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Abstract

This introduction emphasizes the multidimensionality of the issue of ‘survival’, which frequently implies complex acts of ethical decisions. First focussing on the ‘survival of individuals’, it studies survival in the context of the philosophy of ‘natural law’, connecting it to mythology and theology. A passage on the ‘survival of groups’ exemplifies the supportive character of ‘team spirit’ in the act of survival. Survival in Holocaust camps illustrates the blurring lines of the ‘ethics of survival’. Discussing the Darwinian notion of the ‘survival of the fittest’ in the camps, ‘survivor’s guilt’ and the depressions and suicides of many survivors, the introduction develops a hypothesis about the ‘dialectics of survival’, arguing that survival often requires a high price. The introduction closes with comments about the Anthropocene, when survival can no longer rest exclusively on anthropocentric principles.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Dawkins (1989, 20).

  2. 2.

    Wilson (1976, 562).

  3. 3.

    Spencer (1884, 444). This èlan vital, however, should be imagined as a force devoid of any teleological meaning; see Des Pres (1976, 193–194).

  4. 4.

    See Rosenfield (1968).

  5. 5.

    In this book the focus of most analyses will lie on the survival of ‘human’ individuals and partly on that of ‘mankind’.

  6. 6.

    Of course, this does not concern atheists; see Julian Barnes’s humorous remark in Nothing to be Frightened of on the “fury of the resurrected atheist” (2008, 64).

  7. 7.

    Elliott (2018, 16).

  8. 8.

    Elliott (2018, 3).

  9. 9.

    Elliott (2018, 1).

  10. 10.

    See Burgess (1986, 6).

  11. 11.

    See Maechler (2001).

  12. 12.

    Kluger (2001, 64).

  13. 13.

    Kluger (2001, 184–185).

  14. 14.

    See Kilby (2002).

  15. 15.

    Seen in this context, it is precisely the Holocaust which rendered witnessing almost impossible; see Laub (1995, 65).

  16. 16.

    LaCapra (2001, 42).

  17. 17.

    Caruth (1995, 4–5).

  18. 18.

    See Ganteau and Onega (2017, 5).

  19. 19.

    These two ‘failures’ are discussed by Caruth (2003, 60) and by Gilmore (2001, 6).

  20. 20.

    See, for example, Wiesel (2006, viii), who in his “Preface” to Night (vii–xv), asks himself why he tells the story of his suffering and comes to the conclusion: “However, having survived, I needed to give some meaning to my survival.”

  21. 21.

    See Laub (1992a, 85).

  22. 22.

    See also White (2016).

  23. 23.

    Felman and Laub (1992, xiv–xv).

  24. 24.

    LaCapra (2001, 186).

  25. 25.

    The term was coined by David Rousset; see Horowitz (1997, 33–46). Laub compares the traumatic experience with the qualities of a ‘black hole’; see Laub (1992b, 64).

  26. 26.

    See Levi (1996, 51 and 62).

  27. 27.

    Améry (1986, 12).

  28. 28.

    Améry (1986, 13–15).

  29. 29.

    Améry (1986, 19).

  30. 30.

    Astonishingly, there is no entry on ‘survival’ in most handbooks of philosophy, including the prestigious Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, a standard work of reference in Germany.

  31. 31.

    See the online entry on “Survival” on oed.com.

  32. 32.

    See the online entry on “Survival” on oed.com.

  33. 33.

    See Elliott (2018, 1 and 4).

  34. 34.

    This is a vital distinction between suffering prisoners and the ‘Muselmann’ described by various Holocaust survivors; having given up any forms of active life, the Muselmann was doomed to die, with no chance to survive the Nazi camps; see Chap. 2 in Agamben (1999).

  35. 35.

    See the chapter by Freiburg in the present volume.

  36. 36.

    Derrida (2007, 26).

  37. 37.

    Derrida (2007, 24).

  38. 38.

    Derrida (2007, 32–33).

  39. 39.

    Derrida (2007, 51).

  40. 40.

    Derrida (2007, 52).

  41. 41.

    See Butler (2009, 1–32).

  42. 42.

    For this distinction, see Hobbes (1986, 189).

  43. 43.

    For the new awareness of vulnerability in contemporary society, see Ganteau and Onega (2017).

  44. 44.

    Blumenberg (1985).

  45. 45.

    For the power of resilience, see Neenan (2009).

  46. 46.

    For a discussion of natural law, see also the chapter “Life Interest” in Elliott (2018, 63–82).

  47. 47.

    See the entry on “Naturrecht” in Ritter, Gründer and Gabriel (1984, 560–623).

  48. 48.

    Hobbes (1986, 189–190).

  49. 49.

    See Bacon (1974, 36).

  50. 50.

    See Krohn (1987, 93–107).

  51. 51.

    For the pessimistic redefinition of human reason as ‘instrumental rationality’, see Horkheimer and Adorno (2017).

  52. 52.

    In most of Defoe’s novels, especially in Robinson Crusoe, the protagonists interpret accidents and misfortunes as divine warnings and signs.

  53. 53.

    For a philosophical interpretation of the topos ‘the book of nature’, see Blumenberg (1986).

  54. 54.

    See Freiburg and Gruss (2004).

  55. 55.

    Defoe (1986, 84–88).

  56. 56.

    See the satirical attack on the syllogism presented to defend the notion of the ‘best of all worlds’ at the end of the novel; Voltaire (1947, 144).

  57. 57.

    This aspect is also addressed by Vanessa Guignery in her contribution to the present volume.

  58. 58.

    See the first chapter of McEwan (2006, 1–16).

  59. 59.

    See Wilson (1976, 547–575).

  60. 60.

    The actual Corona crisis exemplifies what prices societies all over the world have to pay for security.

  61. 61.

    See Foucault (1994, 1995).

  62. 62.

    Examples for societies who have given up individual autonomy and changed into a ‘panopticum’ are to be found in dystopias such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four (1949) or, more recently, Dave Eggers’s The Circle (2013).

  63. 63.

    See McEwan (2006, 14).

  64. 64.

    McEwan (2006, 14).

  65. 65.

    For the complex dynamics between groups and ‘masses’, see Canetti (2006).

  66. 66.

    Des Pres (1976, 111).

  67. 67.

    Philip Roth, “A Conversation with Primo Levi”, in Levi (1996, 179–180).

  68. 68.

    See Levi (1996, 180).

  69. 69.

    See Wiesel (2006, 110): “In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others, not even your father. […] Each of us lives and dies alone.”

  70. 70.

    See Des Pres (1976, 97).

  71. 71.

    According to Johannes Ibel, Director of the Historical Department of Flossenbürg Memorial, there are no historical documents which could prove Haft’s report concerning cannibalism in the concentration camp in Flossenbürg.

  72. 72.

    Levi (1996, 87).

  73. 73.

    Levi (1996, 88–89).

  74. 74.

    See Des Pres (1976, 162–163), who passionately refutes this comparison.

  75. 75.

    See Agamben (1998).

  76. 76.

    See Levinas (1998).

  77. 77.

    See Des Pres (1976, 51–71).

  78. 78.

    See Des Pres (1976, 98; 135–136).

  79. 79.

    See the chapter “This Side of Good and Evil”, in Levi (1996, 77–86).

  80. 80.

    For an authentic report of this breakdown of morality, see Des Pres (1976, 78–79); see also the horrible torture scene, Chap. 2, of Orwell (1989, 275–298).

  81. 81.

    Kluger choses the ‘elbow’ as an emblem for this fight for survival and imagined her father, who died on his way to one of the camps, as a man without elbows; see Kluger (2001, 26).

  82. 82.

    See Freiburg (2017).

  83. 83.

    See Haft (2006, 61–62).

  84. 84.

    See Levi (1996, 89–95).

  85. 85.

    Des Pres (1976, 6).

  86. 86.

    Barnes felt just like this after the traumatic loss of his wife; see Barnes (2013, 114–115).

  87. 87.

    Kluger (2001, 112).

  88. 88.

    LaCapra (2001, 89). See also the similar description of trauma in Van der Kolk and Van der Hart (1995, 173).

  89. 89.

    Améry (1986, 20).

  90. 90.

    See also Butler (2009, 14): “Precariousness implies living socially, that is, the fact that one’s life is always in one sense in the hands of the other.” Ganteau (2015, 8) emphasizes the interferences between the ‘ethics of care’, ‘the theory of alterity’ and ‘feminism’; see also his contribution to the present volume.

  91. 91.

    Améry (1986, 68).

  92. 92.

    Améry (1986, 68).

  93. 93.

    For the role of ghosts and gothic elements, see the chapter “Ghost Texts” in Ganteau (2015, 100–131).

  94. 94.

    For the interpretation of postmodernism as an intentional reaction to the Holocaust, see Eaglestone (2004).

  95. 95.

    See Kluger (2001, 15–16).

  96. 96.

    Améry (1999, 109–110).

  97. 97.

    See also Judith Butler’s highly speculative reflexion on Levi’s ‘suicide’ in Butler (2016).

  98. 98.

    See also Des Pres (1976, 10–14).

  99. 99.

    Kluger (2001, 146).

  100. 100.

    Kluger (2001, 137–138).

  101. 101.

    On Adorno’s dictum on art and the Holocaust, see Freiburg and Bayer (2009, 4–6).

  102. 102.

    See Peli (2007, 249).

  103. 103.

    See also Schweid (2007, 227).

  104. 104.

    Wiesel (2006, 34); see also Freiburg (2009).

  105. 105.

    Wiesel (2006, 67).

  106. 106.

    See Wiesel (2006, 65).

  107. 107.

    Shapira (2007, 45).

  108. 108.

    Donat (2007).

  109. 109.

    Kluger (2001, 65).

  110. 110.

    Erikson (1995, 186).

  111. 111.

    See the comments above about Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, that is, Defoe (1986, 29–30).

  112. 112.

    See Elliott (2018, 32).

  113. 113.

    See Blumenberg (1997).

  114. 114.

    Kluger (2001, 151).

  115. 115.

    Améry (1986, 80).

  116. 116.

    Améry (1986, 69).

  117. 117.

    On literary writing on detention centres and the lasting effects on their (former) inmates, see Janet Wilson’s contribution to the present volume.

  118. 118.

    For a brief history of neoliberalism, which can be defined as a ‘mode of government’, a ‘policy package’ or an ‘ideology’, see Steger and Roy (2010, 11).

  119. 119.

    Neenan (2009, 3).

  120. 120.

    See Chandler and Reid (2016, 53; 57; 71; 100).

  121. 121.

    See Chandler and Reid (2016, 122).

  122. 122.

    Chandler and Reid (2016, 69).

  123. 123.

    See Ganteau and Onega (2017, 1–18).

  124. 124.

    For a discussion of related aspects of the relationship between humanity and the natural environment, see the chapter by Pat Brereton in the present volume.

  125. 125.

    See “The Last Days of Death” in Harari (2017, 24–34).

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Freiburg, R., Bayer, G. (2021). Survival: An Introductory Essay. In: Freiburg, R., Bayer, G. (eds) The Ethics of Survival in Contemporary Literature and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-83422-7_1

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