Situating Arendt’s Discourse Ethics: Speculative performances by a thinktank of “non-professional thinkers”


  • Esther Neff Independent (Panoply Performance Laboratory)



practice-as-research, moral philosophy, queer theory, humanism, discourse ethics, affect theory, collective thinking


Practically rooted in a report on the activities and inquiries of a year-long thinktank performance, this chapter discusses how Arendt’s notions of “withdrawal” into thought (1978), discursive formation of reasonabilities (1958), and use of personal moral heuristics (1968) can be reflexively situated to devise discourse praxes not only amongst “philosophers” but also amongst those of us who are seen and see ourselves as “laypersons” or “non-professional thinkers” (1971) nevertheless agentic in political and epistemic materializations. Through debate motivated by Arendt’s parsing of tensions between thinking and acting and her conflations of speaking and doing, this particular thinktank sought ways of performing mutual spectatorship that could foreground methodological, theatrical, and ethical modes of discourse. My arguments here are oriented around a diagram produced by this thinktank, conflicts between ways of seeing that arose during the thinktank, and one member of the thinktank’s choice to end their own life. 

Author Biography

Esther Neff, Independent (Panoply Performance Laboratory)

Esther Neff is the founder of PPL (Panoply Performance Laboratory), a discursive organizational entity and flexible performance-making collective. Their work across fields and spheres performs embodied research into how intuitions, desires, and mentalities materialize (intra)action.


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How to Cite

Neff, Esther. 2019. “Situating Arendt’s Discourse Ethics: Speculative Performances by a Thinktank of ‘non-Professional thinkers’”. Performance Philosophy 5 (1):42-61.