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.)