I'm listening to a podcast lecture by Michael Grant on Aristotle's poetics. The current topic is interpretations of Aristotle's theory that pleasure is derived from 'pity and fear'. One such interpretation is Susan Feagin's, that we derive pleasure because we are pleased to know we are sympathetic enough to feel sympathy for the pain to the person on stage. So,if we feel pain in sympathy, this gives us pleasure. The lecturer (James Grant) goes on to question how this could apply to fear, essentially conceding that it can't and moving on (its a fairly minor point in the lecture). However. I think that the theory can fit, if one takes pleasure in the successful outcome of the function of the tragedy. So, I feel pleasure, because I am pleased that the tragedy has succeeded in its goal of making me piteous or (crucially) afraid. What is the name of this theory? I think it is a strain of Aesthetic Functionalism, but I'm not sure.

  • Possibly instrumentalism is close, but it has more philosophy of science and epistemology connotations than esthetic – Joseph Weissman Jun 3 '17 at 18:08
  • In the 18th century this was the rationalist or perfectionist school of Aesthetics (connected to Spinoza Leibniz, elaborated e.g. by Baumgarten), generally contrasted against the theory of the sentimentalist or empiricist school (considerable overlap with the "moral sense" philosophers, although there were actually two distinct empiricist aesthetic theories). – guest1806 Nov 7 '18 at 14:27

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