Is a tower block, your unmade bed, your lavatory basin, or the bicycle chained to the gate next door a work of art? Why should a novel have a beginning, a middle, and an end; or even a story? Whether we recognise it or not, virtually every aspect of our life today has been influenced in part by the aesthetic legacy of Modernism. -/- In this Very Short Introduction ChristopherButler examines how and why Modernism began, explaining what (...) it is and showing how it has gradually informed all aspects of 20th and 21st century life. -/- Butler considers several aspects of modernism including some modernist works; movements and notions of the avant garde; and the idea of 'progress' in art. Butler looks at modernist ideas of the self, subjectivity, irrationalism, people and machines, and political definitions of modernism as a whole. (shrink)
How do the arts give us pleasure? Covering a very wide range of artistic works, from Auden to David Lynch, Rembrandt to Edward Weston, and Richard Strauss to Keith Jarrett, Pleasure and the Arts offers us an explanation of our enjoyable emotional engagements with literature, music, and painting. The arts direct us to intimate and particularized relationships, with the people represented in the works, or with those we imagine produced them. When we listen to music, look at a purely abstract (...) painting, or drink a glass of wine, can we enjoy the experience without verbalizing our response? Do our interpretative assumptions, our awareness of technique, and our attitudes to fantasy, get in the way of our appreciation of art, or enhance it? Examining these questions and more, we discover how curiosity drives us to enjoy narratives, ordinary jokes, metaphors, and modernist epiphanies, and how narrative in all the arts can order and provoke intense enjoyment. Pleasurable in its own right, Pleasure and the Arts presents a sparkling explanation of the enduring interest of artistic expression. (shrink)
What does it mean to lead a moral life?In her first extended study of moral philosophy, Judith Butler offers a provocative outline for a new ethical practice—one responsive to the need for critical autonomy and grounded in a new sense of the human subject.Butler takes as her starting point one’s ability to answer the questions “What have I done?” and “What ought I to do?” She shows that these question can be answered only by asking a prior question, (...) “Who is this ‘I’ who is under an obligation to give an account of itself and to act in certain ways?” Because I find that I cannot give an account of myself without accounting for the social conditions under which I emerge, ethical reflection requires a turn to social theory.In three powerfully crafted and lucidly written chapters, Butler demonstrates how difficult it is to give an account of oneself, and how this lack of self-transparency and narratibility is crucial to an ethical understanding of the human. In brilliant dialogue with Adorno, Levinas, Foucault, and other thinkers, she eloquently argues the limits, possibilities, and dangers of contemporary ethical thought.Butler offers a critique of the moral self, arguing that the transparent, rational, and continuous ethical subject is an impossible construct that seeks to deny the specificity of what it is to be human. We can know ourselves only incompletely, and only in relation to a broader social world that has always preceded us and already shaped us in ways we cannot grasp. If inevitably we are partially opaque to ourselves, how can giving an account of ourselves define the ethical act? And doesn’t an ethical system that holds us impossibly accountable for full self-knowledge and self-consistency inflict a kind of psychic violence, leading to a culture of self-beratement and cruelty? How does the turn to social theory offer us a chance to understand the specifically social character of our own unknowingness about ourselves?In this invaluable book, by recasting ethics as a project in which being ethical means becoming critical of norms under which we are asked to act, but which we can never fully choose, Butler illuminates what it means for us as “fallible creatures” to create and share an ethics of vulnerability, humility, and ethical responsiveness. Judtith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The most recent of her books are Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence and Undoing Gender. (shrink)
Revisiting Edward Said's late proposals for a one-state solution, Butler has come to a startling suggestion: Jewish ethics not only demand a critique of Zionism, but must transcend its exclusive Jewishness in order to realize the ethical ...
Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual's mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and Owens (F&O), (...) 1994) have sought to dispel the worry that there is a conflict, though they admit that if such a conflict exists, it spells trouble for externalism (see, e.g., F&O, 1994, p. 108). Boghossian has argued that there is indeed a conflict between externalism and introspective knowledge of content. Surprisingly, however, he also argues that there is a conflict between internalism and introspective knowledge of content. I will defend Boghossian's claim that there is a conflict between externalism and knowledge of content, but criticize his claim that there is a conflict between internalism and knowledge of content. (shrink)
The role of content in computational accounts of cognition is a matter of some controversy. An early prominent view held that the explanatory relevance of content consists in its supervenience on the the formal properties of computational states (see, e.g., Fodor 1980). For reasons that derive from the familiar Twin Earth thought experiments, it is usually thought that if content is to supervene on formal properties, it must be narrow; that is, it must not be the sort of content that (...) determines reference and truth-conditions. An interesting alternative to this view has recently been proposed by Egan (1995). According to Egan, the explanatory role of content is such that contents must in general be broad to be explanatorily relevant. But Egan’s view involves a non-realist interpretation of content assignments. I will argue here that this non-realism about contents is undermotivated. A realist variation on her view of the explanatory role of content, however, would survive this criticism. This realist variation, I suggest, shares with the views of other commentators on Marr’s theory (e.g., Burge 1986; Shapiro 1993; forthcoming) certain commitments concerning the supervenience base of visual contents and processes. I will argue, however, that these commitments beg important questions regarding the individuation of cognitive states and processes. I conclude, contrary to Burge and Shapiro, that Marr’s theory does not favor anti-individualism. (shrink)
Connectionism provides hope for unifying work in neuroscience, computer science, and cognitive psychology. This promise has met with some resistance from Classical Computionalists, which may have inspired Connectionists to retaliate with bold, inflationary claims on behalf of Connectionist models. This paper demonstrates, by examining three intimately connected issues, that these inflationary claims made on behalf of Connectionism are wrong. This should not be construed as an attack on Connectionism, however, since the inflated claims made on its behalf have the look (...) of cures for which there are no ailments. There is nothing wrong with Connectionism for its failure to solve illusory problems. (shrink)
This paper discusses the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. Chalmers (1990, 1993) argues that a connectionist implementation of a classical cognitive architecture possesses a compositional semantics, and therefore undercuts Fodor and Pylyshyn's (1988) argument that connectionist networks cannot possess a compositional semantics. I argue that Chalmers argument misconstrues the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. This paper clarifies the distinction, and shows that while Fodor and Pylyshyn's argument survives Chalmers' critique, it cannot be used to (...) establish the irrelevance of neurophysiological implementation to cognitive modeling; some aspects of Chater and Oaksford's (1990) response to Fodor and Pylyshyn, though not all, are therefore cogent. (shrink)
Owens (1993) argues that one cannot accept the anti-individualistic conclusions of arguments inspired by Twin Earth thought experiments and still maintain that folk psychological states causally explain behavior. Saidel (1994) has argued that Owens' argument illegitimately individuates the contents of folk psychological states widely and causal powers narrowly. He suggests that causal powers may well be wide, and that the conditions that militate in favor of wide content also militate in favor of wide causal powers; mutatis mutandis for narrow content (...) and narrow causal powers. I argue that these suggestions are in error, and hence that Saidel's criticism is ineffective. Owens' original point is therefore likely to stand. (shrink)
The paper is an examination of the ways and extent to which neuroscience places constraints on cognitive science. In Part I, I clarify the issue, as well as the notion of levels in cognitive inquiry. I then present and address, in Part II, two arguments designed to show that facts from neuroscience are at a level too low to constrain cognitive theory in any important sense. I argue, to the contrary, that there are several respects in which facts from neurophysiology (...) will constrain cognitive theory. Part III then turns to an examination of Connectionism and Classical Cognitivism to determine which, if either, is in a better position to accomodate neural constraints in the ways suggested in Part II. (shrink)
This paper discusses psychological hedonism with a special reference to the writings of Bishop Butler, and Elliot Sober and David Sloan Wilson. Contrary to philosophical orthodoxy, Sober and Wilson have claimed that Butler failed to refute psychological hedonism. In this paper it is argued: (1) that there is a difference between reductive and ultimate psychological hedonism; (2) that Butler failed to refute ultimate psychological hedonism, but that he succeeded in refuting reductive psychological hedonism; and, finally and more (...) importantly, (3) that Butler’s criticism of reductive hedonism can be used as a stepping-stone in another argument showing the implausibility of ultimate psychological hedonism as well. (shrink)
This paper is a discussion of the ‘moralization’ of resentment in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. By moralization, I do not refer to the complex process by which resentment is transformed by the machinations of sympathy, but a prior change in how the ‘raw material’ of the emotion itself is presented. In just over fifty pages, not only Smith’s attitude toward the passion of resentment, but also his very conception of the term, appears to shift dramatically. What is an (...) unpleasant, unsocial and relatively amoral passion of anger in general metamorphoses into a morally and psychologically rich account of a cognitively sharpened, normatively laden attitude, an attitude that contains both the judgment that the injury done to me was unjust and wrongful, and the demand that the offender acknowledge its wrongfulness. Two very different readings of ‘Smithean resentment’ are thus available from the text. Indeed, the notion of two distinct forms of resentment – an instinctive, amoral version and a rich, rationally appraising attitude – would bring Smith into line with an earlier account of resentment, found in Bishop Joseph Butler’s Fifteen Sermons Preached at Rolls Chapel, first published in 1726. Ultimately, I argue, the differences in their theories are to Smith’s credit. It is precisely because the ‘thin’ or generic retaliatory passion described in Part I can be reconciled with the rich, normative attitude in Part II, that Smith is able to accomplish his meta-ethical goal of grounding moral judgments in naturally occurring emotions. (shrink)
The essays in this book mark the tercentenary of the birth of Bishop Joseph Butler, the leading Anglican theologian of the eighteenth century and also an important moral philosopher. They cover the full range of Butler's theological and philosophical writings--from his Christian apologetic against the deists to his discussion of the role of their historical context and suggestion of their relevance to contemporary religious and philosophical issues. At a time of renewed interest in Butler's thought, as well (...) as in the theological positions he was opposing, it is timely and appropriate that these detailed studies of Butler's thought should now be made available. (shrink)
Judith Butler's recent work expands the Foucaultian notion of subjection to encompass an analysis of the ways in which subordinated individuals becomes passionately attached to, and thus come to be psychically invested in, their own subordination. I argue that Butler's psychoanalytically grounded account of subjection offers a compelling diagnosis of how and why an attachment to oppressive norms – of femininity, for example – can persist in the face of rational critique of those norms. However, I also argue (...) that her account of individual and collective resistance to subjection is plagued by familiar problems concerning the normative criteria and motivation for resistance that emerge in her recent work in new and arguably more intractable forms, and by new concerns about her conceptions of dependency, subordination and recognition. (shrink)
In this essay, I evoke and explore Butler's potential contribution, providing a broad framework for her work, and, at the same time, focusing on specific concepts from her writings - performativity, iteration, and foreclosure - that have profound implications for researchers. Furthermore, pointing out philosophers working in the phenomenological tradition in which Butler trained, including influential precursors, colleagues, and contemporaries, establishes how issues raised in various fields can be recognized and comprehended in relation to Butler's work more (...) generally. Butler's work - radical as it may seem - responds to classic questions of ontology, philosophy of language, and epistemology. A phenomenological description aimed at opening access to Butler’s notion of the tropological inauguration of the subject – that is, the ‘turning back’ induced by a limiting boundary that brings subjectivity into experience – attempts to place Butler’s central concepts before the reader. (shrink)
In this article three viewpoints on the relation of body and language are discussed: the poststructuralist viewpoint of Judith Butler, the phenomenological viewpoint of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the postmodernist viewpoint of Jean-François Lyotard. The reason juxtaposing for these three accounts is twofold. First, the topic requires a combination of post-structuralist and phenomenological insights, and second, the accounts are supplementary. Butler's account raises questions that can be answered with the help of Merleau-Ponty's work. Lyotard's anthropology of the inhuman offers (...) a perspective of finitude that is missing in the other two. The aim of the article is to outline the necessary ingredients of an adequate conception of the speaking embodied subject. (shrink)
In this review of Christopher Winch's new book, Education, Autonomy and Critical Thinking (2006), I discuss its main theses, supporting some and criticising others. In particular, I take issue with several of Winch's claims and arguments concerning critical thinking and rationality, and deplore his reliance on what I suggest are problematic strains of the later Wittgenstein. But these criticisms are not such as to upend Winch's powerful critique of antiperfectionism and 'strong autonomy' or his defence of 'weak autonomy'. His (...) account of autonomy as an educational aim is important and in several respects compelling. (shrink)
This essay gives a new interpretation of some of the central ethical doctrines of Bishop Butler's Sermons -- in particular, of his claim that a review of the empirical facts of human nature shows that we have "an obligation to the practice of virtue", and of the precise claims that he makes about the relations between morality and self-interest.
Until now post-structuralism and phenomenology are widely regarded as opposites. Contrary to this opinion, I am arguing that they have a lot in common. In order to make my argument, I concentrate on Judith Butler’s poststructuralist concept of performativity to confront it with Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological concept of expressivity. While Butler claims that phenomenological theories of expression are in danger of essentialism and thus must be replaced by non-essentialist theories of performativity, I hold that Merleau-Ponty’s concept of expressivity (...) must strictly be understood in anti-essentialist terms. Following this line of interpretation, “expressivity” and “performativity”—as well as phenomenology and post-structuralism—are not opposites but partners in the search for an anti-essentialist gender concept. Consequently, feminist phenomenology turns out to be a non-essentialist approach that combines phenomenological and post-structural insights. (shrink)
In this book, Christopher Peacocke proposes a general theory about what it is for a thinker to be entitled to form a given belief. This theory is distinctively rationalist: that is, it gives a large role to the a priori, while insisting that the propositions or contents that can be known a priori are not in any way “true in virtue of meaning” (and without in any other way denigrating these propositions as “trivial”, or as propositions that “tell us (...) nothing about the world”, or the like). Peacocke then applies this theory to several classical problems in epistemology — to the problem of how our sensory experiences can entitle us to form beliefs about the external world, to the problem of induction, and to the problem of what entitles us to form moral beliefs. (shrink)
Responding to criticisms raised by Christopher Norris, this paper defends an anti-relativist reading of the work of both Davidson and Heidegger arguing that that there are important lessons to be learnt from their example - one can thus be an anti-relativist (as well as a certain sort of realist) without giving up on Davidson or on Heidegger.
On the traditional view, Butler maintains that forgiveness involves a kind of “conversion experience” in which we must forswear or let go of our resentment against wrongdoers. Against this reading, I argue that Butler never demands that we forswear resentment but only that we be resentful in the right kind of way. That is, he insists that we should be virtuously resentful, avoiding both too much resentment exhibited by the vices of malice and revenge and too little resentment (...) where we merely condone the wrongdoer and leave ourselves open to future injury. I argue that this Butlerian approach offers us a more attractive account of forgiveness as a “virtue” than many recent discussions. In the final section, I address Butler’s challenging thesis that forgiveness is an unconditional moral duty. I argue against those who claim that forgiveness is supererogatory (Kolnai/Calhoun) or else merely morally conditional and even morally blameworthy in some cases (Murphy/Hampton/Novitz/Richards). By contrast, I defend a context-sensitive account of forgiveness which recognizes that it takes place on many different levels. I conclude by taking up the difficult issue of whether anybody can be ultimately “unforgivable”, offering some Butlerian and Strawsonian reflections that might help mitigate our judgments about such matters. (shrink)
It is widely thought among philosophers that Joseph Butler's criticism of psychological egoism in his Sermons is, in the words of A.E. Duncan-Jones, 'the classic refutation of it.' Indeed, no less a philosopher than David Hume restated and put forth Butler's central argument against hedonistic egoism - without due credit - as part of his own critique. Yet recent commentators have begun to question Butler's arguments, albeit usually with sympathy and in the hope of saving what they (...) take to be his insights. I propose to focus on Butler's main objection to hedonistic psychological egoism, to show how and why it fails to refute plausible forms of the thesis, and briefly to indicate why philosophical attempts to disprove this theory of motivation are misguided. (shrink)
In Joseph Butler, we have an account of human beings as moral beings that is, as this essay demonstrates, being supported by the recently emerging findings of the neurosciences. This applies particularly to Butler's portrayal of our empathic emotions. Butler discovered their moral significance for motivating and guiding moral decisions and actions before the neurosciences did. Butler has, in essence, added a sixth sense to our five senses: this is the moral sense by means of which (...) we perceive what we ought or ought not do. The moral sense yields relatively reliable moral perceptions when we love our neighbors as ourselves, and when our love for ourselves is genuine. Accurate moral perceptions will be thwarted by self-deceit—that is, by a self-partiality devoid of neighbor love, a condition that thwarts genuine self-love. This essay explores the parallels between Butler's understanding of self-deceit and Robert J. Lifton's understanding of "doubling.". (shrink)
In this essay I explore the role of dialectics for how social theory can take account of the problem of structure and agency, or, determination and freedom, in a critical and emancipatory way. I discuss the limits and possibilities of dialectical, and of anti-dialectical, criticisms of Hegelian dialectics. For this purpose, I look at Judith Butlers discussion of dialectics and the concepts of sex and gender in her writings between 1987 ( Subjects of Desire ; republished 1999) and 1990 (...) ( Gender Trouble , republished 2000). Butlers book Gender Trouble remains a key text of contemporary feminist theory. Butler formulates in this book a critique of Simone de Beauvoirs The Second Sex based on her claim that Beauvoir makes a distinction between sex and gender that implies the notion of the sexed body as a pre-cultural entity. In her earlier writings, though, her evaluation of de Beauvoir had been much more positive. The change in Butlers evaluation of de Beauvoir is part of her increasing rejection of dialectics: Butler rejected in Gender Trouble any form of Hegelian dialectics with reference to Luce Irigarays (1985) claim that it is phallogocentric. Although Butler subsequently returned to Hegelian themes, she seems never to have revoked this claim made in her most momentous work. I argue that this change in the theoretical structure of Butlers argument weakens her critique of identity politics and I suggest reading Butler backwards, from Gender Trouble to the more open discussion of dialectics in her earlier texts. Drawing on Adornos Negative Dialectics and other formulations of critical theory, I argue that the valid aspects of the critique of Hegelian dialectics can better be formulated as a dialectical critique of dialectics (Adorno; Butler, 1987a) than as a rejection of dialectics (Derrida; Irigaray; Butler, 1990). Retracing the genealogy of Butlers argument will be a necessary backdrop, too, for evaluating her more recent comments on the Hegelian and Frankfurt School traditions such as her Adorno Lectures given in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in November 2002. Key Words: Theodor W. Adorno agency Judith Butler Simone de Beauvoir dialectics emancipation G. W. F. Hegel sex/gender distinction structure subjectivity. (shrink)
Butler's famous arguments in Sermon XI, designed to refute psychological egoism and to mitigate conflict between self-interest and benevolence, turn out to depend crucially on his own distinctive conception of self-interest. Butler does not notice (or anyway, doesn't notice at the crucial points) the availability of several alternative conceptions of self-interest. Some such alternatives are available within the framework of Butler's moral psychology; others can be developed outside that framework. There are a number of interesting reasons to (...) prefer one or other such account of the ordinary concept of self-interest; but, ultimately, no such reasons prove decisive, and we should reject the idea that there is a uniquely correct account of self-interest. Since Butler's arguments require the unique adequacy of his own distinctive conception of self-interest, they must be rejected. (shrink)
Although Judith Butler regards recognition as the theme unifying her work, one finds a striking absence of dialogue between her and the authors of the normative theories of recognition — Honneth, Habermas, Ricoeur, etc. In the present article I seek to call into question this sentiment, shared by the two sides, of a radical theoretical heterogeneity. First I seek to show that the theory of performativity which Butler developed initially, contrary to all expectations, sets her relatively apart from (...) the tradition to which she conforms (the French reading of Hegel), and brings her closer to the proposition represented by the normative theories of recognition in general, and that of Honneth in particular. Then I highlight how the recent modulations in her theory, through the appearance of the idea of a constitutive vulnerability, which enables her to found an ethics, undermine for once and for all the claim of irreducibility maintained by each of the two theories in relation to the other. (shrink)
On the surface, it seems plausible that the goodness or badness of an agent’s actions should be completely irrelevant to the question of whether she performed them intentionally, but there is growing evidence that ascriptions of intentional actions are affected by moral considerations. Joshua Knobe, for instance, has recently published a series of groundbreaking papers (2003a, 2003b, 2004) in which he suggests that people’s judgments concerning the intentionality of an action may sometimes depend on what they think about the action (...) – morally speaking. One of the more interesting results of Knobe’s psychological experiments is the discovery that people may have a lower threshold for judging that lucky (or unskilled) actions are intentional when these actions are praiseworthy or blameworthy than they do for judging that equally lucky (or unskilled) morally neutral actions are intentional. In this paper I show that this discovery – when supplemented with some additional empirical data – gives us a way of shedding new light on a controversy that was sparked by Ronald Butler in 1977 when he posed the following problem to the readers of Analysis. (shrink)
: This paper responds to the sense of "crisis" or "trouble" that dominates contemporary feminist debate about the categories of sex and gender. It argues that this perception of crisis has emerged from a fundamental confusion of theoretical and political issues concerning the implications of the sex/gender debate for political representation and agency. It explores the sense in which this confusion is manifest in a debate between Seyla Benhabib and Judith Butler.
A welcome addition to the Routledge Critical Thinkers series, Judith Butler is the first guidebook on this renowned feminist and queer theory scholar, which will help not only students of literary criticism but also students of law, sociology, philosophy, film and cultural studies. Examining Butler's work through a variety of contexts, including the formation of gender performativity, identity and subjecthood, Sarah Salih address Butler's crucial ideas on the gender agenda, the body, pornography, race, gay self-expression and power (...) and psychoanalysis. Concluding with an annotated bibliography, this book will be the ideal starting point for all new to Butler. (shrink)
Judith Butler has been arguably the most important gender theorist of the past twenty years. This edited volume draws leading international political theorists into dialogue with her political theory. Each chapter is written by an acclaimed political theorist and concentrates on a particular aspect of Butler's work. The book is divided into five sections which reflect the interdisciplinary nature of Butler's work and activism: Butler and Philosophy: explores Butler’s unique relationship to the discipline of philosophy, (...) considering her work in light of its philosophical contributions Butler and Subjectivity: covers the vexed question of subjectivity with which Butler has engaged throughout her published history Butler and Gender: considers the most problematic area, gender, taken by many to be primary to Butler’s work Butler and Democracy: engages with Butler’s significant contribution to the literature of radical democracy and to thecentral political issues faced by our post-cold war Butler and Action: focuses directly on the question of political agency and political action in Butler’s work. Along with its companion volume, Political Theory of Judith Butler, it marks an intellectual event for political theory, with major implications for feminism, women’s studies, gender studies, cultural studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer theory and anyone with a critical interest in contemporary American ‘great power’ politics. (shrink)
Recently, Judith Butler refused to accept an award for civil courage at the Berlin Christopher Street Day, because she felt the event had become too commercial, and the event's organization had failed to distance itself from certain discriminatory statements. This, as well as many of her works, suggests that more than any other contemporary feminist author, Butler is aware of the risk of implication in exclusionary politics; a risk she might therefore successfully avoid. However, in this essay (...) I argue that to the extent her theory of performativity has become a hegemonic framework within the field of gender studies, it leads to the foreclosure of certain possible gendered identities. Using Nancy's notion of finite thinking, I argue that a different approach to universality may lead to a less exclusionary way of conceptualizing gender. (shrink)
Judith Butler's contribution to feminist political thought is usually approached in terms of her concept of performativity, according to which gender exists only insofar as it is ritualistically and repetitively performed, creating permanent possibilities for performing gender in new and transgressive ways. In this paper, I argue that Butler's politics of performativity is more fundamentally grounded in the concept of genealogy, which she adapts from Foucault and, ultimately, Nietzsche. Butler understands women to have a genealogy: to be (...) located within a history of overlapping practices and reinterpretations of femininity. This genealogical understanding of femininity allows Butler to propose a coalitional feminist politics, which requires no unity among women but only loosely overlapping connections. For Butler, feminist coalitions should aim to subvert, not consolidate, entrenched norms concerning femininity. Butler has been criticized, however, for failing to explain either how subversive agency is possible or why the subversion of gender norms is desirable. Reviewing these criticisms, I argue that Butler offers a convincing explanation of the possibility of subversive agency, but that the normative dimension of her political thought remains relatively underdeveloped. I explore how the normative aspect of Butler's thought could be strengthened by recasting her notion of genealogy along more thoroughly Nietzschean and materialist lines, in terms of an idea of active and multiple bodily forces. (shrink)
: Judith Butler's Kritik der ethischen Gewalt represents a significant refinement of her position on the relationship between the construction of the subject and her social subjection. While Butler's earlier texts reflect a somewhat restricted notion of agency, her Adorno Lectures formulate a notion of agency that extends beyond mere resistance. This essay traces the development of Butler's account of agency and evaluates it in light of feminist projects of social transformation.
This essay considers eighteenth-century Anglican thinker Joseph Butler's view of the role of natural emotions in moral reasoning and action. Emotions such as compassion and resentment are shown to play a positive role in the moral life by motivating action and by directing agents toward certain good objects—for example, relief of misery and justice. For Butler, moral virtue is present when these natural affections are kept in proper proportion by the "superior" principles of the moral life—conscience, self-love, and (...) benevolence—which involve the capacity for reasonable reflection. For contemporary thinkers, Butler's approach suggests that natural emotion should not be viewed as the enemy of moral reasoning; in fact, it challenges ethicists to pay attention to and account for the significant role of the emotions in the moral life. (shrink)
: This paper aims to investigate whether and in what respects the conceptions of the body and of agency that Judith Butler develops in Bodies That Matter are useful contributions to feminist theory. The discussion focuses on the clarification and critical assessment of the arguments Butler presents to refute the charges of linguistic monism and determinism.
In this paper I discuss some thoughts Judith Butler presents regarding corporeal vulnerability. This might help to elucidate the problem of whether critical education is still possible today. I first explain why precisely the possibility of critique within education is a problem for us today. This is because the traditional means of enhancing a critical attitude in pupils, stimulating their self-reflective capacities, contributes to the continued existence and strengthening of the current societal and political regime. A way out of (...) this deadlock is offered from within a Foucauldian perspective. Criticality here refers to an experience of exposure and expropriation of the self. This kind of limit-experience is also of a central importance in the most recent work of Judith Butler. She links this experience to the corporeal condition of susceptibility. Our bodies have a public dimension as we are inescapably exposed to one another. The main argument of my paper has to do with whether this appeal to corporeal vulnerability might offer a new way of thinking about the public realm and about the possibility of critique, especially within the field of education. I conclude the paper by showing the originality of Butler's thought in this respect and the possibilities it opens for thinking in a radically new way about critical pedagogy. (shrink)
Christopher Bennett has argued that state support of conjugal relationships can be founded on the unique contribution such relationships make to the autonomy of their participants by providing them with various forms of recognition and support unavailable elsewhere. I argue that, in part because a long history of interaction between two people who need each other’s validation tends to produce less meaningful responses over time, long-term conjugal relationships are unlikely to provide autonomy-enhancing support to their participants. To the extent (...) that intimate relationships can provide a unique form of reciprocal support, Bennett fails to show that couples have an advantage over multiple-partner arrangements in doing so. (shrink)
Judith Butler's theory of the constitution of subjectivity conceptualizes the subject as a performative materialization of its social environment. In her theory Butler utilizes Louis Althusser's notion of interpellation, and she critiques the constitutive paradoxes to which its tautological framing leads. Although there is no pre-existing subject, as it is constituted in the turn to the interpellative hail, Butler nonetheless theorizes a guilt and compulsion acting on an “individual” that compels his or her turn to answer the (...) hail. There is a price to pay for subjectivity in Butler's schema: the reprimand of the interpellative law that punishes at the same time as it constitutes. But a return to Althusser's text finds that he does not rely so much on coercion and guilt in his explanation of the subject's answer to the hail. Althusser can instead be read as suggesting that we are already an instantiation and enactment of power-ideology and, to paraphrase Michel Foucault, are already the principle of our own “subjection.” This contests the notion that we are in any way compelled to submit to an external, punitive force to become subjects. As subjects, we are always-already the embodiment of the field of society-power-ideology. (shrink)
In his contribution, Critical Investments: AIDS, Christopher Reeve, and Queer/Disability Studies, Robert McRuer calls for the recognition of the points of convergence between AIDS theory, queer theory, and disability theory. McRuer points out ways in which minority identity groups such as people with AIDS, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and those with so-called disabilities, whose status has been described by others as impaired, have resisted this judgment by calling its ideological underpinnings into question. He contends that a critical alliance between (...) AIDS theory, queer theory, and disability theory will ultimately help us to realize the full range of different kinds of bodies and corporeal experiences, while also combating the application of normativizing judgments. (shrink)
: In this paper I argue that Hume's famous discussion of probability and induction, as originally presented in the Treatise, is significantly motivated by irreligious objectives. A particular target of Hume's arguments is Joseph Butler's Analogy of Religion. In the Analogy Butler intends to persuade his readers of both the credibility and practical importance of the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. The argument that he advances relies on probable reasoning and proceeds on the assumption (...) that our past experience in this life serves as a reliable and effective guide for our expectations concerning a future state. In the relevant sections of the Treatise Hume aims to discredit this religious argument and the practical objectives associated with it. (shrink)
D. Christopher Ralston; Justin Ho (Eds.): Philosophical Reflections on Disability Content Type Journal Article Pages 247-249 DOI 10.1007/s10677-010-9237-8 Authors Franziska Felder, Ethikzentrum der Universität Zürich, Graduiertenprogramm für Interdisziplinäre Ethikforschung, Zollikerstrasse 115, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Online ISSN 1572-8447 Print ISSN 1386-2820 Journal Volume Volume 14 Journal Issue Volume 14, Number 2.
Drawing on The Psychic Life of Power (Butler 1997), this essay sketches the outline of Butler's project of bringing Foucault (politics) and Lacan (psychoanalysis) together. In addressing the psychic life of power, Butler tries to unravel the dynamic interplay of the psychic and the social with the subject as the intersection of both.
This article utilizes the work of Judith Butler in order to chart a queer and feminist animal studies, an animal studies that celebrates our shared embodied finitude. Butler's commentary on other animals remains dispersed and fragmented throughout books, lectures, and interviews over the course of the last several years. This work is critically synthesized in conjunction with her work on mourning and precarious lives. By developing an anti-anthropocentric understanding of mourning and precarious lives, this article hopes to create (...) ontological, ethical, and political concepts that resist the violence of the present. In so doing, the article contrasts Butler's understanding of precarious life with Giorgio Agamben's understanding of bare life in order to conceive of precariousness as constitutive of social reality. This intellectual labor lays the groundwork for understanding mourning the lives of other animals as a political act that produces new communities, rather than as an individuating and isolating emotion. (shrink)
The chapters of Judith Butler's Giving an Account of Oneself originally were given as the Spinoza Lectures for the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam in the spring of 2002. In this work, Butler returns to the problem of subjectivity and subject formation, but this time in the context of ethics and ethical philosophy. Pulling together ethical considerations and theories of the self from authors including Nietzsche, Foucault, Adorno, and Levinas, Butler deftly and successfully decenters (...) and refocuses ethical analysis by claiming that the subject is not the ground for ethics but rather the problem for ethics. Central to this thesis is the claim that the self is inherently relational, and emerges .. (shrink)
Judith Butler reflects upon the relationship between women and materiality in the context of the history of philosophy. She points to the presumption of the material irreducibility of sex as the ground of feminist epistemology and ethics and analyses of gender. She also finds a similarity between Aristotle's principles of formativity and intelligibility and Foucault's discussion of how discourse materializes bodies. While Butler's analysis reveals much about the history of philosophy with regard to the discourse on matter and (...) women, nonetheless, she appears to begin with the notion of bodies as largely passive, even negative entities. Addition ally, her analysis also implies that principles of formativity and intel ligibility are historically contingent. This essay seeks to undermine those two positions in preparation for inaugurating a positive theory of fluid structures. Key Words: Aristotle Butler contingency feminism Foucault history language materiality power. (shrink)
In his recent book, Aquinas and the Ship of Theseus, Christopher Brown has argued that the metaphysics of St. Thomas is preferable to contemporary analyticviews because it can solve the “problem of material constitution” (PMC) without requiring us to relinquish any of the common-sense beliefs that generate that problem. In this critical study, I show that in the case of both substances and aggregates, Brown’s Aquinas endorses views that are extremely implausible. Consequently, even if it is granted that the (...) solutions to the PMC fall right out of his views, it is still not clear that this gives us reason to prefer his ontology to its competitors. I also consider Brown’s take on the status of the human being after death. (shrink)
Christopher Peacocke has presented an original version of the perennial philosophical thesis that we can gain substantive metaphysical and epistemological insight from an analysis of our concepts. Peacocke's innovation is to look at how concepts are individuated by their possession conditions, which he believes can be specified in terms of conditions in which certain propositions containing those concepts are accepted. The ability to provide such insight is one of Peacocke's major arguments for his theory of concepts. I will critically (...) examine this "fruitfulness" argument by looking at one philosophical problem Peacocke uses his theory to solve and treats in depth. Peacocke (1999, 2001) defines what he calls the "Integration Challenge." The challenge is to integrate our metaphysics with our epistemology by showing that they are mutually acceptable. Peacocke's key conclusion is that the Integration Challenge can be met for "epistemically individuated concepts." A good theory of content, he believes, will close the apparent gap between an account of truth for any given subject matter and an overall account of knowledge. I shall argue that there are no epistemically individuated concepts, and shall critically analyze Peacocke's arguments for their existence. I will suggest more generally that the possession conditions of concepts and their principles of individuation shed little light on the epistemology or metaphysics of things other than concepts. My broader goal is to shed light on what concepts are by showing that they are more fundamental than the sorts of cognitive and epistemic factors a leading theory uses to define them. (shrink)
The untimely passing of Reverend Canon Dr Christopher Newell, AM, came as a shock to many in the bioethics world. As well as an obituary, this article notes a number of important themes in his work, and provides a select bibliography. Christopher's major contribution to this field is that he was one of a handful of scholars who made disability not only an acceptable area of bioethics—indeed a vital, central, fertile area of enquiry. Crucially Christopher emphasised (...) that where we do ethics is actually in everyday life—while we mourn his passing, his rich work and example will continue to inspire bioethical inquiry. (shrink)
An introduction to the March, 2005 symposium “The Political Theory of Organizations: A Retrospective Examination of Christopher McMahon’s Authority and Democracy” held in San Francisco as part of the Society for Business Ethics Group Meeting at the Pacific Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association.
On the margins of the biblical canon and on the boundaries of what are traditionally called 'mainstream' Christian communities there have been throughout history writings and movements which have been at odds with the received wisdom and the consensus of establishment opinion. If one listens carefully, these dissident voices are reflected in the Bible itself-whether in the radical calls for social change from the Hebrew Bible prophets, with Jesus the apocalyptic prophet who also demanded social and economic justice for his (...) oppressed people, or perhaps from the apocalyptic tradition's millenarian visions. -/- The use of the Bible has been fertile ground throughout Christian history for prophetic calls for radical change within society as a whole and the church in particular. The essays contained in this volume examine aspects of this radical tradition, its doctrine, hermeneutics, pedagogy, and social action. They offer a sustained development of the theme of the Bible and its reception and appropriation in the context of radical practices, and an exposition of the imaginative possibilities of radical engagement with the Bible in inclusive social contexts. -/- Part 1 treats New Testament texts directly-the Lukan writings, Paul and the Book of Revelation; Part 2 explores some examples of reception history and of radical appropriation of the Bible in history and literature; Part 3 addresses contemporary issues in liberation theology and public theology. -/- This book is a Festschrift in honour of Professor Christopher Rowland, the Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture in the University of Oxford. (shrink)
By examining the theories of justice developed by Joseph Butler and David Hume, the author discloses the conceptual limits of their moral naturalism. Butler was unable to accommodate the possibility that justice is, at least to some extent, a social convention. Hume, who more presciently tried to spell out the conventional character of justice, was unable to carry through that project within the framework of his moral naturalism. These limits have gone unnoticed, largely because Butler and Hume (...) have been misinterpreted, their relation misconstrued. Exegetes have persistently misunderstood the differences that divide them, have misconceived the notion of "public utility" in Hume's account of justice, have wrongly interpreted Butler as a forerunner of Immanuel Kant, and have altogether missed the degree to which Hume stands in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas. (shrink)
: I argue for a Wittgensteinian reading of Judith Butler's performative conception of identity in light of Marilyn Frye's analysis of lesbian as nonexistent and Butler's analysis of abject. I suggest that the attempt to articulate a performative lesbian identity must take seriously the contexts within which abjection is vital to maintaining gender, exposing the intimate link between context and the formulation of intention, and shedding light on possible lesbian identities irreducible to abjection.
A relatively detailed review (~ 4000 words) of Christopher Mole's (2010) book "Attention is Cognitive Unison". I suggest that Mole makes a good case against many types of reductivist accounts of attention, using the right kind of methodology. Yet, I argue that his adverbialist theory is not the best articulation of the crucial anti-reductivist insight. The distinction between adverbial and process-first phenomena he draws remains unclear, anti-reductivist process theories can escapte his arguments, and finally I provide an argument for (...) why no personal level adverbialism can provide a complete and unified theory of attention. Despite my disagreements, I have learned a lot from engaging with Mole's book. It's a central contribution to the new philosophical literature on attention. (shrink)
Through a close reading of Judith Butler's 1989 essay on Merleau-Ponty's “theory” of sexuality as well as the texts her argument hinges on, this paper addresses the debate about the relation between language and the living, gendered body as it is understood by defenders of poststructural theory on the one hand, and different interpretations of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology on the other. I claim that Butler, in her criticism of the French philosopher's analysis of the famous “Schneider case,” does not (...) take its wider context into account: either the case study that Merleau-Ponty's discussion is based upon, or its role in his phenomenology of perception. Yet, although Butler does point out certain blind spots in his descriptions regarding the gendered body, it is in the light of her questioning that the true radicality of Merleau-Ponty's ideas can be revealed. A further task for feminist phenomenology should be a thorough assessment of his philosophy from this angle, once the most obvious misunderstandings have been put to the side. (shrink)
The question of the relation of my work to that of Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be resolved with the theoretical tools Christopher Beem brings to the task. Stanley Fish has written that "those who detach King's words from the history that produced them erase the fact of that history from the slate, and they do so, paradoxically, in order to prevent that history from being truly and deeply altered." The vice of liberalism is not selfishness so much (...) as a forgetfulness that spreads like a blight from the habit of abstraction. Martin Luther King Jr. remembered his people, his savior, and his church, and he called the rest of us to share those memories. Therein lay his strength. (shrink)
I thank Christopher Framarin for his response and would like to address three points he raises in this brief rejoinder.Framarin's book is a self-standing analysis of the central argument of the Gītā, and the reader should take my comments about his papers as additional material in support of the book. In drawing attention to them, my aim was to stress Framarin's long engagement with the subject.Although Framarin's book deals quite extensively with other texts from the Indian tradition, the Gītā (...) is central to the analysis. In fact, Framarin explicitly turns to the other texts "[a]s a means to answering the second question," namely whether the claim that action entails desire is widely held in the Indian tradition. .. (shrink)
The study of identity crosses all disciplinary borders to address such issues as the multiple interactions of race, class, and gender in feminist, lesbian, and gay studies, postcolonialism and globalization, and the interrelation of nationalism and ethnicity in ethnic and area studies. Identities will help disrupt the cliche-ridden discourse of identity by exploring the formation of identities and problem of subjectivity. Leading scholars in literary criticism, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy explore such topics as "Gypsies" in the Western imagination, the mobilization (...) of the West in Chinese television, the lesbian identity and the woman's gaze in fashion photography, and the regulation of black women's bodies in early 20th-century urban areas. This collection of twenty articles brings together the special issue of Critical Inquiry entitled "Identities" (Summer 1992), two other previously published essays, and five previously published critical responses and rejoinders, all of which is interrogated in two new essays by Michael Gorra and Judith Butler. Contributors include Elizabeth Abel, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Akeel Bilgrami, Daniel Boyarin, Jonathan Boyarin, Judith Butler, Hazel V. Carby, Xiaomei Chen, Diana Fuss, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Avery Gordon, Michael Gorra, Cheryl Herr, Saree S. Makdisi, Walter Benn Michaels, Christopher Newfield, Gananath Obeyesekere, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Sara Suleri, Katie Trumpener, and Joseph Valente. (shrink)
The contribution of Octavia Butler's fiction to utopian studies is becoming more widely recognized, particularly in the wake of a special issue of Utopian Studies (vol. 19, no. 3) devoted to her work. The Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents provide an especially effective exploration of perennial issues in political philosophy, cultural studies, and psychology.1 Civil society and the cultural norms that underlay social and political institutions have crumbled. Crime, violence, and addiction are rampant. Environmental degradation (...) and economic collapse have pushed most to roam about the country searching for food, while others take refuge in walled compounds run by corporations whose power is unchecked. .. (shrink)
Until now post-structuralism is widely regarded as an opposite to phenomenology. This is also true for the relation of Butler’s post-structuralism and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. The aim of this paper is to show how close they are to each other. For this purpose, I will focus on Butler’s poststructuralist theory of performativity to confront it with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological theory of expression. While Butler accuses theories of expression of being essentialist, I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s theory of experience resists such (...) a criticism. “Expressivity” and “performativity”, and thus phenomenology and post-structuralism, are not opposites but partners in the search for an anti-essentialist concept. (shrink)