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Philosophy Today

Volume 64, Issue 3, Summer 2020
Special Topic: Vulnerability

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Displaying: 1-17 of 17 documents

special topic: vulnerability

1. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Martin Huth, Gerhard Thonhauser

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2. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Martin Huth

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Vulnerability is often conceived of as a valuable category countering the ratiocentric and ableist bias in traditional ethical and political theories. Frequently, social formations are ascribed primary responsibility to respond to vulnerability since relevant theories go against normative individualism. However, generalizing norms and hegemonic structures tend to determine the notion, and thus the administration, of vulnerability. The paper argues that the tacit hypostatization and conceptual fixation of vulnerability can generate dialectical shifts that increase vulnerability precisely by emphasizing it. This is illustrated with examples such as exclusive recognition, stereotyping, social control, a disempowering ethics, and the problematic opposition of vulnerability and resilience. While an awareness for the inherent vulnerability of embodied beings is a crucial prerequisite for preventing us from establishing discriminating (though well-intentioned) notions of “special“ vulnerability, the inner dialectic of the concept cannot be remedied by a simple recipe such as the assertion that we are all vulnerable.
3. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Hannah Vögele

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Care (work) is in crisis. In fact, within our current system, social vulnerabilities of differential kinds are pushed to the fringes of society, while self-responsibility prevails. Yet recently, vulnerability has become a fashionable concept in (feminist) theory. It owes this popularity not least to Judith Butler’s work. This paper analyses the political potential of her conceptualization. More precisely, it argues for the need to assume political responsibility for vulnerability. This is not a connection that Butler makes explicitly. Instead, and contrary to her previous ambivalence to ethics more broadly, she tries to formulate a critical ethics based on vulnerability. Against the abstract nature of ethics, this paper turns to activist voices and Iris Marion Young’s theorisations on responsibility to develop a structural, historically contextualised and collective account of political responsibility. The example of care work and the crisis of care elucidates both theoretical and practical insights throughout the paper.
4. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Miri Rozmarin

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This article examines the notion of vulnerable political subjectivity in Judith Butler’s theory of vulnerability. The paper aims to contribute to critical discussions of Butler’s political theory by offering an account of how the ontological, ethical, and political aspects of vulnerability shape political subjectivity in her work. The first part of the paper analyzes the features of vulnerable political subjects. The second part critically assesses to what extent Butler offers an alternative to the association of vulnerability with a damaged capability to act politically. The third part argues that Butler offers only a partial account of vulnerability as a transformative desire, which is crucial to explaining how and under what conditions vulnerability inspires subjects to engage politically with the conditions that shape their precarity or the precarity of others.
5. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
James Griffith

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Hobbes and Butler both conjure images of an abandoned infant in their respective discussions of vulnerability. Leviathan uses this image to discuss original dominion, or natural maternal right over the child, while for Butler rights discourse produces fantasies of invulnerability that derealize other lives. However, Hobbes’s infant in nature has no rights and can only consent to being nourished. Only when able to nourish itself can it claim rights to transfer through the covenant producing a fantasy of individual invulnerability. Vulnerability in the state of nature and the commonwealth’s fantasy of invulnerability are together a counter-fantasy to the fantasies of invulnerability of Hobbes’s time, through heaven or eternal glory. In question is whether Butler, in her reimagining of community, is, like Hobbes, producing a fantasy, but a meta-fantasy that community can be taken as fantasy without derealizing the fantastic or that fantasizes an honesty about its being fantasy.
6. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon

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For the abstract, use this text instead: "Using the case of the Bosnian War during the 1990s, and drawing on Iris Murdoch’s philosophy, this paper develops an understanding of moral vulnerability, where one’s ability to imagine certain ways of being ethical can be transformed through the extreme violence of war and genocide. There is a vulnerability to moral injury through violence that is grounded in the way persons imagine themselves and the world. Beginning with the wartime diaries of Zlatko Dizdarević, a survivor of the Bosnian wars of the 1990s, the paper turns to different understandings of moral injury, as well as Margaret Urban Walker’s understanding of “moral vulnerability.” I argue these approaches do not capture an important dimension in Dizdarević’s witness. The paper then turns to Iris Murdoch’s philosophy to begin to articulate and account for this dimension and sketch an understanding of moral vulnerability distinct from current moral injury discourses.


7. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Sarah E. Vitale

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Much of leftist political philosophy has uncritically accepted the logic of capitalism, which is a logic of conservation that presents itself as a logic of “production.” Many leftist political philosophers subscribe to capitalism’s fundamental myth—that capitalism produces the new. This appearance of proliferation, however, masks an underlying stasis. This article interrogates this trend in the apparently disparate projects of contemporary accelerationism and Jacques Rancière. The accelerationist project of immanence allows for newness only in quantity and not in quality, while Rancière, coming closer to thinking radical newness in his account of politics, forecloses the possibility of a radically emancipatory society. I suggest an open ontology, which Marx offers, provides a better framework for thinking revolutionary newness.
8. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Lucy Benjamin

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In this article I take up the image of inclination developed by Adriana Cavarero in her book, Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude as a mode of developing an account of history informed by an ontology of heterogeneous ethics. Clarifying the potential of inclination contra the Kantian figure of “uprightness,” the principle task of this article is to reimagine the implications of inclination with regard to Walter Benjamin’s theses on history. Ultimately, I show that by pushing at the relationality inherent to an inclined ontology of the self a meaningful exchange can be generated between plural historical temporalities, a move that reveals the inclined figure’s potential to redeem narratives of the historically dispossessed.
9. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Deborah Cook

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This paper represents a preliminary attempt to explore Max Weber’s and Michel Foucault’s distinct accounts of how Christianity facilitated the development of capitalism in the West. Very generally, Weber and Foucault agree that it was the conducts that Christianity inculcated in individuals that aided capitalism’s develop­ment. Yet this paper shows that they disagree about what these conducts were, how they were inculcated, and in whom.
10. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Karim Barakat

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I argue in this paper that Rawls is unable to offer a ground for the normativity of his freestanding politics, where his account is susceptible to a number of criticisms he raises against Hobbes. Rawls identifies three problems in Hobbes’s political view: the absence of reasonableness, the lack of a social role for morality, and finally resorting to an absolute sovereign to maintain stability. I maintain that Rawls’s Kantian account circumvents these problems. However, I argue that his move to a freestanding politics that disposes of the Kantian moral basis is unable to justify normative commitments and ultimately resorts to contingent justifications resulting from uncritically accepting norms institutions inculcate.
11. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Michael Naas

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This essay returns to Of Grammatology, Derrida’s seminal work of 1967, in order to demonstrate the key role played by the category of interiority in that work and in deconstruction more generally. The essay show how Derrida traces the values associated with interiority in his readings of Plato, Rousseau, and Levi-Strauss in order to argue that the opposition between interiority and exteriority is not one philosophical opposition among others but the single most powerful and persistent opposition in Western philosophy, organizing everything from the relationship between speech and writing to that between presence and absence, essence and accident, even life and death. We thus come to see through a reading of this early work of Derrida’s that deconstruction will have been from its very inception a deconstruction of any claims to an inside that would come before or exclude its outside, that is, a deconstruction of every phantasm of interiority.
12. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Benjamin Brewer

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This essay contends that Stanley Cavell’s criterion of “good enough justice,” which designates the minimal condition of social justice necessary for his perfectionist understanding of ethical selfhood, constitutes an avoidance—rather than an acknowledgment—of the problem of injustice. Taking Cavell’s misreading of Walter Benjamin as exemplary of this tendency, the essay shows how Cavell’s moral perfectionism consistently converts questions about the suffering of others into a problem of the self and its conscience, thereby avoiding the ethical claim at the heart of Benjamin’s project.
13. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Christine Daigle

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In this article, I demonstrate that Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy represents a first major step toward a rejection of the humanist subject and therefore was influential for the development of contemporary posthumanist material feminism. Specifically, her unprecedented attention to embodiment and biology, in The Second Sex and other works, as well as her notion of ambiguity, serve to challenge the humanist subject. While I am not claiming that Beauvoir was a posthumanist or material feminist thinker avant la lettre, I show that she is an important precursor to some of their key ideas. Indeed, her thinking about the body, sex, gender, and the importance of embodiment and situation constitutes a challenge to the subject of humanism, thereby opening up a path for thinkers that follow to push Beauvoir’s critique and articulate a posthumanism that does away with the subject of humanism.
14. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Steven Haug

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In 1955, Raphael’s Sistine Madonna was returned to Germany following its removal from Dresden in anticipation of the city being bombed. That same year Heidegger wrote a short paper titled “Über die Sixtina,” likely to commemorate the painting’s return. The goal of this article is to bring the largely overlooked “Über die Sixtina” into discussions about Heidegger’s philosophy of art. While brief, Heidegger’s paper makes clear that the Sistine Madonna is an important work to consider when deliberating about his philosophy of art in general. This article elaborates on the topics Heidegger discusses in “Über die Sixtina,” particularly the image-being of the Sistine Madonna, the image as a window painting, and the place of the painting.
15. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Jean Wahl, Russell J. Duvernoy, Christopher Lura, Anna-Marie Hansen

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“La Poésie Comme Exercice Spirituel” first appeared in a 1942 issue of Revue Fontaine edited by Jacques and Raissa Maritain and was subsequently republished in Wah’s 1948 text Poésie, Pensée, Perception, published by Calmann-Lévy. The following is a translation of the Fontaine version. I have noted all of the variations from the latter version in the notes. As I emphasize in my commentary, the piece is a notable display of Wahl’s eclectic range of influences. Most importantly, it shows the extent to which his interest in radical empiricism and process metaphysics informs his creative approach to the intersection of poetics and metaphysics. These interests are not explicitly named in the essay, and yet their influence is pervasive. The essay also includes several moments of substantial resonance with the work of Gilles Deleuze, as noted in the commentary.
16. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Russell J. Duvernoy

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This commentary considers Wahl’s 1942 “Poetry as Spiritual Exercise” in the context of his interests in radical empiricism and process metaphysics. In doing so, it raises appreciation for the complexity of his thought, identifies specific notes of influence on Gilles Deleuze, and responds to worries that Wahl’s notion of spiritual exercise is predominantly a form of withdrawal, quietism, or retreat from the horrors of World War Two. For Wahl, rather than passive contemplation of a determinate artifact, poetry is a mode of experience that, to speak with Whitehead and James, is a making. This experience of poetry develops affordances of thought that strengthen existential capacity for remaining open to uncertainty, fragility, and vulnerability.

book review

17. Philosophy Today: Volume > 64 > Issue: 3
Paolo Costa

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