To Mend the World: Trauma, Containment and Mourning


In his 1989 work, To Mend the World, Emil Fackenheim systematically confronts the questions he believes are posed to philosophy, and Jewish philosophy in particular, in a post-Holocaust era. These questions, to his mind, threaten the very possibility of philosophy and may be its cause of collapse. The gap that Auschwitz opened in history was caused not only by the murder of human beings but of humanity itself. The Müselmmaner, or typical prisoners of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, explains Fackenheim, are the only truly original creation of “Planet Aushwitz” and its logics of destruction: “one hesitates to call them living, one hesitates to call their death death”. By stripping off human beings of freedom, consciousness of life and of death, and therefore of any possibility of transcendence, men who are no-men were created and the Idea of Man and of human dignity destroyed. This is the extent of the trauma. Thus, Fackenheim endeavours to confront this sine qua non trauma and resulting brokenness. By introducing the Kabbalistic notion of “Tikkun Olam” or “Mending the World”, he finds a way, I argue, to work through this trauma by means of a philosophical act that can be understood psychoanalytically as reparation of a container. I will describe some of Fackenheim’s main ideas and characterise them following Bion’s notions of containment. Fackenheim understands the individual acts of resistance to the logics of destruction of the Third Reich as acts of Tikkun Olam, therefore raising the particular or individual to the shared and universal. I believe this depiction of Fackenheim’s work in relation to Bion’s ideas contributes to the understanding of what it means to mourn and work through trauma, the awe provoking moment of meeting between traumatised subject and broken container and despair as a condition of possibility of hope.

Author Information
Jonathan Davidoff, University College London, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2014
Stream: Ethics; Religion; Philosophy

This paper is part of the ACERP2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Davidoff J. (2014) To Mend the World: Trauma, Containment and Mourning ISSN: 2187-476X – The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2014 – Official Conference Proceedings
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