics to examine critically the way we use our leisure (σχολη) in the life of the city. This project aims at such a critical examination by exploring the relationship between poetry and the city. The task here is not to understand the political commentary of a specific poetic work but to understand the way that poetry has a use in the life of the city. Traditionally this relationship is explored through piety but I argue that Aristotle rejects this foundation and grounds the usefulness of poetry in how we learn mimetically. Because of this, the highest political utility of poetry depends on a kind of education of empathy (ἔλεός). This refinement then serves two functions for the city. The first: poetry arouses within us the same emotional structure necessary for life in the city and helps to cultivate a shared sense of judgment about blame and mercy. The second develops from the first: poetry forces the non-decent to have a clarified sense of what is worthy of forgiveness. The non-decent, by being forced to give mercy to a protagonist, makes them imitate the appropriate kind of decision-making necessary for adjudicating blame. In these two ways, poetry helps to establish a sense of political friendship within the city and helps to reinforce decency/equity (ἐπιείκεια), therefore a belief in the justness of the law, by forcing us to allocate blame and mercy appropriately.
Clouse, Stephen Eugene, "The Political Utility of Poetry in Aristotle’s Thought" (2021). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 6935.
Northern Illinois University
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