Reading Ethics in the 21 Century (SAMLA, Nov 6 - 8, 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Raina Kostova / SAMLA
contact email: 

SAMLA 2009

Reading Ethics in the 21 Century

Call for Papers

Since Aristotle the understanding of ethics as a branch of philosophy has been defined as a pragmatic rather than a theoretical field: ethics does not simply involve a discussion of virtues, but the practice of "virtual activities." It is concerned, as Sartre later insists, with living "in the world," where one has the individual moral responsibility for the other and for the political structure of society. The personal responsibility to act "ethically" in this case is made possible by the essential freedom of choice of each individual.

French Philosophers of the twentieth century, such as Levinas and Derrida, however, have questioned the individual's freedom of choice in relation to ethics. Levinas posits the intersubjective relationship between human beings, or the "face-to-face" encounter, as "first philosophy." The "I" is always already addressed by another, and has no choice but to respond to that call. Thus responsibility is not the result of a conscious decision but an affective experience which is the prerequisite for any communication. Likewise Derrida emphasizes the limited freedom of choice in relation to ethics: in case of an ethical decision one is obligated – it is his/her duty - to face an impossible decision (of what is just), since justice should be applied according to two controversial requirements—that it considers each case as unique and singular while taking account of the existing rules and laws.

We welcome proposals that address the question of possibility (or impossibility) of ethics in the 21 century. What are some of the specific questions of ethics that haven't been encountered before? Do we have a freedom of choice when it comes to acting ethically? Do the socio-political conditions of the century call for an ethical re-definition of human rights? What are the conditions, if any, for an ethical choice? Is an ethical reading of literature necessary? Do certain texts call for an ethical (re)reading?

Proposals do not need to be limited to contemporary texts, but can address innovative approaches to ethics in literature, philosophy, art of all time periods.

Please send a proposal of no more than 300 words to Submission deadline, May 15, 2009.