Aaron Ridley

in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279456
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577239 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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Tragedy matters to aesthetics because it matters to philosophy, of which aesthetics is a part, and it matters to philosophy for one main reason. Tragedy engages more directly than any other artform with philosophy's own most fundamental question: How should one live? By depicting worlds in which things go wrong — in which chance and necessity play prominent and often devastating roles in the shaping of human lives — tragedy shows us aspects of a world that is, in reality, our world, the world in which we must live as best we can. Tragedy shows us lives blighted by accidents of character, by chance combinations of circumstance whose consequences unfold inexorably, by features of the human condition that are both necessary to it and, on occasion, profoundly damaging to it. In such a context, the question how to live acquires its proper urgency and complexity. And in showing us the world in that light, tragedy offers to philosophy its most authentic impetus and challenge.

Keywords: tragedy; aesthetics; artform; human lives; human condition; human nature

Article.  6432 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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