The literature is very important in the society. Any literature material has a basic objective of passing on moral virtue to the target audience. Although it seems obvious to expect a moral lesson from a literary material, critical analysis of the literary material shows that there are negative impacts as well.
The society derives its moral values and ethics from the literature since students mature and become reliable members of the society after reading and experiencing literature moral lessons. The moral lessons students get from the literature molds their lives and this clearly reflects the positive impacts of literature.
On contrary, literature materials can negatively affect the moral values and ethics of the society. The controversy over the effects of literature has made the great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, to differ in their perceptions of the literature impacts on the society. Hence, despite the fact that literature has some negative effects to the individual and the society, the positive impacts outweigh the negative effects.
The Role of Literature
Plato and Aristotle differ on their approach to the role of literature in the society. According to the Leitch and McGowan, “both men approach the critique from different perspectives, Plato from an idealistic deductive view point depicted in the dialogue format, and Aristotle from realistic, practical and inductive viewpoint in essay format” (2).
Plato and Aristotle perceive that literature has lasting emotional stimulatory effects on the individuals and the society but they differ on whether the effects are positive or negative.
Plato argues that literature have negative effect to the individuals and the society. His argument is based on his perception of the literature from the dialogue format.
In his literary analysis, he argues that, “poetry inspires undesirable emotions in society and should be censored from adults and especially children for fear of lasting detrimental consequences” (Leitch & McGowan 3). The cause of the detrimental consequences is due to weakened control of emotions of which the children are more susceptible because they are emotionally and mentally immature.
He explains that, “children have no ability to know what emotions should be tempered and which should be expressed as certain expressed emotions can have lasting consequences later in life” (Leitch & McGowan 3). Plato classified the literature in the bid to determine the degree of literature to which the children and the adults should be exposed.
Plato further explains that children must not be told about the scary stories and horror tales because they stimulate strong negative deep emotions that makes the children develop fear and lose courage in their lives. On the other extreme, the literature that strongly inspires laughter too triggers strong emotional response that is detrimental.
Plato argument is that, “Strong emotions of every kind must be avoided, in fear of them spiraling out of control and creating irreparable damage” (Leitch & McGowan 4). Thus, the literature stimulatory effects have lasting consequences on the minds and especially the minds of the children and the effects will determine whether on is emotionally weak or strong.
According to Al-amour, Plato believes that, “… poetry corrupt and spoilt the society because it teaches us immorality ,evil ,bad manner and crudity because the characters in the poetry lie, cheat, deceive and enjoy torture the people ,so he thinks that poetry is dangerous and take us further away from reality” (12). Plato believes that although literature has positive impacts of morality, it has more of the negative effects to the moral ethics and values in the society.
Aristotle argument differs with the Plato as he argues from inductive essay format. He perceives that literature as the effective way of passing information and integral in the learning process of the children. He further argues that,” literary representations are pleasurable because they impart beneficial knowledge … objects potentially harmful in nature can be depicted and studied in close proximity without fear” (Al-amour 13).
Aristotle believes that the literature enhances teaching because information is portrayed in an objective manner to convey the right meaning without necessarily stimulating negative feelings in the students.
Literature affects the society in two ways. In one way, the effect results from actively reading while the other way, the effect results from passive observation but all of them stimulate our emotions and minds hence attain different conceptions of morality and ethics in the society.
Denny argues that, “Plato believes in the absolute reality, and that poets depict things as what they are, so the poetry according to him distort the reality” (10). On the other hand, Aristotle argues that,” poetry takes us closer to reality because it teaches and warn us, and show us the result and the consequences of bad deeds” (Denny, 10). Thus, literature is a way of learning but can have both negative and positive impacts in our lives and the society.
Critical analysis of the literature content reveals that there are inherent negative effects that would have detrimental consequences to the children. The literature materials given to children or the literary presentations require careful selection with the consideration of the age of the children. Differing arguments of the Plato and Aristotle have revealed the importance of the literature in shaping individual lives and the future of the society.
Al-amour, Tahreer. “Plato and Aristotle theory” The Journal of philosophy, 2003. 12(4): 10-19
Denny, Catherine. “What is the Role of Literature for Individuals and Society?” The Political Cartel Foundation, 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
Leitch, Cain & McGowan, Williams. “Aristotle vs. Plato on the Dangers of Poetry.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.