Aristotle defends poetry in his remarkable work Poetics. He believes that Plato was wrong when he defined poetry as an imitation of the phenomenal world. For Aristotle, poetry is not a mere slavish imitation of the phenomenal world. It is rather the imitation which is closer to the reality that exists in the world of forms.
Plato used the word imitation for poetry. He said that poet uses to imitate things from the phenomenal world which are thrice removed from the truth that resides in the form of the world. Thus, poetry leads its subject away from the reality that is why Plato pronounced it as the “Mother of Lies”. Aristotle on the other hand, defended poetry from such accusation. He follows Plato’s concept that poetry imitates, however, he rejects that poetry is a slavish imitation of the phenomenal world.
Poetry, according to Aristotle, is not a slavish mimicry, it is rather the act of pure imagination by which a poet perceives an object from the phenomenal world and creates something new out of it. This sort of representation is not possible by an ordinary mind. Poet has the ability to convert the reality into a higher form. Poetry is not the servile depiction of things; it is rather a representation of the reality which can also be imitated by music. Aristotle enlarges the scope of poetry, he asserts that the poetry does not imitate the appearance of the objects; it captures the true essence embedded within these objects.
Aristotle explains that the objects of imitation of poetry are “men in action”. Poetry may represent men worse than they truly are or in a better form. Poet brings order out of Chaos by recreating and representing things by a new prospective and new order.
Aristotle prefers poetry to history because he believes that history is a mere account of facts that had happened in the past. However, poetry tells what may happen. A poet picks a particular object or emotion and draws a universal and ideal idea from that. Poetry represents the universal in the particular. By such representation, poetry shares the ultimate truth’s quests of philosophy. Poetry and philosophy both aspire to achieve higher truth which is unachievable by any other disciplines.
For Aristotle, poetry is an art which reproduces the original object or passion not as they are. Poetry is the representation of images and ideas that lingers in the mind of the poet. Poet sees beyond the phenomenal world and perceives the reality that is closer to the reality of the world of forms.