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Created: November 5, 2001
Latest Update: November 5, 2001


Moral Textures:
Feminist Narratives in the Public Sphere

By María Pía Lara.

Moral Textures: Feminist Narratives in the Public Sphere By María Pía Lara. University of California Press. 1999. Maria Pia Lara is Professor of Philosophy at the University Autonóma Metropolitana, Mexico.

A brief summary of Professor Lara's research interests can be found at María Pía Lara Zavala: Fuente de ideales sociales

Dr. María Pía Lara has undertaken the study of evil by humans unto humans. She sees the problem a a human problem, not a divine problem: "abrir la posibilidad de que un tema que aborda el tratamiento del mal ­como problema exclusivamente de los seres humanos, no de divinidades . . . ."

"En su trabajo más reciente, Lara Zavala intenta clasificar el origen humano de la problemática del mal, definiéndolo como la crueldad que ejercemos los seres humanos con otros que no se pueden defenderse."

"In her most recent work, Lara Zavala intends to classify the human origin of the problematic of evil, defining it as cruelty that that the human species exercises over others who can not defend themselves."

Lara Zavala wants to know how we manage to shirk the guilt and avoid our moral scruples at seeing an other suffer. "cómo es que podemos liberarnos de la culpa y de nuestros escrúpulos morales cuando vemos a otro ser humano sufrir".

Kenneth MacKinnon, on the Hab list, says of her work:

"Aesthetics plays a huge role in the way in which we construct, reconstruct and deconstruct our identities. We appropriate narratives, sometimes through the stories of others, to learn about ourselves (I find Jay Bernstein compelling on this point, Recovering Ethical Life). Maria Pia Lara's book Moral Textures: Feminist Narratives in the Public Sphere is an extraordinary theorization of this. In effect, narrative is a moral imperative. This prompts a rethinking of the relation between morality and aesthetics and, following Wellmer, Lara argues for an expanded understanding of communicative rationality through the way in which narratives inform and expand on universal moral claims in a revolutionary way. Narratives, thus, transform the moral domain. Justice is still given a certain priority, but a sense of justice that is informed by the experience and substance of injustice."

No, I don't figure that we'll get to all this in Fall of 2001, but we do have Albrecht Wellmer's Truth, Semblance, Reconciliation: Adorno's Aesthetic Redemption of Modernity, in Anthony Elliott's Contemporary Social Theory, pp. 196-207.

Discussion Topics

    David Rasmussen says of Lara's most recent book, "An important work because it inaugurates a distinctive secular approach to the problem of evil, which has generally been the province of theology and the philosophy of religion." David M. Rasmussen, editor of The Handbook of Critical Theory. Blurb from the cover: University of California Press.

  1. What is the importance of "a secular approach to the problem of evil?"

    Consider the taboo of discussing the sacred. Consider also the conflicts between many sects of even the same religion, given the increasing effects of globalization. Consider also the references we have made to Cheap Forgiveness and the ultimate assumption of responsibility for our own actions.

  2. Do the concepts of "evil," "public sphere," and secular approach make any sense on considering the events off September 11?

    Consider the difficulty of defining "evil." Consider the importance of myths and the imaginary. Consider the secular approach to "evil" and "good" in a final confrontation.

    Relevant References

    • From a University of California Press review of Moral Textures: Feminist Narratives in the Public Sphere:
      "Maria Pia Lara develops a new approach to public sphere theory and a novel understanding of the history of the feminist struggle in this bold, groundbreaking work. When dominated groups create publicly-oriented social movements, she argues, they seek to frame their demands in compelling narrative forms. Through these new tales, they can become, for the first time, active subjects in their own stories.

      "In making her argument, Lara examines a very wide range of women's narratives: autobiographies of eighteenth-century salonnières, the novels of Jane Austen, the writings of contemporary women activists, and the portrayal of women in television and film. Taking stock of contemporary feminist writings in social science, history, literature, jurisprudence, and philosophy, she suggests that they can be viewed not only as empirical accounts of injustice but also as cultural narratives. Lara contends that these narratives have transformed the individual identities of women even as they have expanded universal moral claims in a revolutionary way."