Ethics of Tragedy: Dwelling, Thinking, Measuring

by | 10 Feb 2020

Available in paperback now from online bookshops and as a ‘fair access’ E-book from Counterpress

Author: Ari Hirvonen
Adjunct Professor in Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory at the University of Helsinki

B & W 229 x 152 mm | Perfect Bound on White w/Matte Laminate | 344 pages | Paperback ISBN 978-1-910761-09-0 | E-book (PDF) ISBN N/A | 30 January 2020

Ethics of Tragedy is a profound analysis of Greek tragedies, especially refugee tragedies and Sophocles’ Oedipus-trilogy, that presents the sense of tragedy in a time of rapacious capitalism and ecocatastrophe. Ari Hirvonen argues that theatre is a public space for tragedies, politics, democracy and justice, bringing together thinking and poeticizing, limits and transgression, fate and freedom. Instead of justifying the existing political order, tragedy disrupts, dissents, and exceeds it. Understood in this way, ethics is revealed as a fundamental part of tragedy.

Drawing upon Hölderlin, Hegel, Heidegger and Lacan as well as Butler, Irigaray, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Badiou, among others, this book is both a meditation on the theatricality of tragedy and a critique of tragic judgment. Despite being a philosophical treatise, Hirvonen rejects readings that reduce tragedies to philosophical ideas, moral principles, aesthetic dogmas, or heroic identities. Instead, he argues that tragedy reveals a non-essentialist ethics.

In the midst of hegemonic capitalist realism, we have lost the capacity to measure. As a disruption of our ways of sensing and the making sense of the world, tragedy inspires the art of measuring in a world without measures.

Readership: Philosophers, psychoanalysts, legal scholars, literature and theatre scholars, and those who practice theatre.

The stakes are high: this reading shows the lasting importance of Greek tragedy to see the world in a new way and, more particularly to reintroduce measure and thus (ethical) thinking in a world that no longer accepts bounderies and tragic experience. In doing so Ethics of Tragedy prepares for a new ethics. A must read.

— Philippe Van Haute, Professor of Philosophical Anthropology, Center for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University

This is a hugely important intervention into our thinking about tragedy and how such thinking holds up a black mirror for our times. Ari Hirvonen is the Jari Litmanen of philosophy. Highly recommended.

— Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research



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