Translation by Jesse COHN

CORCUFF, Philippe. "Beyond Good and Evil ?"

Prise de tête [The Headache] XLIII (Charlie Hebdo, n° 548, 18/12/2002)

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1900)ethicsCOHN, JesseCOLSON, DanielCORCUFF, Philippe (Oran, Algeria 4/15/1960 - )

"Anarchism challenges any distinction between good and evil, these two prescriptive categories inevitably referring back to a transcendent authority [ . . . ]. To good and evil, anarchism opposes what is good and bad for such-and-such a being in such-and-such a situation (..).good and bad are thus entirely immanent to the experience of beings."
Daniel Colson, Petit lexique philosophique de l’anarchisme - De Proudhon à Deleuze, Le livre de poche, 2001.

Perhaps the new radical left needs its libertarian stimulants. However, the anarchists of today often do not appear with the intellectual height of their prestigious inheritance (Proudhon, Bakunin, Stirner, Pelloutier, etc.) Nonetheless, some signs of renewal of libertarian thought point towards the bridges outlined by Nietzsche and "French Nietzscheanism" (Deleuze and Foucault). Sparks of intelligence are born from the friction between the anarchist and Nietzschean spheres. Daniel Colson in is, along with Michel Onfray (Politique du rebelle, Grasset, 1997), one of its craftsmen. However, this Nietzschean reinvention of anarchism does not fail to pose problems.

The categories of good and evil are challenged because they are "transcendent", concerned with an order "claiming to be external to others or of another nature". However, for Nietzschean libertarians, all is only "immanence", "everything occurs within things, inside beings and their encounters". The danger, here, is to pass from the statement of the relativity of values to relativism, even to nihilism (of the type "all values are equal"). Nietzsche himself seemed to hesitate between a relativism called "perspectivism" (all "perspectives" on the world would have an equal dignity) and a new system of values, "beyond good and evil", called "life". Along the lines of the latter, Deleuze will build, in his Nietzsche and Philosophy (PUF, 1962), an ethics of affirmation by evaluating "active forces" (positive) and "reactive forces" (negative, such as "resentment" or " bad conscience") according to their contribution to "life," corresponding to what would be "good" or "bad" for the various beings. But what is "good" for the being of the Nazi, or the Stalinist prosecutor, the Islamic terrorist, the racist or the Israeli colonist – is it "good" for other beings? It is here that one thinks that, without the indicators "good" and "evil", one can be even more badly constrained in the face of the various degrees of inhumanity. Because if moral values result entirely from our human, terrestrial world (and not from an unspecified divinity hovering over us), they function as points of reference, just a little from the top of our heads, helping us to find direction. At once immanent and transcendent. Thus, good and evil, without one giving them necessarily imperative and definitive contents (like Bin Laden or Bush), form part of our ethical compass. If one transforms them into points of reference, and not into absolute norms, aren’t they useful, even necessary for us? In spite of their weaknesses.
It is a little like what the character played by Al Pachino says to us in Insomnia, the recent film by Christopher Nolan. Of course there is a fallibility of morals: the categories of good and evil do not include all our experiences and they are even exceeded by the chances of life. And yet we need a distinction (however provisional and redefinable) between good and evil. As an imperfect, simply human tool in an uncertain world.
Read Colson’s answer