the being-responsibility connection
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
I just recently finished the introduction to François Raffoul’s The Origins of Responsibility. It has been extremely interesting and enlightening thus far. One of the main points he described in the introduction was the substantial connection within philosophy’s between one’s conception of being and one’s conception of responsibility.
The concept of responsibility has traditionally been associated , if not identified, with accountability, under the authority of a philosophy of free will and causality which itself rests upon a subject-based metaphysics. Responsibility is conceived in terms of causality as ground of the act or the of the event. (p.5)
This tradition can be seen from Aristotle to Kant with Nietzsche as the essential break with this tradition with subsequent philosophy establishing philosophy not subject centered but rather to a historical aware philosophizing. Let me give two examples.
Sartre’s conception of being and responsibility are grounded on the groundlessness of our being. We have no essence except that which we create ourselves. Therefore we have an absolute responsibility as a result, we are called to create ourselves, which then is an example for others to follow. Sartre isn’t interested in creating a list of rules but rather questions the ‘ethicality of ethics’ as Raffoul puts it. Nietzsche shows us the groundlessness of our ethics, so subsequent philosophy must not answer how to be ethical but more importantly why. Why have ethics, how do you establish an ethics without aide of an absolute ground (i.e., God given law, natural law, etc.).
Traditionally our freedom was the ground from which our responsibility stems from, for Levinas it is the opposite. He places our responsibility towards the other as foundational and only then does freedom stem from that.
All this concepts are still rather murky for me, but this connection of how we understand responsibility is tied to how we understand being I find to be very interesting.