The paper explores Václav Havel’s encounter with Emmanuel Levinas’ essay ‘Without Identity’, which Havel read while in prison. The discussion of this encounter will demonstrate the importance of this encounter for solidifying the humanist elements of Havel’s thought, whilst also demonstrating the pre-existing humanism in Havel, evidence itself of his large debt to Czechoslovak humanist thought. What emerges is a demonstration of the richness and timeliness of Havel’s writing on responsibility. The paper makes a case for rejecting popular Heideggerian interpretations of Havel’s oeuvre. Havel’s deep affinity for Levinas’ thinking demonstrates that Havel’s humanism, informed as it is from the Czech tradition as well as through his encounter with Levinas, is at odds with Heidegger’s essential anti-humanism.
The paper explores the philosophical treatment of sacrifice in four of Jiří Menzel’s films of the 1960’s, Closely observed trains (Ostře sledované vlaky), Capricious summer (Rozmarné léto), Mr Balthazar’s death (Smrt pana Baltazara), his short film contribution to the anthology film of the New Wave, Pearls of the deep (Perličky na dně), and Larks on a string (Skřivánci na niti). The paper argues that Menzel problematizes romanticized versions of messianic sacrifice as they all too easily disregard the moral significance of mundane relations. By analysing the treatment of sacrifice in each of these films, the paper makes a case for the significance of Menzel’s treatment of sacrifice for current philosophical debates.