I usually ask questions like this on Christianity.SE, but I've got a feeling it's better suited here. And just to be clear, I want only Natural Law (Aristotle, Aquinas, etc) answers pointing to objective truth.

Poetry has gone through many phases and fads over the centuries, but most of it, I believe has rhymed. I think that the rhyming has something to do with memorization of the poems, but I'd imagine one could get the same effect through tropes, meter and other cues.

Still, a vast majority of human poetry has rhymed. So it is possible that not only does good poetry ryhme, but good poetry should rhyme?

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    This question seems more appropriate for the English SE.
    – Geremia
    Jul 21, 2015 at 8:13
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    @ger I don't think they answer Natural Law questions over there. Also, why is there no Natural Law tag, this is really a philosophy site, right? Jul 21, 2015 at 12:15
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    Why would rhyming have anything to do with natural law???
    – virmaior
    Jul 21, 2015 at 12:37
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    What leads you to believe rhyming is the essence of poetry as informed by nature? Rhyming is very easy in Japanese but not a major part of poetry. Plenty of western poetry is not based on rhymes...
    – virmaior
    Jul 21, 2015 at 13:33
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    @MoziburUllah Aquinas's framework = Thomism (except thomism maybe broader for important reasons). But there are a lot of species of natural law that aren't necessarily Aquinas's or brands of Thomism. Natural law is partially an opposite of positive law and partially an idea about how we can infer elements of morality from nature's organizational structure.
    – virmaior
    Jul 22, 2015 at 15:54

3 Answers 3


I'm not an Aristotle expert, but according to Wikipedia, he did discuss rhyme in his book Rhetoric.

The problem with a general law like the one you mention, is that, unlike Aristotle, who referenced everything to the culture of Athens, we live in a global and aesthetically diverse world, which includes any number of non-rhyming poetic traditions in a variety of different languages.

If you wanted a properly Aristotelian account, you'd need to elaborate on the function of poetry, and draw a link between rhyme and that function (which it seems you've made a stab at with the idea of memorability). You might also consider making it more general and generalizable --perhaps dealing with the overall idea of structure rather than rhyme in particular.

  • That's kind of where I was going with it, wondering if it could be proven that in cultures that have poetic traditions, the best ones (i.e. the ones that manage to preserve themselves, not the most beautiful) have a tendency to rhyme, and if that has something to do with a the Natural Law. Jul 21, 2015 at 15:07
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    I'm in sympathy with your inclinations --I personally perceive a moral component to aesthetics --but you're not going to find much consensus on aesthetic rules in the philosophical tradition. Jul 22, 2015 at 16:57

Since your question is inspired by what Chesterton thinks about poetry, lets look at what Chesterton says about poetry in Everlasting Man:

It is even more like saying that the thing we call poetry arose as the result of certain customs; such as that of an ode being officially composed to celebrate the advent of spring; or that of a young man rising at a regular hour to listen to the skylark and then writing his report on a piece of paper. It is quite true that young men often become poets in the spring; and it is quite true that when once there are poets, no mortal power can restrain them from writing about the skylark. But the poems did not exist before the poets. The poetry did not arise out of the poetic forms. In other words, it is hardly an adequate explanation of how a thing appeared for the first time to say it existed already.

(Emphasis added)

From this quote, it seems that Chesterton thinks that the order is:

  1. People felt inspired
  2. People, being inspired, wrote in language that was appropriate for their inspiration. This sort of writing became known as poetry.
  3. We extracted poetic forms (such as rhyming and meter schemes) from what poetry was successful.

I couldn't find the poem to which you referred either, but from this it seems that first we have some notion of poems being good, incidentally some might rhyme.


In regards to your post, I'll try to go through it piecemeal and hopefully answer your question and clarify any potential misconceptions you might have.

The first part:

I want only Natural Law (Aristotle, Aquinas, etc) answers pointing to objective truth.

The statement above is a little bit "mixed mode," though easy enough to determine what was intended.

It's still very much a debate whether or not Aquinas' interpretation of Aristotle's natural law theory is accurate, but certainly both theories of natural law are theories of ethics. And, in that context, I'm understanding you use 'objective' in the term objective truth to be "morally objective" (eg "murder" is wrong.") Out of context, in a conversation about philosophy, if you used the term "objective truth" I would think you meant "there are no squared circles" or something along those lines.

Your comment clarifies this a bit:

There's a poem by G.K. Chesteron, I believe (at least I read it in Gilbert magazine) called "The Poetry Should Rhyme" I don't remember most of it and I can't find it right now, but I want to know if the word "Should" in this case indicates an objective moral truth

In common language, people use the word 'should' in many circumstances to indicate just the opposite of objectivity - moral or otherwise.. When you want an audience to know you mean "morally/dutifully obligated" you'd use "ought."

If Chesteron did mean "ought" instead of "should", I think he'd have a hard time rationalizing this standpoint under any normative moral framework, primarily because he'd have to:

  1. Prove that poetry (or the process of creating poetry?) was a moral object/activity - i.e. "a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons."
  2. That in order for poetry to be moral (and not immoral) it must rhyme.

Otherwise, the statement is essentially meaningless from a moral standpoint; no different from "tables ought have legs."

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