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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 1, Fall 2017

Idioms of Ethical Life

Peg Birmingham
Pages 53-66
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201772691

Dennis Schmidt and the Origin of the Ethical Life
The Law of the Idiom

This essay explores Dennis Schmidt’s notion of an “original ethics,” asking how language, freedom and history are at work in this original ethics. The essay first examines Schmidt’s claim that philosophy has traditionally understood ethical and political life as rooted in a subject ruled entirely by what he calls “the law of the common.” The essay specifically looks at how Plato and Hobbes embrace the law of the common, expelling thereby the law of the idiom from their respective ethical and political thought. The essay then turns to an examination of Schmidt’s “original ethics” which he claims offers a way out from the law of the common and the logic of Machenschaft that animates this law. In conclusion, the essay expresses a concern on whether Schmidt can move as seamlessly as he seems to claim from an original ethics to political being in common, asking of the role of judgment in Schmidt’s original ethics.