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The Thought of Death and the Memory of War

The Thought of Death and the Memory of War

Marc Crépon
Translated by Michael Loriaux
Foreword by Rodolphe Gasché
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Thought of Death and the Memory of War
    Book Description:

    War lays bare death and our relation to it. And in the wars-or more precisely the memories of war-of the twentieth century, images of the deaths of countless faceless or nameless others eclipse the singularity of each victim's death as well as the end of the world as such that each death signifies. Marc Crépon's The Thought of Death and the Memory of War is a call to resist such images in which death is no longer actual death since it happens to anonymous others, and to seek instead a world in which mourning the other whose mortality we always already share points us toward a cosmopolitics. Crépon pursues this path toward a cosmopolitics of mourning through readings of works by Freud, Heidegger, Sartre, Patocka, Levinas, Derrida, and Ricœur, and others. The movement among these writers, Crépon shows, marks a way through-and against-twentieth-century interpretation to argue that no war, genocide, or neglect of people is possible without suspending how one relates to the death of another human being. A history of a critical strain in contemporary thought, this book is, as Rodolphe Gasché says in the Foreword, "a profound meditation on what constitutes evil and a rigorous and illuminating reflection on death, community, and world." The translation of this work received financial support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3991-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    Rodolphe Gasché

    Since Socrates shared his thoughts about death with his friends before his execution in the Phaedo, death and sharing thoughts thereon have been a continuous concern in Western thought. Despite its seeming innovations, the thesis about death that Martin Heidegger advanced in 1927 in his opus magnum Being and Time is in many regards still part and parcel of the tradition inaugurated by Greek philosophy. According to this tradition, death is something that the philosopher welcomes—as Hannah Arendt says, the philosopher is somehow in love with death—since death is, precisely, what allows the soul to separate from the...

  4. INTRODUCTION. War and the Death Drive
    (pp. 1-10)
    Sigmund Freud

    However we judge the past or the future, our judgment will be haunted, marked by the seal of war in the twentieth century. The memory of war intervenes inescapably in the relations among states, whether bringing them together or driving them apart. It gives rise, year after year, at predetermined dates and in predetermined places, to appeals for forgiveness, symbolic gestures of reconciliation, just as, here and there, it is used to recall unpaid debts and persistent misapprehensions, as well as absolutions that wait enduringly upon unuttered pleas for forgiveness. Our memory on occasion abides in some or other survival...

  5. 1 Being-toward-Death and Dasein’s Solitude
    (pp. 11-26)
    Martin Heidegger

    With these two phrases, as is often the case in his writings on Heidegger, Derrida opens up a perspective that is at the same time a breach. It has been said over and over again that the existential analytic recoils from thinking about the political, that it treats the political as an ancillary and derivative question. But Derrida’s two remarks suggest something else. They invite us to ask more specifically if this wavering before the political might not be what is playing itself out in the sections Being and Time (46–53) devoted to the existential analytic of Being-toward-death. That...

  6. 2 Dying-for
    (pp. 27-42)
    Jean-Paul Sartre

    Few passages of Sartre’s architecturally complex work Being and Nothingness are more critical of the existential analytic of Being and Time than those, in the fourth and last part, devoted to “my death.” Heidegger’s summons to an authentic Being-toward-death—to the acknowledgment by Dasein that death is its ownmost possibility—becomes, translated into Sartre’s idiom, the realization of a “project toward death,” the realization of a “freedom-to-die” that allows Dasein to “constitute itself as totality by [its] free choice of finitude.”¹ The idea that death can be the object of such a project [projet] is thus, from the beginning, put...

  7. 3 Vanquishing Death
    (pp. 43-62)
    Emmanuel Levinas

    As stated in the introduction, none of the philosophical engagements with Heidegger’s Being and Time in the last century is more clearly marked by the memory of World War II—by the torment of mass murder, the assassinations, the untold executions, and, most extraordinarily, the deportation and extermination of the Jews of Europe, which distinguishes this war from all others—than the thought of Emmanuel Levinas. It is this torment that makes for the uniqueness of the thought of death that Levinas elaborates in the pages of his work. It keeps alive, like no other, the memory of the victims...

  8. 4 Unrelenting War
    (pp. 63-78)
    Jan Patočka

    What should we remember of the wars of the twentieth century? How can the memory of the millions upon millions of lives sacrificed on all fronts, of the countless victims of organized famine, forced labor, deportation, and the extermination camps be inscribed in our thought? And what form should that memory assume? What is thought’s responsibility in opening itself to that memory? In all probability no great philosophy of the second half of the twentieth century has evaded these questions, no matter how implicitly or allusively they may have been treated. Such questions could not fail to have an impact...

  9. 5 The Imaginary of Death
    (pp. 79-90)
    Paul Ricœur

    For Paul Ricoeur, as for Sartre, Levinas, Patočka, and Derrida, sections 46 through 53 of Being and Time, on the existential analytic of Being-toward-death, constitute one of the most acutely confrontational passages of Heidegger’s formidable book. Bearing spirited witness to this is a long passage in part 3 of Memory, History, Forgetting, devoted to “the historical condition,” in which the philosopher of memory and history considers in his turn the identification of death with “the intimate possibility of one’s ownmost potentiality of being,” and opposes to it “an alternative reading of the potentiality of dying.”¹ However, as Ricœur was writing...

  10. 6 Fraternity and Absolute Evil
    (pp. 91-104)

    This declaration from André Malraux’s Miroir des Limbes has a long history. Jorge Semprún used it as the epigraph of Literature or Life, which narrates his deportation to Buchenwald in the last year of the war and his “return to life.” Paul Ricœur, who had read Semprún’s book (published in 1994), reprised Malraux’s declaration, as we saw, in Living Up to Death. Neither author assumes the risk of explicitly locating the “region of the soul” that Malraux seeks to reveal, the region where the antagonism between absolute evil and fraternity takes root and is decided. But because all these authors...

  11. 7 Hospitality and Mortality
    (pp. 105-124)
    Jacques Derrida

    This epigraph in two parts establishes hospitality and mourning as the principle of ethics. The word “itself” [même] designates both the one and the other as the essence of ethics. How are we to understand this conjunction? Does it mean that one of the two terms (hospitality) concerns our relation to the living and the other (mourning) our memory of the dead? Or, on the contrary, should we not say instead that the one term cannot be conceptualized without the other? And, if this is so, what does this impossible dissociation of the twofold responsibility that is being implied teach...

  12. 8 The Thought of Death and the Image of the Dead
    (pp. 125-144)

    We live day in and day out with images of death. They are foisted on us at regular hours of the day. We encounter them at newsstands, both in magazines and in the publicity for magazines. They continually invade the televised news. They participate in the coverage of events whose distinctive character, whose primary character is to convey death [mortifère], to present, that is, to present us with (to bring to us) images of death. Whether they be images of war, of assassinations, of natural catastrophes, spectacular accidents, death makes news [actualité].¹ What is given to us as news (as...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 145-162)
  14. Index
    (pp. 163-166)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)