File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 115


Subject: RE: Fear.
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 15:04:18 -0600


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But steve, when Levinas says God, he is not evoking some being or
montheistic entity; not even close. He is completely redefining the
notion of "god" and "religion" in terms of an originary sociality. My
initial resistance to Levinas years ago had to do with what Eric called
his "god talk":   as a recovering xian (hallelujah), I wanted no part of
such shit. And for that reason alone it took me quite some time to
really read Levinas. But it's clear right away that what he's doing is
nothing that any religious denomination could handle; in fact he makes
an argument in at least one place for atheism. Right outta the shoot, he
nixes any sense of God as a being one might pray to. Badiou does not do
him justice on this point but instead does a kind of Rush Limbaugh-ish
lumping and dumping routine that makes him seem readily dismissable. His
reduction of Levinas's ethics to theology (without following or even
hinting at Levinas's wild redefinitions and refashionings) is
ridiculous. It does not do justice to the radicality of Levinas's
thought but instead effaces it through a "pragmatic" approach that
dances dangerously close to the metaphysics of presence, to the
immanentism that Levinas's work so beautifully explodes.
 
What Levinas offers is an ethics of/as interruption, of/as a disruption
of the play of the Same, and his works belt out what we might describe
as an ethical scream inasmuch as the ethical moment is associated with a
kind of trauma, with a non-cognitive "experience" that one can only
undergo. For him, the relation with the other is not reducible to
knowledge about the other; the other is what announces the insufficiency
of knowledge, requiring instead an exorbitant and deracinating
hospitality, an "approach, which contrasts with knowing," as he puts it
(OTB 193, 120).  For Levinas, the ethical relation does not move toward
commonality or re-cognition; it does not involve the movement of
appropriation but an "experience" of depropriation. It names, as
Blanchot suggests, "a relation that is foreign to every exigency of
identity, of unity, even of presence" (IC 300). This relation is
un/grounded, instead, in "the strangeness between us" (IC 168), which
interrupts my power to appropriate and assimilate-which interrupts my
power, period. And/but paradoxically, responsibility, the obligation to
respond to the other, requires that "I" respond precisely at this moment
when "I" have lost the power to do so. It is this interruption that
opens a rapport with the other as other. 
 
It is this "relation without relation," as Levinas puts it, is that he
calls "religion." And God is the name he gives to radical alterity, to
that for which your own little web of beliefs and hermeneutic fictions
cannot account. God is the name for that which infinitely exceeds the
tropological structure..and though Levinas would hate this, it looks and
acts an awfully lot like (but is not simply reducible to) what Lacan
calls the Real.  
 
Okay..........done ranting. Back to work. 
 
~~ddd
 
___________________________________________
  D. Diane Davis
  Division of Rhetoric & Department of English
  1 University Station B5500
  University of Texas at Austin
  Austin, TX 78712-0200

  Office: 512.471.8735; Dept: 471.6109; FAX: 471.4353
  ddd-AT-mail.utexas.edu
  http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~davis
-----Original Message-----
From: owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
[mailto:owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu] On Behalf Of
steve.devos
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2003 1:40 PM
To: lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
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:

But steve, when Levinas says God, he is not evoking some being or montheistic entity; not even close. He is completely redefining the notion of “god” and “religion” in terms of an originary sociality. My initial resistance to Levinas years ago had to do with what Eric called his “god talk”:   as a recovering xian (hallelujah), I wanted no part of such shit. And for that reason alone it took me quite some time to really read Levinas. But it’s clear right away that what he’s doing is nothing that any religious denomination could handle; in fact he makes an argument in at least one place for atheism. Right outta the shoot, he nixes any sense of God as a being one might pray to. Badiou does not do him justice on this point but instead does a kind of Rush Limbaugh-ish lumping and dumping routine that makes him seem readily dismissable. His reduction of Levinas’s ethics to theology (without following or even hinting at Levinas’s wild redefinitions and refashionings) is ridiculous. It does not do justice to the radicality of Levinas’s thought but instead effaces it through a “pragmatic” approach that dances dangerously close to the metaphysics of presence, to the immanentism that Levinas’s work so beautifully explodes.

 

What Levinas offers is an ethics of/as interruption, of/as a disruption of the play of the Same, and his works belt out what we might describe as an ethical scream inasmuch as the ethical moment is associated with a kind of trauma, with a non-cognitive “experience” that one can only undergo. For him, the relation with the other is not reducible to knowledge about the other; the other is what announces the insufficiency of knowledge, requiring instead an exorbitant and deracinating hospitality, an "approach, which contrasts with knowing," as he puts it (OTB 193, 120).  For Levinas, the ethical relation does not move toward commonality or re-cognition; it does not involve the movement of appropriation but an "experience" of depropriation. It names, as Blanchot suggests, "a relation that is foreign to every exigency of identity, of unity, even of presence" (IC 300). This relation is un/grounded, instead, in "the strangeness between us" (IC 168), which interrupts my power to appropriate and assimilate—which interrupts my power, period. And/but paradoxically, responsibility, the obligation to respond to the other, requires that "I" respond precisely at this moment when "I" have lost the power to do so. It is this interruption that opens a rapport with the other as other.

 

It is this “relation without relation,” as Levinas puts it, is that he calls “religion.” And God is the name he gives to radical alterity, to that for which your own little web of beliefs and hermeneutic fictions cannot account. God is the name for that which infinitely exceeds the tropological structure….and though Levinas would hate this, it looks and acts an awfully lot like (but is not simply reducible to) what Lacan calls the Real.  

 

Okay…………………………done ranting. Back to work.

 

~ddd

 

___________________________________________
  D. Diane Davis
  Division of Rhetoric & Department of English
  1 University Station B5500
  University of Texas at Austin
  Austin, TX 78712-0200

  Office: 512.471.8735; Dept: 471.6109; FAX: 471.4353
  ddd-AT-mail.utexas.edu
  http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~davis

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu [mailto:owner-lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu] On Behalf Of steve.devos
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2003 1:40 PM
To: lyotard-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu
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
    
 
  

 


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