Victims and Values joins history and ethics, conducting a timely inquiry into conscience and politics. Mindful of William James's notion that ethics must be grounded in the historical situation, this book examines fundamental ambiquities, dichotomies, and contradictions that we experience about the worth of our own suffering and that of others. In particular, it analyzes how victims make a powerful claim upon contemporary conscience and politics. Amato distances himself equally from those who deny suffering all substantive meaning and those who fashionably transform it into self-righteous identities and political rhetorics and ideologies. Amato's hope is that each person will be able to take measure of the suffering of others, while still remaining able to value his own suffering. After distinguishing pain from suffering, Amato starts his work with the assumption that humanity must interpret and give meaning to its pains and sufferings. Amato examines the fundamental place of suffering, sacrifice, and victims in Greek and Christian cultures.
Reaching the central object of his study, the modern mind, Amato shows how the reformist world view of the eighteenth century philosopher sought to reduce suffering to a matter of rational calculation and how the progressive views of the nineteenth century dedicated the most profound energies of society and state to the elimination of human suffering. Ironically, in the twentieth century this resulted in an increasingly hedonistic society that is preoccupied with suffering and its rights, victims and their claims. Historians, philosophers, political scientists, theologians, and lay people will all find a lively forum in Amato's work.