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The pleasure derived from the ‘imitative arts’ is next traced to the same sources, the pleasures, namely, of learning and wonder. These being assumed, it follows that every work of imitation, as of painting, sculpture, poetry—especially dramatic poetry—(we must either read here with Vater γραφικῇ &c. in the dative, as had occurred to myself, or suppose that the ‘art’ in the three cases is carelessly substituted for the ‘product’ or result of the art); and especially any exact imitation, even when the object imitated is not pleasant in itself; the pleasure lies in the mere imitation, and arises from exercise of the intellect in drawing an inference or ‘conclusion (συλλογισμός) from this to that’; which is a reasoning process, and a kind of learning.

The inference is from the copy to the original, which must have been seen before, if any pleasure is to be derived from the imitation; and the learning arises from the observation of the two and the comparison of them whereby we acquire some knowledge of what the things really are. This explanation is found in Poet. c. 4. 5. I will quote the entire passage from the beginning of the chapter, as a complete commentary on the passage of the Rhetoric, which indeed seems to be directly taken from the other. In the Poetics, as here in the Rhetoric, the love of imitation is ultimately based upon the love of learning; § 4, αἴτιον δὲ καὶ τούτου κ.τ.λ. infra. The faculty or power of imitation which attends us from our very birth, σύμφυτον, and the love of imitation which accompanies it, both natural, are the two causes of poetry, §§ 1 2, and also of the other mimetic arts. Ἐοίκασι δὲ γεννῆσαι μὲν ὅλως τὴν ποιητικὴν αἰτίαι δύο τινές, καὶ αὗται φυσικαί. τό τε γὰρ μιμεῖσθαι σύμφυτον τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐκ παίδων ἐστί, καὶ τούτῳ διαφέρουσι τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων ὅτι μιμητικώτατόν ἐστι καὶ τὰς μαθήσεις ποιεῖται διὰ μιμήσεως τὰς πρώτας, καὶ τὸ χαίρειν τοῖς μιμήμασι πάντας. σημεῖον δὲ τοῦτο τὸ συμβαῖνον ἐπὶ τῶν ἔργων: γὰρ αὐτὰ λυπηρῶς ὁρῶμεν τούτων τὰς εἰκόνας τὰς μάλιστα ἠκριβωμένας χαίρομεν θεωροῦντες, οἷον θηρίων τε μορφὰς τῶν ἀτιμοτάτων (the lowest and most degraded) καὶ νεκρῶν. (§ 4) αἴτιον δὲ καὶ τούτου ὅτι μανθάνειν οὐ μόνον τοῖς φιλοσόφοις ἥδιστον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ὁμοίως: ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ βραχὺ κοινωνοῦσιν αὐτοῦ. διὰ γὰρ τοῦτο χαίρουσι τὰς εἰκόνας ὁρῶντες, ὅτι συμβαίνει θεωροῦντας μανθάνειν καὶ συλλογίζεσθαι τί ἕκαστον, οἷον ὅτι οὗτος ἐκεῖνος, ἐπεὶ ἐὰν μὴ τυγχάνῃ προεωρακὼς οὐ διὰ μίμημα ποιήσει τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν ἀπεργασίαν (the execution, elaboration, finish, Plat. Rep. VI 504 D) τὴν χροιὰν διὰ τοιαύτην τινὰ ἄλλην αἰτίαν. In the first three chapters of this treatise it is assumed that all the fine arts, painting, sculpture, music, and poetry in all its branches—architecture, except so far as the sculpture employed in decoration is concerned, does not appear in the list—are imitative, and derived from the love of imitation and the power of imitation characteristic of humanity; and it is upon the various modes of imitation that the division of the fine arts is founded.

In the same way the pleasure which we derive from metaphors consists in tracing the resemblance—a process of learning, μάθησίς τις— between the word ‘transferred’ and the thing it, sometimes remotely, resembles; so that here again the natural pleasure which attends all acquisition of knowledge, τὸ γὰρ μανθάνειν ῥᾳδίως ἡδὺ φύσει πᾶσίν ἐστι, is assumed as the foundation of the love of imitation. Rhet. III 10. 2. Comp. III 8. 2, ἀηδὲς γὰρ καὶ ἄγνωστον τὸ ἄπειρον. III 9. 2, 11. 9. And in Probl. XIX 5, the same principle is applied to music: διὰ τί ἥδιον ἀκούουσιν ᾀδόντων ὅσα ἂν προεπιστάμενοι τυγχάνωσι τῶν μελῶν ὧν μὴ ἐπίστανται;...... ὅτι ἡδὺ τὸ μανθάνειν; τούτου δὲ αἴτιον ὅτι τὸ μὲν λαμβάνειν τὴν ἐπιστήμην, τὸ δὲ χρῆσθαι καὶ ἀναγνωρίζειν ἐστίν.

Twining in his note on Poet. IV 4 (note 22, p. 186 seq.) in describing and illustrating this doctrine of Aristotle, remarks that ‘he does not see how any information can be said to be acquired by the spectator’ (or listener) from the mere identification of two objects, the inference that ‘this is that’. And this remark is true if this were all that Aristotle means by his doctrine. The mere identification of an object compared with one already known conveys no new knowledge, which is essential to the notion of learning. But what seems to be Aristotle's real meaning is (as I have expressed it above) that by the comparison of the representation with the original, whether it be a picture, or a trait of character in a tragedy, or a metaphor, you learn something new in this respect; that the representation, in proportion to its accuracy and finish (the number of details introduced), enables you to discover or observe by the comparison something new in the object which you had never observed before: and this is the ‘inference’ from the resemblance, which the συλλογισμός, here and in the Poetics, is intended to express. On the love of imitation, and the pleasure derived from the imitation of objects in themselves disagreeable, Schrader quotes de Part. Anim. I 5, b 45, a 5. [καὶ γὰρ ἂν εἴη ἄτοπον εἰ τὰς μὲν εἰκόνας αὐτῶν θεωροῦντες χαίρομεν ὅτι τὴν δημιουργήσασαν τέχνην συνθεωροῦμεν, οἷον τὴν γραφικὴν τὴν πλαστικήν, αὐτῶν δὲ τῶν φύσει συνεστώτων μὴ μᾶλλον ἀγαπῷμεν τὴν θεωρίαν, δυνάμενοί γε τὰς αἰτίας καθορᾶν. διὸ δεῖ μὴ δυσχεραίνειν παιδικῶς τὴν περὶ τῶν ἀτιμοτέρων ζῴων ἐπίσκεψιν.]

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