With a view to poetry, an impossible thing that is believable is preferable to an unbelievable thing that is possible.

[πρός τε γὰρ τὴν ποίησιν αἱρετώτερον πιθανὸν ἀδύνατον ἢ ἀπίθανον καὶ δυνατόν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 24 / 1461b.11 (c. 335 BC) [tr. Sachs (2006)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "The poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities." [tr. Butcher (1895)]
  • "A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility." [tr. Bywater (1909)]
  • "You should prefer a plausible impossibility to an unconvincing possibility." [tr. Margoliouth (1911)]
  • "For poetic effect a convincing impossibility is preferable to that which is unconvincing though possible." [tr. Fyfe (1932)]
  • "Probable impossibilities are preferable to implausible possibilities." [tr. Halliwell (1986)]
  • "In relation to the needs of the composition, a believable impossibility is preferable to an unbelievable possibility." [tr. Janko (1987)]
  • "With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible."
  • "For the purposes of poetry a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility."
Added on 21-Feb-11 | Last updated 10-May-21
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