Bennett and Ethics (Vibrant Matter Reading Group)

First, I haven’t seen Toy Story 3, but Scu mentions it, so I should note that I heard David Edelstein’s review of the movie on NPR’s Fresh Air, and it may be one of the first SR movie reviews, specifically talking relations to non-human things and the possibility of their relations beyond humans…

I don’t have the time to dive into all the questions Scu raises about normativity and the non-human world, but I did want to mention one thinker not brought into the mix of the reading group who is particularly interesting on this. I know Heidegger’s 29/30 course on animality would seem the last place to go—though there is a particular pleasure one can have reading his tortuous logic for why the animals has a not-having of the world—but he specifically discusses Driesch and von Uexküll, the first discussed more at length in Bennett. And his point is to try to conceive a non-mechanist description of nature, and non-behaviorist accounts of animality (even in their “disinhibiting ring.”) Finally, he needs to define “life”—which, let’s be honest, is the crucial normative question here—and writes, “Only something that is capable, and remains capable, is alive” (237/343). I guess, given his discussion of ethos early on in the book, this would be a capability ethics avant la lettre.

I wanted to bring him into the conversation, though I’m just going to leave it there for now. But I would only point out on thing further. These questions of Scu’s (in his post on all the ethical dilemmas) are non-living and inhuman in Heidegger’s precise sense: they render us incapable: all these disseminations of questions do not, however, paralyze us, but makes all such decisions possible. Where others want a deontology or a utilitarianism—an end to all the questions, a sovereign “having the last word”— opening up these questions is itself an ethos, a non-living, non-human ethos since it is the place of our own incapabilities… Where people want to mock and ask if I mourn for my salad, it’s bad faith in the Sartrean sense: we deny the fundamental decisions always made.