What's at Play in Ethics? Open Access

Homan, Catherine Anne (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3j333247r?locale=en


This project seeks to understand the ethical self and ethical life articulated in the works of Martin Heidegger, Eugen Fink, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Concerned that traditional philosophical ethics suggests a division between theory and practice, subject and object, human and animal, self and world, they call instead for an ethics that would be more original than any of these divisions, although none provides a definite account of such an original ethics. Despite this, I argue that from their writings on play we gain insight into what this original ethics would be. This dissertation focuses on two primary questions, namely how to understand an original ethics and how using play as a model provides a better understanding of both play and ethics.

In Chapter One, I address a reconsideration of ethics as êthos, suggesting that ethical life demands an active openness toward and preservation of alterity. This reconsideration comes into better focus when seen in relation to Heidegger's, Gadamer's, and Fink's accounts of play. Not only does play help give rise to an ethical subject, as is evidenced in childhood development, but play also best characterizes the superabundance and relationality of ethical subjects and communities. In Chapters Two and Three, I examine the particular places, the playspaces, that enable ethical life and dynamic engagement with others. I suggest that we see language not merely as a tool employed by rational agents, but as providing the basis of community and responsibility in which one's own being is at stake and at play. In Chapter Four, I turn toward concrete practices by suggesting that in place of aesthetic education, Heidegger, Fink, and Gadamer point toward poetic education as a mode of cultivation of the self and ethical life. I suggest that what the works of Heidegger, Fink, and Gadamer demonstrate is that an understanding of ethical life must account for the multi-dimensionality of human life and experience, characterized by being in the world, engaged in rich and meaningful relationships, such that ethical comportment is a matter of attunement and creative openness toward the world and others.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations. 1
Introduction: Original Ethics as Play. 2
Chapter One: "Out of Your Hand Steps the Meteor": Ethics and Play. 24
I. The Playspace of the Ethical 26
II. Ethics as Êthos 61
III. The Logic of Superabundance. 69
Chapter Two: The Playspace of the Ethical 74
I. The World. 76
II. World and Earth. 97
III. Êthos and Topos 113

Chapter Three: Mitspieler: The Conversation that We Are. 124
I. Conversation. 125
II. Vulnerability. 142
III. Mitspieler 152
Chapter Four: Poetic Education. 173
I. Education, Play, and Development 175
II. Play, Poetry, and Paideia. 192
Conclusion: Conversation, Play, and Freedom... 220

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files