Ethics 2.0: Post-biological-posthuman subjectivity and the challenge to ethics

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James B. Wiggins


Subjectivity, Ethics, Postbiological, Posthuman, Emmanuel Levinas

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Philosophy | Religion


We live in a time when technology threatens to make ethics obsolete by allowing for the development of embodiments and subjectivities that are either only partially organic or are altogether immaterial. Cyborgs, the melding of the organic and machinic, and online personae, the attempt to realize subjectivity in cyberspace sans an organic body, challenge ethical discourses by revealing their last normative, humanist standard: the organic body. Establishing an ethic for cyborgs and online personae will answer the charge that these are narcissistic subjectivities who inhabit chaotic, if not anarchic, communities, demonstrating instead that they are committed to others and communities that allow otherness to flourish.

This dissertation argues that previous attempts to establish or extend ethics to cyborgs or online personae have failed because they fail to take into account the alterity of the technologies that makes these subjectivities possible. Humanist and posthumanist understandings of cyborgs and online personae reduce the alterity of technology in favor of establishing and perpetuating a knowable and controllable subjectivity, and this in turn has led to the failure of establishing a cyborg ethics based on the irony of cyborg subjectivity, and a narrative ethics for online personae based on the narrative structure of the communities they inhabit.

A viable ethics for cyborgs and online personae emerges with an emphasis on the alterity of technology that forces cyborgs and online personae to become other than they are.Cyborgs and online personae remain posthuman in their critique of normative, humanist claims, but become post-biological in their recognition that the alterity introduced by the technologies forces them to become other than human and other than who they understood themselves to be. Using the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, I argue that becoming other motivates cyborgs and online personae to support the otherness of others so that they can continue to become other to themselves, experiencing the infinite that Levinas says occurs in the encounter with the Other. As a result, becoming other and becoming responsible for the Other's otherness requires cyborgs and online personae to establish and maintain communities where otherness flourishes.


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