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rethinking victimhood: phenomenology, religion, and the human condition
1. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Jason W. Alvis, Ludger Hagedorn Rethinking Victimhood: Phenomenology, Religion, and the Human Condition: Introduction
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How we use our own victimhood and that of others has been changing in recent years. Today it may be used to decry an injustice of violence, to garner attention to our causes, to command a unique moral and ecclesial authority, or even to gain advantage over other groups. The many possible uses of victimhood lead us to study phenomenologically its influence upon our human condition, considering especially its cultural manifestations, and religious underpinnings. The contributions investigate the topic through four sections: 1) Blame, Liability, Ressentiment, 2) Christianity, Atonement, Scapegoating, 3) Trauma, Survivor Guilt, Exile, and 4) Culture, Globalization Media.
2. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Ruud Welten Sartre and the Transformation of Victimhood in Saint Genet
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In this contribution, a poetical transformation of victimhood is explored as described by Jean-Paul Sartre in his Saint Genet, a study of the writer Jean Genet (1910–1986). First, the question is answered what Sartre, who famously wrote “There are no innocent victims,” has to say about victimhood. Second, an outline is given of the context of Jean Genet’s work and the role he plays in Sartre’s thinking. There is a clear line from Sartre’s earlier study of Baudelaire to Saint Genet. Both authors try not to reject the judgement that has been passed on them but to affirm it, to turn this affirmation into an art. Third, already in his Baudelaire, but even more in Saint Genet, Sartre describes the merge of the victim and executioner as a mystical enterprise. Moreover, like Baudelaire, Genet transforms the idea of the convict and evil into a language dedicated to flowers. This leads to a transformation from victimhood to poetry.
3. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
James Griffith Victimhood in Bataille‘s Reading of Sade and in Popular Sovereignty
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This article reveals three aspects of victimhood in Bataille’s reading of Sade (of the other, of the self, and Sade’s language) and relates them to some of Bataille’s metaphysical and political notions: the impossible, the general and the restricted economy, sovereignty, and transgression. Doing so shows a progressive simplification of possibilities for transgression from the pre-Christian world to that of popular sovereignty, i.e., the sovereignty of the crowd, the latter leaving open one avenue for transgression: Sadean victimhood. The article then applies these aspects to the pamphlet in Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir, “Frenchmen, Some More Effort If You Wish to Become Republicans,” in relation to a contemporaneous document of popular sovereignty, the preamble to the Constitution of the Year III, titled “Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and Citizen.” Attending to the aspects of Sadean victimhood in “Effort” shows that its system’s very impossibility makes it the Declaration’s logical completion. Finally, that impossibility is revealed as the sovereignty of the masses, distinct from that of the crowd.
4. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Sjoerd van Tuinen Authentic Ressentiment?: The Polemics of Jean Améry
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Following Nietzsche, we can discern two types of therapeutical voice on ressentiment, which find themselves in a polemical relation to one another: The philosopher and the priest. In this paper, I turn to a third polemical voice, embodied by Jean Améry, namely that of the victim who bears witness to his own ressentiment. A dialectical reconstruction of this standpoint within the polemical triangle contributes to the Améry reception in three ways: (1) It is no longer necessary to justify his tactlessness through the exceptional context of the objectively recognized lived experience of victimhood. (2) It shows that Améry’s assumption of his “authentic ressentiment” is not just “anti-Nietzschean” (Jameson, Žižek) but first of all anti-pastoral. (3) Beyond the question of (in)authenticity, this also implies that the political significance of Améry’s testimony lies in its literary and conceptual systematicity no less than as a description of lived experience.
5. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Noëlle Vahanian On the Repeatable Human Victim and Perpetrator in Genocide
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This article is concerned with how we meet the victim of genocide in the middle of experience. François Laruelle, in Théorie générale des victimes (2012), suggests that to think the victim is a work of resurrection rather than remembrance. To think the victim should allow us to recognize that the victim, especially the victim for who they are as such, is always human in the last instance—a repeatable victim. With this thesis, the article begins with the definition of the crime of genocide adopted by the United Nations to examine how knowledge production is involved in cyclical violence. The second part of the essay thinks the victim of genocide through a subversion of Jean-Luc Marion’s limit concept of the saturated phenomenon, sans transcendence. The essay concludes that in this lived realization, weakness and compassion seize to return the victim to their suffering and instead, hope to change the world.
6. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Tamsin Jones Can Victims Make Sense of Trauma?
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This article reflects on the borders between sense and non-sense in order to think about the meaning of a particular kind of non-sense: traumatic violence. What does it mean for a victim of traumatic violence to make sense of it? Bringing together the discourses of phenomenology and trauma theory this article demonstrates the way in which traumatic violence, as a limit case of the phenomenal, can be brought into meaning without being reduced to an object of knowledge.
7. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Bruce Ellis Benson Resisting “Forgiveness Oppression”: Fake Apologies, No Apologies, and Silent Victims
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Victims of abuse and violence are often pressured to forgive their perpetrators. The idea of unconditional forgiveness—forgiveness granted regardless of apology, remorse, or change of behavior—has become a norm for many in the west and those who refuse to forgive are often seen as resentful and bitter. Yet those imploring forgiveness are often the powerful and those asked to forgive are often minorities who have comparatively little power. Since forgiveness in western culture derives from Jesus’s teachings, I return to those teachings. While the verse “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” is often cited as what Jesus taught, the reality is that his teaching about forgiveness is strongly connected to repentance or remorse. I show how those teachings have been significantly distorted to create the norm of unconditional forgiveness. Finally, I consider the value and place of resentment.
8. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Jason W. Alvis Christianities and the Culture (Wars) of Victimhood: Persecution, Purity, Patience
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Some of the most powerful persons today are those most successful at convincing others they have the greatest claim to victimhood. This new, socio-political shift marks the rise of what recently has been called “victimhood culture.” This article addresses how certain Christian theological views on God’s wrath, along with differing appropriations of the church’s collective victimhood both have played significant roles in generating a “culture war of victimhood”—a mode of conflict in which individuals and parties fight for the status of being the most socially oppressed and marginalized, especially for the purpose of gaining power. To better understand this collective intentionality of victimhood, the article provides a multidisciplinary exploration into recent works in sociology of religion (Froese and Bader), anthropology (Campbell and Manning), and historical theology (Kreider and Moss).
9. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Marguerite La Caze Becoming a Victim: A Dry White Season
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Euzhan Palcy’s film A Dry White Season, set in apartheid South Africa, portrays a resistance not intended to lead to victimhood, yet leads to the death of the Afrikaans protagonist, Benjamin Du Toit. The narrative follows Ben as they are educated about Black South Africans’ suffering under apartheid, their growing activism and simultaneous increasing victimization beside that of their Black friends. I first examine how early political critics of the film thought it stressed the victimization of the white character at the expense of that of the Black characters. Next, I interpret the film by considering how Palcy’s aims, the influence of their compatriot Aimé Césaire’s anticolonial views, and the details of the film’s structure, illuminate the film’s philosophical insights into victimization and resistance. I show how the film’s representation of Ben’s secondary victimization and witnessing highlights the victimization of apartheid.
10. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Alexander Kozin The Child Victim in Andrey Tarkovsky’s Ivan's Childhood
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In this article I examine Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1962 film Ivan’s Childhood. The film tells a story about a twelve-year old Russian boy, whose family was killed by the Germans at the onset of WWII. Orphaned and dispossessed, Ivan began to scout for the Soviet troops. Eventually, he was captured, tortured and executed by the Gestapo. Using a wide gamut of mythopoetic “articulations,” in this film, Tarkovsky shows how Ivan’s victimization affected him beyond repair, leading to the erosion of his child identity and the emergence of a traumatic duality. The film therefore is not only a poignant condemnation of the war, but a disclosure of the victim phenomenon carried out by mythopoetic means. In my analysis of Ivan’s Childhood, I approach this phenomenon by focusing on the effects of trauma on the child, with a special emphasis on dreaming. For my theoretic, I employ the phenomenology of the child (E. Husserl and M. Merleau-Ponty).
miguel de beistegui, the government of desire: a genealogy of the liberal subject
11. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Vilde Lid Aavitsland The “Man of Desire” or the “Man of Labor”?: Comments on Miguel de Beistegui’s The Government of Desire
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12. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Kevin Thompson Comments on Miguel De Beistegui’s The Government of Desire: A Genealogy of the Liberal Subject
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13. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Miguel de Beistegui Desire in and Beyond Liberalism: From Normative to Algorithmic and Neuro-power
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book reviews
14. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Ekin Erkan Étienne Balibar, On Universals: Constructing and Deconstructing Community
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15. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Lorenzo Girardi Vincent Blok, Heidegger’s Concept of Philosophical Method: Innovating Philosophy in the Age of Global Warming
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16. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 4
Karl von der Luft Karen Ng, Hegel’s Concept of Life: Self-Consciousness, Freedom, Logic
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special topic: technology and society
17. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 3
Massimiliano Simons, Mauritz Kelchtermans, Lode Lauwaert Technology and Society
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It is commonly accepted that technology and society have always been intertwined. The question is rather how we should understand that relation. This introduction to the special issue ‘Technology and Society’ gives a brief overview of the history of the questions related to this intertwinement. The special issue consists of six essays, emanating from presentations at the 2019 conference on Technology and Society at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven. It was organized by the Working Group on Philosophy of Technology (WGPT), whose aim is to promote philosophy of technology at the KU Leuven, but also more broadly in Belgium.
18. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 3
Alina Achenbach The Ontic Gift: The Temporality of Technics between Heidegger and Derrida
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Much of modern technology critique inherits Heidegger’s ontico-ontological distinction. In this paper, following Stiegler’s linking of the ontic to the transgenerational, I argue that Heidegger leaves the materiality of technics as a potential site for difference in the wake. Put differently, Heidegger “declines the gift of the ontic,” instead constructing an order of an imagined Graeco-German inheritance—a culturally and linguistically specific “saving-power” against the ills of modern technology. Through Derrida’s inheritance of Heidegger’s work—marked by a different language and (postcolonial) positionality—I reconsider ontico-ontological difference as an opening to a co-constitutive productivity of world and thing, where the passing on of mnemonic inheritance features multiplicities of languages and cultural techniques that preempt Heidegger’s “Graeco-German monolingualism.” This calls for a central positioning of the politics of memory and inheritance within modern technology critique, thereby attending both to the material realities as well as the cultural differences of technics.
19. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 3
Lavinia Marin A Digital Picture to Hold Us Captive?: A Flusserian Interpretation of Misinformation Sharing on Social Media
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In this article I investigate online misinformation from a media philosophy perspective. I, thus move away from the debate focused on the semantic content, concerned with what is true or not about misinformation. I argue rather that online misinformation is the effect of an informational climate promoted by user micro-behaviours such as liking, sharing, and posting. Misinformation online is explained as the effect of an informational environment saturated with and shaped by techno-images in which most users act automatically under the constant assault of stirred emotions, a state resembling what media philosopher Vilém Flusser has called techno-magical consciousness. I describe three ways in which images function on social media to induce this distinctive, uncritical mode of consciousness, and complement Flusser’s explanation with insights from the phenomenology of emotions.
20. Philosophy Today: Volume > 65 > Issue: 3
Leonardo Sias The Ideology of AI
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This paper criticises the ideological dimension of the AI narrative. It does so by questioning the implicit assumptions behind its vision, which promises a world that automatically adapts to our desires before we even know them. These assumptions hinge on a misconception of the value of desire as residing exclusively with its fulfilment, warranting human manipulation for increased predictability. This social trajectory towards algorithmic governance, rather than delivering on the promised fulfilment, undermines our capacity to sustain the same desire that it uses to justify its enterprise.