Three enduring models -- What constitutes human being? -- What is the ethical aim? -- What is owed each other? -- Human rights in light of childhood -- The generative family -- The art of ethical thinking.
In Moral Creativity, John Wall argues that moral life and thought are inherently and radically creative. Human beings are called by their own primordially created depths to exceed historical evil and tragedy through the ongoing creative transformation of their world. This thesis challenges ancient Greek and biblical separations of ethics and poetic image-making, as well as contemporary conceptions of moral life as grounded in abstract principles or preconstituted traditions. Taking as his point of departure the poetics of the will of (...) Paul Ricoeur, and ranging widely into critical conversations with Continental, narrative, feminist, and liberationist ethics, Wall uncovers the profound senses in which moral practice and thought involve tension, catharsis, excess, and renewal. In the process, he draws new connections between sin and tragedy, practice and poetics, and morality and myth. Rather than proposing a complete ethics, Moral Creativity is a meta-ethical work investigating the creative capability as part of what it means, morally, to be human. This capability is explored around four dimensions of ontology, teleology, deontology, and social practice. In each case, Wall examines a traditional perspective on the relation of ethics to poetics, critiques it using resources from contemporary phenomenology, and develops a conception of a more original poetics of moral life. In the end, moral creativity is a human capability for inhabiting tensions among others and in social systems and, in the image of a Creator, creating together an ever more radically inclusive moral world. (shrink)
At least since Aristotle, phronesis (practical wisdom) and poetics (making or creating) have been understood as essentially different activities, one moral the other (in itself) non-moral. Today, if anything, this distinction is sharpened by a Romantic association of poetics with inner subjective expression. Recent revivals of Aristotelian ethics sometimes allow for poetic dimensions of ethics, but these are still separated from practical wisdom per se. Through a fresh reading of phronesis in the French hermeneutical phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur, I argue that (...) phronesis should be viewed as at least in part poetic at its very core. That is, phronesis deals with the fundamentally tragic human situation of moral incommensurability, and it responds to this by making or creating new moral meaning. Such a poetics of practical wisdom helps phronesis stand up to significant and important critiques made of it by a range of modernists and post-modernists, pointing a way forward for some important contemporary moral debates. (shrink)
Paul Ricoeur's understanding of the relations of faith, love, and hope suggests a unique approach to theological ethics, one that holds fresh promise for bringing together considerations of the good (teleology) and the right (deontology) around the notion of an "economy of the gift." The economy of the gift articulates Ricoeur's distinctively dialectical understanding of the relation of the human and the divine, and the resulting dialectical moral relation of the self and the other. Despite our fallen condition, Ricoeur suggests, (...) we are called by the divine to embrace the radical possibility of the reconciliation of human goods under the requirement of accountability to human diversity and otherness. (shrink)
Here, some of the most influential thinkers in theological and philosophical ethics develop new directions for research in contemporary moral thought. Taking as their starting point Ricoeur's recent work on moral anthropology, the contributors set a vital agenda for future conversations about ethics and just community.
The essays in this volume look at various kinds of music from a number of perspectives, including the socio-political, the aesthetic and the psychological. The music under discussion here is diverse but fits loosely into the categories rock-pop, new music, rap, metal and music video, with the caveat that much of the music discussed here is historically layered and engages self-consciously in the deconstruction of music genres. If there is an interpretative theme that links these essays, it is that of (...) the cultural embeddedness of music. At the same time, and this is perhaps the single most important challenge taken up in these essays, this variable cultural studies approach embraces fully the aesthetic dimension of music, construing it as that which resists and articulates the signifying function of symbolic systems of meaning. Music is seen here as the kind of social critique that traces out its own phenomenological and structural pathways in such a way that, in the end, it is critical hermeneutic theory itself that comes under scrutiny. By way of reference (and perhaps indebtedness), the non-signifying property of music discussed variably in this volume is the same as that which was brought into relief in the terminologically contradictory title of Theodor Adornos masterwork, Aesthetic Theory. (shrink)
Challenging a long-standing assumption of the separation of ethical from poetic activity, this essay develops the basis for a theory of moral life as inherently and radically creative. A range of contemporary post-Kantian ethicists--including Ricoeur, Nussbaum, Kearney, and Gutiérrez--are employed to make the argument that moral practice requires a fundamental capability for creative transformation, imagination, and social renewal. In addition, this poetic moral capability can finally be understood only from the primordial religious point of view of the mystery of Creation (...) as such. Humanity as an image of its Creator is called to the endless impossible possibility of the re-creation of its own complex, plural, and fallen social world. Such a perspective is opposed to views of moral life as the application of law-like principles or the recovery of past moral histories. Without a better understanding of moral life's radically creative imperative, we miss a vital element of social relations' distinctive humanity. (shrink)
THE ETHICAL GROUNDS OF HUMAN RIGHTS FROM THE ENLIGHTENMENT TO today have been almost exclusively centered on the experiences of adults. This essay argues that human rights are not fully "human" unless their very bases are transformed in response to the third of humanity who are children. The essay is an exercise in what is broadly termed "childism": not just applying ethical norms to children but restructuring norms themselves in light of children's experiences. Human rights in particular should be reimagined (...) along postmodern and religious lines, not as protections of autonomy but as responses to difference. This notion is illustrated through the ethics of political representation, including conceptions of democratic citizenship and voting. (shrink)
This essay examines play as an ontological dimension of human being. It asks in particular how children’s experiences of play offer critiques and expansions of traditional adult frames that have dominated philosophies of play in the West. This “childist” approach suggests that human playfulness is not reducible to irrationality, spontaneity, or use for work. Rather, as childhood studies combined with post-modern thinking suggests, human being involves play in its fundamental capacity for creating meaning.
In Book 6 of his NICOMACHEAN ETHICS, Aristotle distinguishes phronesis or “practical wisdom” from poiesis or “art,” “production.” Neither deals with the universals of pure science or theoretical wisdom but rather with “things which admit of being other than they are,” “the realm of coming-to-be.” But phronesis “is itself an end,” namely “acting well”, whereas poiesis “has an end other than itself”, namely a work of art or a product. Phronesis is realized insofar as it is practiced well in itself, (...) and it involves right deliberation about goods internal to human action such as courage and justice. Poiesis is realized insofar as it produces something good beyond itself, in the making of noninternal goods such as crafts or goods imitative of action such as stories. Aristotle is here modifying Plato’s limitation of the role of the poets in his moral republic, but in a milder form that does not see the poets as actively distorting morality but rather performing a different kind of activity. Practical wisdom and poetics are both teleological practices—that is, practices aimed at some end—but the first finds its end within the practice itself, the second finally beyond it. (shrink)