Reason's Grief: An Essay on Tragedy and Value

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First published in 2006, Reason's Grief takes W. B. Yeats's comment that we begin to live only when we have conceived life as tragedy as a call for a tragic ethics, something the modern West has yet to produce. Harris argues that we must turn away from religious understandings of tragedy and the human condition and realize that our species will occupy a very brief period of history, at some point to disappear without a trace. We must accept an ethical perspective that avoids pernicious fantasies about ultimate redemption but that sees tragic loss as a permanent and pervasive aspect of our daily lives, yet finds a way to think, feel and act with both passion and hope. Reason's Grief takes us back through the history of our thinking about value to find our way. The call is for nothing less than a paradigm shift for understanding both tragedy and ethics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Harris is not nihilistic. He vociferously argues that tragic pluralism leads away from nihilism, which he describes as 'pseudo-intellectual, a theory of value for the emotionally vacuous' (p. 85). It is statements like these that make Harris difficult to ignore. He scrupulously avoids philosophical extremes and often seems at odds with any type of intellectual, religious, or cultural certitude. The boldness of his critique is shot through with an earnest conviction that increasing out tragic sense will amplify our passion for life." - Earl D. Bland, PsycCritiques
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521863285
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 310
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

George Harris is Chancellor Professor of Philosophy at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Dignity and Vulnerability and Agent-Centered Morality, and has contributed to The Journal of Philosophy, Nous, The Monst, American Philosophy Quarterly, Public Affairs Quarterly and other journals. He is a Distinguished Member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, a member of Who's Who in Humanities in Higher Education, and a recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

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Table of Contents

An aesthetic prelude 1
1 The problem of tragedy 18
2 The dubious ubiquity of practical reason 42
3 Nihilism 63
4 Pessimism 86
5 Monism : an epitaph 110
6 Moralism and the inconstancy of value 151
7 Moralism and the impurity of value 174
8 Best life pluralism and reason's regret 199
9 Tragic pluralism and reason's grief 231
10 Postscript on the future : the idea of progress and the avoidance of despair 262
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