Ethics and Materiality
Indeed, there is no body as such; there are only bodies – male or female, black, brown, white, large or small – and the gradations in between. Bodies can be represented or understood not as entities in themselves or simply on a linear continuum with its polar extremes occupied by male and female bodies… but as a field, a two-dimensional continuum in which race (and possibly even class, caste, or religion) form body specifications.
In contrast to the body, embodiment is contextual, enmeshed within the specifics of place, time, physiology, and culture, which together compose enactment. Embodiment never coincides exactly with “the body,” however that normalized concept is understood. Whereas the body is an idealized form that gestures toward a Platonic reality, embodiment is the specific instantiation generated from the noise of difference.
-N. Katherine Hayles
It has occured to me, over the course of reading Hayles’ book How We Became PostHuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, that the field of ethics, and specifically of bioethics, is all about realizing the data made flesh. Or, to be less obscure, it’s about realizing that while we’re all individuals, we also are all connected with one another. The arguments about multiple and conflicting autonomies make no sense if you take the modernist concept of each of us being a separate and unattached beings. Likewise, the postmodernist, disembodied concept of self also has very little play, because beneficience (and again, autonomy) is often tied to a physicality that postmodernity prefers to ignore. It’s when we get to this material poiesis, this materiality of data made flesh, that we have a system that acknowledges both the physicality of the body and the connectivity of the, for lack of better word, soul, or self.