Practical Philosophy

The Philosopher and the (Self-Destructive) Resister: Methodological Challenges

Practical Philosophy Seminar with Candice Delmas (Northeastern University, Boston).

Use of fire in a demonstration in Grenoble, France.
Florian Olivio/Unsplash

Main content

Acts of self-destructive resistance, such as self-neglect, self-immolation, hunger strike, and lip-sewing, which involve self-harm, have not caught philosophers’ attention. This neglect makes sense given the methodological assumptions that underwrite philosophers’ approach to resistance, including the tools they use, the goals they set out for their investigation, and what they view as paradigms of resistance. I identify five such methodological assumptions:

(1) the lawbreaking paradigm;
(2) the violence/nonviolence binary;
(3) the demand for purity;
(4) the anti-corporeal bias; and
(5) the communicative paradigm.

These assumptions do not only constitute an obstacle to theorizing self-destructive resistance, but they also distort the approach to other kinds of resistance, including the very phenomena they are designed to highlight, to wit, civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance. I outline alternative methodological tools and commitments that should guide philosophers' study of resistance.