The Tragedy of Philosophy

Kant's Critique of Judgment and the Project of Aesthetics

By Andrew Cooper

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Aesthetics, Comparative Literature, Ethics, Hegel
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438461885, 314 pages, July 2017
Hardcover : 9781438461892, 314 pages, September 2016

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Table of contents

Note on Citations

Tragedy in contemporary philosophy
Method in the history of philosophy


Part I. Kant’s Critique of Judgment

1. From Disembodied Soul to Embodied Mind
The problem of life
The generation dilemma
The rationalist response
The empiricist response
Embodied mind

2. Reflective Judgment
The need for a third Critique
The power of judgment
Beauty and purposiveness
The antinomy of teleological judgment
From system to method

3. The Ethical Turn
Reason’s double bind
The spiritual character of art
Synthesizing nature and freedom
An enlarged way of thinking

Part II. Tragedy after Kant

4. Hegel: The Philosophy of Tragedy
A theory of tragedy
Interpreting Hegel
Tragedy and history

5. Nietzsche: Tragic Philosophy
Schopenhauer’s metaphysics
The Apollinian and the Dionysian
The death and rebirth of tragedy
Tragedy and ethics

6. Heidegger: Greek Tragedy
Philosophy and politics
Introduction to Metaphysics
Hölderlin’s Hymn
Tragedy and Being

7. Castoriadis: Tragedy and Self-formation
Identitary logic
Imagination and representation
Tragedy and self-formation
Tragedy and philosophy

Ethical complexity
Transforming philosophy Notes

Reframes philosophical understanding of, and engagement with, tragedy.


In The Tragedy of Philosophy Andrew Cooper challenges the prevailing idea of the death of tragedy, arguing that this assumption reflects a problematic view of both tragedy and philosophy—one that stifles the profound contribution that tragedy could provide to philosophy today. To build this case, Cooper presents a novel reading of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment. Although this text is normally understood as the final attempt to seal philosophy from the threat of tragedy, Cooper argues that Kant's project is rather a creative engagement with a tragedy that is specific to philosophy, namely, the inevitable failure of attempts to master nature through knowledge. Kant's encounter with the tragedy of philosophy turns philosophy's gaze from an exclusive focus on knowledge to matters of living well in a world that does not bend itself to our desires. Tracing the impact of Kant's Critique of Judgment on some of the most famous theories of tragedy, including those of G. W. F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Cornelius Castoriadis, Cooper demonstrates how these philosophers extend the project found in both Kant and the Greek tragedies: the attempt to grasp nature as a domain hospitable to human life.

Andrew Cooper is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Bonn, Germany.


"…ambitious … Cooper's book offers a careful, critical account of several modern European philosophies of tragic drama and poetry, focusing on the work of Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Castoriadis … [it] is clear, compelling, and insightful. It will be valuable for those interested in theories of tragedy, the development of modern philosophical aesthetics, and Kant's critical system. " — Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism