Raising the floor: the difference between the pitiful and the tragic

Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 09:46 pm
Deckard;162013 wrote:
Pity is compassion that we can't stand; we even begin to resent the object of pity in self defense against the intolerable feelings that it gives rise to.

I think this is right. It touches on a dark truth, I think. We do resent in self-defense. And also humans often insist that they don't want to be pitied.
And maybe this already helps us to see them as tragic, rather than pitiful. We don't really want to see the terminal patient wail in the street, do we? And I can't say I enjoy those commercials that feature starving children...the ones that ask you for money. And it's not only that I'm greedy for the little I have. It's also something else. A suspicion and perhaps a resentment. Who dares shove these images in my face? Is it some cynical con man? Some sensitive saint? And what about the production value of said video. Is it excusable to get a little Hollywood for a good cause? Is the bad minor-key music excusable? Then my rationalizing brain kicks in. Does the short term solution prolong the problem? Is it ultimately a buy-off of one's conscience, if one gives 50 dollars for instance? What about the smallness factor? One vote. One non-rich man's expendable income. The ghosts of departed quantities...

---------- Post added 05-09-2010 at 10:54 PM ----------

Fido;162040 wrote:
Agreed... The slave and slave master are both slaves...The capitalist and worker are both slaves, and together or alone neither has a chance of approaching freedom as an ideal...The progress of one impedes the common progress of both, because all the gains of the one are undermined by their very success at the ruin of the other... We all have to go into the future together, and everyone wants to get there first; and shut the door behind them...

I agree. And yet capitalism seems to appeal to the more animal part of us. Weren't mammals evolved from little creatures who liked the eat the eggs of dinosaurs? Hot blooded thieves, who are as efficient at night as they are in the day. The cold doesn't slow them down. An edge. But they need more calories....

---------- Post added 05-09-2010 at 10:58 PM ----------

I can't help but see a tension between a pluralistic society and living community. Pluralism is really just the common god Money as a mediator between tribes that are otherwise in conflict. If only a small minority craves something beyond the sensual and the status possibilities of wealth, something's not quite right. Well perhaps we all crave it, and many find it in personal relationships, but we are lacking a real culture it seems. Our culture is defined by negative freedom. And this has its charms. But is it sustainable in a shrinking world?

Free Trade! (Just put in the word Free there, Boss...works every time.)
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Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 10:31 pm
Reconstructo;161997 wrote:
Perhaps the proletarian tragedy would be the factory hand to tried to start a union and wakes up dead. This would add the hero element. For me, this is the leap from the pitiful to the tragic. The camera, or the writer, could focus on the rule rather than the exception, the obedient slave, but this might simply be painful. We would have a documentary on our hands. If we add the salt of rebellion, struggle, etc., I think we get some tragedy. I have also found this sort of issue fascinating. It seems that great art is inseparable from religion in the looser sense of transcendent value. This also ties into Kojeve, as the master is one who sacrifices his biological being for recognition, for an ideal. The slave is one who refuses to risk his life, and instead comes up with Skepticism, Stoicism, Christianity, to ameliorate this indignity. Of course the slave has a point. What good is recognition if one is too dead to enjoy it? Perhaps it's better to live and dream of freedom.... As you may know already, the master-slave dichotomy is synthesized by the universal homogeneous state, a classless democracy, etc. But Kojeve was a Marxist, it seems, and he also talks about men becoming the slaves of their economic pseudo-selves, the slaves of their own capital. They sacrifice/defer "biological"/sensual pleasure for the abstract/spiritual pleasure of having lots o money.

This is how a Nero comes to power. The ruling class is abstract and monetary, no longer warlike enough to resist such tyranny. Spengler also stressed that Rome could not be understood without the concept of high finance, etc. I can hardly claim mastery, as far as history goes. There's too much information out there. Not enough time.

---------- Post added 05-09-2010 at 12:04 AM ----------

I think Nietzsche is righter about tragedy than Aristotle, but that may be because Nietzsche is a fellow Faustian. I think it's worth comparing Shakespeare with Sophocles. Shakespeare shows the transformation of characters to a greater degree. In Sophocles, we may get a reversal from Creon, for instance, but Shakespeare offers us a transformation like King Lear's. An utter and terrible transformation. A tragedy of character as much as of event.

I also think that to concentrate only on fear and pity is to miss a crucial element. From what I've read, Greek tragedy evolved from religious ritual. Tragedy involved the "Gods."

I can see why you would put Nietzsche on the stage. But I think he was also a good audience.

Greek tragedy really gave us the only types of anti-heroes we have...There is Promaethius, a true hero, who did what he did knowing and accepting the consequences... Then there is Oedipus, doing what he did not knowing what he did, and accepting the consequences... And then Orestes, doing what he did knowing what he did an trying to evade the consequences...
Knowledge give a certain foresight, and we are the children of Promaethius, so we should see the future... And we will if we do not hope against hope...But like Promaethius, we should always give justice, and never evade justice; and know that the worst thing any human can say is that they acted out of ignorance, because ignorance, if we acknowledge it, should stop us in our tracks...

In the instance we are talking of, if we live with injustice we do so out of willful ignorance...There is plenty of proof that injustice has destroyed many societies... We should not let it destroy us...
Reply Thu 13 May, 2010 03:05 am
For Marx as for Hegel cultural progress consists in transferring problems to higher and more inclusive levels. But there are always problems. "History," he says "has no other way of answering old questions than by putting new ones." Under communism man ceases to suffer as an animal and suffers as human. He therewith moves from the plane of the pitiful to the plane of the tragic.
- Sidney Hook
- Towards an understanding of Karl Marx p. 175
I think the tragic and the pitiful, in the way that Hook uses them in the quoted text might be better understood with reference to suicide. And I'm reaching a bit here. Marx/Engles distanced themselves from the Utopians but as for myself I find Utopia to be a good reference point. For example, I do imagine my Utopia free of suicides.

I think that that which is pitiful is no different really from the suicidal. If we call someone truly pitiful we are saying something like: "Wow, if I were in their shoes I would just kill myself."

The tragic is different. There is loss to be sure and granted many tragic characters end in suicide but usually, perhaps invariably, the main protagonist is cut down by the sword of another or else wanders about blind and regretful for the rest of the cycle of plays. (Counter-example?) We still want such characters to live on, broken though they are, and not as objects of some low desire for sadism or schadenfreude but because we recognize the humanity of such characters to still be intact.

So in light of this, the tragic would still live on in my Utopia. Full of regret. Occasionally the tragic would cast an involuntary spiteful glance toward those who had made wiser choices and those who were simply more lucky than they turned out to be... Yet even the tragic would have some reason to go on living, some dignified place in the world, some meaning to their lives, some part in humanity.

(There is the exception that some incurable disease or injury had made life so painful to make death preferable, that death would still be dignified... and really there should be some word other than "suicide" or some recognized and dignified distinction for those that choose to end their lives at that unbearable point. But contra Hume, there is an obvious difference between an unbearable and (as yet) incurable disease and an unbearable and very curable poverty. This is a difference that only the stupid will fail to recognize.)
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Reply Thu 13 May, 2010 04:59 am
I think those who are most in danger of suicide are the young... We must paint such a terrible picture of life, and of poverty to drive them to success in a dog eat dog, heartless existence that they give up hope... They want love, and need it, and of that fact they are honest; and what we offer them is hoplessness and pain... People can endure anything, with support, if they are connected... Who can we say that of...

A man I knew, racing moto cross in his late 60s caught his tire in a rut and broke his neck... They talked him into waiting long enough to say good bye to his immediate family, and then he told them to pull the plug... What a Roman... His notion of the pitiful, which he refused to accept for himself drove him to accept death rather than being impoverished and dependent upon his family...But if life is all we have, and life is the price we pay for life, and rich and poor alike surrender all- to know life; then it is not strange to have pity, and show pity to ourselves and to others... What is the point of wealth if to have it causes such misery to many, and when, in the end without life it has no meaning???...

Human misery is self imposed by humanity... All that is natural is fate, and we can accept it... No one should accept the misery people inflict out of a deap disease of the mind...We are still living in paradice... We cannot see it for what it is, because the few have put a fense around most of it...
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