The Ethics of Vulnerability
By Erinn Gilson
To Be Published December 30th 2013 by Routledge – 166 pages
As concerns about violence, war, terrorism, and the definition of life have garnered attention in philosophy, the concept of vulnerability has become a shared reference point in these discussions. Vulnerability is emphasized not just because it is a fundamental part of the human condition, but also because it is regarded as having significant ethical import. Yet, very little attention is paid to how we think, talk, and feel about vulnerability and even less theoretical effort has been devoted to elaborating a genuine concept of vulnerability. The main problem with common presumptions about vulnerability is that they are almost exclusively negative, equating the state with weakness, dependency, powerlessness, deficiency, and passivity.
This book provides a systematic account of the ethics of vulnerability, critiquing this reductively negative view, demonstrating how its persistence prevents vulnerability from possessing the normative value many theorists wish it to have, and articulating in instead a richer, more nuanced theory. Gilson then applies this account to the debates over pornography in feminism, thus showing its value for fraught ethical and political issues.
Part 1: The Normative Significance of Vulnerability 1. Responsibility to the Vulnerable 2. Thinking Vulnerability with Judith Butler Part 2: Avoidance and Disavowal: The Problem with Vulnerability 3. The Ideal of an Invulnerable Self 4. Risk and Control: The Emergence of Entrepreneurial Subjectivity Part 3: Rethinking Vulnerability 5. Vulnerability Beyond Opposition 6. Vulnerability in Social Life: Sexuality and Pornography, a case study
Erinn Gilson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Florida, USA.