- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Paperback Edition edition (September 22, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195183606
- ISBN-13: 978-0195183603
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,554,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring Paperback – September 22, 2005
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"Determined like no other composer to 'fathom the depths of philosophy,' Wagner wrote operas exploring the elemental passions and conflicts of the human condition. Kitcher and Schacht, distinguished philosophers in their own right, present a profound analysis of the guiding ideas of the Ring which enables us to grasp as never before the power of Wagner's most ambitious work."--Charles E. Larmore, University of Chicago Law School
"Each chapter contains thought-provoking discussions that will intellectually engage readers, even those who are unmoved, or perhaps repelled, by Wagner's music and ideas."--Library Journal
"A strikingly successful reading of Wagner's music drama as a philosophical meditation on the meaning of human existence and freedom."--Paul Boghossian, New York University
"An analytic gem...[Kitcher and Schacht's] definitions and explanations [are] crystal clear.... This book will surely satisfy Wagner aficionados as much as it will make those who are new to the Ring feel welcome."--Nicholas Vazsonyi, Wagner Notes
About the Author
Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. He is the author of seven previous books, is a past president of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division), and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently holds the Romanell Professorship in Philosophy, awarded annually by Phi Beta Kappa. Richard Schacht is Professor of Philosophy and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His previous books include Hegel and After, Nietzsche, The Future of Alienation, and Making Sense of Nietzsche.
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The Ring, according to the authors, was written under the influence of Feuerbach's secular humanist optimism, complicated by Wagner's own experience of the failure of worldly political utopianism. The ending symbolizes the "death of God," not merely the death of the Idols, as theologians would have it. The atheist pessimism of Schopenhauer came to seem more realistic to Wagner (with his last opera Parsifal??), but not before he finished the Ring with a ringing affirmation of life and love.
In trying to articulate how it is that, in spite of defeat and death, "not everything has been lost," they come surprisingly close, but are finally blocked by the ghost of logical positivism. In Mozart's Don Giovanni, the authors see Nietzsche's Ubermensch; a figure literally beyond good and evil, and not subject to any truth or negative judgment beyond the conflicting prejudices of finite creatures. In the judgment of the authors, the Commendatore, and the transcendent Judgment he symbolizes, is laughable. So also with positive judgment; the final theme of the Ring cannot be "redeemed by Love," but merely "triumph and vindication of Brunnhilde." (In whose eyes? If all judgment and truth are relative? If all who judge are temporary, finite, fallible creatures? If there is no Ideal Observer?)
This is a very ambitious undertaking and my brief description doesn't do justice to the careful development of the authors' analysis. I certainly found it convincing. If anything, Kitcher and Schacht may not go far enough. Their analysis emphasizes human construction of meaning. Wagner certainly thought of himself as a "maker" (kunstler) with a very expansive and typically Romantic view of the constructive power of art. The authors establish the Ring as a sophisticated and powerful allegory-analysis of the effort to establish meaning in life but this can also be seen as an allegory of Wagner's craft.
i was hoping for points of view with which to examine subtleties and/or subplots within the ring. what i got was an unreadable drek.