File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0107, message 12

Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001 19:44:52 +0100
Subject: ethics

I’ve been thinking about the subject of ethics related to earlier emails
for sometime – my original discussion related to this referred briefly
to Badiou, Levinas and Irigrary - and was related to my reluctance to
relegate the subject/other binary pair to the realm of historical
interest – however… perhaps some of problems with this is explicit in
the following rough and arbitrary notes...  Initially I considered
approaching this with reference to Lyotards piece on sexual difference
but there is never enough discussion and theorising around woman

The act of writing ‘ethics’,  I believe that it may be necessary
contrary to Badiou to maintain some form of subject/other construction
(but this is under review), I am struck by the extent to which the
primary exponents of the dichotomy, who for the present discourse are
Irigaray and Levinas are seemingly obessed with a neo-theological
approach to maintain their positions.  (Irigaray is especially
interesting through her use of Buddhism and Christianity).

I recently, finally got round to more closely reading the work of
Irigaray on this and related subjects. Whilst I have some considerable
sympathy for her positions and perspectives from a socio/political
perspective, I cannot escape from the sense that the marking of the
western tradition in the way she does is creating a ‘myth’ that I am not
happy with, possibly it is the notion of sampling from eastern
traditions as containing alternative worthy traditions which concerns
me, possibly it is the post-Heideggerian refusal of ‘techne and
fabrication’ which is  a place holder for the primacy of the masculine
over the feminine – the source of non-truth, non-ethics, possibily it is
specificity of the biological divide…

Irigaray  constitutes the subject as a recognition of the other, as an
‘alterity other’, as an other founded on sexual difference. We always
fall back on into the subject/object dichotomy because an
intersubjective culture is missing and consequently we always fall back
into the binary oppositions which stand as the founding moments of our
cultural construction. For example and in the first place – hot/cold,
nature/culture, m/f, active/passive,  this results in a sensibility that
constructs not a feeling between, present subjects, but a kind of
experience in which a subject is reduced to an object which experiences
sensations. The individual human subject of either, and any, gender is
conceptualised with a different notion of what constitutes the
difference between them and the other being, respecting the other’s
body, heart, right to exist, their being and becoming. The
subject/different other is a drawing out of the feminine/masculine

Where Levinas places an ethical dimension through seeing his ‘god’ in
the face of the other and in turn sees the face of the other in the face
of god, through the face of his god. To perceive and accept the other he
imposes his ‘god’ on the other. In other words Levinas places the other
in an immanent moral context by imposing in his relations with the other
a moral perspective founded on his  relationship with an always
‘faceless god’. Irigaray refuses this through placing the ‘alterite
other’ in a relation of neo-mystical mystery – always unknowable and
based on sexual difference. “I think of the other as the mystery which
he is for me, as a truth,  certainly, but always one  which is unknown
to and inappropriable by me, unable to be dominated or universalised….”
The aim of Irigaray’s ethics is to place the other in an intersubjective
relationship of equals – not founded on subjecting the other to laws
produced by the subject(self).

Further this ethics founded on difference produces a different
relationship to truth, the specific relationship to the other which is
idealised as being the woman/man intersubjective relationship, sexual
difference in its ideal state, enables ‘the mystery of the other’ to
enter into philosophy and not only an ethics but also into theorising
and thinking of subjectivity as intersubjectivity. The oppositional
states between binary pairs one dominant one submissive founded on the
master/slave dialectic are refused through the prioritisation of sexual

The promised and desired intersubjective culture founded on difference
rather than subject/object relations, does however prioritises human
relations over non-human/human and non-human/non-human relations. This
is because it defines and justifies itself through the use of precepts
and percepts founded on theological concepts western Christian and
eastern Buddhism. The adoption of the theological concepts falsely
places human beings at the prioritised centre of the plain of
intersubjective difference, aiming to establish an unachievable equality
between the masculine subject and the feminine other. This is
unachievable because of the prioritisation placed on the human binary
pair which excludes the true object of otherness the non-human.

(The mass murder of animals in the interest of the state/industrial
farming/human consumption conjunction is to vile to ignore – 5 to 10
Million cows a year are slaughtered in the UK, 40Million in the USA –
4Million animals slaughtered to defend the industrial farming practices
from the mass panic of foot and mouth. )

enough and regards



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