The Enigma of Good and Evil: The Moral Sentiment in Literature (Analecta Husserliana)
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Striking toward peace and harmony the human being is ceasely torn apart in personal, social, national life by wars, feuds, inequities and intimate personal conflicts for which there seems to be no respite. Does the human condition in interaction with others imply a constant adversity? Or, is this conflict owing to an interior or external factor of evil governing our attitudes and conduct toward the other person? To what criteria should I refer for appreciation, judgment, direction concerning my attitudes and my actions as they bear on the well-being of others?
At the roots of these questions lies human experience which ought to be appropriately clarified before entering into speculative abstractions of the ethical theories and precepts. Literature, which in its very gist, dwells upon disentangling in multiple perspective the peripeteia of our life-experience offers us a unique field of source-material for moral and ethical investigations.
Literature brings preeminently to light the Moral Sentiment which pervades our life with others -- our existence tout court. Being modulated through the course of our experiences the Moral Sentiment sustains the very sense of literature and of personal human life (Tymieniecka).
WOUND: EVIL AND EXPLANATION 25 discourse and substance of sophisticated medical issues, can quote directly and allude to works of high literature and, at will, engage in high literary and philosophical language. There are other voices – ones we might associate with psychosis, which sotto voce-like comment viciously about the murders to be committed and those already enacted; and then, ﬁnally, there is an ambiguous, all-too-human voice, seemingly moved by the human losses he has committed –
‘‘Preface’’ to T otality and Inﬁnity Levinas had sought such a blurring, or rather a ‘disappearance,’ of ‘‘the traditional opposition between theory and practice’’ (T I 29/T eI 15). Acknowledging this move has led to the exploration of ways in which Levinas’s writing is itself a kind of ethical activity. Emphasizing the perlocutionary aspect of the text enables the interpretation of characteristically Levinasian claims, such as ‘‘the eye does not shine; it speaks’’ (T I 66/T eI 62). These claims
a scapegoat (248). Perhaps Job’s trials were not, after all, for God’s reassurance; rather, his story might have served to inspire fortitude among the much-aﬄicted Hebrews. Even so, some argued, all this does not explain why there is so much evil around, so insidiously widespread. Even Aquinas’ explanation that evil can inspire virtue, that people are at their best facing and overcoming it, oﬀers ﬀ cold comfort in times when ‘‘collateral damage’’ of innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan far
(F&T 59; italics mine). Kierkegaard himself invites this ambiguity – this fusion – between God’s reasons and man’s when he writes: The more the phenomenon, the appearance, expresses that here God cannot possibly be present, the closer he is. This is the case with Christ. The very moment the appearance expressed that this man could not possibly be the God-man – no, when the appearance expressed that, men even refused to recognize him as a man ... , then God was closest to actuality he had ever
Jean-Paul Sartre, T he Emotions: Outline of a T heory, Bernard Frechtman (trans.) (NY: Citadel Press, 1948), p. 91. 15 Melville, op. cit., p. 8. 16 Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 30. 17 Melville, op. cit., p. 9. 18 Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 37. BARTLEBY’S EXISTENTIAL REDUCTION 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 137 Melville, op. cit., p. 3. Ibid. Ibid., p. 4. Ibid. Ibid.