Larisa Svirsky, The Second-Personal Significance of Trauma (Ethics@Noon-ish)

Ethics at Noon

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The Second-Personal Significance of Trauma

There is a substantial literature about whether trauma or other “poor formative circumstances” interfere with the development or exercise of the capacities required to be responsible. In this paper, I will be focusing on the ways in which trauma may affect responsibility attributions in the context of close interpersonal relationships. I will argue for two claims: first, that the question of whether trauma diminishes responsibility should be addressed in this second-personal context, and second, that in interpersonal relationships, it matters not only what hardships those close to us have experienced, but how they want us to respond to their history when holding them responsible. In order to illustrate these claims, I will consider an extended literary example drawn from the novel A Little Life. I take this example to offer clear and decisive reasons for why it is important to consider people’s views about what those close to them do with their history (e.g., whether they regard that history as excusing them from blame).

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Larisa Svirsky
Postdoctoral Fellow                                                    University of Toronto


Wed, Oct 4, 2023
12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin