The Tragedy of Culture and the Culture of Tragedy: Some Remarks on Georg Simmel’s Sociology of Culture and His Interpretation of Schopenhauer’s Philosophy


Georg Simmel furnished many profound resources to social sciences and philosophy of culture: his contribution stands as a pillar within the frame of humanities also for his efforts in order to understand his epochal historical-cultural shift. Founding a new science (sociology) crosses to Simmel’s conviction to highlight and to explain both modern individual and social lives. In this regard, the question arising from the very sociological field belongs to the need to focus on the new mechanisms in the cultural sphere, that is grasping a radical fracture between “subjective and objective spirit”. This paper aims at exploring the interpretation of Schopenhauer’s philosophy in the sociology of culture of Georg Simmel towards his cultural theory. Analysing Simmel’s works on Schopenhauer and pessimism, it emerges a philosophical and sociological frame which basically fits with some topics regarding his view on the “tragedy of culture”. It will be argued through three main phases in Simmel’s thought: 1. the question of pessimism (from the early writings to Philosophie des Geldes); 2. the discovery of (the “dialectics” of) the tragedy of culture (middle intellectual production); 3. Schopenhauer and the Lebensphilosophie (the last writings). Finally, this paper shows the convergence of some Simmelian hints and views with the recent debate in sociological and philosophical fields which argue for a “crisis” theory or for the analysis of the “pathologies of the social life”.

Keywords: Simmel, Schopenhauer, pessimism, society, culture, tragedy

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