The Ethics of the Event: Deleuze and Ethics without Aρχή

Levi R. Bryant

in Deleuze and Ethics

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641178
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671731 | DOI:
The Ethics of the Event: Deleuze and Ethics without Aρχή

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In 2007, Governor Rick Perry of Texas issued an executive order requiring all girls in the sixth grade (between the ages of 11 and 12) to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, no sooner than the new vaccines were announced did controversies begin to swirl. This chapter uses this little vignette from Texas politics both as a launching point for a criticism of how we currently discuss ethics, and to underline some salient features of ethical ‘phenomenology’. It argues that the dominant traditions of ethical thought are almost entirely useless with respect to genuine ethical problems, and that fundamentally they approach the question and problem of ethics from the wrong side, focusing as they do on rule-based models of ethical deliberation. The HPV vaccine controversy is a sort of parable for the impotence of this sort of ethical thought — dominated by utilitarian and Kantian deontological models of ethical deliberation — fit only for classroom exercises where students are made to apply abstract rules and principles that have little bearing on the sort of situations that evoke ethical controversy. In place of these transcendent rule-based models of ethical deliberation where everything is known in advance, the chapter proposes a problem-based model of ethical composition without pre-existing αρχή or foundation, where the ethical is not understood as the application of pre-existent moral principles to particular situations, but is conceived as the emergence of a problem and the re-composition of a collective undertaken in response to this problem. The chapter draws heavily on the ethical thought developed by Deleuze in The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition.

Keywords: ethics; ethical phenomenology; ethical thought; utilitarianism; Kantian deontological models; Deleuze; The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition

Chapter.  10432 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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