LOVE & ARMS: VIOLENCE & JUSTIFICATION AFTER LEVINAS
Trivium Publications: Pittsburgh, 2011
“In violently resisting unjust violence, one finds oneself ethically obliged to do the wrong thing. This is a difficult position to sustain.”
What does it mean that violence could be justified? What does such justification signify, and what does it accomplish? What underlies its conditions and limitations? Perhaps most importantly, is there any way to resist injustice effectively without feeding a cycle of violence? Helen Douglas bases her analysis on a close reading of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, for whom everything human begins from our unconditional responsibility for the suffering of others. Thread by thread, she patiently unpicks scenes of aggression and resistance, reweaving them into a brilliant and heartfelt analysis that deepens our understanding of both love and arms.
“Some of the many perplexities that arise from reading Levinas from the global South are clarified by this timely, provocative and remarkably fine book.” Achille Mbembe
“One of the most refined, searching and penetrating analyses of the core of Emmanuel Levinas’s work. It places her among his most significant commentators. This is the work of a real philosopher, a real thinker.” Alphonso Lingis
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TO CHANGE OUR THINKING: PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES
South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (2), 2016, pp 123–131 [Download]
ABSTRACT. If a time of crisis calls for a new mode of thinking, philosophical practice offers the means to answer that call. Contemporary philosophical practice revitalises the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy as a way of life that cultivates personal transformation and new ways of seeing the world.
This article describes the development of the author’s philosophical counselling practice as a practice of emancipation, in concert with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Rancière. It considers the significance of personal engagement and companionship for the cultivation of practical wisdom, and suggests that the intransigence of our global social and economic crises ultimately indicates an incorrect view of human nature and an ossified or unbalanced relationship between practical and theoretical ways of knowing and wisdom.
GIVING BIRTH TO DERRIDA’S MOTHER: PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE AT THE END OF PHILOSOPHY
From Women in Philosophical Counseling: The Anima of Thought in Action, edited by Luisa de Paula and Peter Raabe, Lexington Books, 2015 [Download]
In this chapter, I argue that philosophical practice offers a therapeutic and critical response to the academic profession of philosophy, especially in these uncertain times that call into question the dominant mode of Western thinking.
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BOOK REVIEW: JILL STAUFFER, ETHICAL LONELINESS: THE INJUSTICE OF NOT BEING HEARD
Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practice Association, November 2017, 12.3: 2033–37 [Download]
The experience of persecution was, at the very bottom, that of an extreme loneliness. At stake for me is the release from the abandonment that has persisted from that time until today. ∼ Jean Améry
Ethical Loneliness addresses the “failure of just-minded people to hear well – from those who have suffered – what recovery or reconciliation require” through a fundamentally philosophical question: what does it mean that we could owe something to a suffering stranger, particularly when that suffering has been caused by human evil and injustice, and particularly when the evil was not our doing?
BOOK REVIEW: ANTHONY J. STEINBOCK, MORAL EMOTIONS: RECLAIMING THE EVIDENCE OF THE HEART
Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practice Association, July 2016, 11.2:1793–97 [Download]
Moral Emotions: Reclaiming the Evidence of the Heart is a remarkable exercise in the phenomenology of humanness. For counselling philosophers who want to think beyond or outside the frame of psychology, it provides a rich and welcome resource that calls as much for response as for review.
THE WHEELS IN MY HEAD GO ROUND AND ROUND
Archives of the Non-racial: 2014 Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism. The JWTC Salon, 2015, Vol.8 [Download]
Thoughts from a two-week tour of South Africa and Swaziland, thinking together about the practice and legacies of non-racialism with a bus-load of international activists, academics and artists…
Solidarity and the non-racial (Political struggle 1)
I’m not going into definitions with academics. Making resolutions and policy is one thing. These things evolve. ∼ Ahmed Kathrada, at the opening session
He made it sound too easy! As if he, Sisulu, Mandela and the others had just sailed into a non-racial ANC. Building on the Congress Movement, it was they who made it such through their lived work. Brought to life with integrity, discipline, trust, humour, love. Practising (non-racial) freedom, dignity and equality here and now, continually. And of course having a shared radical political project: not non-racialism for its own sake but as a method of struggle for national liberation. These things evolve…
PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELLING AS A PRACTICE OF EMANCIPATION
Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, March 2014, Vol. 9.1 [Download]
ABSTRACT: This is a second ‘field report’ of a Levinassian philosophical counseling practice. The first part elaborates the practice by means of a ‘threefold logic’ of ground, path and fruition. While the ground and path remain a Levinasian ‘good practice’ of relationship and dialogue, the fruition of the work is now seen as ’emancipation’, understood broadly as ‘the fact or process of being set free from restrictions’, rather than ‘therapy’, understood narrowly as ‘treatment to relieve a disorder’ (Oxford Dictionary). The turn to emancipation is explored by way of Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Philosophy as a practice of emancipation is the work of equals. Keywords: emancipation, equality, ethics, Jacotot, Levinas, philosophical counseling, psychotherapy, Rancière.
DIFFICULT LIBERATION: READING LEVINAS IN AFRICA
The Salon, Johannesburg Workshop of Theory and Criticism, Vol 3, 2010 [Read it here.]
Violence, justice, peace. The challenge faced by post-apartheid South Africans to reconstruct and reconcile rather than give in to fear, hate and despair is underpinned, suggests Helen Douglas, by the challenge of finding the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions. Extending Levinas beyond Levinas, Douglas reveals a Moebius loop between his call to find the basic goodness at the beginning of every social relation and the South African concept of ubuntu.
LITTLE BOOK OF WISDOM: 52 MEDITATIONS
Psychologies, April/May 2009, pp 50-62 [Download]
52 quotes with commentaries by four South African philosophers: Samantha Vice, Andrea Hurst, Tobie Louw and Helen Douglas. From the editor’s note: “For this Little Book of Wisdom, we look to quotes from modern and ancient philosophers to guide you through each week of the year. We believe their wise words will inspire, challenge and help you approach life in a fresh, positive way…”
Radical Psychology, Special Issue on Madness, Citizenship & Social Justice, Vol 7.2 Spring 2009 [Download]
In “Stranger Neighbours”, Helen Douglas highlights three stories of madness and resistance during the era of South African apartheid. The interplay of the concepts of citizenship, social justice, inclusion\exclusion and identity are considered within these three narratives, along with an analysis of Levinas’ ethics of justice for the Other. This context and analysis forms the backdrop for an important application to the current ‘treatment’ of the ‘mad neighbour’ in society.
LEVINAS IN PRACTICE: FACE TO FACE AND SIDE BY SIDE
Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, March 2008, Vol 3.1 [Download]
“How can a being enter into relation with the other without allowing its very self to be crushed by the other?” ∼ Emmanuel Levinas
In a Levinasian philosophical counselling practice, the work of the counsellor or therapist is two-fold, both face-to-face in proximity with the other, and side-by-side, engaged together with the other in the work of dialogue. These roles, or phases, are interdependent; each in turn gives rise to and interrupts the other. The counsellor or therapist primarily bears responsibility for maintaining the relationship face-to-face, while the guest (patient or client) leads the work side-by-side.
It Begins with Desire: Questions of Philosophical Practice
Janus Head: Special Issue on Philosophical Practice. (Helen Douglas, guest editor) Volume 8.2, Winter 2005/6 [Download]
Philosophy begins with a vulnerability and a problem. It begins with an itch. It begins with doubt. It begins with longing, with a desire that can be neither denied nor satisfied. There is a restlessness. This state or condition or experience can be thought of as having a question.
THE IDEA OF A POSSIBILITY
European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health, March-June 2005; 7(1-2): 89-95 [Download]
ABSTRACT: Our ways of knowing, interpreting and relating, particularly in their more dogmatic, commodified and professionalised forms, have been challenged and found wanting as ethical practices. A Levinasian perspective offers a radical reconception, where ethics, the fundamental relation of oneself with an Other, calls for responsibility and – therefore and consequently – investigation, knowledge and interpretation.
This turn to Levinas of course leads us to rethink our epistemologies and knowledge claims, but we should not be too quick to think we have found the solution to our problems. We may share ‘the idea of a possibility’, but patience and attention are still called for.
The Tao of Drunkenness and Sobriety
Janus Head: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology, and the Arts (2003) 6(2) pp.320-328. [Download]
What does it mean to be sober? This means: to overcome drunkenness. It is always drunkenness at the beginning.
And what does it mean to be drunken? This means: to overcome sobriety. It is always sobriety at the beginning.
Sobriety without drunkenness is a cold sobriety. Drunkenness without sobriety is a blind drunkenness. Junnaiyd said: There is a sobriety that contains all drunkenness, but there is no drunkenness that contains all sobriety.
Redeeming the Wages of Sin: The Workings of Reparation
Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness. Vol. 1, No. 3 (2003), 47-58. [Download]
Acts of violence and injustice by their nature call for a response. Where neither retribution nor unconditional forgiveness is good enough, a third possibility – of a redemptive justice – which satisfies the desire for both peace and justice – may take place in the work of reparation. This paper considers the conditions and inner logic of four different scenes of reparation (atonement, “good sports”, healing/moral witness, and legal), and concludes with a brief application of this framework to the proceedings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.