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The Leverhulme project in Bioethics and Biopolitics (CIBB Project)

Objectives of the CIIB Project:

To use the historical groundwork carried out by the European Network in Contemporary French Philosophy to explore, and put to the test, the idea that “life” is a problem (the nature of which we intend to define) that defines our time, or historical moment, a problem that overlaps with, and gathers, our entire domain of experience, knowledge, and action.

Naturally, it cannot be a question of arguing that life emerged only recently as a philosophical problem, even if we recognise the impact that the life-sciences have had on the problem itself. Rather, it is a question of recognising, and asking why, life has become an all-encompassing problem, why all problems, especially ethical and political, have become vital problems: we have reached the intra-vital moment, where every distinction and opposition is no longer in relation to life, but within it, and where life is at once a theoretical and practical problem.

In short, we plan to arrive at a critical view concerning the way in which, and the reasons why, life has become such a central problem, and determines today’s most decisive ethical and political issues. Three specific, or local, problems will be guiding our way into the question of life in its contemporary specificity: the normal and the pathological, life and death, desire and pleasure. Each of those problems understands life, or the vital, not as an external object, but as the life that we live, as individual life.

At the same time, however, such a life is one that, from the start, is a matter for the community as a whole. It is a collective life, that is, a life mediated by a complex set of institutions, practices, and codes. And that is the reason why the problems on which we plan to focus will also involve a rigorous examination of the relation between life and institutions such as medicine, the hospital, or the market: is “life” itself the source to which they can all be traced back, or is it merely an effect, or a series of effects, of those collective assemblages?

The ultimate goal, or stake, of our research will be not only to challenge common assumptions and practices regarding those key problems, and their social and political implications, but to develop original concepts and explore new practices of life. Life is not only what’s lived, passively as it were, and even less what’s objectified, but also what (re)invents and exceeds itself.

This project is funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

Project members:

Miguel de Beistegui

Bill Fulford

Claudia Stein

Marjorie Gracieuse

Giuseppe Bianco