Ethics, Evil, and the Unnameable
There is today no question more topical in philosophy and in the humanities generally than the question of ethics, understood as a kind of reflective sensitivity to matters of cultural difference and civic responsibility. And there is probably no assertion of Badiou's more shocking than his summary pronouncement “The whole ethical predication based upon recognition of the other must be purely and simply abandoned.” 1 Very much against the contemporary grain, Badiou's ethics is an ethics of the Same. Since difference or multiplicity is very literally what is, what should be is a matter of how such difference is transcended in favor of something else—in favor of the generic equality asserted by a truth.
As Žižek reminds us, “There is ethics—that is to say, an injunction which cannot be grounded in ontology—insofar as there is a crack in the ontological edifice of the universe: at its most elementary, ethics designates fidelity to this crack.” 2 The question of ethics arises only, beyond being as being, with truth and the subject. Outside a truth procedure there are only moral norms and customs, as regulated by the state of the situation. The ethical perspective shared by Lacan, Žižek, and Badiou is one that breaks sharply with the long tradition, reaching back to Aristotle, that attempts to ground ethical practice in some substantial or extrasubjective good (pleasure, virtue, civic