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Title page for ETD etd-06292015-135839

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wells, Christopher Michael
URN etd-06292015-135839
Title Subjects Between Ethics and Politics
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kelly Oliver Committee Chair
David Wood Committee Member
Ellen Armour Committee Member
Lisa Guenther Committee Member
  • subjectivity
  • ethics
  • politics
Date of Defense 2015-06-22
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the relationship between the concepts of ethics and politics in political theory. It does so by asking how conceptions of subjectivity result in formulations of ethics and politics and what this means for how ethics and politics relate to one another. It identifies two major trends in political theory: The prioritization of ethics over politics, and the prioritization of politics over ethics. It identifies Kant and Rawls as exhibiting the former trend and Marx and Arendt as exhibiting the second trend. Parts I and II deal with these two trends, respectively. In each it is shown that when a theory of the political either ethics or politics is placed in a position of primacy over the other, i.e., when one concept is defined as merely subordinate to, or derivative of, its compliment concept, this results in internal tensions that undermine the stated aims of that theory of the political. Part III claims that Levinas offers an alternative formulation of the relationship between ethics and politics. What sets Levinas apart from the preceding theoretical accounts is the dual character of the subject as ethically and politically responsible. The subject between ethics and politics is, then, the active location of the interplay between ethics and politics. Their relation is found in the active, embodied political subject.

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