Quit Abusing Aristotle!

As the Eliot Spizter scandal train-wreck rolls on in the news cycle, all kinds of narratives have emerged, and most of them invoke the pattern of the tragic hero and his downfall, in the mode of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Wrong!

We should really stop abusing Aristotle for these kind of thing. Sure, Eliot Spitzer was brought down by an action which he was known for prosecuting, and sure, a once promising political career on the rise is now lying in smoldering ruins, but is this really heroic?

Because that is the characteristic of a proper Aristotlean tragic hero: he had to be heroic.

Is fucking a hooker heroic? I somehow doubt that. It’s not like the guy tried to cure a plague affecting the state of New York and inadvertently found out that he married his mother and killed his father. Nor was he someone who was engaged in some particularly noble endeavor while he was busted.

There were no fucking grand, cosmological rules of Fate being played out here: Eliot Spitzer wasn’t “destined” to “fall,” because let’s face it, marital infidelity, unless it involves some really eloquent soliloquies and mutual suicide, does not really fit into the classical Aristotlean conception of tragedy.

So let’s just state the facts: Eliot Spitzer fucked a hooker and cheated on his wife and family, and for that he has been and will continue to be punished, as he deserves it. But please, let us not make him into a Greek tragic hero. But then again, it’s understandable: after all, members of the media have to use their MFA in Comparative Literature sometimes.

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