File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 48

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 06:21:58 -0600
Subject: Critique of Badiou

To keep things simple, I will limit myself to three points where I find
Badiou's conception of ethics problematic, then I will suggest a way his
concepts can be re-interpreted in a more productive manner.

1. There is an implicit dualism is Badiou's distinction between the
Immortal and the animal.  This is in keeping with his asserted Platonic
stance, but it seems to involve skyhooks rather than Darwin.  It also
doesn't show how there can be intermediate stages.  Just the break where
one leaves for the other world.
2. I find the reference to the simulacrum somewhat ludicrous as way to
distinguish between the 'real' truth (like Mao's cultural revolution!)
and a 'false' one like Nazism.  It seems that Badiou simply wants to
assert the truth value without establishing the procedures by which a
truth can be established and known.
3. The concept of Evil, even though it is situated in the context of the
Good does not go far enough to break with the theological conception of
ethics that Badiou otherwise condemns.  It might be more fruitful to
naturalize this conception into terms of good and bad, even though this
might risk jettisoning Badiou's Platonic project.

One of the fascinating things for me in reading Badiou's ethics is
this.  Once the metaphysical and rhetorical components of Badiou are
toned down and naturalized, then his ethics comes very close to
resembling that of John Dewey.  For those who may not be familiar with
Dewey, he began as a Hegelian, but later broke from Idealism and
developed a more Darwinian approach that Dewey named instrumentalism,
and which Rorty and others have pointed out, constituted a kind of
postmodernism avant la lettre.

Dewey sees ethics as embedded in a situation and sees inquiry as a way
to transform that situation in order to realize a various end in view. 
This seems the be the central core of what Badiou is discussing as well.

What is also interesting about this is that the other influence on Dewey
and someone who is an interesting philosopher in his own right was
George Herbert Mead.  His contribution was to place all of this into a
social context.  Mead distinguishes between the 'I' and 'me' and points
out that one becomes a person only through the mediation of others. 
This conception of the generalized other that Mead argues for shows how
the social construction of the self precedes and supports the ethics of
the Other.

Against Badiou's ethics of truth, it is possible to argue that truth
emerges, not as a solitary act, but through a community of
interpretation, and that as such the Other must remain as a underlying
ethical concern.  By focusing so intently on the abuses of the liberal
multicultural approach to human rights which subsumes ethics under 'the
colors of Benneton', Badiou misses the deeper problem where ethics must
come to face the Other, even when one is an atheist because who the
atheist is remains a function of the social construction mediated
through the generalized Other.

My question is this.  What does Badiou give us that goes beyond Dewey
and Mead?  That said, is there a way to re-interpret Badiou through them
that does justice to the Other as well as to what Badiou calls the
ethics of truth?



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