"The second type of myths of beginning and end gets its name from the most famous 'example': Greek tragedy.
How is this 'example' related to the 'essence of the tragic'?
One would like to think that the task of the philosopher is to approach Greek tragedy with a category of the tragic already in mind, or at least with a working definition broad enough to include all tragic works: Greek, Christian, Elizabethan, modern. It would seem that this method, proceeding from essence to example, is the only one capable of avoiding the questionable procedure of advancing, by way of induction, from the particular case to the general structure.
Nevertheless, one must start with Greek tragedy. For several reasons. In the first place, because the Greek example is not one example among others; Greek tragedy is not at all an example in the inductive sense, but the sudden and complete manifestation of the essence of the tragic; to understand the tragic is to relive in oneself the Greek experience of the tragic, not as a particular case of tragedy, but as the origin of tragedy— that is to say, both its beginning and its authentic emergence. It is far from being the case that this approach to the tragic through Greek tragedy condemns us to a doubtful process of induction and amplification; rather, it is by grasping the essence in its Greek phenomenon that we can understand all other tragedy as analogous to Greek tragedy. For, as Max Scheler himself says,1 although he proposes to go from the essence of the example, the problem here is not to prove but to 'make see,' to show; Greek tragedy is the most advantageous place for getting 'the perception of the phenomenon itself.'2
Besides, the Greek example, in showing us the tragic itself, has the advantage of revealing to us, without any attenuation, its connection with theology.3 If there is a tragic vision of man in Aeschylus, that is because it is the other face of a tragic vision of the divine; it is in Greek tragedy that the theme of the man 'blinded' and led to his destruction by the gods is carried all at once to the uttermost limit of its virulence, so that thereafter the analogues of Greek tragedy are perhaps only muted expressions of the same insupportable revelation.
Finally, the Greek example is especially fitted to persuade us that the tragic vision of the world is tied to a spectacle and not to a speculation. This third trait is not without relation to the preceding one; for, if the secret of tragic anthropology is theological, that theology of making blind is perhaps anavowable, unacceptable for thought. The plastic and dramatic expression of the tragic would not then, be a reclothing, much less an incidental disguise, of a conception of man that could have been expressed otherwise in plain language" (Ricoeur 1969:212-213).
1969 The Symbolism of Evil. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
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