22 octobre 2006

Negligence is the rust of the soul, that corrodes through all her best resolves...

Thésée retrouve l'épée de son Père, Nicolas Poussin, 1635.




Since the philosopher did not include the epic hero in the passages where he defined the tragic hero, based on the author of the Poetica, we may distinguish two periods in Greek literature besides others: the period of the epic hero and the period of the tragic hero.

We consider productive to treat hamartia in connection with kosmos, seeing that the hero lives in the world, acts in the world, and establishes relationships with it. In an organized world as the epic world admittedly was, to miss the goal was not characteristic of the hero, if we observe his existence as a whole.

Epic heroes are frequently disturbed by ignorance, blindness (ate) and act against their heroic nature. They can commit a series of errors, as Ulysses did, but finally they reach their aim. Mythic gods sustain the world order. In the world bestowed with sense, the hero is supposed to live in harmony with it. After the epic era, crisis affects, however, cosmic order. That is recognizable in the philosophers of the 5th century b.C. In Heraclitus one discovers two worlds, the world of the senses, changeable, uncertain; and the ordered kosmos, only offered to reason. The distance between these two worlds is o7 3 even larger in a tragedist as Sophocles. For him the ideal world is concealed by mystery. The apparent world, the only real world for Homer, is now illusory ,polluted with false values, having Oedipus as an outstanding example. What Oedipus took for real, his success, was illusion, shadow, doxa; real was what he could not see with his own eyes, a sphere of knowlegde only accessible with stern reasoning.

Oedipus incurs in hamartia holding the apparent as real. The Tragedy King Oedipus shows how he stained, with his blindness, his own life, the life of his mother and the life of his spurious children.In Sophocles' tragedy, we come near to Plato's conceptions. For Plato, the real world was far removed from the senses too. The real world is now the world of eternal patterns, the ideas. Hamartia affects those who remain in this world of shadows. But the crimes which objectify hamartia are not senseless, seeing that they may instruct others to recognize justice, avoiding evil doings (Phaidon, ll3e; Gorgias, 524).

Pedagogic purposes underlie both Greek philosophy and Greek tragedy. The tasks of tragedy and philosophy don't diverge, both attempt to lift the eyes toward truth. In the myth of the cave, the enlighted philosopher discends to those who live in doom to show them a way out. Plato, notwithstanding, hostilized tragedy, because he doubted that tragedy was able to reach what it aimed.

With Plato, we are on the threshold of a new era. What comes after the epoch in which man lived in harmony with his surroundings under the favour of the gods? Dialogue developed. Men live no more in the presence of the fainting gods, men live in the presence of each other, coming to a high degree of consciousness oftheir human limitations. The philosophers, heroes of the new era, avoid the arrogance (hybris) of their tragic forrunners. Socrates, model of the new era, declares that he knows only one thing, which is that he knows nothing. Leading others to the same understanding, he invides them to search for truth together, developing a new investigation method, dialectics.

For Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin, the new era wich began with Socrates can extend until our times.

This new era is interrupted by Christianity. Christian literature stressed the failure of this world. Since man shows enmity against God, refuses his word, and wills the evil, it is impossible for him to find a way out with his own strength. Man being a failure since Adams fault, hamartia is understood by Christians as sin. Man cannot overcome his wicked nature except by the help of God. God redeems man through Jesus Christ. As can be seen in medieval literature, man must be conducted by God to attain his goal. Dante, the man whom was given the opportunity to visit the other world, is led by guides (Virgil or Beatrice).Without guides, Dante's pilgrimage would have been unconceivable. The same occurs with all Middle Ages heroes. God's grace guides them, makes them succeed.

Dialogue is restored after Renaissance in a movement called Manierism, which some authors as Benjamin confound with Baroque. But it is convenient to distinguish them. Baroque, linked to Counter Reformation, is an attempt to reestablish medieval unity. Manierism, on the contrary, takes account of the crisis seriously as can be observed in Cam∙es' poetry, in Michelangelo's painting, o7 3 in Shakespeare's and Calderon's theatre. The crimes which attain Hamlet are senseless, and sullen is the palace (image of the world) in which he lives.

The gap between God and man is so deep that man feels himself in a splitten world in which , surrounded by shadows which frighten, scared by death, proportion makes no sense any more. Christian conception of sin ( Hamartia) crossed by Greek intetectual unrest (Montaigne, Pascal) provokes feelings of lonelyness in a world forsaken by God, meanwhile dialogue recovers its Socratic significance. But Western man loses gradually the hope that dialogue is a fair mean to reach truth. Man feels himself condemned to vague freely in this wicked world. Examples for this feeling we find in Baudelaire's verses, in Kafka's fiction, in Beckett's theatre, in Sartre's philosophy and in Lacan's psichoanalysis. For Sartre, human being is condemned to be free, Kafkas's heroes never find what they search for, Beckett's Godot never appears, Lacan's theoretical and practical effort tries to help men to live in a senseless world.

After de Second World War, emerges a generation to whom errancy, is no more tragic. Things are as they are, and there is no use questioning what is hidden behind them. Cinema, photographing averything and averyone neutrally, favors these conceptions. To this generation belongs a writer as Robbe-Grillet, a philosopher as Gilles Deleuze, a painter as Kandinski, a concrete poet as Haroldo de Campos. Benjamin considers modern man a flâneur, a man who goes through the large cities without an aim, which places us in an extreme opposition to the epic hero where we begun.


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