Suffering is the sine qua non of all ethical subjects and of ethical subjectivity itself; the problem of suffering is the motivation of the ethical Subject and the subject matter to which all ethical concern must ultimately be referred. This chapter examines the relationship between the Subject and suffering; in particular in relation to the ‘ambiguity of suffering’ – which is characterised by both the Subject's attraction to it (its fascination with witnessing it) and its repugnance to it, which engenders pity and compassion. The chapter explores this ambiguity by way of reference to Rousseau and through a conjunctural reading of texts by Nietzsche and Levinas. It links together several themes discussed in prior chapters, such as the representation of suffering, embodiment and ethical individuation. It includes a detailed discussion of Levinas’ notion of ‘useless suffering’ in relation to pain, and as an essential aspect of the becoming ethical of the Subject.
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