Bettina Stangneth was born in 1966 and studied philosophy in Hamburg, writing her doctoral thesis on Kant and the notion of “radical evil”. She received the Cundill Prize Recognition of Excellence Award in 2015 for her book Eichmann Before Jerusalem, which the New York Time s also pronounced to be one of that year’s best. Her most recent publication by Rowohlt was her widely praised book Deciphering Lies (2017).
“Images say nothing.”
Teachers and demagogues, revolutionaries and terrorists, warriors of the culture wars and anyone who likes sending selfies: all these groups share a faith in the power of images. No one can be forced to think if they don’t want to. Humans may possess the faculty of reason, but we are free to decide if we want to follow its conclusions. If you want to get your message across, use the senses instead of arguments. If you want to change something, make a visual impact.
Our trust in the visceral power of imagery is an implicit belief in the innocence of seeing. Can a picture do what thoughts are incapable of and instantiate immediate, unfiltered perception? Images have the power to engender bonds that are beyond the scope of mere thought, like a shared group identity: Images can create the “we”. After all, has any idea had the same impact on humans as ideals? Has reason ever won out over tradition and culture?
This volume completes a trilogy by the philosopher Bettina Stangneth on her theory of a “dialogue of thought”. Here, she once again forces her readers to reconsider long-cherished prejudices. Ugly Sight is an insightful, expertly argued essay on the nature of seeing.