Roy Ben-Shai

Contact: benr527@newschool.edu  (unconfirmed)

Roy Ben-Shai is now completing his PhD in philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He earned his BA in philosophy at the Tel Aviv University and his MA at the New School, where he was granted the «Outstanding MA Graduate Award» by the philosophy department. He has taught philosophy in New York and in Iceland and has published a number of essays in journals such as The Eurpoean Legacy and Telos. In 2008–09 he spent a year conducting research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a doctoral fellow of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Center. 

Abstract:

Moral Pathology: A philosophical study of Jean Améry 

My dissertation offers a reconstructive, philosophical interpretation of the work of Jewish Austrian essayist and Holocaust survivor Jean Améry (born Hans Mayer), which brings it into dialogue with relevant philosophers, among them, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Until recently, Améry’s work has very rarely been read as a work of philosophy. I believe that seeing it from this angle will help bring to light an important and currently neglected figure into the landscape of post-war German philosophy. My interpretation weaves a systematic and provocative way of thinking about what morality means. According to it, Améry sees morality as grounded in victimhood and pathos. Pathos is interpreted as a radically passive and non-intentional experience, imposed upon the subject from without to incapacitating effects. The ‹subject› of a pathetic experience is a ‹victim› – a modality of existence which entails the loss of the subject position as traditionally construed. It follows that morality is grounded in the experience of victims or moral patients, rather than in the choices, intentions, and actions of moral agents. Morality on this view begins where ‹humanity› ends; or it begins when whatever is traditionally thought to endow human existence with intrinsic worth and dignity, be it rationality, spontaneity, freedom, rights, virtue, or the prospect of happiness, is already deprived and rendered irrelevant. What bestows moral significance on such deprivation is not the condemnation of the act that brings it about, but rather the experience of deprivation itself, the humbling lessons it teaches, and the victim’s efforts to vindicate this experience by providing an edifying analysis of it for the public. This shift in outlook, I will claim, is most helpful to understanding and analyzing the horrors of the past century, and for a renewed assessment of the nature of human subjectivity and the place of morality today.