chapter  5
30 Pages


How can we understand the ‘terror’ of 11 September 2001 (9/11)? Three days after the event, on 14 September, I visited an exhibition in the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln Massachusetts entitled Terrors and Wonders: Monsters in Contemporary Art. Almost one week later again, on 19 September, I gave a graduate seminar in Boston College on a number of tentative philosophical approaches to this limit-experience which for so many split our world into ‘before’ and ‘after’. On 10 October I visited Ground Zero in New York. Combining some reflections that emerged during those days of puzzlement, I will try to suggest here some ways in which we might begin, however provisionally, to address the radical challenge to our understanding posed by 9/11. I make this attempt with Spinoza’s maxim in mind: ‘Do not complain, do not rejoice, try to understand’.1