Why does Aristotle claim in Poetics that poetry is more philosophical and grave than history?

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In the Poetics, Aristotle writes that poetry is more philosophical and of greater importance than history because it deals with universals rather than specifics, the wide range of things that could happen instead of the narrow range of things that have happened.

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In chapter 9 of the Poetics, Aristotle writes that poetry is a more serious matter than history and that it is closer to philosophy. This is because poetry, like philosophy, is concerned with the universal rather than the specific. History is an account of the relatively small number of things that have happened in the world, but poetry can include anything that might happen and therefore has a wider scope.

Aristotle goes on to specify that by the universal, he means the way in which a person of a certain type would speak or act in a certain situation "according to the law of probability or necessity." This brings poetry close to what is now called psychology. When the audience observes the behavior of Oedipus, Creon, or Antigone in particular circumstances, they gain a deeper understanding of human nature than they would from reading about how a real king or general acted in a historical text.

The conduct of the characters in drama must contain recognizable psychological truth in order to be approved as the way in which a person of that type would act in that situation. The dramatic performance, therefore, also fosters a communal understanding among the audience, including universal values and ideals.

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"Poetry is something more philosophic and of graver important than history". Discuss.

To determine the importance of poetry as opposed to history, the two genres should be considered in terms of their content.  The good poet uses his or her art to provide the reader with a view of the inner heart and soul of the individual poet.

History, in turn, is more collective. It is an apparently concrete depiction of events that occurred, as provided by eye witnesses or historical documents. Hence, its focus on realism is more concrete and less philosophic than that of poetry.

Poetry, however, could also be collective. This is clear when different epochs of poetry are considered.  In ancient times, for example, the epic poem was the norm, with its focus on the morality of the hero. Currently, the free form is more common, having started with the poetry of Walt Whitman and his focus on the celebration of self.

What makes poetry more important than history is its honesty. Too often, history tends to favor the perspective of its writers.  For centuries, for example, South African colonialists have favored the white perspective of the country’s history, all but burying the contribution of black South Africans to what the country has become. It has been more difficult, however, to bury the poetry of the oppressed.

Poetry is raw emotion in response to the events of any given time.  The emotional content and subsequent basic honesty of emotion in poetry creates in it a genre that is a far more accurate indication of the human experience than formal history can ever be.

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