Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aristotle: History Is Not Generalizable

I stumbled across the following passage from Aristotle's Poetics:

It is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen--what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history, with meter no less than without it. The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.

So history is not subject to the Common Rule, but poetry is.

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