Showing posts with label drama comedy and tragedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drama comedy and tragedy. Show all posts

Oct 21, 2012

Plato's Treatment of Anger

In my last post, I brought up the emotional response of anger as a topic tangentially touched on -- but never worked out in systematic detail by Plato.  Not surprisingly, given the master dialogue-writer's skill  not only in leading the reader through complexities of dialectic, but in bringing before our eyes living characters, believable situations -- the sorts of encounters and exchanges in which moral discussion so often does take place -- anger does get mentioned in a variety of contexts within many of his dialogues.  I dedicated the last post mainly to enumerating instances of anger, to classifying those instances, and then to examining two sides of the same coin: who gets angry (or could get angry) in the dialogues, and who does not get angry (even though they could have)?

This follow-up post intends to dig deeper into the Plato's texts and thought, determining just how much of a systematic theoretical perspective on anger could actually be derived from those scattered passages.  It's certainly nothing as well-developed or complex as, say, Aristotle's treatment, nor for that matter even one comparable to Epictetus' Stoic perspective -- but it's nevertheless of interest.  Plato only briefly discusses what we might call the "somatic mechanics" of the passion. But he does devote some thought to the psychological workings of anger -- how it arises, what part of our soul or personality it arises within, why people become and stay angry -- and he does consider moral dimensions of it as well -- including questions such as: Is anger a bad or good thing? When should or shouldn't we be angry? -- but also extending to the very connection between anger and moral values.

Sep 10, 2012

Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy: Euripides and Socrates

A few weeks ago, spurred to do a bit of writing about Friedrich Nietzsche's early work -- The Birth of Tragedy: Out of the Spirit of Music -- while rereading and readying myself for producing new portions of an ongoing video series on Existentialism (lectures one, two, and three on the Birth of Tragedy currently available), I started exploring two of the central concepts of that work -- the Apollonian and the Dionysiac.  I've often been struck by how often readers have reduced that book to merely those two concepts -- or, more accurately, those two responses to the problem of existence.

There is, however much more to The Birth of Tragedy than just the distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysiac.  First off, while both of these are primordial -- the Dionysiac arguably more so (at least originally) -- they also do develop, articulate themselves, assume new forms historically, through the processes of culture.  This takes on particular importance in the case of the Greeks, in whose culture these two express themselves particularly through the arts -- epic and lyric poetry, music, dance, sculpture, and drama.  The unstable but productive fusion of Dionysiac and Apollonian in tragedy -- the masterworks of Aeschylus and Sophocles -- is, in Nietzsche view, something novel, unique, and needed.  But, there is yet another response -- one which in the story he tells, supplants both the other two -- one which he identifies first with Euripides, but which he consistently terms the "Socratic-Alexandrian".

Aug 13, 2012

Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy: Apollo and Dionysus

friedrich nietzsche birth of tragedy apollo dionysos life existence meaning philosophy relgiion drama music
At one time, quite long ago -- A period including the end of my undergraduate studies, the early years of my graduate studies, and the interval between, when I worked a series of low-paying jobs, studied languages, and trained obsessively -- I would unapologetically identify myself as a Nietzschean.  That wasn't the hardest thing to do, of course, not least because taking that kind of stance grants a person permission to indulge their appetites and desires, rancor and bitterness, propensities to compete and confabulate, to put others down, to lie to oneself and other under the guise of a higher, more brutal, cleaner honesty.  Transgression becomes, if not a duty -- for really a Nietzschean has only self-imposed duties -- a compensation, an exploratory effort, something to enjoy and to bask in.  One gets to set oneself within an elite as equally opposed to present, philistine elites as to the mass, to the ordinary, dull people -- though, really, that kind of life, for which Nietzsche's ideas and writings provide articulation, represents a certain shape of adolescence, sensitively spoiled as much as revealingly barbaric.

This explains one side of Nietzsche's perennial appeal as a philosopher, an incorporation of his writings into one's lifestyle that I know well myself, having indulged in it, and later, come to feel regret and even embarrassment over.  Later, as I studied him more carefully, I came to see that there's so much more of value, depth, attractiveness, rigor to the thought of the twilight philosopher -- actually, a thinker, with whom I disagree on many points, not usually head on, but at tangents, about overall direction, interpretation.  I've recently started offering a sequence of video lectures exploring Existentialism.  Among other things, this has had me closely rereading his early great masterpiece, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music (video lectures one, two, and three available here), a work which I've often taught to students and discussed with colleagues.  I've noticed a tendency in readers, on its first few reads, to take a suggestive, seemingly correct, first path, following which cuts one off from seeing the entirety of what's going on in that early book of Nietzsche.