Badiou an essay on the understanding of evil

This is one of the most original approaches to living and thinking well. Tired of overwrought, inherited theories of duty and rights? Nonplussed by the mothballs of classical liberal and conservative theory? Badiou makes a claim that hinges on imagining ourselves beyond ready-made ideas and seizing the power of our situations.

On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou

It's an erudite, lucid, and necessary book. Alain Badiou, one of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy, 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. If you need assistance with this website, please contact us. Neoliberal ethics also presumes an understanding of evil as pain, suffering and intolerance, epitomized as "radical Evil" in the Nazi extermination of the European Jews.

This conception creates three problems for "ethics" in Badiou's view.

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As evil becomes, in effect, the regulative principle of liberal moral thought, then any collective attempt to achieve justice and freedom--"the Good"--can be stigmatized by association with fascism and Communism. Also, if happiness defined as prosperity and pleasure becomes the summum bonum, then any and all attempts to supply it are legitimate--including imperialism.

At the same time, the assertion that the Holocaust is "unthinkable and unsayable" removes genocide both from historical explanation and from historical intervention. The fact that the Nazi genocide is also "constantly invoked and compared" Badiou notes the facile comparisons of Nasser, Saddam and Milosevic to Hitler renders "radical Evil" even more suspect. As caustic and over-the-top as Badiou's assertions can be, they counter the ensemble of platitudes about "diversity" and "otherness" that now passes for iconoclasm, not only on the left, but in much of American life.


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Corporate admakers, university administrators and cultural studies profs now "celebrate diversity. And as Arno Mayer and Peter Novick might agree, the radicalization of evil has imputed an almost sacral aura to the Nazi genocide that resists attempts at historical understanding. You don't have to affirm Badiou's polemical overkill to believe that the lexicon of "difference," "diversity" and "evil" is long overdue for critical reformulation.

To this end, Badiou poses an "ethic of truths" against neoliberal "ethics.

Për Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil

Although "the Good" has marked a distinctly authoritarian lineage in political philosophy from Plato to Leo Strauss, Badiou insists that only this vaguely spiritual conception accounts for the will to emancipation, the allure of reaction and the reality of evil. On all three points Badiou, like Zizek, secularizes ideas derived from theology.

Acknowledging his reliance on the letters of St. Paul the subject of an untranslated book , Badiou contends that the imagination for a new left politics must allow for secular notions of "immortality," "fidelity," "grace" and "evil," all of which flow from a quasi-religious understanding of "truth" and "event. Human beings, Badiou maintains, are "immortal," capable of entering "into the composition and becoming of some eternal truths.

Those open to the "possibility of the impossible" can extend those events into liberating political movements by their "fidelity" to the revelation. Exemplified in the early Christians, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Red Guards, revolutionary fidelity calls on its adherents to "seize in your being that which has seized and broken you.

Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil - Alain Badiou - Google книги

To a generation spoonfed on irony, this depiction of revolutionary ontology and commitment might seem romantic at best and frightening at worst. Myself, I don't see how any politics of liberation--from the catacombs of Rome to the streets of Seattle--can get very far without a utopian impulse and zeal. This formulation goes farther than the banal observation that the Nazis manipulated the German people.

Fascism appealed to a venerable longing for community, Badiou implies. If so, then evil, far from being the mere opposite of good, arises out of the deepest and noblest desires of the human heart. But why should truth take any false and murderous form?

How does evil happen?