Greek Tragedy and Civilization: The Cultivation of Pity

Here we present the ‘Abstract‘ of the corresponding paper by C. Fred Alford.

Of all the strategies for civilization reviewed by Albert O. Hirschman in The Passions and the Interests, one is distinctly missing: that civilization might be rendered more decent and peaceful by cultivating the civilizing emotions based upon love and pity. The reason, it seems, is not the fear that these civilizing emotions are too weak to quell rage, greed, and violence, but too strong, too likely to cause problems of their own, which is why Kant writes of “pathological love.” Turning to Greek tragedy, I argue that it provides a paideiain pity, an account of what it would take to educate and channel the civilizing emotions, so that they might foster civilization. Here is an alternate account of what it might take to tame civilization and its discontents, an account neglected in modem political theory.

(Link for the paper:


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