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Giving an Account of Oneself

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  481 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
What does it mean to lead a moral life?In her first extended study of moral philosophy, Judith Butler offers a provocative outline for a new ethical practice-one responsive to the need for critical autonomy and grounded in a new sense of the human subject.Butler takes as her starting point one's ability to answer the questions What have I done?and What ought I to do?She sh ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Fordham University Press (first published 2003)
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Jul 05, 2012 Trevor rated it it was amazing
This is really hard work – but hard work that pays dividends. This is a book that is about two very closely related topics. The one is, what does it mean to live an ethical life and to what extent can I give an account of living such a life? The other is, to what extent am I a subject and to what extent am I an object of social relations?

If the whole of sociology is a working out of the question of the relationship between my agency (my freedom, my self) and my acting in accordance with necessit
May 05, 2015 Carolyn rated it liked it
"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" is a sentence. However, it must be contextualized by the grammatical rules of American English for it to make any sense. Outside of this context, it is an abstract and incomprehensible blabbering string of letters. Similarly, Butler posits that the Self cannot be iterated without context; namely, that one cannot discuss one's Selfhood without the preontological conception of the Other, both a recipient of and critic of this discou ...more
May 31, 2013 Faez rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece, tackling the most two essential questions we face: who am I and how has my "I" emerged? How do I give an account of myself to the judge, to the psychoanalyst, to a friend interested in my life-experience? Judith Butler goes deeper than any expectations of a book so short. You end up enlightened and thrilled at her mastery of philosophical idiom. I have already started translating the book into Arabic!
إيمان ريان
Nov 20, 2015 إيمان ريان rated it really liked it
في نظرنا لأنفسنا يجب أن يكون السؤال هو ماذا نحن؟ بدلا من من نحن؟
هذا يتضمّن بأنّ هنالك آخرين ونحن لا نوجد إلّا من خلال علاقاتنا مع الآخر. تميّز الآخر ينعكس أمامي فأتعّرفه كما ينعكس تميّزي أمامه وذلك لا يعني بالضرورة أنّنا مترابطين سوى باختلافاتنا. ومن خلال علاقتي مع العادات التي تحيط بي فأنا أعرّف من خلال تفاعلي مع هذه العادات.
Jan 17, 2016 Nwaf rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
الكتاب جداً صعب للمبتدئيين الذين ليست لهم أي خلفية سابقة في الفلسفة والتحليل النفسي لوجود الكثير من المصطلحات الغريبة والكثير من الأمور اللغوية البالغة في التعقيد .
In Giving an Account of Oneself, Judith Butler sets out to “pose the question of moral philosophy within a contemporary social frame” (1), a frame in which such fields as psychoanalysis and social theory have demonstrated that “[t]he ‘I’ is always to some extent dispossessed by the social conditions of its emergence” (8). Concerned with avoiding the sort of ethical violence Adorno claims arises in times when “the collective ethos” breaks down (1), Butler asks whether questions of moral responsib ...more
Apr 17, 2010 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Oh, Judy B. You've stolen my heart from me, moon-speak and all. No, but seriously, the more Butler I read, the more awestruck I am by her incandescent brilliance (only half-kidding here). She's certainly one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th/21st centuries, and remains one of our best living thinkers. I know some people take issue with her theories of gender, but to them, I say: try this book on for size. It's more expressly engaged with philosophy than the other Butler texts I've read (Gende ...more
Wesley Ellis
Sep 28, 2015 Wesley Ellis rated it it was amazing
This may be one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years! I lament that I had to read it faster than I would have liked to. I will certainly be reading this again.
Apr 09, 2010 Marilena rated it it was ok
Quite interesting. There are however ideas that she cannot clearly explain and some to which I cannot agree.
I liked especially the first chapter ("I" defined in a social context;the problem of recognition; the importance of "exposure")and part of the second chapter. From the third I have to read more about "being addressed is a trauma". Anyway Judith Butler is not among my favourite philosophers. Her style of writing is difficult. One must stay with pencil in hand and focus and even reread what
Daniel Cardoso
May 16, 2010 Daniel Cardoso rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academia
Very complex, but also essential to understand the relations between the formation of the self and responsability/ethical pratices.
Also useful to understanding FOUCAULT, MICHEL's Lectures at the College de France, 1981-82: The Hermeneutics of the Subject, and other important works by the same author.
Jan 27, 2015 Rj rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading Judith Butler's recent collection of lectures and essays, Giving an Account of Oneself (2006). The book continues her epistomological/philosophical search in the wake of 9/11 to find arguments for an ethics of care and responsibility. Following questions and themes raised in earlier works, specifically Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence (2004) Butler moves her focus from the subject's relationships with others to how the subject formulates itself. Wading th ...more
Alexander Panagiotou
Apr 24, 2015 Alexander Panagiotou rated it really liked it
At the heart of Judith Butler’s complex and pathbreaking reflections on gender has always been a concern with simply making the world a better place. A place at once more hospitable and more challenging than it has been, less exclusionary and less indifferent than is. A concern, in other words, with ethics. In Giving an Account of Oneself, Butler opens the question of the very possibility of ethics; what kind of subject could be an ethical subject? What are the sorts of conditions by which we ca ...more
Joseph Sverker
2014: I must say that there was much more that became clear after a second reading of this book. And, after having read a fair bit more Butler over all. There are quite a few issues and topics that are not always explicitly expressed in this book, that might be important for a fuller understanding. One that comes to mind at the moment is that of Althusser's idea of interpellation and subject formation (the latter is also influenced by Foucault that Butler acknowledge in the book). What is import ...more
Erdem Tasdelen
Dec 19, 2008 Erdem Tasdelen rated it really liked it
I really love how Butler sees the world, or at least the snippets of how I think she sees the world. This is a wonderful read that offers a different interpretation of how we're ethically responsible in the world today, when we speak about our selves and when we are persecuting/persecuted. I especially concur that Levinas's claim of persecution (or rather the state of being persecuted) being the essence of Judaism is a preontological statement that licences an unacceptable irresponsibility to Je ...more
Christian Hendriks
Dec 12, 2012 Christian Hendriks rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I would not consider myself to be part of Butler's intellectual entourage, but I would consider her somewhat brilliant. This book is an example of her brilliance: more readable than Gender Trouble, and perhaps less thoroughly absorbed by the academic community. As usual, it is hard work, and Butler's caution clogs up the argument sometimes. But that caution is indispensable and is characteristic.

What interests me about this work is Butler's unique moral imagination: what does it mean to tell an
Sep 22, 2010 Parvoneh rated it really liked it
Meandering at times, but JB gets it right often enough that most of the diversions are forgivable. I flagged a great number of passages throughout. Towards the middle I feared she might pursue a purely psychoanalytic approach to self and articulations of self, but I think Butler was just critical enough to use existing ideas while also keeping from essentializing other scholars or her own ideas. Like ice skating--she made me nervous, but she did not fall.

Plus, just thinking about selves, others,
Feb 17, 2008 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Written in 2005, this is Butler's answer to the criticism that poststructural identities are cryptonormative and do not lay bare their informing normative foundations. Interestingly, this book was published in 2005, the year prior to Amanda Anderson's "The Way We Argue Now" being released. Anderon's book levels the most pointed, sustained criticism to date of Butler's philosophical system of agency and identity. "Giving an Account" answers Anderson's criticisms and informs further her philosophi ...more
Nikki Wilson
May 19, 2015 Nikki Wilson rated it really liked it
Hard work to read and think through, useful in understanding feminist ethics - I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of conclusion. I will have to go back and read again.
Mar 20, 2014 Mimi added it
not just food for thought, a feast for many thoughts
Jul 26, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it
J. Butler doesn't disappoint - in fact, this may be my favorite of her works. It's a brilliant analysis of what it means to be "responsible" and "accountable". Though it's tough to give an "in a nutshell" Judith Butler breakdown, I interpreted this book as explaining why it is imperative that everybody "know" the limits of our own knowledge (about ourselves and others). It has a great deal of political resonance and potency, even though it gets a little bit repetitive by the end.

Oct 07, 2013 Daniel rated it it was amazing
A truly great work of theory. The opening chapter is one of the single best essays I have ever read. The lucidity of Butler's prose belies the breadth and depth of her reading. This is the sort of book - like, say, Raymond Williams's Culture and Society - in which one senses as one reads a gradual enlargement of one's ethical and political scope. It is at once a challenge to the reader and a source of hope.
Sep 26, 2007 Javier rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-college
Much of this book exhibited J. Butler's notorious use of 'moon language' (at least for me); I thus found much of it rather impenetrable, even moreso than the prose of Theodor Adorno or Emmanuel Levinas. What I did understand of it, though, was rather valuable.
Ahmed Khan
May 11, 2010 Ahmed Khan rated it liked it
"They are signs of an other, but they are also the traces from which an "I" will eventually emerge, an "I" who will never be able, fully, to recover or read these signs, for whom these signs will remain in part overwhelming and unreadable, enigmatic and formative." (Butler, 70)
Yi Shen
Jul 31, 2012 Yi Shen rated it really liked it
One of Butler's most accessible works. She masterfully weaves together Adorno's, Foucault's, Levinas', and Laplanche's works on subject formation and discusses their implications for moral philosophy. Great read.
To drop a provocative one-liner that only hints at this very specific and complex exploration of subjectivity:
"To be human seems to mean being in a predicament that one cannot solve."
Aug 14, 2011 sam rated it it was amazing
the better butler...gender trouble is just more hyped
this book seems to be the meta behind all her other works
I actually started reading this a month ago for a course but I only read it start to finish a few days ago.
Roy Perez
Aug 05, 2007 Roy Perez rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: earnest post-hegelians
i don't even know what "post-hegelian" means but i really like how she reimagines the self/other bond.
Dec 15, 2013 Leda rated it it was amazing
Hard work, but worth it. Useful for thinking about identity and language.
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Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist and feminist philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. She is currently a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.
Butler received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 1984, for a dissertation subsequently publi
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“[W]e must recognize that ethics requires us to risk ourselves precisely at moments of unknowingness, when what forms us diverges from what lies before us, when our willingness to become undone in relation to others constitutes our chance of becoming human. To be undone by another is a primary necessity, an anguish, to be sure, but also a chance--to be addressed, claimed, bound to what is not me, but also to be moved, to be prompted to act, to address myself elsewhere, and so to vacate the self-sufficient "I" as a kind of possession. If we speak and try to give an account from this place, we will not be irresponsible, or, if we are, we will surely be forgiven.” 19 likes
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