File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 18

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 19:37:21 +0000
Subject: Re: The Problem of Evil/Conclusion



Does 'radical evil', can evil be said to exist as such?

The most radical thinking on Auschwitz, Buchenwald and the holocaust 
contained in texts such as Levi's exemplary witnessing of the events and 
Agamben's Remnants of Auschwitz - refuses the notion of evil which is 
placed at the centre of the thought Badiou is critiquing.. Beyond the 
event writers are suggesting that we understand the holocaust as a form 
of 'endo-colonialism'  as such its non-uniqueness, or perhaps more 
accurately its situating in the long and unpleasant history of colonial, 
theological and political mass-murder.

Where does Badiou refer to Hitler as evil?


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>This is the last chapter of Badiou's Ethics, along with a very short two
>page Conclusion. Here is the somewhat belated commentary.
>The central point Badiou makes is that the liberal notion of ethics,
>based on Otherness, emphasizes Evil.  From the standpoint of an ethics
>of truth, however, goodness is central.  As Badiou says, it is "the
>singular advent of a persevering ethic."
>Contra Nietzsche, Badiou remarks that, as a general rule, humans are
>beneath good and evil. Good, and consequently, Evil emerges only as a
>consequence of the truth process.  Truth is what throws the
>self-interest of survival into disorganization.  Badiou goes so far as
>to describe the Good as the "internal nom of a prolonged disorganization
>of life."
>The reason for this is that every pursuit of an interest has only
>success as its source of legitimacy. Only in the face of truth does it
>become necessary to measure life against some other standard.  Badiou
>adds: "It is only because there are truths, that there are subjects of
>these truths, that there is evil."
>The point Badiou makes is that just as Levinas makes the opening to the
>Other depend upon the supposition of the Altogether-Other, so do the
>upholders of ethics make the supposition of Evil depend upon a radical
>Evil, usually the prime example being that of the Holocaust.
>The problem with this is that the Holocaust is declared to be
>unthinkable, yet in practice it is constantly invoked.  A current
>example of this is the comparison of Bin Laden with Hitler.  For Badiou
>this is merely the imposition of a religious category because after
>defining the event as immeasurable, it is constantly being evoked to
>measure situations in a mode that remains a-historical.  It fails to
>recognize that Hitler was not merely evil, he was also political. 
>Nazism was a community of being together with a conquering subjectivity
>that permitted to act in a criminal fashion. Proponents of Radical Evil
>refuse to recognize the criminality of the Nazi state, replacing
>political critique with generalized ethics. 
>Badiou argues instead that there is no radical Evil, but Evil does exist
>by the mere fact that there exists a consistent ethics of truth, defined
>by the void of the situation, the uncertainty of fidelity, and the
>powerful forcing of knowledge by a truth.  In the face of truth, Evil
>can take on the various aspects of terror, betrayal, or disaster. There
>is Evil, however, only insofar as there is Good.
>Terror emerges when the process of truth is negated; when the radical
>break in the situation convokes not the void but a simulacrum.  The
>example Badiou gives of this is the Nazis.  Rather than face the
>universality of this void, they opted for the closed particularity of
>the Germans, the Aryans. This simulacrum produced the Jews as the enemy
>as the nominal counterpoint. This exercise of fidelity to a simulacrum,
>Badiou argues, can only proceed by the exercise of Terror, not political
>terror, but the simple reduction of all to their being-for-death.
>Betrayal points to the temptation to betray a truth, the
>becoming-subject that I am. The meaning of a crisis is that one must
>continue to persist in truth, to keep it going, or one can merely
>renounce a truth and return to mere animality and interest. Betrayal is
>always the latent possibility of any ethics of truth.
>Disaster is concerned with the unnameable.  What Badiou means by this is
>that truth changes the names of elements in the situation.  It is the
>vision of a situation in which interest has disappeared and opinions
>have been replaced by a truth.  Badiou says "the Good is Good only to
>the extent it does not aspire to render the world good...
>The power of truth is also a kind of powerlessness."
>There is always at least one element which remains inaccessible to
>truthful nominaitions.  This is the unnameable.  "Evil in this case is
>to want to, at all costs and under condition of a truth, to force the
>naming of the unnameable.  Such, exactly, is the principle of
>disaster."  The political example which Badiou gives of this is the
>attempt to name a community which induces a disaster of Evil because it
>must also attempt to name those who fall outside this community.
> This leads to Badiou's brief conclusion which briefly recapitulates
>everything that has been said before.  He identifies the ethical
>ideology of Western societies as the chief adversary of all those who
>are striving to hold fast to some true thought.  His final comment
>"The ethic of truths aims neither to submit the world to the abstract
>rule of a Law, nor to struggle against an external and radical Evil.  On
>the contrary, it strives, through it own fidelity to truths, to ward off
>Evil - that Evil which it recognizes as the underside, or dark side, of
>these very truths."


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