The Aristotelian Psychology of Tragic Mimêsis
In this article I argue that the view of mimesis presented in Poetics 4 entails the Aristotelian psychology of induction. I claim that, if Poet. 1448b5–19 has been thought to regard a cognitively trivial identification from resemblance, it is because the expressive character of ancient Greek painting has been neglected. When the psychology of mimesis is set in the larger context of Aristotle’s philosophy, it becomes clear that Poetics 4 and 9 presuppose a sophisticated engagement by the ideal audience of tragic mimesis with ethical universals in the context of theōria (philosophic contemplation). This engagement re-actualizes the cognition of already known universals, under which the viewer inductively ranges the particulars of the tragic action. Attention to the two-way nature of induction is crucial for a right understanding of the psychology of tragic viewing. The process of induction moves not only from particulars to universals but also from universals to particulars. My analysis supports the view that the final cause of tragic mimesis is cognitive: to the theoric contemplation of universals through the praxis of drama, it joins the spectator’s judgment of assent to the ethical universals that rule his cosmos.
- The Poetics in Its Aristotelian Context