Re: Poststructuralism and Ethics

>How about John Rajchman's *Truth and Eros*?

I have not read this, can you give me a publisher a quick summary? Thanks.

>While I agree with your critique of the movement from the *is* to the *ought*
>in some self-professed poststructural work, I think that the questions you
>raise as to the relationship between ethics and poststructuralism cannot be
>addressed simply through reference to such work. I think that the question of
>ethics in poststructuralism can be viewed as being quite complex and,
>although it develops with relation to truth as a socio-cultural produc that
>is continually being remade, it is not limited to truth-formations and our
>relationships to them. I will turn to Foucault's later work to flesh this
>idea out a bit.
> Speaking of the relation that his last works on ethics bear to
>contemporary contexts, Foucault says in the interview "On the Genealogy of
>Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress":
>I wonder if our problem nowadays is not, in a way, similar to this one [the
>one addressed in The Use of Pleasure and the Care of the Self], since most of
>us not longer believe that ethics is founded on religion, nore do we want a
>legal system to intervene in our moral, personal, private life. Recent
>liberation movements suffer form the fact that they cannot find any principle
>on which to base the elaboration of a new ethics. They need a new ethics, but
>they cannot find any other ethics than an ethics founded on so-called
>scientific knowledge of what the self is, what desire is, what the
>unconscious is, and so on.
>This concern with the creations of a new ethics is similar to that expressed
>in ancient Greek writing in order to "constitute a kind of ethics which was
>an aesthetics of existence." In contemporary contexts, however, the creation
>of an aesthetics of existence is far too dependent on discourses which point
>either to the impossibility of recognizing the subject as a unity, or
>discourses which find their focus in an ascetics of subjectivity. No longer
>able to refer to religion, nor willing to call upon the legal system to
>define the boundaries of such an ethics, Foucault suggests, contemporary
>liberation movements, such as feminism, find themselves at a loss for the
>material from which such an ethics could be moulded.
> While Foucault claims "you can't find the solution of a problem in
>the solution of another problem raised in another moment by another people,"
>he does present the Greek and Roman efforts in the work of self on self to
>open up the field of possibility for contemporary efforts insofar as these
>problematizations of an aesthetics of the self took place without reference
>to either religious doctrine or an over-arching juridico-legal apparatus. The
>recognition that not everything is "bad"but that "everything is
>dangerous"leds Foucault's work into a problematization of the limits and
>possibilities of ethics as a creative force in the comportment of the self
>toward and self and toward others. In Foucault's words: "What I want to ask
>is: Are we able to have an ethics of acts and their pleasures which would be
>able to take into account the pleasure of the other? Is the pleasure of the
>other something which can be integrated into our pleasure, without reference
>either to law, to marriage, to I dont know what?"

This sounds very close to the utilitarianism of neoclassical economics.
Surely this is not what you meant. Can you help me better understand what
you meant.

>And so.... If we consider ethics to be the work of self on self, and the self
>to be something that is directed toward others, then how does this change our
>notions and assumptions about what ethics *is* and what it *ought* to do?
>What fields of possibility does this conception of ethics foreclose to and
>disclose from thought and action? Is critique enough?

This is a bloody good question. If the answer in NO, you seem to come back
to my dilemma.

The reason I am wrestling with this question is that I am doing a thesis on
the provision of disability employment services for people with significant
disabilities. Deconstructing the liberal agenda and the humanist
assumptions in the text is relaively easy. Identifying the system of
mutually reinforcing discourses is also pretty easy. But I feel like a
hypocrite throwing anything which hints of a moral tone over the analysis.
After all, (within the ps paradigm) what is wrong with the exploitation of
people with a disability?

Bryan Palmer
Canberra - Australia's National Capital


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