I argue that the ethical is intrinsic to social action. Rather than a matter of following rules or as expressive of human freedom from rule, ethics is manifest in ongoing practical judgement. The criteria for judgment are put into play through performative acts. My approach is one that relies neither on the idea that ethics arises from within us nor that it is something imposed on us.
Michael Lambek is Professor of Anthropology and holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In 2016-17 he is a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He conducts fieldwork among Malagasy speakers in the Western Indian Ocean and is author of three monographs on them as well as the recent books, The Ethical Condition: Essays on Action, Person and Value (Chicago 2015) and Four Lectures on Ethics (Hau Books 2015, with Das, Fassin, and Keane) and editor of A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion (2013, with Boddy) and other books and articles on ethics, historicity, memory, religion. He is currently editing the open access journal Hau.