File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 121

Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 15:29:59 +0100
Subject: Re: ethics


You said the following;

"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..."

The Auschwitz example is probably excessive, excepting that it represents one of the few examples of colonial policy being brought 'home' and imposed in its true 'horror' on european citizins... However the basic point that both Levi and Bettelheim make is that in relation to the actions of the SS against the camp inhabitants there is no intellectual defence. The issue resolves to the deliberate reduction of the humans to a nonhuman state this is a physiological response to the starvation and abuse that is being inflicted on a daily basis. I think I was unclear from my choice of quotes....(so it goes)...



Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>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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