9781781680186_ethics-max_221

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: True and false contradictions of the crisis

    We are told capitalism is in crisis, and that this crisis forces a choice: "the West or else barbarism". In the light of escalating fascism and ongoing war, the choice is made to appear all the more urgent. Yet, as Alain Badiou shows in his article below, this is a false contradiction that serves both sides and "blocks the advent of the only global conviction that could save humanity from disaster".

    Translated by David Broder. The original French text is here



    By Alain Badiou

    Modernity is first of all a negative reality. Effectively it is a break with tradition. It is the end of the old world of castes, nobilities, religious obligation, youth initiation rites, local mythology, the submission of women, the father’s absolute power over his children, and the official division between a small group of rulers and a condemned mass of toilers. Nothing can push this movement back—a movement that evidently began in the West with the Renaissance, was consolidated by the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and then materialised in the unprecedented breakthroughs in production techniques and the constant refinement of means of measurement, circulation and communication.

    Continue Reading

  • Alain Badiou’s Perspective on the Strauss-Kahn Affair

    This extract is from a seminar given by Alain Badiou on 25 May 2011, according to notes taken by Daniel Fischer. In it, he comments on the construction of events surrounding the initial accusations towards the then head of the IMF.


    What interests me in this affair is precisely its theatrical essence. The great writer of this would have been Jean Genet. We have here, as in “The Balcony” and “The Blacks,” allegory. We are in the representation, even in the representation of representation, the representation of the mechanisms of representation (what is a president, what is a police chief?).

    Continue Reading

  • A letter from Alain Badiou


    The below is a letter from Alain Badiou regarding a critical review in
    Actu Philosophia of Emmanuel Faye’s book on Heidegger by Jean-Clet Martin. Read the review (in french) here

    Continue Reading

Other books by Alain Badiou Translated by Peter Hallward