Unmotivated Malice

Last night, I read the following line in Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion: “Among the Athenians the death penalty was exacted if one did not allow another person to light his lamp from one’s own, for one lost nothing by doing so.” The point of this legislation seems to be that a society cannot tolerate unmotivated malice, to which even simple selfishness is preferable.

When I was too tired to read anymore, I sat down to watch one of Kieślowski’s Decalogue films, which I have been slowly working through. I had passed through the bizarre film number 4 (with its incest theme) earlier in the afternoon and so turned to film number 5 — which turned out to be about a young man who, out of unmotivated malice, murders a taxi driver who is portrayed as having earlier acted with unmotivated malice. The murderer is then defended by a lawyer who regards the death penalty as unmotivated malice, an opinion that the onscreen portrayal of the execution seems to me to support.

(This juxtaposition was striking, but it doesn’t come close to the Law & Order episode that was apparently written by Agamben.)

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