Derrida describes compassion as a “fundamental mode of living together”. In this essay it is contrasted with “stealth torture”, which leaves no visible traces and succeeds in systematically undermining compassion with the victim, in both the community of the perpetrator and of the victim. In Derrida's text, the Hebrew concept of Rachamim plays a decisive role in combination with “perhaps”. On the one hand “rachamim”, “compassion”, forms the plural of “rechem”, “womb”, while being attributed to male figures (including in Judaism and Islam, to God himself); on the other, the word “perhaps” determines Derrida's thought of the future. Torture assaults the “strangeness to oneself” that the “self” is by forcing the victim to betray what could be called compassion for oneself. Derrida's argument resonates with a powerful voice against torture of the early Enlightenment, Christian Thomasius, who identifies such self-betrayal as constitutive of torture. With the iconic image from Abu Ghraib which in intelligence circles is called “crucifixion”, we might be facing a return of the repressed foundation of the United States in a symbol of which a key aspect has been forgotten: That crucifixion was abhorred by the peoples of Antiquity and by Islam as the worst of executions.
Fordham Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.