On Sacrifice

On Sacrifice

Moshe Halbertal
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    On Sacrifice
    Book Description:

    The idea and practice of sacrifice play a profound role in religion, ethics, and politics. In this brief book, philosopher Moshe Halbertal explores the meaning and implications of sacrifice, developing a theory of sacrifice as an offering and examining the relationship between sacrifice, ritual, violence, and love.On Sacrificealso looks at the place of self-sacrifice within ethical life and at the complex role of sacrifice as both a noble and destructive political ideal.

    In the religious domain, Halbertal argues, sacrifice is an offering, a gift given in the context of a hierarchical relationship. As such it is vulnerable to rejection, a trauma at the root of both ritual and violence. An offering is also an ambiguous gesture torn between a genuine expression of gratitude and love and an instrument of exchange, a tension that haunts the practice of sacrifice.

    In the moral and political domains, sacrifice is tied to the idea of self-transcendence, in which an individual sacrifices his or her self-interest for the sake of higher values and commitments. While self-sacrifice has great potential moral value, it can also be used to justify the most brutal acts. Halbertal attempts to unravel the relationship between self-sacrifice and violence, arguing that misguided self-sacrifice is far more problematic than exaggerated self-love. In his exploration of the positive and negative dimensions of self-sacrifice, Halbertal also addresses the role of past sacrifice in obligating future generations and in creating a bond for political associations, and considers the function of the modern state as a sacrificial community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4235-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The Hebrew term for sacrifice,korban, has evolved to designate three different but related meanings. This phenomenon occurred in other languages as well. In its primary use, a sacrifice is a gift, an offering given from humans to God. It involves an object, usually an animal, which is transferred from the human to the divine realm. In its second use, which emerged later, the term refers to giving up a vital interest for a higher cause. Someone may sacrifice his property, comfort, limb, or even life for his children, country, or in order to fulfill an obligation. This latter sense...

  5. Part I Sacrificing to
    (pp. 7-62)

    Sacrifice is the most primary and basic form of ritual. The elimination of animal sacrifice from contemporary Western religious life came about as a result of a cataclysmic moment. In Judaism, the ritual of sacrifice reached an abrupt end with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem during the first century. The alternatives to temple worship that emerged out of this crisis within rabbinic culture, though “sublimating” temple sacrifice, were to a certain degree modeled after the sacrifice, and kept its ethos and drive. Christianity replaced all sacrifices with one ultimate sacrificial event: the sacrifice of the son of God....

  6. Part II Sacrificing for
    (pp. 63-113)

    Self-transcendence is at the core of the human capacity for a moral life. The movement of the self to self-transcendence has been articulated in different ways in the history of philosophy: adopting the perspective of the other, such as in the golden rule, “what is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor”; the identification of the individual with the general will in Rousseau’s social contract; universalizing the maxim of action as a test for its morality in Kant’s categorical imperative; viewing oneself as one among many in granting equal weight to every unit of utility in utilitarianism; locating...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 114-116)

    Sacrifice is an essential phenomenon of religious, ethical, and political life. In its two senses, as “sacrificing to” and “sacrificing for,” the linguistic use of the term covers immensely diverse experiences. It touches on ritual, atonement, substitution, self-transcendence, war, the responsibility to the past, and the state. Yet there is something at the core of this varied, rich phenomenon that justifies the use of the same word to express both meanings in so many languages. The term has to do with the identification of the sacrifice with the noninstrumental realm. In its mode as an offering, “sacrificing to” is an...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 117-132)
  9. Index
    (pp. 133-134)