Volume 63, Issue 2, Spring 2019
Not More of the Same
Michel Serres’s Challenge to the Ethics of Alterity
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.