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Blasphemy As Violence: Trying to Understand the Kind of Injury That Can Be Inflicted by Acts and Artefacts That Are Construed As Blasphemy

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This article suggests an understanding of blasphemy as violence that enables us to identify various kinds of injury that can be inflicted by blasphemous acts and artefacts. Understanding blasphemy as violence can take three forms: physical violence, indirect intersubjective violence, and psychological violence. The conditions that allow for an understanding of blasphemy as physical violence depend on very specific religious assumptions. This is different in the case of indirect intersubjective violence that can take effect in social circumstances where certain forms of blasphemy reinforce existing negative stereotypes of believers. The analysis of blasphemy as psychological violence reveals that interpretations according to which believers who take offense to blasphemy are ‘backward’ and ‘unenlightened’ do not suffice to explain the conditions of the insult that is felt by some believers. The article shows that these conditions can be explained by means of Harry Frankfurt’s philosophical theory of caring.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University,


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