In this seminal volume, Kelly Oliver articulates a “response ethics” as an alternative to mainstream moral frameworks such as utilitarianism and Kantianism. Oliver’s response ethics is grounded in an innovative understanding of subjectivity. Insofar as one’s subjectivity is informed by the social, and our sense of self is constituted by our ability to respond to our environment, reconceptualizing subjectivity transforms our ethical responsibility to others.
Oliver’s engagement in various debates in applied ethics, ranging from our ecological commitments to the death penalty, from sexual assaults on campus to reproductive technology, shows the relevance of response ethics in contemporary society. In the age of pervasive war, assaults, murder, and prejudice, Response Ethics offers timely contributions to the field of ethics.
Editor’s Introduction / Author’s Introduction / Part I: Interrelational Subjects and Social Sublimation / 1. The Gestation of the Other in Phenomenology / 2. The Look of Love and Ecological Subjectivity / 3. Social Melancholy, Shame and Sublimation / Part II: Responsible Subjects and Witnessing / 4. Witnessing Subjectivity and Testimony / 5. Witnessing, Recognition, and Response Ethics / 6. Between Ethics and Politics / Part III: Response Ethics and the Non-humans / 7. Animal Ethics: Toward an Ethics of Responsiveness / 8. Service Dogs: Between Animal Studies and Disability Studies / 9. Earth Ethics and Creaturely Cohabitation / Part IV: Witnessing in the Age of Spectacle / 10. Death as a Penalty and Instant Death / 11. Rape as Spectator Sport and Creepshot Entertainment / 12. The Spectacle of War / Bibliography / Index
In this important collection of essays, Kelly Oliver advances, with a nod to Levinas and Derrida, an exciting new approach to ethics. Moving beyond ancient and modern traditions founded on character habits or moral rules, this emerging tradition recasts ethics as an ability to take responsibility for others in their unique singularity. But Oliver’s reflections carry her beyond contributions from major figures. Stepping back from deconstruction’s abyss of alterity, she delivers possibilities for communion. Drawing from psychoanalytic theory, she insists on responsibility for the unconscious. And alert to environmental crisis, she broadens ethics’ reach beyond our species finally to the earth itself.
This rich collection of Oliver’s essays, which both articulates the philosophical basis of her original idea of response ethics and addresses crucial issues of our time, is a gift to all concerned with the issues she courageously addresses. Oliver’s work on how humans become a subject through relations with other humans allows her to make important connections between subjectivity and morality. Her work on animals shows us a different way of being with other creatures that does not fall into the dilemmas of recent post humanist literature.
Alison Suen is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Iona College, USA. She is the author of The Speaking Animal (2015).