Sophia 55 (1):115-127 (2016)

Marguerite La Caze
University of Queensland
In her recent book, Violence and the Philosophical Imaginary, Ann Murphy suggests that the philosophical imaginary, in particular that of contemporary continental philosophy, is imbued with images of violence. The concept of the philosophical imaginary is drawn from the work of Michèle Le Dœuff to explore the role of images of violence in philosophy. Murphy sets the language of violence, reflexivity, and critique against that of vulnerability, ambiguity and responsibility. Her concern is that images of violence have become and may become more ‘neutralised, domesticated or eroticised’ in objectionable ways. There is no doubt Murphy has isolated and highlighted a striking feature of the continental imaginary in a clear and thoughtful way. My paper takes Murphy’s argument further by elaborating a Le Dœuffian argument that theorises the reversal of priority from violent language to the violence of language. I take Murphy’s injunction for attention and sensitivity seriously by examining the language of violence and exposing that which is unfamiliar, what has become incorporated and what is revealed by the language that is used. The language of the third Reich and the language of the Rwandan genocide will be briefly compared to demonstrate these points. Our responsibility is to recognise the use of euphemism and metaphor to sometimes cover and sometimes blatantly advertise the horrifying truth. The focus on violence in philosophical language can lead us away from the violence of genocidal language and other violent language that philosophers, like all responsible people, are called to witness.
Keywords Ann Murphy  Le Dœuff  Language  Violence  Chiasmus
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DOI 10.1007/s11841-016-0519-z
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