Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Human Animal

In reading through Badiou's two small works Ethics (halfway through) and St Paul (finished) it is possible that he has little regard for the human animal; the mundane entity that is caught up in the situation, immersed deep in the flow of capital with only self-interest and fulfilment of desire for activity. This human animal is no different to any other mammal and is driven only by evolutionary urges to eat and procreate. Such a beast does not have any principles by which to live, only urges and low level desires.

To become something other than this, the human animal must be exposed to a truth process – a state of living that changes the animal into something greater that is faithful to the truth itself. The animal becomes an “Immortal” or a master of time. This Immortal is what each human animal should become. It is the highest state of life because it is unnatural and goes against the default existence of humanity. Badiou writes, “To belong to the situation is everyone's natural destiny.” The “situation” is nothing more than the world into which we were born, or the society into which we have moved. Belonging to the situation is merely following the trend, the style, the fashion, the mob. Little wonder that it is only natural to belong there.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, and it seems that Badiou agrees (though he put it into words long before I ever did), to live a natural life is one of selfishness and narcissism, and is the original condition of humanity. Consequently, it is apparent that there was no Fall of Man and that I cannot agree with Augustine on the matter. Rather, the natural condition of Man (the human animal) is mortality, to die in the situation to which the human belongs. However, the unnatural life is the one that has been caught up in an impossible truth and is given a new identity because of that truth. What I would call the unnatural life, Badiou would call the Immortal life. There is nothing natural about taking laying down one's life for the sake of a friend or stranger.

My primary criticism of Badiou here is his apparent relegation of the Mortal Human Animal to a classification of sub-human (though this is not a term that he uses). With such a tag applied, there is an opportunity for abuse, or the demand that the welfare of animals be considered more highly than it is. It is acceptable to kill a cow to eat it. Is it now also acceptable to kill a Mortal Human Animal to eat it? Alternatively, it is unacceptable to force a Mortal Human Animal to become a slave (an owned biological machine to be used for labour). Is it now also unacceptable to own a horse as an animal of labour? Perhaps I have read him wrong, but until such time as I read otherwise, this appears to be a hole that needs to be filled or exposed.
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