File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 3

Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 21:16:30 -0600
Subject: Re: Why Badiou?


I agree with you. My own take on metanarratives would be as follows.
When Lyotard talks of incredulity, I take this to signify feelings
rather than ordinary skepticism or any kind of groping towards a sense
of historical closure. 

For me, at a basic level, postmodernism is simply the feeling that
things have  gotten too complex for one story to be capable of
explaining everything that happens. 

>From this standpoint postmodernism does not mean that historically there
won't be future attempts made at forming new metanarratives or, still
less, that Lyotard is postulating some kind of "metanarrative of the end
of metanarratives." It just means some of us have become very Kynical
about the possibilities any of these approaches offers and this very
Kynicism gives us something not all the metanarratives in the world can

I am currently at the point of still attempting to understand the
argument that Badiou is making in this book Ethics.  I also recognize
that this book is intended for a popular audience, so it really isn't
that technical.  Badiou doesn't really address the kinds of questions
you are asking. (This doesn't mean the book is an easy read, however. At
times I wish he would go into greater detail to explain what he means.) 

However, I agree with you he does tend to argue in the second chapter
"Does the other exist" that all ethics based on the concept of alterity
ultimately stem from Levinas.  Since Levinas piously invokes Jewish
theology in place of Greek philosophy, all ethical conceptions that
invoke alterity must also be implicitly religious, according to Badiou's

I'm not so certain myself that this necessarily follows. Certainly,
Lyotard, Derrida, Nancy, Irigaray cannot simply be construed as relgious
theists in any ordinary sense. At times it seems Badiou is overlooking
the vast differences that can exist in the various philosophies of

That said, I must confess that after my first reading I was very
stimulated by Badiou's Ethics. 

Simplifying greatly, it can be argued that there are two basic types of
ethics - those concerned with our duties towards our neighbor and those
concerned with our duties towards ouselves.  The latter type has a rich
history and includes within it such names as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus,
Spinoza and Nietzsche.

The merit of Badiou is that he renovates this tradition in a way that
doesn't entail essentialism, the concept of human nature, natural right,
religiousity or the "elightened individualism" of neo-liberalism.  

Instead, Badiou invokes the Immortal in the context of radical politics,
radical poetry, radical science and radical love.  

In a age of defensive posturing and a sense of universal victimhood,
Badiou dares to think instead about radical possibilities, multiple
Goodness and the truth of the event that shatters our ordinary attempts
at mere perserverance.  

"we are dealing with an animal whose resistance, unlike that of a horse,
lies not in his fragile body but in his stubborn determination to remain
what he is - that is to say, precisely something other than a victim,
other than a being-for-death, and thus: something other than a mortal

For this insight alone, I think Badiou is worth reading.



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