Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple  

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"[is there] a line from Kantian formalist ethics to the cold-blooded Auschwitz killing machine?"

 This page Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple is part of the Marquis de Sade series  Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein
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This page Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple is part of the Marquis de Sade series
Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple" is an essay by Slavoj Žižek first published in Lacanian Ink, no. 13 (1998).

Of all the couples in the history of modern thought (Freud and Lacan, Marx and Lenin…), Kant and Sade is perhaps the most problematic: the statement "Kant is Sade" is the "infinite judgement" of modern ethics, positing the sign of equation between the two radical opposites, i.e. asserting that the sublime disinterested ethical attitude is somehow identical to, or overlaps with, the unrestrained indulgence in pleasurable violence. A lot-everything, perhaps-is at stake here: is there a line from Kantian formalist ethics to the cold-blooded Auschwitz killing machine? Are concentration camps and killing as a neutral business the inherent outcome of the enlightened insistence on the autonomy of Reason? Is there at least a legitimate lineage from Sade to Fascist torturing, as is implied by Pasolini's film version of Saló, which transposes it into the dark days of Mussolini's Salo republic? Lacan developed this link first in his Seminar on The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1958-59)1, and then in the Écrits "Kant with Sade" of 1963. [1] [Sept 2004]

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