Seier gjennom nederlag

Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 52 (4):146-159 (2017)
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This paper is a revised version of the essay that won the Zapffe Prize in 2017. In «The Last Messiah» and On the tragic, Peter Wessel Zapffe suggests that humankind should cease to reproduce, as the meaning of life cannot be found and human life at its best is tragic. The theory has been criticized for assuming that the meaning of life must be explained by an external cause and implicitly asks for an infinite causal chain. In this paper, I argue that it is possible to escape this critique by adding a new element to the definition of the tragic: namely, the insight that the tragic cannot come into existence if the subject does not demonstrate its greatness. Precisely because a human, on Zapffe’s understanding, must prove its brilliance if tragedy is to arise, I argue that the tragic cannot be devoid of meaning. In contrast, the individual seems to be provided with a tragic meaning of life, rather than being deprived of it. Furthermore, the new definition of the tragic affects Zapffe’s antinatalism, because a tragic meaning of life does not necessitate that humankind should cease to reproduce. Yet, the definition does not suggest that humans should reproduce either. Instead, it confronts us with the following question: Should one bring new life into the world, when the meaning of life only can be found in the tragic?

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Hilde Vinje
University of Agder


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