File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 85

Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2001 12:14:14 -0600
Subject: The Ethics of Truth

There is no such thing as Ethics in general, Badiou tells us at the
start of this chapter in his book Ethics, because there is no abstract
subject. Instead, there is only a particular animal in particular
situations. Circumstances arise in which one composes oneself as a
subject in response to the passing of a truth along one's path.

The question then arises - what are these circumstances of truth?  

Badiou argues that in order for the subject (or the Immortal) to emerge,
something needs to have happened which cannot simply be reduced to what
there is.  He names this supplement the event and distinguishes from
mere multiple-being, which is merely a matter of opinion.  For the event
to occur, there must be the entrance of a truth which compels us to
decide a new way of being.

This calls for a concept Badiou names fidelity. Fidelity is the move
within the situation that the event has supplemented which thinks the
situation according to the event.  And since the event was excluded by
the laws of the situation - this compels the subject to invent a new way
of being and acting in the situation. This truth must be seen as a kind
of production, one that fidelity produces within the situation as a
response to the event. It is also constitutes this truth as an immanent
break within the situation.

It can therefore be said that the subject is composed through this act
of fidelity. There is no way the subject can pre-exist the situation,
rather the process of truth induces a subject.

This leads Badiou to define what he means by an "ethics of truth." He
writes that it is "that which lends consistency to the presence of
some-one in the composition of the subject induced by the process of

This some-one becomes simultaneously a self and an excess of self,
because the fidelity passes through it and inscribes, from within time,
an instant of eternity.

Consistency is the "engagement of one's singularity in the continuation
of a subject of truth."  This is related to Lacan's maxim - "do not give
up on your desire."  In other words, do not give up on your own seizure
by the truth process. Here fidelity merges with consistency.  The
seizure by truth becomes the categorical imperative.

Badiou thus distinguishes between the some-one, or what he calls the
principle of self-interest from the consistency of fidelity, or what he
the subjective principle. This means that ethical consistency is
informed by disinterested interest. Interest remains, but no longer the
specific interest in this some-one, this particular animal.  There is an
excess beyond myself brought about by the passing through it of truth.
The immanent break of the event means that the some-one is suspended and
becomes disinterested.  

Badiou also distinguishes this conception of ethics from mere opinion,
or what is sometimes referred to as a communicative ethics.  The ethics
of truth is the very opposite of this.  It is an ethic of the Real,
again in the sense that Lacan uses this term.  Consistency can be
summarized by the maxim - to keep going - going in the sense of
following with fidelity this thread of the Real.

This leads Badiou to raise the following question.  "The materials of
our multiple-being are now organized by the subjective composition, by
fidelity to a fidelity, and no longer by the simple pursuit of interest.
Does this subversion amount to renunciation?"

Badiou considers the answer to this question to be ultimately an
undecideable, but the possibility exists that it may not imply this
because it is the ethic of truth alone that gives consistency.  Interest
has no other matters to unify than those that truth gives it.  Here
again, Badiou refers back to Lacan.  "Desire, what is called desire,
suffices to prove that it would make no sense for life to create



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