NEMANJA: SMIRENOUMLJE

utorak, 15.07.2008.

negativne stvari

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elem, imam neki ogromni post o razlici između 'Istočnog grijeha' i 'radikalnog zla'... ajde jedno pitanje... Isus više puta spominje djecu i ukazuje da su ona najveća među svima, da će svi ljudi koji budu kao djeca moći ući u Kraljevstvo nebesko, da onome tko navede djecu na grijeh treba vezati mlinski kamen oko vrata, siromašni duhom su poput djece, nekontaminirani naslijeđenim i naućenim... je li tako Isus aludira da 'Istočni grijeh' nije nešto urođeno (stečeno) već nešto naučeno i naslijeđeno povijesnom inercijom. znam da u judaizmu 'Istočni grijeh' ne postoji, znam da se o njemu mijenjalo mišljenje od ovog do onog pa sve do II Vatikanskog sabora... znam da je to stvar dogmi i kanona... znam i da je sv. Pavao nakon što je kamenom pogodio u glavu sv. Stjepana Prvomučenika pa onda doživio psihotičnu epizodu na putu u Damask često spominjao taj 'grijeh' i otkupljenje tog grijeha preko Isusove žrtve... znam... nego, jeli... Kant u onoj 'Religion within...' jasno povlači razliku između onog svog zloglasnog 'radikalnog zla' i urođenog (ili samim rođenjem stečenog) 'Istočnog grijeha'... isto tako proziva stupidnim vjerovanje da je Isusovom žrtvom sa ljudi automatski skinut taj teret grijeha (u stvari, uz osjećaj krivnje zbog urođene griješnosti ljudima se još natovari na vrat i osjećaj odgovornosti prema sinu božjem koji se žrtvovao da bi ljudi možda mogli nekako izmigoljiti ispod pokrova svoje griješnosti... M. Luther ne dopušta ni tu opciju... dakle krivnja puta dva... svedena na kopulacijski poriv, jebo on sebe)... elem, Kant Isusa postavlja kao 'model'... ako je mogao on, mogu i svi drugi... nema otkupljenja ni iskupljenja, žrtva je revolucionarni akt i nema u njoj ni trunke emocionalnog suosjećanja sa griješnom gomilom... Isus im milu mater sa onim psalmom 22 na kraju... elem, Nemanja, ti si polu-teolog... mnogo ću da bogohulim uskoro i možda ti neće biti drago... ali ne mogu da odolim... i još ću i R. Dawkinsa da uvalim u to.

Pooka

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NE-PATOLOŠKI OBJEKT

Radi se, dakle, o tome kako se opreka dužnost/ljubav postavlja u odnosu prema nepriličnoj opsesiji. Najprije nam se dužnost pokazuje kao opća, čista, nasuprot nepriličnoj opsjednutosti, „patološkom karakteru“ ljubavne strasti, a zatim se to proturječje razrješava tako da se sama dužnost pokazuje kao „najnepriličnija od svije opsjednutosti“. To je logika hegelovskog „pomirenje“ između Općeg i Partikularnog: da se pokaže vezanost samog Općeg uz Partikularno, da se pokaže kako je najviša Partikularnost Partikularnost samog Općeg, koliko je u negativnom odnosu prema Partikularnom, koliko se suprotstavlja Partikularnom, koliko isključuje Partikularno. I u tom smislu treba shvatiti i osnovnu Lacanovu tezu da je Dobro samo maska radikalnog Zla, neprilične opsjednutosti s das Ding, sa zlom-groznom-opscenom stvari: iza Dobrog se konstitutivno skriva radikalno Zlo, Zlo koje nema samo „patološki“, partikularni status, Dobro je ime za apsolutno, radikalno Zlo. To je ono što je prikrio Kant i zbog čega ga treba „čitati sa Sadeom“: das Ding, objekt-razlog želje, zla Stvar, koja nam omogućuje dok smo njom „neprilično opsjednuti“ da se otrgnemo „patološkoj“ vezanosti uz unutarsvjetske, partikularne objekte.“Dobro“ je način da sačuvamo distancu prema zloj Stvari; Kant je previdio da je dužnost najnepriličnija, „najpatološkija“ od svih opsjednutosti, previdio je stražnju, opscenu, „nepriličnu“ stranu same Dužnosti. Previdio je ono što, kao što smo upravo vidjeli, „spontano“ zna čak i „petparačka“ literatura našeg stoljeća.

Do to prekrivanja Dobra najvišim, radikalnim Zlom mogli bismo doći s dvije strane. Prva je ta da pođemo od samog Dobrog i osvjedočimo se kako Zlo nije ništa drugo nego apsolutizirano Dobro, nego bezuvjetna opsjednutost Dobrim, koja u ime Dobra isključuje, negira, hoće poništiti sve što se ne podudara s Dobrim. Do toga dolazi npr. umjereno religiozno stajalište, koje upozorava kako se najlukavija klopka vraga krije u tome da nas namami na Zlo u ime samog Dobra, kada u ime Dobra (Istine, Boga) sijemo mržnju prema svemu svjetovnom. No, to iskustvo da se apsolutizirana opsjednutost Dobrim preokreće u svoju suprotnost, pripada već općim mudrostima; možda je subverzivnije suprotno iskustvo kako se Zlo, ukoliko se radikalizira u „ne-patološko“, „načelno“ Zlo, pretvara u Dobro, u vlastiti etički stav. Uzmimo don Giovannijevu smrt u istoimenoj Mozartovoj operi: kip ubijenog komtura dolazi da ga oslobodi pakleni plamenova, ako se don Giovanni u zadnji čas pokori i odrekne svoji djela – don Giovanni zna što ga čeka, no usprkos tome odbija ponudu, ustraje u svom stavu, pruzima na sebe kaznu, iako od tog ustrajanja nema na nivou čistog užitka nikakavog dobitka; upravo time što otklanja pokornost i izmirenje potvrđuje svoje Zlo kao etički stav, a ne kao jednostavnu težnju za užitkom.

Kant u svojoj slavnoj raspravi o negativnim veličinama, doduše slučajno, već stvara koncept das Ding, u „negativnom obliku“, tako da ga evocira kao apsurdnu (ne)mogućnost. Iz toga proizlazi da su oba pola realnog proturječja jednako pozitivna, tj. njihov odnos nije odnos nečeg pozitivnog prema njegovom nedostatku, već odnos dviju pozitivni datosti koje čine suprotnost, npr. – primjer od bitnog značenja, jer direktno kazuje na kojem se nivou ovdje krećemo, naime na nivou ugode, načela ugode – ugoda i bolest:

„Ugoda i bolest ne odnose se jedna prema drugoj kao dobitak i odsutnost dobitak (+ i 0) već kao dobitak i gubitak (+ i -), to znači da nisu suprotne naprosto kao proturječne (contradictorie s. logice oppositum), već i kao kontrarne (contrarie s. realiter oppositum)“ (Anthropologie, par. 60).

Ugoda i bolest su realne suprotnosti, obje su u sebi pozitivne, dok su Dobro i Zlo proturječni, zbog toga Zlo nema u sebi pozitivne suštine, nije nešto po sebi pozitivno, već je samo odsutnost, nedostatak Dobra; ako bismo htjeli misliti negativni pol proturječja (a ne samo suprotnost), tj. samu odsutnost, nedostatak kao nešto pozitivno, bio bi to čisti apsurd: „apsurdno bi bilo mislit na neku posebnu vrst predmeta i nazvati ih negativnim stvarima…“ (Kant) – Lacanovo das Ding je točno takva „negativna stvar“, stvar koja je takoreći samo pozitivacija nedostatka, popunjenje odsutnosti, rupe, praznine u Drugom, Stvar kao „ujtelovljeno Zlo“. Das Ding je upravo objekt koji nije svodljiv na načelo užitka, na funkciju užitka i bolesti, on je paradoks, kojeg ne može misli ni Kant iz „kritičkog“ razdoblja, zbog čega ga treba čitati „sa Sadeom“ – ne-patološki objekt.

Slavoj Žižek

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Pookica,

Često puta sam spominjao pojmove "privatio boni" i "steresis". Evo, mili, jednog kratkog ogleda o tim pojmovima:

Heidegger and the Critique of the Understanding of Evil as Privatio Boni

Richard M. Capobianco

Stonehill College

Philosophy and Theology, 5:3 (Spring 1991), 175-186.

Abstract

[175] Despite the efforts of such notable thinkers as Sartre, Camus, and Ricoeur to affirm philosophically the being of evil, a systematic critique of the traditional metaphysical understanding of evil as privation of being has not yet been fully worked out. The task of this paper is to sketch out just such a critique and to sest a more adequate philosophical reflection on the being of evil by turning to the thought of Heidegger. Part I examines Heidegger’s commentary on Aristotle’s remarks on steresis. Aristotle is our teacher, Heidegger argues, in learning “to hold on to the wonder” of the steresis­-dimension of Being (physis), and, thus, to hold on to the wonder that “lack,” “loss,” “absence” - is. Part II considers Heidegger’s recognition that the k-not at the very heart of our existence is yet much more complex. He turns to the fragments of Parmenides and Heraclitus to bring to light a dissembling­-dimension of Being.

Introduction

Affirming the “reality” of evil has been a central concern of twentieth century reflection. Literature, film, painting, sculpture, music, psychology, and even physics have all attempted to take into account a disordered dimension of being. Philosophers have been no less concerned with this issue. Existentialists such as Sartre and Camus made this a principal concern in their literary/philosophical work; Paul Ricoeur has examined the problem through an analysis of myth in his important study The Symbolism of Evil; and William Barrett wrote passionately about this issue in the book Irrational Man. Yet, despite such efforts to affirm philosophically the being of evil, a systematic critique of the traditional metaphysical understanding of evil as privation of being has not yet been fully worked out. Consequently, I sest that by turning to the [176] thought of Heidegger, just such a critique may be sketched out and a more adequate philosophical reflection on the being of evil sested.

Returning to Aristotle and the Notion of steresis

A discussion of the history of the development of the philosophical position that evil is intelligible only as a “lack” or “deficiency” of being lies beyond the scope of this paper. For our purposes, we need only note that it was principally Augustine who consolidated this position and moved it to the center of philosophical reflection.

Heidegger’s difficulty with the traditional metaphysical position appears early on in Being and Time. In section 58, he observes that the classical metaphysical discussion of evil is rooted in a particular understanding of being. “Least of all,” he observes, “can we come any closer to the existential phenomenon of guilt by taking our orientation from the idea of evil, the malum as privatio boni. . . . [for] the bonum and its privatio [have their] ontological origin in the ontology of the present-at-hand, . . .” [BT, 332]. Although he adds no further remarks, still, the main lines of his thinking emerge quite clearly: only with the de-construction of the traditional metaphysical understanding of being as presence-at-hand or constant presentness can the traditional understanding of evil as privation of being be decisively overcome and a more adequate understanding of evil worked out.

In the summer semester of 1936, Heidegger gave a lecture course at the University of Freiburg on Schelling’s treatise On Human Freedom.1 Schelling dealt at length with working out an understanding of the possibility of evil in the Ground of beings, and in his commentary, Heidegger praises Schelling for radically re-thinking the understanding of evil as the “lack” which is “non-being.” In Heidegger’s view, Schelling boldly attempted to think the “being” of evil precisely as “lack” or “non-presence” [ST, 96-103, esp. 101]. Yet, as important as the Schelling commentary is, in the present essay I would like to confine my discussion to Heidegger’s 1940 commentary on key sections of Aristotle’s Physics, and on Aristotle’s remarks on steresis in particular [OBC].2 Aristotle’s statements on steresis (the term was translated into Latin as privatio) figure largely in the [177] medieval elucidation of the position that evil is privation of being. Consequently, his commentary on Aristotle’s understanding of steresis strikes at the very heart of the traditional metaphysical position on evil, even though this issue is not explicitly raised by Heidegger in the course of the discussion. Thus, a distinctively Heideggerian critique of the metaphysical understanding of evil as privatio boni may be systematically worked out on the basis of this one critical text.

According to Heidegger, Aristotle’s fundamental insight was this: “being­-moved” (kinesis) is the basic mode of being.3 Further, Aristotle clearly understood that the central philosophical task was to articulate the different dimensions of “being-moved” that is physis, Being, the process by which beings appear or presence. Thus, three notions, in particular, are central in understanding the fullness of this process: morphe, hyle, and steresis. Morphe describes the fullness of a being’s appearing or becoming-present or standing in its place. Yet, as Heidegger cautions, stating that a being presences fully (morphe) does not mean that such a being has ceased being-moved. What is fully present continues to move as it “abides” or “whiles” in its appearance. Thus, he observes that “. . . morphe is ‘appearance,’ more exactly, the act of standing in and placing itself into the appearance, in general: placing into the appearance. . . . We call it the ‘being at the time’ because as an individual it ‘spends time’ in the appearance and preserves the ‘time’ (the becoming-present) of this appearance, and by preserving the appearance it stands forth in it and out of it - that is, for the Greeks, it is” [OBC, 250; Heidegger’s emphasis].

[178] In another place, he more explicitly presses the point that Aristotle was fundamentally misconstrued by later metaphysical thinkers on this issue: “. . . the ‘rest’ that we think of as the opposite of ‘movement’ also has its being as being-­moved. The purest manifestation of being-moved is to be sought where rest does not mean the breaking off and stopping of movement, but rather where being­-moved gathers itself up into standing still, and where this ingathering, far from excluding being-moved, includes and for the first time discloses it. . . . ‘End’ [telos] is not the result of stopping the movement, but is the beginning of being-­moved as the ingathering and storing up of movement” [OBC, 256; Heidegger’s emphasis].

In addition to morphe, hyle is integral to physis, the presencing process. Hyle (dynamis), according to Heidegger, characterizes the “not-yet” dimension of the presenting of a being. If morphe characterizes the fullness of becoming-present, hyle characterizes presencing precisely as incomplete, on the way, or “not-yet.” Yet, he appears to be careful to distinguish two different aspects of this dimension of “not-yet-ness.” On the one hand, it may be said that the full presencing of a being “leaves behind” all “not-yet-ness.” This characterizes “motion” in the narrow sense; that is, “motion” which has been traditionally opposed to “rest” [OBC, 257].

On the other hand, though, it may be said that a being, even as it has become fully present, retains an aspect of “not-yet-ness.” In other words, even as a being “spends time” in the appearance, it “holds itself back and within itself” [OBC, 258]. Presence (morphe) always retains an hyletic dimension. As he puts it: “morphe and hyle in their inherent togetherness” [OBC, 254]. Thus, in both these senses, hyle characterizes an integral dimension of physis, Being, the presencing process. For Heidegger, hyle is “a mode of becoming­-present;” that is, hyle “is” precisely as the presencing of “not-yet-ness” [OBC, esp. 258].

Finally, he notes that for Aristotle steresis, too, is an integral dimension of the presencing process (physis), and his commentary on this point brings us to the central concern of this paper. He highlights Aristotle's remark at 193b 20 that “he steresis eidos pos estin,” which is generally translated along the lines of “privation too is in a way form” [4, Vol. II]. Heidegger, reading as he does eidos as “appearance,” translates the line this way: “for privation too is something like appearance” [OBC, 264].4 And he understands Aristotle to be maintaining that privation, as a unique mode of becoming-present, “is.” Yet precisely how steresis presences, precisely how steresis “is,” needs to be clarified, and Heidegger takes up this task.

He asks us to consider, for example, that when a blossom “buds forth, the leaves that prepared for the blossom fall off” [OBC, 266]. What presences to us is not simply the appearance of the blossom but also the loss or absence of the leaves. Similarly, he notes that “when the fruit comes to light, [and] the blossom disappears,” what presences to us is not only the appearance of the fruit, but also the lack or absence of the beautiful blossom [OBC, 266]. In general, then, every [179] attainment of a new morphe entails an “absence.” Heidegger sums up Aristotle’s position in this way: “[every] placing into the apperance always lets something become present in such a way that in the becoming-present a becoming-absent simultaneously becomes present” [OBC, 266]. Thus, in this way, “lack” or “absence,” what Aristotle called steresis, presences, and the presencing of steresis is an integral and crucial dimension of the presencing process that is physis (Being).

He uses another example drawn from everyday experience to underscore this point:

When we say today, for example, “My bicycle is gone!” we do not mean simply that it is somewhere else; we mean that it is missing. When something is missing, the missing thing is gone, to be sure, but the goneness itself, the lack itself, is what irritates and upsets us, and the “lack” can do this only if the lack itself is “there,” i.e., constitutes a mode of Being. Steresis as becoming-absent is not simply absentness, but rather is a becoming-present, the kind in which the becoming-absent becomes present. Steresis is eidos, but eidos pos, an appearance and becoming-present of sorts. [OBC, 266; Heidegger’s emphasis.]

In introducing this example, Heidegger refers parenthetically to the Metaphysics (Delta 22, 1022b 22) which sests that he was aware that a discussion of the human experience of this kind of “lack” takes Aristotle’s discussion of steresis in the Physics a step further. The “lack” cited in this example is not the “lack” which is intrinsic to the presencing process: the “lack” or “loss” of one’s bicycle is comparatively incident-al to the presencing process. I suspect that in the seminar, he had argued that Aristotle also spoke of this kind of privation as a dimension of physis and the key text is Metaphysics Delta 22 where Aristotle delineates the many ways in which privation ‘presences,’ including the “taking away of something by force” [1].5 We might also note that in Heidegger’s example, he observes that the “lack” which presences “irritates and upsets” us. There is an existential dimension to his commentary which is not present—at least explicitly—in Aristotle’s analysis in either the Physics or the Metaphysics.

[180] Yet, even with these qualifications in mind, we should not miss Heidegger's central point: For Aristotle, the notion of steresis, no less than the notions of morphe and hyle, is necessary to characterize the process of the presencing of beings. Aristotle is our teacher, Heidegger insists, in learning to “hold on to the wonder” of the steresis—dimension of Being (physis) and, thus, to hold on to the wonder that the presencing of “lack,” “loss,” “absence” –— is [OBC, 266].6

Heidegger’s understanding of the devolution of Western philosophical thinking about Being from the time of the Greeks is generally well-known. Even in Aristotle’s thinking, he admits, there is to be found the tendency to narrow thinking about Being to thinking about beings. That is, Aristotle, following Plato, was especially fascinated by what appears, morphe, eidos, idea, and, thus, evinced the tendency to think Being exclusively in these terms. Yet, what remained a tendency in Aristotle’s thinking became philosophical orthodoxy in the thought of later thinkers, including Augustine and Aquinas. One result is that neither Augustine nor Aquinas could “hold on to the wonder” of the steresis-dimension of physis, of Being.

In speaking about evil, Aquinas often cited the example of blindness. Blindness in an adult human being is the lack or privation of a good that ought to be present - sight. According to Aquinas, such a privation is nothing existent in reality; it is not an ens reale: “In one sense, being (ens) signifies the entity of a thing, according as it is divided by the ten predicaments, and is thus convertible with thing. In this sense, no privation is a being, and therefore no evil either" [6, I, 48, 2, ad 2]. Indeed, privation is a kind of non-being: “Non-being, understood as simple negation, does not require a subject. Privation, however, is a negation in a subject . . . and evil is that kind of non-being” [6, I, 48, 3, ad 2].

There is only one sense in which Aquinas allows that privation, and therefore evil, may be said to be — as a being of reason, an ens rations: “In another sense, being (ens) signifies the truth of a proposition which consists in composition whose mark is this word ‘is’. In this sense, being is what answers to the question, is it?, and thus we speak of blindness as being in the eye, or of any other privation being in its subject. In this way even evil can be called a being” [6, I, 48, 2, ad 2].7 [181] In De Malo I, 1, ad 20, he is more explicit: “Evil is indeed to be found in things but as privation and not as somethign real. But evil exists in reason as something understood; and, thus, it can be said that evil is a being of reason and not a real being because it is something in the intellect but not in reality.”8 Thus, for Aquinas, every evil, physical and moral, is undestandable as a “privation” of being, a kind of non-being, which, strictly speaking, “is” only as a being of reason. I emphasize that this conclusion does not deny that, for Thomas, evil is somehow “found in things.” The decisive point is that for Thomas evil may be said to be only as a being of reason: what is at issue here is the being of evil.

Aquinas’ reasoning is impeccable, but it all turns on an understanding of being (physis) which, following Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle, represents a narrowing of Aristotle’s position. In the less nuanced understanding of being (physis) of Aquinas, “modus, species, and ordo” characterize “anything whatever” that “is” [6, I-II, 85, 4; see also I, 5, 5], and, thus, Aquinas can find no way to speak of what presences to us as lacking measure, form, and order (privation) as be-ing. Aristotle’s insight that steresis, “lack,” “privation” constitutes a mode of being (physis) is lost.

Of course, we must keep in mind that Aristotle did not comment on the presencing (be-ing) of “lack” precisely as evil. And, too, as I noted at the outset, Heidegger did not explicitly deal with this issue in his commentary on Aristotle. Even so, his interpretation of Aristotle’s understanding of steresis lays the groundwork for a critique of the metaphysical understanding of evil as a “deficiency” of being from within Aristotle’s own thinking and, thus, from within the very core of Western metaphysical thought.

Thus: a person loses his or her sight. Such a person is terribly pained, possibly devastated. Yet what pains so? It is the “loss,” the “lack” itself, to re-work Heidegger’s words, which so grieves this person, and the “lack” can do this only if the lack itself is “there,” that is, constitutes a mode of Being. Thus, this steresis surely a malum, is eidos, but eidos pos, an appearance and becoming-present of sorts.9

[182] In his commentary on Schelling’s treatise, Heidegger addresses this very example: “As a lack, it is true that a lack is a not-being-present. Nevertheless, this absence is not nothing. The blind man who has lost his sight will argue vigorously against the statement that blindness is nothing existent and nothing depressing and nothing burdensome. Thus, nothingness is not nugatory; but, rather, something awesome, the most awesome aspect of the unfolding of Being” [ST, 101; slightly modified].

Consider another example. A friend has promised to pick me up at a certain hour so I may get to work. My friend, however, arrives a half-hour late, and I am late for work. I relate this episode to a colleague, and she remarks that my friend “showed a lack of consideration.” Precisely so. And my friend’s “showing” a “lack” of consideration annoyed and hurt me only because the becoming-present of “lack” constitutes a mode of Being. Such a “lack” is.

Other examples could be cited, but I do not wish to lose sight of the central issue. As important as affirming the “existential” reality of evil is, still, such testimony cannot be given its proper weight in philosophy until the traditional philosophical understanding of evil as lack of being is attacked at its metaphysical roots. At least indirectly, this Heidegger has done by returning to Aristotle, and by virtue of this effort, philosophy in the present day can find its own voice in affirming the being of evil.

The Complexity of the K-not in Being

The philosophical task of reflecting on the being of evil is not yet complete, however, for, surely, our experience of evil is not confined solely to the experience of “lack” or “absence.” As William Barrett observed some time ago, it is Augustine himself who so vividly and chillingly described the human encounter with evil, not simply as an encounter with “lack,” but also as an encounter with a kind of positive malignancy, distortion, and twistedness [2, 96­-97].10 In part, Augustine remains such a fascinating figure precisely because he so passionately defended a philosophical position on evil which so pointedly belied his own poignant experience of the monstrous k-not in being.

[183] But how shall we speak philosophically about this experience of a positive or active distortedness at the heart of reality? Heidegger admits that already in Aristotle’s thinking this dimension of the presencing process (Being) had fallen out of philosophical sight. Only by reaching further back to the origins of Greek thinking, he sests, may we dis-cover thinking about this dimension of Being. Thus, Heidegger often turned to a commentary on the fragments of Parmenides and Heraclitus.

In An Introduction to Metaphysics, he sets out the position that the essence[-ing] of Being is physis and the essence[-ing] of physis is appearing. And he proceeds to discuss the manifold dimensions of “appearing” along the lines that we have discussed. Yet, in IM, in the context of a consideration of Parmenides’ poem, he reflects on another dimension of the presencing process which he names “seeming-to-be” (Anschein) [IM, esp. 104-113]. The earliest Greek thinkers, he argues, attempted to articulate their experience that Being, the presencing process, bears within it a dimension of distortion. Every appearing is simultaneously a disguising of sorts; every appearing is in some way distorted, and this distortion is two-fold. First, that which appears also appears “as what it actually is not” [IM, 109]. Second, the presencing of “seeming-to-be,” which is intrinsic to every presencing, itself presences as hidden, cloaked, concealed [IM, 109]. Thus, the presencing of a two-fold distortedness, in addition to the presencing of “lack,” is an integral dimension of Being. As he puts it, a two-fold distortedness constitutes “a definite mode of emerging self-manifestation [and thus] belongs necessarily to Being” [IM, 109].

He admits, then, that there is a sense in which Being may be said to deceive: “Because appearance thus essentially distorts itself in its cloaking and dissembling, we rightly say that appearance deceives. This deception lies in the appearance itself” [IM, 109]. It is arguable that this dissembling-dimension of Being is the very condition of the possibility of the particularly cruel physical distortions and deviations which haunt this mortal realm. In the commentary on Schelling’s treatise, Heidegger gives a phenomenological account of illness which speaks to this point — and which also inevitably calls to mind Augustine’s descriptive accounts:

In the case of sickness, there is not just something lacking, but something wrong. “Wrong” not in the sense of something only incorrect, but in the genuine sense of falsification, distortion, and reversal. This falsification is at the same time false in the sense of what is sly. We speak of malignant disease. Disease is not only [184] a disruption, but a reversal of the whole existence which takes over the total condition and dominates it. [ST, 143-144]

In IM, Heidegger more explicitly raises another consideration: he cites this dissembling-dimension of Being as a crucial condition of the possibility of all concrete instances of human going astray - including, presumably, human moral evil. He regrets, however, that we, unlike the earliest Greek thinkers, have ceased to “recognize” the “power” [IM, 109] of this k-not in Being which contributes to the k-notting of our judgment in matters both great and small.11

We need not examine how he articulates a fundamentally similar position in other places in his work. Even so, it is worth noting that one of Heidegger’s favorite approaches to this issue is by way of a discussion of a fragment of Heraclitus: physis kryptesthai philei. Even in his commentary on Aristotle, he concludes the discussion with a brief reflection on this fragment. “Being loves to hide itself,” he translates Heraclitus’ words, and he understands Heraclitus to mean that Being has a “pre-dilection” for “self-hiding.” Concealing, covering-over, disguising is an integral dimension of physis, Being, the presencing of beings. “And therefore,” he concludes, “the kryptesthai of physis is not to be overcome [once and for all], not to be stripped from physis. Rather, the task [for thought] is the much more difficult one of allowing to physis, in all the purity of its becoming-present, the kryptesthai that belongs to it” [OBC, 269].

Conclusion

Thus, for Heidegger, positive dissembling, in addition to the unfolding of “lack,” constitutes a mode of Being. No doubt, then, he does provide a way for us to begin to articulate philosophically our experience of the powerful and terrible reality of the distortions, deviations, and deceptions which permeate our lives and our world and which we recognize to be evil. But I emphasize that Heidegger offers us only a beginning because I am not sure that even his reflections on the dissembling-dimension of Being are adequate to the task of articulating philosophically the complexity of the k-not at the very heart of our existence. Yet, even so, what is clear is that by virtue of Heidegger’s philosophical efforts, the philosophical scandal of understanding evil as a lack of [185] being has been put to rest. We must now get on with the task of heeding Plato’s advice: “But if we will truly tell of the way in which the work [of the creation of the world] was accomplished, we must include the errant cause as well, and explain its influence” [Timaeus, 48b].

Notes

1. Schelling’s treatise first appeared in 1809. Joan Stambaugh recommends the translation by James Gutmann: Schelling: Of Human Freedom (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1936).
2. Consider also [3, 309-313] and [5, 146-155].
3. As will become clear in what follows, Heidegger understands kinesis to name the essence[-ing] of both “movement” (“motion”) and “rest.” Consequently, he does not translate kinesis as Bewegung but chooses the word Bewegtheit. Sheehan translates Bewegtheit as “being-moved” and Richardson offers “moved-ness.”
4. The German text reads: “denn auch die ‘Beraubung’ ist so etwas wie Aussehen.”
5. In [4 Vol. VIII] the line is translated: “the violent taking away of anything is called privation.”
6. For Heidegger, then, Aristotle understood very well that Being unfolds with “lacks,” “gaps,” and “holes.” This sests an interesting genealogy: Derrida via Heidegger - via Aristotle.
7. See also De Ente et Essentia, Ch. 1, 2; Summa contra gentiles III, 9; De Malo I, 1, ad 19.
8. The Latin text reads: Ad vicesimum dicendum, quod malum quidem est in rebus, sed ut privatio, non autem ut aliquid reale; sed in ratione est ut aliquid intellectum: et ideo potest dici, quod malum est ens rationis et non rei, quia in intellectu est aliquid, non autem in re; . . . .
9. Citing the example of blindness, William Barrett made an “existential” protest against the Thomist position in [2, 289].
10. For Augustine's impassioned account, see esp. City of God, Bk. 19 and Bk. 22, ch. 22.
11. Heidegger no doubt overstates his case here. Surely, Freud, to name but one recent thinker, profoundly appreciated the “power” of this terrible k-not in reality.

Works by Heidegger

[BT] Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
[IM] Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
[OBC] “On the Being and Conception of physis in Aristotle’s Physics B, 1,” trans. Thomas Sheehan, Man and World 9:3 (August 1976), 219-270.
[ST] Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom. Trans. Joan Stambaugh. Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Other Works Cited

[1] Apostle, H.G. Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Grinnell, Iowa: The Peripatetic Press, 1979.
[2] Barrett, William. Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy. New York: Doubleday, 1962.
[3] Richardson, William J. Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1963.
[4] Ross, W.D., ed. The Works of Aristotle. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.
[5] Sheehan, Thomas. “On the Way to Ereignis: Heidegger’s Interpretation of physis,” in Continental Philosophy in America, ed. Silverman, et. al. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1983, 131-164.
[6] Thomas Aquinas. Summa theologiae.

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On Evil

An Interview with Alenka Zupančić

CHRISTOPH COX


In the past several years, we have seen a marked return to "the question of evil" among philosophers and psychoanalytic theorists. Is there something about our particular historical moment that forces us to rethink what "evil" might mean? Or is the question of evil perennial, something repressed that continues to return and assert itself?

The theoretical necessity of rethinking the concept of evil is linked to the more general interest in the question of ethics. To a considerable extent, this interest is polemical: The way the word "ethics" has been used lately in public discourse is bound to provoke some theoretical and conceptual nausea. It is used either to back up some political or legal decision that nobody is willing to assume fully, or else to keep in check certain developments (in science, for instance) that seem to move much more quickly than our "morals" do. To put it simply, "ethics" is thought of as something strictly restrictive; something that, in the hustle and bustle of our society, marks a place for our intimate fears. In philosophy as well as in psychoanalysis, a conceptual revolt against this notion of ethics took place. The question of evil and its possible definitions arose in reaction to this broader conceptual frame.

The fact that something keeps returning usually means that we are dealing with a conjunction of the impossible and the necessary. Evil seems to be a perfect candidate for such a conjunction. Why is this return happening today? The best I can do to provide a general answer to this question is to point out that the political, economical, and technological events of the recent past have had an important impact on our notion of "the impossible." The impossible has, so to speak, lost its rights. On the economic level it seems as if what was once referred to as an economic impossibility (i.e. the limits that a given economic order sets to our projects, as well as to our life in general) is being redefined as some kind of natural impossibility or natural law, (i.e. as something that cannot be changed in any way). The explosion of new technologies inspires something that one could call a "desperate optimism." On this level, it seems that almost everything is possible, but in a way that makes us feel that none of these possibilities contains what Lacan calls a Real, an "absolute condition" that could catch and sustain our desire for more than just a passing moment. On the political level, the fall of Communism has made western democracies lose sight of their own contradictions and all alternatives are declared impossible. So, if we consider all this, what you call the return of the question of evil might be a way for the impossible to remind us that we have not yet done away with its necessity.

The philosophical category of evil can also introduce some distance and reflection into what is—and always has been—an inherent bond between evil and the Imaginary. Evil has always been an object of fascination, with all the ambiguity and ambivalence that characterize the latter. Fascination could be said to be the aesthetic feeling of the state of contradiction. It implies, at the same time, attraction and repulsion. "Evil" is not only something that we abhor more than anything else; it is also something that manages to catch hold of our desire. One could even say that the thing that makes a certain object or phenomenon "evil" is precisely the fact that it gives body to this ambiguity of desire and abhorrence. The link between "evil" (in the common use of this word) and the Imaginary springs from the fact that we are dealing precisely with something that has no image. This is not as paradoxical as it might sound. Strictly speaking—and here I am drawing more on Lacanian psychoanalysis than on philosophy—the Imaginary register is in itself a response to the lack of the Image. The more this lack or absence is burdensome, the more frenetic is the production of images. But also (and here we come back to the question of evil), the more closely an image gets to occupy the very place of the lack of the Image, the greater will be its power of fascination.

Within reality as it is constituted via what Lacan calls the Imaginary and the Symbolic mechanisms, there is a "place of the lack of the Image," which is symbolically designated as such. That is to say that the very mechanism of representation posits its own limits and designates a certain beyond which it refers to as "unrepresentable." In this case, we can say that the place of something that has no image is designated symbolically; and it is this very designation that endows whatever finds itself in this place with the special power of fascination. Since this unrepresentable is usually associated with the transgression of the given limits of the Symbolic, it is spontaneously perceived as "evil," or at least as disturbing. Let us take an example: When it comes to the stories that play upon a neat distinction between "good" and "evil" and their conflict, we are not only more fascinated by "evil" characters; it is also clear that the force of the story depends on the strength of the "evil" character. Why is this so? The usual answer is that the "good" is always somehow flat, whereas "evil" displays an intriguing complexity. But what exactly is this complexity about? It is certainly not about some deeper motives or reasons for this "evil" being "evil." The moment we get any kind of psychological or other explanation for why somebody is "evil," the spell is broken, so to speak. The complexity and depth of "evil" characters are related to the fact that they seem to have no other reason for doing what they are doing but the fun (or spite) of it. In this sense, they are as "flat" as can be. But at the same time, this lack of depth can itself become something palpable, a most oppressive and massive presence. In these stories, as well as in what constitutes the individual or the collective Imaginary, evil is usually precisely this: that which lends its "face" to some disturbing void "beyond representation."

The important point to remember here is that this "void" is structural and not empirical. It is not some empty space or no man's land that could be gradually reduced to nothing or conquered by the advance of knowledge and science. The fact that science itself can function as the embodiment or the agent of evil is significant enough in this regard. Take the recent example of Dolly, or of cloning in general. It is clear that here we are dealing with a striking transgression of the limits of our Symbolic universe. In this example, we can also grasp what makes the difference between image and Image. Dolly looks like any other sheep; her "image" is just like the image of any other sheep. And yet, her place in the Symbolic, or rather, the fact that there is no established place for such a being in the given Symbolic order, endows her image with a special "glow."

So, the first important thing that the philosophical (as well as psychoanalytical) perspective can bring to the question of evil is thus to establish and maintain the difference between this void, which is an effect of structure, and the images that come to represent or embody it. Not to confound the two is the first step in any analysis of phenomena that are referred to as "evil."

I'm interested in the idea that "evil has no image." In our reservoir of images, is there an adequate image of evil? Is there an image of evil that "occupies the very place of the lack of the Image"? Those images that spring to mind (monsters, the face of Hitler, representations of the devil) always seem somehow inadequate.

Let's start with Hitler. It is probably no coincidence that the two best movies about Hitler are comedies: Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be and Chaplin's The Great Dictator. The image of Hitler is funny. It is funny because it is so inadequate. In Chaplin's movie, the image of Hitler is the same as that of the Jewish barber, which is precisely the point. Images of monsters and devils are inadequate because they try to "illustrate" evil. The point is not that real evil cannot be illustrated or represented, but that we have tendency to call "evil" precisely that which is not represented in a given representation. As to the question of whether there is an image of evil that occupies the very place of the lack of the Image, I would say yes, there is. It is what we could call a "sublime splendor," "shine," "glare," "glow," or "aura." It belongs to the Imaginary register, although it is not an image, in the strict sense of the word; rather, it is that which makes a certain image "shine" and stand out. You could say that it is an effect of the Real on our imagination, the last veil or "screen" that separates us from the impossible Real.

In To Be or Not To Be, Lubitsch provides a very good example of "the image that occupies the very place of the lack of the Image." At the beginning of the film, there is a brilliant scene in which a group of actors is rehearsing a play that features Hitler. The director is complaining about the appearance of the actor who plays Hitler, saying that his make-up is bad and that he doesn't look like Hitler at all. He also says that what he sees in front of him is just an ordinary man. The scene continues, and the director is trying desperately to name the mysterious "something more" that distinguishes the appearance of Hitler from the appearance of the actor in front of him. One could say that he is trying to name the "evil" that distinguishes Hitler from this man who actually looks a lot like Hitler. He is searching and searching, and finally he notices a photograph of Hitler on the wall, and triumphantly cries out: "That's it! This is what Hitler looks like!" "But sir," replies the actor, "this picture was taken of me." Needless to say, we as spectators were very much taken in by the enthusiasm of the director who saw in the picture something quite different from this poor actor. Now, I would say that there is probably no better "image" of the lack of the Image than this "thing" that the director (but also ourselves) has "seen" in the picture on the wall and that made all the difference between the photograph and the actor. One should stress, however, that this phenomenon is not linked exclusively to the question of evil, but to the question of the "unrepresentable" in general.

Why is it that evil captures the imagination but the good does not? Ethics would seem to be bound to the idea that the good is attractive, allied with the beautiful and, as such, something that solicits our desire. But, as you sest, the opposite is perhaps more plausible. The combination of attraction and repulsion one finds in evil seems, perversely, more attractive to us. What does this tell us about our desire and about the nature of evil and the good?

Here I turn to Kantian ethics, which utterly breaks with the idea that the good is attractive and, as such, can solicit our desire. Kant calls this kind of attraction—this kind of causality—"pathological" or non–ethical. Moreover, Kant rejects the very idea that ethics can be founded on any given notion of the good. In Kantian ethics, we start with an unconditional law that is not founded on any pre-established notion of the good. The singularity of this law lies in the fact that it doesn't tell us what we must or mustn't do, but only refers us to the universality that we are ourselves supposed to bring about with our action: "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law," goes the famous formulation of Kant's categorical imperative. The only definition of "good" in Kantian ethics is that of an action which, firstly, satisfies this demand of the universal and, secondly, has this demand for its only motive. The Kantian notion of the good has no other content. Only an action that is accomplished according to the (moral) law and only because of the law is "good." If I act out of any other inclination (sympathy, compassion, fear, desire for recognition, etc.), my action cannot be called ethical (or "good"). The uneasiness that this aspect of Kantian theory often provokes springs from the fact that he rejects as "non-ethical" not only egoistic motives but also altruistic ones. Kant doesn't claim that altruism cannot be genuine or that it always masks some deeper egoism. He simply insists on the fact that ethics is not a question of lower or higher motives, but a question of principles.

Recall that, in Hannah Arendt's famous example, Nazi functionaries like Eichmann took themselves to be Kantians in this respect: They claimed to act simply on principle without any consideration for the empirical consequences of their actions. In what way is this a perversion of Kant?

This attitude is "perverse" in the strictest clinical meaning of the word: The subject has here assumed the role of a mere instrument of the Will of the Other. In relation to Kant, I would simply stress the following point, which has already been made by Slavoj Zizek: In Kantian ethics, we are responsible for what we refer to as our duty. The moral law is not something that could clear us of all responsibility for our actions; on the contrary, it makes us responsible not only for our actions, but also—and foremost—for the principles that we act upon.

Returning to the question of the good, what is most intriguing in Kant's conception of ethics is that, strictly speaking, there is no reason (or necessity) for the good being good. The good has no empirical content in which its goodness could be founded. The good is good for itself; it is good because it is good. With this conception, Kant revolutionized the field of ethics. By separating the notion of good from every positive content, preserving it only as something which holds open the space for the unconditional, he accomplished several important things. One that should interest us in this discussion is that he undermined the classical opposition between good and evil. In my reading of Kant, this is related to the fact that the moral law is not something that one could transgress. One can fail to act "according to the principle and only out of the principle"; but this failure cannot be called a transgression. This has some important consequences for the Kantian notion of evil. Let me briefly sketch this notion.

Kant identifies three different modes of "evil." The first two refer precisely to the fact that we fail to act "according to the (moral) law and only because of the law." One technical detail that will help us to follow Kant's argument: Kant calls "legal" those actions that are performed in accordance with the law, and "ethical" those which are also performed only because of the law. Now, if we fail to act "ethically," this can happen either because we yield to motives that drive us away from the "legal" course of action, or because our course of action, "legal" in itself, is motivated by something other than the (moral) law. An example: Let's say that someone is trying to make me give a false testimony against someone that he wants to get rid of, and he threatens to hurt me if I refuse. If I give the false testimony because I want to avoid being hurt, this implies the first configuration described above. But it can also happen that I refuse to give the false testimony because, for instance, I fear being punished by God. Which means that I do the right thing for the wrong (Kant would say "pathological") reasons. My action is "legal," but it is not "ethical" or "good." One can see immediately that these two modes of "evil" have little to do with what we usually call "evil." In these instances, "evil" simply names the fact that the "good" did not take place.

Kant goes on to formulate a third mode of evil, which he calls "radical evil." A simple way of defining this notion is that it refers to the fact that we give up on the very possibility of the good. That is to say, we give up on the very idea that something other than our inclinations and interests could ever dictate our conduct. Here again, the term "radical evil" does not refer to some empirical content of our actions or to the "quantity of bad" caused by them. In my view, it is completely wrong to relate this Kantian notion to examples such us the Holocaust, mass murders, massacres, and so on. Radical evil is not some most horrible deed; its "radicalness" is linked to the fact that we renounce the possibility of ever acting out of principle. It is radical because it perverts the roots of all possible ethical conduct, and not because it takes the form of some terrible crime. I said before that the principal function of the Kantian notion of the good is to hold open the space for the unconditional or, to use another word, for freedom. Radical evil could be defined as that which closes up this space.

Is your conclusion, then, that our "contemporary ethical ideology" is "radically evil," insofar as it gives up on the idea of "the impossible," of anything beyond the empirical?

Precisely. It is noteworthy that in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), when Kant speaks of "empiricism in morals," he describes this empiricism with exactly the same words that he later uses to describe "radical evil" (Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone [1793]). A radically evil man is not someone whose only motive is to do "bad things," or someone who couldn't care less about the law. It is rather someone who willingly conforms to the law, provided that he can get the slightest benefit out of it. In Kantian theory (which has little to do with what I was speaking about earlier in terms of "the collective or individual Imaginary of evil") radical evil refers only to two things. It refers, firstly, to the fact that our inclinations are the only determining causes of our actions and, secondly, to the fact that we have consented to our inclinations functioning as the only possible motives of our actions. This consent or decision is, in fact, a matter of principle. But it does not imply that we do "bad things" (in the sense of actions that are not in conformity with the moral law) out of principle. It implies that, on principle, our inclinations are the exclusive criteria upon which we decide the course of our actions. These actions may very well be "legal" in the Kantian sense of the word. They may well be in conformity with the law. There needs to be nothing "horrible" about them.

I should, perhaps, point out that there is yet a fourth notion of evil that Kant speaks about: so-called "diabolical evil." Within the architectonic of practical reason, diabolical evil is the conceptual counterpart of the supreme good. Kant claims that diabolical evil is conceptually necessary, but empirically impossible. In my view, one should rather say that this notion is conceptually redundant, since, strictly speaking, it implies nothing other than what is already implied in the notion of the supreme good. Here I am, so to speak, going with Kant against Kant. Let me explain. According to Kant, "diabolical evil" would occur if we were to elevate opposition to the moral law to the level of a maxim. In this case the maxim would be opposed to the law not just negatively (as it is in the case of radical evil), but directly. This would imply, for instance, that we would be ready to act contrary to the moral law even if this meant acting contrary to all our inclinations, contrary to our self-interest and to our well-being. We would make it a principle to act against the moral law and we would stick to this principle no matter what (that is, even if it meant our own death).

The difficulty that occurs with this concept of diabolical evil lies in its very definition: Namely, diabolical evil would occur if we elevated opposition to the moral law to the level of a maxim (a principle or a law). What is wrong with this definition? Given the Kantian concept of the moral law—which is not a law that says "do this" or "do that," but an enigmatic law that only commands us to act in conformity with duty and only because of duty—the following objection arises: If opposition to the moral law were elevated to a maxim or principle, it would no longer be opposition to the moral law; it would be the moral law itself. At this level, no opposition is possible. It is not possible to oppose oneself to the moral law at the level of the (moral) law. Nothing can oppose itself to the moral law on principle (i.e., for non-pathological reasons), without itself becoming a moral law. To act without allowing pathological incentives to influence our actions is to do good. In relation to this definition of the good, (diabolical) evil would then have to be defined as follows: It is evil to oppose oneself, without allowing pathological incentives to influence one's actions, to actions which do not allow any pathological incentives to influence one's actions. And this is just absurd.

Earlier, in your discussion of evil and the image, you described "evil" as occupying the space of the impossible. Yet, on your view, "the impossible" is also precisely the space of ethics. What, then, is the relationship between evil and the impossible, evil and ethics?

All along, I have been speaking about evil on two different levels: One is the Kantian theory of evil; the other is the question of what we generally tend to call "evil." Your question is related to this second level.

I would agree that the space of ethics and the space of "evil" meet around the question of the impossible. However, the "impossible" shouldn't be understood here simply as something that cannot happen (empirically), although we (as ethical subjects) must never give up on it. I believe that one should reformulate this concept of the impossible, which is predominant in Kant, in terms of what Lacan calls the "Real as impossible." The point of Lacan's identification of the Real is not that the real cannot happen. On the contrary, the whole point of the Lacanian concept of the Real is that the impossible happens. This is what could be so traumatic, disturbing, shattering—but also funny—about the Real. The Real happens precisely as the impossible. It is not something that happens when we want it, or try to make it happen, or expect it, or are ready for it. It always happens at the wrong time and in the wrong place. It is always something that doesn't fit the (established or the anticipated) picture. The Real as impossible means that there is no right time or place for it, and not that it is impossible for it to happen. This notion of the impossible as "the impossible that happens" is the very core of the space of ethics. There is nothing "evil" in the impossible; the question is how we perceive its often shattering effect. The link that you point out between the impossible and evil springs from the fact that we tend to perceive, or to define, the very "impossible that happens" as (automatically) evil. If one takes this identification of evil with the impossible as the definition of evil, then I would in fact be inclined to say, "Long live evil!".

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