Catharsis is one of the ways to rethink life, immerse oneself in emotions, and change important principles and habits. Aristotle noted the educational and purifying significance of music, thanks to which people receive relief and are cleansed of affects while experiencing harmless joy. This is one of the manifestations of catharsis that occurs through the admiration for art. In Aristotle, catharsis’ doctrine is a latent polemic against Plato, who denied the social and pedagogical usefulness of music, in particular tragedy.
According to Aristotle’s teaching, tragedy with the help of compassion and fear produces catharsis of similar affects, that is, compassion, fear, and other similar feelings. The interpretation of these words presents significant difficulties since Aristotle does not explain how he understands this “cleansing.” The Greek expression “catharsis of affects” has a double meaning and can mean the cleansing of affects from any defilement or the purification of the soul from affects, liberation from them (Destrée, Heath & Munteanu, 2020). On the other hand, comedy affects a person differently, evoking extremely positive emotions. They are so strong that a person for some time forgets about his personality and is filled with new affects.
A systematic analysis of the term catharsis by Aristotle and other ancient theorists convinces researchers that catharsis should be understood not in the ethical sense, as a moral cleansing of affects, but in the aforementioned medical one. All people are subject to weakening affects, and, according to the teachings of Aristotle, one of the tasks of art is to painlessly excite these affects, leading to catharsis, that is, to discharge. As a result, the affects are temporarily removed from the soul. This is the way to improve life and become a better person.
Destrée. P., Heath, M., Munteanu, D. L. (2020). The Poetics in its Aristotelian context. Routledge.