File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 109


Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 19:39:44 +0000
Subject: Re: Fear.




Shawn/All

The trinary structure (self/god/other) that is at the heart of Levinas 
ethical structure explicitly requires that God and Ethics are 
inseparable. Not only is this extraordinarily reactionary given that it 
assumes that ethics derives from christian, judiac and islamic thought, 
in that it assumes that ethics derives from religious thought, and as 
such makes the assumption that morality and moral thought requires a 
tight connection between God and Morality.  Is it "sensible" to, or even 
possible to argue that an ethics founded on the necessity for the 
existence of a montheistic God used to justify ethics/morality - as 
oppositional to an understanding of ethics as being socially determined 
- is feasible?  Is it the case then that Levinas is so ahistorical as to 
be simply irrelevant then?  

The following is required for L.
* There are moral values.
* The existence of these values depends on the existence and nature of god.

Plainly absurd.

regards
steve
shawn wilbur wrote:

>I'm curious. If we do not acknowledge a basic difference in the economies
>of "obedience to [explicit] law" + "fear of the lord" and "the law of
>love,"
>then where, in terms of very practical critique, does that leave us? The
>conflation is useful if you want to lump all "religions of the book," but
>such talk of "tendencies" is simply ahistorical, and ignores essentially
>all
>of the conflict within the "western moral tradition." You end up in the
>position of claiming that very progressive social practices have been
>covertly "reactionary" because of some tendency (which they may even
>have been quite explicitly working against.)
>
>I'm thinking, for example, of Mayor Samuel Milton "Golden Rule" Jones,
>of Toledo, OH, and very practically successful politician who, the record
>suggests, was far more progressive that most of the Progressives of his
>era, precisely because he paid close attention to the differences between
>these two economies of "law."
>
>As an anarchist, it naturally warms my heart to hear folks claim that
>obedience
>to law is inherently reactionary. I even agree, within limits of how we
>define
>"law." But anarchism's specific form of the "what is to be done?" question
>revolves precisely around how the necessary functions of social
>organization
>are to be differentiated from "law" and "government." I won't pretend to
>answer those questions, though i have some strong opinions. However,
>one of those opinions i will advance is that only close attention to the
>fine
>dynamics of systems will bring anything like illumination. Isn't it, for
>instance
>the case that "original sin" is far from a uniform factor even within
>"Christian"
>practice - and that plenty of secular philosophies include some attention
>to
>the internal division of human beings which has much the same function?
>
>-shawn
>
>Eric wrote:
>
>  
>
>>All,
>>
>>Let me say first of all I thought Geof's position was rather eloquently
>>stated. I want to chime in, however, in favor of Steve's comment that
>>Levinas is reactionary. Perhaps, Geof is right about Levinas being hard
>>to put into politics terms because his ethics is concerned with a
>>mirco-level face-to-face basis regarding the other. I think it is still
>>possible to raise the issue that Levinas does not really break with the
>>moral tradition of the west, he simply finds new ways to defend it, and
>>therefore the core of his ethics remains conservative and even
>>reactionary.
>>
>>Certainly, at the heart of this western tradition there lies the notion
>>of original sin - the self left to own device becomes evil. This self
>>must always be subjugated through the law in order to be saved. When
>>this is done, the worship of god and the respect for the neighbor are
>>seen as the primary ends of ethics.
>>
>>Jewish tradition obeys the Torah; Christianity discards the rules of
>>kosher and ritual purification, but still maintains the law of love. One
>>of the ways this break is characterized (usually by Christians) is that
>>the old law is based upon 'fear of the lord' where god is seen as a
>>being who is wrathful and quick to anger. Nonetheless, this fear is
>>useful insofar as it teaches humility, the repentance to sin in sack
>>cloth and ashes. Christianity usually claims this fear must be overcome
>>by love and posits a new, more intimate relationship with god - Jesus is
>>my friend.  This kind of tenderness seems to be related closely to the
>>kind of positive fear that Geof was invoking. Levinas is interesting
>>because he rewrites this tradition in a way that stands Christianity on
>>its head and tends to validate the Jewish tradition from facile and
>>empty criticisms.
>>
>>The problem with all this, however, is that this disowned self under
>>both the Jewish and Christian traditions tends to be very negative. In
>>the Lacan-Badiou sense it gives up on desire. The western tradition
>>strongly advocates making the self at best, passive and at worst,
>>masochistic.
>>
>>Feminists have usually critiqued this kind of ethics as follows. It
>>tends to idealize service and for women, roles such as being a mother,
>>teacher, nurse, nun, - the so-called caretaker and nurturing roles are
>>valorized. Certainly these are concerned with the ethics of the other,
>>but in a way that tends to limit the woman herself. If a woman chooses
>>to become something else, such as an artist, writer, athlete these roles
>>tend to be seen as somehow suspect and less than the ideal.  Such a
>>woman may be described by religious judgment as being selfish when she
>>was really being ethical.
>>
>>Without going into the details, I think it is fairly obvious that
>>Levinas never really breaks with any of this basic orientation in his
>>ethics. He always tends to disavow the self (chez soi) versus the face
>>of the other.  In his system, alterity always trumps desire.
>>
>>In this sense, Badiou is more modern and more political in his approach.
>>Instead of the traditional self-other axis, his is an immortal-animal
>>axis which is guided by truth rather than god as the ultimate source of
>>its ethics.  This may be seen as contra-natural in the sense that
>>ontology-sets-difference-being are in some sense natural. It is not,
>>however, concerned with the care of self, but rather with the event of
>>truth. Who we ultimately become stems from this break; this encounter.
>>
>>In this way, ethics are always political in their import.
>>
>>eric
>>
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
>>[mailto:owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu] On Behalf Of Don Socha
>>Sent: Monday, February 17, 2003 3:23 PM
>>To: lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
>>Subject: Re: Fear.
>>
>>    
>>
>>>G/all
>>>
>>>I had thought of the Levinas angle but discarded it, for
>>>      
>>>
>>myself at
>>    
>>
>>>least, because of my rejection of his ethics.  Beyond the
>>>      
>>>
>>critique of
>>    
>>
>>>Levinas by Badiou, there is something deeply reactionary in
>>>      
>>>
>>statements
>>    
>>
>>>such as "...Ethics is, therefore, against nature because it
>>>      
>>>
>>forbids the
>>    
>>
>>>murderousness of my natural will to put my own existence
>>>      
>>>
>>first..."
>>    
>>
>>>regards
>>>steve
>>>      
>>>
>>I don't see what's necessarily reactionary about this
>>position, Steve.  Surely you don't mean to suggest that
>>Levinas is anything like a biological determinist. Though I
>>don't want to overlook the always difficult context of his
>>work, isn't he simply saying that while nature is
>>indifferent, people need not be fatalistic?
>>
>>I've yet to read Badiou (plan to begin this week), but
>>doesn't Levinas mean something quite distinct when he
>>says "against nature"?  I do know he wasn't in favor of
>>putting his own existence first... rather, his whole ouvre
>>stands against precisely this.
>>
>>Or do you see ethics as something other than an artificial
>>means by which better versions of ourselves might be
>>explored?
>>
>>Don Socha
>>    
>>
>
>  
>


HTML VERSION:

Shawn/All

The trinary structure (self/god/other) that is at the heart of Levinas ethical structure explicitly requires that God and Ethics are inseparable. Not only is this extraordinarily reactionary given that it assumes that ethics derives from christian, judiac and islamic thought, in that it assumes that ethics derives from religious thought, and as such makes the assumption that morality and moral thought requires a tight connection between God and Morality.  Is it "sensible" to, or even possible to argue that an ethics founded on the necessity for the existence of a montheistic God used to justify ethics/morality - as oppositional to an understanding of ethics as being socially determined - is feasible?  Is it the case then that Levinas is so ahistorical as to be simply irrelevant then?  

The following is required for L.
* There are moral values.
* The existence of these values depends on the existence and nature of god.

Plainly absurd.

regards
steve
shawn wilbur wrote:
I'm curious. If we do not acknowledge a basic difference in the economies
of "obedience to [explicit] law" + "fear of the lord" and "the law of
love,"
then where, in terms of very practical critique, does that leave us? The
conflation is useful if you want to lump all "religions of the book," but
such talk of "tendencies" is simply ahistorical, and ignores essentially
all
of the conflict within the "western moral tradition." You end up in the
position of claiming that very progressive social practices have been
covertly "reactionary" because of some tendency (which they may even
have been quite explicitly working against.)

I'm thinking, for example, of Mayor Samuel Milton "Golden Rule" Jones,
of Toledo, OH, and very practically successful politician who, the record
suggests, was far more progressive that most of the Progressives of his
era, precisely because he paid close attention to the differences between
these two economies of "law."

As an anarchist, it naturally warms my heart to hear folks claim that
obedience
to law is inherently reactionary. I even agree, within limits of how we
define
"law." But anarchism's specific form of the "what is to be done?" question
revolves precisely around how the necessary functions of social
organization
are to be differentiated from "law" and "government." I won't pretend to
answer those questions, though i have some strong opinions. However,
one of those opinions i will advance is that only close attention to the
fine
dynamics of systems will bring anything like illumination. Isn't it, for
instance
the case that "original sin" is far from a uniform factor even within
"Christian"
practice - and that plenty of secular philosophies include some attention
to
the internal division of human beings which has much the same function?

-shawn

Eric wrote:

  
All,

Let me say first of all I thought Geof's position was rather eloquently
stated. I want to chime in, however, in favor of Steve's comment that
Levinas is reactionary. Perhaps, Geof is right about Levinas being hard
to put into politics terms because his ethics is concerned with a
mirco-level face-to-face basis regarding the other. I think it is still
possible to raise the issue that Levinas does not really break with the
moral tradition of the west, he simply finds new ways to defend it, and
therefore the core of his ethics remains conservative and even
reactionary.

Certainly, at the heart of this western tradition there lies the notion
of original sin - the self left to own device becomes evil. This self
must always be subjugated through the law in order to be saved. When
this is done, the worship of god and the respect for the neighbor are
seen as the primary ends of ethics.

Jewish tradition obeys the Torah; Christianity discards the rules of
kosher and ritual purification, but still maintains the law of love. One
of the ways this break is characterized (usually by Christians) is that
the old law is based upon 'fear of the lord' where god is seen as a
being who is wrathful and quick to anger. Nonetheless, this fear is
useful insofar as it teaches humility, the repentance to sin in sack
cloth and ashes. Christianity usually claims this fear must be overcome
by love and posits a new, more intimate relationship with god - Jesus is
my friend.  This kind of tenderness seems to be related closely to the
kind of positive fear that Geof was invoking. Levinas is interesting
because he rewrites this tradition in a way that stands Christianity on
its head and tends to validate the Jewish tradition from facile and
empty criticisms.

The problem with all this, however, is that this disowned self under
both the Jewish and Christian traditions tends to be very negative. In
the Lacan-Badiou sense it gives up on desire. The western tradition
strongly advocates making the self at best, passive and at worst,
masochistic.

Feminists have usually critiqued this kind of ethics as follows. It
tends to idealize service and for women, roles such as being a mother,
teacher, nurse, nun, - the so-called caretaker and nurturing roles are
valorized. Certainly these are concerned with the ethics of the other,
but in a way that tends to limit the woman herself. If a woman chooses
to become something else, such as an artist, writer, athlete these roles
tend to be seen as somehow suspect and less than the ideal.  Such a
woman may be described by religious judgment as being selfish when she
was really being ethical.

Without going into the details, I think it is fairly obvious that
Levinas never really breaks with any of this basic orientation in his
ethics. He always tends to disavow the self (chez soi) versus the face
of the other.  In his system, alterity always trumps desire.

In this sense, Badiou is more modern and more political in his approach.
Instead of the traditional self-other axis, his is an immortal-animal
axis which is guided by truth rather than god as the ultimate source of
its ethics.  This may be seen as contra-natural in the sense that
ontology-sets-difference-being are in some sense natural. It is not,
however, concerned with the care of self, but rather with the event of
truth. Who we ultimately become stems from this break; this encounter.

In this way, ethics are always political in their import.

eric

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
[mailto:owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu] On Behalf Of Don Socha
Sent: Monday, February 17, 2003 3:23 PM
To: lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Re: Fear.

    
G/all

I had thought of the Levinas angle but discarded it, for
      
myself at
    
least, because of my rejection of his ethics.  Beyond the
      
critique of
    
Levinas by Badiou, there is something deeply reactionary in
      
statements
    
such as "...Ethics is, therefore, against nature because it
      
forbids the
    
murderousness of my natural will to put my own existence
      
first..."
    
regards
steve
      
I don't see what's necessarily reactionary about this
position, Steve.  Surely you don't mean to suggest that
Levinas is anything like a biological determinist. Though I
don't want to overlook the always difficult context of his
work, isn't he simply saying that while nature is
indifferent, people need not be fatalistic?

I've yet to read Badiou (plan to begin this week), but
doesn't Levinas mean something quite distinct when he
says "against nature"?  I do know he wasn't in favor of
putting his own existence first... rather, his whole ouvre
stands against precisely this.

Or do you see ethics as something other than an artificial
means by which better versions of ourselves might be
explored?

Don Socha
    

  


Driftline Main Page

 

Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005