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 ...
People in an emotional exchange form a temporal interpersonal emotion system (TIES), in which their emotions are interconnected over time (Butler, 2011). These systems can be in various states, defined by the pattern of emotional interconnections. We have defined coregulation as one such state involving coupled dampened oscillations between partners’ emotions that converge on a stable level. Coregulation could be distinguished from other states, such as stress buffering, by comparing statistical models that represent the theoretical distinctions between states. Optimal (...) data for such modeling includes assessments of both partners’ emotions over time and a contrast between securely attached partners, strangers, and being alone. Research of this sort is needed to uncover the mechanisms by which emotional interdependence promotes well-being. (shrink)
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 Christopher Butler 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)
In this paper I argue that John Dewey developed a philosophy of law that follows directly from his conception of democracy. Indeed, under Dewey’s theory an understanding of law can only follow from an accurate understanding of the social and political context within which it functions. This has important implications for the form law takes within democ- ratic society. The paper will explore these implications through a comparison of Dewey’s claims with those of Richard Posner and Ronald Dworkin; two other (...) theorists that inti- mately link law and democracy. After outlining their theories I will use the recent United States Supreme Court case, Citizens United, to discuss how practitioners of the three theo- ries would decide a case that implicates both the rule of law and democratic procedures. In order to do this judges following each theory, “Dews, Dworks and Poses,” are imagined. Ul- timately this paper will show that drastically different results to Citizens United would fol- low. The (tentative) conclusion of the paper is that Dewey’s conception of the relationship between democracy and law is a superior option to either that of Dworkin or Posner. (shrink)
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)
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)
In this paper, I aim to show that the arguments offered and conclusions at which Rawls aims in his book, The Law of Peoples, are telling as to the intellectual legitimacy of his larger theoretical project. To show this I first investigate how (1) non-liberal peoples fit within the limitations Rawls describes in The Law of Peoples and (2) how liberal peoples would react to such rules. I argue from the answers to these questions to the further conclusion that by (...) spreading the principles and tools of A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism to the international realm some assumptions implicit in the earlier works come out more clearly. The final section of the paper analyzes some of the implications of the newly exposed assumptions for Rawls's project of liberal justice. (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)
These essays lay the groundwork for a practice of philosophical inquiry adequate to polytheistic or "Pagan" religious traditions, including in particular the non-reductive hermeneutics of myth and the theory of the polycentric divine manifold. Includes the previously published articles "The Theological Interpretation of Myth" and "Polycentric Polytheism and the Philosophy of Religion", as well as the previously unpublished essays "Neoplatonism and Polytheism" and "A Theological Exegesis of the Iliad, Book One".
In this article I investigate the implications of antirealism, as characterized by Richard Rorty, for First Amendment jurisprudence under the United States Constitution. It is hoped that the implications, while played out in the context of a specific tradition, will have more universal application. In Section 1, Rortys pragmatic antirealism is briefly outlined. In Section 2, some effects of the elimination of the concept of truth for First Amendment jurisprudence are investigated. Section 3 argues for the conclusion that given the (...) antirealist stance, the Supreme Courts usage of the true/ false fact distinction is actually an uncritical allowance of viewpoint-based discrimination into speech protection that has potentially far-reaching and restrictive results for important speech. Finally, in Section 4 Rortys antirealism is combined with various traditional models of First Amendment analysis to see how it would function. The conclusions aimed at are twofold. First, that Rortian antirealism is compatible with the traditional models underlying First Amendment theory. Second, that a realization that truth is the result of, in Rortys words, intra-mundane discourse leads to an argument for different and potentially stronger and more farreaching protections to speech. (shrink)
In discussing methodological and ethical codes for working with children there is a danger that young people can become homogenised as a social category. In this paper we examine the way in which common methodological and ethical dilemmas, such as accessing potential interviewees or gaining consent, can become more complex and significant when the research involves work with a 'vulnerable' group of children or youth. Here, we draw on our own experience of working with self-identified lesbian and gay young people, (...) to demonstrate that research with sexual minorities is particularly sensitive because of the specific laws which frame (or until recently have framed) homosexuality and because of the way in which children are popularly constructed as asexual or innocent. In doing so we also highlight the importance of finding a safe space where interviews can be conducted in privacy and confidence. (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)
The author considers the way in which psychic life is generated by the social operation of power, and how that social operation of power is concealed and fortified by the psyche that it produces. Power is no longer understood to be 'internalized' by an existing subject, but the subject is spawned as an ambivalent effect of power, one that is staged through the operation of conscience. To claim that power fabricates the psyche is also to claim that there is a (...) fictional and fabricated quality to the psyche. The figure of a psyche that 'turns against itself' is crucial to this study, and offers an alternative to describing power as 'internalized'. Although most readers of Foucault eschew psychoanalytic theory, and most thinkers of the psyche eschew Foucault, the author seeks to theorize this ambivalent relation between the social and the psychic as one of the most dynamic and difficult effects of power. (shrink)
The comparison drawn by the Neoplatonist Olympiodorus between the Stoic doctrine of the reciprocal implication of the virtues and the Neoplatonic doctrine of the presence of all the gods in each helps to elucidate the latter. In particular, the idea of primary and secondary “perspectives” in each virtue, when applied to Neoplatonic theology, can clarify certain theoretical statements made by Proclus in his Cratylus commentary concerning specific patterns of inherence of deities in one another. More broadly, the “polycentric” nature of (...) Neoplatonic theology provides a theoretical articulation for henotheistic practices within polytheism without invoking evolutionist notions of “monotheistic tendencies.” The Neoplatonic distinction between the modes of unity exhibited by divine individuals (“henads”) and ontic units (“monads”), which is integral to the polycentric theology, also provides a theoretical basis for the non reductive crosscultural comparison between deities. The polycentric theology thus offers a promising foundation for a polytheistic philosophy of religion. (shrink)
Bordo argues that the "theoretics of heterogeneity" taken too far prevents us from being able make generalizations or broadly conceptual statements about women. I argue that the political efficacy of feminism does not depend on the capacity to speak from the perspective of "women" and that the insistence on the heterogeneity of the category of women does not imply an opposition to abstraction but rather moves abstract thinking in a self-critical and democratizing direction.
Julia Kristeva attempts to expose the limits of Lacan's theory of language by revealing the semiotic dimension of language that it excludes. She argues that the semiotic potential of language is subversive, and describes the semiotic as a poeticmaternal linguistic practice that disrupts the symbolic, understood as culturally intelligible rule-governed speech. In the course of arguing that the semiotic contests the universality of the Symbolic, Kristeva makes several theoretical moves which end up consolidating the power of the Symbolic and (...) paternal authority generally. She defends a maternal instinct as a pre-discursive biological necessity, thereby naturalizing a specific cultural configuration of maternity. In her use of psychoanalytic theory, she ends up claiming the cultural unintelligibility of lesbianism. Her distinction between the semiotic and the Symbolic operates to foreclose a cultural investigation into the genesis of precisely those feminine principles for which she claims a pre-discursive, naturalistic ontology. Although she claims that the maternal aspects of language are repressed in Symbolic speech and provide a critical possibility of displacing the hegemony of the paternal/symbolic, her very descriptions of the maternal appear to accept rather than contest the inevitable hegemony of the Symbolic. In conclusion, this essay offers a genealogical critique of the maternal discourse in Kristeva and suggests that recourse to the maternal does not constitute a subversive strategy as Kristeva appears to assume. (shrink)
This article defends linguistic descent in contrast to the possibility of linguistic ascent or the formal mode in metaphysics. We can go both ways, but metaphysics metaphysically defined presupposes metaphysics conceptualstically defined, which presupposes metaphysicas ontologially defined. Predicates implie abstract concepts (categories in metaphysics), and abstract oncepts presuppose the concrete qualities from which they are abstracted. A distinction is made between any quality and that which has the quality. This article contains a refutation of Kant on the ontological argument. Being, (...) conceived as instantiation, is a predicate once we posit universal properties instantiated by whatever is. The article, in the author's subequent work, leads to an explicit nominalism which asserts universals only as practical postulates of theoretical reason, i.e., logical discourse. Qualities are unique, not open to multiple instantiation. (shrink)
In part 1 of Enquiry 12, Hume presents a skeptical argument against belief in external existence. The argument involves a perceptual relativity argument that seems to conclude straightaway the double existence of objects and perceptions, where objects cause and resemble perceptions. In Treatise 1.4.2, Hume claimed that the belief in double existence arises from imaginative invention, not reasoning about perceptual relativity. I dissolve this tension by distinguishing the effects of natural instinct and showing that some ofthese effects supplement the Enquiry’s (...) perceptual relativity argument. The Enquiry’s skeptical argument thus reveals the fundamental involvement of natural instinct in any belief in external existence. (shrink)
Analyses of care work typically speak of three necessary roles of care: the care worker, the care recipient, and an economic provider who makes care materially possible. This model provides no place for addressing the difficult political questions care poses for liberal representative democracy. I propose to fill this space with a new caring role to connect the care unit to the political sphere, as the economic provider connects the care unit to the economic sphere. I call this role that (...) of the “care claimant.” The labor of claiming care consists in the development, expression, and advancement of the interests of the care unit. The argument for employing this fourth care role begins by comparing Nel Noddings's phenomenological care unit to Sara Ruddick's family-based analysis. It then moves to discuss the way Eva Kittay emphasizes the dependency of the charge and its political ramifications to illustrate the need for a care claimant. After distinguishing the care claimant from the other roles of care, I examine the power relationships in the care unit and the position of the care claimant in the public sphere. (shrink)