Difference, boundaries and violence : a philosophical exploration informed by critical complexity theory and deconstruction

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ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis is a philosophical exposition of violence informed by two theoretical positions which confront complexity as a phenomenon. These positions are complexity theory and deconstruction. Both develop systemsbased understandings of complex phenomena in which relations of difference are constitutive of the meaning of those phenomena. There has been no focused investigation of the implications of complexity for the conceptualisation of violence thus far. In response to this theoretical gap, this thesis begins by distinguishing complexity theory as a general, trans-disciplinary field of study from critical complexity theory. The latter is used to develop a critique and criticism of epistemological foundationalism, emphasising the limits to knowledge and the normative and ethical dimension of knowledge and understanding. The epistemological break implied by this critique reiterates the epistemological shift permeating the work of, among others, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jacques Derrida. In this context, critical complexity theory begins to articulate the idea of violence on two levels: first, as an empirical, ethical problem in the system; and, secondly, as asymmetry and antagonism. Violence in this second sense is implicated in the dynamic relations of difference through which structure and meaning are generated in complex organisation. The sensitivity to difference and violence shared by critical complexity theory and deconstruction allows for the parallel reading of these philosophical perspectives; and for the supplementation and opening of critical complexity theory by deconstruction within the architecture of this thesis. This supplementation seeks to preserve the singularity of each perspective, while exploring the potential of their points of affinity and tension in the production of a coherent philosophical analysis of violence. Deconstruction offers a more developed understanding of violence and a wealth of related motifs: différance, framing, law, singularity, aesthetics and others. These motifs necessitate the inclusion of other philosophical voices, notably, that of Nietzsche, Arendt, Kant, Levinas, and Benjamin. In conversation with these authors, this thesis links violence to meaning, to its possibility, to its production and to the process by which meaning comes to change. Given these links, violence is conceptualised in relation to the notion of difference on three distinct levels. The first is the difference between elements in a complex system of meaning; the second is the notion of difference between systems or texts around which boundaries or frames can be drawn; and the third is the notion of difference between meaning and the absence of meaning. This discussion examines the relationship between this violence implicated in the constitution of meaning and the more colloquial understanding of violence as atrocity, as rape, murder and other socially, politically and ethically problematic expressions thereof. It is to empirical violence, following Derrida and Levinas, that we are called to respond and to intervene in the suffering of the other. The ethical and political necessity of response anchors this discussion of violence. And, it is towards the possibility of an adequate response – the possibility of an ethics sensitive to its own violence and a politics that is directed at the eradication of empirical violence – which this discussion navigates
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Archival date: 2016-04-28
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