“Even a Highwayman, a House-Breaker or a Murderer”: International Compassion as an Insufficient Universal Cover Image

“Even a Highwayman, a House-Breaker or a Murderer”: International Compassion as an Insufficient Universal
“Even a Highwayman, a House-Breaker or a Murderer”: International Compassion as an Insufficient Universal

Author(s): Jim Hicks
Subject(s): Cultural Essay, Political Essay, Societal Essay
Published by: TARTU ÜLIKOOLI KIRJASTUS

Summary/Abstract: Like most academic work, this essay has a rather complicated genealogical history. Most crucial, perhaps, to its present form is a short paper by the historian Carlo Ginzburg entitled “Killing a Chinese Mandarin.” In this essay, Ginzburg investigates the topic of compassion as an illustration of the tension between natural law and history. His typically wide-ranging commentary brings together examples from Antigone and examinations of a variety of eighteenth-century philosophers, it concludes with a brief, and grim, confrontation between “our feeble moral imagination” and contemporary advances in martial technology. The present essay will not be quite so eclectic, although it will, to some extent, repeat the historical juxtaposition made in the second and third parts of Ginzburg’s essay. In essence, what I propose to do here is examine a particular social and cultural formation, that of compassion, which has remained remarkably stable throughout the modern period.1 How this international formation relates to contemporary cultural nationalism, or even to nationalism during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’m afraid, is too large an issue to address in a short essay, although I do hope at least to offer a perspective suggestive of the direction in which such a discussion might lead.

  • Issue Year: V/2000
  • Issue No: 5
  • Page Range: 251-267
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: English