Time, moral and anti-moral: Améry and Levinas on historical responses to trauma

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Philosophy and Religious Studies

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In this article I interpret Améry’s claims about the temporal dimension of trauma in the light of Levinas’s reflections on suffering and responses to suffering—and how both reject the temptation to generate narratives in which pain serves as a step toward transcendence and self-determination. That temptation finds support in Nietzsche’s critique of resentment, which identifies the refusal to forget as pathological, and against which Améry defends himself by demanding a substantive, intersubjective process of working-off the unjust past. I argue that for Levinas and Améry, progressive narratives intensify the moral inattention that normalizes the initial infliction of suffering, and that revising how we understand time is necessary to respond ethically to trauma and human vulnerability more broadly. In light of that analysis, I consider contemporary examples of memorialization and the assumptions about time that they reveal.


This article was originally published in Continental Philosophy Review. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Continental Philosophy Review


© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2023