Page:Ethical Theory of Hegel (1921).djvu/34

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a view is shallow; for one immediately asks, What is behind the contradiction? Contradiction itself is the immediate opposition of one phase of an object by another; but at the back of it is the power of the whole. We may use Hegel’s theory of tragedy to throw some light on his Logic at this point. Hegel finds the essence of tragedy to lie in a conflict between spiritual forces which belong to one system and which ought to be in harmony. The catastrophe is the assertion by the whole of its complexity against the one-sidedness of some imperfect aspect. When the conflict is between two individuals, each, from the tragic point of view, is dominated by some aspect of the whole good, perhaps an ethical claim such as the duty to one’s kindred, perhaps a wider end, such as natural justice, honour, or the ambition of a strong man; and this is followed to the exclusion of all else. The devotion to this abstract ideal, good in itself but imperfect when set against the rest of life, brings the agent into collision with other factors and with the whole; and in the conflict the tragic hero is overthrown. The final note of tragedy, however, is not loss. Over and above the confusion and destruction of that which is imperfect and by the nature of things transitory there is the assertion of the full and rounded character of reality. The positive side, of course, is not fully developed in tragedy, but if it be utterly lacking the tragedy is imperfect and inartistic—it is merely a pitiful tale. Behind the sympathy with the fallen there must be a feeling of the greater good which the agent himself was unable to grasp, and his fall is a vindication of the deeper truth. We need not discuss any of the details of the exposition; the only point of present importance is that the fate which destroys a tragic hero is not a mere external force, it is in him as well as about him.

Mr. A. C. Bradley gives excellent expression to the situation thus. ‘If . . . this necessity were merely infinite, characterless, external force, the catastrophe would not only terrify (as it should), it would also horrify, depress, or at best provoke indignation or rebellion; and these are not tragic feelings. The catastrophe, then, must have a second and affirmative aspect, which is the source of our feelings of reconciliation, whatever form they may assume. And this will be taken into account if we describe the catastrophe as a violent self-