“An Eye for an Eye”: The Question of Revenge

Sonia Kruks

in Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195381443
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979165 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

“An Eye for an Eye”: The Question of Revenge

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This chapter engages with an essay that Beauvoir wrote in 1946, at time of the trial and execution of Robert Brasillach, a French intellectual who had collaborated with the Nazis. Beauvoir’s phenomenological account of the desire for revenge that she and others experienced at the time challenges the widely held assumption that wanting revenge after atrocity is a “natural” response. Beauvoir shows revenge instead to be a complex social emotion, but one that is almost always doomed to failure. This is so regardless of whether revenge involves a direct exchange of positions between victim and perpetrator or whether it is pursued on behalf of others or through formal, judicial processes. Turning to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after apartheid, the chapter then explores whether more recent projects of forgiveness or reconciliation after political atrocity may be preferable to vengefulness.

Keywords: atrocity; Beauvoir; Brasillach; failure; forgiveness; reconciliation; revenge; truth and reconciliation; South Africa

Chapter.  14807 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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