“Everything is arcane/but our pain, ” to quote Leopardi once more: the certitudes of the layman are few, but the first is this: suffering (and inflicting suffering) is acceptable only if rewarded by the avoidance of greater suffering to oneself or others.
— Other People's Trades
And one must take into account a definite cushioning effect exercised both by the law, and by the moral sense which constitutes a self-imposed law; for a country is considered more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak or a powerful one too powerful.
— Survival in Auschwitz
Primo Levi embraces the modern insight that we are all strangers and that we commence thinking about others from the standpoint of our own individuality. His political philosophy develops from the perspective of an outsider who becomes engulfed by Auschwitz and comes to understand both the fragility and importance of solidarity with others. The Holocaust reinforces the difference with others Levi felt when he was a youth studying for his degree in chemistry. Levi's return, after the Holocaust, to others is literally from an individuated state with the clear realization of his aloneness.
Adam Phillips grasps this modern temper when he writes, “Our life will be what we can make of feeling left out. That experience, which takes so many forms, is the raw material.”1 This is especially true for Levi, who believes____________________