File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 136

Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2001 18:28:14 +0000
Subject: Re: libidinal ethics

Interesting - i'll reply tomorrow.... i


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>I will freely grant you that Kant in the conventional sense is what
>Badiou is attacking, but what I am proposing is reading Kant in 
>the unconventional sense. 
>My argument is that if Kant is re-interpreted in this way, then there
>are some strong similarities with Badiou.
>What I want to open up for discussion here is a psychoanalytical reading
>of ethics. You have alluded to this yourself, but so far you haven't
>gone into this in any great detail.
>In the "Ethics of the Real" Alenka Zupancic points out that Kant's
>categorical imperative cannot simply be reduced to the superego. 
>Instead, what is significant about Kant's radical break with traditional
>ethics is that Kant sees ethics as the demand for the impossible. The
>question of the possibility of fulfilling one's duty is irrelevant from
>a Kantian perspective. This links the categorical imperative to the
>structure of desire. Both act in ways that ignore the reality principle.
>The second breakthrough is that Kant rejects an ethics based upon the
>distribution of goods, an ethics that is based on what is good for
>others.  From Aristotle to Bentham, the stance of ethics to desire had
>always been to make desires wait, to invoke ethics as a kind of delaying
>tactic; a bridle upon the wild horses.
>Kant introduces the dimension of desire into ethics and brings it to its
>pure state. As Zupancic puts it, "In relation to the smooth course of
>events, life as governed by the reality principle, ethics always
>apprears as something excessive, as a disturbing interruption."
>This is in line with what the translator of Badiou's Ethics, Peter
>Hallward, states as well in the introduction.  "Since 'normal' conscious
>life (your psychological status quo) is structured around the repression
>of this Real, access to it must be achieved by the essential encounter
>(i.e. what Badiou will call an event, a happening which escapes all
>structuring 'normality'.) Ethics is what helps the subject to endure
>this encounter, and its consquences."
>This links Badiou's ethical project to Kant's because "like Badiou, Kant
>abstracts questions of ethics from all 'sensibility', and also like
>Badiou, he posits the universal as the sole legitimate basis for
>subjective action, that the familar command to 'act on a maxim that at
>the same time contains in itself its own universal validity for every
>rational being;.  It was Kant who first evacuated the ethical command of
>any substantial content, so as to ground ethical 'fidelity' in nothing
>other than the subject's own prescription."
>"Kant's very procedure-the evacuation of all heteronomous interests and
>motives, the suspension of all references to 'psychology' and 'utility',
>all allusion to any 'special property of human nature', all calculation
>required to obtain 'happiness' or 'welfare' - bears some resemblance to
>Badiou's. What remains paramount for both is a specifically subjective
>(and explicitly 'infinite') power."
>What I would like to discuss is this very possibility of linking
>psychoanalysis with ethics in order to create a libidinal ethics in
>which the categorical imperative is reconfigured as a drive, based upon
>desire.  (I will, therefore I can.... I can't go on, I will go on). 
>Also, how does ethics in this sense link to Lyotard's reading of the
>ethical in general and of Kant specifically? What is the relation of the
>ontological sublime (as opposed to the merely aesthetic sublime) to
>ethics in this sense?
>Is there a way to re-read Kant that does not merely construe him as the
>spokesman for universal human rights and a slavish devotion to duty,
>that would restore some of Kant's radical potential for reconfiguring


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