The ethics of history: From the double binds of (moral) meaning to experience

History and Theory 43 (4):84–102 (2004)
The point of departure of this essay is a paradox in traditional conceptions of historical objectivity. This paradox can best be analyzed in terms of the notion of the “double bind”: the requirement of historical objectivity is formulated in such a way that it is impossible to satisfy the requirement. The substance of this essay is an investigation of how J. M. Coetzee deals with the moral impasses of this double bind in his most recent novel, Elizabeth Costello . In essence Coetzee forces his way through the double bind by an appeal to a direct experience of the world. The Spinozism implied by this strategy is indicated at the end of the essay. The analysis of Coetzee’s novel is preceded by a discussion of Kafka’s “Before the Law,” since the relevant part of Coetzee’s novel clearly is a paraphrase of the Kafka parable. Moreover, insight into the textual double binds in the Kafka parable contributes to an understanding of the moral double binds that are addressed in Elizabeth Costello
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2303.2004.00299.x
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Mark Bevir (1999). The Logic of the History of Ideas. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).

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