Responsibility as Responsiveness: Enacting a Dispositional Ethics of Encounter

Political Theory 45 (3):291-318 (2017)
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Abstract

With the normative demand to attend to social difference and an absence of universal evaluative terms with which to do so, recent theory has increasingly turned to the study of the affective rather than epistemological conditions of ethical encounter. This I call a “dispositional ethics” that construes responsibility as responsiveness. Recent articulations of such an ethics, notably in the most current work of Judith Butler, James Tully, Jade Larissa Schiff, and Ella Myers, highlight its connection to situated practices of concrete bodies-in-relation, but often stop short of developing an account of what such embodied practices might be. Based on interviews with thirteen experts who take the body as their primary vocational and intellectual field and characterize their practice as an art of listening, I distinguish three dimensions of a dispositional ethics in practice and some of the specific strategies available to cultivate the conditions for responsiveness in political life.

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