File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 114

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 12:32:36 +0000
Subject: Re: Ataraxia


I suppose that since my, probably, prejudicial belief is that liberation 
(human, animal or mineral) can only be achieved through rationality and 
understanding, it is  inevitable that we should scrutinise carefully 
residual traces derived from prior mythical structures.

Jean-Luc Nancy in a seminar earlier this year, when challenged by a 
member of the audience regarding the place of god/religion in human 
thought, said that religious thought was a 'weak form of knowledge' 
since it was founded on faith rather than evidence and knowledge. This 
is of course pretty close to my own position, which could be summarised 
along the lines that god/religion is an interesting area of study, just 
as all myths are. But that if all that lies between us and oblivion is 
'faith' and a few rather foolish religious texts stating that we are 
superior to other beings, then  humanity has no justification for 
imagining itself as having a reason for existing... I would not deny 
that the religious meme exists or is strong - however where you state it 
has positive elements - this is the breakage point, the differend 
between us for I see no reason to imagine anything to do with religion 
as positive... Interesting but not something 'good' or 'positive'... 
Does the religious imperative offer some universal truth and insight? No 
of course not, less so even than the fundementally human forms of 
knowledges - science, art and philosophy.

I agree with the general line you take on politics below, but politics 
is simply the field of action which allows social change to take place. 
A personal note may clarify my bemusement on what constitutes political 
actions - everyday life primarily but also - during the 70s - roughly 
speaking the period between 68 and 81 - I was directly involved in 
various forms of militant activity - some years after this ended I 
discovered that the most important long term act/event derived from that 
segment of my life was, what I understood to be the casual symbolic act 
of  giving my children my wifes surname. The simple symbolic act of 
naming has turned out over the  decades to have inherited all the 
symbolic power of pure negation, of refusal.

As such then my own view of the field of politics is that it is simply 
(simply!) the field of  human existence - from the personal to the 
global, anything and everything is political - from the act of drinking 
Belvedere in NYC, rather than attending the fascist Church of 
Scientology next door, to Reading Sebald's Austerlitz rather than some 
terrible commodified piece of writing from the bookstall at Dallas 
airport, to arguing that the Afghan event is wrong and that Bush and 
Blair could perhaps be indicted as war criminals rather than to accept 
that there was no other possible response... (Can we really blame Bin 
Laden for the act of bombing the water system in Afghanistan?)

Normally I prefer to reduce concepts to a definable and agreed 
specificity but in this case the endless reduction of politics to the 
field of operation of the state is I believe wrong and dis-empowers us...



Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>I agree with you about Darwin. But isn't the problem, from a Darwinian
>perspective, simply to explain why the religious meme is so strong. 
>I certainly didn't mean to imply that religion is all sweetness and
>light. Simply, I meant that there must be positive elements or the meme
>wouldn't have replicated itself this long.
>What I am attempting to say is that I think religion has a positive
>element that can be reconstructed in a material way and thereby offer
>something to us of value. The buddha wasn't necessarily a fascist.
>I am not proposing this in place of politics or saying that the economic
>situation is not paramount. I agree with you on both counts.
>It may be the residual existentialist in me, but I think that even in a
>just, equal, democratic society there would still be the question of how
>am I to live?  and that ultimately, no political or economic system can
>answer that question.  
>I agree that a better political or economic system will allow for more
>human flourishing, but I don't think it is enough.
>I would also say the same things about art and literature as well. there
>seem to be things in this world politics can't explain, even though
>today there is certainly a need for politics.


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