Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy

By Mark Dooley; Richard Kearney | Go to book overview

9

THE ETHICS OF EXCLUSION

Incorporating the Continent

Simon Glendinning

It was a Cambridge affair. At the meeting of the University Congregation in March 1992 an objection to one of the nominations for the degree of doctor honoris causa was lodged by the audible cry of ‘non placet’. A ballot of the Regent House was organised, fly-sheets were circulated and signed. On a Saturday in the middle of May over five hundred members attended the Senate House to register their opinion, voting by personal signature. The ballot was secret, but as members waited for the result it mattered where you stood and with whom you stood. Younger fellows were aware, some painfully aware, that older eyes were watching.

It was a Cambridge affair, yet, as the Regent House was deciding whether or not to award an honorary degree to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, it was never simply or solely so. Derrida’s candidacy (and the fact that his proposal came from outside the Philosophy Faculty) had aroused strong feelings within the University, and the ensuing rumpus attracted wide interest from both the national and international media. Academic opposition to politicians receiving such degrees was rare but at least familiar enough. But a philosopher? What was this smoke from the ivory towers? ‘Dons Ditch Deconstructionist’ might have looked good, if only the lexical background had a circulation approximating that of the newspapers. In fact the event was such that it was not only journalists who sought simplicity where there is none. From the start it was academics (‘certain academics’ as Derrida carefully but pointedly stressed later 1) who most dramatically violated the very standards of intellectual responsibility in whose name the non placet had been voiced.

The terms of criticism were by no means new. Indeed, for the ‘non placeters’ the ‘Derrida affair’ was playing out a familiar drama of British letters in its relation to ‘Continental’ contacts. As Nicholas Denyer put it, for Derrida’s opponents this was just another case where a French thinker was being ‘acclaimed by many British intellectuals in spite of reservations among their philosophically educated compatriots’ (ibid., p. 103). While

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Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Hermeneutics 3
  • 1 - Memory and Forgetting 5
  • 2 - Imagination, Testimony and Trust 12
  • 3 - Narrative and the Ethics of Remembrance 18
  • References 32
  • 4 - The Politics of Memory 33
  • 5 - Ethics and Lifeworlds 44
  • Part II - Deconstruction 63
  • 6 - Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility 65
  • Notes 83
  • 7 - Reason, History, and a Little Madness 84
  • 8 - The Experience of the Ethical 105
  • 9 - The Ethics of Exclusion 120
  • Notes 130
  • Part III - Critical Theory 133
  • 10 - Three Normative Models of Democracy 135
  • 11 - The Problem of Justice in a Multicultural Society 145
  • Notes 161
  • 12 - Enlightenment and the Idea of Public Reason 164
  • 13 - Paradigms of Public Reason 181
  • Part IV - Psychoanalysis 199
  • 14 - In the Name-Of-The-Father 201
  • 15 - Revolt Today? 220
  • 16 - The Original Traumatism 230
  • Part V - Applications 243
  • 17 - Some Enlightenment Projects Reconsidered 245
  • 18 - Questioning Autonomy 258
  • 19 - From Ethics to Bioethics 283
  • Index 294
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