Poststructural ethics and the possibility of a general ethical theory

Hamman, J. N. (Johannes Nicolaas) (2000-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is concerned with the possibility and characterisation of poststructural ethics and the ethics of general theories. It contains a review of selected readings on Modernity and provides a "snapshot" of an ethical system that is essentially rule based and privileges rationality. Some of the problems with such a system, such as inflexibility, tolerance based on superiority and force and the privileging of male gender is explored. It proceeds by perusing some literature on postmodernity as an open ethical system in which values are free floating and lists of rules are constantly produced and disregarded in a dizzying ethical free for all in which "anything goes". No value is considered more worthwhile than personal survival. As a starting point for reading Modernity and postmodernity together, Levinas introduces a radical perspective on ethics that can be read as a condemnation of postmodern morality. He relates an ethics in which the survival of the "other" is more important than the survival of the self. However, he does not ground the metaphysics of such a privilege in rationality or knowledge and hence does not turn it into an ethical rule, but rather, subtly shifts the responsibility for the other person to an ultimate responsibility for the Other as God. This radical responsibility is rejected by deconstruction which does not reject either postmodernity or Modernity but is an attempt to think through the limits of rule-orientated rationality, free-play and mystical metaphysics to produce an ethical awareness that has a sensitivity for the complexity of context. Through the notion of "writing", the peculiarities it displays and the objections it attracts, Derrida seeks to establish a uniquely ethical writing that is both a stable manifestation of ethics and a dynamic engagement with those subject to it. With these readings in the background the thesis attempts to provide a framework for poststructural ethics. It is an ethics based in the notion of friendship but does not ground itself in any guarantees. It re-evaluates rationality in terms of a sublime struggle for meaning and truth. This sublime struggle offers a unique perspective on political debates that strive towards responsible development for multicultural societies and also on a sociological approach to law and the ability to dispense justice without undue prejudice. The main contention of the thesis is that although poststructuralism does not suppose a grounding metaphysics in either rationality or responsibility towards God it cannot be satisfied with the self-indulgent nihilism of an "anything goes" postmodernism. Thus, it depends on the notion of a "complex system" that "self-organises" and produces limits through spontaneous connections. Through the working of deconstruction complex systems can take on a more human manifestation as friendships flourish and decay through the interaction of faces.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is gemoeid met die moontlikheid en karakterisering van poststrukturele etiek en die etiek van algemene teorië. Dit bevat In geselekteerde oorsig van Moderniteit en verskaf In "kiekie" van In etiese sisteem wat essentieël op reëls gebasseer is en rationaliteit privilegieer. Sommige probleme met so In sisteem, soos byvoorbeeld onbuigsaamheid, verdraagsaamheid gegrond in superioriteit, geweld en die privilegieering van manlikheid, word ondersoek. Die studie sit voort deur sommige literatuur oor postmoderniteit as In oop etiese sisteem onder oë te neem. So In sisteem veronderstel vryvloeiende waardes en lyste van reëls wat gedurig geproduseer en geabandoneer word in In duisligwekkende etiese vryspel wat beskryf kan word as "anything goes". Geen waarde word hoër geag as persoonlike oorlewing nie. As die beginpunt van In lesing wat Moderniteit en postmoderniteit met mekaar in verband bring verskaf Levinas In radikale perspektief op etiek wat verdoemend staan teenoor die moraliteit van postmoderniteit. Hy beskryf In etiek waarin die oorlewing van die "ander" meer belangrik geag word as die oorlewing van die self. Hy grond egter nie die metafisieka van so In voorreg in rationaliteit of kennis nie, en lê dit dus nie neer as In etiese reël nie, maar verskuif eerder op subtitle wyse verantwoordelikheid vir die ander persoon na In uiteindelike verantwoordelikheid vir die Ander as God. Laasgenoemde radikale verantwoordelikheid word deur dekonstruksie verwerp in In poging om postmoderniteit en Moderniteit saam te snoer en die limiete van reël-georiënteerde rationaliteit, vry-spel en mistiese metafisieka deur te dink. Hierdeur word 'n etiese gewaarwording geproduseer wat sensitiviteit vir die kompleksiteite van konteks vertoon. Deur die nosie van "skryf', die eienaardighede en teenkanting daaraan verbonde, is Derrida op soek na die neerlegging van In unike etiese skryf wat beide In stabille manifestasie van etiek is en 'n dinamiese betrokkenheid by die wat daaraan onderhewig staan. Met hierdie leeswerk in die agtergrond poog die tesis om 'n raamwerk vir poststrukturele etiek daar te stel. Dit is In etiek wat as basis die nosie van vriendskap aanvaar sonder om enige waarborge uit te deel. Rationaliteit word gere-evalueer in terme van In sublime stryd vir betekenis en waarheid. Hierdie sublime stryd bring 'n unieke perspektief na politieke debatte wat volhoubare ontwikkeling in multikulturele samelewings ten doel het en vir In sosiologiese benadering tot die reg en regsvaardigheid. Alhoewel poststrukturele etiek nie In metanarratief veronderstel, soos die etiek van Moderniteit, nie kan dit egter ook nie tevrede wees met die destabiliserende nihilisme van 'n "anything goes" postmodernisme nie. Poststrukturele etiek steun dus swaar op die idee van 'n "komplekse sisteem" wat self-organiseer en llrniette stel deur middel van spontane konneksievorming. Deur die werking van dekonstruksie kan so In komplekse sisteem ook in meer menslike terme verwoord word as vriendskappe wat groei en vergaan in die interaksie tussen "gesigte".

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/51883
This item appears in the following collections: