File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 69

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 04:34:22 -0600
Subject: Re: Critique of Badiou


It occurs to me that Badiou's whole critique of the ethics of the Other
derives from the following syllogism:

1. Levinas is a theistic philosopher.
2. All ethics of the Other derive from Levinas.
3. Therefore, all ethics of the Other are implicitly theistic.

I will willingly grant that Levinas is a theistic philosopher.  It is
far less clear to me that others such as Derrida and Lyotard can be
described in such terms. Thus, something seems problematic about
Badiou's logic.  Even though Levinas may be an influence, it seems there
are also other factors at work to which I will loosely give the name
social construction. According to this view, the following non-theistic
argument applies.

1. Individuals arise in a social matrix which is mediated by others.
2. Therefore, an ethics of the Other is implicit in these relationships.

John Dewey writes: "A one-sided psychology, a reflex of
eightenth-century "individualism" treated knowledge as an accomplishment
of a lonely mind.  We should now be aware that it is a product of the
cooperative and communicative operations of human beings living
together.  Its communal origin is an indication of its rightful communal

A similar insight underlies Lyotard's critique of autonomy.  In "Just
Gaming" he writes: 

"An autonomous group...believes that justice lies in the
self-determination of peoples.  In other words, there is a close
relation between autonomy and self-determination: one gives oneself
one's own laws."

"As you say, this is obviously not paganism.  On the contrary, in
paganism, there is the intuition, the idea - in the almost Kantian sense
of the term, is ever autonomous.  On the contrary, an utterer is always
someone who is first of all an addressee, and I would even say destined.
By this I mean that he is a someone who, before he is the utterer of a
prescription, has been the recipient of a prescription, and that he is
merely a relay; he has also been the object of a prescription.  To
determine paganism then, one needs not only to oppose it to the theory
of the model, to give this name to the theory that one finds in Plato,
but one must also oppose it the theory of autonomy."

Isn't Badiou's ethics of truth, with its self-confessed Platonism,
merely the product of a "lonely mind" that needs to veil and obscure the
social origins from which it derives in order to proclaim itself as a
triumphant and autonomous atheism which is a causa sui by the occurrence
of the truth event alone? Beyond theology, paganism and atheism there is
ethics, and the face to which I turn need not be merely a reflection of
the divine. The face can be the broken mirror that awakens Narcissus.

Levinas writes: "My neighbor's material needs are my spiritual needs."

Even a Epicurean cyborg pagan like myself can relate to this!



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