File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 35

Subject: Re: Ethics as a Figure of Nihilism
Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2001 14:29:27 +0800

G'day Shawn,

How's it goin?

> Thanks for clarifying what you see as the potential problems with even
> poststructuralist "ethics." I'm interested that "ethics" is understood in
> terms of "justification." This seems to be a common concern among those
> who wish to critique poststructuralism, that it is a "relativism" or
> "nihilism" which then "justifies anything" or at least the wrong things
> (the capitalist status quo.) I just went a fairly unsatisfactory round on
> the Research in Anarchism list with a guy who wanted to argue that
> "postmodernism justifies terrorism" - presumably because it can't take a
> stand against it. The start of a response there, and here, i think, as
> well, is that, when it comes right down to it, nihilism justifies nothing
> - though it may in some way alibi our inertia, our failure to tackle
> questions relating to justice.

I found Niall Lucy's book "Beyond Semiotics" interesting for he takes to
task the political consequences of deconstruction (deconstructing
deconstruction). His argument, very simply, is based on:  if we cannot
escape the Symbolic Order then we must always still be in it, that is we
never 'nihilate' nihilism, so we do stand on some-thing whilst
deconstructing. There is always a reason for deconstruction.

> Ethics is the field
> within which we make important choice on the basis of always too little
> knowledge, wisdom, time, etc.

Yay! Virilio! Hmmm, yes, more often than not a 'gut feeling' to guide us. On
misreading Badiou, I think one of his major implicit arguments is his
position of there are only 'ethics-of' (the different realms of human
endeavour) applied to ethics itself. An ethics of ethics. It is not belief
structured, rather structure-structured. A neo-Marxist (neo-materialist??)
perspective on the production of ethics.

If you look at Badiou from that perspective (one amongst many, a multiple of
multiples!) then I think we are still playing the same game as he with
respect to other "ethics" projects.

> I wonder if we are turning Badiou to ends
> which are other than philosophical when we pit his critique of
> "ethics" - or the neo-liberal "ethics" he so rightly critiques - against
> any and all potential "ethical" comers.

And Eric/All,

I am reading Badiou through Lawrence Grossberg, yes that cultural studies
theoritician... He writes of 'social formations', and 'mattering maps', and
'a new conservatism',  through the Frankfurt-school looking glass. Which is
quite bizarre, for Grossberg is a North-American who wrote about this from
the late-eighties on, and his theoretical landscape was the
'rock-formation', as in rock'n'roll!

He is a smidgen that relates to Badiou's project:

"People know what they are doing, but they continue doing it anyway. Thus
the contemporary ideological practice already asumes the distance toward the
dominant ideology that had defined the possibility of critically responding
to it. Thus the very need, if not the possibility, of a critical relation to
the dominant ideology is apparently undermined." (1988)



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