on 14 September 2008
This highly original study of ethics approaches the subject through the lens of the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. The study engages with the whole breadth of modern Western ethical thought through a division of positions into Lacans' categories of the Imiginary, the Symbolic, and the Real. It is extremely clear and meticulous, yet fluid, in this structuring of positions and is also conciliatory to the non-Lacanian reader. The depth of Eagleton's literary knowledge is also a unique resource which is used to expand and humanise philosophical theory.
Eagleton's ethical position courts both the Symbolic and the Real and is derived from a refreshing and challenging approach to the Christian tradition (for an atheist like myself). While his Marxist side helps to traverse the tightrope of identity/difference, universal/particular. But as he concedes, Psychoanalysis and Chrisitiantiy may both not be true...
Criticisms are typically amusing and acerbic. For example Derrida's ethics are dispatched as 'pedestrian' and Levinas is shown to be 'far too deep a thinker' . It is extremely refreshing to read a critic of poststructuralism who has actually understood and truly engaged with the literature and the ethical quandary in which it finds itself due to the legacies of Auschwitz and the Gulags.
The book is an absolute joy to read due to Eagleton's inimitable wit and ability to cut straight to the core of some of the more inpenetrable philosophers and texts. A real step above something like Slavoj Zizek's new book 'In Defence of Lost Causes'; highly recommended!