This chapter looks at the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Few are the testimonials, novels, novellas, or philosophical analyses that help evaluate, politically and morally, what happened there in August of 1945. Of course, there have been “world conferences against nuclear weapons” and “peace movements” that cannot be separated from the memory of that day. For Kenzaburō Ōe, who observed many such conferences and movements and gathered accounts from the victims, the politics and the recollection of that day were far from compatible or consistent with one another. Most of the great philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century judged it unnecessary, beyond some rudimentary reflection, to dwell on the event or to examine critically the official reasons for and justifications of it. Even less attention has been paid to the widespread and silent consent of the political class to nuclear weapons, despite the many protest movements directed against them. It was understood that making an example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had proven the necessary “efficacy” of deterrence. Consequently, the memory of the event was made a prisoner of the geopolitical and strategic questions of the Cold War, just as the question of nuclear arms today is understood in the context of the potential terrorism of so-called “rogue” states.
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