Those Who Aren't Counted

In Diseases of the Head: Essays on the Horrors of Speculative Philosophy. New York: Punctum Books. pp. 113-162 (2020)
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I propose a distinction between two concepts: affliction and atrocity. I argue that an ethical position with respect to history’s horrors can be understood as a practice of refusing to permit affliction to be seen as atrocity. This is a practice of resisting the urge to quantify or qualify affliction in subjecting it to a count of bodies, which would be taken to totalize all the suffering in a given situation. We should, I contend, resist thinking that affliction qualified as atrocity, subject to a count of bodies or the like, captures affliction itself. I then discuss several instances of the qualification of affliction as atrocity, including the Sétif and Guelma massacre, the crucifixion of Christ, and the biblical story of the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt. I conclude by making a case that it’s ethically imperative that we recollect the self’s abnegation to those who aren’t counted, those who can’t be counted because they are afflicted without atrocity.
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