Topic: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Sympathy.What is the value of sympathy, empathy, compassion, and pity? For Aristotle, pity was a necessary element of any tragedy, yet the emotion did not count as a moral virtue. Other thinkers, such as Arthur Schopenhauer, believed that artistic experience and compassionate virtue shared the same deep roots. In this course, we will explore the moral and aesthetic dynamics of sympathy and related phenomena. We will set the stage with readings from ancient tragedy and poetics (Sophocles and Aristotle) before turning to two 19th-century champions of compassion (George Eliot and Schopenhauer) and its most famous detractor (Friedrich Nietzsche). Among the questions we will pursue are: How are the moral problems of sympathy depicted in art? What importance do moral philosophers give to the empathetic identification with fictional characters?
The course will be co-taught by Colin Marshall (Philosophy) and Ellwood Wiggins (Germanics). Readings and discussion will be in English. Students will be expected to regularly participate in (and occasionally lead) class discussions and to write one brief paper and one longer final essay. Joint with GERMAN 590A.
TEXTS: Philoktetes, Sophocles; The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob, George Eliot; Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics, Arthur Schopenhauer; Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche.