Raffoul - ethics cannot be grounded on utility

"Originary ethics cannot be measured in terms of results, or the production of effects. Heidegger states that “such thinking has no result. It has no effect” (BW, 259). It has no effect, not because it is solely theoretical or [229] contemplative—in fact, it “exceeds all contemplation” (BW, 262)—but because the ethics evoked here is no longer understood as the production of effects. The essence of thinking as originary ethics, Heidegger writes in the very first lines of “Letter on Humanism,” is not that which causes an effect or is governed by the value of utility. In fact, in the Beiträge Heidegger makes the claim that genuine thinking is “powerless” in the sense that the “en-thinking of the truth of Being . . . does not tolerate an immediate conclusion and evaluation [i.e., closure], especially when thinking must . . . bring into play the entire strangeness of be-ing [i.e., openness]—thus when thinking can never be based on a successful result in beings.” [1] This is all the more the case since as we know that any calculation of effects produced quickly proves . . . incalculable! The concern for results—the definition of ethics in terms of production of effects—in fact belongs to the imperative of technological thinking, which demands that everything be put to a use and exploited in an unconditional way and without reserve. In The Verge of Philosophy, John Sallis suggests that, “The genuine power of thinking consists in the capacity to undergo this displacement and to endure, as Heidegger says ‘the strangeness of Beyng’ . . . This endurance requires also enduring the apparent powerlessness, that thinking brings about no immediate effect on beings.” [2] Sallis clarifies that such thinking “requires that one turn away from beings and all effectings upon them to Beyng in its strangeness” (VP, 147). Hence the site of originary ethics is not instrumental, is not the consequential mode of a subjective agency, but instead “requires the most radical loss of self, and it is in this madness that, properly attuned, one is drawn toward, opened to, the gift of Being” (VP, 147). The useless opens the space of ethics, while instrumentality closes it.

It is then clear that by originary ethics, Heidegger does not mean investigating how thinking can be applied to ontical issues. In other words, stressing the ethical dimension of Heidegger’s thought does not mean a mere “application” of Heidegger’s thought to various practical concerns, as though his thought—or thought in general, for that matter—could be used as some kind of tool, following an instrumental model. The current and growing development of so-called “applied ethics” in the curriculum conceals a peculiar and paradoxical blindness regarding the nature of ethics, and a neglect of a genuine philosophical questioning concerning the meaning of ethics, at the same time as it betrays an almost desperate need for ethics in our age. Yet this need arises out of the fact that ethics is left [230] groundless; indeed, the notion of “application” provides a grounding for ethical precepts: Ethics is hereby guaranteed by a theoretical basis. However, ethical decision takes place in an ungrounded way. The concept of “applied ethics” is self-contradictory, an oxymoron of sorts. It leaves open the question of the nature of ethics, ignoring the ungrounded character of ethics through its reliance on norms. It represents a perfect example of un-phenomenological thinking, one that is entirely divorced from the matter at hand. Ethics occurs outside of reference to both ground and utility, from out of the useless."
François Raffoul, The Origins of Responsability, (p. 228-230)