Embodiment in Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Law

September 7, 2022 - September 9, 2022
University of Manchester

Arthur Lewis Building, University of Manchester
Manchester
United Kingdom

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Embodiment in Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Law


When: 7th -9th September 2022

Where: Mancept Workshops in Political Theory, University of Manchester.

Format: In-person event

Convenor: Joseph T F Roberts.

Deadline for Abstracts: 20th June 2022


Everyone has a body, and what our bodies are like can have deep and pervasive effects on how we live our lives. How we perceive the world, how we act in it, what we are vulnerable to, and how others perceive and interact with us are all affected by how we are embodied.

Wheelchair users, for example, see the world from a seated position, altering both how they perceive the world and how others perceive them. Obstacles in the built environment can limit wheelchair user’s ability to access particular places and goods, limiting their sphere of action.

Given the extensive influence our embodiment has on our lives, one might expect questions about our embodiment to feature prominently in ethical theory and political philosophy. This, however, has not been the case. Critics of dominant approaches to ethical theory and political philosophy argue that they pay insufficient attention to the deep and ubiquitous effects embodiment has on our lives.

The critics who level these charges at mainstream ethical theory and political philosophy are a somewhat heterogeneous group. They include feminist scholars such as Elizabeth Kingdom,[1] Rosalyn Diprose,[2] and Sherlyn Hamilton;[3] communitarian political philosophers such as Michael Sandel,[4] Charles Taylor,[5] and Alasdair MacIntyre;[6] phenomenologists such as Drew Leder,[7] Fredrik Sveneaus,[8] and S. Kay Toombs;[9] and Foucauldian theorists such as Ian Burkitt,[10] Luna Dolezal,[11] and Cressida Heyes.[12]

Despite their differences, these theorists share the view that dominant approaches to ethics and political philosophy need to be reformed to take our embodied existence as particular human beings seriously; and that doing so requires we explore and pay attention to how people experience their embodiment.

The purpose of this workshop is to consider how we might take account of embodiment in ethical theorising, political philosophy, public policy, and law. We invite contributions addressing questions including, but not limited to:

·       Why does embodiment matter? What are the ethically significant aspects of our embodiment? How does people’s embodiment affect their lives?

·       Are there shared features of all human embodiment such that generalisations are possible, or is how we are embodied irreducibly diverse?

·       How do we acquire knowledge about the ethically significant facts about our own or other people’s embodiment? How can we inquire into other people’s embodiment in an epistemically just way?

·       How do current dominant approaches to ethical theory and political philosophy fail to take account of people’s embodiment?

·       Can contractarian, utilitarian, or deontological approaches to ethics be reformed to take account for embodiment or does taking embodiment seriously require adopting an ethics of care or virtue ethics approach?

·       Why (if at all) does ethical theory, political philosophy, law, and/or public policy need to take account of our embodiment? What grounds this obligation?

·       How can we take account of people’s embodiment in ethical theory, political philosophy, law, and/or public policy? What do we need to do to satisfy the requirement we take adequate account of people’s embodiment?

We welcome contributions from a range of disciplines including philosophy, bioethics, sociology, policy studies, regulatory theory, political science, law, or anthropology so long as the paper engages with the notion of embodiment and why it matters.

Please send abstracts of up to 500 words to [email protected] by Monday the 20th of June. If you have any other queries or would like to discuss your idea before submitting, please do not hesitate to contact me via email.

Confirmation of acceptance will be confirmed by Friday the 25th of June, to enable participants who are graduate students to apply for a fee-waiver bursary. The deadline for bursary applications is the 27th of June. To apply for a bursary, participants will need to send a few sentences outlining their financial and funding situation to: [email protected]. Bursaries are distributed on the basis of need by the Mancept organising panel.

Presenting at the panel will require registering with for the Mancept Workshops. The fees for the Mancept workshops this year are:

Academics: 230 GBP

Postgraduates: 135 GBP

Conference Dinner (7th of September): 30 GBP

For more information about the Mancept Workshops visit their webpage: https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/mancept/mancept-workshops/mancept-workshops-2022/

This panel is organised as part of the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Everyday Cyborg 2.0:  Law’s boundary work and alternative legal futures’ (Grant No: 212507/Z/18/Z). For more information about the project, visit our website: https://blog.bham.ac.uk/everydaycyborgs/  

[1] Kingdom, Elizabeth. (1995) ‘Body Politics and Rights’ in Bridgeman, Jo & Millns, Susan. Law and Body Politics: Regulating the Female Body. Dartmouth Publishing, Aldershot.

[2] Diprose, Rosalyn. (1994) The Bodies of Women: Ethics, Embodiment, and Sexual Difference. Routledge, London.

[3] Hamilton, Sheryl N. (2009) Impersonations: Troubling the Person in Law and Culture. University of Toronto Press, Toronto

[4] Sandel, Michael. (1984) Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. New York University Press, New York. p. 175

[5] Taylor, Charles (1985) Philosophy and the Human Sciences: Philosophical Papers 2. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. p. 190

[6] MacIntyre, Alasdair. (2006) ‘What is a Human Body?’ in The Tasks of Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; MacIntyre, Aladair. (2007) After Virtue. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame Indiana.

[7] Leder, Drew. (1994) ‘A Tale of Two Bodies: The Cartesian Corpse and the Lived Body’ in Leder, Drew (Ed) The Body in Medical Thought and Practice. Springer,

[8] Svenaeus, Fredrik. (2018) Phenomenological Bioethics: Medical Technologies, Human Suffering, and the Meaning of Being Alive. Routledge, Abingdon.

[9] Toombs, S. Hay. (1987) ‘The Meaning of Illness: A Phenomenological Approach to the Patient-Physician Relationship’ The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Vol. 12, pp. 229

[10] Burkitt, Ian. (1999) Bodies of Thought. SAGE, London.

[11] Dolezal, Luna. (2015) The Body and Shame. Lexington Books, Lanham

[12] Heyes, Cressida. (2007) Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies. New York, Oxford University Press.


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July 25, 2022, 11:00am BST

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