Different bodies

Date of Completion

January 2003


Philosophy|Women's Studies




This dissertation explores bodily responsibility, which I define as responsibility for the properties and appearances of one's body. The overall objective of the work is to present bodily responsibility as an important ethical topic. In doing so I answer two key questions: Do we have responsibility for the bodily properties we choose? Do we choose the bodily properties we for which are responsible? I begin by comparing four bodily responsibility accounts from the history of philosophy (that of Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche and Beauvoir). The following chapters give case studies of two “different bodies”, bodies with physical disabilities and bodies with surgically exaggerated genders. The final chapter compares bodily responsibility with moral responsibility. I argue throughout that, in fact, we are not always responsible for the bodily properties we choose, and we do not always choose the bodily properties for which we are responsible. ^