The importance of ethics can only be applied in the human arena, because ethics is directly linked to the structural mediation of reality.
The search for the good may appear to require an absolute standard that exists in reality, but the development of ethics always begins with the human condition. A sense of what is right and good can be very helpful to a political project, but there must be caution in order to avoid an ethical system transforming into a morality. While ethics is a practical and immanent exploration of the good, morality is a transcendent system that serves to classify aspects of reality as either good or evil. Morality demands obedience to these standards regardless of the findings of an ethical experience. In other words, ethics is intimately tied to how humans relate to the world and subsequently to each other. Humans engage in individual creation and collective use through culture that is a subset of the social. It is one of the primary ways that humans engage in relationships. Each individual human will have particular experiences of the general reality. From these snapshots of the objective world, general ideas are constructed from particular experience within the mind. These concepts are altered to a degree from the aggregate of particular experiences, and they are expressed as particular objects from the general idea. This occurs especially in the artistic endeavor, but is not limited to it.
Individual creation is the expression of desire. The material products of desire are immanent to the individual who creates them since both are embedded in reality as physical beings, but the immaterial products of desire can either be immanent or transcendent. The immaterial product can become transcendent, where it appears to be the source of the reality that is manifested or the structure that precedes that particular reality. In either case, the product of desire begins as a creation that is external to the social field. In that state the product can seem to be directly disruptive to the social field as a collective set of relationships among humans. The product is then incorporated into the social and as a tool of human freedom or desire. On the other hand, collective use can be seen as either the commons or exchange value. The particular object that is created can be an understanding of general reality within the commons, but the communication of exchange value can obscure the unique use value of the product. In exchange value one in fact sees an objective relationship between subjects and a subjective relationship between objects. This in turn leads to exchange value becoming symbolic value. Exchange value deals with content and symbolic value deals with form. Symbolic value serves to perpetuate structural mediation. This structural mediation of symbolic value precedes any particular object that is created. Therefore, the structural mediation of symbolic value also obscures individual creation and the general reality within which it operates. The structural mediation is the containment of the objective self and the subjective experience of the objective other, and allows for any relationship between the two as a background.
Ethics is inherently human and therefore is embedded within a system of meaning. Though it has been argued by Foucault that ethics begins as an attitude toward the self, it must expand beyond toward an attitude to the other in order to be any use in a social environment. This attitude toward the other can be an openness to their difference from the self, and a willingness to accept that difference. But the difference between the self and the other begins as the difference in itself of reality. There is still the hope, with this openness and acceptance, that the other can be the way to a sensibility of the good but this other can only be an appearance of access to reality as the good. In fact, the other can be a small partial object of desire that obscures reality as the good. It redirects human action away from reality and away from a standard of the good that could exist independently of human action. Instead of an open face, the other is a closed mask that makes it impossible to grasp reality in itself. One can conclude that ethics can never find the good in a reality outside of human action. Ethics can then be defined, like any other system of meaning, as an external discontinuity from reality and an internal continuity of meaning within the structure.
These structures can be seen as creations of humans, but that does not exclude the fact that other structures form in reality outside of human intervention. This is the difference between actualization and desiring-production. Actualization is the transition from the virtual to the actual as an objective process. The structures that emerge can be observed by human observation, but are not caused by that observation. Actualization develops the structural mediation of reality that is a background to free activity. However, desiring-production is the movement from ubiquitous systems to apparent systems as a subjective process. Humans take up the preexisting structures and use it as raw material for creations that are consciously implemented and motivated by inherent desire. These structures, as the products of desiring-production, act as tools for human freedom. But they first require the parts to be taken away and broken apart from the preexisting system that gives its function an original meaning. Therefore, there must be a structural rupture in order for there to be the full desiring-production of free agency.
Structures of power, meaning, and production can exist independently of human activity and knowledge, and can give shape to reality in a process similar to human action in the world. Structures of power, meaning, and production act as the internalization of parts of reality and also the externalization of various choices, ideas, and objects. Structures act as catalysts in order to enact changes in reality while not changing themselves. This is a characteristic shared by both objective and subjective structures. The relationships between structures of power, meaning, and production have a specific configuration. Structures of power and meaning are simultaneous, while structures of production are the material expression of power and meaning. While structures of power and meaning reinforce each other, any physical object that can be used for power or meaning are manufactured by structures of production.
One finds that there needs to be a distinction between the ethics of reality, the ethics of structures, and the ethics of the social. The ethics of reality has the only goal of actualization of the virtual where differences of quality are manifested as concrete differences of quantity. This occurs regardless of the wishes of humans and how humans define the good. The ethics of structures is only that of structural mediation and structural reproduction. Structures, whether forming in reality or made by humans, work solely to take in parts of reality, process them, and to insure its own form continues unchanged. Structures are in fact one of the things that is actualized by reality independent of humans, and there is no such thing as an eternal structure. However, the ethics of the social is that of free agency and the creation of novelty. With a background of a process of actualization and structures that give form to reality, humans seek to find a particular good that must avoid being a transcendent or universal thing. When the goal of the good is transcendent, it becomes morality and will only serve the perpetuation of structures regardless of what the practice of that morality discovers about the good in human life. Humans seek the good and tend to ignore how ethics does not exist in reality in itself, subsequently ignoring that ethics is a set of practices to promote the human endeavor of free agency and the expression of authentic desire. In other words, both objective and subjective ethics has the appearance of transcendence that obscures immanence. It is through immanence that humans can have a fully functioning ethical system without the illusion that the good is an absolute truth. The human ethics of the social can only be developed in the individual creation and collective use that is the expression of desire. This attitude and realization can avoid the transformation of ethics into morality which facilitates various fundamentalisms or ideologies while guaranteeing that ethics serves its inherently human purposes in social relationships.