• StreetlightX
    4.1k
    If you were to hold me personally responsible for, say, it raining last Friday in Bulgaria, then I would probably laugh in your faceS

    Probably, but then, if you were to read past my click-baity OP title, you'd know I'd laugh along too.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    But maybe this is confusing the epistemic issue (risk or not knowing the unintended consequences of an action) with the metaphysical issue (whether actions are indeed mechanical or ‘information in, action out’)?Noah Te Stroete

    Like I said to someone else, this isn't a debate over intention.

    --

    Also, Butler's just a good old fashioned lesbian. The discussion of her title isn't very relevant. Professor Butler would probably be the preferred one, if you neurotic nerds really care that much about it.
  • S
    11.3k
    Probably, but then, if you were to read past my click-baity OP title, you'd know I'd laugh along too.StreetlightX

    Har har. I'm really not a fan of that style of writing. Regrettably I have actually read past the title, but I didn't find much I consider to be of substance or value.
  • thewonder
    377

    I think that this is where to post this.

    While I like and agree with this theory, my qualms with it are that I think that you have assumed that we do have responsibility. That the consequences of an action can not be known before the action is committed calls into question whether or not a person can be held to be responsible for their actions. I assume that we do have a responsibility towards others, but that is merely an assumption. I don't have a proof for this.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    you have assumed that we do have responsibility.thewonder

    I don't believe I have, and furthermore, whether or not we do or do not have responsibility is not very relevant. The question is over what responsibility entails. Whether we have it or not is a separate question, one that I've not asked, nor am particularly interested in here.

    That the consequences of an action can not be knownthewonder

    This is not about knowledge. I've said nothing about knowing - or not - the consequences of an action. The OP is not framed in any epistemic terms.
  • thewonder
    377

    How can it not be relevent? If we don't have responsibility then we are not responsible for what is outside of our control. The "question" over "what responsibility entails" assumes that we do have responsibility. As I've stated before, I think that the statement by Arendt can be interpreted so as to simply call responsibility into question. It's not that she was suggesting this, but it can be interpreted in such a manner.

    That the consequences of an action can not be known is what Arendt was suggesting. You do some thing and it all just sort of butterflies out from there. I'm not trying to get into an Epistemological discussion, I am just merely pointing out that there is an Ethical crisis of intention.

    If you think that it can just be accepted as a given that we do have responsibility and don't care to respond to this, then, that's fair enough. I do accept such things as a given, but I'm not necessarily convinced that we have responsibility has been proven abstractly.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    You're simply collapsing knowledge, intention, and action into one big blob. There things are not the same, and it is not very useful to treat them as such,

    And I take it as self-evident that speculating what something entails does not require it's instantiation. Existence does not follow conception, as anyone minimally familiar with the standard reply to the ontological argument understands.
  • S
    11.3k
    The question is over what responsibility entails.StreetlightX

    Then maybe a better title would be, "What Does Responsibility Entail?". And the answer would be something like, "Responsibility entails a duty to act within your power to do what's right or face the consequences".
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    If you were boring and unspecific maybe.
  • S
    11.3k
    If you were boring and unspecific maybe.StreetlightX

    Then what's the question, more specifically, though without rambling in philoso-jargon?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Eh, not a thread for you I guess.
  • S
    11.3k
    Eh, not a thread for you I guess.StreetlightX

    No, not if the question can't be simplified and made clear, which it almost always can. It's a choice.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    It's a choice.S

    Yep.
  • thewonder
    377

    How have I collapsed them all into a big blob? The question, "Are we responsible for our actions?", arises out of that we can not know the consequences of our actions. I would argue that for a person to be held accountable for their actions, that their intentions are relevent. The crisis of intention arises out of that we can not know what the consequences of an action are before the act is committed. One can not act in an Ethically valid sense abstractly. One tests Ethics by acting. Ethics is more of an experimental process than it is an ontology. I'm trying to hash this out with myself for long enough for you to see what I mean about it, but I feel like we might just be talking at cross paths. I don't think that I have confused action with knoweldge or intention, but, as I really haven't parcelled this all out myself, I can't quite give you too much of a delineation to explain what I mean about Ethics as I am just simply currently unsure.
  • Number2018
    273
    Responsibility enters precisely at the point at which our actions exceed us.StreetlightX
    Doubtless, Butler and Arendt accounts of responsibility are correct. Nevertheless,
    they are incomplete: Sartre laid out a different outlook on what is under our control. Each of our actions has two levels: the first one maintains our intimate tie with action, and what makes it our possibility is an ability to interrupt the action, stop ourselves. “This possibility of interrupting the action is rejected on a second level by the fact that the action which discovers itself to me through my act tends to crystallize as a transcendent, relatively independent form. The consciousness of man in action is non-reflective consciousness. It is consciousness of something, and the transcendent which discloses itself to this consciousness is of a particular nature: it is a structure of exigency in the world, and the world correlatively discloses in it complex relations of instrumentality”. While acting, we inevitably contain ourselves within the unforeseen chain of consequences, relations, or commitments, which are definitely out of our control. Yet, we are still responsible for our behavioral patterns. It does not mean that we have to make an explicit decision at every moment about how to behave. Instead, the ability to interrupt our actions manifests our control over the motives that we find ourselves within. The character, existing through our given or chosen projects, forms the motives.
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    @StreetlightXPassing thought. I don't know if you've read much David Foster Wallace. I was a devotee for while. He was obsessed with (I'd also say scared of) solipsism. He also had a style of writing that allowed for no ambiguity, that sought to anticipate in advance the readers' reactions, and to address those reactions, often within the same sentence. A lot of people - myself included - found that this gave him a a sense of trustworthiness - 'he respects my intelligence, he sees me as an equal.' But the effect is exactly to neutralize the kind of responsibility your talking about. In Arendt's terminology, he was creating works while refusing action. But in this very precise way, where the work simulated action. It's sad to look back and realize he was simply doing a hyper-sophisticated version of a simple sales technique ('This method changed my life, made me rich. But look, this isn't a 'get rich quick scheme'. It's not that easy. [I'm no huckster, listener, you who would recognize a huckster] Instead...')

    In addition : There is a huge internet-age trend of doing action-y things, but only in ways where the outcome - the response - is guaranteed in advance. I mean making these performative gestures that would have been considered 'radical' 20-40 years ago but which are de rigeur now, while asking they be treated as radical.

    It really does feel like the sphere of 'action' in Arendt's sense is lessening. [rib about groundbreaking theory and its academic recapture while still laying claim to 'radicality']
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    In Arendt's terminology, he was creating works while refusing action. But in this very precise way, where the work simulated action. ... It really does feel like the sphere of 'action' in Arendt's sense is lessening.csalisbury

    There's an Italian philosopher, Paolo Virno, who argues that one of the transformations that's happened since Arendt's time is that work has more and more taken on the aspects of action. For Virno, where work (/labour) once was defined in terms of producing an end product which was then sent out into the world (you produce a kettle, and now it's someone else's kettle, and they can do as they like with it), work is now ever more modelled on the category of performance: the results of work now coincide with the performance of work itself (think of social media stars whose work - the 'product' - just is their performance. There's no separate, distinct, end-product that gets detached from the labour of work itself).

    Virno uses the pianist Glenn Gould to make the point, but I'd wager that DFW fits that bill too: the attempt to anticipate is just this attempt to prolong the performance 'into' the work (using Virno's terminology, DFW might be considered a 'post-Fordist' labourer). Anyway, this makes me think that this all might have some pretty consequent ramifications for responsibility, in that it kinda throws the whole notion into a kind of crisis of intelligibility: if responsibility requires, as a condition of its being, a relation to what is not in our control, the drive to subsume everything into the ambit of our control (a socio-cultural shift as much as a matter of individual psychology (?) like DFW) means that we can no longer think in terms of responsibility. Not that we are 'not responsible' for things, but that responsibility loses it's coherency as a concept altogether. The 'material conditions' that underwrite it have given way (or are eroding, at least).

    (I think here of the politics of/around Youtube, which is perpetually responsible and not-responsible for all sorts of things, from radicalizing teenagers, to demonitizing LGBTQI content for the sake of advertising, etc etc.)
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    I read a little bit of Virno in school. Mostly faded now, but I think that makes sense, dfw was definitely a 'virtuoso.'

    So using Arendts terms again here:

    If the workis now usually a performance, and if that performance is increasingly a performance of action, which means there's not really action, or responsibility, just in the way you say....at a certain point doesn't this endless cycle of work-as-performance-of-action cross over and just become a new layer of labor, tilling a weird soil which is enriched by the breakdown of work and action?
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    I'm gonna let myself float out a little here, but in the way (Arendt's) labor is the ebb and flow of biological life in relation to the earth, this new labor would be something like a way of modulating and regulating emotions in order to forestall the trauma of realizing that we're increasingly ceding control to impersonal systems ( the market, the AI-ing of everything) so no one is in control. It would be the labor of sustaining a sort of emotional 'greenhouse' (Sloterdijk) where we act out the simulation of concerted teamwork, hierarchy etc in order to satisfy basic emotional needs related to community, authority, united efforts toward some goal.

    It wouldn't be able to last forever though, because after a while we'd use up the nutrients, and it would be impossible not to recognize that the bits of the old world we've been using to sustain our belief that that world persists would seem more and more mysterious/arbitrary and referentless (like old virtues to the thinkers in the age of the enlightenment, say)

    maybe some future Alasdair Macintyre would try to piece it all back together, years later, and for people who seem,algorithmically, likely to be interested, the AI could automatically relocate them into communes where they could try to live as the responsibilists of yore once did.
  • christian2017
    444


    The OP sounds like what alot of Scientific Determininists and Calvinists (predestination) believe. I wish i could say it wasn't true.
  • thewonder
    377

    I read A Grammar of the Multitude a while ago and remember thinking that it was pretty good. When the World Becomes Flesh is great, but I really didn't understand it.

    I don't quite see how labor conditions under post-Fodist Capital dissolve responsibility. You're actually held to more of a standard. Even a dishwasher has to be some sort of artist. The pressure to perform is inane. Responsibility becomes distorted under post-Fordist Capital so as to be equated with service as an art form.


    The plausability of this is somewhat unsettling. I'm not sure how I feel about being in a commune directed by a Neo-Aristotlean, even a Leftist one.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    I don't quite see how labor conditions under post-Fodist Capital dissolve responsibility. You're actually held to more of a standard. Even a dishwasher has to be some sort of artist. The pressure to perform is inane. Responsibility becomes distorted under post-Fordist Capital so as to be equated with service as an art form.thewonder

    The basic idea is that if it's true that responsibility has a constitutive link to what escapes control, then the breaking of that link (so that responsibility and control become coextensive) equally implies the breakdown of the concept of responsibility. When what you call the 'pressure to perform' becomes all encompassing, the sphere of responsibility expands without limit and effectively collapses: responsible for everything, you are effectively responsible for nothing.* Responsibility lies in the tension sustained between what we control and what we do not, and when one of those poles collapses, so too does the very idea of responsibility.

    *(I think again of social media performers - or anyone, really - who get called out for saying the wrong thing by hundreds and thousands of anonymous netizens: how does one respond in a way commensurate to that? One releases a tweet 'taking responsibility' and apologizing for one's words - but what can this mean any longer? Isn't this more performance? More labour?)

    One other way to think about is in terms of 'state of emergency' discourses. As understood by certain legal theorists, in states of emergencies, we are held accountable (to the law) without being held accountable to any particular law. In Giorgio Agamben's terms, we are held accountable to the 'form' of the law, emptied of any content. Such a situation is particularly dangerous because it is a particular form of 'anything goes', but in a way that's sanctioned by law (thus distinguishing it from pure anarchy).

    With respect to responsibility, one can say something similar is occurring: we are held ever more accountable to the form of responsibility without being held accountable for any one thing in particular. With work coinciding with performance and control being ever more absolutized, there is no longer any space of 'non-control' in relation to which responsibility becomes intelligible. Hence a kind of diffusion of responsibility which makes us both absolutely responsible, while at the same time emptying responsibility of any content.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    One thought I keep coming back to is something like a foreclosure of ethics or an impossibility of ethics: if - and this is a big if - ethics is in some way premised on the possibility of responsibility, and if - another one - responsibility is itself becoming more and more destitute, one ramification is the impossibility of ethics. In a world where responsibility is so diffuse as to be rendered inoperative, then ethics too becomes unintelligible. Not that we can't 'act ethically' in a kind of everyday sense: murder bad, graciousness good and so on, but that these injunctions lose their bearing as relations between humans (acting responsibly to and for another) and become instead stultified rules, a juridicalization of ethics, or ethics become legalist.

    This is a pretty totalizing thought, but I think it's worth considering as a pole of a tedency at work in a kind of world-historical drift. And if I can 'float' a bit more, I imagine there are a few ways to respond to this condition too: one is greenhouse you write of, or else and together with the escapist communes (of noble savages? Thinking Brave New World); another is a grasping of the nettle and a ('willed') devaluation of ethics in favour of politics: if ethics has gone to shit, shift the focus to communal world building, to reengineering the conditions under which we could again relate to one another outside juridical categories, whether in a renewed ethical mode, or simply otherwise. These paths don't exhaust the range of responses, but indicate, if I'm not insane, some possible ones.
  • thewonder
    377
    responsible for everything, you are effectively responsible for nothingStreetlightX

    I like this idea. Although, I wonder if it doesn't have negative consequences. If the overdetermination of responsibility renders the concept meaningless, then the possibility of an ethic becomes somewhat incredible. How are we to cope with that an ethic can not be meaningfully set forward?

    I think again of social media performers - or anyone, really - who get called out for saying the wrong thing by hundreds and thousands of anonymous netizens: how does one respond in a way commensurate to that?StreetlightX

    The concept becomes even further distorted as work becomes blurred into daily life. Social media now requires a maitenance of social capital. People are no longer engaged in a project of free expression, but have rather consigned to maintain the appearance of free expression. Everyone is expected to be an idiosyncratic individual, and, yet, no one is really free to engage in the development of an authentic (to borrow a Heideggerian term that I don't fully agree with) Self.

    I had a gig as a dishwasher at a vegan café a few years back where I was sort of expected to cultivate a personality as a young hip bohemian along with my regular duties at work. I found for the experience to be somewhat absurd. I am somewhat of a beatnik, but I didn't want to wear my good band T-shirts while washing the dishes because I didn't want to get them soiled. It only seemed to make sense to me to wear whatever I picked up from Goodwill to work since it was just going to get splashed. The pressure to maintain boho chic airs was unnecessarily stress inducing. The whole experience of working in that place was rather anomic. It was supposed to be a left-wing Liberal vegan café, but the first thing that my manager told me upon hiring me was that, "I have hired a lot of people, and I have fired a lot of people." and that he was also a lawyer. He was basically suggesting that he could fire me at will. He was from L.A. and, so, maybe such conduct is somehow more tolerable there. Strangely enough, I did actually cultivate a personality as an artist centered around washing the dishes. I wrote a deconstructed conceptual noise album centered around a theory that I developed that the dishwasher is the Abstract Machine. Whoever washes the dishes controls the flow of the entire establishment. They are always washed correctly. What the dishwasher actually does is to alleviate the stress of work by creating a rhythm with which to allow for a kind of meditation while at work. Dishwashers are the last line of defence between ubiquitous false consciousness and the natural desire to live and work as one pleases. Real subsumption in the service industry is only impossible because the dishes will just simply need to be washed. Because the rhythm that one generates while washing the dishes well is invariably preferable to any other way of working, a good dishwasher will always wage some form of informal strike when management demands that the back of house works at a pace that is out of sync with the rhythm. The necessity of having a dishwasher is actually what, in part, prevents post-Fordist Capital from becoming Fascist. There is no way around that the dishes will need to washed and that a rhythm will be found.

    With respect to responsibility, one can say something similar is occurring: we are held ever more accountable to the form of responsibility without being held accountable for any one thing in particular. With work coinciding with performance and control being ever more absolutized, there is no longer any space of 'non-control' in relation to which responsibility becomes intelligible. Hence a kind of diffusion of responsibility which makes us both absolutely responsible, while at the same time emptying responsibility of any content.StreetlightX

    I liked what you had to say about this as well. I've read a lot of Agamben, but don't quite understand enough of it yet to really put forth a response. The legal situation that he describes seems, to me, to necessitate that live is lived as a form of strike in a somewhat negative sense. You have to wage a living strike in order to maintain that you are not subject to a form of Law without content in order to prevent that your 'right' to exist does not get called into question as an exceptional case. It's sort of like a version of The Trial where Josef K is a political radical.

    As this applies to responsibility, I think that the "Che voui?" of Lacanian Psychoanalysis expresses the feeling that this invokes. The diffusion of responsibility paradoxically results in anxiety. Perhaps a positive ethic could be invoked from that there are no longer concrete terms with which to understand responsibility, but I don't know that you would argue that one should be.

    You can go on from any one of those points if you care to. I'm reasonably well read, but self-taught and, so, only have so much of a grasp on anything. I am curious as to what you have to say, though.

    Edit: I later decided that the dishwasher just an abstract machine and not The Abstract Machine, but since I haven't officially released that album really I think that I'm just going to change that without telling anyone aside from you people here at The Philosophy Forum.
  • Number2018
    273
    Recently, Judith Butler further developed her account on responsibility. She discussed various aspects of a question that Adorno posed: “Can one lead a good life
    in a bad life?” Butler assumes that there are different modes of life involved here: my own life, “a good life” as a moral directive, and
    ”a bad life” as a vast complex of our social, economic, and biological living conditions. “The life I am living is already connected with broader networks of life…My own life depends on a life that is not mine, not just a life of the other, but a broader social and economic organization of life…They constitute who I am. If we might still think about what a good life might be, we can no longer think of it exclusively in terms of the good life of the individual”. (Butler, Notes Toward A Performative Theory Of Assembly). Sharing with Adorno the idea that the pursuit of the good life is possible just through resistance, Butler, nevertheless, stresses the importance of taking part in the protest collective actions. If my individuality is entirely determined by different regimes of power, just “radical democracy’s
    movements can articulate what it might mean to lead a good life in the sense of a livable life.” Therefore, my personal responsibility is in becoming a part of an appropriate social movement struggle. Adorno himself proposed a different notion of responsibility and resistance. He thought that we are still able to create our own individual space: “This resistance to what the world has made of us does not imply merely an opposition to the external world…We ought also to mobilize our own powers of resistance in order to resist those parts of us that are tempted to join in.”
    (Adorno, Minima Moralia).
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    if ethics has gone to shit, shift the focus to communal world building, to reengineering the conditions under which we could again relate to one another outside juridical categories, whether in a renewed ethical mode, or simply otherwise. These paths don't exhaust the range of responses, but indicate, if I'm not insane, some possibleStreetlightX

    That's an interesting and dizzying thought. reengineering conditions - when the current condition is the breakdown of those bedrock-seeming values that one would usually reach for to orient any sort of engineering project - sounds like something that could spiral down a recursive Nietzschean hole, the transvaluation (of transvalution (of ..))

    If you're envisioning something different that a restoration (brave new world thing) then this would have be the creation of something new. I know this is nitpicky (and I'm not sure you used the word literally) but wouldn't it have to be less a matter of 'engineering' and more a matter of *cultivating* present (pregnant) conditions for (the realization of) new conditions?

    If so, what would that kind of politics consist of?

    My first thought was something that I realized, reflecting, was very gelassenheit-y, and that's no good because we know how well that worked out.

    My next thought is just trying to participate in the political field, not to some determinate end, but to struggle to push the tension of the political field in the right direction, and sustain oneself in doing this, in order that when some event precipitates those new conditions, they will be more likely to be good ones.

    What were you thinking of in terms of politics? something similar or no?
  • Janus
    8.1k
    My first thought was something that I realized, reflecting, was very gelassenheit-y, and that's no good because we know how well that worked out.csalisbury

    Given that Heidegger's notion of gelassenheit translates as something like "letting be" or "releasement", I'm wondering what you are referring to with this comment. Not national socialism, surely?
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    I don't want to derail too much into the hedi/nazi thing, but yeah that is what I was thinking of. I like Heidegger a lot (a lot!) and I'm not one of those whos keen to throw the baby out with the bathwater -- but I think his engagement with politics is bathwater, so, when talking about politicsI think we should look to other thinkers.That's all.
  • Janus
    8.1k
    Fair enough! I won't ask for any further explanation. :smile:
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    If you're envisioning something different that a restoration (brave new world thing) then this would have be the creation of something new. I know this is nitpicky (and I'm not sure you used the word literally) but wouldn't it have to be less a matter of 'engineering' and more a matter of *cultivating* present (pregnant) conditions for (the realization of) new conditions?

    If so, what would that kind of politics consist of?
    csalisbury

    I guess my personal framework is a largely (radical?) democratic one: if responsibility really has become so diffuse, then democratize responsibility. That is, locate responsibility on a societal/structural level, rather than an individual one, and approach 'control' similarly. This is, I imagine, quite close to what Butler is getting at in the quotes provided by @Number2018, although I've not read later Butler myself. Butler aside, I understand this largely in terms of cultivating and engineering widely accessible means and mechanisms of societal participation and 'self'-control.

    This itself may translate in different ways, but one way in particular would be rather anti-capitalist approach, or at least an approach which would not enshrine capital accumulation as the one and only means of such participation, which is largely what's what we have today ('vote with your dollars'). Another, complimentary one might be an anti-statist or para-statist one: a need to understand democratic politics in a way that's not just a contest over state control. A democratic politics that would look nothing like what we have now. Insofar as we're talking social media, democratize data, for a start? Alternatively, disrupt and jam: flood the dataways with bullshit. That would have to be a coordinated effort.

    And what's the best way to go about all this? I'm not sure. Insurrection, revolution, reformation? I have a rough idea of an ideal: I'm torn on how to get there. Disoriented. One thing I'm convinced of is that ethics won't save us. I can diagnose better than I can strategise.
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