Encountering Cruelty: The Fracture of the Human Heart 


Interest in recent years in reconciliation and conflict transformation has witnessed a great deal of attention to building a future through forgiveness and preventative measures in order to impede egregious wrongdoing. This effort for a reconciled future is absent reflection on the nature of cruelty. Cruelty has always been apparent in massive acts of wrongdoing and yet is repeatedly concealed in our assessment of the acts themselves. This book is a theologically honest and deep-structure exploration of cruelty in its personal, communal and institutional encounters in human life. Drawing on Nietzsche's challenge of cruelty to the western tradition, the work offers a comprehensive study of how cruelty undermines care, trust, respect and justice – all those elements of human reciprocity that mark our lives as interdependent beings. The work concludes with a tightly written Epilogue on interpreting the theological meaning and accessibility of reconciliation today.
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Biographical Note

Michael Reid Trice, Ph.D. (2008) in Theology, Loyola University Chicago and Maximillians Universität Munich. He offers public presentations and is published extensively in constructive theological ethics and conflict transformation.

Review Quotes

This is a critically important study of cruelty as a theological category. It is essential reading for all of us concerned with our deeply held human obligations in a pluralistic world. The arc of the work is as broad as its insights are deep. This book comes at a time when scholars and leaders must pay close attention to the trespasses that harm our relations in a multireligious world. Both American law and the U.N. declaration on Human Rights condemn "cruel" and unusual punishment, but neither has been clear about what "cruel" really means. This book is a challenging contribution that will earn a place of great significance in theological and social ethics. - Dr. Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies; Director, The Pluralism Project, Harvard University.

Cruelty is a dominating feature of contemporary life, an undeniable part of everyone's experience; and yet the deep character of cruelty has received little scholarly attention. That is no longer the case thanks to this groundbreaking study by Michael Trice. Drawing on western philosophy, biblical and theological narratives, and his own experience of cruelty in the public execution of a friend, Trice demonstrates that cruelty, unlike some forms of violence, is generally concealed beneath rationalizations. Cruelty subtly undermines our stated values and sense of self, and makes us complicit in its advance. This study can be of real importance to the church because of how it resists easy affirmations of reconciliation and Good News that minimize the pervasiveness of cruelty. I commend it most highly. - Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

Michael Trice plumbs the depths of philosophical and theological discourse in order to synthesize a serious-minded phenomenology of cruelty. Encountering Cruelty delivers a courageous assessment of a form of trespass that philosophers and theologians, by their own admission, have shied away from. At stake in this study is 'cruelty' as a new theological category that will assist present cross-cultural efforts at identifying a reconciled future. This book merits considerable study and I recommend it highly. - Prof. Dr. Gunther Wenz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Table of contents

Foreword – by Robert J. Schreiter ... xv

Acknowledgments ... xix

Introduction ... 1

Chapter One – Encountering Cruelty: Trajectory of an Inquiry ... 19
A) Introduction – An Intersection of Four Queries on a Topos ... 27
B) The Lodestar – To ‘Know Oneself ’ and Nietzsche’s Way of Cruelty ... 48
C) Cruelty: Etymology, Normativity, Tragic Existence ... 84
D) Correlative Cartography – The Topography of Cruelty in Fracture-Artery-Contour ... 111
E) Remarks for Transition ... 115

Chapter Two – Intra-Personal Cruelty: Self-Objectification ... 119
A) Introduction – Seeking a Point of Departure – Topography, Rising-In-Thought, Diving-Down ... 121
B) An Argument for a Distinct Anthropological Trajectory ... 122
C) Introduction – An Anthropological Assessment: Oneself ... 135
D) The Narrative of Job – Th e Cry Against Cruelty ... 151
E) The Artery of Intra-Personal Objectification ... 157
F) Five Contours in the Artery of Self-Objectification ... 166
G) The Supra-Narratives of Adam and Cain ... 187
H) Remarks for Transition ... 208

Chapter Three – Interpersonal Cruelty: The Artery of the Struggle for Recognition ... 211
A) Introduction – Charting an Interpersonal Topography in Western Thought ... 212
B) The Role of Desire in the Interpersonal Struggle for Recognition ... 245
C) Girard’s Delphi – Mimetic Rivalry and the Concealment of Cruelty ... 249
D) The Artery of Recognition ... 263
E) Deuteronomy: 7.1–2 and 20:1–20 – The Narrative of the Canaanites ... 271
F) The Artery of Recognition Continued – Cruelty in the Name of Love ... 296
G) Remarks for Transition ... 312

Chapter Four – Institutional Cruelty: The Issue of Justice ... 315
A) Introduction – Toward a Moniker of the Institutional Sphere ... 316
B) The Trespass of Cruelty in the Institutional Sphere: Rising-In-Thought, Diving-Down ... 329
C) The Public Execution of David Jr. Ward ... 335
D) Cruelty at the Cross ... 359
E) The Life and Public Execution of Jesus of Nazareth ... 365
F) Remarks for Transition: On This Side of a Narrative Lacuna ... 386

Epilogue – Dispatch: Consideration of Some Tenets for Reconciliation ... 391
A) Introduction – Reviewing the Project ... 391
B) A Dispatch – Consideration of some Tenets for Reconciliation ... 393
C) Concluding Remarks ... 406

Bibliography ... 407

Index ... 423


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