Compassion and Sacrifice

Monday, 12 November 2018, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
The presentation will consist of two parts: The first one will explore the question of “how to think compassion as a co-operation between reason, passions and self-love”, while the second one will ask for the meaning of self-sacrifice in modern societies and try to outline possibilities of its overcoming.

Modern moral theories often treat compassion as an irrational force in human affairs, one that is likely to mislead or distract us when we are trying to ‘think well’ about the human being. But should compassion only be treated as a merely irrational sentimentality, or how would it be possible to interpret compassion as a rational attitude? Based on Rousseau’s concept of pitié, the presentation will try to establish an understanding of compassion that allows to conceive of it as a composite of reason, passions, and (most problematically) self-love.

The second part of the seminar will thematize self-destructive ‘love’ as a trigger for self-sacrifice. Following Julia Kristeva and others, the presentation will mainly draw on feminist concepts of sacrifice. These theories diagnose a specific female vulnerability, which has its roots in their motherhood and the early stages of their child’s development. This vulnerability makes them highly attentive to the suffering of other; thus, they ‘love’ self-destructively. The talk will put forward an ethics of ‘non-sacrificial love’ that promises to maintain the autonomy of all subjects and, therefore, does not produce the kind of social pressure resulting in self-sacrifice.

Kateřina Kočí is associate researcher at Charles University in Prague. Currently she is a Jan Patočka Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Kateřina Sváčková is a PhD candidate in Humanities at Charles University in Prague. Currently she is a Jan Patočka Junior Visiting Fellow.

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