File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 118

Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2001 20:57:44 -0500
Subject: ethics


I agree with all the comments of Primo Levi and Bettelheim that you
quoted. They all seem very true.  The problem is that they have no real
connection with the argument that Frankl or I, for that matter, was

I would like to move away from the Holocaust paradigm and the battle of
the books approach.  (My authors are better than your authors!) 

Instead, I want to put this in the context of 911 and make my own
somewhat simpleminded observations. 

Do I think that the people who died in the towers were being punished
for their weak philosophy or lack of ethics?

No, of course not.  This claim is simply ridiculous.

Do I feel a sense of survivor guilt?

Yes, and I talked about this directly in my previous post.

Does this mean that my survivor guilt proves the inadequacy of my

Why are these two things necessary connected?  Yes, I acknowledge guilt,
but I am also glad I have a philosophy that helps me put this into some
kind of perspective and that I have an ethical orientation that helps me
resist the strong pressure to collapse into jingoist, militaristic

Yes, I do believe that a sense of meaning and purpose have given me
strength during this crisis, and that without them I would have been far
more likely to collapse into the disposition of being a victim.  (Which
has nothing to do with the possibility I might nonetheless contract
anthrax tomorrow. I simply don't believe in a god who separates the
sheep from the goats or the wheat from the chaff.)

Does this mean my ethics should not be concerned with happiness,
vitality and pagan joy?

Why not. This sounds like the same hysteria that tells us now that civil
liberties must be suspended in the name of some greater good, after
which the crisis becomes permanent and the liberties disappear.  I
believe in love in the time of cholera and also in love in the time of
anthrax and terror.  Why must I stop feeling love and joy in the name of
a greater fear?


With regard to your other point, I agree that certain ethical systems
such as those of Kant, Aristotle and utilitarianism may be described as
universalist (although in vastly different ways!) but I don't know that
this is really the main point of concern today.

What seems significant to me about the ethical writings of Levinas and
Lyotard is that they distinguish between the good and the true.  Neither
one seems particularly univeralistic, at least in my reading of them.

What sounds interesting about Badiou's argument (even though I am not
really familiar with it) is that he seems to be making a claim for the
connection between ethics and truth.  

Can you tell me if this is actually the case and, if so, how Badiou
would defend his view against those of Levinas and Lyotard? 

How does he derive an ought from an is?



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