Tragedy and Truth in Heidegger and Jaspers

International Philosophical Quarterly 42 (3):301-314 (2002)
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Abstract

In this essay, I aim to engage Martin Heidegger’s and Karl Jaspers’s views of the tragic in critical dialogue in order to show that for both of these philosophers tragedy, in literature and in its philosophical interpretation, defines the relationships of thought to transcendence, of history to truth, I begin with an account of Jaspers’s treatment of the tragic, proceed to interpret Heidegger’s account of tragic poetry and his post-tragic notion of Gelassenheit, and finally outline the limitations of tragedy as a model for historical truth, I will argue that the fact that these limitations are explicitly denoted and called for by Jaspers but are to some extent neglected by Heidegger is due to a difference between their philosophies with regard to the primacy, and perhaps their rival conceptions, of ontology.

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