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Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Other is not a way out - it is an impossible necessity or just a source of ethical noise

I have been having a very interesting discussion with Julio Cabrera, my metaphilosophical guru, from Brasilia about negativity in ethics. He has been putting forward for years now a negative ethics that is presented in several books including one hopefully forthcoming soon in English. He understands negative ethics as an ethics based on the assumption that life itself has no value. He argues that among other things, his ethics entails antinatalism: procreation, as assassination, is ethically bad. This is the centre of my present discussion with him which has taken the form of three texts I concocted and four replies he sent back. (Some of my texts are in previous posts in this blog). I received his last reply more than a week ago and I'm still uncertain about what is going to be my next move. I'm just wondering now about one feature present in his last text that can be more than a detail.

In my previous text I propose a different kind of negative ethics, one based on interruption. Being interrupted means not to value one's being over the Other, over what comes my way to interrupt my endeavors (my agency, my purpose, my aims, my outlook on things). I reckon this includes also one's ethical outlook. This is why interruption is a form of negation. Cabrera agrees. But he thinks there is no ethics in interruption conceived as such. The other, he claims, is not a way out. This is where we reach a strange aporia: ethics vs the other. In his view, no other could interrupt ethically (my) ethical behavior for that would deviate me from ethics; in my view, if I'm not prepared to be interrupted in my ethical outlook, I'm being attached to myself and my ethical outlook is no more than an exercise in self-celebration with no ethical content at all. One could argue that two (radically different) forms of negation are such that they cannot translate one in another - but would that be the case for negative ethics? If so, there is no two (or more) negative ethics because each sees the other as unethical. Plus, on my view, an attachment to one's ethical outlook at any cost is an exercise in affirmation - my ethical life is intrinsically worth living. And, presumably, Cabrera would have my interruption approach to be too lenient on procreation to be a truly negative ethics. So there is no plurality of negative ethics - they eat themselves up both from the point of view of negation and from the point of view of their ethical character.

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