Cudney, S. (2000) 'Heroes, Hoboes, and the Question of Ethics: a Response to Brian Pronger...', in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 24 (4): 370 - 79.
[Contains a very good summary of Pronger. Wants to add a critique of post-structuralism based on recent work in religion and ethics].
Pronger's work needs to be critiqued to point out both agreements and disagreements, and to open a conversation between different fields of inquiry, especially between his work and some recent developments in ethics. This work will eventually indicate a new direction -- towards 'a postmodern "helper" ethic that distinguishes itself from what I call the "hero" ethic of the Enlightenment (which Pronger rightly critiques) and from the "hobo" (non)ethic of radical postmodernism' (370). [A summary of Pronger ensues].
Pronger is right overall to criticise the systematic violence of most masculine practices, and to expose the limits inherent in particular concretizations of the endlessly creative flow of desire. However, there are still some uncriticised assumptions about reality in the work, which impose their own limits. Basically, 'Nietzsche's tragic view of existence... in which suffering and violence are intrinsic to life and are seen as part of its natural movement' limits the critique. A more affirmative and open notion of reality is required instead, and this will 'include the inescapable questions of faith and religion' (373).
Deleuze and Pronger see the body as produced by historical discourses, and this lets them critique the 'hard and heroic subject of the Enlightenment... [who]... ruled with the unquestioned power and authority of a god' . Hence the 'postmodern ethical imperative to include the other and make room for the different' (373). However, these historical discourses revealed some essential 'tension between puissance and pouvoir' (374). These two forms of power are mutually exclusive but both necessary. This involves assumptions 'that reality is fundamentally flawed' (374). In particular, puissance can only enable, and pouvoir only disable: yet both are inevitable.
Ironically, this implies that violence itself is inherent. At its most general, language [in the broadest sense of anything that organises desire] must imply violence, and freedom can lie only in avoiding 'the tyranny of language's totalizing tentacles' (374). This in turn implies that human intentionality itself is driven by self interest and some will to power. This not only justifies historical violence as 'ontological violence', but leaves an ethic of otherness ungrounded. Notions of freedom and responsibility are seen as some ideal which must always encounter boundaries and limits.
This is really the reverse notion of Enlightenment [rather than a decisive break with it]. There is an nostalgia for an ideal '"the ghost of full presence"' (citing Olthuis 1997, 375) [what Adorno used to call a hope of full reconciliation between subject and object]. Existing realities are 'postlapsarian' [taking place after the fall of mankind]. They are also indistinguishable -- actual forms of violence are all alike, and any differences insignificant. Any ethical stance towards the other can only be minimalist, never achieving the ideal of 'complete and utter freedom'. Any and all structures must be resisted -- a 'radicalised form of individualism' (375). These ideals are still very Western and modern -- and 'pharmacological ([involving] poison and cure)' (375).
There may well be some force lying behind the body as the site of Desire, some 'preoriginary "yes"' (375). This would be love, 'the very energy and oxygen of life', a fundamentally positive and good basis for reality. Reality therefore becomes 'a call to which we respond' [positively] (375). Ethics becomes more than minimizing inevitable violence. In this sense, faith is not just a matter of analysis or thought, not something confined to particular set of conventions but 'the pretheoretical surrender of trust that we all must give ourselves to if we are to know anything at all' (376). This involves a critique of organised religion too.
Derrida gets close to recognising the role of faith and trust in any attempt to know, but many philosophers still see faith and religion as separate from reason and philosophy, another uncriticised Enlightenment view. It is interesting to see how secular ethics, or rather nonethics came to dominate academic life. This general approach to religion and faith, beyond theology as such, suggests that faith is unavoidable, and that all philosophies and beliefs 'therefore have a deeply religious structure to them' (377) [rather similar to a point once made by Hindess and Hirst about allegedly secular sociology]. Bodies therefore have a place in a whole 'web of interconnection and interdependence' (377).They are not origins of desire but themselves 'pharmacological'.
Pronger attempts to install the body as a religiously neutral space, a refuge from social and theoretical structures, which is all that religions are for him. By contrast, this approach places the structure of faith 'as the condition of possibility for life and language' (377). The world is neither a field for conquest by heroes, nor a desert 'tossed about by the dry winds of chaos and chance' as in the experience of the hobo. Instead it is a 'present, a winding, risk field path that beckons us forward toward an unforeseeable future' (377), leaving a role for the helper, practicing a 'religio-ethical vigilance that has an ear bent towards the other' (377).
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