kenneth.mackendrick at kenneth.mackendrick at
Thu Jul 13 10:46:40 PDT 2000

On Thu, 13 Jul 2000 12:19:45 -0400 Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> wrote:

> No, _hope_ to lead by examples, while maintaining _silence_ over morality.

To remain silent about morality is to assume, on some level, that one already possesses it. The reason one would remain silent about morality is precisely because of the "hope" that a particular fantasy about morality will come true. At least you are consistent on this point, but it marks a deliberate censorship of 'secret' aspirations in public praxis.

> Not by power, certainly not by threats of punishments ("follow me or else
face instrumental actions"). Do what you think is your duty without advertising it as such, _if_ your hope is to encourage ethical conduct.

Thanks for correcting me... but you are still left with a stifling problem: don't let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. You comments here suggest a kind of closure: we shouldn't be talking about why we are doing what we are doing. The model here is that of the Christian evangelist --> who are not allowed to "dissent" in mixed company. Missions organizations hold that any dissent must be contained only within the Christian community, which is the only community authorized to deal with such manners. In other words: the best way to lead people to Christ is to perform your Christian duty without 'public' dissent or discussion. The idea is that only if the Christian church is united in their actions can it be hoped that people will find their proper way to salvation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see the difference between what you are advocating and the hardline of the evangelical Christian right.

> Your hope may be dashed, of course. Then, "try again, fail again, fail

That's pretty close to Sade's logic. The basic problem that confronts the Sadeian hero / torturer is that they can torture their victims only until they die. The regretable and unfortunate thing about these sessions, which could otherwise go on endlessly, towards more and more accomplished tortures, is that the victims die too soon with respect to the extreme suffering to which they might have been subjected.

But the inverse of this is equally problematic: either you lament the finitude of the attempts during the infinite "encore!" or one accomplishes the (moral) "act" in question and then leaves the scene of the crime...

> Think of cyber-conversations here, for instance. You model your behavior,
say, according to Lacanian-Zizekian maxims (or whatever maxims you think are ethical) without advertising them. The rest of us may find your conduct admirable. Then we'll probably try to emulate your example. On the other hand, we may be indifferent to your example, and we may not even think that your conduct is moral. That's the risk you take.

I definitely advertise them! - precisely because I don't trust my 'maxims' even thought I believe them. And I agree, this is a tremendous risk, but only *if* commit myself to these lofty notions with a guilty conscience. If I was sure of my position, regardless of how transparent or opaque, there would be no question of risk: because my mind would already be made up and the rejoinders would be superfluous.

> Moral advertising (because it can be tiresome) takes away from moral
performance is my point. Threats issued from positions of power totally destroy it, it goes without saying.

I guess my point would be to encourage the linguistification of performance - argumentation as performance. You might respond by saying that this is a purely liberal approach: "mere words" or the idea that debate simply prolongs the suffering of those who require immediate action. My point, however, would be that moral struggles should always take a deliberative form, forms which encourage discussion and further democratization. This is probably why I'm skeptical about throwing rocks at protest marches. Such actions tend to reduce the potential for public debate and forestall measures which might improve or transform any given politics.

> Such is my suggestion for an instrumentalist approach. Your good deeds, not
words, are to be an instrument to an end (spread of ethical conduct). We may additionally call it a Beckettian approach (= with regard to the whole business of morality, Beckett's works encourage us to see our hope for and inept attempts at actions, especially moral actions, as comic but still to keep up our spirits regardless. Don't give up. Keep going!)

Hamm: Did your seeds come up?

Clov: No.

Hamm: Did you scratch round them to see if they had sprouted?

Clove: They haven't sprouted.

Hamm: Perhaps it's still too early.

Clove: If they were going to sprout they would have sprouted. They'll never sprout!

I suspect my reading of Beckett differs slight from yours. The absurdity of Beckett is not that it encourages an ethical encore! rather, that it reflects that the peacefulness of the void and the peacefulness of reconciliation can no longer be distinguished. We are already dead. Such an incomprehensible state of affairs gives us reason to pause, and reflect, if even only for a moment.


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