Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ethics: An essay on the understanding of Evil

Alain Badiou
Alain Badiou

Translated by Peter Hallward

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.

“One of the most important philosophers writing today.” — Joan Copjec

Alain Badiou teaches philosophy at the Ecole normale supérieure and the Collège international de philosophie in Paris. In additional to several novels, plays and political essays, he has published a number of major philosophical works, including Theory of the Subject (1982), Being and Event (1988), Manifesto for Philosophy (1989), Conditions (1992) and Gilles Deleuze: The Clamour of Being (1997), Metapolitics and Polemics. His The Meaning of Sarkozy is forthcoming from Verso.

“Against the predominant fashion for anti- and post- philosophies, Ethics enacts a return to full-blown philosophy which strikes as a thunder into the morass of postmodernist sophisms and platitudes. . . . A book that aims at the very heart of politically correct “radical” intellectuals, undermining the foundations of their mode of life!” — Slavoj Zizek

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