Aristotle Beyond the Academy

Aristotle the Critic

Laugh at Aristotle as one of four ancient Greek intellectuals, along with Demosthenes, Socrates and Plato, imagined as a panel on a Game Show. This cartoon in what was still the Manchester Guardian rather than the Guardian postulates a letter from a dissatisfied member of the public protesting at the quality of content available on television:

“If the money spent on TV entertainment and been applied to the encouragement of the live arts and sciences and public enlightenment, we might have made a new Athens in Great Britain”.

By late February 1959, public controversy raged about the future and purpose of television. Tyne Tees Television, the Independent Television (ITV) franchise for North East England, had just begin broadcasting in January. In February, the earliest known interracial kiss on television occured during a live performance of the play Hot Summer Night, broadcast on the British ABC program Armchair Theatre on the ITV network. But it was game shows and quizzes, often with panels of four, that elicited the most criticism: titles like The $64,000 Question, Do You Trust Your Wife, Double Your money, and I've Got a Secret are representative. Does the Team Think?, a comic parody of the weekly politics show Any Questions?, was probably the direct target of the cartoon.

What Aristotle would have made of popular 1950s television shows is an interesting question. Plato and Socrates would have been outraged, but he did believe that good-humoured wit was a virtue and that everyone needed proper rest and recreation; he seems to have enjoyed watching competitions, at least in athletics and the performance of poetry, including of course drama.


Durham UniversityDurham University Centre for Classical ReceptionLeverhulme Trust