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The Disgrace Of Matter In Ancient Aesthetics

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Chapter Summary

This chapter looks at the moment when matter fell into disgrace in ancient aesthetic thought, and at the ways in which this came about (mainly, in Plato and in Aristotle, though with clear forerunners among some of the Presocratics). It argues that this turn against matter and materialism in ancient art and aesthetics, which became the canonical filter for reading the ancient traditions, is a distortion of the ancient reality. The chapter discusses some of the evidence for materialism in ancient aesthetic theory and practices. Like Plato, Aristotle tends to scant the material, sensuous, and phenomenal aspects of poetry (song, dance, spectacle, meter, language [lexis]). The heavenly bodies, for Xenophanes, seem to have been made up either of a concentration of fiery particles or of ignited clouds, and scholars sometimes worry about this divergence in the testimonia.

Keywords: ancient aesthetics; Aristotle; materialism; Plato; Presocratics; Xenophanes

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