Economies of suffering: Kierkegaard and levinas

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Perspectives on Human Suffering, 2012, pp. 33 - 42
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012. This chapter explores Kierkegaard’s conception of suffering and a Levinasian response through a reading of the latter’s useless suffering. Kierkegaard identifies suffering as a temporal moment to be actively passed through on the way to eternal salvation. It is argued, therefore, that Kierkegaard determines suffering as necessarily a means to an end, operative according to a logic of utility. The subject is therefore solitary in its suffering. For Levinas, suffering is useless, rendered useful only through the maintenance of a logic of utility and therefore an autarkical subject. It is argued that Levinas transforms the locus of the ethical by re-locating suffering in an economy conditioned by the interhuman order and thus a self-other relation that undermines any logic of utility. Through suffering, the subject, the reaches the limits of its mastery, opened up to the grounding, ethical relation with the Other.
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