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Traumatic Inventions and the Ethics of Scientific Discovery

This entry explores trauma deconstructively, through the subject of scientific invention and the writings of the late French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Trauma, for Derrida, emanates from the unprecedented, from our lack of understanding or inability to constitute the new. In its very strangeness, the unprecedented frightens us, causing trauma and pain. At the same time, though, the repeated trauma of the unprecedented brings hope and promise to society. It ensures that change is possible and perhaps even inevitable. This promise of social change produces an ethics of hope, that is, an openness to the “other” and to the unknown and unprecedented. The traumatic invention is thus not as negative as it first sounds. Instead, it is through trauma that possibility emerges.

Invention is always traumatic. Be ...

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