Homo Perfidus: An Antipathology of the Coward's Betrayal

Title: Homo Perfidus: An Antipathology of the Coward's Betrayal
Authors: Cohen, Sagi
Date: 2018-04-10
Abstract: Homo Perfidus: An Antipathology of the Coward’s Betrayal identifies and speaks to an ethical and methodological lacuna in western metaphysics with regards to betrayal. Following Levinas’ call for an ‘Ethics as first philosophy,’ my research question is: ‘How can I think of betrayal responsibly?’ I offer to approach betrayal as an accusation, one that comports an excessive hatred towards the identified ‘traitor.’ Suspending its moral vilification, I construct a broadly phenomenological method – which I call ‘antipathology’ – that proposes to take this hatred seriously; not as the sign of a lack to be filled or purloined with shame, but of a communication to respond-to. Tracking western thought’s metaphysical engagements – mainly via Kant, Hegel and Heidegger – my antipathology witnesses an exceedingly systematic muting of this hatred. Such a principled effacement of hatred’s signs is the very mechanism by which western thought “de-problematizes” betrayal, appropriating its otherness for its own metaphysical ends. To those ends, betrayal ceases to be an event and becomes its ‘prefiguration,’ a twist on an assumed temporal and causal progression. I focus here on the coward’s betrayal, broadly defined as secession from a principle – seen to give cohesion and legitimacy to a ‘Whole’ – of which this traitor was nevertheless an integral part until the event of her betrayal. Antipathology follows young Hegel’s ‘antisemitic’ association of the “Jewish spirit” with a principle of alienation and secession, a vain and hateful self-assertion that only “Christian spirit” can successfully negate, turning this drive for hateful dissociation to one of loving association (with progressively diminishing “remainders”). Reading modern philosophy’s treatment of the skeptic I show how her doubt can be appropriated and turned to ‘Truth’ in the same way that the Jews’ hateful and cowardly betrayal can be turned to absolute faith/love; what Hegel calls “negating the negation.” Both ‘Jew’ and ‘Skeptic’ here become antibodies in a process through which a ‘Whole’ slowly becomes immune, or insensitive to, the threat of future interruptions: outside of this process – offering no ‘Whole’ of their own – their respective interruptions are seen as expressions of vanity, of a ‘self’ that breaks-away from the bonds of belonging and love in a fit of gratuitous hatred and doubt; all in the name of a “who knows what” that for Hegel, as well as for Kant and Heidegger, amounts to precisely ‘Nothing.’ I conclude by a performative ‘antipathological’ reading of Dante’s Inferno alongside Kafka’s In the Penal Colony: while Dante, as a faithful ‘Christian’ witness to Divine Justice (Hell), desires to internalize the Truth of God, progressively renouncing the vain resistances of a ‘self’ not yet fully reconciled to God’s Being (the theological ‘Pleroma’ of the ‘Whole’), Kafka’s nameless traveler, as a skeptical ‘coward-witness,’ not only remains “unconverted” but also causes the violence that is implicit in the Dante-esque ‘progression’ to show itself. ‘Faith’ is here shown as progression from one betrayal-event to another, all of which require the believer to sacrifice another part of their resistance to the demands of the ‘Whole’ until no such resistance remains (or, at least, felt/expressed). Similarly, the Dante that begins his journey weeping for the suffering of Hell’s sinners, ends up kicking one of them in the face; deliberately, yet without hatred, as if it were a mere rock on the road. The coward’s betrayal consists in her ‘vain witness’ to time as rupture, as event, as the opening that puts her previous beliefs and attachments in radical question. The hatred towards the coward and the accusation of ‘traitor’ mark this question as a threat to the ‘Whole;’ a mark that, approached antipathologically, can open a discourse concerning the violence (and self-violence) that was and is necessary to keep the ‘Whole,’ through a narrated causal-historical time, from breaking apart. Painful and dangerous, this approach is, nonetheless, the only way to keep a system that abolished all ‘positions to complain’ from being equated with a ‘wholly just’ system; or to keep a knowledge-machine that successfully tames all doubts from being absolved.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/37378
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
Cohen_Sagi_2018_thesis.pdfDoctoral Dissertation: Homo Perfidus: An Antipathology of the Coward's Betrayal (supervisor: Dr. Dalie Giroux, School of Political Studies)6.07 MBAdobe PDFOpen