Human Being in an Inhuman Age

The third annual Hannah Arendt Center Conference featured spirited, funny, at times angry and always provocative inquiries into the possibilities and dangers of modern technology. Featuring Ray Kurzweil, Sherry Turkle, Ron Arkin, Nicholson Baker, Leon Botstein, Rob Riemen and many others, was deeply energetic and energizing, and we thank the over 900 people who attended over days.

You can watch the conference virtually.

Philippe Nonet: The Unity of Tragedy and Comedy

From our archives: Posting today the audio of a lecture given last year by Philippe Nonet–professor of Jurisprudence at the University of California, Berkeley. The lecture was held April 20, 2010, at  7pm in Bito Auditorium at Bard College.

The Unity of Tragedy and Comedy

Nonet begins with Heideggger’s statement

Das Denken des Seins ist die Sorgfalt für den Sprachgebrauch.”

To think the truth of being is to care for the use of language.

Nonet’s aim is to recover the ability to speak the two words, tragedy and comedy, in a thoughtful way.

Tragedy: an ode sung and danced around a male goat.

Comedy: an ode sung and danced around a festive occasion on the eve of something joyous.

What does a male goat and the festive procession have to do with comic and tragic art of the highest sort? And what do these two different occasions with the singing of these odes have to do with one another?

The answer to these questions turns on the meaning of the Greek God Dionysus and one of his symbols, the Labyrinth, that in which one journeys back to oneself–the eternally returning attempt that fails eternally to reach its end. The Dionysian labyrinth symbolizes an immortal power that immortally endures mortality. That is the essence of the God Dionysus. And, on the other side, it symbolizes mortal man who nevertheless partakes of immortality and takes some solace from that.

His analysis proceeds from a reading of Heraclitus, frag. 15:

But Hades and Dionysus are the same, him for whom they rave and celebrate Lenaia.

These are questions and pathways Professor Nonet explores in this fascinating and provocative lecture.

You can listen to it here: tragedy and comedy.

I look forward to thoughts and comments.