For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.
By a “general truth” I mean the sort of thing that a certain type of man will do or say either probably or necessarily. That is what poetry aims at in giving names to the characters. A “particular fact” is what Alcibiades did or what was done to him. In the case of comedy this has now become obvious, for comedians construct their plots out of probable incidents and then put in any names that occur to them. They do not, like the iambic satirists, write about individuals. In tragedy, on the other hand, they keep to real names. The reason is that what is possible carries conviction. If a thing has not happened, we do not yet believe in its possibility, but what has happened is obviously possible. Had it been impossible, it would not have happened. It is true that in some tragedies one or two of the names are familiar and the rest invented; indeed in some they are all invented, as for instance in Agathon’s Antheus, where both the incidents and the names are invented and yet it is none the less a favourite. One need not therefore endeavor invariably to keep to the traditional stories with which our tragedies deal. Indeed it would be absurd to do that, seeing that the familiar themes are familiar only to a few and yet please all.
It is clear, then, from what we have said that the poet must be a “maker” not of verses but of stories, since he is a poet in virtue of his “representation,” and what he represents is action. Even supposing he represents what has actually happened, he is none the less a poet, for there is nothing to prevent some actual occurrences being the sort of thing that would probably or inevitably happen, and it is in virtue of that that he is their “maker.”
Unsettled ChristianityOne blog to rule them all, One blog to find them, One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Whilest reading this book (to your right), the author brought to my attention an Islamic philosopher, who like others of the time, descended intellectually from Aristotle. Avicenna (980-1037) proposed several things which strikes me as necessary. First, that God is the “apex of being.” Further, the philosopher believed that God is always acting. This led to the idea that God’s creation is “both eternal and necessary.” That’s about where I stop with Avicenna.
God the Monad, as Marcellus of Ancyra would argue, would then divide economically, into the Triad. We see this type of belief in the ancient Egyptians as well, in their supreme Monad. It’s the latter view that grasps my mind, however. God is Creator first and foremost for me. He is judge because he is first creator. Further, he could not be almighty without a creation to be compared too. So, God as Creator is his first attribute. Now, to be a Creator, one must always be a creator and to always be creating. In the first premise then, if God is indeed first a Creator, then creation is by necessity and not his “freewill,” or else otherwise, God would not be Creator. The Deists among us, the Young Earth Creationists and the like, tend to believe that God finished creating, but this is far from the truth, as the “Creation Week” never ends, and we may but look at each new season, each new birth, as God’s continued Creation. (Time is but an illusion, after all).
So, in Avicenne’s use of Aristotle, I find much promise.
A powerful argument that addiction is not a disease, nor immoral…
We are neither taught nor inclined to think of addicted persons as being actively and passionately engaged in the pursuit of the good life. We tend to think of them as persons who have checked out of the game or who are positively bent on destruction. But this is not so. I maintain that addictive behavior can tell us more than almost any other kind of human behavior about what human beings most deeply desire. (97)
This is a good book. Get it.
So this is a classwork assignment. Rough draft. Blah blah blah. I didn’t want to put in what I really thought about Augustine, so, you know, I called him a book end
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas serve as bookends to the period in Western history known as the Dark Ages, but they share something in common before their Christian faith; they both discovered the use of Aristotle in forming the Christian mind. All saw in humanity a purpose, albeit differently. Beginning with Aristotle, we find that the ancient Greek master believed that humans had a purpose, and that that purpose was for the good. While Augustine and Aquinas may have called it heaven or the blessed life, for Aristotle, this good life was eudaimonia. To this goal, all human actions must aim beginning with his intellect, reason and rationality. It is little wonder why this appealed so strongly later to Christian theologians, as for Aristotle, the logos was Reason, the mind of the human.
Aristotle writes, “[T]he good for man is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, or if there are more kinds of virtue than one, in accordance with the best and most perfect kind (Ethics, 1.7).” This energeia, or activity, would have encompassed the complete person, including the mind, so that the virtue which leads to the good life is not just an activity, or an action, of the body, but the very cognitive processes which directed that action. Thus, the good life is almost teleological in that it sees the result against the action, but continues to focus on the individual, in that virtue may be cultivated to produce the desired result, the good life. This virtue, then, is the complete human, and it was unique to our species. Of course, even within the uniqueness of humanity, Aristotle divided out women, slaves and others who could not by their own inclination choose to do virtue. By the negative, the good life is that much more accomplished when one chooses virtue, something only those who were free to do so could do. One accomplished the good life when they used the logos, or rationality, which is the purpose of humanity.
Augustine, writing during a time of social change, and writing through a time of intense personal change, begins to use Aristotle and his notion of happiness (eudaimonia) to help shape the Christian mind in ethics. Like Aristotle, contemplation of the rational was involved in pursuing the good life. For Augustine, the intellect was the pursuit of God, and turning our will back towards him and in the direction of our love. Wogaman, in his article The Moral Vision of Saint Augustine, writes that Augustine saw that God was the source of all being and that everything in Creation was an expression of God’s will. Evil and sin, then, is the moving away from the full expression of humanity, which was corrupted in the Fall. Evil, then, is moving away from God through a misdirected love of something that isn’t God. This produces sin which is “based on a mistaken conception of what is good for us.”
Augustine writes, “Man indeed desires happiness even when he does so live as to make happiness impossible… Why this paradox, except that the happiness of man can come not from himself but only from God, and that to live according to oneself is to sin, and to sin is to lose God.” To prevent this, Augustine develops the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. Like Aristotle before him, these virtues are dependent upon the soul ruling the body (XIX.25, City of God). Both agree that virtue can be an exercise, as I suspect Augustine had tried throughout his Christian life. He would allow, however, that the good life could not be completely achieved in life, “For this reason there is no perfect peace so long as command is exercised over the vicious propensities, because the battle is fraught with peril while those vices that resist are being reduced to submission.” I suspect, then, that this is why the virtues were ordered in the way that they were by Augustine, especially in preventing “bodily delights.”
Aquinas arrived at a time of scholastic renewal. As Wogaman notes, “the intellectual quickening of the late Middle Ages may have reflected more the felt need to reach beyond a complacency that had become tinged with corruption.” Thus, the thinkers of this time began to turn to the ancient Greeks, via the Arabic scholarship of the time, and reexamine theological principles. Aquinas, like Augustine before him, found Aristotle, but did so with an Augustinian tint. From Aristotle, he received the notion of the human teleos, or goal. Everything was to be considered within this light, but the end of humanity is God. For Aquinas, the good life is not happiness in activity, but in the actual realization of the event. Or rather, the desired goodness of Aristotle is Aquinas’ desired contemplation of God in the eschaton much like Augustine before him. Counter Augustine, Aquinas sees evil, then, as imperfection of the teleos, not just turning away from God. Unlike Aristotle’s view, nature and things contained therein also had a teleos for Aquinas which according to Wogaman, pushed together the notion of natural and super-natural.
Aquinas saw virtue against the human agency in that our rationality may be tempered through exercise which would create good morals. Unlike Aristotle, however, God acted on the rational mind to bring about good habits, affording us a divine teleos. If God is acting upon our rational mind, then we are being pushed to the ultimate end. To this, Aquinas adopted Augustine’s four virtues, albeit with a different understanding and emphasis. Prudence is first because it is the virtue most comporting with Reason. From Prudence springs Justice, Temperance and Fortitude. Adding to this are the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love. The former are “developed through human action” (Wogaman) while the latter comes from God, pushing us to our perfect, and thus non-evil, teleos in God.
Augustine and Aquinas found in Aristotle a way to combat the irrationality of the depraved human experience, and sought to use him as a means to order the Christian ethical existence to achieve more fully the good life. Each of them saw Reason and Rationality as central to achieving the good life and happiness, but they also realized that perfection (sinlessness or non-evil) was impossible in this life. For Augustine and Aquinas, the Reason sanctified by God would be the key to make it possible, albeit only after this life. Ordering a life to these principles requires one to start first with the Reason sanctified by God. Augustine was right, that it was a certain lowliness of mind which will bring the mind up, as an exalted mind doesn’t leave room for God. One must be prepared not to be perfect, to exercise the Reason to morality, and finally, to exercise the mind.
 Augustine, City of God XIX.11: “It follows that we could say of peace, as we have said of eternal life, that it is the final fulfillment of all our goods.”
 For Aquinas, “human beings are both biological and spiritual” which allowed for a varity of teleosi to develop which accorded themselves to the empirical world.
- Aristotle’s reflections about a good life. (livewithlight.wordpress.com)
For my NT Rhetoric Class. Rough Draft. Blah Blah. The deal is, is that the question is posted, I write a response, and we wade through that for a week. So, this may not be the final word, or summation, but more than likely, it’s all I’m going to post. I thought that I might summarize and react to Carey’s article, so as to present a chance to correct a deficit in my thinking, before I get to the Sermon on the Plain. The pages are from the Kindle version and may not be accurate.
Carey opens his article with the idea that the historical separation of the “spheres” of argumentation predates Aristotle, which may allow the reader to assume that these spheres, are near a universal constant, or at least in (near-)Western literature. Here, the author will write on epideictic oratory, a speech of displays which allows the speaker to issue praise or blame. Some of the most well-known speeches under this form were the funeral orations. Perhaps, the Gospels were apologeticum crucis, they may be considered, on the other, a funeral oration, in praise of Christ, casting blame upon his opponents, and as in Acts 2, the hearers/readers. One of the interesting notes is that the speeches delivered in this sphere have “inherent principles of form and over trends in content” although as Carey notes, they aren’t clearly stated, but understood by the speaker and the audience. This idea that the speaker and the audience come together to bring forth the speech is an interesting one.
Carey quotes Aristotle in saying that when people, either in offering private advice or speaking in public regarding civic issues, will engage in either exhortation and/or dissuasion and this, according to the ancient rhetorician is similar to the speeches delivered as display, in that the concern “is partly praise and partly blame.” I interpret this to mean that in praising one, another may be used as an example, to highlight the goodness of the first. The second one, then, is the one who doesn’t measure up. It is not about, then, guilt or innocence, but about the establishment of the good of the person. Carey notes that unlike deliberative or judicial speaking, display has “no immediate practical outcome.” This form of speaking is sometimes derided, as we note from Isocrates, but he may have been biased, as display, as he understood it, focused more on the performance. This idea of display and performance is interesting, again, in taking the Gospels as a whole, especially if, as some scholars (Richard Hayes, for one) believe, that the Gospels were written for performance, for display. If so, then this comports with the idea that the display presents Christ as praiseworthy, at least in Mark. (I separate Luke from this, because of the Lukan announcement of Righteous/Innocence by the Centurion.)
I note Isocrates’ quote (238) which commends the proper use of this oratory to those who could carry out the speech. Also of note is Carey’s history lesson, in that with the rise of the book trade, display’s influence rose. The author notes that with the rise of books, the technique shifted a little to include speeches created “entirely for a reading audience.” In Paul’s letters, especially in Galatians, he pits himself against the ‘Judaizers’ who need not be real, allowing himself to be counted as praiseworthy, while seeking to persuade the people in those churches that he had the true gospel. (Carey notes on 238 that persuasion was indeed a part of epideictic rhetoric.) Paul was in competition with others, as was Lysias who noted that while his speech were about the recent dead, his real force was directed against those who had previously issued speeches. I note here, then, Luke’s introduction to his gospel, who notes that while others have written accounts, he alone had undertaken research to write a “more orderly account.” (Luke 1.3) Here, I note Carey’s statement that while “the outcomes of epideictic oratory have none of the urgency of the other two categories” the personal stakes remained high for the speaker, and I would contend, for the recent dead in the funeral oration.
Of special interest is Carey’s examination of the funeral oration, especially when he begins to deal with the writing of such speeches long after the speech was supposed to have taken place. In examining Thucydides writing down Pericles’ speech, the author notes that “we do not need to hold to ‘Pericles’ to every word, merely to accept that the broad tenor of the speech has been reproduced.” (242) Thus, this combines with earlier comments about the expansion of epideictic rhetoric into written form. If the tenor could be maintained, and delivered to a written audience, for a purpose, especially for a funeral oration, we have some semblance to the nature of the Gospels (and Acts), which were written down long after Christ and the Apostles, capturing the broad tenor of the words, in written form, for performance, but not detailing a transcript of every word.
Of another interest is Carey’s assertion that the epitaphios logos is “more for the living than for the dead.” He writes that these speeches become “an act of collective self-definition and self-assertion.” Isn’t this the goal of good rhetoric, and of the Gospels, to have the hearer/reader/viewer self-identify with Christ? I note then the role of Baptism in Romans 6, which includes self-identification with Christ, as well as the role of suffering in Revelation. Here, Carey gives us more room to explore the connection of the Gospels with epideictic rhetoric, in that he writes that the goal of these funeral orations, of that of the dead warriors, was to assure the culture that it was worth the price which was paid, that the living was worth the dead – that the living were praiseworthy.
Carey notes at least twice that display had certain political uses (248 and 249).
Notes on Aristotle III.13-19
According to the Aristotle, the speech as two parts: statement of case and proof. If so, then one must expect that good epideictic oratory will include some manner of persuasion, but what is persuasion? It is then to the praise or blameworthiness of an individual or other identified subject. Breaking this down further, he notes that in the Introduction, a subsection of the first part, one must have a subject, but that there is freedom to “travel far” from it. This introduction contains advice, of what to or not to do, and may on the surface be paradoxical; however, the introduction can be dismissed if the subject is not long enough. Further, these introductions are “popular with those who case is weak, or looks weak.” It might, then, behoove the speaker to make his case stronger by not including an introduction.
The speech is an “appeal to the hearer” and again uses the character of the speaker. Further, the receptor will feel connected if he or she is able to be touched by something in the speech. Perhaps it is using a well-known example, or speaks to the situation experienced by the audience. This is necessary, because as Aristotle says, the receptor may have a “weak-minded tendency” to turn away if the point is not about him or her.
“Narration in ceremonial oratory is not continuous but intermittent,” the ancient orator relates. He recommends categorizing the needed facts into mini-narratives. Thus, it is simple and easy to follow, and keeps the interest of the audience. He recommends that the narrative tackle character and gives the indication of moral purpose. He recommends that moral purpose be held to a higher example in display than intelligence. Perhaps, because it would be more easily touched by the common receptor, as they would more easily associated with morality than intellectualism. To this end as well, Aristotle calls for the use of emotions in display. Again, perhaps because the common receptor can more easily grasp this, than the dryness associated with manuals. Aristotle, to this point again, uses Isocrates as an example of how to break up the narration in display with “bits of episodic eulogy.”
Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6.17-49.
What is noticed first is that Jesus doesn’t give a verbal introduction, but Luke does. Jesus has chosen his twelve disciples, after he had healed and a man with the paralyzed hand, and declared himself Lord of the Sabbath. Perhaps he may have been seen to given a declaration of his kingdom, shown his power, chose his royal court (or royal army, if twelve equals the twelve tribes of Israel who were called to surrender a certain number of men to the defense), and showed his intelligence in that he began to teach and heal. So, while there is verbal introduction to Jesus’ speech. What is interesting me, however, is that unlike Matthew, the Lukan Jesus comes down to a “level place” (HCSB). What does this tell us about the character of Jesus?
Jesus has been presented as one sent from God, from his birth, and given a humble origin. By now in Luke’s Gospel, he has already been seen to forgive and heal, and call his close associates. Further, Jesus has already been declared Lord through the vision in the wilderness. All of this has already happened in extended episodes, but in Luke 6, with the build up to the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is declared Lord again, heals, teaches, and once again chooses his close disciples. Perhaps this might qualify as one of Aristotle’s episodic eulogies, or at the very least, a break-up of the narrative. After all, Jesus again is demonstrated to have the moral purpose to issue the Sermon on the Mount, with a neatly re-categorization of his own character.
If taken as a display, then the audience must figure into this. As Aristotle said, the audience must be touched in some way. Jesus, by not having assumed the position of teacher (unlike Matthew), is on eye level, and is able to point, broadly, when he says ‘you… blessed’ and ‘you… woe.’ We have an established of a moral purpose as well as a connection to the audience. Further, in a time of socio-political upheaval, it would have been unfortunate to speak only of the good, but Jesus avoids this moment in which the audience would feel only slightly connected through hope as he addresses those who were currently putting the community through woe. Woe to the rich, the full, the jovial and to those who speak well about the poor, the hungry, and the sad, i.e., the hypocrites. This woe, v26, may have been a shield against the audience accusing Jesus of being such. Aristotle notes one should examples to deflection from assured, wrongly made comparison. Jesus had promised an end to poverty, hunger, mourning and oppression, and had criticized those who said the same thing. This is an appeal to the hearer.
What is lacking in the speech itself, if we were to examine it as epideictic, is narration which seems to be essential to epideictic. It is simply Jesus speaking. There are no parables or examples easily seen. It would not be uncommon for sinners to not act like the law, so it might be difficult to assume that Jesus had anyone particular in mind (although the term sinners as a representative of a particular group does appear in other documents of the time). The one example of narration seems to be in v48 in which Jesus describes a careless homebuilder.
The beatitudes, 6.20-26, can create images of being praiseworthy or blameworthy, but Jesus doesn’t include any examples of whom he is speaking about. While the audience would have no doubt supplied their own examples, epideictic oratory must provide examples so as to draw comparisons. If we were to take 6.20-22 as a whole, we would see that Jesus is speaking to the audience and declaring them praiseworthy in 6.23. Minutely then, this may be epideictic, with 6.24-26 serving then as a point of comparison.
On the persuasiveness of the Sermon on the Plain, I find that like 6.23, the elements of persuasion can be found. In 6.23, the idea is to be patience for the visitation, in which everything would be turned on its head. Further, twice the connection between the audience and the ancient prophets, the renowned dead, is made (6.23, 26), in that they, the modern audience, are of the same qualities as the prophets, perhaps even Moses, therefore, they most continue and wait. To this end as well, the audience is compared to the sinners (6.33) and to the Father (6.36), in that the audience is warned not to be like the former, but to be like the latter. Further, they are told not to judge like the hypocrites (6.42). They are given the comparison between the good man and the evil man (6.43-45) and finally, they are told to be watchful and careful in not doing the things which Jesus is telling them. Here is the greatest act of persuasion. Jesus begins the speech with simple comparisons, but not an introduction, and moves to specific situations, telling the audience how not to respond to them, but at the end, the warning is given that if they do not heed his words, they will come crashing down.
Can this speech be classified as epideictic? As a whole, I would say not. It is still overly concerned with ethical, and as Aristotle reminds us, politics and ethics go hand in hand. However, I do believe that the Gospels, and thus this speech, were intended as performance. Jesus signals this, I believe, when he comes down from the mountain, to a level place with the people. Further, I am unsure that the amount of narration is sufficient. I do believe that there are the elements of display, such as praising and blaming, as well as a few examples, although not specific as Isocrates might give. There is the indication of moral purpose, however, in 6.23, to ensure that the community survives to rejoice in That Day.
On the other hand, perhaps the entire Gospel could be classified as epideictic in that it serves as a funeral oration of Jesus. Taken in this view, there is the introduction, the narrative, the “episodic eulogies”, display, performance, praise, blame, judicial acquittal and the connection between Jesus and the audience in that they were worth dying for.
Doubtful that you’ll know the source, and I don’t feel like posting them at the moment. But… these are responses to readings… So, you know…
Aristotle is arguing that virtue is produced by nurture, or habituation (habits), rather than nature. I think that while the ancient philosopher is a dozen worlds removed from modern neuroscience, his truths and reality must be measured against such things. In 2007, a neuroscientist began an experiment that showed that a moral choice could be predicted by a scan of the brain, some seven seconds before the person made the decision. What then of Aristotle’s notion of free will? Could nature be overturned by nurture so easily? What if virtue and ethics then, or perhaps rather, the choices we make unhindered by laws, aren’t done so because of habit or something inside of us, but because of the way the brain functions? Then, wouldn’t virtue be afforded the same value which Aristotle gives to the natural senses? So that perhaps some humans are prone to be more ethical and virtuous by nature while others are left to simply be depraved? What’s left then is to continue to promote the model program of habituation in case there is a way to fight nature, that is, if Science and Calvin are wrong.
While I agree, generally, with the summation of Aristotle’s ethics, I find that in 2.14, we relate back to the decision of the action of virtue is concluded to be personal, and valid if the choices are made with good reason. I would argue that virtue, like all knowledge, is true regardless if we understand it to be so. Further, I play the anti-advocate here and surrender the position to Science. If the brain is chemically aligned to already make certain choices, then the idea of knowing, as well as having them performed in a perfect state, is removed, and the virtue becomes a Craft. If ‘doing’ is raised to the pride of place for Aristotle in virtue, then perhaps that motivation is retained, but I would again turn to the idea that in a Craft, the knowledge exists even before it is exercised. If Virtue is a craft, then it is enough that someone is pre-programmed, if you will, to be virtuous and thus the actual performance of the new craft, i.e. virtue, is counted for nothing, or rather, very little. To counter, again Aristotle, one cannot become good, or virtuous, simply by doing the actions proscribed by a habituation because if we are already slotted to do them, then they are our craft. To the effect, I am not given to grammar, but by habit, I perform the actions of a grammarian, I am still not a grammarian. I have, because of fear of ridicule, learned to curtail my natural impulses and natural craft of mutilation of words and sentence structures. I would then say, if I were to surrender to Science the position, that someone who makes the right choice out of fear of reprisal only performs the actions necessary to prevent personal enjoy, but the choice is still not made. The only real choice made is to prevent injury or to attempt to escape injury. The unvirtuous remain so, although they may from time to time look to be virtuous.
Then, I were to surrender to Science the position, virtue no longer requires habituation or practice, but remains a Craft which needs to be exercised by the virtuous. Further, it ceases to be a purely human function as we understand human function.
I do tend to agree with him, however, on what a virtue is and find it well suited to my current state of middle way, third way, or reconciliation.
Legacies of Christian Ethics:
Under Tension One I would count myself among the “many biblical scholars” whom the authors mentioned on page two, and in the back of my mind, I think of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs as well as Ruth and Ezra, but equally, I say that there is a core of unity, albeit for many it is the unity of the canon within the canon. I have one, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Although, I guess, it goes beyond the Protestant Canon. I appreciated the argument of reason v. relevation as well, and to sum up that the moral vision for Paul was Christ Crucified. This alone seems to stand against Reason and rationale thought, which was a stumbling block for many, and still is. And again, I come to the split between Reason and Revelation as the author notes that there is a way to properly use the two.
And again, under Tension Two, I find myself in disagreement about Creation, Psalm 8 and the Songs of Solomon, albeit due to private studies and not Church Tradition. So, I guess a main point here, is that a correct, better, interpretation of the materialism of Creation may help prevent the contrast between Spirit and Nature.
Agreed with everything in Tension Three.
In regards to Tension Four, I have to say that I agree with him here as well, especially with the focus on the Love of God. Tensions Five and Six are equally good. I enjoy the presentation of arguments in Scripture.
I am intrigued by this notion which the author mentions, this ancient Enlightenment in which ancient minds sought to get around the myths which were causing division. Perhaps, history does repeat itself, or at the very list, mimesis is natural. Equally so, I am attracted to the notion of a universal concept of justice. I do not believe that such over-arching notions are limited to time and space (culture) which puts me in the mind of the universalism of Israel’s mission. So, I’d agree that Truth is universal. So, we have Truth and Justice as universal. (If only there was something else, so other way to attach to those two…) Plato is right, about critical thought and about the philosopher kings. Overall, though, this section is rather interesting, but only informative.
 Not to be confused with pulling a book of a shelf and declaring myself a scholar
- Aristotle and the Higher Good (3quarksdaily.com)
Okay, so this is the first assignment for the Rhetoric class. Don’t judge me too harshly.
Aristotle gives three forms of rhetoric: the political, the forensic and the epideictic, or ceremonial displays of another person’s character. Further, the ancient philosopher notes that the hearer is the one who determines the “speech’s end and object.” Aristotle’s teleological focus of rhetoric, which he defines as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion,” may suggest for the Sermon on the Mount a more sophisticated view of the speech, to the end that Jesus was seeking to enact happiness (the goal of the political) as well to render justice (the goal of the forensic). While epideictic rhetoric may be used to view Jesus’ intent, it would only be valid if Jesus was intending to praise a single, model, individual while penalizing one who wasn’t a good citizen. The goal of this essay is not to prove that Jesus was using rhetoric, but to examine what might Aristotle say about the way in which Jesus spoke.
Aristotle notes that persuasion, in oral uses, is reliant upon the character of the speaker, the frame of mind of the audience, and the proof of words of the speech. To add to this is the ancient philosopher’s instructions that character is persuasive, but that emotions are also to be included as tools for the speaker. It is who is saying it and what reaction is received from the audience. Christ, in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, takes the position of the Jewish sage (on a mountain). Before this, however, the character of Jesus is firmly grounded as one who is coming from God with a mission to Israel, with a second mission to the Gentile hinted at early on. He even experiences the reception in synagogues and the cities due to popular teachers (Matthew 4.23). His character, then, is one which should be known, especially after passing the tests in 4.4-11, which have a resemblance to three texts from Deuteronomy (6.13, 16; 8.3). Further, with this connection to Deuteronomy, the character of Jesus is not only tested, but Jesus is connected to the Lawgiver in Deuteronomy, which foreshadows the Blessings (similar to Deuteronomy’s structure) in Matthew 5.1-12. This should lead us, then, to examine the Beatitudes in light of Aristotle’s note that “ethical studies may fairly be called political; and for this reason rhetoric masquerades as political science.” Jesus, then, with his character tested, is able to deliver a political discourse without signaling openly that he is challenging the socio-political structure of his day, which is called by Aristotle and enthymeme.
This concept of enthymeme is central to Aristotle’s rhetoric, as he goes so far as to say that the “one who effects persuasion through proof does in fact use enthymemes or examples: there is no other way.” For Aristotle, the enthymeme allows the speaker to state something in such a way as to have the audience supply the premise. If Jesus was not yet ready in Matthew to announce the Church, or the Kingdom, openly, his use of the Deuteronomic system of Blessings may have signaled to the audience that he was intent on re-establishing the society called for by Deuteronomy and may have allowed the audience to see Jesus as the Prophet-Like-Moses (Deut 18.15-19). The enthymeme would have been used to allow the audience to choose to see Jesus either as another sage, or to draw, that is if they had hears to ear, that he was the Messiah. This would have given the audience a ‘buy-in’, if one will, which Aristotle notes excites “the louder applause” because they themselves had figured out the words of Jesus.
Returning to the style of speech, I first note that the Sermon on the Mount encompasses Matthew 5-7 and is divided into different subsections. There are the familiar beatitudes in the first part of chapter 5. Following that is the discourse on Salt and Light and the re-establishment of the Law. Chapter 6 deals with good works and the proper motivation. Finally, in chapter 7 false judgment and false prophets are spoken against, giving rise, at the end of that chapter, to a connection to epideictic rhetoric. Taken as a whole, and if heard aloud, Jesus may be seen as engaging in the deliberation about what brings happiness (blessedness), which is the usual enumerated virtues, but so too the lack of materialism, the avoidance of false prophets, proper motivation in doing good things and in properly applying the Law. If forensic rhetoric is to be found in defending himself against charges of being the false prophet who had come to abolish the Law, leading Israel to follow after other gods. Further, he urges out-of-court settlements as well as establishes the proper reactions, justice, to those wronged by divorce, murder, and adultery. In regards to finding the epideictic, I must be cautious at this point, but if taken as a whole, the one who follows Jesus into the new kingdom will be praised, and happy (blessed), but the one who abuses the Law and others, as well as seek material gain, which might lead them to follow false prophets will be damned. Of course, given that Matthew is written, it may meet Aristotle’s rationale of epideictic (Fortenbaugh, 119), but given the fact that the culture was oral and not literate, the Sermon on the Mount was meant to be read aloud, rather than read privately.
During the Sermon of the Mount, if Jesus was using a principle similar enough to the enthymeme, then there would have been no need to call attention to specific examples neither state a general principle for his discourse. To do so would have the words of Jesus, according to Aristotle, move from the realm of rhetoric to the realm of science. Further, given the direction of the Sermon of the Mount, I note Fortenbaugh’s words on 112, “Moreover, the orator is concerned with persuading a particular audience and therefore must argue from the beliefs and conceptions actually held by a given audience.” The audience in question then, was not just the historical audience in Matthew’s writings, but the audience which heard Matthew’s Gospel spoken aloud.
One of the areas in which Aristotle may disagree with Jesus is the friendliness to the establishment. Fortenbaugh notes (115) that for the ancient philosopher, someone like Jesus, who was in a position of authority should be friendly to the “established political arrangement.” This was clearly not the case, given the Sermon of the Mount signaled out materialism, false prophets, and the Scribes and Pharisees as well as the later confrontations between Jesus and the political and religious establishments. While the limitations of searching the Matthean mind is that we cannot know his rhetorical background, if we take Aristotle’s rules as a near universal constant, then we can note the (even unintended) similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and Aristotle’s methods of rhetoric, while allowing for dissimilarities, given perhaps, more to who Jesus was than the collected speeches of what Jesus said.
 Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament, Mt 4:23 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
 Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament, Mt 4:1-11 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
 Fortenbaugh notes on 110 that the use of the enthymeme is motivated by “audience psychology.” I may surmise, given the dating of the composition of Matthew, that the audience psychology was at a very nervous state. If the Sermon on the Mount was read aloud, as Aristotle notes about Rhetoric, after the destruction of the Temple, with the violent use of the Imperial Cult, with Jews being dispersed, along with Messiah-believers being turned out of the synagogues, then the words of Jesus promising a renewed Deuteronomic Kingdom may have be as political as Aristotle notes ethics usually are and every bit as psychologically needed as we have seen in the modern area during times of war and destruction.
 Fortenbaugh notes that virtue is an important point of epideictic rhetoric (112). He writes that for Aristotle, virtue is “most at home in epideictic”.
- Review: Kingdom Ethics-Part 1 (simuliustusetpeccator.com)
- Greg Beale on “Recognizing Exaggeration in the Teachings of Jesus (anchorforthesoul.org)
- Greg Beale on “Recognizing Hyperbole in the Teachings of Jesus” (anchorforthesoul.org)
- D.A. Carson on the Lutheran approach to the Sermon on the Mount (anchorforthesoul.org)
- G.E. Ladd on the Sermon on the Mount 2 (anchorforthesoul.org)
As a reminder, I am reading several books on mimesis for my upcoming thesis work. This is not a review or a reflection, but an internal dialogue to which you are a party too. Further, it helps for me to summarize my work for later use. Feel free to drop suggestions, but remember that this is not the final book that I’m going to read on the subject and that my thoughts on all things are left to better facts if there are any.
This chapter begins part 2, wherein the author explores three versions of mimesis which are Imitatio, or rhetorical imitation; theatre and theatricality; and realism. More than likely, my focus will be on the first and the last, but will read the middle as well. After all, the Gospels were no doubt given and kept alive in an oral culture, filled with performances. The first one catches my attention specifically though, and the more so once I get into the section dealing with it.
Imitatio deals more with role models. The central character of the produced story is sometimes in rivalry with the ‘real’ story. Potolsky notes that the focus of this style is about the relationship between the original and the copy (it must connect to the past, but creates something new (58)). In this, mimesis is defined as a “historical phenomenon.” Indeed, mimesis is what creates genres and sets the forerunners as an authority on them. I mean, think about. We have genres of literature which were created and mimicked, but they cannot deviate too far from the standard far. It is, as the author notes, making something “new out of old traditions” and “Imitation is the effective origin of tradition itself.” (50-51) I have to wonder, then, what ‘old’ would be? Of course, I don’t think I’ll need to worry about this as later, the author discusses, slightly, the political uses of mimesis made by Longinus who used it to slice at Nero.
I know that I cannot wrestle with Plato and Aristotle forever, but in this section, Potolsky starts to move into more modern thinkers, such as Alexander Pope. But, this comes in handy as Pope offers us the notion that Virgil mimicked (this is the technical term, and not to be thought of as mockery) Homer, which I have already slightly discussed in my soon-to-be thesis. Here, the idea of role model is narrowed down to a conventional idea. In other words, the role model is a very literal term here. Virgil mimicked Homer, adapting his style and work for his own. Further into the chapter, Potolsky gives an shorter list of the mimicks, such as Ovid who performed mimesis on Greek myths, or better, the Roman Civilization who mimicked the Greek (thus, mimesis becomes imtiatio.) Ovid, Virgil and Longinus are the names which ring in my hears in discussing Mark’s (possible) use of mimesis/imitatio because of the political nature of their work.
Potolsky, as I noted earlier, used Virgil as an example of Roman mimesis. It is something that I never could quite nail down in my exegesis, perhaps because I only had 15 pages to write my paper in. Virgil took the Illiad and the Odyssey, two works which the author noted previously as having an almost religious fixation by the Greek populace, and borrowed, here I insert the phrase ‘but not perfectly’, certain elements. It wasn’t a compressed tale, or abridged in some way, but one which was noticeably connected. Virgil had mimicked Homor’s plot points and certain other elements to create something entirely new. Could some of the original sources in the Gospels be events which are being mimicked, but in such a way as to show the power of Jesus? This idea of borrowing leads us to intertextuality, something every seminarian or student of the bible should be familiar with. This concept allows the “notion that all cultural products are tissue of narratives and images borrowed from a familiar storehouse.” (53) We see this in Scripture, and often times associate it with the narrative themes such as exile and redemption. But, it gives us an allowance to ask if the Gospels’ writers were using intextuality to influence his story telling.
In the section which discusses more specifically the Roman practice (Roman Echoes), Potolsky notes that “Imitatio was also a historical and political practice.” Just before that, he noted that this concept was “central to Roman literary education.”. I could imagine then, that such a well-trained writer as Oden believes that Mark was, would have been trained in such a way, perhaps as a juxtaposition between the Roman and the Hellenist worlds. If so, then Mark would have surely know rhetoric and the various concepts found in both Greek and Roman cultures. Further, given the highly political nature of Mark’s Gospel, we must look at the way politics was addressed in Roman schools of thought. Further, he may have engaged in the struggles of Roman philosphers who were grappling with the use of Greek rhetoric in understanding the difference between outright copying and something more along the lines of transformation (56). Perhaps he would have heeded Seneca’s voice, in that imitatio had to “both resemble and differ from its sources.” (57) Seneca argued for transformation, in which a copy wasn’t necessarily produced (the father and the child allegory), but that the foundation was clearly seen, but too much alike.
There needs to be more on Longinus, or maybe I need other books, but Longinus saw mimesis as a form of “writing that goes beyond mere persuasion.” (57), seeing mimesis as a possessing force. He might also qualify for poetic mimesis, as Virgil did, which moves “the reader to self-improvement” (64), an idea which Aristotle no doubt shared.
For all of this, I blame Dr. Adam Winn.
As a reminder, I am reading several books on mimesis for my upcoming thesis work. This is not a review or a reflection, but an internal dialogue to which you are a party too. Further, it helps for me to summarize my work for later use. Feel free to drop suggestions, but remember that this is not the final book that I’m going to read on the subject and that my thoughts on all things are left to better facts if there are any.
At the very least, this chapter, or perhaps better, Potolsky’s take on Aristotle’s understanding of mimesis, has solidified, in my mind, the use of it by New Testament authors. Further, I think that these pericopes in Mark are strung together to give a rational reason for the Cross, but that taken together, they present ‘complete’ tragedies which evoke the cognitive abilities of the audience, and in doing so, must be tied to an audience which would have had the emotion which Mark needed to relate to.
One of the fascinating things for me is the idea that Aristotle was rebuffing his teacher, Plato, on the idea of Mimesis. Of course, I still grapple with the idea that Plato was using Socrates’ narration to rant against mimesis which of course, used another’s voice, something Plato/Socrates derided. I mean, Plato in effect used an element of mimesis to rail against mimesis, thereby creating ethics, a goal of mimesis. Of course, that might be just me. Potolsky notes, however, that Aristotle’s defense of mimesis can actually be built upon Plato’s use of Reason, or rather, the magnification thereof. Platonic Reason drove Aristotle, so it may be that in some way, it is not a response from student to teacher, but an exercise, mimicking the Teacher’s greatest work. Aristotle focused so heavily on Reason that mimesis came natural. I might put it this way: Plato’s magnification of Reason forced Aristotle’s use of mimesis. Of course, mimesis had to be shaped differently, away from Plato’s use of the word, coming to be defines as “a craft with its own internal laws and aims.” (p33) Later, in quoting Aristotle regarding mimesis becoming art, Potolsky demands that mimesis be judged only by seeing if it met the “proper aims and methods.” (p36)
This focus, however, mystifies me, in that the work, the poem (remember, it is Aristotle’s Poetics from which the ancient philosopher’s understanding of the concept is derived) is seen as a complete work and should be judged ‘in itself’, with the reflected item coming secondary. Plato thought that the reflected item was, of course, the essential focus. I would fall, perhaps, into the realm between the philosophers. For my study in Mark, the reflected item is important, serving not so much as a mirror, but as an exact opposite, uncorrected, but it had to be known, and recognized in order for the periscope to work. Of course, not much is being said in using mimesis as a rhetorical tool just yet, and I may yet get to that point, but I think that if mimesis is to teach ethics, morals, and to cause/purge emotion, then the basis of the poem, the ‘reality’, needs to be knows so as to give cause to the cognitive senses. It allows the audience to focus on the differences, then, which in that phantom zone gives rise to the ‘ah this is he.’ I’ll get to that later.
On poets and poetry, the ancient writer says that for their tools, they have “rhythm, language, and melody;” that this person is a craftsperson; that “poetry has its own proper methods and aims and is not just a diminished version of science or philosophy.” (p34). Later, when Potolsky gets to the historian vs the poet, I think we real find a connection to the Gospels as divine poets, but first we have to understand that unlike science (history), poets have different aims, but that they no less truthful. Poets in tragedy is another connection to the Gospel writers, in that Potolsky contends that they serve to present people as better than they are. Again, it’s about the aims, truthful, although maybe not historical, that gives rise to the power of the Poets, which I think Plato feared. Mimesis causes the artist to mimic life, but diverge, and thereby create something almost wholly different, which is not a mirror, and therefore cannot be exactly what Plato defined it as. This happens through various ways, this divergence, but it is essential in understanding what Aristotle is trying to say.
Potolsky lists Aristotle’s three types of narration as history, epic, and drama. In history, the poet is speaking with his own voice (something Plato didn’t do, using instead, Socrates). Epic allowed the narrator to speak with another voice (thus violating the use of one profession only in the Republic). Drama, however, is by far the most interesting. Drama, according to our author, allowed the poets to put the characters in the middle of the audience. The audience got to ‘see’ (Potolsky later calls attention to the metaphor here of seeing = knowing) the characters “living and moving before” them (36).
I know, because a friend never lets me forget, that Dawkins has brought about the meme theory for biological evolution, but I do think that mimesis is a psychological process as well. This has become apparent the more I study mimesis, and the more so when I read that Aristotle thought the same thing. He notes that we have inside of us two sources of poetry, with the first being mimesis. This is what we do as children, in mimicking our parents of the nature of things around us. Aristotle thought that this contributed to our development of logic, while in adulthood, it brings pleasure and more importantly, knowledge. It is in adulthood, however, that mimesis becomes a way to separate ourselves away from the actual events or reality. As I said earlier, the reality needs to be known in order to accomplish any good from mimesis. Why? Because in linear thought, for a distance to occur, one must have a starting point. That starting point is in reality. The starting point is a historical person or event from which we travel through tragedy/poetry in order to take pleasure and knowledge of it through mimesis. Potolsky notes that the “fictional distance from things” allows “that the sufferings of tragic characters on stage can be pleasurable rather than painful.” Therefore, we can learn from what we see (i.e., Reason) whereas in being apart of the actual event, only emotions would rule. There is where the “Ah, that is he” statement comes in at.
Potolsky quotes Aristotle as saying, “Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, “Ah, that is he’”. I agree with Potolsky that this “provides insights into human action and character that we might not otherwise have.” (p37) The notion of inference grasps my mind. This is what Wright means when he says that the narrative (the Canon) shapes us, as it has shaped Israel. In that, I would say something along the lines that in Mark 5, the audience would have been able to infer from the story told that the Gospel writer was speaking about them, there, in Gadara. This is again, why I think that the Gospel of Mark is early, and based on historical events. Potolsky notes on p39 that mimesis reflects “the position and cognitive abilities of the viewer.” Surely, if Mark was removed by centuries from the supposed event, it would evoke the needed response or actually serve to mean anything except for a dull story. Further, I would contend that a historical Jesus is very much at the center of the audience’s thought, or else, the ethos would mean very little.
This idea of ‘complete’, which for Aristotle involved mythos, ethos, lexis, dianoia, opsis and melopoeia, may be be found in the small pericope of Mark 5.1-20, although I imagine that the whole of the Gospel includes these elements. The section in particular as a beginning, middle and an end, as needed by Aristotle, even though it is set in a section all by itself. Indeed, the ancient writer noted that the mimesis unit could be completely separate from other united in the tragedy and be completely whole. Of course, this gets into how big/small is too big/small? Aristotle rules here are insightful, especially for those writing such things, and perhaps for those wondering why each pericope is a mini-story all by itself. For Aristotle, the plot, mythos, is the center of the act. It is essential. Why? Potolsky says that it is through the plot that the character is revealed. Thus, the theologia crucis. The road to the cross, the mini-plots, everything revealed who Christ is, even if Mark is acting more as a poet than a historian.
Mimesis in Aristotle’s mind can include impossible elements, and be accepted as probable, as long as those elements are reasonable. There is much here to dwell on, especially when it comes to the wonder stories in the gospels and how easily they were accepted as reasonable, even through the lack of evidence, by the early Church. Why? Because the ‘real world’ is not the focus of mimesis, but the role of human thought. Potolsky writes, “impossible incidents can be made realistic if they seem probable.” In fact, they become real, understood, and responded too but only within reason of human thought. He writes, “Mimesis, in other words, need not be true to fact to be pleasurable and persuasive. It need only be true to the principles and normal processes of human cognition.” (p41) This leads to recognition, which I will write about in a later post, but the idea that the poet can create reality in the human mind is a powerful tool. And this, finally, is where the poet vs historian battle comes in at, or “what may happen” against “what has happened.”
This is a key principle, in my opinion, of understanding the Gospels as history. Both operate within the realm of truth, but the historian is tied only the events which he or she can prove happened. Thus, for Aristotle, poet is actually the higher pursuit. While the poet broadens the truth, the historian is tasked with shrinking the reality to only the known facts, and when you get right down to it, facts are hard to come by. Thus, I agree with Potolsky who writes, “Mimesis is defined not by its repetition of the real but by its ability to reveal universal truths in particular characters and actions.” (p42)
Potolsky moves on to discuss the role of emotion in mimesis in Aristotle. The ancient philosopher contends that the poet can in fact manage emotion, calling it a failure if emotions are not produced. In my view, Mark manages the emotions of the audience by showing them what has been accomplished and gives them the choice to move forward with a liberation already won. When Potolsky writes the wonder in mimesis is “internally logical, and so satisfies our sense of probability and necessity”, I apply this to Mark’s Cross. The Cross doesn’t make sense for Mark, as other authors have noted. So, mark provides an Aristoltean rationality through these mini-tragedies which are complete parts of a whole, giving us the reason of the Cross, or perhaps satisfying the reason of the Cross for Mark. This, of course, means that Mark didn’t have to be an eyewitness, but needed only to know the brutality of the cross with scant details of the life of Christ, which is what we see expressed in the Gospel. The plot of Mark is hardly episodic, or rather a linear progression of boring events, one after the other. Instead, it turns on events. One event leads to another, with several larger events puncturing the Gospel story leading to the dramatic conclusion of the Cross, with only questions afterwards.
Aristotle’s two essential emotions are phobos (fear) and eleos (pity). Can’t we see that at work in Mark. There is a fear of the demonic, and then pity. But, after the liberation is won, there is now fear of Jesus by the towns people, in which we should feel pity for the soon-to-be-crucified Christ. Who will carry on his mission? Why, the demoniac of course? Won’t you join him? This is produces a psychological identification with the people in the story, and in our case, the many actors, including Jesus and even the town’s folk. This is what Aristotle calls katharsis, something which Potolsky notes is often argued over. I tend to agree with the idea that the emotions are to be aroused in that they didn’t know that they had them, but now do and must now act on them. (Such as the nationalistic response to the movie Braveheart, which quickly lead to homerule for first time in centuries for the people of Scotland.)
For discussion of course, but Aristotle, in calling the poet an imitator, notes that the poet validate themselves and their choices in several ways, but one in particular caught my eye,
Further, if it be objected that the description is not true to fact, the poet may perhaps reply, ‘But the objects are as they ought to be’; just as Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are. In this way the objection may be met. If, however, the representation be of neither kind, the poet may answer, ‘This is how men say the thing is.’ applies to tales about the gods. It may well be that these stories are not higher than fact nor yet true to fact: they are, very possibly, what Xenophanes says of them. But anyhow, ‘this is what is said.’ Again, a description may be no better than the fact: ‘Still, it was the fact’; as in the passage about the arms: ‘Upright upon their butt-ends stood the spears.’ This was the custom then, as it now is among the Illyrians. (Poetics, 25)
I note often that Paul and quotes scripture as defense, essentially saying, I’m right because ‘this is what is said.’
Paul, the poet, the mimick, the meme.
I get this feeling that we are all, historically, being left out of Plato’s joke. In the Republic, Plato takes on the voice of Socrates and proceeds through books 2 and 3, but mainly book 10, to lambast mimesis. Yet, as Potolsky offers Socrates’ definitions of mimesis, Plato identifies with a form of mimesis in which the narrator takes the voice of the actor, which in this case would be Socrates. It is in this voice (Socrates) which Plato speaks the most strongly against the use of mimesis.
Before I go further, this is not a review, reflection or otherwise. Indeed, it is merely a walking through this book, and using my blog not only as a bank, so to speak, but as a proving ground in exploring this subject as well as building my thesis (and who knows, my dissertation later on). Consider this something like notes to myself.
Potolsky, in the first chapter, takes us through Plato’s Republic which is one of the first extended interactions with mimesis by the ancient Greeks, although as the author points out, mimesis was more than likely coined around the 5th century. It would seem, however, that the context of the Republic must be understood in order for us to ascertain Plato’s view of mimesis. Like other writers, especially in the genre of apology, Plato disparages mimesis because of his own interactions with it as well as his needed goals. His readers must not see the value in mimesis and thus, Plato takes the hardline against it. It is, as Potolsky notes later, a political issue in that Plato is assaulting the role in which Homer’s two testaments, the Iliad and the Odyssey, had taken in Greek society, and through them the use of poetry. What is this role? Potolsky positions Plato’s parable of the cave, in which prisoners see nothing but shadows, assuming that they are real; however, one prisoner is led out, turns to the sun and embraces the truth (i.e, the light of philosophy) and finally sees what is ‘real’, as a central clue in understanding the philosopher’s abhorrence of mimesis. He who controls the images (in this case, the wardens of the prison) controlled the political situation. Poetry (which was acted out) contained nothing but images. Plato, using Socrates’ voice, sought to banish the imitators from the Republic’s City in order to govern by reason and not by emotion.
Interesting to me is Socrates’ use of mimesis as a ‘stamp’ for children, especially so since these children would grow up to be the guardians of the Republic. The idea of the ‘stamp’, or image, is one familiar in the New Testament. The Greek word is used for those not able to bare the image is ἀδόκιμος
(adokimos) (Heb 6.8, etc…) For Plato, the use of mimesis, at first, was used to stamp on the children the proper way of doing things. Here, Plato wanted mimesis, which was using familiar images, to be acted on later by the children in their role as Guardians, but it goes down hill from there. Socrates believed in specialization. Thus, to be an imitator, you had to act different roles (including gender) which went against the basic rule the Republic. Further, and this is where I have to wonder about this entire notion that Plato and Socrates were really opposed to mimesis, the imitator had to speak in the voice of another in the stories told to children to enforce a standard or hoped for goal. Potolsky writes, “in mimetic narration, by contrast, the narrator imitates the character in voice or gesture, as in a theatrical performance: ‘he gives a speech as through he were someone else.’ (Plato, 1991.71) (Potolsky 20). How is this widely different than Plato’s use of Socrates’ voice in writing the Republic? Interestingly enough, Plato again uses the same, or nearly the same trick, as what he opposes. He (or Socrates) decries mimesis as something other than true knowledge saying that Homer only acted as if he knew about politics and battles. Yet, Plato is using the voice of Socrates to establish a body politick, neither of which the men had any real knowledge of (p23-24).
Plato obviously didn’t care for mimesis. For him, it was a part of education, but it was also something which detracted from the society. Potolsky writes, “No longer a quality of just the pupil or the performer, mimesis describes the identification of an audience with the spectacle on stage. (p27)” This was dangerous because these stage plays, these tragedies, were playing into the social structures and would, even in a perfectly controlled city such as the Republic. What Plato was identifying was the social control of what we would call media as he knew that “political power lies in the control of images. (p29)”. This is why he took such a hardline against mimesis, because as a philosopher who had turned to face the sun, he was afraid of the return to the prison. It was reason against emotions, philosophy against poetry.
The stories told to the children were stripped of their human elements, such as gods who were debauched, heroes “lamenting their fate”, or the lack of modesty when it came to “sex, food, or money.” He took known figures, the gods and heroes, and turned the stories around to serve not as tragedies or humorous tales of more-human-than-divine-gods, but as ethical and moral tales used to sow the seeds of reason and good government. Plato gives mimesis, visual or oral, a certain degree of power. If Mark 5.1-20 utilizes mimesis, then it does so because of the then-recent events, which the people must be liberated from. Perhaps the Evangelist is fulfilling his vocation and Plato’s political aims in that he is using mimesis to liberate people into the Victory of God. Mark strips out the negative, replaces it with the positive so that this story is then used to teach the Gospel of Christ.
Just some thoughts.