: In a 2004 article, we argued that bioethics commissions should be assessed in terms of their usefulness as public forums. A 2006 article by Summer Johnson argued that our perspective was not supported by the existing literature on presidential commissions, which had not previously identified commissions as public forums and that we did not properly account for the political functions of commissions as instruments of presidential power. Johnson also argued that there was nothing sufficiently unique about bioethics commissions to (...) make the public forum perspective particularly applicable. We respond by arguing that analysis of commissions' work as public forums fits well within the literature on commissions, especially on their agenda-setting functions, and that the political functions of commissions are often compatible with their functioning as public forums. We also demonstrate how the origins and concerns of bioethics make public forum analysis particularly applicable to bioethics commissions. (shrink)
: As the fifth national bioethics commission has concluded its work and a sixth is currently underway, it is time to step back and consider appropriate measures of success. This paper argues that standard measures of commissions' influence fail to fully assess their role as public forums. From the perspective of democratic theory, a critical dimension of this role is public engagement: the ability of a commission to address the concerns of the general public, to learn how average citizens resolve (...) moral issues in healthcare, and to monitor public opinion on the topics addressed in the commission. Such a public forum role is supported by the critical literature within bioethics, which has deemed some commissions successful, supported more generally by the history of bioethics as a reform discourse that has brought socially important values into the medical domain, and supported more generally still by the example of the great social issues commissions of the 1960s. (shrink)
In this paper I examine important texts by Jacques Derrida in which, either implicitly or explicitly, the Shoah, the catastrophe of the Holocaust is signified, interrupting, disrupting, even disfiguring the texture of the text. The question is how appropriately to remember and mourn the dead within philosophical discourse, how to remember what happened and how to understand it as a question not only of ethical and political responsibility but also as an evil deeply and pervasively reflected in the ontology and (...) epistemology of the philosophical tradition—an evil circulating within the very substance of philosophical thought, and in such a way that Derrida will make this philosophical complicity in the violence and evil of the Holocaust register its painfully oppressive guilt in textual configurations haunted by the presence of the victims, remembered in traces of their absence. Thus we see how Derrida lets the question of an appropriate form of historical memory, a fitting way to remember the Shoah, invade his texts—how he lets the texts of his thought be exposed to its radical evil and exposed to the pain of an impossible mourning. We also see how the deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence implies a contestation of historicism, a writing of history that betrays the past in the very process of making it present. (shrink)
In this study, I examine the significance of the trace and its legibility in the phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, showing that this trope plays a more significant role in Merleau-Ponty's thinking than has been recognized heretofore and that it constitutes a crucial point of contact between Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. But this point of contact is also, in both their philosophies, a site where their thinking is compelled to confront its limits and the enigmas involved in the description of the (...) topography of a hermeneutical flesh. It is argued that the significance of the trace consists in its alterity, its registering and inscribing in the very matter of the flesh an imperative spiritual assignment: the morally binding hold of the other person on my capacity to be responsive to the other's needs and bear responsibility for the other's welfare. The retrieval or recuperation of the trace, which, I argue, is inscribed as a certain predisposition in what, borrowing from Merleau-Ponty, we might call the prepersonal topology of the flesh, would thus constitute a task of the utmost importance for the formation of the moral self. However, given the paradoxical temporality of the trace and the hermeneutical nature of its legibility, the retrieval of the trace is not actually possible. Nevertheless, the attempt to retrieve it - one's commitment to retrieving it - is an absolutely imperative existential task, determining the character of the moral self. In both Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, however, the problematic nature of this recuperative project is manifested in the ambiguous, equivocal modality of their rhetoric, supposedly engaged in the phenomenological description of the primordial 'inscription', but oscillating, in fact, undecidably between descriptive and prescriptive, constative and performative, literal and metaphorical modes of discourse. It is argued that this, far from being a fault, is necessitated by the hermeneutic nature of the trace, which requires that the description be invocative and evocative, provoking a deep transformation in experience that would make the description true. It accordingly becomes clear that and why the moral phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, depending as they must on a metaphorical interaction between language and experience, cannot function within the framework of the traditional correspondence theory of truth. (shrink)
Three questions govern this ``phenomenological'' inquiry: (1) how are sanity and madness spatialized? (2) how do myths shape lived space? (3) how can we moderns use primitive myth-systems to restructure lived space? i contrast newtonian and einsteinian spaces with the original space of our living. i show that this 'normal' space, and the spaces of science, are structured by the egological subject and therefore reflect ego-pathology. can we use myths to schematize a more satisfying space?
This paper has three aims: first, to redeem some of Freud's most fundamental insights, so courageous and revolutionary that they were not even entirely appealing and intelligible to Freud himself; not understanding their teacher, Freud's disciples systematically distorted or suppressed his boldest speculations. By concentrating on an early Buddhist text of great profundity it is hoped to push our understanding of Freud beyond Freud himself. The exotic nature of this text makes it an especially powerful instrument for cutting through the (...) conservatism and resistance of venerable Freudian doctrine; secondly, to make more accessible a text which will encourage Western thinkers to do some serious thinking in the Buddhist way; and thirdly to examine the relationship between id and ego; it is shown why and how the egological construction (ego/superego) blocks the spontaneity of libidinal fulfillment. The role of representation in time-consciousness is also explored. (shrink)
In ?Some Myths about ?Mental Illness'? (Inquiry, Vol. 18 , No. 3), Michael Moore attempts to clarify and refute what he takes to be the radical (existential) position concerning the nature and diagnosis of mental illness. Moore's dissatisfaction with certain formulations and conceptualizations of the radical position is endorsed; as also the need to introduce greater rigor and precision into the discussion of mental illness. But Moore's clarifications are really misunderstandings and, in consequence, his refutations do not succeed. Moore's five?fold (...) interpretative classification of the radical thesis is retained. (shrink)
This paper purports a limited study of the concept of reason. It analyzes the claim of religious belief to be reasonable. The context for this analysis is an examination of some evidential (criteriological) connections between reasonable belief and ?(good) reasons? for such belief. Consideration of the typical sort of evidential connection shows, not surprisingly, that religious belief cannot claim to be reasonable. But it is argued that there is (at least) one other sort of connection, and that it is philosophically (...) plausible to regard this connection as definitive of a quite distinctive sense of ?reasonable?, with its own kind and style of criteria, according to which religious belief can be thought reasonable. (shrink)