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Poetics was one of Aristotle’s briefest works, and only half of it has been preserved. Nevertheless, it contains so many fruitful insights and canons of literary art that it has been turned to constantly by literati and philosophers since Aristotle’s time. It has a history of varying interpretations, as well...

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Poetics was one of Aristotle’s briefest works, and only half of it has been preserved. Nevertheless, it contains so many fruitful insights and canons of literary art that it has been turned to constantly by literati and philosophers since Aristotle’s time. It has a history of varying interpretations, as well as variant manuscripts. The present review makes use chiefly of the translation and commentary of S. H. Butcher.

Unlike most of Aristotle’s work, Poetics contains little argument. Rather, it simply analyzes poetic art as it existed in Aristotle’s time and as he understood it. The lasting influence of the work attests to the worth of his observations. Modern readers must make adjustments for the narrower scope and achievement of literature of that day and for the specific nature, particularly in metrics, of the Greek language.

Poetics treats tragedy and (very briefly) epic poetry. A second portion on comedy has been lost. All the kinds of poetry, Aristotle finds, are modes of imitation of character, emotion, and action, but they differ in respect to the medium of imitation (which includes rhythm, meter or language, and harmony or tune); the manner of imitation (that is, whether staged as a play, or sung, or narrated); and the objects of imitation. The objects of all artistic imitations are actions, and these always have some degree of moral quality. Hence people must be portrayed as either better than in real life, worse, or the same. The difference between tragedy and comedy, Aristotle affirms, is that tragedy aims at representing people as better than they actually are and comedy as worse.

Tragedy

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Aristotle defines tragedy as “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.” The terms of this definition have undergone much interpretation. Butcher states that action (praxis) for Aristotle included the whole life of the mind, as well as mere motion of the body—an inner energy working outward. This is the object imitated by drama and other arts; and under this interpretation, dramatic action is much more than physical action alone. Imitation (mimesis) was a term used disparagingly by Plato, and perhaps popularly, to which Aristotle gave a new meaning. Because the object of poetic imitation was human life and human nature, imitation meant an expression of the universal element in human life. Aesthetically, the real and the ideal come together in this way; the ideal is the real freed from limitations of alien influences and chance and enabled to work out its own development from beginning to end. Thus imitation became a creative process that could improve on nature.

Purgation (katharsis) is applied, in the definition, to pity and fear, by which the spectator is moved. Reference to Politica (second Athenian period, 335-323 b.c.e.; Politics, 1598) to Techn rhetoriks (second Athenian period, 335-323 b.c.e.; Rhetoric, 1686), and to contemporary medical writings shed more light on this purgation than Poetics alone does. Aristotle considered pity and fear to be painful emotions. Pity is what one feels upon observing another in a situation in which he would fear for himself. Just as the playing of frenzied music has the effect of calming those possessed (an actual practice in Aristotle’s times), the presentation of events arousing pity and fear would allay these emotions latent in the spectator, and thus bring pleasure. These are the universal elements of human nature that it is proper for tragedy in particular to imitate.

Tragedy requires six parts: rhythm, song, metrical wording—these three are the kinds of ornament that embellish the language—spectacle (the staging of the play), character of those portrayed, and their thought. What the completeness of tragedy requires, however, is that the piece have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not necessarily follow anything but is naturally followed by something else. An end is what must follow another thing but need not be followed by anything. A middle both follows and must be followed by something else. As to magnitude, the imitation should not be so long as to give difficulty in remembering or comprehending the action; but within this limitation, the longer it may be, the finer a creative production. Further, it must be long enough to allow naturally a change from good to bad fortune, or bad to good. The action must be both single and complete, such that to add or subtract an element of plot would disorganize or disrupt, rather than enhance, the action. In these descriptions, Aristotle recognized the dramatic principle of unity of action, which, along with the unities of time and place that he suggested, were zealously observed in neoclassical times.

Plot, Aristotle says, is the very soul of tragedy. Being the arrangement of the incidents, it is what portrays the action. “For Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality.” Character determines people’s qualities, and these together with their thought determine their actions. Dramatic action, therefore, does not aim at the representation of character; character is subsidiary to the action.

Aristotle approves the origin of the plots of most Greek tragedies in Greek myth. In telling the nature of tragedy, he states that a poet is unlike a historian, not writing about what has happened but rather about what may happen. Thus he acknowledges the transformation of events by the poetic imagination. Plato had barred poets, whom he considered immoral falsifiers, from the ideal republic until they could write poetry convincingly arguing for their own reinstatement. In other words, poetry should be didactic or argumentative and have a moral purpose. Aristotle in Poetics attempts to rehabilitate poetry from this low estimate. He shows here a function of poetry that Plato had entirely overlooked, for if poetry imitates what ought to happen rather than what has happened, it imitates the universal rather than the particular. Hence poetry, Aristotle concludes, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history.

Aristotle recognizes three parts of the plot of tragedy, calling plots complex when so divided and simple if there were no divisions. One part is reversal of the situation, or peripeteia, such as when an act of the hero produces the opposite from the intended effect. Another is recognition or discovery, anagnorisis, in which a character acquires knowledge of a fact, producing love or hate toward another character. These two, when simultaneous, are most effective in arousing pity or fear. The third part of the complex plot is the final suffering. It does not turn upon a surprise as do the others, but like them will be most effective as a probable or natural outcome of other events.

What of the person chiefly concerned in these actions? The tragedy must not bring a perfectly virtuous person from prosperity to adversity, nor raise a bad person from adversity to prosperity, nor yet depict a villain receiving his or her deserts, for none of these would both satisfy the moral sense and inspire pity and fear. The remaining possibility is of a person not eminently good and just but unmarked by vice or depravity, who is brought to adversity by some error or fault (hamartia). Here Aristotle seems perhaps to contradict the earlier statement that tragedy shows people better than in real life, for such would seem to be “eminently good” people. Part of the difficulty lies in the translation of hamartia, which has variously been rendered “tragic flaw,” conveying the idea of a radical character trait such as excessive pride, or “error in judgment,” conveying simply a mistaken interpretation of some event. At any rate, Aristotle seems to intend a hero who falls short of perfection yet is better than people usually are, and whose virtue and shortcomings both are related to the events of the drama in which the character is set.

Therefore, the best tragedy will have a complex rather than simple plot, and because it concerns the sort of character described above, it will show a change from prosperity to adversity. The fear and pity that come from the structure of the tragedy, such as when a hero intends or performs harm to a person without knowing him to be his father or his son, is superior to the fear and pity arising from the spectacle alone, as when one sees the violent act performed.

Four requirements are laid upon character. First, it must be good. Any speech or action that shows moral purpose will express character, and if the purpose is good, will express good character. Second is propriety; any trait must be appropriate to the person in whom depicted. Third, the character must be true to life. Last, it must be consistent; or if inconsistent, at least consistently inconsistent. The construction of both plot and character should aim at the necessary, the probable, and the rational. If deviations occur, they must be outside the scope of the tragedy. Both the complication and the unraveling of the plot must arise out of causes within the plot itself, and a deus ex machina should be used only for events antecedent or subsequent to those of the plot. Although the depiction of character should be true to life, it should be yet more beautiful, like a portrait.

The two stages of the plot are the complication and the unraveling or denouement. The complication contains everything up to the turning point to good or bad fortune. The unraveling extends from the beginning point of the change to the end of the play. The dramatist should master both. With respect to existing tragedies, there are four types:1. the complex, depending entirely on reversal of the situation and recognition 2. the pathetic, in which the motive is passion 3. the ethical, where the motives are moral 4. the simple

If possible, poets should attempt to combine all elements, to produce the best type, the complex. They should not attempt to take an epic structure, which has a multiplicity of plots, and make it into a tragedy. Even the chorus should be regarded as one of the actors, and the choral songs should share in the action rather than serve as mere interludes.

As to thought, little needs to be added to what has been said in Rhetoric. Thought makes up every effect produced by speech and has as subdivisions (1) proof and refutation; (2) the excitation of the feelings such as pity, anger, fear; and (3) the suggestion of degree of importance (amplification). Just as incidents should speak for themselves without verbal exposition, the speeches should effectively produce the speaker’s desired effect on their own strength.

Poetic Diction

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Turning to the diction of poetry, Aristotle classifies words as either current, strange, metaphorical, ornamental, newly coined, lengthened, contracted, or altered. The latter five are used by poets for their immediate purposes of expression or meter. A word is strange if used in another country, current if in general use in one’s own. Metaphor is the transference of a name from one thing to another by certain relationships that Aristotle carefully describes. It may transfer a name from a genus to a species, from species to genus, from species to species, or by analogy or proportion. In metaphor by analogy or proportion, the second term is to the first as the fourth term is to the third; for example, old age is to life as evening is to day, so one may speak of “the evening of life.” Sometimes one of the terms is lacking, with no word existing to fill its place, but such a metaphor may still provide expression. A poet says “sowing the god-created light” where some unnamed process is to light as sowing is to seed. A command of metaphor is the greatest mark of a good writer, yet it cannot be taught by another and is a mark of genius. Other embellishments may be employed to secure good effect by causing style to depart from the normal idiom—only, of course, in due proportion and with propriety. The use of these devices of language can achieve greater clarity of style. The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean.

The Epic

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The epic, Aristotle declares, in many ways is like tragedy. It should be constructed on dramatic principles. It too should resemble a living organism in its unity, having as its object a single action with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Epics, like tragedies, can be divided into four kinds: the simple, complex, ethical, and pathetic. Epics have the same parts excepting song and spectacle—that is, rhythm, poetic language, character, and thought.

The epic differs from tragedy in scale and meter. It has a special capacity for enlarging the dimensions of tragedy, for narrators can transcend the limits of the stage. Epics can achieve greater diversity of materials and can narrate simultaneous events, thus adding mass and dignity. As to meter, nature has revealed the proper one, the heroic or iambic hexameter that is the gravest and weightiest; for experience has shown others more suitable to other compositions and leaves only this still in use.

Poets should obtrude into the narrative as little as possible; many have failed, not realizing that it is not in this respect that they imitate. Homer excels in this, as he does also with respect to magnitude and unity. Again, Homer has shown the way in telling false things skillfully. He recounts one event such as would be caused by another, the earlier actually being false or impossible; and thus makes the reader fallaciously infer that the impossible event did occur. The diction should be elaborated in the pauses of incident, not in the action, so as not to obscure character and thought.

In a chapter near the end of Poetics, Aristotle lists certain criticisms such as might be applied to a poet’s work and offers replies that the poet might make. Some dozen criticisms are gathered around five general objections: that the works are either impossible, irrational, morally harmful, contradictory, or contrary to artistic correctness. To provide a basis to combat such charges, Aristotle draws attention ti the following statements.

The poet, as an imitator, can imitate one of only three objects—things as they were or are, things as they are said or thought to be, or things as they ought to be. The vehicle of expression is language. The standard of correctness must be acknowledged to be not the same in poetry and politics, just as it is not the same with poetry and any other art. The faults of poetry may be either essential or accidental. If a poet poorly imitates, through want of capacity, the error is essential. However, if the error is of imputing a wrong gait to a horse or a wrong treatment to a physician, this error is not essential to the poetry but accidental.

When something is challenged as impossible, it must be justified by reference to artistic requirements (a probably rendered impossibility being preferred to an improbable possibility), or to a higher reality (the ideal sometimes serving the artist better than the actual), or to received opinion (popular report sometimes receiving greater acceptance than the actuality). The irrational and the depraved are justly censured when introduced with no artistic necessity. Seeming contradictions should be examined, as in dialectic, by asking whether the same thing is meant in both cases, in the same relation, and in the same sense. Again, if a description is called factually untrue, poets may reply that they have described things not as they are but as they ought to be; or as people say them to be, such as the tales about the gods.

Further, if the morality of a particular act or saying is challenged, one must point out that one cannot look to that alone but must consider by whom it is done or said, and to whom, when, how, and why. Aristotle here hints, but fails to say directly, that the aesthetic question of whether an immoral act should be depicted is different from the “political” question of whether that act is moral.

Various objections are met by a due regard for language, as when the critic has missed metaphorical intent, an ambiguity, or some legitimate sense of the word used, such as its usage among a foreign people.

In his last chapter, Aristotle attacks the existing opinion that the epic is a higher form of art than the tragic. His opponents have said that the more refined is the higher, and that whatever is received as best by the better sort of audience is the most refined. The art that imitates anything and everything is most unrefined, since boorish audiences are pleased only when something of their own is thrown in, and tragedy provides gesture and spectacle to appease such an audience. The epic, not needing these, must be the higher of the two.

Aristotle meets this argument first by diverting its force. The censure attaches not to the poetic but to the histrionic art—and the deliverer of an epic may be just as guilty of excessive gesture as an actor. Further, not all gesture and spectacle, but only bad acting, should be condemned. Again, tragedy can secure its effect without being staged, by the mere reading, so that if this fault were present, it would not be an inherent but an accidental one. Furthermore, tragedy is superior, having not only all the elements of epic but also the accessories of song and spectacle, which produce the most vivid of pleasures; and it attains its end within narrower limits than does epic, a concentrated effect being more pleasurable than one more diluted. Finally, the tragedy is superior in unity, any epic being capable of providing the material for several tragedies. Tragedy, then, fulfills its proper function better and is a higher art than epic poetry.

Additional Reading

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Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.

Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.

Aristotle. Poetics. Translated by Richard Janko. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. Presents a first-rate translation of the Poetics. Thorough, extensive notes.

Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.

Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.

Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on major aspects of his work.

Broadie, Sarah. Ethics with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. This carefully done book concentrates on Aristotle’s ethical theory and its implications.

Brumbaugh, Robert S. The Philosophers of Greece. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981. An introductory study that discusses Aristotle’s philosophy within the larger context of the Greek world.

Cooper, John M. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975. Cooper’s book is a study of the “theoretical backbone” of Aristotle’s moral philosophy—his theories of practical reasoning and of human happiness.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. A leading scholar of Western philosophy discusses Aristotle’s life as well as his logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Edel, Abraham. Aristotle and His Philosophy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1996. A careful and helpful study by a veteran interpreter of Western thought.

Else, Gerald F. Plato and Aristotle on Poetry. Edited by Peter Burian. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. This posthumous edition of the work of an outstanding Aristotelian scholar and translator has eleven chapters devoted to a discussion of the Poetics.

Ferguson, John. Aristotle. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Assisting the general reader in the study of Aristotle’s works, this book discusses Aristotle’s life and his views about nature and psychology and also offers perspectives on Aristotle’s lasting influence.

Grube, G. M. A., trans. On Poetry and Style. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Provides an excellent translation of the Poetics. Directly relevant to the study of language and literature. Good introduction and notes.

Halliwell, Stephen. Aristotle’s Poetics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Provides a thorough and extensive commentary on the Poetics. Includes Halliwell’s own translation and a helpful bibliography.

Hughes, Gerard J. Aristotle on Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. A fresh introduction to the philosopher, refining the translation of Arstotle’s terms with a sensitivity to context.

Husain, Martha. Ontology and the Art of Tragedy: An Approach to Aristotle’s Poetics. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. An examination of the Poetics using Metaphysics as a touchstone. Husain demonstrates the relationship between the works and how the latter illuminates the former.

Jones, W. T. A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. Combines historical interpretation of Aristotle’s far-reaching thought with relevant readings from Aristotle’s writings.

Kenny, Anthony. Aristotle on the Perfect Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. This work focuses on Aristotle’s views about human nature, ethics, and politics.

Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle and Logical Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. A detailed study of Aristotle’s views on logic and their continuing significance for understanding human reasoning.

McLeisch, Kenneth. Aristotle. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Mulgan, R. G. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. Seeks to bring the major themes and arguments in Aristotle’s political theory into sharper focus than they appear in the Politics itself.

Olson, Elder, ed. Aristotle’s “Poetics” and English Literature: A Collection of Critical Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965. Discusses the Poetics and its history; also demonstrates the Aristotelian method of literary analysis. Olson’s introduction is an excellent place to begin study of the Poetics.

Randall, John Herman, Jr. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. An older but reliable survey of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Robinson, Timothy A. Aristotle in Outline. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1995. Accessible to beginning students, this clearly written survey covers Aristotle’s full range of thought.

Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg, ed. Essays on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics.’ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. An important collection of essays that concentrates on various facets of Aristotle’s influential moral philosophy.

Smith, Thomas W. Revaluing “Ethics”: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Smith argues for a reading of Ethics, not as a moral guidebook, but as a pedagogy—course work—for developing a questioning mind.

Strathern, Paul. Aristotle in Ninety Minutes. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996. A brief, easily accessible, introductory overview of Aristotle’s philosophy.

George W. Van Devender John K. Roth

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 851

Additional Reading

Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.

Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.

Aristotle. Poetics. Translated by Richard Janko. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. Presents a first-rate translation of the Poetics. Thorough, extensive notes.

Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.

Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.

Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on major aspects of his work.

Broadie, Sarah. Ethics with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. This carefully done book concentrates on Aristotle’s ethical theory and its implications.

Brumbaugh, Robert S. The Philosophers of Greece. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981. An introductory study that discusses Aristotle’s philosophy within the larger context of the Greek world.

Cooper, John M. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975. Cooper’s book is a study of the “theoretical backbone” of Aristotle’s moral philosophy—his theories of practical reasoning and of human happiness.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. A leading scholar of Western philosophy discusses Aristotle’s life as well as his logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Edel, Abraham. Aristotle and His Philosophy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1996. A careful and helpful study by a veteran interpreter of Western thought.

Else, Gerald F. Plato and Aristotle on Poetry. Edited by Peter Burian. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. This posthumous edition of the work of an outstanding Aristotelian scholar and translator has eleven chapters devoted to a discussion of the Poetics.

Ferguson, John. Aristotle. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Assisting the general reader in the study of Aristotle’s works, this book discusses Aristotle’s life and his views about nature and psychology and also offers perspectives on Aristotle’s lasting influence.

Grube, G. M. A., trans. On Poetry and Style. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Provides an excellent translation of the Poetics. Directly relevant to the study of language and literature. Good introduction and notes.

Halliwell, Stephen. Aristotle’s Poetics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Provides a thorough and extensive commentary on the Poetics. Includes Halliwell’s own translation and a helpful bibliography.

Hughes, Gerard J. Aristotle on Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. A fresh introduction to the philosopher, refining the translation of Arstotle’s terms with a sensitivity to context.

Husain, Martha. Ontology and the Art of Tragedy: An Approach to Aristotle’s Poetics. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. An examination of the Poetics using Metaphysics as a touchstone. Husain demonstrates the relationship between the works and how the latter illuminates the former.

Jones, W. T. A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. Combines historical interpretation of Aristotle’s far-reaching thought with relevant readings from Aristotle’s writings.

Kenny, Anthony. Aristotle on the Perfect Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. This work focuses on Aristotle’s views about human nature, ethics, and politics.

Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle and Logical Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. A detailed study of Aristotle’s views on logic and their continuing significance for understanding human reasoning.

McLeisch, Kenneth. Aristotle. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Mulgan, R. G. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. Seeks to bring the major themes and arguments in Aristotle’s political theory into sharper focus than they appear in the Politics itself.

Olson, Elder, ed. Aristotle’s “Poetics” and English Literature: A Collection of Critical Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965. Discusses the Poetics and its history; also demonstrates the Aristotelian method of literary analysis. Olson’s introduction is an excellent place to begin study of the Poetics.

Randall, John Herman, Jr. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. An older but reliable survey of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Robinson, Timothy A. Aristotle in Outline. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1995. Accessible to beginning students, this clearly written survey covers Aristotle’s full range of thought.

Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg, ed. Essays on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics.’ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. An important collection of essays that concentrates on various facets of Aristotle’s influential moral philosophy.

Smith, Thomas W. Revaluing “Ethics”: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Smith argues for a reading of Ethics, not as a moral guidebook, but as a pedagogy—course work—for developing a questioning mind.

Strathern, Paul. Aristotle in Ninety Minutes. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996. A brief, easily accessible, introductory overview of Aristotle’s philosophy.

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