The Gift of Kinds

The Good in Abundance / an ethic of the earth

By Stephen David Ross

Subjects: Ethics
Paperback : 9780791442548, 323 pages, September 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442531, 323 pages, September 1999

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Table of contents

General Preface to the Project:
Gifts of the Good

The fourth of several volumes devoted to the good. Human, natural worlds filled with gifts. Nature the general economy of the good, earth's abun-dance. Resisting authority and totality. Plato's idea of the good beyond measure. Unlimiting every limit, interrupting authority. Gifts and giving. Exposure interruption, calling for responsiveness, responsibility. Cherishment exposure to the good everywhere in generosity. Sacrifice impossibility of fulfillment. Plenishment crossing cherishment and sacrifice: inexhaustible exposure to the good. Socrates' suggestion that the good grants authority to knowledge and truth. Anaximander and injustice in all things, demanding restitution. The good as ideality. Volumes projected in this project. Began with art in response to Nietzsche's interruption of authority in name of art. Continue within possibility that Western philosophic tradition has always given precedence to truth and being, neutralizing the good. This volume addresses kinds of the earth as ecstatic revelation s of life and being, resistant to neutrality.

The Abundance of Kinds

Spinoza and abundance of kinds. God and nature expressed in infinite numbers of infinite kinds. Nature composed of infinite individuals, each expressed through infinite kinds. Conatus, desire. Love of God, Dei amor , beatitudo , blessedness. Kind\red\ness and kind\ness. Tyranny of kinds: using other kinds in any way whatever. Interruption: essentialism and identity politics. Tyrannies of singularities and kinds. Heterogeneous differences among singulars and kinds. Good and evil. Profit and advantage. Two ethical discourses: good and evil, God and nature. Natura naturans, natura

naturata; potentia, potestas. Infinity of kinds. Levinas. Infinity of infinite. Singularity. Wittig. Exaltation and universality. Mimesis. The Lesbian Body. All human works and things given from the good, without neutrality. Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment. Sacrificing sacrifice. In expression, the abundance of species and kinds.

Chapter 1
Woman's Kinds

Griffin. Woman and Nature. Pronouns, she , we. Gendered language. Wittig. J/e. Universal. Irigaray. Overthrow syntax. Ecological feminism. European history, burning women as witches. Gazelles, does, elephants, whales. Interruption: Wittig, The Lesbian Body. Interruption: Bataille. Nature transfigured by the curse. Victims. Abjection. In kinds. Griffin. We who are of the earth. Foucault, violence against violence. Horses, cows, mules. Nature speaking of nature to nature, nature naturing. We and nature weep. Stones.

Chapter 2
Ranking Kinds

Plato. Sophist. Kind, eidos, of many-sided sophist. Kin, family, propinquity, lineage, and blood. Eleatic stranger. Socrates a stranger. Genealogy, genos, eidos. Hunting the sophist kind. Philosophy hunting. To possess. Interruption: cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment. Foucault, descent, Herkunft . Kinds—genos, phulon, eidos. Techne * . Philebus. Indefinite dyad. Interruption: Possessing truth. Philosopher many-sided, many kinds. Method of genealogy, hunting. Binary division. Nature's kinds divided in two. God Himself; Day of Judgment. Definite dyad. Fish and mollusks. Resisting the neutrality of gathering. Molly. Hunting, possessing, coercing, selling. Purification, katharmos . Purity and impurity of kinds. Heidegger reading Aristotle. Phusis as morphe. Aristotle. Slaves, animals, and women. General and restricted economy. Mimesis and logos, linked by eide, kinds.

Chapter 3
Nature's Kinds

Leibniz. Monads, singularities and kinds. Anaxagoras. Always larger and smaller. Impurity and heterogeneity. Infinity. Monads. Entelechies. Identity of indiscernibles. Uncontainable multiplicity and variety. World of abundance. Mirrors, representations, without windows. Each bit of matter a garden full of plants, a pond full of fishes. From the good. Rule of God. Sufficient reason. Perfection. Fulgurations of divinity. Nature's mimesis.

Hegel. Universal. Kind much more than what is common. Consciousness of universal. Nietzsche. No one gives man his qualities. Man the animal. Tyranny of Man the God. Uncontainable refused to animals. In Hegel. Interruption: Quine and Goodman on natural kinds. Rule of science. Possible worlds. Leibniz. Hegel. Always more. Linked with kin and kind. Heterogeneous infinite in nature. Geography. Wandering.

Chapter 4
Ordering Kinds

Foucault. Order of Things. Idea of order. Borges's Chinese encyclopedia. Impossible to think. Language. Genealogy. Prose of the world. Univocity of being. Convenientia, aemulatio, analogy, sympathy. Signatures. Mimesis* . Plethora and poverty. Mathesis, taxonomy, genesis. Classical representation. Language, nature, wealth. Inclusion, exclusion, monstrosity. Interruption: Wilson, natural selection. Biodiversity, wilderness. Wealth, money, circulation. Value sacrifice of goods to exchange. Under the curse.

Chapter 5
Becoming Kinds

Deleuze and Guattari. Becoming a kind. Interruption: Nietzsche. Man a rope, a bridge. Spinoza. Heraclitus. Becoming neither being nor flux. Excessiveness of excess. Participation (methexis) becoming in kind. Difference and repetition. Becoming-animal. Molecular, molar. Genealogy. Becoming woman. Only certain animals and women. Becoming for men. Privilege. Minority, minoritarian. Impure kinds. Interruption: Irigaray, Wittig. Fluidity, domination. Minority experiences. Deleuze and Guattari. Territorialization, deterritorialization. Becoming-Jew. Music. Genealogy, geology, geography, geophilosophy. Geology of morals. Geography of morels. Interruption: Lyotard. Borders, propriety, abjection, geography. Geophilosophy. Levinas. Irigaray. Mimesis, expression. Against the neuter. Angels. In geophilosophy. Deleuze and Guattari. Machines. Derrida. Mimesis not only human. Nonanthropocentrism.

Chapter 6
Blood Kinds

Blood, lineage, genealogy. Genre, Geschlecht, Herkunft. Genus, kin, propinquity, kind; gender, reproduction, sexual difference. Women. Blood and reproduction. Sexual difference-men and women, family, reproduction; sexual indifference-objectivity, detachment, neutrality. Social contract,

women and animals, sacrifice and consumption. Griffin. Body vessel of death, in blood. Blood of our mother. Spilling and devouring blood. Derrida. Geschlecht. Dasein's sexuality. Heidegger's neutralization. Foucault. Genealogy. Nietzsche. Ursprung, Entstehung, Herkunft, Abkunft, Geburt: birth, origin, descent; emergence, parousia; family, stock, nation, kin, kind, propinquity, bonded by blood. Impurity of purity. Attached to bodies. Interruption: Irigaray. Genre, genre humain. Nature, neutrality, touch. Mark of gender in nature through language. Butler. Coding, citation, iterability, materiality. Derrida. Geschlecht. Gender in language. Man's hand, paws, fangs, claws. Dasein's friend never animal. Question of Heidegger. Rigor. Iterability, singularity and repetition. Examples. Immeasurability of responsibility and sacrifice. Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment.

Chapter 7
Consuming Kinds

Eating well. Stockpiling. Impeding circulation of goods. Consumption, stockpiling, storing, owning, devouring the good. Derrida. Responsibility excessive. Affirmation. Différance, trace, iterability, ex-appropriation, not only human, well beyond humanity. Responsibility. Expression, mimesis, representation. Interruptions: Griffin. Consumption. Abjection. Blood. Interruption: Adams. Absent referents. Violence against women and animals. Derrida. Humanism does not sacrifice sacrifice. Interruption: Foucault. Bodily inscriptions. Lateral effects. Bataille. Sacrifice. Sovereignty nothing. Extravagance and consumption without use. Humanity under the curse. Humans, animals, death, abjection. Gifts. Women. Sacrificing sacrifice. Derrida. Eating the good. State power, meat, and vegetarianism. Male dominance, virility, and meat. Political power. How to sacrifice sacrifice. Mimesis without domination.

Chapter 8
Stockpiling Kinds

I am because we are. Sacrificing sacrifice. Animals, women, slaves. Stored, seized, classified as kinds. Heidegger. Standing-reserve. Domestication and mastery. Spinoza. Anything whatever can be used for human advantage. Aristotle. Slaves, women, animals subordinate by nature. Du Bois. Celebration of races. Interruption: Mingling and impurity of kinds. Value presupposes abundance. Chains and whips of slavery, animal domestication. Value. Between general and restricted economy. Sacrificing sacrifice. Racism, sexism, classism, speciesism as possession, consumption, in blood. Guidelines resistant to stockpiling kinds. Abundance, restriction, possession, mastery. Sacrificing sacrifice. Celebrating race. Mimesis. Invisibleness. Senghor.

Negritude. Black feminism. Identity politics. Tyranny of kinds. Community fascism. Kindism. Appiah. Racialism, extrinsic racism, intrinsic racism. Outlaw. Critical theory and race. Delacampagne. Racism and Western rationality. Gates. Poststructuralist denial of subjectivity. Anti-universalist universalism. Balibar. Racism, kindism, universality, and humanism. Humanity menaced by animality. Jacoby. Slavery and domestication of animals. Spiegel. Comparing suffering of animals and suffering of slaves.

Chapter 9
Strange Kinds

Kristeva. Strangers to ourselves. Foreigners and cosmopolitanism. So-called primitive societies. Threshold rituals. Liminaries. Simmel. Outsiders near and far, in danger. Interruption: Lyotard. Reality composed of différends . Genres. Nature and reality. Expression, mimesis . Interruption: Jowett. Levinas. Responsibility in proximity. Lyotard. Politics threat of différend : no genre, takes place as genre. Foucault. Power and resistance. Kristeva. Nationality without nationalism. Strangeness in proximity. Subjection and abjection. Being-in-proximity. Exposition— exposure and expression. Nationality. Democracy without territory. Policing strangeness. Interruption: United States's naturalization law. Racism and strangers. Kristeva. Dialectic of master and slave. The curse. Interruption: African strangers. Liminaries. Exogamy. Women always strangers. Interruption: Jussawalla. Missing Person. Bhabha. Fanon. Hindi alphabet and silence. Repetitious desire to recognize ourselves doubly. Politics and mimesis . The good as abundance.

Chapter 10
Ecological Kinds

Naess. Shallow and deep ecology. Without mimesis. Without sacrificing sacrifice. Foucault. Power and resistance. Odd term. Two pervasive contingencies in ethicallpolitical practice: insecurity of every ethical judgment; good is bad. Ethics requires sacrifice and its sacrifice. Power and resistance dispersed and incalculable. Shallow ecology may be more effective than deep. Deep ecological platform. Expressing impurity. Qualifications and reservations. Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment. Ecosophy. Philosophy in exposure and proximity. In mimesis . Rejection of total view. Oikos. Dominations of women, slaves, and children in the home. Propinquity. Responsibility as change. Ecosophy as excessive responsibility. Plenishment. Rights, human and natural. Economics. Without authority. Ecosophy as mimesis, sacrificing sacrifice. Deep ecological platform without police. Too late to escape human presence everywhere. Politics. Resistance to neutrality. Gandhian rules of nonviolence. Guidelines to plenishment in the earth.

Total view. Endless questions of responsibility. Universal right to live and blossom. Rights. Over others. Right to sacrifice. Inclusive ethics of abundance. Friluftsliv: exuberance in nature. Touching the earth lightly. Guidelines for exuberance.

Chapter 11
Weaving Kinds

Goddesses. Weaving and ethical ecology. Griffin. Women and nature. Technology. Domination. Natural kinds. Impurity. Ecological feminism. Women's lived experience. Kheel. MacKinnon. Shiva. Feminine principle. Linking multiplicity, profusion, liminality, impurity. King. Activities of women absolutely social. Social and natural inseparable. Dirty little secret. The curse. Radical cultural feminists. Radical rationalist feminists. Essentialism. Overcoming dualisms, oppositions. Abundance of the earth. Heterogeneity, impurity, différends . Spiritual renewal. Interruption: Total earth view.

Chapter 12
Modern Kinds

Ferry. Modern world rests on separation of humanity from nature. Animals instinctive, leave no legacy. All valorization human. Modernity formed under curse. All rights belong to subject. Nature has no rights. Foucault. Prose of the world. Ferry. Freedom absolute condition of ethics and law. Of democracy. Under the curse. Resistance to absolute distinction between human beings and animals, humanity and nature. Freedom as responsibility without authority, always qualified. Critique of universality. Ferry. Ethical superiority of humanity. Ethics for human beings. Humanism sacrifices nature to humanity. Serres. Natural contract. Jonas. Link of radical ecology with National Socialism. Kant. Man the final purpose of nature. Inequality. Ferry. Public torture of animals, politeness and civility toward animals, not ethics. Conflict between democracy and environmentalism. Democracy and responsibility toward all. Interruption: Postmodern radical ecology. Nature's expressiveness, mimesis . Critique of humanism and anth ropocentrism. Animistic cultures. Expressiveness of nature. Ecological humility. Gaia hypothesis. New sense of democracy and polity, including natural world. Wilderness spaces. Otherness as wildness. Beyond anthropocentrism.

Chapter 13
Abundant Kinds

Abundance and heterogeneity of kinds. Bhabha. Repetitions of mimesis and desire. Ackerman. Heterogeneities. Culture, capitalism, world system. Eco-

logical reflections from other cultures. China. One body with universe. As mimesis. Tao-te. Jewel net of Indra. Hua-yen Buddhism. Ontological parity. Nirvana. Continuity of reality. Loving-kindness. Compassion. Sacrifice. Sacrificing sacrifice. Blake. World in grain of sand. Bodhi tree. Interdependence throughout nature. Endless mimesis . Experiential reality. Emptiness as abundance.

Chapter 14
Earthly Kinds

Responsibility a call from nowhere. Abundance in the earth. Heterogeneity. Giving. Exposure. Expression and proximity. Propinquity. Mimesis. Resisting neutrality. Cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment. Ethic of inclusion. Resisting humanism, mechanism, universalism. Program built on platform of deep ecology. Responsibility interruption in proximity. Resist neutrality! Sacrifice sacrifice! Resist injustice in the abundance of the earth. Abjection. Under the curse. Greater responsiveness and self-criticism. Exposure among different human beings and kinds. In propinquity. Promote female literacy. Beware the purity of the better. Resist every border. Undertake responsibility within exposure and proximity. Mimesis. Friluftsliv. Normative model without normativity, with exclamation marks! Local determination! Abundance, heterogeneity, kinds, responsibility, cherishment, sacrifice, plenishment, intermediary movements, liminality, impurity, exuberance, interruption! Bhabha. Immeasurable ecology, ethics itself. Concluding examples. No one knows good for another. Struggle between global centralization and local determination. World condition. Democracy as heterogeneity. Capitalist economy as locally competitive economies. Democratic institutions institute homogeneity, capitalist economies widen disparities. Democracy discounts every authority in name of heterogeneity. Animal experimentation. Human experimentation. Conclusions: Become vegetarians? Of course. But . . . Animal experimentation? Of course. But . . . Ethics of perhaps and but. Feeding one's cats, other cats. Plenishment as love. Kindness. Endless crossings.




Explores the idea of human and natural kinds, pursuing an ethics of the earth responsive to social, political, and environmental issues.


In this fourth volume of Stephen David Ross's ongoing project reexamining the Western philosophical tradition, The Gift of Kinds explores the order of things, linking the kinds of the natural world to disciplinary distinctions and to social divisions by gender, race, class, and nationality. It pursues a local and contingent ethics that pervades human life and the earth that responds to the expressiveness of things everywhere, resisting the tyranny of kinds, human and otherwise.

The book examines the idea of natural and human kinds as requisite to any thought of heterogeneity and any resistance to neutrality, developed in relation to ecological and environmental issues. The giving of the good is understood in terms of species and kinds, linked with genealogy: family, gender, race, kin, and kind. Levinas's sense of exposure–expression and proximity–is interpreted as propinquity. Kinds are interpreted as intermediary figures between histories of domination and celebrations of responsibility, between essentialism and identity politics.

Stephen David Ross is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at State University of New York at Binghamton. He is the author of many books including The Gift of Beauty: The Good as Art; The Gift of Truth: Gathering the Good; The Gift of Touch: Embodying the Good; and editor of Art and Its Significance: An Anthology of Aesthetic Theory, all published by SUNY Press.


"I am impressed with Ross's ability to construct an intricate framework of philosophic and literary figures and issues. The textual involvements Ross explicates and utilizes are clearer and better 'represented' in this book than in any of the previous books in the series. Professor Ross's gift is of a kind that stimulates and enlivens active philosophical inquiry." —Gayle L. Ormiston, coeditor of Transforming the Hermeneutic Context: From Nietzsche to Nancy

"Ross deals with enormously difficult questions in an accessible philosophical style (even for readers unfamiliar with the many sources he works with). The scholarship is extensive, comprehensive, and marvelously brought together in support of the project. The Gift of Kinds not only breaks fresh ground, but offers an exciting framework for reconsidering the importance of the abundance of things and the overwhelming reality that 'nature everywhere expresses.' For readers who have escaped the hold of 'intellectual analyticity,' The Gift of Kinds is a sheer delight. I find it powerful, catalytic, and exciting." —Max Oelschlaeger, editor of Postmodern Environmental Ethics