Minor Ethics

The goal of this research project is to produce a “minor history” of ethical thought. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari propose the figure of the “minor” as a supplement to the “major” narratives, norms, and systems that govern the way we think about the history of philosophical thought, no less than the arts and politics. The power of the minor rests in its ability to elucidate or produce new problems and considerations, to proliferate lines of thinking, to multiply entry points – in short, to produce variations. While Deleuze’s work has often been looked to in order to provide a novel theory of ethics, we are interested in showing how Deleuzian concepts provide a unique and important way of discovering different modes of thinking running alongside or underneath classical ethical narratives. The chief aim of the project, then, is not to produce or theorize a Deleuzian ethics, but rather to approach the history of ethics in a Deleuzian manner. This genealogical method will provide a unique resource for not only historians of moral philosophy, but also scholars, teachers, and practitioners from diverse fields concerned with different possibilities in theorizing the scope of ethical questions and approaches.

Individual projects take up major or minor figures or movements in the history of ethical thought through the lenses of concept(s) provided by Deleuze’s work (such as affect, becoming, difference, or assemblage). In addition to original pieces on key figures central to Deleuze’s ethical thinking – such as Stoicism, Spinoza, and Nietzsche – the project involves essays on figures and movements including Aristotle, Augustine, Hellenistic Atomism, Kant’s moral philosophy, utilitarianism, early existentialism, social contract theory, and post-colonial ethics. These staged encounters aim to produce variations in the Classical Western tradition of ethics, whether at the level of concepts or the level of practice. What problems and elements do Deleuze’s novel concepts allow us to discover underneath the major narrative of ethical thought, and which minor figures do they have the power of bringing to light?

The research project will lead to a Minor Ethics Workshop at the University of Guelph in May 2016, and the publication of an edited collection Minor Ethics: Deleuzian Variations in 2017.

A Research and Publication Project