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Aristotle's Poetics as an Extension of his Ethical and Political Theory

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In this paper I seek to link Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics to his Poetics. Specifically, I wish to argue that his ethical and political works imply that the realization of the human good, virtuous activity, can come about only given extended political experience. I then suggest that poetry (as presented by Aristotle in the Poetics) might itself be seen as a form of political experience that can strengthen and clarify ethical and political theory and aid in the realization of virtue. By representing concrete examples of human life -- particular men acting in an unpredictable and contingent world -- and simultaneously observing certain dramatic rules, poetry helps to fill the gap between raw political experience and formal abstract theory. It captures the unique and indeterminate nature of varied human lives in a distilled and organized way, encouraging the audience's active participation and exercising those vital but elusive critical capacities which demand reason but go beyond deduction and rule following. Aristotle's Poetics illuminates, in a way that the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics cannot, the essential role of both reason and creativity in virtuous action.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, Email:

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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