"Scum of the Earth": Patočka, Atonement, and Waste

Jason Alvis

Abstract


Sacrifice, solidarity, and social decadence were essential themes not only for Patočka's philosophical work, but also for his personal life. In the "Varna Lectures" sacrifice is characterized uniquely as the privation of a clear telos, as counter-escapist, and as sutured to a comportment of finite life that is non-causal and non-purposive.  In his Heretical Essays a similar hope is expressed to extract meaningfulness from use-value, and to deploy a Socratic and Christian "Care for the Soul" that can counteract the decadences of our age.  These interests and developments of the practice and notion of sacrifice point to Patočka's double-hereticism, both of the post-industrial age of technological advancement, and of what had become the unthought-through (and therefore taken for granted) of the Christian tradition. In both senses, his theory of sacrifice is not unlike that of St. Paul, who saw the necessity of counter-acting the decadence and pompousness of the Corinthians by calling them to become "scum of the earth."

This helps reveal how sacrifice presumes, in general, an operative notion of waste, and this paper seeks to lend further understanding to the relation between solidarity and sacrifice by developing, from out of Patočka's own work, precisely how waste figures prominently in such a relation. Waste may be refused by merit of being deemed to have no value; waste can mark a layer of expenditure of using "something up" in a way that overlooks its societal surplus; and waste could depict whatever is, like a wasteland, uncultivable and barren. Waste then is employed in the essay as a heuristic tool for understanding how the normalization of the relation between solidarity and sacrifice is in need of being inverted, and how this inversion has consequences also for how solidarity can be considered in relation to atonement. 


Keywords


Patočka, phenomenology, atonement, waste, heretiticism

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25180/lj.v19i1.73

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