Death, Sacrifice, and Tragedy

Death, Sacrifice, and Tragedy

Death, Sacrifice, and Tragedy

Death, Sacrifice, and Tragedy

Excerpt

There have been few problems in the history of mankind which have found so utterly and extremely contradicting answers as the problem of death.Perpetually in the focus of attention, death has seemed to some thinkers an unreality, an illusion, to others the most fundamental reality. According to Plato, life excluded death by its very essence, so that an error, a failure in thinking only could be responsible for its acknowledgment, and still Spinoza—in a milder and less fanatic way—refused to think of death as a worthy subject for a philosopher, who should be filled to the brim with enthusiasm for life.But the power of "Lord Death," as Hegel calls him, has fascinated other thinkers, and it is our own time which has hailed the experience of death beyond any other experience, as if life were understandable only when held into the nothingness of death.Kierkegaard follows Hegel in his emphasis on death and is himself followed by the modern romantics, by Rilke, Simmel, and most of all by the existentialist Heidegger, who has coined a formula, repulsive to many: that authentic existence is rounded out by and turned toward death, as if death gave meaning to life.

It is this extraordinary discordance among thinkers which has worried me and which has been responsible for the present essay. No doubt: death in some form is an indispensable feature in life's unfolding; but, on the other hand, can it be denied that as long as we are in form, we do not think of this seemingly fundamental occurrence? Is it only cowardice or . . .

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