Persons and Things: From the Body's Point of View
May 2015, Polity
What is the relationship between persons and things? And how does the body transform this relationship? In this highly original new book, Roberto Esposito - one of Italy’s leading political philosophers - considers these questions and shows that starting from the body, rather than from the thing or the person, can help us to reconsider the status of both.
Ever since its beginnings, our civilization has been based on a strict, unequivocal distinction between persons and things, founded on the instrumental domination of persons over things. This opposition arose out of ancient Roman law and persisted throughout modernity, to take its place in our current global market, where it continues to generate growing contradictions. Although the distinction seems to appear clear and necessary to us, what we are continually witnessing in legal, economic, and technological practice is a reversal of perspectives: some categories of persons are becoming assimilated with things, while some types of things are taking on a personal profile.
With his customary rigour, Roberto Esposito argues that there exists an escape route out of this paradox, constituted by a new point of view founded in the body. Neither a person nor a thing, the human body becomes the decisive element in rethinking the concepts and values that govern our philosophical, legal, and political lexicons.
The Great Division
Two in One
Use and Abuse
The Nothing of the Thing
Words and Things
The Value of Things
The Status of the Body
The Power of the Body
To Exist the Body
The Soul of Things
Continuing his elaboration of the dispositive of person first
set out in Third Person, philosopher Roberto Esposito turns his
attention in this new book to the often troubled relation between
human being and thing. The result is not only a wondrous reading of
the semantics of the person and thing. but also an invitation to
consider ?the living body? of multitudes as a possible response.
Working across the fields of political philosophy and law, Persons
and Things offers the reader dazzling perspectives on person as
thing and thing as person. This, quite simply, is a brilliant
Timothy Campbell, Cornell University