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Samuel Beckett's How It IsPhilosophy in Translation$
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Anthony Cordingley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440608

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440608.001.0001

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From the Cradle to the Cave: A Comedy of Ethics from Plato to Christian Asceticism (via Rembrandt)

From the Cradle to the Cave: A Comedy of Ethics from Plato to Christian Asceticism (via Rembrandt)

Chapter:
(p.110) 4 From the Cradle to the Cave: A Comedy of Ethics from Plato to Christian Asceticism (via Rembrandt)
Source:
Samuel Beckett's How It Is
Author(s):

Anthony Cordingley

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440608.003.0005

The metaphysical themes explored in previous chapters are amplified when Beckett is shown to engage explicitly with the ethics of Plato and Aristotle, as well as Greek and Roman Stoics. This chapter delves deep into Beckett’s comedy of ethics, examining his exploitation of Socratic method and ancient philosophies of education or paideia, morality and “natural order” to frame the journey of his “I” and the “I”’s recitation of his narrative as ethical acts. Beckett’s “I” contrasts these ideas with modes of Christian asceticism, filtering his conception of his own “flight into Egypt” through images in his mind that derive from the painting of religious motifs in Rembrandt, Elsheimer and others. Beckett’s ironic regard for his “I” is considered in terms of his ethics of laughter and his philosophically inflected notion of the risus purus (the laughter that laughs at itself), which emerges as a driving force in the novel’s ethical comedy.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Philosophy, Humour, Plato, Paideia, Education, Ancient Stoics, Roman Stoics, Stoicism, Ethics

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