Re: Re[2]: ethics and poststructuralism

Diane, you were saying...

>Hi Greg. I do understand this concern. But at the same time, I feel
>uncomfortable with any notion defined as "the humanity in us all." My first
>response is "which humanity?" For me, this is a problematic
>now. How can we go on as if old notions of justice and "the human" are still
>valid after, for instance, Auschwitz? What can we make of a humanism that
>simply keeps ticking after such an enormous beating? Foucault was an
>critic of humanism b/c such a thought...a thought that puts the "human" (but
>who's?) at the center of all our contemplations...has a tendency to NOT value
>"all." It has a tendency to value a very select constituency. (Note, please,
>colin's post earlier.)

First, what I hear Greg saying is that the humanist values of
autonomy,self-determination, individuality, equality and freedom are deeply
embedded in the projects of poststructuralists. He then argues that it is
the height of intellectual dishonesty to hold on to such humanist values,
and then to reject humanism in its entirety. I think Greg also acknowledges
the problems with humanism you note, and he is therefore searching for a new
humanism which incorporates poststructalist insights. He cogently argues
that "Foucault and others would be unwilling to imagine a world where human
dignity, freedom, and individuality were impossible, or at least where they
were not fought for constantly."

Second, surely poststructuralism could be equally critiqued in this same
manner of historical abuse. Heidegger's intellectual contribution to
Foucault, Derrida and Lacan has been noted by a number of authors.
According to Keith Windschuttle (1994) in _The Killing of History_, "While
Foucault and Derrida thought his [Heidegger's] work pointed in radical
directions, Heidegger himself continued to believe until his death in 1976
that his philosphy confirmed the 'inner truth and greatness' of the nazi
movement." (p12). While I am not a pursuaded that poststructuralism is
"wrong" because a former proto-poststructuralist had some wacky ideas, I am
also cautous about throughing every aspect of humanism out because of past

I am also concerned that Heidegger exposes the flaw that led me originally
to ask about poststructurlaism and ethics. Surely poststructualism could
equally be used to argue for or against the hegemony of class, gender,
ethnicity, ability, etc. If we define autonomy, self-determination,
individuality, equality and freedom as socially constructed values, why are
they any more important than the socially conbstructed values of classism,
patriarchy, etc.

Bryan Palmer
Canberra - Australia's National Capital


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