File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 18

Subject: RE: Does the Other Exist?
Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2001 05:17:50 -0600

I appreciate very much your explication of Badiou's ethics, eric, and
I'm reading, trying to stay open to it. But it's a struggle b/c i found
his book on Deleuze outrageous--incredibly arrogant and self-serving,
particularly in a work commissioned to be in memory of D. I could be
overly sensitive about that kind of thing. Buuuut, in your gloss of his
critique of levinas, I get a similar sense of frustration. There are
many ways to take Levinas on, many valid critiques, but his doesn't
appear (at least in your gloss of it) to be one of them. Does B at least
hesitate before calling Levinas anti-philosophical, since L's entire
project was a search for what western philosophy systematically
excludes: the otherwise than being? And does he address anywhere the
fact that what L has done with the idea of God is totally deconstruct
it? I haven't read much Badiou at all (couldn't finish the Deleuze
book), but I've read an awfully lot of L, and this description of L as
you lay it out here just doesn't ring true for me. At all. The leap to
"pious discourse" seems particularly wrong-headed. And the suggestion
that L's work amounts to respecting differences seems, truly and with
utmost respect, to be a crock of shit. 

I'm not a wild defender of L--as I said, I have some issues with his
work. I'm just trying hard to learn to appreciate what Baidiou is
doing--to not be too dismissive without really reading him. I'm going to
buy his book on ethics b/c I see (thanks to your posts here; thank you)
that I'll need to deal with it in something I'm working on--but I'm
hoping against hope that this will be a better experience than I had
with the D. book. I take it that you really dig B's work, so can you
maybe point to what it is in it that does it for you? 

Best, ddd

  D. Diane Davis
  Division of Rhetoric and Composition
  Department of English
  University of Texas at Austin
  PARLIN 227  (512-471-8765)
  Austin TX 78712-1122

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:owner-
>] On Behalf Of Mary Murphy&Salstrand
> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2001 9:49 PM
> To:
> Subject: Does the Other Exist?
> Chapter 2 of Badiou's Ethics is basically a critique of Levinas.
> As Badiou points out, the essential characteristic of Levinas' project
> is that he is anti-philosophical.  To the Same, he opposes the Other
> ontologically prior to identity, following the Jewish conception of
> Law as divine, as opposed to the rational laws of the Greek
> The question Badiou raises is: what is it that testifies to the
> originality of my de-votion to the Other?
> As Badiou points out, the phenomenological, mimetic or psychoanalytic
> approaches will not satisfy Levinas. The ontological primacy of the
> Other before the Same must be guaranteed in some manner and there is
> nothing in our experience of the Other that will make good this
> guarantee.
> "The Other, as he appears to me in the order of the finite, must be
> epiphany of a properly infinite distance to the other, the traversal
> which is the originary ethical experience." This infinite
> 'Altogether-Other' is, as Badiou points out, simply another name for
> God.
> The only way Levinas can avoid having his ethical project collapse
> mere phenomenology is by having God be what grounds the Other as the
> infinite.  By this means, ethics becomes a category of pious
> To attempt ethics without this religious character is to attempt what
> Badiou sarcastically terms "a dog's dinner."  It is simply a pious
> discourse that lacks piety. Such individuals may declare the 'right to
> difference' but in practice are horrified by any vigorously sustained
> difference. (This may be seen currently in the discussion here in
> America of the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalism.)
> The problem is that this respect for differences appears to define an
> identity.  An identity which is structured in a hierarchical fashion.
> The implicit motto of this identity is simply the imperative of a
> conquering civilization.  "Become like me and I will respect your
> differences."
> In place of the Other, Badiou insists that the real issue lies in
> recognizing the Same.  Infinite alterity is what always already is.
> my own experience of my self is normalyy not that of a unity, but a
> myriad of multiple experiences.
> The current fascination of contemporary ethics with the Other is
> cultural, what Badiou calls a 'tourist fascination' with exotic foods,
> artifacts, fashion and customs.  Becoming multicultural confers the
> status of a global cosmopolitan as opposed to being merely a local
> redneck.  Since money is a major component that makes possible this
> of diversity, to a certain extent this form of ethics acts as a kind
> class marker.
> Multicultural ethics is merely a good global marketing strategy.
> The Same is not merely what has been, but also what comes to be.  When
> the advent of the Same occurs, it is a truth. Only a truth is, as
> indifferent to differences because a truth is the same for all.  Truth
> signifies our capacity for art, science, love and politics since all
> truths fall under one of these universal names.
> Thus, Badiou asserts "the only genuine ethics is of truths in the
> - or more precisely, the only ethics is of processes of truth, of the
> labor that brings some truths into the world."  Ethics does not exist.
> There is only the "ethics-of."
>  Badiou also claims; "There is not, in fact, one single Subject, but
> many subjects as there are truths, and as many subject types as there
> are procedures of truths."
> eric


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