File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 122

Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 20:36:46 +0100
Subject: ethics: Badiou

  Eric and All

Glen - do you think I've got this more or less right?

a few paragraphs on the ethics of Alain Badiou - as sources I am using 
his texts 'Ethics' , 'a manifesto for philosophy' and 'Deleuze'. The 
ethics text is really quite good and deserves a good reading...

'Ethics concerns, in Greek, the search for a 'good way of being', for a 
wise course of action. .... (ethics) ... organises practical existence 
around the good....' This is not however the use of ethics that is in 
use today - rather we seem to follow the Kantian form - of judgement. 
For example - Why is a woman's decision to have an abortion an ethical 
issue, but not her decision to change her job? Badiou approaches ethics 
from the Hegelian side of decision making rather than the Kantian line. 
It is Badious contention that today 'ethics' is the principle way in 
which we are supposed to relate to 'historical situations' for example 
the ethics of human rights, medical ethics etc. To support this we need 
simply look at international ethical commissions on drugs or on cloning 
and genetics. These days even war and bombing is carried out for ethical 
reasons... for example 'the bombing of Afghanistan is an ethical war', 
not a poilice action.

The argument revolves around the way in which ethics is linked to 
abstract categories Man or Human, the Other, rather than particular 
situations.... ' Rather than make of it merely the province of 
conservatism with a good conscience, it should concern the destiny of 
truths, in the plural....' (This notion of truth is very different from 
Levinas however). For truth is considered as the 'real process of a 
fidality to an event: that which this fidelity produces in the 
situation... essentially a truth is the material course traced, within 
the situation; by the evental supplementation. It is thus an immanent 
break. Immanent because a truth proceeds in the situation, and noweher 
else - there is no heaven of truths. Break because what enables the 
truth-process - the event - meant nothing according to the prevailing 
language and established knowledge of the situation...'

The chapter/section headings are extremely informative 'The foundations 
of the ethic of human rights' - derived from natural law with the 
resultant and evident primacy of evil: the assumption that we can 
achieve a consensus of which constitutes barbarian activity. Ignoring 
the potential argument around 'human rights', which I do not believe in, 
the point Badiou makes is that it is always easier to forbid supposedly 
evil deeds rather than to state what is good and should be done. Human 
rights and the associated ethics are used to support '... the 
unrestrained pursuit of self-interest, the dissapearence or extreme 
fragility of emancipatory politics, the multiplication of ethnic 
conflicts and the universality of unbridled competition...' The central 
question that is produced here regarding the universal human subject and 
its rights - is that ethics defines human beings as victims....

The rejection of Levinas (Totality and Infinity primarily) and the 
'Other' derives from the dialectic of the 'same and the other' - 
actually I think we've been through this discussion of Levinas before - 
suffice it to say that Badiou as a 'good' materialist rejects Levinas 
for the same reason I do - because of the necessity for the existence of 
God in his triangular structure. The altogether-other and so on... 
ethics for levinas is a 'pious discourse' not being pious Badiou has to 
reject it as non-philosophical thought and he is of course correct its a 
form of theology in Badiou's terms of reference.Briefly then to clarify 
some more of Badious axioms - There is no God. Which means the One is 
Not. The multiple 'without-one' every multiple being in its turn nothing 
but a multiple of multiples (very Deleuzian this). The importance is in 
situations - 'in as much as it is, a multiple composed of an infinity of 
elements, each one of which is a multiple. Considered in their simple 
belonging to a situation (to an infinite multiple) the animals of the 
species Homo Sapiens are ordinary multiplicities...' (again Deleuzian).

The rejection of the ethics of difference is simply the classic 
materialist rejection - the refusal of difference as a meaningful 
additional tool, this is based on the use of the term difference as ' a 
tourists fasciantion for the diversity of morals, customs and 
beliefs...' (Badiou is on risky ground here as he does not address 
Irigaray 'Ethics of Sexual Difference...' However his attack on 
'cultural difference' is well taken because after all the ideal is '.... 
the peaceful coexistence of cultural, religious and national 
communities... the refusal of exclusion...' This is derived from the 
tourists desire for the continuation of the 'safe savage', the colonial 
encounter... Such an ethics of difference is a normative encounter it is 
an attempt to be inclusive of difference - (which is why it fails to 
work with Irigaray ). 'Become like me and I will respect your 
difference...' As previously referenced 'no light is shed by the 
recognition of the other' it simply doesn't help.

Another axiom 'Philosophically, if the other doesn't matter it is indeed 
because the difficulty lies on the side of the Same. The Same in effect 
is not what is (the infinite multiplicity of differences) but what comes 
to be. I have already name that in regard to which only the advent of 
the Same occurs: It is a truth. Only a truth is indifferent to 
differences.... a truth is the same for all...'

Ethics then for Badious is very simple - Ethics is the tool which helps 
a truth to persist. I think that it does not stretch the point to far to 
see that the point of ethics is specifically related to the procedure by 
procedure cases of situations and events. A global ethics becomes 
impossible - ethics is not related to 'happiness' and contentment but to 
struggle and resistence.... This is related to Foucaults local 
intellectuals but also to Lacan's attempts to produce an ethics for the 
'psychoanalytical process' (quote from my life partner not from Badiou)...

any lack of c;arity is mine..

---- enough




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