Widespread critical efforts to understand modernity rely upon the term lifestyle. Studying this use shows both scholars' ambiguous moral relation to the modern and, as important, their uneasy relation to morals and morality and a deep uncertainty about their nature. Historically, lifestyle, since its first appearances in Western social thought, served as a basis for expressed judgment of social forms and practices. Discursively, lifestyle within social thought both justified and sustained the normative conception of an ideal citizen. Taking up three motifs within this history—the links between morality and reason; the commonplace that associates lifestyle with queer acts and persons; and the conflation of character with identity—discloses both the problems of this discourse and the truths it exposes. Starting with a discussion of an important episode become trope in Kant's biography, we see that such categorical determinations belie the very concept of lifestyle and its use as a constitutive term. Its use plunges us into an error in which we wrongly confound dominant and proprietary demarcations of the relation between thinking and “experience.” Finally, this analysis reminds us that normative notions of the “human” cannot and do not capture the creative and generative elements of intelligence and experience that a critical reading of the association between “queer” and “lifestyle” affords.
Eric O. Clarke; Kant's Kiss: Reflections on the Philosophy of Lifestyle. boundary 2 1 May 2011; 38 (2): 189–206. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-1301303
Download citation file: