Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring

Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring

by Philip Kitcher, Richard Schacht

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Few musical works loom as large in Western culture as Richard Wagner's four-part Ring of the Nibelung. In Finding an Ending, two eminent philosophers, Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht, offer an illuminating look at this greatest of Wagner's achievements, focusing on its far-reaching and subtle exploration of problems of meanings and endings in this life and world.

Kitcher and Schacht plunge the reader into the heart of Wagner's Ring, drawing out the philosophical and human significance of the text and the music. They show how different forms of love, freedom, heroism, authority, and judgment are explored and tested as it unfolds. As they journey across its sweeping musical-dramatic landscape, Kitcher and Schacht lead us to the central concern of the Ring—the problem of endowing life with genuine significance that can be enhanced rather than negated by its ending, if the right sort of ending can be found. The drama originates in Wotan's quest for a transformation of the primordial state of things into a world in which life can be lived more meaningfully. The authors trace the evolution of Wotan's efforts, the intricate problems he confronts, and his failures and defeats. But while the problem Wotan poses for himself proves to be insoluble as he conceives of it, they suggest that his very efforts and failures set the stage for the transformation of his problem, and for the only sort of resolution of it that may be humanly possible—to which it is not Siegfried but rather Brünnhilde who shows the way.

The Ring's ending, with its passing of the gods above and destruction of the world below, might seem to be devastating; but Kitcher and Schacht see a kind of meaning in and through the ending revealed to us that is profoundly affirmative, and that has perhaps never been so powerfully and so beautifully expressed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195183603
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 09/01/2005
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,246,771
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. He is the author of seven previous books, is a past president of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division), and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently holds the Romanell Professorship in Philosophy, awarded annually by Phi Beta Kappa. Richard Schacht is Professor of Philosophy and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His previous books include Hegel and After, Nietzsche, The Future of Alienation, and Making Sense of Nietzsche.

Table of Contents

1Wagner's Philosophers13
2Authority and Judgment in Don Giovanni25
3Alberich and Fricka34
4Wotan's Challenge43
5Meaning and the Tradition49
6Meaning and the Ring55
7Wotan's Project64
8Wotan's Problem77
11Wotan's Judgments101
12Project Siegfried112
13Wotan's Dilemmas121
14Wotan's Authority135
15Siegmund and Sieglinde140
16Varieties of Love147
17Brunnhilde's Progress157
18Brunnhilde's Transformation164
19Brunnhilde's Authority177
20Siegfried and Other Problems185
21Ending and Renewal197
Synopsis of the Ring203
Selected Bibliography233

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Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
jburlinson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like a number of others, Kitcher and Schact want to propound a unified theory that will explain Wagner's monumental work. Like all the others, they can only do so by failing to integrate a huge element in the mixture. In the case of G.B. Shaw, with his economic/revolutionary thesis, he had to give up on the last opera in the tetralogy, Götterdämmerung. K&S, with their theory of Wagner's search for life's meaning in the wake of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer, must relegate the central character, Siegried, to an appendix. It's beginning to seem like a person can't make any sense of Wagner's Ring. Such a conclusion is too facile, however, and, once again, I mourn the passing of Deryck Cooke, who I am convinced would have squared the circle if he'd been able to complete the study he began with I Saw the World End.
rheimbro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent attempt at discussing some of the major issues that crop up through Wagner's Ring Cycle. It focuses mainly on Wotan and Brunhilde(The stereotypical large woman in a viking helmet that shows up in everything from Bugs Bunny to car commercials), and deals with issues like Authority, Order, Meaningful Living, Heroism, and Love. While I don't agree with how quickly the authors dismiss a Christian worldview in their discussion on how we find meaning in our lives, that is not something I need to agree with in order to gain much from this book. The main focus of the book is on the operas themselves, and not necessarily on how we can shape our lives based upon what we find in them (although they do tread somewhat in that direction). In the end, this has helped shape my understanding of the Ring Cycle much better than any synopsis or even a simple listening and/or viewing.