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Title: Problems in post-foundational ethics : contingency, responsibility, attention
Author: Alford, Lucy Maddux
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 8712
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2011
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Over the course of the last century, modern and postmodern thought has called attention to the uncertain ground for relations of respect and responsibility within an increasingly contingent, post-secular, and seemingly “foundationless” context. The strong moral claims of the contemporary human rights discourse have both responded to (with stronger claims and better campaign strategies) and suffered from the pervasive condition of moral uncertainty, ethical groundlessness. This dissertation considers the development, destabilization, and breakdown of moral subjectivity over the course of the last half of the twentieth century. My thesis identifies a correlation between an increasingly contingent political and intellectual terrain and an increasingly plural and indeterminate moral subject. Chapter One addresses the subjectivity with which the field of human rights was born—the atomized, individual agency, a product of Enlightenment thought, imbued with the appropriate theological holdovers: a secular version of the transcendent soul, the hallmarks of which are inherent dignity, integrity, and inviolability. Chapter Two marks a first stage in the pluralization of the moral subject, now conceived as a subjective relation between responsible and culpable parties. I explore this relational subjectivity in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, and explore its interpretation and application in the fields of rights talk and witness media. Chapter Three considers a further pluralized moral subjectivity in the context of systemic violence, in which the lines of agent, perpetrator and victim are less clear, more contingent. Chapter Four follows the implications of systemic relation into the domain of human/non-human relation, wherein even the standing of the “human” becomes riddled with contingencies. Chapter Five explores the space of attention as both opening and precondition for ethical relation and responsibility in a post-foundational context marked by contingency, porosity, and instability.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available