1 September 2009

The Aesthetics of Compassion

In the history of Western thought, the innately imaginative character of compassion has been called upon to rationalize both its exclusion from and inclusion in a just society. For Plato, compassion was a disorderly and obfuscating emotion that did not belong in his utopian republic. For Aristotle, on the other hand, it was an emotion that had, when properly elicited through tragic drama, a potentially educative value. This course examines the place and role of compassion in the development of the Western aesthetics tradition, in particular among those writers who expanded upon the Aristotelian notion of poetic eleos.