Dissertation Abstract




The Ethics Of Corporeality: A Study of
the Phenomenological and Pragmatic Significance

of the Human Body


Burns, Lawrence



Degree:         Ph.D.

Year:             2005

Pages:            00275

Institution:      University of Toronto (Canada); 0779


Source:           DAI, 66, no. 06A (2005): p. 2242

Standard No:      ISBN:             0-494-02871-8



This dissertation originates out of my conviction that philosophy has not sufficiently grasped the ethical significance of the human body. Building on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, I show that ethical responsibility consists in my unique, non-transferable obligation to justify myself to the other who confronts me with her suffering and demands justice. In other words, ethical responsibility requires that I be regarded as a singularity who is uniquely capable of repairing the problematic norms of interaction that have caused the other to suffer. My elucidation of the ethical significance of the body and of singularity is original in that I combine a phenomenological and a pragmatic orientation to human subjectivity. Furthermore, I provide a fresh perspective on bioethical problems such as autonomy, beneficence, and the genetic basis of human identity.

          From a phenomenological standpoint, I focus on the intentionality of the lived body as developed by Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. However, while it is constitutive of one element of the subject's singularity, the concept of intentionality cannot serve as the foundation for the particular pragmatic relation that generates ethical responsibility. Thus, I extend Levinas' view of enjoyment, suffering, and communication to show that ethics is a pragmatic relation of justification between embodied human subjects. Pragmatics is the study of how language-users orient themselves to one another in a concrete context of interaction. I examine the philosophical development of pragmatics in linguistics, in the pragmatism of C. S. Peirce and G. H. Mead, and in Jürgen Habermas' discourse ethics, and I develop a Levinasian pragmatics that shares Peirce's pragmatist conception that reflection responds to concrete problems affecting particular communities. According to my pragmatic phenomenology, being a witness to the breakdown of interaction (i.e., a problem) imposes upon the subject the singular responsibility to repair the norms of interaction that caused the problem. However, the experience of my unique obligation does not preclude the need for consensus or the development of universal rules. Indeed, it may demand such things. Nonetheless, the cooperative search for universal rules begins with the recognition that the rule that will repair the other's suffering is yet to be constructed and that I must seek to do so for the sake of the other.



Descriptor:       PHILOSOPHY

Accession No:     AAINR02871

Provider:        OCLC

Database:         Dissertations