The Lost Second Book of Aristotle's "Poetics"

University of Chicago Press
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Of all the writings on theory and aesthetics—ancient, medieval, or modern—the most important is indisputably Aristotle’s Poetics, the first philosophical treatise to propound a theory of literature. In the Poetics, Aristotle writes that he will speak of comedy—but there is no further mention of comedy. Aristotle writes also that he will address catharsis and an analysis of what is funny. But he does not actually address any of those ideas. The surviving Poetics is incomplete.

Until today. Here, Walter Watson offers a new interpretation of the lost second book of Aristotle's Poetics. Based on Richard Janko’s philological reconstruction of the epitome, a summary first recovered in 1839 and hotly contested thereafter, Watson mounts a compelling philosophical argument that places the statements of this summary of the Aristotelian text in their true context. Watson renders lucid and complete explanations of Aristotle’s ideas about catharsis, comedy, and a summary account of the different types of poetry, ideas that influenced not only Cicero’s theory of the ridiculous, but also Freud’s theory of jokes, humor, and the comic.

Finally, more than two millennia after it was first written, and after five hundred years of scrutiny, Aristotle’s Poetics is more complete than ever before. Here, at last, Aristotle’s lost second book is found again.

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About the author

Walter Watson is professor emeritus of philosophy at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. His previous book was The Architectonics of Meaning: Foundations of the New Pluralism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jun 29, 2012
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780226875101
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Ancient & Classical
Philosophy / Aesthetics
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
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When Don Featherstone's plastic pink flamingos were first advertised in the 1957 Sears catalogue, these were the instructions. The flamingos are placed on the cover of this book for another reason: to start us asking questions. That's where philosophy always begins.

Introducing Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art is written to introduce students to a broad array of questions that have occupied philosophers since antiquity, and which continue to bother us today-questions like:
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- If someone likes plastic pink flamingos, does that mean they have bad taste? Is bad taste a bad thing?
- Do Featherstone's pink flamingos mean anything? If so, does that depend on what Featherstone meant in designing them?

Each chapter opens using a real world example - such as Marcel Duchamp's signed urinal, The Exorcist, and the ugliest animal in the world - to introduce and illustrate the issues under discussion. These case studies serve as touchstones throughout the chapter, keeping the concepts grounded and relatable.

With its trademark conversational style, clear explanations, and wealth of supporting features, Introducing Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art is the ideal introduction to the major problems, issues, and debates in the field. Now expanded and revised for its second edition, Introducing Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art is designed to give readers the background and the tools necessary to begin asking and answering the most intriguing questions about art and beauty, even when those questions are about pink plastic flamingos.
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