The Victim in Ethical Theology

Emmanuel Levinas and Jean Améry


  • Paul Rigby Saint Paul University



Levinas’ Tragical Ethical Theology, Jean Améry, Nietzche


Nietzsche would regard Levinas’ ethical theology, in which the moral subject is responsible for the oppressed as “other,” as a “slave morality” which derives its moral force from resentment. In defence of Levinas’ ethics I turn to the life and reflections of Jean Améry, Jew, philosopher, atheist, resistance fighter tortured by the Gestapo, survivor of Auschwitz. His life is a “trace” of the tragic inhabiting Levinas’ theology. Améry rejects Nietzsche’s view of resentment. Drawing upon Bataille’s distinctive understanding of sadism, Améry claims that oppression is a pitiable degree of loneliness in the face of the tormentor’s lust for domination. This can be righted if the
tormentor, by desiring to reverse this situation, becomes a fellow human being. Améry rejects evangelical forgiveness as a sub-moral abandonment of the oppressed’s responsibility for the oppressor. The historical impossibility of this reversal reveals the tragic destiny of the oppressed and of Levinas’ theology of the “other.”


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How to Cite

Rigby, P. (2008). The Victim in Ethical Theology: Emmanuel Levinas and Jean Améry. Religious Studies and Theology, 26(2), 233–254.