File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 19

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 18:23:04 +0000
Subject: Re: Does Man Exist?

I think this is a reasonable coverage of Badiou's position - however it 
is worth remebering that Badiou's version of 'secular' is extreme in 
that he denies rationality to positions based on both 'natural man' 
(i.e. the return to humanism) and 'spiritual identity of Man' - Levinas 
in other words. The reading of Levinas is based on 'Totality and 
Infinity 'and also 'Time and the Other'. It is necessary to realise that 
his target is not simply Levinas and his specific version of the other 
but the entire construction of human/Other relations as founded on a 
non-psychoanalytical grounding - as a consequence I'm doubtful that his 
reading, or more accurately (polemical) mis-reading, works for 
Irigarary  who fundamentally has a structure derived from psychoanalysis 
with an overlay of biology/evolution.  The refusal of the 'Return to 
Kant' (p8) (which I'd like to hear some comment on) is perhaps 
inevitable given Badious refusal of transcendence and the sublime... The 
ethical turn is rejected because of its being non-political, a 
non-politics being by nature, at least in European vernacular, a 
conservative stance.

Does the humanist/anti-humanist pairing appear sufficient in itself to 
describe the situation as he describes it?

The key relationship for Badiou is always already political and always 
actively progressive - a return to some form of Marxist revolution 
politics is necessary and highly desirable.


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>This is the title of Chapter 1 of Badiou's Ethics.  Here is its recap.
>Badiou begins with the observation that 'ethics' has had a resurgence
>today.  He remarks that the "return to the old doctrine of the natural
>rights of man is obviously linked to the collapse of revolutionary
>Marxism, and of all the forms of progressive engagement that it
>inspired."  Steve is probably right the so-called "new philosophers"
>such as Glucksmann and Ferry are the intended references here, but it
>should be noted than they receive no explicit mention in the text.
>(There is only the lonely exile of a single footnote.)
>Against this trend, Badiou states that Foucault, Althusser and Lacan had
>all argued against this conventional natural and spiritual identity of
>Man and that to a certain extent, the debate can be framed as one
>between 'humanism' and anti-humanism'.   Badiou writes: "In reality,
>there is no lack of proof for the fact that the thematics of the 'death
>of man' are compatible with rebellion, a radical dissatisfaction with
>the established order, and a full committed engagement in the real of
>situations, while by contrast, the theme of ethics and of human rights
>is compatible with the self-satisfied egoism of the affluent West, with
>advertising and with services rendered to the powers that be. Such are
>the facts."
>This return to ethics and human nature is marked by four
>1. It posits a human subject.
>2. It subordinates politics to ethics and to a single universal
>perspective of the spectator.
>3. It derives the Good from Evil and not vice versa.
>4. It defines 'human rights' negatively as rights to non-evil.
>Thus, the emphasis of such ethics is to concentrate upon what must be
>forbidden as opposed to what can be achieved and it thus ignores
>completely the underlying situation of unbridled self-interest in which
>it finds itself contextualized, the politics in which it is situated.
>The heart of the question for Badiou is to be found in this presumption
>of the universal human Subject which entails the importance of human
>rights and humanitarian action.  It chief postulate for Badiou is that
>'man is the being who is capable of recognizing himself as a victim.'
>Badiou rejects this viewpoint for three reasons.
>1. To identify 'man' as victim is to reduce 'him' to mere animal
>nature.  Badiou does not deny animality, but argues this is not the
>totality of who we are.  There is also what he calls 'The Immortal,' a
>someone who runs counter to the temptation of wanting-to- be-an-animal
>to which circumstances may expose him.  'Every human being is capable of
>being this immortal- unpredictably in circumstances great or small, for
>truths important or secondary.'
>2. This ethical consensus is founded only on the recognition of evil.
>This approach is implicitly a denial of 'The Immortal.' "To forbid him
>to imagine the Good, to devote his collective powers to it, to work
>towards the realization of unknown possibilities, to think what might be
>in terms that break radically with what is, is quite simply to forbid
>him humanity as such."
>3. From this negative and a priori determination of Evil, ethics
>prevents itself from thinking the singularity of situations as such,
>which is the obligatory starting point of all properly human action.
>Badiou propose three alternative theses to this ethics of the victim.
>1. Man is to be identified by his affirmative though, by the singular
>truths of which he is capable, by the Immortal which makes him the most
>resilient and most paradoxical of animals.
>2. It is from our positive capability for Good that we are able to
>identify Evil.
>3. All humanity has its root in the identification in thought of
>singular situations.  There is no ethics in general.  There are only -
>eventually - ethics of processes by which we treat the possibilities of
>a situation.
>This concludes the summary of Chapter 1.
>(the book uses traditional masculine gendering and I have maintained it
>here for the purposes of discussion.)


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