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A Theory of Tragic Experience According to Hegel



Abstract: Hegel's theory of tragedy is often considered to be primarily a theory of the objective powers involved in tragic conflicts—for Hegel, these are paradigmatically competing ethical notions—and of the rationality which underlies and drives such conflicts. Such a view follows naturally from a close reading of Hegel's discussion of classical Greek tragedy in his Lectures on Aesthetics. However, this view gives rise to the question of whether Hegel's theory of tragedy can account for the significance of tragic experience, in particular the experience of tragic suffering; it has been argued repeatedly that it cannot. In contrast, I want to suggest in this paper that a theory of tragic experience can be derived from Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. This Hegelian theory of tragic experience, I argue, should be understood as complementing rather than challenging Hegel's theory of objective tragic conflict.

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