Peter Szondi´s pathbreaking work is a succinct and elegant argument for distinguishing between a philosophy of the tragic and the poetics of tragedy espoused by Aristotle. The first of the book´s two parts consists of a series of commentaries on philosophical and aesthetic texts from twelve thinkers and poets between 1795 and 1915: Schelling, Hölderlin, Hegel, Solger, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Vischer, Kierkegaard, Hebbel, Nietzsche, Simmel, and Scheler. The various definitions of tragedy are read not so much in terms of their specific (...) philosophies, but rather in the way their views assist in analyzing tragedies with an aim to establish a general concept of the tragic. The second part presents exemplary analyses of eight tragedies: Sophocles’Oedipus Rex, Calderon´s Life Is a Dream, Shakespeare´s Othello, Gryphius´ Leo Armenius, Racine´s Phaedra, Schiller´s Demetrius, Kleist’s The Schroffenstein Family and Büchner’s Danton's Death. The readings neither presuppose a concept of the tragic determined by context (as in Hegel's idea of the conflict between two orders of right), nor do they focus exclusively on the texts´ explicit contents. Instead, they elaborate the dialectical or aporetic structures at the heart of the tragic. The works analyzed represent the four great epochs of tragic poetry: the age of Greek tragedy; the Baroque era in Spain, England, and Germany; French Classicism; and the age of Goethe. (shrink)
Recently, a number of Anglo-American philosophers of very different sorts--pragmatists, metaphysicians, philosophers of language, philosophers of law, moral philosophers--have taken a reflective rather than merely recreational interest in literature. Does this literary turn mean that philosophy is coming to an end or merely down to earth? In this collection of essays, one of the most insightful of contemporary literary theorists investigates the intersection of literature and philosophy, analyzing the emerging preferences for practice over theory, particulars over universals, events over structures, (...) inhabitants over spectators, an ethics of responsibility over a morality of rules, and a desire for intimacy with the world instead of simply a disengaged knowledge of it. (shrink)
If the tragic interpretation of experience is still so current, despite its disastrous ethical consequences, it is because it shapes our subjectivity. Instead of contradicting the ideals of autonomy and freedom, a modern subjectivity based on self-victimization in effect enables them. By embracing subjection to an alienating other (the Law, Power) the autonomous subject protects its sameness from the disruption of real people. Seductions of Fate stages a dialogue between this tragic agent of political emancipation and the unconditional ethical demands (...) it seeks to evade. (shrink)
This paper outlines and defends a notion of tragic-remorse. This moral emotion properly accompanies those actions that involve unavoidable moral wrongdoing in general and dirty hands scenarios in particular. Tragic-remorse differs both phenomenologically and conceptually from regret, agent-regret and remorse. By recognising the existence of tragic-remorse, we are better able to account for our complex moral reality which at times makes it necessary for good persons to act in ways that although justified leave the agent with a moral stain and (...) a particular emotional response. (shrink)
I defend Hume's account of tragic pleasure against various objections. I examine his account of the emotions in order to clarify his "conversion theory". I also argue that Hume does not give us a theory of tragedy as an aesthetic genre, but rather elucidates the felt experience of a particular work of tragedy. I offer a partial reading of King Lear by way of illustration. Finally, I suggest that the experiences of aesthetic pleasure, and aesthetic sadness, share certain qualities. "Tragic (...) pleasure" is possible, in part, because the pity of tragedy is realised through the pleasure of the aesthetic. (shrink)
Among the sources of Hannah Arendt's philosophy of action is an unexplored one: the account of agency in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Drawing on a consideration of what has been called the 'dramaturgical' character of Arendt's philosophy of action, the article compares the accounts of action in Arendt's Human Condition and in the 'Spirit' chapter of the Phenomenology. Both works share a similar overall structure: in each case, the account of action begins with the opening-up of previously unseen or unexpected (...) tragic consequences within action and concludes with an exploration of what can be forgiven or reconciled in action. The Arendtian and Hegelian appropriations of tragedy and forgiveness reveal nonetheless important differences in their view of what counts as action and how its tragic elements are to be understood. Key Words: action agency Arendt forgiveness Hegel tragedy. (shrink)
The standard response to engineering disasters like the Deepwater Horizon case is to ascribe full moral responsibility to individuals and to collectives treated as individuals. However, this approach is inappropriate since concrete action and experience in engineering contexts seldom meets the criteria of our traditional moral theories. Technological action is often distributed rather than individual or collective, we lack full control of the technology and its consequences, and we lack knowledge and are uncertain about these consequences. In this paper, I (...) analyse these problems by employing Kierkegaardian notions of tragedy and moral responsibility in order to account for experiences of the tragic in technological action. I argue that ascription of responsibility in engineering contexts should be sensitive to personal experiences of lack of control, uncertainty, role conflicts, social dependence, and tragic choice. I conclude that this does not justify evading individual and corporate responsibility, but inspires practices of responsibility ascription that are less ‘harsh’ on those directly involved in technological action, that listen to their personal experiences, and that encourage them to gain more knowledge about what they are doing. (shrink)
My purpose in this paper is to argue that we are not vulnerableto inescapable wrongdoing occasioned by tragic dilemmas. I directmy argument to those who are most inclined to accept tragicdilemmas: those of broadly Nietzschean inclination who reject``modern moral philosophy'''' in favor of the ethical ideas of theclassical Greeks. Two important features of their project are todeny the usefulness of the ``moral/nonmoral distinction,'''' and todeny that what are usually classified as moral reasons always oreven characteristically ``trump'''' nonmoral reasons in anadmirable (...) agent''s deliberations.I show critics of modern moral philosophy such as BernardWilliams that their acceptance of tragic dilemmas underminestheir project of denying the moral/nonmoral distinction and thepriority of moral reasons. The possibility of tragic dilemmasrequires an account of practical deliberation in which moralreasons appear as already in-force obligations, with blame andguilt ready to be invoked, while nonmoral reasons appear as merereasons. This makes moral reasons importantly different fromnonmoral reasons in how they achieve their deliberative weight,and also makes them characteristically weightier. Thus,accommodating tragic dilemmas reinforces the moral/nonmoraldistinction and the priority of moral reasons, the very thingsthese critics want to deny. By accepting the possibility oftragic dilemmas, these critics are undermining their own project.The standard normative theories are dead set against tragicdilemmas, and the critics of modern moral philosophy shouldreject tragic dilemmas for the good of their project. Thus we allshould reject tragic dilemmas. (shrink)
This paper outlines and defends a notion of 'tragic-remorse'. This moral emotion properly accompanies those actions that involve unavoidable moral wrongdoing in general and dirty hands scenarios in particular. Tragic-remorse differs both phenomenologically and conceptually from regret, agent-regret and remorse. By recognising the existence of tragic-remorse, we are better able to account for our complex moral reality which at times makes it necessary for good persons to act in ways that although justified leave the agent with a moral stain and (...) a particular emotional response. (shrink)
I. Introduction This paper aims to explain Nietzsche’s understanding of tragedy, and in particular his self-characterization as the “tragic philosopher.” What I shall claim is that, according to Nietzsche, to recognize the self-determining or self-creating character of our agency is to reveal it as tragic. Tragedy accordingly illuminates the most fundamental issue in Nietzsche’s mature philosophy: the possibility of affirmation.
Scholars have recently argued that Friedrich Schiller makes a signal contribution to republican political theory in his view of “aesthetic education,” which offers a means of elevating self-interest to virtue. However, though this education is lauded in theory, it has been denigrated as implausible, irresponsible, or dangerous in practice. This paper argues that the criticisms rest on a faulty assumption that artistic objects constitute the sole substance of this “aesthetic education.” Through a reading of Schiller’s work throughout the 1790s, I (...) make the case that this “education” occurs also through an encounter with the “moral beauty” of individual exemplars. This interpretation fits with Schiller’s republican allegiances, saves Schiller’s project from political irrelevance, and enriches Schiller’s contribution to contemporary republican political theory. However, I argue that Schiller was attentive to the dangers of this “aesthetic education” in his play Wallenstein, in which Schiller dramatizes the tragic relationship between individual exemplar and political order. (shrink)
In Reason's Grief, George Harris takes W. B. Yeats's comment that we begin to live only when we have conceived life as tragedy as a call for a tragic ethics, something the modern West has yet to produce. He argues that we must turn away from religious understandings of tragedy and the human condition and realize that our species will occupy a very brief period of history, at some point to disappear without a trace. We must accept an ethical perspective (...) that avoids pernicious fantasies about ultimate redemption but that sees tragic loss as a permanent and pervasive aspect of our daily lives, yet finds a way to think, feel, and act with both passion and hope. Reason's Grief takes us back through the history of our thinking about value to find our way. The call is for nothing less than a paradigm shift for understanding both tragedy and ethics. (shrink)
Boldly contesting recent scholarship, Sallis argues that The Birth of Tragedy is a rethinking of art at the limit of metaphysics. His close reading focuses on the complexity of the Apollinian/Dionysian dyad and on the crossing of these basic art impulses in tragedy. "Sallis effectively calls into question some commonly accepted and simplistic ideas about Nietzsche's early thinking and its debt to Schopenhauer, and proposes alternatives that are worth considering."--Richard Schacht, Times Literary Supplement.
Is philosophy, as the love of wisdom, inherently tragic? Must philosophy abolish its traditional modes of thinking if it is to attain the wisdom of tragedy? Sharing a common origin, even direction, does philosophy move beyond tragedy, epitomizing it? Is the action of tragedy analogous to the activity of philosophy? Have Hegel and Nietzsche distorted the tragic? Can there be a philosophy of the tragic? It is with such questions that the essays of this volume become involved, coming up with (...) original interpretations of tragedy, new approaches to traditional views, and novel conceptions of philosophy. Their diversity and novelty emerge out of a common problematic, a theme they all address: the relation between philosophy and tragedy. By exploring this relation, this volume adds to our comprehension of both. (shrink)
In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche expounds on the origins of Greek tragedy and its relevance to the German culture of its time. He declares it to be the expression of a culture which has achieved a delicate but powerful balance between Dionysian insight into the chaos and suffering which underlies all existence and the discipline and clarity of rational Apollonian form. In order to promote a return to these values, Nietzsche critiques the complacent rationalism of late nineteenth-century German culture (...) and makes an impassioned plea for the regenerative potential of the music of Wagner. A wide ranging discussion of the nature of art, science, and religion, The Birth of Tragedy's argument raises important questions about the problematic nature of cultural origins which are still valid today. (shrink)
Skillful, sophisticated translations of two of Nietzsche's essential works about the conflict between the moral and aesthetic approaches to life, the impact of Christianity on human values, the meaning of science, the contrast between the Apollonian and Dionysian spirits, and other themes central to his thinking.
The fundamental difference between Castoriadis' and Papaioannou's accounts of the link between tragedy and the political is that Castoriadis insists on a political form (the democratic regime) whilst Papaioannou insists on a social actor (the masses). The starting point for this essay, then, are two thinkers: one whose main interest was a political and philosophical reflection on the social-historical and one whose main interest was a philosophical reflection on the arts. Surprisingly, however, the end situation is one where Castoriadis gives (...) us a political explanation of the link between tragedy and the political whilst Papaioannou gives us a social explanation of the same phenomenon. How can this difference be accounted for? First, distinguishing their respective conceptualisations of the political allows us to see that where one thinker privileges restlessness and revolution, the other privileges law and regime. Second, looking at their depictions of the essential aspects of tragedy places them on opposing sides of the couple hubris-dike, in a way that leads to two radically different conceptualisations of the relation in question. (shrink)
During the years preceding the composition of Tristan and Isolde, Wagner's aesthetics underwent a momentous turnaround, principally as a result of his discovery of Schopenhauer. Many of Schopenhauer's ideas, especially those regarding music's metaphysical significance, resonated with patterns of thought that had long been central to Wagner's aesthetics, and Wagner described the entry of Schopenhauer into his life as "a gift from heaven." Chafe argues that Wagner's Tristan and Isolde is a musical and dramatic exposition of metaphysical ideas inspired by (...) Schopenhauer. The first part of the book covers the philosophical and literary underpinnings of the story, exploring Schopenhauer's metaphysics and Gottfried van Strassburg's Tristan poem. Chafe then turns to the events in the opera, providing tonal and harmonic analyses that reinforce his interpretation of the drama. Chafe acts as an expert guide, interpreting and illustrating most important moments for his reader. Ultimately, Chafe creates a critical account of Tristan, in which the drama is shown to develop through the music. (shrink)
Philosophy and Tragedy is a compelling contribution to that oversight and the first book to address the topic in a major way. Eleven new essays by internationally renowned philosophers clearly show how time and again, major thinkers have returned to tragedy in many of their key works. Philosophy and Tragedy asks why it is that thinkers as far apart as Hegel and Benjamin should make tragedy such and important strand of philosophy should present itself tragically. From Heidegger's reading of Sophocles' (...) Antigone to Nietzsche and Benjamin's book length studies of tragedy, Philosophy and Tragedy presents and outstanding and original study of this preoccupation. The five sections are organised clearly around five major philosophers: Hegel, Holderlin, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Benjamin. Contributors include: Walter Borgan, Jean-Francois Courtine, Francoise Dastur, Gunter Figal, Rodolphe Gasche, David Farrell Krell, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, William McNeill, Marc Froment-Meurice. (shrink)