As shed light on philosophical and psychological issues that

As
highly esteemed and leading living French representatives of contemporary
philosophy, Julia Kristeva and Alain Badiou both shed light on philosophical
and psychological issues that still haunt us in modern times. Coming from
distinct sociopolitical backgrounds, they developed a different independent sets
of of ideas in the fields of psychology and ethics. However, these ideas
encompass psychoanalytic and ethical concepts in which they illustrate
similarities in thought. These concepts are seen in Kristeva’s recourse to the
thought of Kant and Freud, and in Badiou’s critique of the ethics of human
rights discourse and of the politics of difference, where the issue of
universalism and the notion of the Other
are focus points for both Kristeva and Badiou.

            In terms of the idea of universalism
from Kant, Kristeva scrutinizes and questions his concept of cosmopolitanism as
the means to reconcile sociopolitical instabilities around the world. Arising
as a result of the revolts and uprisings from the French Revolution during the
late 18th century, Kant’s idea of universalism, which he calls cosmopolitanism,
denoted his pacifistic attitude towards the revolutionary event that forever changed
the lives of the French people. As Kristeva states, “while cosmopolitanism is
exalted or brought down according to the course of revolutionary events, it
fell to Immanuel Kant to formulate the internationalist spirit of the
Enlightenment in political, legal, and philosophical terms” (Kristeva 170). The
ideas of the Enlightenment had a direct correlation to Kant’s thought. Since
the Enlightenment advanced the ideas of human liberty and intellectual
progress, Kant thought that “it is in the ‘nature of man’ to seek the
well-being that he himself created through reason” (Kristeva 170). This reason,
Kant insisted, was to be used to create a league of nations, in which, he says,
“even the smallest state could expect security and justice … from a united
power acting according to decisions reached under the laws of their united
will” (Kristeva 170-71). This would therefore, he thought, eventually harmonize
the sociopolitical differences of developing societies.

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             The differences that are present when
implementing the idea of universalism evoke the notion of separation and union,
which is key to Kant’s rhetoric on reaching universal peace. Kant’s ethics
acknowledges the autonomies of the people, their individualities. Coming from
“the clashes between the nationalisms and cosmopolitanisms during the French
Revolution,” Kristeva states, the people started to think for themselves and to
divulge their own interests (Kristeva 172). Since the revolutionary ideals were
very fresh in French culture at the time, it was imperative for Kant’s
cosmopolitanism to recognize the differences between the people, mainly those
of language and of religion (separation),
to then push forward their ‘coexistence’ (union)
in the same land. This ‘coexistence’, according to Kant, would “guarantee their
vitality and their democracy” (Kristeva 172), which reduces the chances of monarchy
and anarchy. Therefore, Kristeva says, “the separation
and union would guarantee universal
peace at the core of this cosmopolitanism, understood as coexistence of the
differences that are imposed by the technique of international relations on the
one hand and political morality on the other” (Kristeva 173). The ultimate aim
of Kant’s universalism is to unify people as citizens of the world despite
their material and spiritual differences.

            Kant’s idea of universalism appears
to be utopian, as it incorporates key ideologies from the Enlightenment and the
French Revolution, but for Alain Badiou, it presents gaps in the understanding
of the ethics of human rights. As it is now known that Kant’s ultimate goal in
his cosmopolitanism was to unify the people amid their differences, some
aspects of his idea are vulnerable to generalities.  Badiou points out a big generality in the
ethical side of Kant’s ethics and accuses it of being an universalizing pole
where “ethics is grounded in the abstract universality of general ‘human’
attributes or rights” (Peter Hallward xiii). In other words, the human rights
of Kant focuses on a general and broad understanding of what constitutes those
human rights, and it is mainly based on the recognition of evil, on preventing
suffering within societies, and on the recognition of that suffering. These human
rights are recognized negatively in terms of labeling humans as the victims; we
pinpoint the Evil instead of postulating the Good. Thus, Badiou thinks that
these human rights as the ethics of humans are the denial of those very human
rights, since humans should be recognized based on singular situations and not
on general terms.

            For Badiou,  Kant’s ethics of human rights is inconsistent.
He states that in Kant’s rhetoric, “ethics is conceived both as a priori
ability to discern Evil (for according the modern usage of ethics, Evil – or
the negative – is primary: we presume a consensus regarding what is barbarian)”
(Badiou 8). This ethics creates a law to superimpose the identification of Evil
from the recognition of the Good. He implies that that in Kant’s ethics, the
identification of Evil (what is barbarian) has more importance over the
identification of the Good – “good is what intervenes visibly against an Evil
that is identifiable a priori” (Badiou 8). That priori signifies that Evil
comes first. Therefore, this ethics states that “Evil is that from which the
Good is derived, not the other way around” and that “human rights are rights to
non-Evil: right not to be offended or mistreated with respect to one’s life,” implying
that these human rights proclaim what is prohibited from doing, instead of
dictating what is permitted to do that is Good (Badiou 9). Thus, here is the
inconsistency that Badiou points out, as it is a discourse of what is forbidden
from doing, but fails to propose positive alternatives to do the Good.

            As seen in Badiou’s critique of Kant
that it is imperative to recognize the Good in our human rights, it is also
important to identify the foreignness in ourselves when pinpointing the
differences in other people. Coming back to Kristeva’s recourse on Kant and
moving onto her recourse of Freud, the notion of  the Other
comes into play as it a continuation in the elaboration of the differences that
are key to Kant’s universalism. When identifying the differences of other
people, Kristeva argues that we must also find the foreign part of ourselves,
the Other. Grounded on Freud’s
psychoanalytic ideas, Kristeva states that “with the Freudian notion of the
unconscious the involution of the strange in the psyche loses its pathological
aspect and integrates within the assume unity of human beings and otherness that is both biological and  symbolic and becomes an integral part of the same” (Kristeva 181). This same implies that despite the
fundamental differences between other people (the foreigners), there is an otherness in ourselves, a foreigner
inside of us, so we are all the same since we are also foreigners to ourselves:
“The foreigner is within me, hence we are all foreigners. If I am a foreigner,
there are no foreigners.” (Kristeva 192). Furthermore, Kristeva poses the
question, “How could one tolerate a foreigner if one did not know one was a stranger
to oneself?,”  and this goes on to say
that we must first internalize our Other
self before consolidating the differences of other people.

             Continuing Kristeva’s psychoanalytic rhetoric,
Freud’s idea of the Uncanny Strangeness
further illuminates the notion of the Other.
The Uncanny Strangeness can be
thought of as something familiar yet strange and unknown: “the uncanny is that
class of the frightening which leads back to what is known old and long familiar”
(Kristeva 183). This notion of familiarity and strangeness occurring
simultaneously in one’s mind leads to the idea of repression, in which
something that recurs in our minds and that brings anxiety is repressed or
subdued (Kristeva 184). When what is repressed, the thought that “ought to have
remained secret” reappears in our mind, Kristeva says it “produces a feeling of
uncanny strangeness” (Kristeva 184). This Uncanny
Strangeness can be observe in our relationship with death. We usually have
anxieties and fears about our own impending death and we repress the thought of
us dying someday. The ambiguities or our immortality after death and the
mourning of our families once we have died furthers our paranormal beliefs,
which trigger the Uncanny Strangeness.
The Uncanny Strangeness is therefore
manifested in our minds when we relapse to thinking about the image of death
and its supernatural mythologies. We ultimately know that death is part of our
lives but we are scared of its arrival, so we put this thought aside in our
minds and ignore it. In this sense, the Other
haunts us – the strangeness in ourselves that we want to repress.

            Continuing the notion of the Other, in this case, the Other from Levinas’ ethics, Badiou also
finds problematic elements in the Levinas’ ethics, just like he did in the
Kantian conception of ethics. Badiou states that Levinas’ “ethics of
difference” or “ethics of the other” essentially wanted to diverge from a Greek
tradition to a Jewish tradition to find a different way of thinking, to reach a
phenomenological experience ultimately connected to religious tenets. Badiou
argues that this experience illustrates a notion of transcendence since it
wants to turn away from the Greek tradition, and since this such
phenomenological experience cannot guarantee an ethical experience where the Other is truly identified. Therefore,
Badiou claims that Levinas’ ethics is a “category of pious discourse,” in which
“the principle of thought and action is essentially religious” (Badiou 23).
Just as in Kant’s inconsistency of identifying the Evil instead of the Good, Levinas’
religious discourse is centralized on the recognition of the Other and not on the recognition of the Same.

            The emphasis on recognizing the Other leads Badiou to formulate his
proposition to solely focus on finding the Same.
Badiou says that the Same is “not
what is (i.e. the multiplicity of difference) but what comes to be, the truth. (Badiou 27). The Same is a truth, and “only a truth is, as such, indifferent to differences,” meaning
that the differences in people, whether they are differences of language or of
religion, like in the case of Kant, or whether they are multicultural
differences, are irrelevant because we are distinct by nature. Badiou states
that these differences “amount to nothing more than the infinite and
self-evident multiplicity of human-kind” (Badiou 26). He says that it is just
the way we are, that “no light is shed on the recognition of the other” (Badiou
27). Therefore, Badiou argues that we must look past these ‘insignificant’
differences and focus on reaching truth, the Same, because “a truth is the
same for all.” (Badiou 27). Truth should be equal to everyone, it is
ultimately universal.

            The truth that Badiou so strongly
vouches for is constantly present throughout Kristeva’s recourse to Kant’s
ethics and Freud’s psychoanalysis. The notions of universalism and of the Other triggers Badiou’s attacks on the
Kantian concept of human rights and Levinas’ ethics of the Other, and his denouncing rhetoric draws clear connections to
Kristeva’s rhetoric. Both Kristeva and Badiou focus on the ethical and
psychoanalytic issues that depict the more specific topic of the differences
between people. Badiou’s critiques and Kristeva’s analyses are developed from
the discussion of the differences between people, and it is these differences
that ultimately drive Badiou’s and Kristeva’s philosophical ideas.