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The Emergence of Ethical Concepts in Social History - Professor Webb Keane

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Published on Sep 7, 2016

This webinar is based on Webb Keane’s recently published book, Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social Histories, whose introduction is available at the link below. The book can be read as an example of how a critical realist approach might work in practice. It responds to the challenge posed by competing claims between naturalist and constructivist depictions of human ethical life, the one grounding it in universals of psycho-biological development, the other in particular political, cultural, and social histories. The book draws on both approaches, arguing that the concept of affordances can provide an alternative to reductionism, determinism, and strong forms of constructivism. It shows how anything recognizable as “ethical” must be understood as emerging from the interplay between first and third person stances. The first person stance can be identified with the self that psycho-biology tries to describe, the third person is found in the materials favored by social history. Mediating between the two terms are the dynamics of social interaction, in which a first person must give an account of itself to a second person, drawing on the resources of the third person stance. The latter includes “historical objects,” namely, ideas, values, and the institutions and practices that support them. In this webinar, we consider consider the role that objectifications play in catalyzing the changes that give ethical life a social history.

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