Philosophy’s Obligation to the Human Being in the Aftermath of Genocide

  • Paul C. Santilli


When Philip Gourevitch walked among the dead Tutsis massacred by the Hutus at Nyarubuye in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, he saw, one year after the killings, that the dead were still there, left unburied as a memorial to what had happened. He noted that the corpses were strangely beautiful: “The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquility of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there—these things were beautiful, and their beauty only added to the affront of the place.”1 After stepping accidentally on a skull, hearing its crunch and feeling its vibration, Gourevitch was unsure of his response, worrying that he, like Leontius in Book IV of Plato’s Republic, was cursed for having his fill “of the lovely spectacle.” He felt unreal. Gourevitch confessed that the dead were to him omnipresent but only as “absences” and “only of interest as evidence” in the impending trials of their killers.2


International Criminal Tribunal Death Camp Rwandan Genocide Fall Form Human Solidarity 
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© Paul C. Santilli 2005

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  • Paul C. Santilli

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