Risk, Dignity and Fragility: Searching for a New Ethics – Appel à contribution

Stella-Plage, Pas-de-Calais, "fleur"Du 29 au 31 août prochain aura lieu à l’Université d’Angers un colloque international et interdisciplinaire ayant pour objet l’éthique du XXIème siècle. Dans quelle mesure l’éthique du XXIème siècle doit-elle prendre en compte une vision du monde et de nous-mêmes en constante mutation? Comment concevoir l’éthique étant donné les incertitudes, le mouvement incessant et l’instabilité du monde actuelle dans lequel nous vivons? Un appel à contribution vient d’être lancé, ouvert jusqu’au 15 juillet, afin de discuter d’une nouvelle conception de l’éthique basée sur les concepts de risque, de responsabilité et de fragilité. Des questions très intéressantes seront envisagées à travers différents thèmes que vous trouverez dans la présentation du colloque ci-dessous. Je partagerai également le programme dès qu’il sera disponible. Pour plus d’informations sur l’appel à contribution, et pour proposer votre contribution, rendez-vous sur Calenda!

This trans-disciplinary research project is interested in exploring the nature and structure of an ethics for the 21st century. Ethics has most often been founded on a concept of the self as an agent that is secure, self-confident, and in control and on a view of the world as stable, unchanging and thus as knowable and predictable. Yet contemporary culture shows us a very different view of ourselves and of our environment. Caught up in a world in constant change where borders and boundaries, conditions and contexts are constantly changing and uncertainty is the norm, we find ourselves insecure, vulnerable as forces beyond our control direct and frame the moral decisions that we face. How must ethics be reconceived in light of our shifting ideals of the self and the world? Can there be an ethics under the conditions of uncertainty, flux, and instability?

This project takes up these questions considering how a new ethics for the 21st century might be envisioned and how it might be practiced.  Raising potent questions that engage in critical deliberations on alternative practices, pedagogies, performances, politics and processes it explores the development of new ethical frameworks grounded on the concepts of risk, responsibility and fragility.

We invite colleagues from all disciplines and professions interested in exploring and explaining these issues in a collective, deliberative and dialogical environment to send presentation proposals that address these general questions or the following themes: 

Flux: A World in Motion

Traditionally, ethics has been grounded in a view of the world as something stable and solid – something known, knowable and thus predictable. However, scientific changes, technological advancements, social transformations, cultural shifts and political innovations have revealed the world to be in constant flux.

  • How might we negotiate flux, change, fluidity, liquidity, and mutability as crucial dimensions of ethics?
  • We increasingly live nomadic lives, transitioning cultural and political boundaries, finding ourselves members of transitory communities. Can an ethics be developed that allows for this mobility?
  • How much flexibility can an ethics sustain? How much flexibility should it sustain?
  • How do we explain the resistance to acknowledging the transitory nature of human existence?
  • What new vocabularies must be developed in order to capture the flux that shapes the decisions we make and the lives we choose to live? What new discourses are emerging to capture this element of decision-making?
  • Does the recognition of the flux of the world necessitate our adoption of some form of relativism? Why or why not?
  • Are there trends and fashions in theory just as in clothing and décor?
  • Can an ethics be sustained in a world that lacks stability?
  • Are teleologies any longer conceivable in a world in which the consequences of our actions can never be known?

Reasonable Persons, Rational Minds

The development of an ethics seems to necessitate belief that agents and subjects are rational. Is such a belief well founded?

  • Is rationality a necessary condition for the possibility of an ethics?
  • Is the claim that individuals are rational well founded?
  • What underlies and informs the need for ethics to deny irrational decision-making?
  • What is the role of desire in considerations of what is good and bad, right and wrong?
  • Does rational thought necessarily result in moral decision making? Does it result in just conclusions?
  • What are the implications of the recognition that ethics is not founded on rational thought?
  • Does acknowledgment of our irrationality negate the conditions for the possibility of deontologies?

Fragile Selves

The model of the self-sufficient, independent rational agent has framed our understanding of ethics and our practice of decision-making.

  • Must ethics be grounded in a conception of the moral agent as ultimately self-sufficient?
  • How might an ethics be developed premised on the concept of fragility?
  • How might recognition rather than denial of our anxieties reconfigure our understanding of ethical choices?
  • How would recognition of our vulnerabilities rather than our self-sufficiencies and mastery shift our understanding of ethical decision-making and of moral agency?

Interaction, Interdependence and Collaboration: Evolving A New Ethics

The independence of moral agents to make decisions and to suffer the consequences of their actions has been upended in contemporary culture.

  • Is an ethics premised on individualism possible? Why or why not?
  • How might the recognition of the inevitable intertwining of our desires, lives and projects change our conceptions of ethics? How might an ethics based on intersubjectivity be developed?
  • What opportunities exist for revitalizing/re-envisioning community engagement?
  • What challenges do we face regarding the development of an ethics as the intertwining of cultures and the meshing of values?
  • How might we envision an ethics grounded on collaboration?
  • What forces encourage and produce internal and external clashes and collisions at the intersections of value systems, beliefs, ideologies and political processes?

On (the) Edge: The Dynamics of Risk

As certainty and rationality give way, a new ethics that recognizes and embraces risk seems to be necessitated.

  • Does risk negate the conditions for the possibility of ethics?
  • How might our notions of risk be broadened beyond considerations of mere danger, threat and insecurity?
  • How does recognition of the inevitability of risk change how we understand transgression, coercion, complicity and conversion? 

The Language of Rights, The Institution of Law

We have witnessed the codification of ethics through the language of rights and the implementation of moral principles across diverse populations via the institution of law.

  • What have we gained and what have we lost from the creation and expansion of the language of rights?
  • What alternative discursive practices might be developed for ethics?
  • What have we gained and what have we lost from the legalization of ethics?
  • How might ethics be reconceived if rather than focusing on rights it focuses on responsibilities?
  • How might a new ethics be developed grounded in the discourse of dignity?

An Era of Uncertainty

Ethics has been premised on a sense of certainty – certainty about the nature of subjectivity, certainty about the world and about our place in it. Yet the world we encounter is one in which uncertainty seems the norm.

  • What role has certainty played in framing traditional ethical theories?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting this attitude towards ourselves, others and the world in trying to determine how to act?
  • Can there be an ethics without a sense of certainty? How would it be structured?
  • What would be the relative strengths and weaknesses of grounding an ethics in uncertainty?

Crédits photographiques: Stella-Plage, Pas-de-Calais, « fleur », par Vincent Desjardins, Licence CC-BY.


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