[17 July] DU Phil Seminar: Marguerite La Caze, ‘Vengefulness and impossible reciprocity in Beauvoir’

Deakin University seminar
Marguerite La Caze (University of Queensland) presents ‘A taste of ashes: vengefulness and impossible reciprocity in Beauvoir’
Tuesday 17 July from 3.30-5pm in C2.05 on Deakin University’s Burwood campus

Written just after the liberation of France and during the trials of collaborators, Beauvoir’s little-discussed essay ‘An Eye for an Eye’ (1946) describes the worst of crimes as those that reduce the human being to a thing. She suggests that we can only truly understand reactions of outrage to these crimes, such as vengefulness, in these extreme situations when we feel them in their ‘true concreteness’. I argue that the essay works to undermine her own refusal to sign the petition for clemency for Robert Brasillach, an anti-Semitic writer tried, convicted and executed for treason. Beauvoir sets out to understand why what she sees as the need for revenge and a restored reciprocity in the light of these crimes usually cannot be satisfied. Both private revenge and state punishment fail to bring about the perpetrator’s recognition of what they have done, their own ambiguous existence or an acknowledgement of the perspective of the victim. Here Beauvoir parallels this impossible reciprocity with that of love. I show how her position shifts in The Second Sex (1949) and argue that we must distinguish these emotional reactions of outrage from reciprocal loving relations. Furthermore, I demonstrate that Beauvoir’s support for capital punishment in this case is in tension with her developed existential account and her own account of vengefulness in the essay.

Marguerite La Caze is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Queensland. Her research interests include European philosophy, feminist philosophy, moral psychology and aesthetics. She is the author of Wonder and Generosity: Their Role in Ethics and Politics (forthcoming with SUNY), and The Analytic Imaginary (Cornell UP, 2002). Marguerite is the current Chair of the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy.

The 2012 Deakin University seminar series is hosted by the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University.

This Deakin University seminar series is free to attend and open to all. Please direct any inquiries to Dr Sean Bowden at s.bowden@deakin.edu.au.

You can keep track of the Deakin University Philosophy Seminar Series through PhilEvents.

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