Philosophy, Sacrifice, and War: Problems and Ambiguities


James Dodd seeked to explore the limits of a philosophical approach to the twin problems of war and sacrifice. Is something like a true “philosophy of war”—understood as a coherent system of ideas, or a clearly articulated theoretical posture adequate to fully addressing the enduring challenges of war on a properly philosophical register—at all possible? In turn, can philosophy offer a cogent analysis of the phenomenon of sacrifice, one that captures both its paradoxical character and spiritual resonance? The suggestion was that where the two seem to fundamentally merge—when war calls for sacrifice, and sacrifice calls for war, each seeming to provide the meaning for the other—we trip on the limits of philosophy in a way that the very sense of its vocation becomes clear.

James Dodd is a professor of philosophy at the New School of Social Research in New York. He is the author of Phenomenological Reflections on Violence (2017), Phenomenology, Architecture, and the Built World (2017), and Violence and Phenomenology (2009).

Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow and Head of the Patočka Archive and Program, will provide the comment.

This event is part of the "On the Death Giving: War and Sacrifice in Patočka and Derrida" lecture series of the Woman without a Name: Gender Identity in Sacrificial Stories Research Program at the IWM. It is headed by Katerina Koci, Research Director and Lise Meitner Fellow, and generously funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Despite the effort not to repeat the mistakes and atrocities of the previous generations, the twenty-first century continues to be a century of wars and suffering. In these lectures, David Dusenbury and James Dodd reflected on Patočka’s and Derrida’s phenomenological analysis of self-sacrifice as a form of resistance in extreme situations of oppression (war or repression of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes).

Other events in this series include:
War and the Fate of Europe in Patočka’s Heretical Essays by David Dusenbury