De Reconcilatione: : Violence, the Flesh, and Primary Vulnerability

Griffith J. E. C.

Other, pp.69-80, 2019

  • Publication Type: Other Publication / Other
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Page Numbers: pp.69-80
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


This essay compares Merleau-Ponty's notion of the flesh with Judith Butler's concept of primary vulnerability in terms of their helpfulness for developing an intersubjective ontology. The hiatus of the flesh is that which spans between self and world and opens Merleau-Ponty's thought onto an intersubjective ontology. While Butler's discussion of vulnerability as a primary condition of human existence also makes this concept intersubjective, her understanding of violence as articulated through vulnerability makes this a more helpful concept for intersubjective ontology than the flesh. While many discussions of an intersubjective way of life focus almost exclusively on its positive possibilities, almost to the exclusion of violence altogether, the understanding of violence Butler presents through primary vulnerability helps us to discern whether a violation is benign or malign. In turn, this fuller understanding of violence lets primary vulnerability open onto an ethical imperative of reconciliation, but a reconciliation of what is never whole.