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)
The act/omission distinction is used throughout Western legal systems, and indeed elsewhere, to police the boundaries between acceptable medical practice and unacceptable interventions designed to bring about the death of patients. Without exception, it has proved impossible to maintain the distinction with any clarity. In the United Kingdom, for example, it is lawful both to withhold and to withdraw from a patient treatment that the medical ….
Despite the growing importance of ‘social value’ as a central feature of research ethics, the term remains both conceptually vague and to a certain extent operationally rigid. And yet, perhaps because the rhetorical appeal of social value appears immediate and self-evident, the concept has not been put to rigorous investigation in terms of its definition, strength, function, and scope. In this article, we discuss how the anthropological concept of liminality can illuminate social value and differentiate and reconfigure its variegated approaches. (...) Employing liminality as a heuristic encourages a reassessment of how we understand the mobilization of ‘social value’ in bioethics. We argue that social value as seen through the lens of liminality can provide greater clarity of its function and scope for health research. Building on calls to understand social value as a dynamic, rather than a static, concept, we emphasize the need to appraise social value iteratively throughout the entire research as something that transforms over multiple times and across multiple spaces occupied by a range of actors. (shrink)
Considered together, Butler and Whitehead draw from a wide palette of disciplines to develop distinctive theories of becoming, of syntactical violence, and creative opportunities of limitation. The contributors of this volume offer a unique contribution to and for the humanities in the struggles of politics, economy, ecology, and the arts.
State Violence, Coalitions, Subjects After a consideration of the reception of her work in France , Judith Butler assesses the political contribution of queer movements and minority struggles. She addresses the need for the left to reappropriate the forthright critique of the State and its violence and to examine the way minorities are produced. To do so, her analysis starts from the question of immigrant persons. She highlights the issues and the difficulties which are involved, if there is to (...) be a productive critique of the State, the aim of which is to contest it. As part of a dynamic political perspective, she proposes the creation of coalitions. She outlines the main lines of such a coalition, its dynamics and singularities, its articulation with the subject, but also its limits. In conclusion, she examines the issue of revolution and her relation to Marxist thought, indicating the outlines of her current thinking. (shrink)
This study empirically assesses the extent to which intrinsic value theories of nature are accepted and acknowledged outside the realm of academic environmental ethics. It focuses on twenty of the largest landowning organisations in England, including both conservation and non-conservation organisations and investigates the environmental philosophical beliefs and values held by representative individuals of these groups. An in-depth interview was held with a representative from each organisation. The interviews were analysed using qualitative data analysis software and the results compared against (...) a backdrop of academic philosophical positions. The study found that an ecocentric position which acknowledges nature's intrinsic value was adopted by the majority of respondents, both from conservation and non-conservation organisations. However, it was also found that individuals felt the idea of nature's intrinsic value was generally not reflected in organisational policy. (shrink)
It is a pleasure to read Hume, and to watch him explore recalcitrant problems with agility of mind and grace of style. Ironically these twin abilities have worked against each other from the beginning, in the first place because in the matter of writing Hume was an innovator — nobody before him had so successfully albeit unwittingly adapted French syntax to the writing of English-and-Scottish - and in the second place because on the grace of his style subtleties of thought (...) flow past his readers, who then accuse him of obscurity. So abstruse were his writings to his contemporaries that he failed to achieve the literary recognition for which he craved; and even today, long after the elegance of his style has been received, it is said by Passmore that Hume in contrast to Berkeley ‘was a philosophical puppy-dog, picking up and worrying one problem after another, always leaving his teeth-marks in it, but casting it aside when it threatened to become wearisome.’ Similarly Selby-Bigge says in his introduction to the Enquiries : His pages, especially those of the Treatise, are so full of matter, he says so many things in so many different ways and different connexions, and with so much indifference to what he has said before, that it is very hard to say positively that he taught, or did not teach, this or that particular doctrine. He applies the same principles to such a great variety of subjects that it is not surprising that many verbal, and some real inconsistencies can be found in his statements. He is ambitious rather than shy of saying the same thing in different ways, and at the same time he is often slovenly and indifferent about his words and formulae. This makes it easy to find all philosophies in Hume, or, by setting up one statement against another, none at all. (shrink)