"Sympathizing with the Enemy"


Sympathizing with the Enemy: Reconciliation, Transitional Justice, Negotiation, a new book by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Nir Eisikovits, provides a theory of political reconciliation by addressing such questions as:

  • What does it mean for two enemies to reconcile?
  • How does reconciling differ from reaching a truce or signing formal peace agreements?
  • Does it require official apologies and forgiveness?
  • Is it facilitated by forgetting the abuses of the past?
  • Are some modes of negotiation more promising than others in promoting reconciliation?
  • Are some transitional policies better than others in advancing it?

Eisikovits, who is the director of the University's Program in Ethics and Public Policy, argues that what Adam Smith called "sympathy," the ability to view the world from another's perspective, offers a promising framework for thinking about reconciliation. The sympathetic approach is more promising than accounts focusing on forgiveness, forgetting or mutual recognition.

The book also suggests that the notion of sympathy is essential for evaluating transitional policies such as truth commissions and war crime tribunals.

The Review of International Affairs, based out of Serbia, is dedicating a symposium to Sympathizing with the Enemy: Reconciliation, Transitional Justice, Negotiation in its upcoming issue, with three scholars writing commentaries on the book and Eisikovits responding to them.

Sympathizing with the Enemy: Reconciliation, Transitional Justice, Negotiationis published by Martinus Nijhoff and Republic of Letters.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris