Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alex Neill: The Paradox of Tragedy- H01- G3

Group Members: Jake Goza, Matthew Pyles, Chloe Madigan, Michelle Kelley, Nate Tilton.
Author: Jake Goza

The Paradox of Tragedy

Today our group was able to discuss outside in the beautiful weather! Our topic for discussion was Alex Neill's ideas about tragedy in theater and horror movies of today. As stated by David Edmonds, "It's been a puzzle for philosophers for several thousand years that people like to watch tragedies--which evoke feelings of sadness and suffering" (Edmonds & Warburton 181). Alex Neill begins by asserting that Aristotle defined tragedy in terms of the emotional responses that it's designed to propagate: the catharsis of pity and fear.

'Catharsis' usually translates into the purging or cleansing of emotion. This 'Catharsis' is meant to be pleasurable, and it should be the goal of all tragic playwrights to stimulate this catharsis in their audience. The paradox comes into play because it is then the goal of the playwright to achieve a pleasurable feeling from fear and pity, which can both be described as pain: pleasure stemming from pain is a paradoxical concept. Some would say that one can experience both pleasure and pain at the same time, or one after the other; therefore, tragedy isn't paradoxical at all. However, Alex Neill rebuttles by asserting that the feeling we obtain by watching tragedy isn't pleasure persay, but by watching tragedies, we are watching something that matters: people don't watch tragic plays for pleasure, but in the pursiut of truth about the human condition.

Our group began by comparing horror movies to tragic dramas. Horror movies, we decided, aren't equivalent to tragic theater simply because there are usually no morals to draw from a thriller. An audience that watche s a horror movie is simply seeking the thrill of close encounters to death.
However, when you watch a tragedy, there is always a message or moral that one can extrapolate from the plot.

We then discussed how the modern generation views horror films and gore as compared to tragic drama. We found it disturbing that many people laugh when confronted with human suffering when watching horror movies and tragic plays, but that it is only a product of our times.Children will distance themselves through laughing at a traumatic event (Nate Tilton), cope with a situation they feel is out of their control (Michelle Kelley), or deal with nerves of anxiety (Matthew Pyles).  With graphic thrillers and action packed video games, the young are being desensitized to violence (Chloe Madigan). People in today's world don't watch tragic dramas to achieve catharsis, instead they vent their emotions by killing people on screen. Tragic theater is viewed by the young as a boring version of their graphic video games, and the deeper meanings of the plot are lost upon them.

DQ: Is catharsis a good tool for the release of emotions? Can one only achieve this through watching a tragic play?



  1. I really like your post! I do not agree with the fact that a tragedy creates pleasure. When I watch a scary movie, I do not feel any pleasure at all if I feel nervous or terrified with who is behind that creepy door. While screaming "Don't go in there!", I feel fear, not pleasure. Also, with other tragic events that have happened in the US with 9/11 and the recent attacks in Boston, I do not feel pleasure what so ever! None! That is so sad and it is scary for those people in those areas of the world having to cope with this. Overall, I do not think that pleasure can come from a tragedy whether it be a play, movie, or real life.

    I like how Nate said that children cope with traumatic events by crying to distance themselves from it. I believe that is not only true for children, but I think that is the typical way that anyone distances themselves from any traumatic event. Great job everyone in Group 3!

    1. I think it comes down to what you consider to be pleasurable. Some find pleasure in pain, sorrow, and other types activities.

  2. Sigh, thank you Evan for being the only person that thought my post was good enough to post on: Philosoraptors, WHY DON'T YOU GUYS LIKE MY POST?!?!?!?

    Ha ha, jk. I agree Evan, that real life tragedies don't inspire catharsis, just fear, terror, and pain. However, I must say after a good crying fest while watching P.S. I love you makes me feel wonderful afterwards. I remember my mother and I watched that movie on HBO and cried the whole time! When my Dad got home, he asked why we were crying and if the movie was that bad; we both kept crying while my mom sniveled out, "It was *sniff* such a *sniffle* good movie *continues bawling*."

    I'm not quite sure how everyone feels after crying, but I always feel WAY better about something after I've had a good long cry; and I feel like tragic (in the theater sense of the word) movies and theater really does achieve catharsis, or release of emotions.

    Now, in regards to thriller movies and such, I agree completely with Evan: unless you're like me who likes to be a little scared, there really is no purpose to seeing a thriller. They don't have that release of negative emotions (you normally don't get attached to characters in scary movies, you just feel anxiety because it's scary and you don't want the characters to die) because the plots aren't sad and relatable to our frame of reference. For example, the reason my mom said she cried so hard while watching P.S. I love you was because she kept thinking about what she would do if she lost Dad, and she empathized with the main character. I think this empathic connection is key: you don't get that in video games and horror movies.

    FQ:Which philosopher believes that having faith in something gives it existence? (A: Don Cupitt)

    Here's an interesting insight on how to successfully achieve catharsis! http://www.askmarsvenus.com/Article.php?id=340