What does it mean to be a responsible subject in a world of pervasive violence? How should we be responsible witnesses in the face of gross injustice? Indeed, how should we respond to atrocities that often leave us speechless and powerless?
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
Kelly Oliver is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media, film noir, and Alfred Hitchcock. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has been published in The New York Times.
Alison Suen is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Iona College, USA. She is the author of The Speaking Animal (2015).
Response Ethics employs vocabulary and concepts from poststructuralism, phenomenology, psychology, and psychoanalytic theory. Oliver draws heavily on the work of Levinas and Derrida, and responds to a wide range of other thinkers including Butler, Freud, Heidegger, hooks, Kant, Kittay, Kristeva, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre. Those who have interests in these philosophical methods, concepts, and thinkers, as well as those with interests in ethical theory, applied ethics, the unconscious, and subjectivity would benefit from this book. Ethics professors in particular should read this book, if only to present their students with a living philosopher active in the monumental task of working out a new ethical theory designed to address thorny current issues involving violence, identity politics, and technology.
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.
One of our leading voices in continental philosophy and feminist thought, Kelly Oliver brings together all of the themes of her prior work. Response Ethics is a remarkable synthesis but it also sheds new light on the very nature of what ethics should be, must be today, in “the age of spectacle.”
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.