Ethical approval must be obtained before medical research can start. We describe the differences in EA for an pseudonymous, non-interventional, observational European study. Sixteen European national coordinators of the international study on very old intensive care patients answered an online questionnaire concerning their experience getting EA. N = 8/16 of the NCs could apply at one single national ethical committee, while the others had to apply to various regional ECs and/or individual hospital institutional research boards. The time between applying for (...) EA and the first decision varied between 7 days and 300 days. In 9/16 informed consent from the patient was not deemed necessary; in 7/16 informed consent was required from the patient or relatives. The upload of coded data to a central database required additional information in 14/16. In 4/16 the NCs had to ask separate approval to keep a subject identification code list to de-pseudonymize the patients if questions would occur. Only 2/16 of the NCs agreed that informed consent was necessary for this observational study. Overall, 6/16 of the NCs were satisfied with the entire process and 8/16 were unsatisfied. 11/16 would welcome a European central EC that would judge observational studies for all European countries. Variations in the process and prolonged time needed to get EA for observational studies hampers inclusion of patients in some European countries. This might have a negative influence on the external validity. Further harmonization of ethical approval process across Europe is welcomed for low-risk observational studies. Getting ethical approval for low-risk, non-interventional, observational studies varies enormously across European countries. (shrink)
The debtor-creditor relation, which is at the heart of this book, sharpens mechanisms of exploitation and domination indiscriminately, since, in it, there is no distinction between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, working and non-working populations, between retirees and welfare recipients. They are all "debtors," guilty and responsible in the eyes of capital, which has become the Great, the Universal, Creditor.--from The Making of the Indebted Man Debt -- both public debt and private debt Has become a major concern (...) of economic and political leaders. In The Making of the Indebted Man, Maurizio Lazzarato shows that, far from being a threat to the capitalist economy, debt lies at the very core of the neoliberal project. Through a reading of Karl Marx's lesser-known youthful writings on John Mill, and a rereading of writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, Lazzarato demonstrates that debt is above all a political construction, and that the creditor/debtor relation is the fundamental social relation of Western societies.Debt cannot be reduced to a simple economic mechanism, for it is also a technique of "public safety" through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled. Its aim is to minimize the uncertainty of the time and behavior of the governed. We are forever sinking further into debt to the State, to private insurance, and, on a more general level, to corporations. To insure that we honor our debts, we are at once encouraged and compelled to become the "entrepreneurs" of our lives, of our "human capital." In this way, our entire material, psychological, and affective horizon is upended and reconfigured. How do we extricate ourselves from this impossible situation? How do we escape the neoliberal condition of the indebted man? Lazzarato argues that we will have to recognize that there is no simple technical, economic, or financial solution. We must instead radically challenge the fundamental social relation structuring capitalism: the system of debt. (shrink)
An analysis of how capitalism today produces subjectivity like any other “good,” and what would allow us to escape its hold. “Capital is a semiotic operator”: this assertion by Félix Guattari is at the heart of Maurizio Lazzarato's Signs and Machines, which asks us to leave behind the logocentrism that still informs so many critical theories. Lazzarato calls instead for a new theory capable of explaining how signs function in the economy, in power apparatuses, and in the production of (...) subjectivity. Moving beyond the dualism of signifier and signified, Signs and Machines shows how signs act as “sign-operators” that enter directly into material flows and into the functioning of machines. Money, the stock market, price differentials, algorithms, and scientific equations and formulas constitute semiotic “motors” that make capitalism's social and technical machines run, bypassing representation and consciousness to produce social subjections and semiotic enslavements. Lazzarato contrasts Deleuze and Guattari's complex semiotics with the political theories of Jacques Rancière, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Paolo Virno, and Judith Butler, for whom language and the public space it opens still play a fundamental role. Lazzarato asks: What are the conditions necessary for political and existential rupture at a time when the production of subjectivity represents the primary and perhaps most important work of capitalism? What are the specific tools required to undo the industrial mass production of subjectivity undertaken by business and the state? What types of organization must we construct for a process of subjectivation that would allow us to escape the hold of social subjection and machinic enslavement? In addressing these questions, Signs and Machines takes on a task that is today more urgent than ever. (shrink)
In this series of dialogues, Derrida discusses and elaborates on some of the central themes of his work, such as the problems of genesis, justice, authorship and death. Combining autobiographical reflection with philosophical enquiry, Derrida illuminates the ideas that have characterized his thought from its beginning to the present day. If there is one feature that links these contributions, it is the theme of singularity - the uniqueness of the individual, the resistance of existence to philosophy, the temporality of the (...) singular and exceptional moment, and the problem of exemplarity. The second half of this book contains an essay by Maurizio Ferraris, in which he explores the questions of indication, time and the inscription of the transcendental in the empirical. A work of outstanding philosophy and scholarship, the essay is developed in close proximity to Derrida and in dialogue with figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Kant, Hegel and Heidegger. It thereby provides a useful introduction to the philosophy of one of Italy's most prominent philosophers as well as an excellent complement to Derrida's own ideas. A Taste for the Secret consists of material that has never before appeared in English. It will be of interest to second-year undergraduates, graduate students and academics in philosophy, modern languages, literature, literary theory and the humanities generally. (shrink)
Chapter 1st of the book. This chapter explores the fundamental ambiguity of the concept of plasticity – between openness and determination, change and stabilization of forms. This pluralism of meanings is used to unpack different instantiations of corporeal plasticity across various epochs, starting from ancient and early modern medicine, particularly humouralism. A genealogical approach displaces the notion that plasticity is a unitary phenomenon, coming in the abstract, and illuminates the unequal distribution of different forms of plasticities across social, gender, and (...) ethnic groups. Taking a longer view of the plastic body as a ubiquitous belief in traditions predating and coexisting with modern medicine will help contextualize the seeming radicalism of today’s turn to permeability and the exceptionalism of Western findings. By highlighting the complex biopolitical usages of plasticity in the past, the chapter warns against simplistic appropriations of the term in contemporary body/world configurations driven by findings in neuroscience, epigenetics and microbiomics. (shrink)
There is a growing body of scholarship that is addressing the ethics, in particular, the bioethics of space travel and colonisation. Naturally, a variety of perspectives concerning the ethical issues and moral permissibility of different technological strategies for confronting the rigours of space travel and colonisation have emerged in the debate. Approaches ranging from genetically enhancing human astronauts to modifying the environments of planets to make them hospitable have been proposed as methods. This paper takes a look at a critique (...) of human bioenhancement proposed by Mirko Garasic who argues that the bioenhancement of human astronauts is not only functional but necessary and thus morally permissible. However, he further claims that the bioethical arguments proposed for the context of space do not apply to the context of Earth. This paper forwards three arguments for how Garasic’s views are philosophically dubious: (1) when he examines our responsibility towards future generations he refers to a moral principle (which we will call the principle of mere survival) which, besides being vague, is not morally acceptable; (2) the idea that human bioenhancement is not natural is not only debatable but morally irrelevant; and (3) it is not true that the situations that may arise in space travel cannot occur on Earth. We conclude that not only is the (bio)enhancement of humans on Earth permissible but perhaps even necessary in certain circumstances. (shrink)
Our understanding of body–world relations is caught in a curious contradiction. On one side, it is well established that many concepts that describe interaction with the outer world – ‘plasticity’ or ‘metabolism’- or external influences on the body - ‘environment’ or ‘milieu’ – appeared with the rise of modern science. On the other side, although premodern science lacked a unifying term for it, an anxious attentiveness to the power of ‘environmental factors’ in shaping physical and moral traits held sway in (...) nearly all medical systems before and alongside modern Europe. In this article, I build on a new historiography on the policing of bodies and environments in medieval times and at the urban scale to problematize Foucault’s claim about biopolitics as a modern phenomenon born in the European eighteenth-century. I look in particular at the collective usage of ancient medicine and manipulation of the milieu based on humoralist notions of corporeal permeability (Hippocrates, Galen, Ibn Sīnā) in the Islamicate and Latin Christendom between the 12th and the 15th century. This longer history has implications also for a richer genealogy of contemporary tropes of plasticity, permeability and environmental determinism beyond usual genealogies that take as a starting point the making of the modern body and EuroAmerican biomedicine. (shrink)
Sex robots are already a reality: in this provocative text, Maurizio Balistreri explores the fascinating world of future sex, exploring the ethical questions raised by the existence of a sex robot industry.
The Monster objection has been often considered one of the main reasons to explore non- standard mereological views, such as hylomorphism. Still, it has been rarely discussed and then only in a cursory fashion. This paper fills this gap by offering the first thorough assessment of the objection. It argues that different metaphysical stances, such as presentism, three- and four-dimensionalism, provide different ways of undermining the objection.
Nationalism and patriotism are two of the most powerful forces shaping world history. In this paperback edition of a highly successful, wide-ranging study, Maurizio Viroli shows exactly why patriotism is a political virtue and nationalism a political vice.
This paper draws from Foucault’s analysis of liberalism and neoliberalism to reconstruct the mechanisms and the means whereby neoliberalism has transformed society into an ‘enterprise society’ based on the market, competition, inequality, and the privilege of the individual. It highlights the role of financialization, neglected by Foucault, as a key apparatus in achieving this transformation. It elaborates the strategies of individualization, insecuritization and depoliticization used as part of neoliberal social policy to undermine the principles and practices of mutualization and redistribution (...) that the Welfare State and Fordism had promoted. It shows that the aim of neoliberal politics is the restoration of the power of capital to determine the distribution of wealth and to establish the enterprise as dominant form; this requires that it target society as a whole for a fundamental reconstruction, putting in place new mechanisms to control individual conduct. The analysis refers to the case of workers in the culture industry to illustrate the operation of these mechanisms in practice. It also outlines the main elements of the analytical apparatus that makes visible the new role of the state as an ensemble of apparatuses constituting the conditions for neoliberal market capitalism and the new type of individual appropriate for it. The paper thus adds a new dimension to Foucault’s analysis. (shrink)
This article sets the stage for a genealogy of the postgenomic body. It starts with the current transformative views of epigenetics and microbiomics to offer a more pluralistic history in which the ethical problem of how to live with a permeable body – that is plasticity as a form of life – is pervasive in traditions pre-dating and coexisting with modern biomedicine. To challenge universalizing narratives, I draw on genealogical method to illuminate the unequal distribution of plasticity across gender and (...) ethnic groups. Finally, after analysing postgenomics as a different thought-style to genomics, I outline some of its implications for notions of plasticity. I argue that postgenomic plasticity is neither a modernistic plasticity of instrumental control of the body nor a postmodernist celebration of endless potentialities. It is instead closer to an alter-modernistic view that disrupts clear boundaries between openness and determination, individual and community. (shrink)
A history of colonization inflicts psychological, physical, and structural disadvantages that endure across generations. For an increasing number of Indigenous Australians, environmental epigenetics offers an important explanatory framework that links the social past with the biological present, providing a culturally relevant way of understanding the various intergenerational effects of historical trauma. In this paper, we critically examine the strategic uptake of environmental epigenetics by Indigenous researchers and policy advocates. We focus on the relationship between epigenetic processes and Indigenous views of (...) Country and health—views that locate health not in individual bodies but within relational contexts of Indigenous ontologies that embody interconnected environments of kin/animals/matter/bodies across time and space. This drawing together of Indigenous experience and epigenetic knowledge has strengthened calls for action including state-supported calls for financial reparations. We examine the consequences of this reimagining of disease responsibility in the context of “strategic biological essentialism,” a distinct form of biopolitics that, in this case, incorporates environmental determinism. We conclude that the shaping of the right to protection from biosocial injury is potentially empowering but also has the capacity to conceal forms of governance through claimants’ identification as “damaged,” thus furthering State justification of biopolitical intervention in Indigenous lives. (shrink)
The case for an unprecedented penetration of life mechanisms into the politics of Western modernity has been a cornerstone of 20th-century social theory. Working with and beyond Foucault, this article challenges established views about the history of biopower by focusing on ancient medical writings and practices of corporeal permeability. Through an analysis of three Roman institutions: a) bathing; b) urban architecture; and c) the military, it shows that technologies aimed at fostering and regulating life did exist in classical antiquity at (...) the population scale. The article highlights zones of indistinction between natural and political processes, zoē and bíos, that are not captured by a view of destructive incorporation of or over life by sovereign power. In conclusion, the article discusses the theoretical potential of this historical evidence for contemporary debates on ‘affirmative biopolitics’ and ‘environmental biopower’. (shrink)
In this paper I first offer a systematic outline of a series of conceptual novelties in the life-sciences that have favoured, over the last three decades, the emergence of a more social view of biology. I focus in particular on three areas of investigation: (1) technical changes in evolutionary literature that have provoked a rethinking of the possibility of altruism, morality and prosocial behaviours in evolution; (2) changes in neuroscience, from an understanding of the brain as an isolated data processor (...) to the ultrasocial and multiply connected social brain of contemporary neuroscience; and (3) changes in molecular biology, from the view of the gene as an autonomous master of development to the ‘reactive genome’ of the new emerging field of molecular epigenetics. In the second section I reflect on the possible implications for the social sciences of this novel biosocial terrain and argue that the postgenomic language of extended epigenetic inheritance and blurring of the nature/nurture boundaries will be as provocative for neo-Darwinism as it is for the social sciences as we have known them. Signs of a new biosocial language are emerging in several social-science disciplines and this may represent an exciting theoretical novelty for twenty-first social theory. (shrink)
The rise of molecular epigenetics over the last few years promises to bring the discourse about the sociality and susceptibility to environmental influences of the brain to an entirely new level. Epigenetics deals with molecular mechanisms such as gene expression, which may embed in the organism “memories” of social experiences and environmental exposures. These changes in gene expression may be transmitted across generations without changes in the DNA sequence. Epigenetics is the most advanced example of the new postgenomic and context-dependent (...) view of the gene that is making its way into contemporary biology. In my article I will use the current emergence of epigenetics and its link with neuroscience research as an example of the new, and in a way unprecedented sociality of contemporary biology. After a review of the most important developments of epigenetic research, and some of its links with neuroscience, in the second part I reflect on the novel challenges that epigenetics presents for the social sciences for a re-conceptualization of the link between the biological and the social in a postgenomic age. Although epigenetics remains a contested, hyped, and often uncritical terrain, I claim that especially when conceptualized in broader non-genecentric frameworks,. (shrink)
In this paper, I analyze the disruptive impact of Darwinian selectionism for the century-long tradition in which the environment had a direct causative role in shaping an organism’s traits. In the case of humans, the surrounding environment often determined not only the physical, but also the mental and moral features of individuals and whole populations. With its apparatus of indirect effects, random variations, and a much less harmonious view of nature and adaptation, Darwinian selectionism severed the deep imbrication of organism (...) and milieu posited by these traditional environmentalist models. This move had radical implications well beyond strictly biological debates. In my essay, I discuss the problematization of the moral idiom of environmentalism by William James and August Weismann who adopted a selectionist view of the development of mental faculties. These debates show the complex moral discourse associated with the environmentalist-selectionist dilemma. They also well illustrate how the moral reverberations of selectionism went well beyond the stereotyped associations with biological fatalism or passivity of the organism. Rereading them today may be helpful as a genealogical guide to the complex ethical quandaries unfolding in the current postgenomic scenario in which a revival of new environmentalist themes is taking place. (shrink)
Biopower agregates no longer families distributed on land but mobile individuals. How can power count forces and take energy from them, if they differ from each other, if they are free? Power comes from beneath, from strategic relations between subjects.
As space travel and intentions to colonise other planets are becoming the norm in public debate and scholarship, we must also confront the technical and survival challenges that emerge from these hostile environments. This paper aims to evaluate the various arguments proposed to meet the challenges of human space travel and extraterrestrial planetary colonisation. In particular, two primary solutions have been present in the literature as the most straightforward solutions to the rigours of extraterrestrial survival and flourishing: (1) geoengineering, where (...) the environment is modified to become hospitable to its inhabitants, and (2) human (bio)enhancement where the genetic heritage of humans is modified to make them more resilient to the difficulties they may encounter as well as to permit them to thrive in non-terrestrial environments. Both positions have strong arguments supporting them, but they also have some severe philosophical and practical drawbacks when exposed to different circumstances. This paper aims to show that a principled stance where one position is accepted wholesale necessarily comes at the opportunity cost of the other where the other might be better suited, both practically and morally. This paper concludes that case-by-case evaluations of the solutions to space travel and extraterrestrial colonisation are necessary to ensure moral congruency and the survival and flourishing of astronauts now and into the future. (shrink)
Cognitive pragmatics is concerned with the mental processes involved in intentional communication. I discuss a few issues that may help clarify the relationship between this area and the broader cognitive science and the contribution that they give, or might give, to each other. Rather than dwelling on the many technicalities of the various theories of communication that have been advanced, I focus on the different conceptions of the nature and the architecture of the mind/brain that underlie them. My aims are, (...) first, to introduce and defend mentalist views of communication in general; second, to defend one such view, namely that communication is a cognitive competence, that is, a faculty, and the underlying idea that the architecture of the mind/brain is domain-specific; and, third, to review the (scarce) neuropsychological evidence that bears on these issues. (shrink)
Maurizio Lazzarato is an Italian sociologist and philosopher who lives and works in France. He collaborated on collective works with important figures like Antonio Negri and Yann Moulier-Boutang in the 1990s and has been a frequent contributor to the journal Multitudes in which the same two intellectuals were also leading voices. During the same period, he was closely involved as a theorist and activist in the long and inventive struggle of the intermittents du spectacle, French cultural workers defending a (...) social security regime that took particular account of their unstable employment and the way in which their creativity overflowed their periods of paid activity. This involvement fed into a broader... (shrink)
The necessity to model the mental ingredients of norm compliance is a controversial issue within the study of norms. So far, the simulation-based study of norm emergence has shown a prevailing tendency to model norm conformity as a thoughtless behavior, emerging from social learning and imitation rather than from specific, norm-related mental representations. In this paper, the opposite stanceânamely, a view of norms as hybrid, two-faceted phenomena, including a behavioral/social and an internal/mental sideâis taken. Such a view is aimed at (...) accounting for the difference between norms, on one hand, and either behavioral regularities (conventions) on the other. This paper, in particular, is addressed to find out the internal ingredients required for the former distinction, i.e., to model norms as distinct from mere conventions, and defined as behaviors spreading to the extent that and because the corresponding commands and beliefs do spread as well. After a brief presentation of a normative agent architecture, the results of agent-based simulations testing the impact of norm recognition and the role of normative beliefs in the emergence and innovation of social norms are presented and discussed. More specifically, the present work will endeavour to show that a sudden external constraint (e.g. a barrier preventing agents from moving among social settings) facilitates norm innovation: under such a condition, agents provided with a module for telling what a norm is can generate new (social) norms by forming new normative beliefs, irrespective of the most frequent actions. (shrink)
We propose a mentalistic and nativist view of human early mental and social life and of the ontogeny of mindreading. We define the mental state of sharedness as the primitive, one-sided capability to take one's own mental states as mutually known to an i nteractant. We argue that this capability is an innate feature of the human mind, which the child uses to make a subjective sense of the world and of her actions. We argue that the child takes all (...) of her mental states as shared with her caregivers. This a llows her to interact with her caregivers in a mentalistic way from the very beginning and provides the grounds on which the later maturation of mindreading will build. As the latter process occurs, the child begins to understand the mental world in terms of differences between the mental states of different agents; subjectively, this also corresponds to the birth of privateness. ? (shrink)
This book studies a central but hitherto neglected aspect of Rousseau's political thought: the concept of social order and its implications for the ideal society which he envisages. The antithesis between order and disorder is a fundamental theme in Rousseau's work, and the author takes it as the basis for this study. In contrast with a widely held interpretation of Rousseau's philosophy, Professor Viroli argues that natural and political order are by no means the same for Rousseau. He explores the (...) differences and interrelations between the different types of order which Rousseau describes, and shows how the philosopher constructed his final doctrine of the just society, which can be based only on every citizen's voluntary and knowing acceptance of the social contract and on the promotion of virtue above ambition. The author also shows the extent of Rousseau's debt to the republican tradition, and above all to Machiavelli, and revises the image of Rousseau as a disciple of the natural-law school. (shrink)
This book presents a critical examination of Machiavelli's thought, combining an accessible, historically-informed account of his work with a reassessment of his central ideas and arguments. Viroli challenges the accepted interpretations of Machiavelli's work, insisting that his republicanism was based not on a commitment to virtue, greatness, and expansion, but to the ideal of civic life protected by the shield of fair laws. His detailed study of how Machiavelli composed The Prince offers a number of new interpretations and he further (...) contends that the most challenging--and underestimated--aspect of Machiavelli's thought is his philosophy of life, in particular his conceptions of love, women, irony, God, and the human condition. (shrink)
Recent studies demonstrating epigenetic and developmental sensitivity to early environments, as exemplified by fields like the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) and environmental epigenetics, are bringing new data and models to bear on debates about race, genetics, and society. Here, we first survey the historical prominence of models of environmental determinism in early formulations of racial thinking to illustrate how notions of direct environmental effects on bodies have been used to naturalize racial hierarchy and inequalities in the past. (...) Next, we conduct a scoping review of postgenomic work in environmental epigenetics and DOHaD that looks at the role of race/ethnicity in human health (2000–2021). Although there is substantial heterogeneity in how race is conceptualized and interpreted across studies, we observe practices that may unwittingly encourage typological thinking, including: using DNA methylation as a novel marker of racial classification; neglect of variation and reversibility within supposedly homogenous racial groups; and a tendency to label and reify whole groups as pathologized or impaired. Even in the very different politico-economic and epistemic context of contemporary postgenomic science, these trends echo deeply held beliefs in Western thinking which claimed that different environments shape different bodies and then used this logic to argue for essential differences between Europeans and non-Europeans. We conclude with a series of suggestions on interpreting and reporting findings in these fields that we feel will help researchers harness this work to benefit disadvantaged groups while avoiding the inadvertent dissemination of new and old forms of stigma or prejudice. (shrink)
Foucault’s argument that a major break occurred in the nature of power in the European Eighteenth century—an unprecedented socialization of medicine and concern for the health of bodies and populations, the birth of biopolitics—has become since the 1990s a dominant narrative among sociologists but is rarely if ever scrutinized in its premises. This article problematizes Foucault’s periodization about the politics of health and the way its story has been solidified into an uncritical account. Building on novel historiographic work, it challenges (...) the modernist bias of histories of biopolitics and public health and considers an earlier and more plural history of collective practices of health of which the story told by Foucault is just one important episode. Finally, it discusses the implications of this revised model for wider sociological debates on the link between modernity, health and the body. (shrink)