SUMMARYIn most answers to the question whether sacrifice is justified, the ‘sake’ for which a sacrifice is demanded plays a crucial role. Furthermore, this sake is essential in order to be able to distinguish sacrifice from plain suicide or murder. I start with examining two strong philosophical justifications of sacrifice. According to Hegel in his Philosophy of Right, the notion of sacrifice is vital for the preservation of the ethical health of nations insofar as it makes the individuals aware of the fact that they are nothing without the state. Levinas introduces the notion of sacrifice in connection with his idea of hostageship: my hostageship means that I am elected by the other to sacrifice myself for the sake of the good. The analysis of these two positions shows that the notions of asymmetry and dispossession are essential to every form of sacrifice. The fact that these notions also belong to the essence of religion explains why sacrifice plays such a predominant role in religious contexts. However, explaining the mechanism of sacrifice is not identical with its justification. I focus on three justificational grounds: the ethical priority of the sake of sacrifice; the necessity of a hope for a ‘return’ for my sacrifice, while simultaneously maintaining its asymmetrical and dispossessive nature; and, finally, the need for a reasonable discussion on the legitimacy of the sake of sacrifice, presupposing that nobody can rightfully claim to incarnate this sake but can only represent it
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DOI 10.1515/NZST.2008.020
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