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Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (Przewodnik Krytyki Politycznej #13)

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,114 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Alain Badiou aims to explode the assumptions behind the ethical turn in political and academic agendas which serve to reinforce the ideology of the status quo. He demonstrates particularly how an ethics conceived in terms of negative human rights and tolerance of difference cannot underpin a coherent concept of evil."
Paperback, 166 pages
Published November 17th 2001 by Verso (first published September 13th 1994)
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Nov 09, 2010 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Badiou is one of the most important philosophers of our time, and his seminal text is an amazing introduction to his work. In Europe, this text is taught to high school students; the US should spend less time catering to standardized testing, and more time encouraging students to think critically about the world around them. This is a great text to gain a deeper understanding into contemporary philosophical issues.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 26, 2012 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I absolutely agree with his views on political correctness. The determination that the other needs to be more like the observer to obtain an acceptance of differences in culture/sex/status really needed to be addressed and I thought he did this very well. What he really didn't do as well, and what I felt like some of this book was driving towards was the juxtaposition of good and evil in taking it away from a religious/preconceived setting. This is fairly impossible to do in the manner he ...more
May 29, 2016 Maude rated it it was amazing
A mettre dans toutes les mains. Incontournable pour qui souhaite secouer un peu ses petits neurones. Attention: gros risque de révision de son système de pensée suite à cette lecture!
Karlo Mikhail
Jul 01, 2016 Karlo Mikhail rated it really liked it
Written in popular form, this is a handy and accessible introduction to Badiou's philosophical project as opposed to contemporary conceptions of ethics (which ultimately serve to legitimize the status quo and demonize collective struggles to overturn it).
Jul 22, 2008 Justin rated it it was amazing
This one is written by the polemicist Badiou not the set theorist Badiou - intended for a more popular audience it's written with a flourish which would be exasperating in a more scholarly work and is extremely readable for it. There's a lot of gloss over his ontology and his Lacanian fundamentals, which is appropriate I think but if you've never even heard of a 'multiple set' or a 'mirror stage' you might want to do a spot of research before picking up Ethics; I recommended it to some friends ...more
Melissa Rudder
Jun 05, 2008 Melissa Rudder rated it liked it
I don't generally read philosophy unless it comes in the form of an insightful piece of literature with stylistic brilliance and complex characters. (I'm looking at you, Dostoevsky!) I used to fancy myself the sort of philosopher that could tackle Kant or Kierkegaard (intellectually, not physically. I've never been quite that delusional), and it still shames me to admit it, but I'm not. I'm just not that type of reader. Which is probably why I struggle with literary theory so much. And why I ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Ziad rated it really liked it
For those unfamiliar with Badiou's philosophy, this is a perfect book to start a serious journey in that direction. The subjects that come out of this book at the end are manifold and explode in all directions. This is a turning-point book--it is meant to be--for Badiou dismantles the fortress of ethical ideology through his critique of the architectonics of Kant and the phenomenology of Levinas. On his way in doing so, he attacks every humanitarian notion you can think of: from a direct ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Meru rated it liked it
This is a book that I almost certainly should have spent a longer time reading, despite it being very short. It is also the kind of book that is almost pointless to give a rating to, so by 3 stars I mean only that I to some extent disagree with Badiou's conclusions. To think of Evil as being constructed from Good (or even visa versa) strikes me as a hopeless quest. It is a question that comes up often in philosophy, and while Badiou does well explaining his take on this issue, I personally ...more
Gary Bruff
I read something by Zizek that praised Badiou, so I thought I would give this book a try. I honestly didn't find much to think about in this book.

Badiou returns again and again to his central ethical concept, which can be glossed as stick-to-it-ness. Essentially, Badiou would like for people to hold on to their (presumably Marxian) principles, not to sell out (presumably to Capitalism), and never really to change one's mind about anything. Or at least never to change one's mind in the wrong dire
Feb 07, 2013 Diego rated it really liked it
Alain Badiou presenta en La Ética una interpretación de como las concepciones éticas contemporáneas, se mezclan más bien con lo moral fomentando el estatus quo dentro de las sociedades y las relaciones humanas.

Badiou cuestiona la naturaleza de la verdad desde varios puntos de vista el trascendental kantiano, desde el punto de vista nietzscheniano y el de Levinas por mencionar algunos,tratando de desarraigar de la moral el concepto de verdad, el de bien y el de ética.

La ética no es universal, es
Nov 11, 2010 Ashley rated it liked it
“Evil is the moment when I lack the strength to be true to the Good that compels me.”

“It is necessary to examine, in a detailed way, the contemporary theory of Evil, the ideology of human rights, the concept of democracy. It is necessary to show that nothing there leads in the direction of the real emancipation of humanity. It is necessary to reconstruct rights, in everyday life as in politics, of Truth and of the Good. Our ability to once again have real ideas and real projects depends on it.”
Jason Gordon
Jul 21, 2009 Jason Gordon rated it it was ok
The two stars are probably no fault of Badiou, but of my inability to understand continental philosophy -- the majority of which is nonsensical to me.
Feb 18, 2015 Devrim rated it it was ok
Some very powerful and interesting ideas but very weak argumentations. Poorly written in general.
Andrew Smith
Nov 15, 2016 Andrew Smith rated it liked it
"Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil" was an interesting book to think about. It has both the neatness and novelty of Alain Badiou's philosophy, and the warring effrontery of his polemical writings. These are cheerfully if unevenly combined, making an engaging introduction to his thinking. Ultimately, however, I found it uncompelling as an ethics for the left today.

Ethics is founded on Badiou's philosophy more generally, and like his other writings follows the form of what he calls the
Nov 24, 2016 Gerardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Les événements sont déjà en situation, en temps et en lieu : si une nouveauté par rapport aux opinions du passé arrive, celle-ci deviendra une vérité. Le sujet, c'est-à-dire l’homme, peut le nommer : ainsi, elle existera pour chaque personne, parce que la vérité est indifférente aux différences et dès lors elle est la même pour tous.
Donc, l’éthique est la fidélité à la vérité : l’homme assume la responsabilité de ne pas succomber à son intérêt personnel. On ne parle pas de la Vérité Universelle
Yousaf Nishat-Botero
This short book, which serves as an intervention in the contemporary discourse of ethics and the Other (ex: Levinasian Ethics), is an excellent introduction to Alain Badiou's work. As philosopher Slavoj Žižek says of Badiou, “A figure like Plato or Hegel walks here among us!”.
Oct 14, 2016 Jason rated it it was ok
Nonsensical and eurocentric at its worst; self help masquerading as theory at its best. But at least he's a communist.
Apr 02, 2016 Marguerite rated it liked it
In my early twenties, I found this book extremely profound and inspirational, without, however, being actually inspired to do anything in particular because of it. Rereading this I still see Badiou's brilliance - but also why it has that "inspirational literature" effect of passing through without effect. He's very good at lining up the problems with the then (1990's) and still prevalent views on ethics, e.g. the obsession with policing human rights and preserving the peace goes along with a ...more
May 25, 2012 Torsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Schon vor einigen Jahren empfahl mir ein buddhistischer Meditationsguru dieses Buch, wobei mich erstaunte, dass dieser sich auch mit französischer Philosophie beschäftigte! Nach der Lektüre (warum erst jetzt?) ist mir tatsächlich klar geworden, was ihn hier fasziniert haben mag. Es ist wohl die Theorie des Subjekts, die hier skizziert wird (ausgeführt in den Hauptwerken Badious). Das Subjekt konstituiert keine Wahrheiten, sondern umgekehrt konstituiert es sich in einem Wahrheitsereignis. Es sind ...more
Noah Lethbridge
Jan 15, 2013 Noah Lethbridge rated it it was amazing
I know Badiou is in vogue right now, and I know we all like to beat on the popular guy, but this book is great! Badiou's text is crystal clear, his arguments make sense, and he's tackling an extremely relevant issue in a novel way. Also, this is one of the rare books in philosophy that one could read without much training (I think).

The good:

-Philosophy as the domain of Truths. Truth as a concept entirely separate from knowledge (from Heidegger).
-The "Mortal" vs. "Immortal" frame-work (I think d
Nov 06, 2008 J. rated it it was amazing
Ch. 1-3 are necessary to clear some dead wood from the professional philosophical scene, but for essential thinking, they're sterile polemic. (We will not cease reading Levinas, and will read him all the better for the contributions of Being and Event.) 4&5 are essential. Hallward's Introduction is helpful.

Suspicion: fidelity is somewhat epiphenomenal. That is, we don't attain it by thinking it directly, but by putting input into the nonlinear functional web of a body. Strictly speaking,
May 05, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011
I found this inspiring and challenging. Sure, there are probably plenty of angles to argue with what Badiou's attempting, but the idea of trying to ground ethics in some sort of (non-religious) concept of the Good and then allowing Evil to be defined by that (rather than the other way around) *does* seem to me a promising way out of some of the negative binds that our current approach creates. Who can argue that by choosing to define ethics in terms of Evil we turn the victims into animals? We ...more
Nov 29, 2008 James rated it really liked it
You can get this from reading the blurbs on the back, but this piece is at its best when dismantling neo-liberal ethics and highlighting how flimsy and superficial the Western multicultural moral compass is. When it comes time to put forward a new theory on ethics, the piece falters a bit. In a way, I'd almost rather stick with the ethics Badiou proposes but ditch those loaded terms of Good and Evil. They may be needed to discuss his philosophy with others of a differing philosophy, but the ...more
Nov 20, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
on the one hand, this was a really interesting challenge to the way i think about good and to whatever extent i do think about evil. on the other hand, it felt biased and a little underhanded about the political slant behind it. not in a mean-spirited way, but in a way that was somehow dismissive or even disrespectful of other positions without really delving into justification of that perspective.

as a separate issue, while i like the fundamental rightness of the ethics explained in this book, i
Jared Colley
Dec 16, 2009 Jared Colley rated it really liked it
Another challenging (but short) work by Badiou. Whether you agree with him or not, he will challenge the very frameworks by which you understand such discursive fields as 'Ethics'. His comments on issues like "the Rights of Man," "Ethics of Otherness" (like that of Levinas), "Political Correctness," and so forth may offend or shock the reader, but he has an interesting, well-meaning point - and I respect him for having the courage to tackle such topics. Obviously, society still deals with ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Nike rated it it was ok
The arguments are poor to say the least. For me the main problem of this text is that it tries to provide an 'ethics of truth', while it doesn't describe how to recognise any truth at all (if the impossibility of knowing a truth is the point of his arguments than the argument for an 'ethics of truth' is nonsensical).
The translator's introduction by Peter Hallward is a recommendable read since it provides some 'open questions' that indeed need further exploring.
May 22, 2015 Cary rated it it was amazing
It's not really a book, as much as it is an essay. But slim as it may be it is powerful. Badiou has a polemical prowess near Nietzsche. Participation in an emancipatory politics is not about opportunistic deployments of ethical standards. Such only stunts the movement. One must sing without the knowledge of an ending, being open to the possibilities of possibility, and never be shy when recognizing the formation of a coda. Too abstract? Yeah, sorry.
Oct 28, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
Serves as a compact introduction to a complex and widely misread philosopher. I read 'The Uses of the Word Jew' first, rather by coincidence, but I can now say that this work provided me the introduction for 'Ethics'. The way Badiou is describing revolutionary processes of Truth is an eye-opener and lets us reconsider the way in which we tend to use ethical categories like the 'radical Evil'. Highly relevant, innovative but sometimes a bit (unnecessarily?) obscure. Loved to read it!
May 30, 2013 Adrian rated it it was amazing
A previous commenter called this book "a turning point" and I couldn't agree more. Badiou is challenging in every sense of the word. Fresh and difficult ideas with a thoughtful treatment, an ethical model that is relevant and cutting-edge, and a concise but provocative presentation. You can't go wrong with giving this essay a good read.
Jun 20, 2010 Bradley rated it liked it
I did not understand a lick of this book when I read it as an undergraduate. Then I picked it up after finishing a masters in philosophy and it seemed like a walk in the park. Not for the uninitiated, but still a decent text for the aspiring graduate student who has been versed in post-modern thought. Badiou knows how to use the word "Discourse" effectively.
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Alain Badiou, Ph.D., born in Rabat, Morocco in 1937, holds the Rene Descartes Chair at the European Graduate School EGS. Alain Badiou was a student at the École Normale Supérieure in the 1950s. He taught at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint Denis) from 1969 until 1999, when he returned to ENS as the Chair of the philosophy department. He continues to teach a popular seminar at the ...more
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“Evil is the moment when I lack the strength to be true to the Good that compels me.” 49 likes
“There is always only one question in the ethics of truth: how will I, as some-one, continue to exceed my own being?” 7 likes
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