The Concept and Tragedy of Culture
Simmel, G. (1998 ), Der Begriff und die Tragödie der Kultur, in: Philosophische Kultur - Über das Abenteuer, die Geschlechter und die Krise der Moderne, Berlin: Wagenbach.
In "The Concept and Tragedy of Culture", Georg Simmel explores the relationship between humans and their culture. As beings that distinguish themselves from animals, humans have the unique ability to create a cultural world that exists independently of individuals. This world includes things like art, religion, and science, which people experience in different ways.
The cultural world is a key source of personal growth and development, as it allows individuals to reconcile their subjectivity with the objective world. However, personal growth is not without its challenges. The relationship between subject and object is different when both possess consciousness or self-awareness, resulting in a duality between subject and object. This can cause inner conflict and lead to human suffering, as individuals struggle to reconcile their personal desires and motivations with the demands of the external world.
Creating cultural products like art can help individuals deal with this inner conflict by objectifying their inner experiences and making them more tangible and understandable. Cultural products that become part of a larger value system can also contribute to a richer human experience by providing a sense of meaning and purpose. However, cultural values only arise when there is a balance between objective and subjective values.
Negative phenomena are associated with cultural values, such as overspecialization and the appearance of formalities that lack content. Cultural products have their own logic of development, which can sometimes diverge from what is most compatible with personal development, leading to a lack of inner life. The limitless production capacity of objective spirit can also overwhelm personal development, creating feelings of inadequacy and helplessness.
In summary, culture is a source of personal growth and development, but it can also create tension between the logic of cultural forms and personal development. The cultural products created have their own logic of development, which can sometimes diverge from what is most compatible with personal development, leading to a lack of inner life. The tension between subject and object remains an enduring source of human suffering, but creating cultural products can help individuals objectify their inner lives and contribute to a richer human experience. Ultimately, culture requires a balance between objective and subjective values to be a positive force in personal growth and development.