Alexis Shotwell

(Samedi – McGill Leacock 232 – 17:30)

Eating entanglements: What to do when it is impossible to do the right thing.

This paper investigates the claim that embodiment produces ethical implication. What is the experience of recognizing ourselves as impossibly situated in interdependent relationships of suffering? I argue that to be embodied is to be placed, sustained, affected by the world, and in turn to affect the world. I fill out the ethical demands embodiment implies, and particularly think about the ethical entanglement of one’s body with suffering bodies that at first pass seem to be quite far away. To say we are we are entangled is to say we have responsibilities by virtue of our relationships with near and distant others. Although these responsibilities arise from our particular and situated context — our individual lives — they are not resolvable individually. An ethical approach aiming for personal purity is inadequate in the face of the complex and entangled situation in which we in fact live. Individualism, in the context of relations perceptible through considering embodiment, is an ethical problem because it constitutes ethical success as personal purity. Such personal purity is, I argue,  simultaneously inadequate, impossible, and politically dangerous for shared projects of living on earth. While personal purity may be a winnable aim in some ethical situations, is impossible in situations such as energy use and eating. We do better to aim for different sorts of ethical practice more consonant with the entangled and complex situations we meet.


Cette présentation cherche à introduire les conséquences éthiques de la corporéité. Comment notre interdépendance fondamentale avec le monde nous affecte-t-elle et comment affectons-nous à notre tour le monde qui nous entoure? Avoir un corps comporte une forte exigence éthique et il semble que nous soyons lié-e-s par lui à la souffrance d’autres corps, si loin de nous fussent-ils vraiment. Ce réseau de relations tissées entre les corps confirme une responsabilité éthique à l’égard d’autrui et soulève plusieurs questions philosophiques essentielles. Si ces responsabilités éthiques émergent de l’expérience individuelle, elle ne pourront être soldées sans adresser le caractère relationnel de notre existence et impliquent la reconnaissance d’une interdépendance fondamentale.