Jean Améry pp 201-220 | Cite as

Without Love or Wisdom: On Jean Améry’s Reluctant Philosophy

  • Roy Ben-ShaiEmail author


This essay underscores distinguishing and consistent features of Améry’s original work, as reflected in methodological passages from At the Mind’s Limits, On Aging, and On Suicide. The ensuing picture of Améry’s thought shows an intricate relation to the idea (or ideal) of philosophy as fabricated by its founders (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle). Philosophia means the Love of Wisdom, and philosophy was traditionally portrayed as the best and worthiest life. In his original work, as well as in his life, Améry presents a profoundly different image of the philosopher and of the contemplative life: the philosopher as not a particularly good thinker (or a particularly good person for that matter), and the contemplative life as not a good one at all. Instead of love, one finds in Améry a very nuanced conception of empathy and the effort to cultivate human relationships, precisely in those regions where affinity and fondness are lacking. Instead of wisdom, we find in him a devotion to honesty and the cultivation of thoughtfulness, especially in those “twilight” regions that seem most difficult and unrewarding to thought.


Jean Améry Limits of philosophy Love of wisdom Enlightenment Counter-enlightenment Anti-philosophy 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySarah Lawrence CollegeBronxvilleUSA

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