Joanna Zylinska

Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene

    10. Manifesting

    Fig. 11: Joanna Zylinska, Topia daedala 11, 2014
    Fig. 11
    Joanna Zylinska, Topia daedala 11, 2014

    Tom Cohen suggests that in the Anthropocene era “writing practices might be apprehended in their interweave with carbon and hydro-carbon accelerations, from a position beyond mourning and the automatisms of personification, or ‘identification’” (25). It is precisely in this affirmative spirit that I round off this book with a biopoetic manifesto for a minimal ethics against all odds, outlined in twenty-one theses:

    1. The universe is constantly unfolding but it also temporarily stabilizes into entities.
    2. None of the entities in the universe are pre-planned or necessary.
    3. Humans are one class of entities in the universe, which is as accidental and transitory as any other class.
    4. The differentiation between process and entity is a heuristic, but it allows us to develop a discourse about the world and about ourselves in that world.
    5. The world is an imaginary name we humans give to the multitude of unfoldings of matter.
    6. Transitory stabilizations of matter do matter to us humans, but they do not all matter in the same way.
    7. Ethics is a historically contingent human mode of becoming in the world—and of becoming different from the world.
    8. Ethics is therefore stronger than ontology: it entails becoming-something in response to there being something else, even though this “something else” is only a temporary stabilization.
    9. This response is not just discursive but also affective and corporeal.
    10. Ethics is necessary because it is inevitable: we humans must respond to there being other processes and other entities in the world.
    11. Our response is a way of taking responsibility for the multiplicity of the world, and for our relations to and with it.
    12. Such responsibility can always be denied or withdrawn, but a response will have already taken place nonetheless.
    13. Responsibility is not just a passive reaction to pre-existing reality: it involves actively making cuts into the ongoing unfolding of matter in order to stabilize it.
    14. Material in-cisions undertaken by humans can be ethical de-cisions, even if the majority of such cuts into matter are nothing of the kind.
    15. Even if ethics is inevitable, ethical events are rare.
    16. Ethics requires an account of itself.
    17. Ethics precedes politics but also makes a demand on the political as the historically specific order of sometimes collaborative and sometimes competitive relations between human and nonhuman entities.
    18. As a practice of material and conceptual differentiation, ethics entails violence, but it should also work towards minimizing violence.
    19. There is therefore value in ethics, even if ethics itself needs no prior values.
    20. Ethics is a critical mobilization of the creative principle of life in order to facilitate a good life.
    21. Ethics enables the production of better modes of becoming, whose goodness is worked out by humans in the political realm, in relation with, and with regard to, non-human entities and entanglements.