High and Low

Wai Chee Dimock

in Dignity, Rank, and Rights

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199915439
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980222 | DOI:

Series: The Berkeley Tanner Lectures

High and Low

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This chapter presents a third commentary on the lectures presented in this book. This chapter responds to two impulses in the lectures that seem to be pulling in two slightly different directions. One is the impulse to provide housing for the concept of dignity, to claim it as a foundation for jurisprudence. The other is the impulse to put this house on a very high level, a platform that represents an averaging up, an elevation to the nobility of rank even for the common citizen. What the lectures are proposing, then, would seem not only to be a common denominator, but a very high one. While this is not necessarily a contradiction, it does seem to be a difficult level for human beings to stay on for long. This elevated ideal is linked to one particular genre, tragedy, which also happens to be a “high” genre; and this chapter asks whether this is a sustainable (or desirable) height for everyone, whether—to balance things out—we might not also want to consider a comic supplement, a common denominator adjusted significantly downwards, paired with a jurisprudence that aspires to be nontragic.

Keywords: nobility; rank; tragedy

Chapter.  3726 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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