Comments on Lyotard's concept of "obligation" from Just Gaming

1.) Obligation cannot be "justified" (22). Obligation cannot be known or theorized.

1.a) Lyotard derives it from narrative pragmatics. "Someone speaks to me; he places me under an obligation. This is precisely what Levinas has been thinking. What kind of obligation? The obligation to retell. But not necessarily to my teller. I am not obligated to give it back to him, no, that is not it; but I am obligated in the way of a relay that may not keep its charge but must pass it on" (31).

1.b) The "must pass it on" is prescriptive; it is a command that is in the very nature of the obligation. It can be defined as tradition. It is an ethical basis for justice and in the form of Austin's "performative" utterance.

1.c) Obligation is an aspect of language. "What does language want of me?" (98)

1.d) Obligation is a feeling (69). Yet this raises a question of the existential body which is not part of discursive pragmatics?

2.) "I am obligated before any freedom" (37). 2.a) This contrasts, for example, with Sartre's idea of a freedom before essence, the freedom he exerts because he lacks a "superego" (The Words p.11).

2.b) The priority of obligation contextualizes rusing. It is a limitation on the freedom to speak merely because one can ruse only within a prior context, a language game. One can revise or retell only that which has been told. Obligation focuses on the receiver, on the priority of the listener (33 and 37).

3.) Obligation is political not merely personal. 4.) Because the listener is free to ruse, obligation is pagan.

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