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

  • The ancient Alain Badiou responds to the dashing Laurent Joffrin


    Alain Badiou, whose most recent book The Age of the Poets has just been published, has written the below response to Laurent Joffrin, Editorial Director of Libération, who has written an article in Libération criticising Badiou for his use of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in a recent debate:

    In the context of a debate with Marcel Gauchet on the theme ‘communism and democracy’ I invoked certain characteristics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in service of a complex argument. This proved sufficient for Laurent Joffrin to abandon instantly the toil that doubtless occupies all of his time – the soft laying-off of almost a hundred employees from the Libération newspaper – to give his verdict: Badiou is just a frozen dinosaur.

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  • An interview with Alain Badiou: theatre and philosophy, an antagonistic and complementary old couple



    During your talk in Avignon’s ‘Theatre of Ideas’ series you evoked the tensions at work within the 2,500 year-old couple of philosophy and theatre.  In your view are these fruitful tensions, or, on the contrary, destructive ones? Nietzsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ offers evidence enough of this difficult relationship, while Socrates (helped by Euripides) wanted to sound the death knell of tragedy and herald the triumph of reason…

    Alain Badiou: There have been two fundamental currents in philosophy ever since its origins, and not just one. What Nietzsche called philosophy is a Platonism that he had largely fabricated. So you could make a lot of objections to Nietzsche even based on Plato himself. Nietzsche counterposes a certain construct of philosophy to the original fundamental power of Tragedy, the Appollonian and Dionysian, but this is still only one definition of philosophy among many others, which he uses as a sort of war machine. It ought not be forgotten that Nietzsche went so far as to say that ‘the philosopher is the criminal of criminals’ – he did not qualify his assertions.

    I think that in reality the relationship between philosophy and theatre is an ambiguous one, from its very origins.

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  • Alain Badiou's "anti-Semitism": Badiou, Segré, and Winter respond to the current accusations in France

    A debate has long been raging between France’s public intellectuals regarding Israel/Palestine and the question of anti-Semitism. From Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 Anti-Semite and Jew to Jacques Derrida’s “Interpretations at War” to Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, France—the country with the largest population of Jews and Arabs in Europe—has been fertile ground for these public debates. Even amongst philosophical allies positions have been fragmented; Deleuze expressed his support for the Palestinian cause, while Foucault held a strong pro-Israel stance.

    Today, however, the debate has turned personal as well as ideological as attacks have been levelled against Alain Badiou, whose outspoken pro-Palestinian position and advocacy of a single state, along with his thoughts on anti-Semitism, have aroused much debate. Leading the charge is Éric Marty, a professor of contemporary literature at the University of Paris-7 and the author of Une querelle avec Alain Badiou, philosophe (2007). Marty had begun his querelle with Badiou as early as 2000 when he criticized Badiou for his enthusiasm for the ideas of the Cultural Revolution in China. By 2006 Marty published a full on attack with an article titled ‘Alain Badiou: the Future of a Negation’ in Les temps modernes. The ‘querelle’ continued with Badiou’s response to Marty titled ‘The Word “Jew” and the Sycophant’, in his book POLEMICS. Reflections on Anti-Semitism, a book co-authored with Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré, set out to definitively dispel all accusations of anti-Semitism against Badiou.

    Still, in July, the debate heated up once more with the publication of Gérard Bensussan’s article in Libération titled, ‘The far Left has done what the far Right only dreamed of.’ There Bensussan, a professor of philosophy at the Université Marc Bloch in Strasbourg, charges Badiou and the far left critics of Israel with helping to restore anti-Semitic sentiments in France.




    Below are several responses to Bensussan’s article. The first is Badiou’s retort followed by a response by Cécile Winter, the author of the essay 'The Master-Signifier of the New Aryans', which is published in Polemics. The final response comes from Ivan Segré, a Talmudic scholar and co-author with Badiou of Reflections on Anti-Semitism. 


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Other books by Alain Badiou Translated by Peter Hallward