, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 257-272
Date: 08 Nov 2012

Strong Will in a Messy World. Ethics and the Government of Technoscience

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Two features characterize new and emerging technosciences. The first one is the production of peculiar ontologies. The human agent is confronted with a biophysical world the contingent, indeterminate character of which does not hamper but expands the scope of purposeful action. Uncertainty is increasingly regarded as a resource for an expanding will rather than a drawback for a disoriented agent. The second feature is that ethics is increasingly considered as the core regulatory means of this messy, ever-changing world. The ambivalences of the ethical government of contingent assemblages are discussed by focusing on the governmentality perspective. The latter helps to make sense of the regulatory alliance between ethics and technoscience. A reflection on Foucault’s account of ethics shows that the emancipatory role of the latter is today hampered by its embroilment with the instrumental reason it aims to govern, nor can older models of ethical commitment find any straightforward application. Mapping the issue in terms of mutual constitution of power, potentiality and possibility gives salience to a particular question: what we are able not to do.