A book entitled Les Métamorphoses du
Neutre (The Neutral and its Metamorphoses). The enigmatic concept of the "neutral" encompasses a series of notions—objectivity, disinterestedness, impersonality, impartiality—which define the main values of our "classical" ethics of representation, and which are being debated or changed by a variety of contemporary discourses including (postmodern) philosophy, cultural, post-colonial and feminist criticism, and theoreticians of human sciences. The possibility of neutrality in representation is attacked on epistemological grounds, because of the historical and cultural "situatedness" of the cognitive agent, or on political grounds because it masks the interests always at work in our cognitive constructions.
Yet the denunciation of the "false neutrality" of our cognitive models often coexist, within the postmodern discourse, with alternative forms of the neutral which demonstrate the persistence of its ethical value as a model of cognitive justice. The paradox can be shown in the specific cognitive "postures" re-created by this discourse: they are successively explored in Barthes's "morality of knowledge;" in Lyotard's "just games" of language; in the "impersonal voice" of critical theory; in Derrida's essay: "Deconstruction and the possibility of justice;" in the cultural and post-colonial critic's preoccupation with the "partiality" of representation for marginalized social groups; and finally in specific aspects of the value given to the artificial in our cognitive constructions of the world.
While symptomatic of an ethico-epistemological crisis, the "metamorphoses" of the neutral apparent in these cognitive postures also coincide with a mutation of the ethical figure of the Other, which internally regulates our representations of the world. As such, they open a new dimension in our ethics of representation: they abolish the possibility of mastery for the cognitive agent, and reveal a new form of cognitive justice which could be defined as relational.