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    Hegel on comedy: theodicy, social criticism and the 'supreme task' of art

    Huddleston, Andrew (2014) Hegel on comedy: theodicy, social criticism and the 'supreme task' of art. British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (2), p. 227. ISSN 1468-2842.

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    According to Hegel, art in its ‘supreme task’ is engaged in ‘bringing to our minds and expressing the Divine, the deepest interests of mankind, and the most comprehensive truths of the spirit’. Raymond Geuss, in a highly illuminating paper, has connected Hegel’s conception of art’s supreme task with the project of theodicy. In this paper I explore Hegel’s aesthetics of comedy through this theodicy-based framework Geuss has proposed, and I consider what light this framework can shed on comedy and, reciprocally, what light comedy can shed on it. In particular, invocation of a theodicy can give the impression of art as a kind of defense of the status quo. Yet Hegel’s brief, but pivotal remarks on comedy complicate this picture in an interesting way. The best comedy does reassure us about the basic rationality and goodness of the world. Yet Aristophanic comedy—the sort Hegel lauds as the best and the most truly comic—has a strongly social-critical streak that Hegel notes with great admiration. Hegel’s theory of comedy says as much about him as it does about the genre. But if we are attentive to Hegel’s remarks on comedy, they will offer us a point of resistance against overly Panglossian interpretations of the Hegelian supreme task of art and will help us better understand in what way active social criticism through art is compatible with that higher calling.


    Item Type: Article
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Philosophy
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 14:47
    Last Modified: 11 Nov 2014 14:47


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