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Living Ethically in Compromised Times
The world is in a terrible mess. It is toxic, irradiated, and full of injustice. Aiming to stand aside from the mess can produce a seemingly satisfying self-righteousness in the scant moments we achieve it, but since it is ultimately impossible, individual purity will always disappoint. Might it be better to understand complexity, and, indeed, our own complicity in much of what we think of as bad, as fundamental to our lives? Against Purity argues that the only answer—if we are to have any hope of tackling the past, present and future of colonialism, disease, pollution, and climate change—is a resounding yes. Proposing a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures, AgainstPurity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.
Being against purity means that there is no primordial state we can recover, no Eden we have desecrated, no pretoxic body we might uncover through enough chia seeds and kombucha. There is no preracial state we could access, no erasing histories of slavery, forced labor, colonialism, genocide, and their concomitant responsibilities and requirements. There is no food we can eat, clothes we can buy, or energy we can use without deepening our ties to complex webbings of suffering. So, what happens if we start from there?
Alexis Shotwell shows the importance of critical memory practices to addressing the full implications of living on colonized land; how activism led to the official reclassification of AIDS; why we might worry about studying amphibians when we try to fight industrial contamination; and that we are all affected by nuclear reactor meltdowns. The slate has never been clean, she reminds us, and we can’t wipe off the surface to start fresh—there’s no fresh to start. But, Shotwell argues, there is hope to be found in a kind of distributed ethics, in collective activist work, and in speculative fiction writing for gender and disability liberation that opens new futures.
In this deeply considered meditation on aging in Western culture, Jan Baars argues that, in today’s world, living longer does not necessarily mean living better. He contends that there has been an overall loss of respect for aging, to the point that understanding and “dealing with” aging people has become a process focused on the decline of potential and the advance of disease rather than on the accumulation of wisdom and the creation of new skills. To make his case, Baars takes the reader on a survey of contemporary theories of aging, confronting them with their philosophical foundations. He draws on the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, as well as on such contemporary philosophers as Husserl, Heidegger, Habermas, and Foucault. Aging and the Art of Living shows how people in the classical period—less able to control health hazards—had a far better sense of the provisional nature of living, which led to a philosophical and religious emphasis on cultivating the art of living and the idea of wisdom. This is not to say that modern society’s assessments of aging are insignificant, but they do need to balance an emphasis on the measuring of age with the concept of "living in time." Gerontologists, philosophers, and students will find Baars' discussion to be a powerful, perceptive conversation-starter.
"[S]tudents and professionals, [as well as] the general reader will find much food for thought." â€”Publishers Weekly *Do patients have the right to know their physician's HIV status? *Can a dentist refuse treatment to an HIV-positive patient? *How do educators determine whether to allow an HIV-positive child to attend school, and if they do, should the parents of other children be informed? *Should a counselor break confidentiality by disclosing to a wife that her husband is infected with HIV? This collection of original essays carefully examines the difficult moral choices the AIDS pandemic has presented for many professionalsâ€”physicians, nurses, dentists, teachers and school administrators, business managers, psychotherapists, lawyers, clergy, journalists, and politicians. In the workplace, problems posed by HIV and AIDS have led to a reexamination of traditional codes of ethics. Providing systematic and reasoned discussions, the authors explore the moral, legal, and ethical issues involved in the reconsideration of policies, standards of conduct, and the practicality of balancing personal and professional ethics.
A Brief Metaphysics for Today
In Aims: A Brief Metaphysics for Today, James W. Felt turns his attention to combining elements of Thomas Aquinas's metaphysics, especially its deep ontology, with Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy to arrive at a new possibility for metaphysics. In his distinctive style, Felt concisely pulls together the strands of epistemology, ontology, and teleology, synthesizing these elements into his own “process-enriched Thomism.” Aims does not simply discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each philosopher’s position, but blends the two into a cohesive argument based on principles derived from immediate experience. Felt arrives at what he calls a “Whiteheadian-type solution,” appealing to his original concept of the “essential aim” as necessary for understanding our existence in a coherent yet unique world. This concise, finely crafted discussion provides a thoroughly teleological, value-centered approach to metaphysics. Aims, an experiment in constructive metaphysics, is a thorough and insightful project in modern philosophy. It will appeal to philosophers and students of philosophy interested in enriching their knowledge of contemporary conceptions of metaphysics.
Reunifying Political Theory and Social Science
Today the ethical and normative concerns of everyday citizens are all too often sidelined from the study of political and social issues, driven out by an effort to create a more “scientific” study. This book offers a way for social scientists and political theorists to reintegrate the empirical and the normative, proposing a way out of the scientism that clouds our age. In Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and the Demise of Naturalism, Jason Blakely argues that the resources for overcoming this divide are found in the respective intellectual developments of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre. Blakely examines their often parallel intellectual journeys, which led them to critically engage the British New Left, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, continental hermeneutics, and modern social science. Although MacIntyre and Taylor are not sui generis, Blakely claims they each present a new, revived humanism, one that insists on the creative agency of the human person against reductive, instrumental, technocratic, and scientistic ways of thinking. The recovery of certain key themes in these philosophers’ works generates a new political philosophy with which to face certain unprecedented problems of our age. Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s philosophies give social scientists working in all disciplines (from economics and sociology to political science and psychology) an alternative theoretical framework for conducting research.
Humanity has sat at the center of philosophical thinking for too long. The recent advent of environmental philosophy and posthuman studies has widened our scope of inquiry to include ecosystems, animals, and artificial intelligence. Yet the vast majority of the stuff in our universe, and even in our lives, remains beyond serious philosophical concern.
In Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, Ian Bogost develops an object-oriented ontology that puts things at the center of being—a philosophy in which nothing exists any more or less than anything else, in which humans are elements but not the sole or even primary elements of philosophical interest. And unlike experimental phenomenology or the philosophy of technology, Bogost’s alien phenomenology takes for granted that all beings interact with and perceive one another. This experience, however, withdraws from human comprehension and becomes accessible only through a speculative philosophy based on metaphor.
Providing a new approach for understanding the experience of things as things, Bogost also calls on philosophers to rethink their craft. Drawing on his own background as a videogame designer, Bogost encourages professional thinkers to become makers as well, engineers who construct things as much as they think and write about them.
The Aesthetics of Espionage
The world of international politics has been recently rocked by a seemingly endless series of scandals involving auditory surveillance: the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping is merely the most sensational example of what appears to be a universal practice today. What is the source of this generalized principle of eavesdropping?All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage traces the long history of moles from the Bible, through Jeremy Bentham’s “panacoustic” project, all the way to the intelligence gathering network called “Echelon.” Together with this archeology of auditory surveillance, Szendy offers an engaging account of spycraft’s representations in literature (Sophocles, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, Borges), opera (Monteverdi, Mozart, Berg), and film (Lang, Hitchcock, Coppola, De Palma).Following in the footsteps of Orpheus, the book proposes a new concept of “overhearing” that connects the act of spying to an excessive intensification of listening. At the heart of listening Szendy locates the ear of the Other that manifests itself as the originary division of a “split-hearing” that turns the drive for mastery and surveillance into the death drive.