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Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil

One of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy explodes the facile assumptions behind the recent ethical turn.
Ethical questions dominate current political and academic agendas. While government think-tanks ponder the dilemmas of bio-ethics, medical ethics and professional ethics, respect for human rights and reverence for the Other have become matters of broad consensus.

Alain Badiou, one of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy, explodes the facile assumptions behind this recent ethical turn. He shows how our prevailing ethical principles serve ultimately to reinforce an ideology of the status quo, and fail to provide a framework for an effective understanding of the concept of evil.

In contrast, Badiou summons up an “ethic of truths” which is designed both to sustain and inspire a disciplined, subjective adherence to a militant cause (be it political or scientific, artistic or romantic), and to discern a finely demarcated zone of application for the concept of evil. He defends an effectively super-human integrity over the respect for merely human rights, asserts a partisan universality over the negotiation of merely particular interests, and appeals to an “immortal” value beyond the protection of mortal privileges.

Reviews

  • “This is a fiery little book. ”
  • “His reasoning is powerful and surprising, making some of the best writing in current European philosophy, and his credentials are impeccable.”
  • “Badiou is at his strongest in pointing to the inconsistencies of a facile multiculturalism, the pluralism of the food court and the shopping mall, which wilts in the face of any genuine expression of cultural hostility to liberal values.”
  • “His lively, stimulating and sometimes completely batty book is an attempt to make us think differently about what matters to us ... it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Badiou's intuition that 'morality', 'evil' and indeed much of our standard moral vocabulary often serve as almost deliberate disguises for mediocre policy-making, social complacency and a general lack of adventurousness about life”

Blog

  • Alain Badiou: "Mao thinks in an almost infinite way"

    Badiou's apparently "unrepentant" Maoism has been one of the most controversial, if misinterpreted, elements of his thought. In the conversation below, Badiou is pressed on the question by an anonymous Chinese philosopher, and maintains that Mao continues to provide a model for dialectical thought, if not for a historical project. Visit LEAP to read the original piece in full.

    Stock-up, bulk-out, or fill-in the gaps in your Badiou Bookshelf with 50% off until tomorrow!



    ILLUSTRATION / Wang Buke

    A Dialogue Between a Chinese Philosopher and a French Philosopher

    December 13, 2014, Manny Cantor Center, New York

    Some time ago, French philosopher (and venerable Maoist) Alain Badiou traveled to China to speak to a Chinese philosopher. Though his or her name appears to have been lost in the ashes of time, the transcript of this alleged meeting remains, and bears a noted resemblance to a series of conversations Badiou had with Lu Xinghua, a contentious proponent of the theorization of Chinese contemporary art. A restaging of this dialogue this past December in New York, with an actress as the skeptical interlocutor, provided a window into Continental philosophy’s most ardent Orientalist fantasies—and an hour or two of solid dialectical entertainment.

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  • Alain Badiou: "Happiness is a risk that we must be ready to take"

    Happiness is central to the police operation of contemporary capitalism: enforced at work by "chief happiness officers" and at home by mindfulness, self-help manuals and "neurosignalling" headbands. Happiness must be meticulously maintained, and a burgeoning industry has grown around it, because collective unhappiness runs the risk of financial collapse. But as Alain Badiou argues below, it is happiness—as the affect on which political action is founded—that is the true risk. 

    - Visit 
    Regards to read the original interview in French. Translated by David Broder. 

    Verso is offering 50% off all our books by Alain Badiou until Friday!


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  • Complete your Badiou Bookshelf! 50% off until Friday!

    Stock-up, bulk-out, or fill-in the gaps in your Badiou Bookshelf with 50% off until Friday 12th June!



    For a limited time only (until Friday 12th June) we have 50% off EVERY BOOK by our favorite communist French philosopher!

    No Badiou Bookshelf is complete without Philosophy for MilitantsEthics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, and everyone's favourite little red number, The Communist Hypothesis (now out in paperback!).

    See all our Badiou titles at 50% off here, or follow the book links listed down the side of this post >>>>>>>>>>>

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Other books by Alain Badiou Translated by Peter Hallward