Not More of the Same: Michel Serres’s Challenge to the Ethics of Alterity

Substance 63 (2):513-533 (2019)
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Abstract

Much French philosophy of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has been marked by the positive valorization of alterity, an ethical position that has recently received a vigorous assault from Alain Badiou’s privilege of sameness. This article argues that Badiou shares a great deal in common with the philosophies of alterity from which he seeks to distance himself, and that Michel Serres’s little-known account of alterity offers a much more radical alternative to the ethics of difference. Drawing on both translated and as yet untranslated works, I argue that the Serresian ontology of inclination, along with his conceptual personae of the hermaphrodite and the parasite, informs ethical and political positions that offer a distinctive ethics and politics that present fresh insights about the relation between the singular and the universal, the contingency of market exchange, and the nature of violence.

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Christopher Watkin
Monash University

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