Sade’s Transgressive Other: God in Sade’s Ethics

By Melissa Michele Russell.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper will describe the religious elements of
the ethics of the Marquis de Sade. Sade,
who is (in)famous for the controversial and pornographic, as
well as philosophical, content of his
novels, is known as one of history’s most notorious
atheists. However, when considering his philosophy,
and particularly the ethical system underlying it, Sade’s
atheism is problematic. Sade is not usually
considered an ethicist, yet some thinkers, notably Jacques
Lacan, have recognised an ethics in his
work. However, it is not the fact that Sade possesses an
ethics that is of importance to this paper,
but the insights this can provide about his relationship to
the religious. Like his philosophy, his ethics
rest upon the transgression of social, cultural and moral
norms, especially those grounded in religion.
In essence, they are an ethics of evil, entirely dependent
upon the “other”, which, to make the very
transgression of sinning possible, is God. Sade ethics are
committed to challenging and outraging
God, who is both the target of Sade’s contempt, and the
object of his obsession. Therefore, the
paper will argue that Sade’s ethics refer to and respond to
the religious, and encourage an
ongoing dialogue between religion and philosophy, two
interconnected disciplines that have shared
a contentious relationship since the Enlightenment.

Keywords: Marquis De Sade, Ethics, Transgression, Religion, Eighteenth-century Literature, Philosophy, Atheism, Christianity, God

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp.21-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 602.717KB).

Melissa Michele Russell

PhD Student, Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Humanities, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

I am a PhD student at Curtin University in Western Australia. My study at the moment focuses on the works of the Marquis de Sade, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. I am particularly interested in the ways that the religious enters into Sade’s philosophy and ethics, even though he was a self-proclaimed atheist. Outside of my PhD work, I am interested in postmodernist theories and Christian theology, and the ways that these disciplines are able to be reconciled, and the works of Georges Bataille.


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