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Title: The non-sovereign self : Arendt, Butler and Cavell on the subject, community and otherness
Author: Kelz, R. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 3614 3345
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the idea of the non-sovereign self and the role it plays in the work of Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, and Stanley Cavell. Based on their critiques of the subject a philosophical anthropology is forwarded that stresses that humans can only be understood in relation to their environment. This highlights the role of language, embodiment, and psychic attachment for the notion of the non-sovereign self and maintains that humans are finite and contingent beings. The finiteness of the self's knowledge of itself and others also implies that the self cannot give a cohesive narrative account of its emergence. Moreover, its relationship to the unknowable other is constitutive for the relational self. The notion of the other signifies not only the concrete other person, but also those other living beings and social structures on whom the self depends for its survival. From this notion of non-sovereign, relational selfhood the thesis forwards an argument about the interrelation between ethical and political thought. Ethics is defined not in terms of the subject's accountability for its past actions, but by a primary responsibility for the other. By showing that ethical and political thought are closely intertwined, an understanding of political community is forwarded that highlights the role of responsibility towards those excluded from current forms of political representation. Turning to the role of affects for our understanding of political agency the role of cohesiveness, permeability and durability for political communities is interrogated. Stressing that the self remains a 'structure in formation' allows to account for the possibility of political agency which is not bound to a pre-established, shared social identity, but is motivated by one's ethical responsibility for others.
Supervisor: McNay, Lois Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science ; political philosophy ; responsibility ; subject ; otherness ; community