College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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evil, ethics, morality, suffering, subjectivity


The present dissertation addresses the question of evil and suffering as intrinsically intertwined, linked by the notion of affective temporality, as distinct from ‘clock time.’ Following Adi Ophir, I define evil as superfluity, as what ought not to be, thus divorcing it from any idea of necessity, and its social production that must be reduced or disrupted. The catastrophes that are still happening take precedence over past ones, since the former are still open to reduction, intervention, and alleviation. Here time becomes a key notion that alerts us to the possibilities of responding morally to present disasters. Time reappears again at the heart of suffering, understood as “the duration of the encounter with the unbearable.” I argue that affective time activates and conceptually revitalizes our moral agency, since it is phenomenologically described as open to interruption. Thus, we have the choice to either let the agonizing duration of another’s suffering go on uninterrupted or fragment this temporality, thereby offering the suffer a relief and a glimpse of a more ‘habitable’ temporality, the temporality of going about your business in the world and forgetting the ticking of the clock. Thus, we are capable of altering the suffering other’s sense of time. In my discussion of Spinoza, Ophir, Amery, and Levinas, I situate suffering as the very voice and language of superfluous evil and argue that understanding affective temporality in its relation to evil opens up new possibilities of its concrete, situated alleviation. If evil qua suffering is a language that can be studied and understood, our moral indifference becomes increasingly less justifiable. Ultimately, I submit that failing to exercise our agency in the face of the concrete suffering of others means allowing their torment to continue uninterrupted, thus forming the juxtaposition of moral action and complicity.