Knowledge, Refléction and the Tragic the Case of Hamlet

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Knowledge, Reflection, and the Tragic: The Case of Hamlet We are reaching a point in the term when the larger shape of our course, Knowledge and Reflection, should, we hope, be coming into view. We began with a focus upon some modern texts—Heidegger’s essay, with its luminous meditation on the character of scientific thought and how it differs from the kind of thought he calls Besinnung, translated into English as “reflection”; Heisenberg’s consideration of Goethe’s reaction to Newtonian science; and Buber’s exploration our tendency to reduce reality to a set of objectified “its” in ways that conceal what matters most. We then turned to an ancient dialogue by Plato, one which explored the nature of reason within a soul that is gifted with multiple forms of divine influence—most especially the form of divine mania named eros. We now turn to Shakespeare, a figure situated on the cusp, so to speak, between ancient and medieval wisdom about reality and the emerging epoch that calls itself modern. When we put together the syllabus for this course, we made an educated guess that Shakespeare had to be a part of it. I had a hunch that Hamlet, in particular, was the right work by Shakespeare to include. Now that we are studying it, I’m amazed at how good my hunch was. But I understand that my job tonight is not simply to tell you this but to try and help you see why it is so. To that end, I will present a lecture in three parts. First, I want to say a few words about the tragic vision as such. Secondly, I will offer you a reading of Hamlet. Finally, I will reflect upon the significance which Hamlet holds for our efforts this term to -1- understand—if I might put it this way—that “There are more things in heaven and earth” than are “dreamt of” in the scientific understanding of reality. The stories that we call tragic . . . the sentiments that we feel are tragic . . . the

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