File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 7

Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2001 19:31:36 +0000
Subject: Re: Why Badiou?

Eric and all

see below.

Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>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 read this differently - that Levinas with his trinary structure and 
re-addressing of the other through a theistic structure enabled a 
drastically different version of difference, one which roots 'ethics in 
evil'. The philosophy that Badiou is attacking is that of Glucksmann 
(and the truly awful Luc Ferry shudder)  - in brief Glucksmann argued 
that evil attests to the absolute wickedness of man. Evil was identified 
by Glucksmann with and through the historical event(s) of the Gulag, and 
thus with the totalistarian state, evil is identified with Marxism, 
Socialism, Anarchism and this leads directly to the identification of 
progressive thought and action (of any kind) and rationalism as evil. 
Glucksmann in 'the master thinkers' placed the figure of Auschwitz 
alongside the Gulag - He uses Auschwitz to attack 'Green pacifists and 
European intellectuals....'  What is involved in this philosophical 
structure is the invoking of an 'unthinkable event' against which 
philosophy, thought itself must learn to admit defeat and irrelevance. 
Glucksmann goes as far as suggesting that humanity as a whole should be 
considered to be defined by the 'unthinkable event' and be guilty in 
itself....  Many philosophical approaches that deal with the 
extermination of the 'sub-humans', the 'non-humans' piled into the death 
camps start from this perspective. Few however equate all of human 
history to the same 'unthinkable' level. Human history is broadly 
speaking equated with totalitarianism 'the politics of evil' Glucksmann 
calls it. (Glucksmann is of course in favor of neo-liberal 
policies...)....  Recently Glucksmann defined the purpose of philosophy 
as being to 'judge the course of the world' and we (philosophers etc) 
are supposed to 'think on behalf of everyone' - this ultimate thought is 
to recognise the primary nature of the existence of evil. For Glucksmann 
the whole history of the west is explained by the optimistic for which 
the refusal to recognise the predominance of evil...

The purpose behind this brief statement is to point towards the primary 
target of Badious 'Ethics'...

Badiou is not writing directly contrary to the below named thinkers - 
his primary problem with notions of difference, and perhaps his problem 
with Levinas may derive from his appropriation by Ferry in L'Homme Dieu. 
Ferry. Glucksmann and co engage in a return to a pre-modernist morality...

Sorry for the 'diatribe' but more calmly - but contrary to my initial 
reading of the text - I believe that Badiou's work 'Ethics' is not 
actually engaged in directly addressing the thinkers named below, but is 
rather addressing a different and more parochial French philosophical 
target.  I misread the text through the radical conception of difference 
that is defined by the thinkers below and consequently did not 'think' 
the difference Badiou is addressing.

>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
Practical Ethics - assuming that the non-human is identified with the 
'neighbor' this is acceptable, are you?

>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.  
interestingly and nicely put...



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