An Anthropology of Ethics (New Departures in Anthropology) by James D. Faubion

By James D. Faubion

Via an formidable and significant revision of Michel Foucault's research of ethics, James Faubion develops an unique application of empirical inquiry into the moral area. From an anthropological point of view, Faubion argues that Foucault's specification of the analytical parameters of this area is the most efficient aspect of departure in conceptualizing its certain positive factors. He extra argues that Foucault's framework is wanting huge revision to be of certainly anthropological scope. In making this revision, Faubion illustrates his software with prolonged case experiences: one in every of a Portuguese marquis and the opposite of a twin topic made from the writer and a millenarian prophetess. the result's a conceptual gear that's in a position to accommodate moral pluralism and yield an account of the boundaries of moral version, supplying a singular answer of the matter of relativism that has haunted anthropological inquiry into ethics for the reason that its inception.

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It is a managerial science. In systems-theoretic terms, its principles and practices are those of system-maintenance. Its ends must be prevailingly homeostatic, since the polis, for an Aristotle who proves once again to be something other than modern, is already perfect and thus in principle at least permits of no further improvement. Politikeˆ has ethics as one of its cardinal concerns because the maintenance of the polis requires the existence of citizens equipped intellectually with the judgment to govern it and characterologically with the dispositions affinate to the civilization it realizes.

What I seek to register with that distinction is an important and related series of cognitive, affective, semiotic, pragmatic and structural differences between the more ecological and dynamic and the more homeostatic and reproductive aspects of ethical autopoiesis – the becoming and maintenance of the ethical subject. My fashioning of it has certain elements in common with Jarrett Zigon’s recently circulating intuition that ethics is peculiarly visible in moments of “moral breakdown” (Zigon 2007), but ultimately differs from his own distinction between the ethical and the moral both semantically and diagnostically.

The schematic links the carnal asceticism of Plato’s Socrates with the wisdom of Ischomachus, the exemplar of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus (1923), whose estate runs quite so smoothly because, after properly training his wife in the arts of domestic management, he allows himself to become her theraponta, her “servant” (1923: 429 [Oec. 3]). Contrastively, it links the degenerate kinaidoi whose sexual vices are barely mentionable even in unmixed company to all the men whose cravings or whose wives are beyond their control.

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