HOMO DIALOGICUS: Ethics for Empathic, Estranged Beings Open Access

Lowe, Jeremy (Summer 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/nc580n68m?locale=en


As morality evolved largely within socially interdependent and affectively responsive settings, how do human ethical capacities (such as empathy) and moral experiences (such as trust) manifest within the increasingly isolating conditions of modern life? To investigate this paradox in moral anthropology, this dissertation introduces a method of symbol development called “a rough draft entrance into ethics.” Such a technique accepts that images—especially those we draw of ourselves and our relations—are vital for human perception and activity, so accurate images are a moral matter. Hence, the method takes an ethical symbol and "redraws” it to better fit contemporary realities. For a base template, this project begins with an image of moral anthropology, homo dialogicus, first sketched by H. Richard Niebuhr in The Responsible Self (1963). In that work, Niebuhr argues that ethical phenomena are essentially dialogical in form. Further, Niebuhr proposes that four basic elements comprise the dialogical pattern: response, interpretation, accountability, and social solidarity. When these elements cohere, the result is the moral condition commonly known as “responsibility.” This dissertation reconsiders and resketches each of Niebuhr’s four elements in light of recent scholarship in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, theology, and sociology. Additionally, the method tests each element within modern estrangement, a condition of moral numbness in which individuals are impaired from sensing each other’s needs, from sensing their responsibilities for each other’s needs, and from responding to these responsibilities in concert. The result is effectually a pattern within a pattern, so to speak, a recognizable series of images that forms a single symbol of human dialogical ethics, one that is meant to help modern humans both understand ourselves and guide our action.  

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1              Entering Ethics Through a Rough Draft                       1

CHAPTER 1.5           Narrative Surplus                                                            35

                                 Settings of Estrangement

CHAPTER 2               Response                                                                          49

CHAPTER 3              Interpretation                                                                 93

CHAPTER 4            Social Solidarity Part 1                                               143

                                   Solidarity in Society

CHAPTER 5             Social Solidarity Part 2                                                187

                                   Solidarity of Selves

CHAPTER 6             Accountability                                                              219

CHAPTER 7             Homo Dialogicus                                                          238

                                   A Final Draft Not at Rest

Endnotes                                                                                                           256

Bibliography                                                                                                    285

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