Love’s Luck-Knot. Emotional vulnerability and symmetrical accountability

Carla Bagnoli
University of Modena
Spurred by Judith Butler’s seminal work, Pamela Anderson finds herself challenged to rethink her ontological assumptions, away from the traditional conceptions of the self. This essay is an attempt to face this challenge upfront, and come to terms with the kind of vulnerability that Anderson wants to vindicate. I start with distinguishing different contrastive but interlocking pairs of concepts of vulnerability: the ontological and the ethical, the pathogenic and the self-enhancing, the inherent and the circumstantial. I then argue for the relevance of ontological vulnerability and suggest that it reveals the apparent normative structure of human agency and indicates the root of mutual accountability. In this perspective, human vulnerability to love and love’s own vulnerability can be appreciated and reassessed as a distinctive drive to cooperative interactions and shared agency, which allows finite and interdependent agents to deal and cope with contingency and temporality, by relying on mutually accountable relations. Focusing on the dynamic reciprocal permeability which is distinctive of love, I concur with Anderson that emotional vulnerability is not the source of burdens and constraints but a precious capacity that enables relations of mutual accountability, shapes human identity, expands individual agency, and shapes integrity in interactive and historical ways.
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