Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture

Dave Boothroyd
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture
    Book Description:

    Dave Boothroyd develops an original perspective on Levinas’ account of the ethical Subject as contingently and empirically embedded in everyday experience. He reads Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, Deleuze, Badiou and Nancy alongside Levinas to address ethical issues such as sexual difference, vulnerability, secrecy, communications, suffering, hospitality, friendship, censorship and death.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-8166-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. 1. The Subject of the Ethical Turn
    (pp. 1-27)

    In the second half of the twentieth century cultural theorists of modernity and practitioners of cultural studies tended to see their intellectual endeavour as being fundamentally political in nature. Marxist and neo-Marxist left criticism of culture and society until relatively recently, has been the traditional mainstay of analysis addressing the ‘post-WW2 order’, the ‘end of empire’, the fate of the communist project and the numerous crises of globalisation. Over the last twenty years, however, we have witnessed an ‘ethical turn’ in the theorising of culture, society and politics, as well as of the arts and creative enterprise, which has coincided...

  5. 2. Empiricism, the Ethical Subject and the Ethics of Hospitality
    (pp. 28-47)

    Whilst there is evident potential in Levinas’s philosophy for theorising the passage from ethics to politics in the quest to secure anethico-political rather than a purely political sublation of the theory/praxis dichotomy, there are also various stumbling blocks that immediately come to mind. It is problematic in the philosophically technical sense described by Badiou, as noted in the previous chapter. He argues that the ethico-political cannot be deduced from an ethics of alterity at all as ‘the other always resembles me too much’. But Levinas’s political discourse is problematic (at least for many of his readers) in more straightforward...

  6. 3. Sexing the Ethical Subject
    (pp. 48-68)

    Chapter 1 argued that the ethical theory is always read off of ‘the surfaces of culture’ and that the ethical Subject as somethingor someoneemerges out of a specific cultural situation. Chapter 2 showed, with reference to Levinas’s and Deleuze’s thinking of the Subject as becoming, how in Levinas this becoming is, on the one hand, grounded in the foothold the Subject has in being and, on the other, how it can be said to be anethicalSubject in so far as this movement of ex-istence is already an ‘awakening’ to the ‘other-in-me’: the Other is already ‘in...

  7. 4. Vulnerability to Violence and Ethical Sensibility
    (pp. 69-87)

    Irigaray’s approach to the body provides a distinctive model for thinking how the sensual body and the textual body, or the phenomenon and language, are conceptual divisions made ‘after the fact’ of sensate life itself. The term ‘sensate life’ refers to the experience which does not yet belong to the body-as-a-whole; the body identified, for instance, by a proper name. Irigaray’s approach to the sexed body in terms of its ‘morphology’ and its discrete sites of sensation, enables her to articulate an ethics of sexual difference which is read off the contingent contactual encounters between embodied Subjects. She puts the...

  8. 5. The Ethical Subject of New Media Communications
    (pp. 88-105)

    The previous chapters have examined how the Levinasian account of ethical subjectivity is derived on the basis of a materialist phenomenology of sensate life and have sought to clarify how his ‘ethics of alterity’ is ontologically grounded in the materiality of contact, touch and the affective relationship to other experienced on the passive surface of ‘the skin’. Levinas’s discourse of the skin, the wound, allergy, and so forth, and of the ethical Subject as a being-in-a-skin, it has been shown, is neither simply figural nor metaphorical, nor is it expressive of a literalism or naturalism. It must be referred back,...

  9. 6. Secrecy and the Secret of Ethical Subjectivity
    (pp. 106-123)

    The interplay between secrecy and disclosure has recently crystallised as a defining feature of the contemporary zeitgeist of the ‘wired’ culture and society. It is intrinsic to the multifarious phenomena of communicative capitalism’s diverse trade in data and information, from the details of private lives, consumer habits, tastes and preferences to the production, packaging and distribution of informational products of all kinds within the knowledge economy; and the value of ‘secrets’ and the price (in several senses) of their disclosure is a matter of great public interest and fascination. The exploits of ‘hackers’ and ‘crackers’ are today not only typical...

  10. 7. Censored Subjects
    (pp. 124-144)

    The year 2011 saw a unique centenary – the centenial disestablishment of the Swedish Board of Film Censorship (Statens Biografbyrå – hereafter SBB). The SBB was established around fifteen years after films had first begun to be screened in public in Sweden. Since the earliest film performances in the last years of the nineteenth century the police authorities had been responsible for the licensing of such screenings, and had granted or refused licences in the context of the prevailing popular concerns about detrimental effects of the new medium on audiences, and, as is the case today, in the context of...

  11. 8. Suffering
    (pp. 145-167)

    It could be argued that suffering is thesine qua nonof all ethical subjects and of ethical subjectivity itself; the problem of suffering is the motivation of the ethical Subject and the subject matter to which all ethical concern must ultimately be referred. It is the provocation to which the Subject’s becoming ethical is the response. Yet suffering is repugnant to the life of the Subject itself; suffering is precisely that from which life distances itself in order to live and to flourish. The relationship to suffering is thus profoundly ambiguous: in distancing itself from suffering, life remains fascinated...

  12. 9. Hospitality, Friendship and Justice
    (pp. 168-188)

    Ethics is hospitality, hospitality is culture: it would appear to be a small syllogistic leap to the proposition that ethicsisculture itself (or indeed vice versa.) This would be no more a conclusion though than it would be a starting point; one could only expand outward from such a statement to a multitude of cultural examples of one kind or another, scrutinising each one to investigate and to discover its ethical dimension and thereby to confirm the proposition. Rather than wondering whether or not there is a ‘ethical turn’ in Derrida’s thinking, taking these remarks in isolation, it might...

  13. 10. Death, or the End of the Subject
    (pp. 189-212)

    Death, ‘the final chapter’. It seems appropriate to leave death till the end of my small subset of all of the possible ethical subjects this book might have addressed. But, it might just as well have been introduced at the beginning, or indeed be placed at any other point, as death hangs over every ethical subject/Subject as a figure of the inevitable end, of mortality, in other words; as the horizon from which a perspective on the ethical life of the Subject might be gained.

    Of course, the contemporary philosophical themes of the ‘end of Man’, the postmodern critique of...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-232)