Friday, September 4, 2009

Judith Butler, Day 2

Judith Butler taught a class entitled ETHICS AND POLITICS AFTER THE SUBJECT. The first half of the classes were focused on Hannah Arendt: performativity, politics, political theory (sovereignty, zionism), "Questions of Judgement." The last two classes were shared with Avital Ronell, Larry Rickels, and Giorgio Agamben.

Butler studied with Gadamer at the University of Heidelberg (where he was the successor to Jaspers, who moved to Switzerland in 1948). She earned a PhD in philosophy, but feels the term is problematic for her; she prefers interdisciplinarity.

This interdisciplinarity is shared with Hannah Arendt who was a: journalist, philosopher (a student of Heidegger along with Gadamer), public diplomat, and historian. We must accept that philosophy takes place in many places, journalism (as Eichmann in Jerusalem shows) is one of those places.

Responsibility and Judgement
was written after EiJ, and in the wake of the anger that arose from the publication from it.
  • This book is a collection of essays on moral theory that are responses to the Eichmann trial and the criticisms she received from her reporting on the trial
  • Her last book (incomplete) Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy deals with the question of how one judges without precedent
What is judgement after all?
  • We know that Eichmann failed to think, so this has something to do with judging.
  • What are the abilities to judge when society is ruled by coercion?
  • Arendt faults Eichmann for failing to perform freedom
Freedom only comes to be in its exercise, Eichmann failed to bring forward freedom and chose to maintain the coercion that was rampant within his society
  • he remains responsible for what he did, one does not need to be a thinking being in order to be responsible
  • his failure to think (given there is a normativity to thinking) is part of his crime (his crime is in part his failure to think)
  • Thinking has a duality: I think in the company of myself (a position not dissimilar to Bakhtin); thinking implies the presence of others - alterity cannot be located in a singular other, this is a plural other
2 Large Problems:
  1. the status of sovereignty - here we have an appeal to sovereign mind, but also calls for plurality
  2. the relation between thinking and action (judgement is action) - thinking seems to require sociality
It seems thinking and action cannot be successfully separated

What sort of action is this exactly? How'd she get from Eichmann to Kant's Third Critique?
  • Arendt seems upset that Eichmann tried to invoke Kant in his defense (Eichmann stated he tried to live his life according to Kant's categorical imperative) and thus was not guilty for the murder of millions
  • The object of beauty imposes upon the viewer such that the viewer must form structures by which to judge that which is being viewed
  • Thus, the beautiful relies upon the historically-unprecedented
The unprecedented requires us to form new ways to judge, this is obvious also in the case of what is horrible and monstrous

Judgement is more in line with poiesis, a manner of making, than it is an instrument

The kind of judgement we are to make is dependent upon the context in which we encounter the unprecedented

If a radically-new condition arises, spontaneity is implicated in judging
  • Eichmann was operating within a condition where the Law (established precedent) requires one to be criminal
  • thus, we must enervate arguments about why it is necessary to break the Law
  • This seems to be Arendt's anarchist moment, she's saying that there is neither universal nor natural Law;
  • judgement is to bring Justice into being.
It is through the writing of her text that she enacts her judgement

There has to be a moral basis for condemning genocide and it cannot rest upon existing law

The Israeli courts didn't do a good job judging because Eichmann was tried in many ways as a substitute for all Nazis: is the trial of an individual man the right place to put on trial all those that supported Nazism?

Classically understood: if Eichmann is criminal, there must be evidence of criminal intent; all the psychologists find that he's "normal."
  • but this shouldn't be the point - Eichmann is a new kind of person, one that requires a new kind of judgement
(EiJ, 52) Yet Eichmann's case is different from that of the ordinary criminal, who can shield himself effectively against the reality of a non-criminal world only within the narrow limits of his gang. Eicmann needed only to recall the past in order to feel assured that he was not lying and that he was not deceiving himself, for he and the world he lived in had once been in perfect harmony. And that German society of eighty million people had been shielded against reality and factuality by exactly the same means, the same self-deception, lies, and stupidity that had now become ingrained in Eichmann's mentality. These lies changed from year to year, and they frequently contradicted each other; moreover, they were not necessarily the same for the various branches of the Party hierarchy or the people at large. But the practice of self-deception had become so common, almost a moral prerequisite for survival, that even now, eighteen years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, when most of the specific content of its lies has been forgotten, it is sometimes difficult not to believe that mendacity has become an integral part of the German national character.
The need to deceive oneself, it seems, had become globalized within German society; Eichmann had a systematic mendacity.
  • He wanted "to make peace with his former enemies," etc....
  • This suggests that he was living in a reality which hampered his ability to think outside the confines of his lived experience.
  • Judgement doesn't seem possible in a world where cliches are so ubiquitous; rather, we have some sort of speech act
  • Arendt is fairly dispassionate in her writing about the trial, this upset many and she was incendiary in what she arrives at by taking the time to think about what is being said at the trial
  • This is the Modernist moment: when the radically new requires a new response.
Arendt's beef with the Israeli court
  • Eichmann was kidnapped
  • the court never rose to the challenge of the unprecedented:
    (EiJ, 263) The court, however, never rose to the challenge of the unprecedented, not even in regard to the unprecedented nature of the origins of the Israel state, which certainly was closest to its heart and thought. Instead, it buried the proceedings under a flood of precedents - during the sessions of the first week of the trial, to which the first fifty-three sections of the judgement correspond - many of which sounded, at least to the layman's ear, like elaborate sophisms.

  • At the trial there were survivors of the Holocaust present and the State made this into a public discourse about there stories, but what happens when there is this over-testimonial quality and producing an ex post facto legitimacy of Israel as the suffering of the Jewish people?
  • The man was overwhelmed by the suffering of the procession of suffering witnesses, while it is sensible to establish a public record of these survivors, but is this the place for the trial of Eichmann or is this the showcasing for the public a display of suffering?
The lesson of the Holocaust might be that, "we were made stateless and no one else should be rendered stateless," or that there ought not to be restrictive notions of being a citizen.

Maybe the victims shouldn't be the judges of Eichmann - perhaps, if this is a crime against humanity then an international court should sit in judgement?
(EiJ, 269) Had the court in Jerusalem understood that there were distinctions between discrimination, expulsion, and genocide, it would immediately become clear that the supreme crime it was confronted with, the physical extermination of the Jewish people, was a crime against humanity, perpetrated upon the body of the Jewish people, and that only the choice of victims, not the nature of the crime, could be derived from the long history of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism. Insofar as the victims were Jews, it was right and proper that a Jewish court should sit in judgement; but insofar as the crime was a crime against humanity, it needed an international tribunal to do justice to it.

(EiJ, 272) Moreover, the argument that the crime against the Jewish people was first of all a crime against mankind, upon which the valid proposals for an international tribunal rested, stood in flagrant contradiction to the law under which Eichmann was tried. [...] For just as a murderer is prosecuted because he has violated the law of the community, and not because he has deprived the Smith family of its husband, father, and breadwinner, so these modern, state-employed mass murderers must be prosecuted because they violated the order of mankind, and not because they killed millions of people. Nothing is more pernicious to understanding new crimes, or sands more in the way of the emergence of an international penal code that could take care of them, than the common illusion that the crime of murder and the crime of genocide are essentially the same, and that the latter therefore is "no new crime properly speaking." The point of the latter is that an altogether different order is broken and an altogether different community is violated. (emphasis added)
Then there is an interesting moment in the text where Arendt starts speaking for people (emphases added):
For the judges-
(EiJ, 277) And if it is true that "justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done," then the justice of what was done in Jerusalem would have emerged to be seen by all if the judges had dared to address the defendant in something like the following terms: ...."
For the judges speaking for Eichmann -
(EiJ, 278) You said that your role in the Final Solution was an accident and that almost anybody could have taken your place, so that potentially all Germans are equally guilty. What you meant to say was that where all, or almost all, are guilty, nobody is.
Then she (the judges) state the central argument of the book, intentionality is not enough or adequate for this new type of crime:
(EiJ, 279) Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that it was nothing more than misfortune that made you a willing instrument in the organization of mass murder; there still remains the fact that you carried out, and therefore actively supported, a policy of mass murder. For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same.
She introduces the notion that cohabitation is pre-consensual and that cohabitation is possible in other ways. She also suggests that to murder in genocide surrenders your presence in humanity:
(EiJ, 279) And just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations - as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and should not inhabit the world - we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

No comments:

Post a Comment