The Saint and the Cynic: Resentment and Jewishness in Améry, Sloterdijk, and Wyschogrod


  • Menachem Feuer York University



Wyschogrod, Améry, Sloterdijk, Enlightenment, cynicism, resentment


The constellation of pain, resentment, the body, and time – as they exist in the wake of the Enlightenment and in the dawn of a new barbarism - is found throughout the work of Jean Améry and Peter Sloterdijk. Both thinkers were especially influenced by Nietzsche’s readings of resentment, his challenge to the Enlightenment, and his turn to the body as the basis of a new kind of thinking which starts with pain, dwells in irreversible time, and ends with the possibility of action and joy. While this new thinking is novel and appeals to all humankind, the most unexpected points of convergence between Améry and Sloterdijk can be found in their particular neo-Nietzschean articulations of Jewishness: using what Harold Bloom would call revision, they both propose a revision of Nietzsche’s reading of Judaism as resentment. Améry associates Jewishness with “revolt” while Sloterdijk associates what he calls “kynicism” (as opposed to cynicism) with Jewishness.1 Intensely aware of the mortal blows that have been dealt to the Enlightenment, philosophy, and modernity as well as to the human body during the Holocaust, Améry and Sloterdijk both address – either directly or indirectly – the meaning of cynicism in relation to Jewishness, in particular, and the modern condition, in general.