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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 1, Fall 2017

Idioms of Ethical Life

Dennis J. Schmidt
Pages 159-175
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201772897

Where Ethics Begins . . .

The purpose of this essay is to take up the question of how an ethical con­sciousness emerges, that is where ethics might begin, and to ask about some of the consequences one might draw from this beginning. The essay argues that one site for thinking through such a beginning is the consciousness of mortality. To unpack such a claim, the essay takes up Heidegger’s discussion of this point in Being and Time as well as Derrida’s discussion of this consciousness in his seminar on Beast and Sovereign and his essay “Béliers.” The final stage of the argument concerns the sameness of birth and death for an understanding of ethical sense: both speak to the vulnerability and the absoluteness that expose the questions of ethical life, and both intensify a sense of what is at stake in such a life.