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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores conceptions of sacrifice in modern European thought. Three types of constructive theory of sacrifice are discussed: the spiritual, the economic-pragmatic, and the aesthetic. The first belongs to the mainstream Christian inheritance, where sacrifice betokens the necessary battle between the lower and the higher self in an axiological universe. Joseph de Maistre and Simone Weil represent this form of thinking about sacrifice. The economic view of sacrifice is associated with the Durkheimian conception of religion, where the sacred becomes a function of society and where sacrifice is a means to an end. Finally, there is the aesthetizisation of the violence of sacrifice in Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, where sacrifice becomes an image of a Dionysian affirmation of life itself, with its dark and violent aspect included, and the vehement repudiation of both any higher Divine telos to sacrifice and some merely functional-prudent construal of ‘making sacred’.

Keywords: spiritual, economic-pragmatic, aesthetic, theology, Joseph de Maistre, Simone Weil, Emile Durkheim, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille

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