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Posts from the ‘Field of Philosophy’ Category

The Danger of Justice Done OR Why We Need a Bad Conscience

It’s been a hectic couple weeks in the various institutions that concern my life.  The discipline of philosophy reached a boiling point and some well-respected important philosophers finally said enough is enough and organized some collective action to put a stop to some pretty unethical behavior.  Leigh Johnson has blogged an Archive of the Meltdown if you want to read more about it.  And Wabash has been actively responding to some pretty serious issues that needed to be addressed at the same time.

I’m glad for these actions, but I’m worried, too.  I think there is a danger when we do what is just to congratulate ourselves a little too excitedly and to let that congratulations become an avenue for contentment and self-satisfaction.  I was reminded yesterday of a point Jacques Derrida makes about how our acts of hospitality and justice are–I want to go further and say must be–accompanied by a bad conscience.  Derrida recognizes that when he feeds the poor or gives a place to stay to someone in need he is leaving out all the other hungry and all the others with no place to lay their heads.  Responding to one Other gives that Other precedence over all the other equally demanding Others to whom we are responsible.  To suppose that we are good in these moments leaves out two important things: a) that our act was too little too late, almost inevitably and b) that there is still more to be done. Read more