Dr Maria Hynes
Monday 23rd April, 2012, 1pm-2pm
Larry Saha Room, Haydon-Allen #2175
Much sociological discourse on biopolitics berates biological science for its authoritative and often sociologically naive accounts of life. Not only is the dominant, reductionist version of biological science deemed insensitive to the complexity of the relationship between the biological and the social, but its near monopoly on the field of enquiry – the question of ‘life itself’ – appears to many commentators to leave little space for other accounts of what life might be. The sense that science has already determined the problem of what life is, leaving us to merely reflect on how we might act within these bounds, is especially evident in the discourse of bioethics, which understands itself as a mode of deliberation on what we should do in light of what science now knows.
This paper argues that it is necessary to move beyond this merely critical relationship to biological science, which renders sociology an always second-level commentary and the question of the ethics of life a closed problem. Drawing on the work of Felix Guattari, I argue that sociology would do well, in this case, to attend to those forms of thinking and empirical practice that operate from an aesthetic, rather than a merely scientific, paradigm. By way of example, I briefly consider some experiments in approaching life from this broadened and more aesthetic perspective. Sociology, it is concluded, need not resign itself to merely criticising the dominant accounts of life and the ethical dilemmas they raise, but can play a role in more fully thinking through the ‘bio’ and the ‘ethics’ of bioethics.