"The question may be raised whether the epic or the tragic is the higher form of imitation. It may be urged that if the less vulgar is the higher, and the less vulgar is always which appeals to the better public, an art which makes its appeal to all and sundry is clearly one of a very low order indeed. The argument is that because the poet's public cannot grasp the meaning of a piece unless the author adds something, he is led to keep the performers in perpetual motion-- have flute players, for example, rolling about if the act of throwing a quoit is to be imitated, and pulling at the conductor if the music is descriptive of Scylla. Tragedy then is said to be an art of this sort, to be in fact just what the later actors were in the eyes of their predecessors; for Mynniscus used to call Callipedes 'the ape' because he thought his style was exaggerated, and a similar view was taken of Pindarus also. All Tragedy, however, is said to stand to Epic as the later to the older school of actors. The one is accordingly said to address a cultured audience, which has no need of gesture as an accompaniment; the other, an uncultured one. If therefore Tragedy is a vulgar art, it must clearly be lower than Epic." Aristotle.
"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possess not only truth, but supreme beauty--a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeoues trappings of painting or music , yet sublimely pure, and capable of stern perfections such as only the greatest art can allow." Bertrand Russell
"Mathematics is poetry of purely logical ideas" Albert Einstein
In this very brief discussion I suggest we consider the nature of aesthetical judgment. What exactly do I mean when I say something is beautiful or good? Usually this reflects a mere emotive valuation, and that is what comprises the most significant part of such an idea. In other words, when I say something is beautiful or good, it is mostly about how I feel about the entity that I comment on.
Clearly, how I feel about the entity is not all that this expression is about. In order to construct a sentence of 'I find this beautiful' some logical reasoning is necessary, as so is the case for all thoughts we express. Our minds are disorganized in their own element and only through conscious attempts at organization of our thoughts could they be more structured. Quite obviously, the convention of language does impose structure on our thinking.
Inevitably, in such cases we use our faculties of structured contemplation to understand and express our emotive states of mind. Thus, we could adduce that aesthetical judgments primarily reflect how we feel about things.
As a matter of truism, how we feel about things reflects who we are. As a man could easily be defined by his interests, or his likes and dislikes. Art clearly engages our emotions or faculties of aesthetical judgment. Inevitably, for this reason, art is an expression of ourselves. Thus, as noted by Aristotle, tragedy is a vulgar from of art because it is enjoyed by vulgar people more than by the lofty people. One should ask why this is the case, and the explanation that I have provided appears highly plausible. Almost a truism. In summary a man is defined by his likes and dislikes, or his aesthetical judgments, and art forces man to make aesthetical judgments, and therefore evinces the constitution of one's character.
Novels, poetry and plays cover a myriad of subjects and are often highly emotionally charged. For this reason they force us to make aesthetical judgments regarding many topics. For this reason we can learn a lot about one's character by observing their aesthetic judgments concerning such works of literature. Now we should explore why Aristotle's claim that tragedy appeals to the vulgar people appears plausible. Clearly, it is the case that what separates us the most from the brutes is our intellect. Very often people who are regarded as the loftiest are the most intelligent ones. An intelligent person is one who is able to solve complex problems. For this reason Einstein, a physicist who was able to do so proficiently is regarded as an epitome of an intelligent person.
Whilst the former is a prerequisite for the latter, the latter is more important than the former. Or in other words, analytical merits are more important than our faculties of imagination. Obviously, one cannot analyze a problem if he cannot envisage a problem to begin with. But, imagination without analysis is torrential. One is much less likely to intuit a solution to a complex problem than to solve it in a methodical fashion. For this reason, in mathematics, an intellectual discipline that is most concerned with solution of complex problems, careful and rigorous reasoning is highly vouched for.
On these grounds we can conclude that analytical thinking is the most representative of our intellect. Analytical thinking is purely dispassionate. What is the complete opposite of this? Quite clearly, an emotionally charged impulse. That is clearly animalistic, or as Aristotle puts it, of the lower order. The lofty persons such as Bertrand Russell and Einstein see beauty in activities that are analytically oriented, specifically, mathematics. One may ask, why is there such a close connection between the term 'intellectual' and 'lofty'. That appears to be the case because we equate lofty with admirable, and as humans the quality we have that animals clearly lack is the intelligence, or ability to think proficiently about abstract ideas. Because of the close association of loftiness with intelligence, the following conclusion ensues.
The vulgar people like art that involves their emotions directly because they are most animal-like of all people. They easily value emotional impulse as an end in itself, but cannot appreciate what requires intellectual capabilities. It is a fact of human nature that all wish to feel well, and our mind unconsciously gravitates towards positive sentiment. Tragedy, by definition is a plot where the protagonist suffers. People identify with the protagonist. Because of this, they always wish for him to prevail, but the fate of the protagonist conflicts with their feelings, therefore creates a complex emotional reaction within the mind of the observer. This is the case because in a tragedy the observers emotions are always working towards a state of a positive mindset, or a 'happy feeling'. In the case of a comedy this is not so as the occurences within the plot directly lead to a positive emotive state of mind which tends not to be long lasting. Thus, because the vulgar people are attracted to the sheer emotional experience in itself, they gravitate towards activities that lead to emotionally intense experiences the most. Tragedy clearly does. For the same reason the vulgar people enjoy watching soap operas where many of the characters they identify with suffer, racecar competitions where the drivers they identify with suffer a risk of dying, bull fighting, or many similar sports. This clearly explains the popularity of such sports.
A lofty person on the other hand elects activities that do not directly involve his passions, but instead inspire him to rely on the intellect. For this reason the wise choose activities that are intellectually complex and not emotionally complex, such as mathematics.
Summary and additional notes.
Axiom concerning human nature: All our emotive activities naturally strive towards acquistion of happiness.
Proposition: The passions and the intellect are in a state of antithesis because the former is by definition emotionally involved, yet the latter is dispassionate.
Proposition 2: Aesthetical judgments are expressions of our emotive mindset, or a reflection of ourselves.
Lofty, by definition is associated with complex, or clever, which is part of the definition of 'intellectual'.
In order to be as intellectual as possible, one must be emotionally detached. This is the case because if one is not detached, one is consumed by the current experience and therefore will be unable to place himself in the position where he can contemplate.
In addition to a dispassionate approach to the situation, one needs an imagination to entertain complex ideas.
Logical reasoning is the most dispassionate of intellectual activities and requires imagination because it is complicated. Mathematics is the sophistication of logical reasoning. Therefore mathematics is the loftiest of all intellectual endeavors.
In proposition two we have established that our aesthetical judgments are a reflection of ourselves. Therefore lofty people like lofty activities and the vulgar like the vulgar activities.
We know that mathematics is the loftiest of all because it requires dispassionate contemplation of abstract notions. The opposite of lofty is vulgar. Therefore what is most vulgar is what requires dispassionate contemplation of abstract ideas the least. That is appeasement of our emotive impulses. Therefore an activity that engages our emotions the most is the most vulgar.
In axiom 1 we have established that we have a natural tendency towards feeling good. In order to feel good we must generate positive emotion. Tragedy gears us towards generating negative emotion. We will naturally combat our negative emotions and this will lead to emotional complexity. In a comedy or where the protagonist prevails easily, the positive emotion will not last long because our emotions were not engaged thoroughly. That is why most movies, plays and novels, whether they are tragic or comic (in the former the protagonist prevails and in the latter he suffers), the element of tragedy is highly emphasized, or the protagonist encounters difficulties to a significant degree.
Thus, because the vulgar people wish to have their passions engaged significantly, they prefer tragedy. Whilst the lofty who are detached from their passions prefer activities of dispassionate contemplation such as mathematics most of all, physics, philosophy or other intellectual endeavors. The antithesis between passion and intellect is necessary because passion prevents one from removing oneself from the immediate experience in order to begin contemplating.