2019-02Thematic Section
Violence in de Sade (comoedia)


Violence occupies a regal position in the work of de Sade. It manifests itself in two forms: sexual persecution (excesses, manias, perversions, cruelty) and enlightened reasoning (unabashed promotion of naturalism, rationalism, hedonism and atheism). De Sade uses his most precious instrument as a semblance, by creating a magic spectacle of a gothic novel, and as truth, when he presents himself as a metaphysician and moralist. What kind of reading of de Sade deserves the title of the most adequate one? Does de Sade exist in text only? Is he the liberator, so praised by surrealists? Or does his transgressive nature go beyond the postulates of moral or social-political liberalism and penetrate the sphere of existence, demanding such actions that could be performed only by an individual consciously aiming at its doom? In his theatrum of passions and arguments, de Sade returns to the motif of rivalry between good and evil, simulating various narrative positions: from impulsive libertinism to dark Gnosticism, and reaches for complementary means of expression: from apology of crime to a lyrically tinted martyrological emphasis. Reading de Sade need not cause indignation. If one remembers that he is a transhistorical philosopher, one can deal with him in the way suggested by Chantal Thomas – euphorically. The reading of de Sade, like all other texts, depends on the times; in his case, the best atmosphere is provided by the mental and political atmosphere created by liberal democracy. He can be read there with open mind and physically relaxed, lightly – as becoming for a comoedia.


cruelty, evil, liberal democracy, martyrdom, morality, transgression, violence

How to cite:

Matuszewski, Krzysztof. “Violence in de Sade (comoedia).” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 3, no. 2(8) (2019): 91–108. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2019.0020.


Krzysztof Matuszewski
Institute of Philosophy, University of Lodz
3/5 Lindleya St., 91-131 Łódź, Poland


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