3 June 2024

The Aesthetics of Compassion

The emotion of “pity” (eleos) or “compassion” is at the heart of Athenian tragedy, the great forbear of Western tragic drama. For Aristotle, creating feelings of pity and fear in an audience was thought to provoke a catharsis of those emotions that enabled a positive moderation of our passionate natures. But, as George Steiner has observed, the subject matter of tragedy places those emotions in a register beyond the ordinary. As fundamental human responses to extraordinary human suffering, they signal the “core of dynamic negativity” that underwrites authentic tragedy. Raising the problem of human pain and fragility in the face of circumstances potentially beyond human control, representations of human suffering have a metaphysical and, more particularly, theological dimension that has long provoked philosophical interest in the dynamics of tragic drama. In this course, we will examine the interface between philosophy and works of tragic drama as that interface pertains to the psychology and aesthetics of compassion. Looking to such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Simone Weil, we will investigate the place of compassion in Western philosophy and theology and the roles that art and imagination have played in the stimulation of compassionate response. 

Dr. Rebekah Smick
ICS 120104 / 220104 F24
ICH5751HF L0101*
Remote (Online Synchronous)
Thursdays, 10:00am-1:00pm ET

(MWS, MA, PhD)


Enrolment Notes:

To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register is September 13, 2024. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations.

*Attention TST students: if you are interested in taking this course for credit, you must petition your college of registration to count the course credit toward your degree program.