Agamben begins the chapter "Taking Place" in The Coming Community with this idea:
The meaning of ethics becomes clear only when one understands that the good is not, and cannot be, a good thing or possibility beside or above every bad thing or possibility, that the authentic and the true are not real predicates of an object perfectly analogous (even if opposed) to the false and the inauthentic.
Ethics begins only when the good is revealed to consist in nothing other than the grasping of evil and when the authentic and the proper have no other content than the inauthentic and the improper. This is the meaning of the ancient philosophical adage according to which "veritas patefacit se ipsum et falsum." Truth cannot be shown except by showing the false, which is not, according to the etymology of the verb patefacere, which means "to open" and is linked to spatium, truth is revealed only by giving space or giving a place to non-truth--that is, as a taking-place of the false, as an exposure of its own innermost impropriety.
I returned to this because at dinner last night Cullen was arguing an ethical assessment of porn & sexual relations that was based on a linear understanding. If I understood him correctly one can assess the factors of a situation in order to deem something moral or immoral. I'm probably oversimplifying his approach. I'd had a few beers & he makes a good argument. He's a much slier speaker & a much quicker & more aggressive thinker than I am & he quickly set the playing field of the argument with his terms & system. Basically even though I fundamentally disagreed with the way he was discussing ethics I was unable to express it in a way that could engage his terms. Basically I was not born to practice philosophy. Basically he kicked my ass.
ed note: I may have totally misrepresented Cullen's argument here, via either ignorance or misunderstanding or Old Style or a desire to set up an easy straw man. Probably mostly the last. The conversation with him just got me thinking baout things I hadn't thought about in a while, which is a good. Please divorce these ideas from your idea of Cullen, who has a tremendously twisty mustache.
It's the linearity that bothers me, the ability to allow exemplification to represent on more than a linguisistic (or even imagistic level if you want to blur the line between ethics & aesthetics for a moment). When one needs to limit the potential factors to such an extent that ostensibly real-world applicable ideas such as sexual morality can only be proven with archly defined examples that appeal to or eliminate broad generalizations of contributing factors & psychological states then how can these examples be considered exemplary? I guess if I really see things defined by their becoming, their development of desires then I see the morality of sexual interaction as being a developing system of redefinition. A decision derived from set theory may be applicable to one of the decisions made in the process of decisions that lead from an actor in a pornographic movie through printing, processing, designing, packaging, distribution, retail, purchasing, watching & self-gratification (far from an inexhaustive list of factors involving individuals making decisions, ignoring all socio-political aspects), but cannot account for the interplay of ethical relationships. And it's this understanding of relational ethics that seems to allow for an applicable ethics that does not attempt to provide a single moral example to define morality, thereby creating a hierarchy of correctness.
And of course, as with ethics so with aesthetics. They're fraternal twins. Reading mannies for Octopus has made me understand a bit more about relational aesthetics.