Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, by Elizabeth Grosz

By Elizabeth Grosz

In changing into Undone, Elizabeth Grosz addresses 3 similar concepts—life, politics, and art—by exploring the results of Charles Darwin’s account of the evolution of species. hard characterizations of Darwin’s paintings as a sort of genetic determinism, Grosz indicates that his writing finds an insistence at the distinction among common choice and sexual choice, the foundations that keep watch over survival and reputation, respectively. Sexual choice complicates common choice by means of introducing aesthetic elements and the expression of person will, wish, or excitement. Grosz explores how Darwin’s concept of sexual choice transforms philosophy, our knowing of humanity in its female and male varieties, our principles of political family, and our recommendations of artwork. Connecting the naturalist’s paintings to the writings of Bergson, Deleuze, and Irigaray, she outlines a postmodern Darwinism that knows all of existence as different types of competing and coordinating modes of openness. even supposing feminists were suspicious of the ideas of nature and biology imperative to Darwin’s paintings, Grosz proposes that his writings are a wealthy source for constructing a extra politicized, radical, and far-reaching feminist knowing of topic, nature, biology, time, and becoming.


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Additional resources for Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art

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What di√erentiates the living from the nonliving? What constitutes the élan vital? How can it be distinguished from the order that structures relations within material systems? In other words, how can life be di√erentiated from matter, opposed to matter, specified as di√erent in kind from matter? What is the relation between life and matter, perhaps the central concern of contemporary philosophies of life? This is a Darwinian question, a question possible only after Darwin’s revolution, which assumes the emergence of life from some kind of perhaps peculiar or perhaps common chemical and material arrangements.

If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the conditions of hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering. Nevertheless the bee, or any other social animal, would in supposed case gain, as it appears to me, some feeling of right and wrong, or a conscience. (The Descent of Man, 1:73) We have here an insect ethics, a morality that accords with the morphologies and life-cycle of bees, in which the self-interest of various categories of bees drives what might be understood as a way of living, a mode of morality which maximizes what bees privilege.

The inhuman in the humanities 21 Darwin makes it clear that he does not believe that it is possible to understand a single, (God-given) morality, reason, or logic as regulating all of life on earth. Rather, each species, each bodily form, orients the world, and its actions in it, according to its ability to maximize action in the world, the kinds of action that its particular evolved bodily form enables. Life must be understood as the ongoing exploration of and experimentation with the forms of bodily activity that living things are capable of undertaking.

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