File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 110

Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 22:28:34 -0500
Subject: Re: terrorism wrote:

> Our responses to this should be founded on the recognition of the
> inadequacy of our ethics when dealing with terror and destruction.

> ethics in these days is not about joy and life but about the 
> acceptable limits to a culture which accepts none.


I am afraid I must disagree with you about this.  While I tend to agree
that this is a new set (unfortunately not null), I don't think it
changes everything.  To be banal, life goes on....bra.  

Regarding your first point about the inadequacy of our ethics when
dealing with terror and destruction, I'm sure you are aware of others
who have argued precisely for the opposing view.  

When Victor Frankl was incarcerated in the camps during World War II, he
noticed the ones who best coped with the terror were those who had a
sense of meaning or purpose in their lives. It was those without ethics
who found a sense of inadequacy in the camps.  They simply had no
resistance to the terror.

I am not sure everything can be reduced to political action. There
always remains a place for resistance and refusal. It exists long before
there is any hope of solidarity with others or the formation of a viable
political movement. 

Sometimes someone just says no.  History remains a perpetual

There is always terror to some degree.  It happens because we are
organisms who are born and must die.  It makes us fragile and vulnerable
to others more powerful than we are.  Since an organism needs air,
water, food, shelter, those who can withhold such things inspire fear in
us. A certain baseline of terror is hardwired into the nature of things.

In the midst of all this, happiness remains as a perpetual possibility.
Joy and life are not merely luxuries, but essential if we are not merely
to persist on the earth, but to prevail.

Long before Kant and an age that tried in vain to mediate between
Christian agape and enlightened self-interest (the perennial Western
European question - what are my duties to my neighbor?), the Greeks who
invented ethics recognized that it dealt directly with the question of
happiness (what they called eu-daimona, literally good daimon) and what
some have translated as human flourishing.

Epicurus went beyond Aristotle in recognizing that the good which all
seek is pleasure, but that not all pleasure is necessarily desirable.
The still pleasure which comes from the recognition that our needs have
their limits is boundless and need never end.  To realize such pleasure
is to live like a god on earth.  That is happiness as Epicurus defined
it. Life as a pagan joy. The wine dark sea remains calm and lucid after
the storm.

Epicurus also recognized that what stands in the way of this realization
of ataraxia or human flourishing is terror - our fear of death and fear
of the gods, or divine retribution.  

I say that the ethics needed today in the face of terror requires both
resistance and tranquility.  We must recognize our weakness, but also
recognize we can endure their haughty power through Kynicism and pagan
laughter. In the midst of all this tragedy, farting is the appropriate
ethical response, perhaps.



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