Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 21 (2):195-216 (1999)

I borrow the notion of echo from Proust. Proust describes the last phase in the experience of a love that has died down in the following terms: “While the great tide of love has ebbed forever, yet, strolling through ourselves, we can still gather strange and charming sea shells and, lifting them to the ear, can hear, with a melancholy pleasure and without suffering, the mighty roar of the past.” Someone whom we have loved utterly but love no more is in the first place “worse than dead to us.” We revile or despise that person to such a degree that we become incapable of all judgment, as if the sea’s retreat could only leave behind a beach overcome by evil. But then there is this sea shell, this reminder of past evil that diminishes its initially insuperable force, ultimately making it bearable. And once all power of judgment has yielded to the pure remembrance of a past that no longer has any influence on us, we are ready to receive what Proust calls “the omnipotent virtue of justice”; we are ready to bring the one we loved before the law, to face the “final judgment.” It is a judgment that “we render calmly and with eyes full of tears.” The paradox is that this echo of evil derives its sweetness from the fact that it is dissociated from its source, since the shell is transportable, whereas the original evil was unbearable because it is associated with the person for whom there is nothing we have not suffered. We can truly measure up to the evil, and thereby recover our powers of judgment, at least one last time, only by hearkening to its echo.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0093-4240
DOI 10.5840/gfpj19992128
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