Throwing the Moral Dice
Ethics and the Problem of Contingency
Published by: Fordham University Press
288 pages, 152.00 x 228.00 x 0.00 mm, 2 b/w illustrations
- ISBN: 9780823298082
- Published: December 2021
More than a purely philosophical problem, straddling the ambivalent terrain between necessity and impossibility, contingency seems to have become today the very horizon of our everyday life. Often used as a synonym for the precariousness of working conditions under neoliberalism, for the unknown threats posed by terrorism, or for the uncertain future of the planet itself, contingency needs to be calculated and controlled in the name of the protection of life.
The overcoming of contingency is not only called upon to justify questionable mechanisms of political control; it serves as a central legitimating factor for Enlightenment itself. In this volume, nine major philosophers and theorists address a range of questions around contingency and moral philosophy. How can we rethink contingency in its creative aspects, outside the dominant rhetoric of risk and dangerous exposure? What is the status of contingency—as the unnecessary and law-defying—in or for ethics? What would an alternative “ethics of contingency”—one that does not simply attempt to sublate it out of existence—look like?
The volume tackles the problem contingency has always posed to both ethical theory and dialectics: that of difference itself, in the difficult mediation between the particular and the universal, same and other, the contingent singularity of the event and the necessary generality of the norms and laws.
From deconstruction to feminism to ecological thought, some of today’s most influential thinkers reshape many of the most debated concepts in moral philosophy: difference, agency, community, and life itself.
Contributors: Étienne Balibar, Rosi Braidotti, Thomas Claviez, Drucilla Cornell, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Viola Marchi, Michael Naas, Cary Wolfe, Slavoj Žižek
“Act ‘as’ the world wants, or act ‘as if’ the will of the ethical subject were worth the world? We can, I think, escape the trap of this alternative by considering some of the confusion surrounding the notion of ‘necessity.’ All in all, everything is necessary, except the necessity of this necessariness: the laws of the world, while immediately necessary, could be other than they are, such that their necessity is only a contingent local covering of a radical contingency. In any world a truth is created slowly on the basis of a contingency, whose value as exception this truth preserves in the recognizable form of a creation.” ~Alain Badiou, from the Foreword
“We live in uncertainty, and we are not afraid to admit it, but can we say we know that uncertainty—know it well enough to act responsibly in it? This volume boldly reinterprets uncertainty as a symptom of social exclusion, a product of the otherness outside community. Not content to identify justice with the incalculable, Claviez and Marchi explore the mystery of how mere contingencies can give rise to real ethical imperatives. The volume makes an unusual and powerful claim on all serious readers.” ~Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
“Throwing the Moral Dice treats the question of ethics, and thus of community, as intrinsically bound up with contingency in a new and inspiring manner. The scholarship that went into the chapters is erudite and remarkable.” ~Elisabeth Weber, University of California, Santa Barbara
“If contingency is an ambiguous realm, as Roland Barthes once put it, then Claviez and Marchi are its explorers. They have assembled a cast of thinkers whose sometimes radically different perspectives allow us to see how deeply entangled ethics and kairos truly are. They invite us to listen to contingency without judgment and fear by showing us how to disentangle subjecthood from responsibility for agency.” ~Timothy C. Campbell, Cornell University