Vol. 43 No. 1 (2023): Vulnerability. Environments and Relations

Vulnerability and Testimony within the Nihilistic Experience and Existential Attestation

Manca Erzetič
Institut for the Humanities Nova revija, Vodovodna - Ljubljana

Published 2023-06-01


  • vulnerability,
  • nihilism,
  • existence,
  • attestation,
  • testimony

How to Cite

Vulnerability and Testimony within the Nihilistic Experience and Existential Attestation. (2023). Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 43(1), 69-87. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v43i1.173


The traumatic experience of the past occupies a central place in testimonial literature. The trauma can be so strong for the affected person – for example, in the case of Holocaust victims – that it can significantly hinder or even nullify the possibility of testifying. On the other hand, it is obvious that bearing witness to a negative event from one’s own past presupposes that this event touched, hurt and wounded the witness. In the first, introductory, part of the article I show how the relationship between the existential vulnerability of the witness, the traumatic memory and the possibility of testimony appears to be a special problem, one that goes beyond the individual and collective subject’s psychology. Thus, in the second part of the article, I pay attention to how the crisis of the subjectivist conception of humanity is defined by the experience of nihilism, as it came to light mainly in Nietzsche’s thought and how, in the twentieth century, it became a key topic within humanistic discussions. Contributing to this were violent social upheavals, which triggered a special “historical vulnerabilityâ€, which also became one of the key themes in testimonial literature. In this context, in the third part of the article, I outline the relevance of Heidegger’s introduction of existential attestation in going beyond the subjectivist approach in dealing with the phenomena of vulnerability and testimony and their mutual connections, taking into account Levinas’s and Ricoeur’s critical comments.