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McNeill (2006:189-192) – katharsis

sábado 23 de março de 2024, por Cardoso de Castro


Se voltarmos agora ao tema da tragédia grega, podemos ver melhor o que significa a katharsis   do medo e da piedade. Evidentemente, não pode significar que a tragédia nos purga ou alivia do medo e da pena que já trazemos conosco para a tragédia, pelo menos não na forma particular em que trazemos estas emoções conosco. Embora o processo de katharsis comece, de fato, com estes modos de tonalidade afetiva, como formas fundamentais da nossa sensibilidade ao mundo, eles são precisamente transformados na e através da própria apresentação poiética. São transformados no sentido de serem reorientados, de lhes ser dada uma orientação pela própria estória. Para além disso, a estória que nos aborda e nos agarra não só reorienta as emoções que já aí estão, como as traz à tona e às claras de uma nova forma. Pode dizer-se que as "recria". Reorienta-as e transporta-as poeticamente na direção do futuro e da ameaça última que o futuro sempre representa para os mortais, na medida em que escapa ao nosso controle. Transporta-nos para a possível impossibilidade do nosso ser-no-mundo (como Heidegger, em Ser e Tempo  , caracteriza o ser-para-a-morte do Dasein  ), que antecipamos não como algo que nos diz respeito enquanto indivíduos isolados perante um mundo, mas como um ser-com-os-outros envolvido, o nosso próprio sentido de ser e habitar na presença de outros num mundo. O transporte poético da tragédia transporta-nos para o local da nossa habitação originária, o nosso êthos  , transportando-nos para um sentido de presença mundana sintonizado com a aproximação do desconhecido e do imprevisto. A katharsis trágica apresenta-nos, assim, o nosso sentido de ser-no-mundo como aquilo com que o medo e a piedade estão, em última análise, preocupados; devolve-nos poeticamente a um sentido de presença e de ser, entre o ter sido e o futuro, que, de outro modo, permaneceria oculto na maior parte dos nossos envolvimentos quotidianos no mundo.


If we now return to the theme of Greek tragedy, we can see more fully what is meant by the katharsis of fear and pity. Evidently, it cannot mean that the tragedy purges or relieves us of the fear and pity that we already bring with us to the tragedy, at least not   in the particular form in which we bring these emotions with us. Although the process of katharsis does indeed begin with these modes of attunement, as fundamental forms of our sensibility to the world, they are precisely transformed in and through the poietic [190] presentation itself. They are transformed in the sense of being reoriented, given an orientation by the story itself. Moreover, the story that addresses and grips us not only reorients the emotions that are already there, but brings them forth and into the open in a new way. It “recreates” them, we might say. It reorients and poetically transports them in the direction of the future and of the ultimate threat that the future always holds for mortals, insofar as it escapes our control. It transports us toward the possible impossibility of our Being-in-the-world (as Heidegger in Being and Time characterizes Dasein’s Being-toward-death), which we anticipate not as something that concerns us as individuals that stand   isolated before a world, but as an involved Being-with-one-another, our very sense of Being and dwelling in the presence of others in a world. The poetic transport of the tragedy transports us into the site of our originary dwelling, our êthos, in transporting us into a sense of worldly presence attuned to the approach of the unfamiliar and unforeseen. The tragic katharsis thus brings our sense of Being-in-the-world before us as that with which fear and pity are ultimately concerned; it returns us poetically to a sense of presence and of Being, spanned between having-been and future, that would otherwise remain concealed for the most part in and through our everyday involvements in the world.

Here, the sense of tragic katharsis reveals its proto-philosophical accomplishment. In bringing fear and pity to the fore in their ultimate depths and limits, tragedy frees them to be what they ultimately are, it releases them; but the denouement (lusis) of the plot does not simply return them to what they were before, so that they can recede, as it were, into the place from which they emerged. Rather, as we have indicated, it transforms them in transforming our very sense of Being, of who we are and what we are ultimately “about.” In bringing these attunements out of the depths of their everyday concealment, in which they are directed for the most part toward particulars (we fear this or that possibility; we pity this or that person  ), it raises them into the perspective of the whole. Does it not precisely thereby raise them into what Heidegger calls Angst  ? As Heidegger argues in Being and Time, whereas fear arises in the face of a determinate threat, Angst brings us before our Being-in-the-world as such and as a whole. In tragic presentation, as in all theatrical presentation, it is the privilege of the spectator that he or she is bound — through the element of sense unfolding through the [191] emergence and promise of the muthos — into an anticipation of the whole, a whole that he or she is better able to anticipate than the actor or hero involved in his actions. The spectator experiences fear and pity before the actor involved — as we see clearly in the example of Oedipus Tyrannos — because he or she is already being led away from the protagonist’s absorption in particular acts, each committed in their own present moment, toward seeing these in advance in the perspective of the as yet unfolding story as a whole, with an eye to their possible repercussions. This raising us toward a whole is nothing other than the poietic “setting up” of a sense of world. [1] To be transported into and to attain a kind of stance within the poietic happening of world belongs to the privilege of human “seeing” or theorein  , in which we dwell before that which looks upon us, sharing a time that is neither simply its time nor ours, but the time of a world. And this is also the source of what Aristotle   calls the pleasure (hedone) that comes from fear and pity in this context: it is the pleasure of theoria itself, of seeing and having seen the whole, the overall story whose end has now been revealed and in which the piece of action as a whole finds its completion. [2] In sheer theoria, the pleasure we take in mimesis   finds its fulfilment. Despite its problematic transformation thereof, it was of course this privilege of theoria that Greek philosophy noticed and sought to magnify, extracting it, as it were, from the midst of the sensible. In the theater of Greek tragedy, this privilege was honored and celebrated in the midst of the sensible itself, in a recognition of the primacy of muthos in configuring the ultimate ends of human praxis  .

On the understanding of katharsis we have proposed, the passage in the Politics (1341 b33ff.) is perfectly consonant with Aristotle’s usage of the term in the Poetics. In the Politics, Aristotle claims that certain kinds of music can be used for the purposes of katharsis, specifically those that inspire sacred passion and excitation, or “enthusiasm” (tais enthousiastikais), and he explicitly likens katharsis to a medical treatment (iatreias). But this comparison is not meant to suggest that katharsis is the “purgation” of a pathological condition; rather, as the context clearly indicates, it merely makes the point that, like medical treatment, katharsis is essentially the bringing forth and bringing into the open of what would otherwise lie concealed and dormant, but be no less present and powerful, no less potent and “at work” for that. Such is the case precisely with such fundamental emotions as fear and pity, which Aristotle explicitly [192] mentions in the Politics: any experience that occurs violently in some souls, he notes, is found in all, though with different degrees of intensity, “such as pity, fear, and enthusiasm” (1342 a5f.). It is clear that katharsis here has the sense of intensifying and thus bringing to the fore an already existing “emotion,” or rather, attunement. The same kind of “katharsis” that is experienced in our enthusiasm for certain kinds of music must also occur, Aristotle remarks, in the emotions of those who experience fear and pity (namely, when the appropriate means of intensifying these passions is present): they too will experience a kind of katharsis and pleasurable relief (kouphizesthai meth’ hedones). Again, such pleasure and alleviation or “lightening” that transpires as katharsis is situated by Aristotle in the context of free time and leisure (diagogen) and of theoria and the theater. The continuity with Aristotle’s use of the term katharsis in the context of tragedy described in the Poetics should be evident as soon as we see that katharsis in itself has nothing to do with the “purgation” of pathological emotional states. [3]

Ver online : William McNeill

[MCNEILL, William. The Time of Life. Heidegger and Ethos. New York: State University of New York Press, 2006]

[1We mean “setting up” here in the sense of the German Aufstellen as used by Heidegger in his essay “The Origin of the Work of Art.” See H, 32f.; BW, 169f.

[2The pleasure of the philosophical theorein described in Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics is thereby referred beyond the particular praxis of this pure theorein (supposedly the highest praxis) of human existence and integrated into the dimension of a poetic unfolding of eudaimonia exposed to the realm of daimonia, of the gods, of destiny and fate.

[3Hermann Abert, without citing Bernays by name, remarks that only more recent interpreters have conceived of katharsis as a kind of medical purgation; Aristotle himself, he notes, understands katharsis (in the context of the Politics) in a purely musical-religious way, in terms of intensification. Die Lehre vom Êthos in der griechischen Musik (Leipzig, 1899), 15-16 and 15n2.