The Adventure of French Philosophy by Alain Badiou and edited and translated, with an introduction by Bruno Bosteels (Verso Books)
The philosopher aspired to become a writer-combatant, an artist of the subject, a lover of invention, a philosophical militant – these are the names for the desire that runs through this period: the desire that philosophy should act in its own name. – Alain Badiou
First there were the Ancient Greeks, then the German idealists, and now, a third national cabal fends for equivalence: the French philosophical moment between the 1940s and the 90s. Across Sartre, Bachelard, Merleau-Ponty, Levi-Strauss, Althusser, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, and Deleuze, a rich and varied sphere of philosophy arose in France paralleled only in the highest of historical summits.
The Adventure of French Philosophy presents over forty years of French philosophy through the eyes of its greatest living exponent, Alain Badiou. Badiou teaches philosophy at the École normale supérieure and the Collège international de philosophie in Paris. In addition to several novels, plays and political essays, he has published a number of major philosophical works, including Theory of the Subject, Being and Event, Manifesto for Philosophy, and Gilles Deleuze. His recent books include The Meaning of Sarkozy, Ethics, Metapolitics, Polemics, The Communist Hypothesis, Five Lessons on Wagner, and Wittgenstein's Anti-Philosophy.
Badiou explores the exceptionally rich and varied world of French philosophy in a number of groundbreaking essays, published in The Adventure of French Philosophy.
Included are the often-quoted review of Louis Althusser’s canonical works For Marx and Reading Capital and the scathing critique of ‘potato fascism’ in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. There are also talks on Michel Foucault and Jean-Luc Nancy, and reviews of the work of Jean-François Lyotard and Barbara Cassin, notable points of interest on an expansive tour of modern French thought.
Badiou stands at the bookend of the French philosophical tradition, and in The Adventure of French Philosophy reflects on the ‘French moment’ in contemporary thought with a series of essays and reviews published for the first time in English in a revised translation. Badiou asks, "What took place in France, in philosophy, between 1940 and the end of the twentieth century? Where does this moment come from, what were its antecedents, what was its birth?" Reaching into its background, projects, and accomplishments, Badiou moves to understand the particular character specific to this time.
Guided by a small set of fundamental questions concerning the nature of being, the event, the subject, and truth, Badiou pushes to an extreme the polemical force of his thinking. Against the formless continuum of life, he posits the need for radical discontinuity; against the false modesty of finitude, he pleads for the mathematical infinity of everyday situations; against the various returns to Kant, he argues for the persistence of the Hegelian dialectic; and against the lure of ultra-leftism, his texts from the 1970s vindicate the role of Maoism as a driving force behind the communist Idea.
It is through these reflections that Badiou ends up continuing the very tradition of his contemplation.
A figure like Plato or Hegel walks here among us! – Slovoj Žižek
One of the most important philosophers writing today. – Joan Copjec
An heir to Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser. – New Statesman
This new volume is a rich trove, an expansive tour of over forty years of modern French thought from the acclaimed philosopher. The Adventure of French Philosophy is essential reading for anyone interested in the `French moment' in contemporary thought.
Second Manifesto for Philosophy by Alain Badiou (Polity)
Philosophy is everywhere today. But, twenty years ago, Alain Badiou's first Manifesto for Philosophy rose up against the all-pervasive proclamation of the end of philosophy. In lieu of this problematic of the end, he put forward the watchword: one more step.
The situation has considerably changed since then. Philosophy was threatened with obliteration at the time, today it finds itself under threat for the diametrically opposed reason: it is endowed with an excessive, artificial existence. It serves as a trademark for various media pundits. It has its magazines and its gurus. It is universally called upon, by everything from banks to major state commissions, to pronounce on ethics, law and duty. In essence, philosophy has now come to stand for nothing other than its most ancient enemy: conservative ethics.
Badious Second Manifesto for Philosophy seeks to demoralize philosophy and to separate it from all those philosophies that are as servile as they are ubiquitous. Badiou, Emeritus Professor in Philosophy at the cole Normale Suprieure, demonstrates the power of certain eternal truths to illuminate action and, as such, to transport philosophy far beyond the figure of the human and its rights. There, well beyond all moralism, in the clear expanse of the idea, life becomes something radically other than survival.
As explained in the Outline to Second Manifesto for Philosophy, a Manifesto for philosophy philosophically declares the existence of philosophy at a given moment of this existence. It does so according to rules that immanently command a declaration of existence, whatever this may be. The Manifesto's declaration is divided into: Opinion, Appearance, Differentiation, Existence, Mutation, Incorporation, Subjectivation, and Ideation.
1. Opinion. The necessity to philosophically declare the existence of philosophy ensues from opinion's doubting, or even, refuting this. What relevance would such a declaration have otherwise? Accordingly, we must begin with opinion such as it governs the moment when the declaration is necessary. What are opinion's themes, what are its operations and why does it entail a negation of philosophy's existence?
2. Appearance. Since that in question is the existence of philosophy at the present moment and not its intemporal essence, the declaration must duly bear on philosophy's existence in the world, such as it is and not on its presumed transhistorical being. Existence is, however, a category of appearing in a determined world, whereas being is a category of that which constitutes any world regardless of its singularity. Concerned as it is with philosophy's existence here and now, Second Manifesto for Philosophys second heading is Appearance.
3. Differentiation. The conceptual investigation on which the Manifesto rests focuses upon that which, differentiating appearance, marks out its forms and presents within it distinct, even contradictory, objects. The logic of worlds should be thought of as the difference of differences. Hence the third heading: Differentiation.
4. Existence. The Manifesto must show the existential consistency of philosophy today and, in order to do so, philosophy's appearance needs to be identical to the force of its existence. What is it to exist? This is the fourth question, which imposes the heading:
Existence. Once we have defined the category of existence, we'll apply it to the existence of philosophy, comparing its existence in the world today to that orchestrated by the world twenty years ago.
5. Mutation. We must maintain and rationally set out that there are moments such that a fundamental change affects that which organizes the way in which intensities of existence and urgencies of action are distributed. Something literally exists that had previously not existed. The moment of the Manifesto is the moment when that by means of which philosophy is possible `something' appears in the world something which demands philosophical attention and whose appearance is of such a nature that it can be said of this `thing': it was nothing, now it is everything. This forces the fifth heading: Mutation.
6. Incorporation. We can reasonably give the name `bodies' to that which exists in a world. If the `thing' of concern to philosophy surges forth in the world, it does so in the form of a body's becoming. What the Manifesto urges its readers to do, then, is to experiment with this body's existence in such a way that they become aware of why, with this utterly new existence, it is philosophy's reaffirmed existence that is at stake.
7. Subjectivation. Incorporation cannot be reduced to the purely objective dimension of an increased existence of the new body. What is really involved is the orientation of such a body. What are we to understand by `orientation'? While its power can be displayed through a succession of tests and trials, its existence can also be limited, or even denied, it can be made merely the servile copy, or even the enemy, of a sacralized, extraworldly Body. Being a matter of how one conducts one's life with regard to whatever comes to pass, these variants of the relation between individuals and the new body are at the very core of philosophical examination. These are variants of Subjectivation.
8. Ideation. The ultimate philosophical theme is that of the Idea, individuals can picture themselves as giving impetus to the new body. This is the answer to philosophy's ultimate question: what is a life worthy of the name? The Second Manifesto for Philosophy reaffirms, under the conditions of the present, that philosophy can give an answer, or at least the form of an answer, to this question. The imperative of the world, which is the imperative of short-lived pleasures, simply sets down: 'Live only for your satisfaction, and live, therefore, without Idea.' Against this abolition of life-thought, philosophy declares that to live is to act so that there is no longer any distinction between life and Idea. This indiscernibility of life and Idea is called: Ideation.
With his characteristic taste for polemic, economy of expression and relentless cheerfulness, Badiou offers a loud counterblast against contemporary scientism and sophism. Against what he sees as the democratic materialism of the age, Badiou pits a materialist dialectic at the service of the Idea. The second manifesto is invigorating reading. Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research
Badiou's Second Manifesto for Philosophy makes a lucid and compelling demand for philosophy to return from media distraction to its genuine calling. Opposing all moralizing acquiescence in an intolerable global status quo, Badiou reminds us that philosophical thought is, in essence, a quest for universality. The thinker's task is to make sense of truths whose upsurge and impact cuts across space and time. In this sense, far from toying with relativism, the philosopher must be committed to the disciplined work of soldering together separated worlds. Peter Dews, University of Essex
The conclusion to Second Manifesto for Philosophy inspires readers: after this comes the moment to conclude: to live as an Immortal, as the Ancients sought to, is, whatever one may say, within the reach of anyone. A brave new philosophy, Badiou does it again!
Being and Event by Alain Badiou, translated by Oliver Feltham (Continuum International Publishing Group) Being and Event is the greatest work of Alain Badiou, France's most important living philosopher. Long-awaited in translation, Being and Event makes available to an English-speaking readership Badiou's groundbreaking work on set theory - the cornerstone of his whole philosophy. The book makes the scope and aim of Badiou's whole philosophical project clear, enabling full comprehension of Badiou's significance for contemporary philosophy. Badiou draws upon and is fully engaged with the European philosophical tradition from Plato onwards; Being and Event deals with such key figures as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Rousseau, Heidegger and Lacan.
This wide-ranging book is organized in a careful, precise and novel manner, reflecting the philosophical rigor of Badiou's thought. Unlike many contemporary Continental philosophers, Badiou -- who is also a novelist and dramatist - writes lucidly and cogently, making his work far more accessible and engaging than much philosophy, and actually a pleasure to read. This English language edition includes a new preface, written by Badiou himself, especially for this translation.
Being and Event is a must-have for Badiou's significant following and anyone interested in contemporary Continental philosophy. As the reviewer from publishers weekly expresses the translation does some violence to English syntax, challenging the reader to understand ideas that are quite simply expressed in English without the convolutions. Badiou’s work is something of a hybrid. His use of analytical philosophy and logical notation runs at variance with the usual Continental practice of abstract a linguistic poetizing. The book was completed for nearly 20 years ago, though at the time it did not lend itself to ready comprehension because Badiou made four affirmative assumptions that went against the spirit of the time. For Badiou situations are nothing more than pure in different multiplicities. Consequently differences do not point to norms. If true truths exist they are in different to differences. So cultural relativism can never go beyond trivial statements that different situations exist. Such relativism cannot tell us anything about what, among the differences, looked legitimately matters to subjects. Furthermore the structures of situations in themselves do not deliver truths per se. As a consequence, nothing normative can be drawn from the simple realist examination of the becoming of things. In particular, a truth is solely constituted by a rupturing with the order which supports it, never as in effect of that order. This insight seems to be restating Godel's theorem. Badiou names this type of rupture “the event”. For him authentic philosophy begins, not in structural facts such as cultural, linguistic or political perspectives, but uniquely in what takes place in what remains in the form of a strictly incalculable emergence.
Next Badiou claims a subject is nothing other than an active fidelity to the event of truth. This means the subject is a militant truth. Badiou philosophically reintroduced the notion of militant during a time when the consensus of thinkers was that any engagement of this type was archaic. Not only did he found this notion, but also considerably enlarged it. Badiou sees the militant in the political activist working for human rights and environmental justice, but also for the artist-creator, the scientists who opens up by new theoretical field, or the lover who enchants the world. For Badiou the being of truth is generic because it proves itself an exception to any pre-constituted predicate of a situation in which that truth is deployed. In other words, although it is situated within a world, a truth does not retain anything expressible from that situation. A truth concerns everyone in his much as it is a multiplicity that no particular predicate can circumscribe. Therefore, the infinite work of a truth is thus that of a generic procedure. And to be a subject, and not just a simple individual animal, is to be a local active dimension of such a procedure.
Badiou has created a philosophical classic that will puzzle and confound many graduate students and colleagues for years to come. The work is modular a series of 37 meditations upon the previous postulates of classic Western thinkers. Plato and Cantor are taken to task about the meaning of the multiple and the nature of the void. Heidegger and Galileo are examined with regards to the nature of time and infinity, event and ontology. Pascal and Holderlin are interrogated about the nature of choice and inference. Leibniz and Godel are contrasted with regards to the nature of quantity in the limits of formal systems. Badiou becomes more constructive when reviewing the nature of the event as construed by P.J. Cohen. In many ways the event becomes a way of dealing with multiple change and conditions without presuming upon consciousness of time. Likewise, Badiou reinvents the nature of the subject, going beyond the classic critique of Lacan. Grasped in its being, the subject is solely be finitude of the generic procedure, the local effects of an eventual fidelity. What the subject produces is the truth itself, which is an indiscernible part of the situation. However the infinity of this truth transcends it. It is abusive to say that truth is a subjective production. Rather a subject is much taken up in fidelity to the event and suspended from truth; from which it is forever separated by chance. For Badiou the subject is ever situated between the decidable and the ineluctable. As such, he does not have a theory of consciousness so much as a mirroring of events without limit.
(A brief disclaimer. This review does not summarize or
critique the arguments in this book--it would be unjust to attempt to do so in
the space of a few paragraphs. I hope only to give some indication of the
relevance of this work for those who are interested in Badiou's work and/or
those who have heard the name "Badiou" and are trying to find a way in to what
his work is all about. If my comments are elliptic or obscure because I use
Badiou's terms without providing explication, this is only because I hope that I
give enough indication of the direction of his ideas to promote the reading of
the actual text.)
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the quality of the translation, since I have not seen the French text. Feltham's familiarity with Badiou's work is unquestionable, however. He was, for example, one of the editors of the collection "Infinite Thought" (also published by Continuum). He has also contributed to a recent issue of `Polygraph' devoted to a discussion of Badiou's work (#17, 2005).
Until this translation, American readers were denied significant access to Badiou's philosophical method and concepts. The key sources were commentaries by people like Peter Hallward, Keith Ansell-Pearson, and Eric Alliez (and, of course, Slavoj Zizek). The closest one got to Badiou himself was the collection called "Theoretical Writings" (also published by Continuum). With the exception of "Deleuze: The Clamor of Being", it was difficult to know what Badiou's work was all about since just about all of his other translated works presuppose knowledge of the concepts and terms developed in "Being and Event".
Those who have read Badiou's "Deleuze" will have some idea of what occupies "Being and Event". The title recalls, of course, Heidegger's "Being and Time", and Badiou explicitly agrees with Heidegger that philosophy can only be done on the basis of the ontological question. In "Deleuze", Badiou argues that that great thinker was at bottom a thinker of the One and, as Keith Ansell-Pearson points out, the real quarrel between Badiou and Deleuze is over who can speak of being as pure multiplicity. For Deleuze, the concepts are those found in Bergson and the differential calculus; for Badiou one must look to post-Cantorian set theory. In both cases, one cannot approach ontology without a firm understanding of mathematics (anyone who does not have a working grasp of set theory will not be prepared for "Being and Event").
The ontological question cuts a diagonal through various trajectories. Although Badiou accepts the gauntlet Heidegger threw down to philosophy, like Deleuze he thinks that ontology has to be done post-phenomenologically. Badiou even rejects the later Heidegger's notion of "forgetting". Badiou's answer to the ontological question involves a second project in "Being and Event": the articulation of a post-Cartesian (and even a post-Lacanian) subject. If, Badiou says, mathematics is ontology (that is, only mathematics can write being as it is, even if there is no intra-mathematical sense to this writing), the question is no longer the Kantian "how is mathematics possible?" but, rather, if mathematics is the science of being, how is a *subject* possible? In accord with his notion that there are four (and only four) "truth procedures", there are only artistic, scientific, political, and amorous subjects. It is on this idea that Badiou's other works on ethics, politics, art ("inaesthetic"), and so forth, are predicated. In a sense, none of Badiou's other translated works make much sense without the doctrine of the subject laid out in "Being and Event".
(This project of a post-Cartesian subject is announced by the book itself in that it is written as a series of "meditations" that could not be more dissimilar in method to the meditations of either Descartes or Husserl. My own hunch is that any successful engagement and/or refutation of Badiou's work will have to be done on the question of method--viz., Badiou's axiomatic procedure.)
These theses on ontology and subjectivity cross the so-called analytic-continential divide in philosophy. Badiou offers readings of major thinkers throughout the history of philosophy and his readers are asked to have a similarly encyclopedic knowledge of both the post-Kantian analytic and continental traditions. This book is most certainly neither for laypersons, amateurs, or beginning students of philosophy. Throughout the introduction Badiou expresses consternation over the fact that his readers must not only be professional philosophers, but also well-trained in mathematics. One is usually well-trained in one or the other. Analytic philosophy tends to do better at this than Continental (indeed, one of Badiou's goals is to provide a way out of the aporias of the Vienna Circle), but Badiou equally draws from the continental tradition (by way of figures like Hegel, Heidegger, and Lacan) and continental readings of the history of philosophy. (And, until "Being and Event", one couldn't really find much after Quine on the philosophy of set theory except something like Mary Tiles' work from 1989.)
The ontological argument, premised on what Badiou has to say about the One and the presentation of multiplicity (i.e., the question that preoccupied the presocratics) hinges on this: "maintain the position that nothing is delivered by the law of the Ideas, but make this nothing be through the assumption of a proper name. In other words: verify, via the excedentary choice of a proper name, the unpresentable alone as existent; on its basis the Ideas will subsequently cause all admissible forms of presentation to proceed. ... It is because the one is not that the void is unique ... [which is equivalent] to saying that its mark is a proper name". This is how Badiou interprets the axiom of the null (or void) set and distills the question of the One and Many from Being and change (see, e.g., the history and development of the concepts of the calculus). The question is not simply "how does one think non-being?" but also (and Parmenides also recognized this) "how does one name non-being?" The proper name, as Badiou points out in a passage immediately following the above, is not the transcendent God or the promise of the One or presence but the "un-presentation and the un-being of the one" (cf. Derrida's comments on the possibility of a negative theology).
The payoff for working through Badiou's text is nothing less than a revitalization of philosophy (particularly for anyone who thinks philosophy in America has been boring since the waning of Rortyian pragmatism). The ontological debates surrounding Deleuze/Badiou have tended to be conducted in the margins of philosophical discourse in the US (with both thinkers more popular in circles of theory than philosophy and in the pages of journals on culture and politics than Nous or Mind), but the publication of "Being and Event" itself is precisely what Badiou means when he writes of an "event": something that disrupts the current situation. ("Event" and "situation" are, of course, technical terms for Badiou. The most succinct statement of these terms is probably "The Event as Trans-Being" in the Theoretical Writings.) Like his compatriot Ranciere (who too found his own voice after breaking with a youthful Marxism), Badiou is concerned with how it is possible that something new can be seen. "Being and Event" is compulsory for anyone who thinks ontology has been boring since Heidegger (even Millan-Puelles' ambitious "Theory of the Pure Object" fails to satisfy); and for those who weren't convinced by Deleuze that alternative ways to do ontology (viz. Bergson) were dead-ends, "Being and Event" the place to turn. (Whether one ultimately agrees with Deleuze or Badiou, however, is an open question. The basic difference is this: for Badiou, multiplicities are rigorously determined; Deleuze, obviously, denies this. In both cases being is pure multiplicity, nondenumerable, etc)
And for those who may be interested by Deleuze but are wedded to more traditionally analytic ways of writing: Badiou's writing is often praised for its clarity and in many ways it mimes the economy of analytic philosophy, avoiding the obscurity (while preserving the density) of many of his French contemporaries. Badiou has often been compared to Sartre (both being novelists and playwrights in addition to philosophers), but not only does Badiou in many ways stand apart from the French traditions of Sartre and Hyppolite, "Being and Event" is eminently more readable than "Being and Nothingness". Even if Badiou's writing lacks the brilliance of Derrida or Deleuze, this may be because he explicitly tells us that the poetic is subordinate; indeed, Badiou's writing itself is probably best described as "mathematical". While he is not immune to some amount of obscurity in some others of his writings, "Being and Event" certainly cannot be so faulted. At worst one might fault the author for demanding too much of his reader; but if this be a fault it is an admirable one to have, since it is a rare author indeed who can make such a demand.
Alain Badiou teaches at the Ecole Normale Superieure and at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. In addition to several novels, plays and political essays, he has published a number of major philosophical works.
From Publishers Weekly: Two things are new in this much-anticipated translation of Badiou: the language and the preface. Both are instructive. Translator Oliver Feltham stayed "as close as possible to Badiou's syntax" but "at the price of losing fluidity." The logic behind this sacrifice being that Badiou's syntax does its own philosophical work; the unfortunate result being that many sentences, though elegant in French, are wounded in English. For example, this hop-along on Marxism: "That the dialectic of its existence is not that of the one of authority to the multiple of the subject." Thankfully, Badiou addresses such dissonance and his larger philosophical goals in an indispensable new preface-without which the 37 weighty meditations might be lost to the layperson. Even with the new preface, those reading Badiou or Continental philosophy for the first time might experience something intellectually akin to running into the ocean. (Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil is a slimmer, more accessible introduction to this novelist, and playwright and professor at Ecole Normale Superieure.) Otherwise it takes a miracle to understand the four theses of this work, organized as they are into a chevron consisting of Being, Event, Truth, Subject. Badiou is concerned with the potential for profound, transformative innovation in any situation. His approach is part mathematical (Candor's set theory), part rationalist (Anglo-American), part poetic (Continental) and part textual (11 legends of philosophy are confronted "on singular points"), but his ideas are intensely rarified. Recommended for specialists. (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)
Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy by Alain Badiou,
translated by Oliver Feltham & Justin Clemens (Continuum) In this collection of
essays, Alain Badiou addresses the problem of the current end-state in
philosophy and attempts to re-invigorate it with something of its older,
classical character. He identifies the source of malaise in the major branches
of modern philosophy and pleads for an interruption to these practices in order
to take a different position and find a way to allow a notion of truth, as
opposed to meaning, to re-emerge as a legitimate philosophical concern.
This is not philosophy looking for employment in the face of redundancy. Philosophy has always been a counterbalance to excess and should be so now, in the current political climate. Interruption is a key word here, for it is only through this kind of breaking that the word suggests a radical shift back towards truth and not meaning, things and not words.
But philosophy must take a position if this interruption is to take place. Truth is not to be conditioned by any prevalent habits of thought. This is an absolute, for any condition thrust upon it will turn it once again into a familiar pattern that is the province of an existing body of knowledge, and so be removed from philosophical speculation. But this in itself says something about truth, since what now counts as knowledge is defined in statistical terms which smooth over difference and plane down truth to a categorical sameness. Truth must therefore be of a singular character, and the problem is how to universalise it, given that this is a pre-requisite of philosophy. How does the singular maintain its character, faced with the current trends of thought that tend to fold everything into preformed packages?
Statistics are subjectless, but the singular truth, arising in an event, happens to (or calls into being) a subject. Indeed, the subject has long been a casualty in philosophy, and its re-emergence through the notion of event is overdue and welcome.
Truth occurs in an event to a subject, and it cannot fold itself into preformed or known categories. It proceeds in the subject in an act of faith on the one hand, but (being unknown and therefore unsayable) proceeds by chance and adhering to the lessons of the event. What is unnameable thereby becomes a kind of tabula rasa upon which the singular event and subject force their existence, generating something new in the face of the unknown.
This is a crude and much oversimplified account of truth as Badiou outlines it in his essays. He is to be commended for attempting to revitalise philosophy and recognising the need for such a radical departure. But it is not as radical as it at first appears. His notion of the indiscernible is strongly reminiscent of Jaspers notion of Existenz, while his concept of the count-as-one, the structure of event or situation, is not so different from the notion of an actual entity as formulated by Alfred North Whitehead in process philosophy.
The problem is that Badiou is unable to free himself entirely from the tradition which he seeks to interrupt. Consequently, although the claim for truth in the singular state is unconditional, he conditions it nonetheless by assuming that universality is synonymous with thought.
This is the crux of the problem. What he fails to recognise is that the one universal principle which is also singular is the presence of death. It is the most singular event in a life, a feature of existence which is the source of separation and the background which in-forms the structure of Being. For Badiou, death is all too predictably defined in its phenomenal guise as an indifference to existence and a non-event.
Here lies the problem with his philosophy. Without death, there could be no events, for it is in a relation to death that anything at all comes into being. By this I mean that desire, consciousness, striving, unrest, sense of lack, love and even stones would not have any kind of being. Indeed, in the absence of death, there would be no need of sexuality, nor genes by default either, nor any kind of memory structure, and no innameable.
Certainly, it is unnameable, for it is not an event that is part of experience, but its presence in-forms experience through an inverse of itself. It is not a set among sets. It is not that the barber who shaves the beards of men is not part of the set; it is the error in assuming that the barber is male in the first place. Death is a part of all sets, but does not belong to any set. It is an unspeakable presence that is probably better served by the unconscious than by conscious thought, but only in a form which is an inversion of itself and which consequently generates conscious thought.
Without reference to this inversion, conscious thought acts to suppress it as an agency of change and reduces thought to non-thought. Such suppression is the opposite of Badious notion of forcing, and ultimately reduces thought to subjectless non-thought. Ironically, it is in this way that science has come to resemble the very metaphysics it loathes and avoids, and in so doing has created itself on a metaphysics of inertia and neutrality. More seriously, the subscription to scientific methodology in all areas of social concern, usurp the unnameable by assuming death in passive mode and totally phenomenal. In this way, it is easy to adopt a position in which death becomes a solution to many political problems, as witnessed by the inordinate expenditure in military hardware as a way of guaranteeing security.
But for all its flaws, Badious cry for interruption, and the basic form of the event, represent an important departure from the current tendencies in philosophy. His ideas have a weight and a seriousness about them that cannot be ignored. They offer a route to involvement in the practical world of affairs in a way that could make a difference to it.
I picked up this book because I liked the title, although I
was suspicious that it would be one more post-modern ranting, because the
philosopher is a contemporary Frenchman. However, the essays collected in this
work represent a new ray of hope of combining whatever is positive in
post-structuralist and post-modern criticism with essential debates on the
ethical and the political.
Badiou is both a critic of these traditions and in some sense continues these traditions. His presumptions on the question of the subject (as consituted rather than constituting), etc., remain quite post-structuralist. His basic system of 'situation' and 'event' makes it seem as if humans respond only in fidelity to events and the situation as such cannot directly elicit a response without reference to an event. And it does not resolve how a subject is consituted by fidelity of response when the fidelity of response itself presupposes a subject.
Yet his philosophical ontology based on set theory is welcome and refreshing. And above all his open-minded humility towards inquiry makes him a stark contrast to dogmatically minded 'endists' of all hues who have permeated much of conteporary discourse.
The essays in the book do not form a system or a whole, but references to his basic philosophical system based on the theory of sets abound. His elaboration of concepts of situation and event based on set theory and his new theory of subjectivity as fidelity of response, in spite of its logical shortcomings open the way for the ethical and political which recent French philosophy had almost closed.
Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism
by Alain Badiou, translated by Ray Brassier, (Stanford University Press)
provides a very novel insight not only on Paul but on Christian theology as
well. One of the most interesting reflections is the differentiation between the
philosophical discourse of wisdom (Greece), the prophetic discourse of signs
(Israel) and the testimony of the event (Christianity). There is no pagan
conformism to the laws of the universe nor a cryptic awaiting for a promise, but
an event that concerns us all in terms of placing ourselves in a place beyond
the automatism of the Law, in a world of Life. The main figure is not of the
prophet or the philosopher but of the apostol, the one who testifies of a
universal truth where there is no difference between I and the Other. Badiou's
interpretation of Saint Paul does not compromise itself with received scholastic
theology where there is a continuity of God with Being (analogia entis) nor with
a postmodern theology where the promise is something to be kept differing
forever in order to "do justice" to the Other.
Badiou provides a universalist theory that includes the difference but where there is no difference and boundaries for the sake of the ethical. No Jew nor Greek, no men nor women, to be all to all men.
Badiou's extended essay on Paul may be a bit amateurish and crude from a theological and/or historical perspective [his intents and aims, he admits, are solely subjective], but despite this, it achieves a noteworthy amount of novel philosophical insight using the texts of Paul as a launchpad.
There are two sides to this book. On one hand, Badiou appears as a sort of atheist apologist for Paul, whom he seeks to clear of common insults against his person popular since Nietzsche and others (such as being a mysoginist, a despiser of earthly life, etc.) Badiou wants us to view Paul not in the popularized polemic distortion that pervades atheists in academia but rather as the prototypical 'poet-thinker of the event'.
On the other hand, in so far as one can say this of Paul, Badiou wants to extract from his portrayal a revolutionary philosophy of 'the event' and its founding of universiality. Here, the argument becomes complexly interwined with the words of Paul and Christian discourse; however, it brings with it a certain uncanny lucidity as the revolutionary universiality of the Resurrection in Paul's discourse sets the scene to disolve and overcome the particularities of the Judaic and Greek status quo.
This fantastic little book is one of Badiou's best. The US was first introduced to Badiou with his book "Ethics"--and I believe it would benefit any reader to go to that book first before reading "Saint Paul." But for those who are aware of Badiou's overall project, this book will provide fascinating reading. Here, Badiou goes into why he thinks Universality is an important and indispencible concept for politics. He goes into how Global Capitalism has thrived off fractures and splinters in identity, and how constructing a universal community is necessary for any struggle against capitalism. He also goes into a detailed analysis of the subject through the figure of Saint Paul. If you are looking for an actual commentary on Saint Paul, then, this is not the book for you. If you already dislike, or do not understand what Badiou's is trying to accomplish, then, this book will do little for you. But, if you are truly intrigued by this philosopher, and if you are quite aware of his prose and dependence upon set theory and mathematical concepts, then, Saint Paul will be of great interest to you.
Handbook of Inaesthetics by Alain Badiou, translated. by A. Toscano (Standford University Press) Didacticism, romanticism, and classicism are the possible schemata for the knotting of art and philosophy, the third term in this knot being the education of subjects, youth in particular.
What characterizes the century that has just come to a close is that, while it underwent the saturation of these three schemata, it failed to introduce a new one. Today, this predicament tends to produce a kind of unknotting of terms, a desperate dis-relation between art and philosophy, together with the pure and simple collapse of what circulated between them: the theme of education.
Whence the thesis of which this book is nothing but a series of variations: faced with such a situation of saturation and closure, we must attempt to propose a new schema, a fourth type of knot between philosophy and art.
Among these "inaesthetic" variations, the reader will encounter a sustained debate with contemporary philosophical uses of the poem, bold articulations of the specificity and prospects of theater, cinema, and dance, along with subtle and provocative readings of Fernando Pessoa, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Samuel Beckett.
THE DOMINATION OF ROMANTIC FORMALISM
Let us call "post-modern" - why not? - any representation
of artistic production made under the sign of the spectacular exposition of
desires, phantasms and terrors. Under the sign of an abolition of the universal.
Under the sign of the total exposition of particularisms. Under the sign of the
historic equality of formal methods.
Yes, this is so: one can call "post-modern" whatever displays a capricious and unlimited ascendancy of particularities: the communitarian, ethnic, linguistic, religious, sexual, and any other particularity. And the biographical particularity, the "me," as one imagines it can and should be "expressed." I posit that these post-modern products represent the last form of enslavement of art to particularity. We can distinguish thus, if you will, the ethnic and communitarian products by their sexual underpinning and "me-ist" products.
The products most sought after by the gourmets of commerce are those which easily combine the two varieties: in a recognizable ethnic and sexual category, they are, however, of a quite ludic "me-ism."
Let us not denounce anyone; to each their own.
Here is our diagnosis: revisited in a long historical perspective, the post-modern products, pegged to the idea of the expressive value of the body, for which posture and gesture give it consistency, are the material form, one might say, of a pure and simple plunge into Romanticism.
This question is of the greatest importance to us. From the vast quantity of references which the Affirmationists of the future will assemble and publish, let me isolate narcissistically one of my own texts. In the first chapter of Petit manuel d'inesthétique, I propose the distinction, in regard to the relationship between art and philosophy, between three essential systems. The first, which I call "Didactic," claims, in a Platonic or Stalinist manner, to submit artistic activity to the external imperative of the Idea. The second, "Classical," puts art under the natural rule of pleasing forms and confers upon it, in the manner of Aristotle or Louis XIV, the practical virtue of temperance of passion rather than a mission of truth. The third, the "Romantic," on the contrary, sees in art the only free form of descent of the infinite Idea into the sensory, and asks thus that philosophy bow down before art, in the manner of Heidegger and of certain fascisms.
Deleuze: The Clamor of Being by Alain Badiou, translated by Louise Burchill, (Minnesota University Press) To begin, i should note that prior to reading Badiou's book, much of Deleuze's earlier work had remained mysterious to myself. Thus, i am not in much of a position to offer any real challenge to Badiou's interpretation of "Difference and Repetition" and "The Logic of Sense." Regardless, if nothing else, the interpretation that Badiou gives is clearly presented. Although this sounds trivial, the clarity in this book is appreciated in a genre where clarity if usually disregarded, and unfortunately, often for mere stylistic (and not philosophical) reasons. Thus, because of this "Deleuze: The Clamor of Being," although dealing with difficult topics, can be understood by anybody with some knowledge of Deleuze, even if this knowledge is not extensive.
The clarity of the presentation, however, almost seems too obvious. That is, the way in which Badiou describes Deleuze's "philosophy of the One," and the quotes that he extracts to demonstrate this claim, make this thesis to be obvious to anybody who has read Deleuze. However, clearly this is not the case, as Badiou himself recognizes that this book should shock those who take pride in Deleuze's "schizophrenic" aspect. Thus, merely taking Badiou's interpretation of Deleuze, and the fact that so many thinkers have overlooked what he presents as information that should be clear to any reader, this gives me the uneasy feeling that he, and not these other thinkers, has missed something fundamental in Deleuze's thought. This, of course, necessitates a re-reading of Deleuze's own work, something that "Deleuze: The Clamor of Being" necessitates, i believe, for anybody who overlooked the first time around what Badiou reveals as self-evident to any acute reader.
As a previous reviewer pointed out, Badiou gives little interest to Deleuze's work with Guattari. However, although there definitely is a schizophrenic aspect to this work (especially in "A Thousand Plateaus"), it seems as if the fundamental concept of the Body Without Organs corresponds in most, if not all, ways to the concept of the virtual/ the One. Badiou does occasionally use ideas expressed in Deleuze's work with Guattari, especially "What is Philosophy" concerning the status of philosophy, however, he fails to cite these sources.
Additionally, it seems to me as if the interpretation that Badiou gives to Deleuze's work indicates more of a pantheistic vision that one that indicates transcendence. Of course, there is a bit of irony to write that Deleuze has "transposed transcendence beneath the simulacra of the world, in some sort of symmetrical relation to the `beyond' of classical transcendence," but regardless of the irony, the very idea of Being as univocal and as One chimes much more with eastern worldviews than western Platonic and Christian ideas of transcendence. This especially seems to be the case when we consider Deleuze's work with Guattari in which all strata (that is, all different properties of the world that surrounds us) are merely "coagulations, slowing-downs on the Body without Organs."
Finally, even if Deleuze's ontology indicates "heirarchical thought," this doesn't mean that Deleuze's task, therefore, is to "submit thought to a renewed concept of the One." In fact, it seems to me as if there is a crucial distinction in his work with Guattari between "methodological" claims and ontological claims. Rather than encouraging us to employ reductionist schemas in our analyses of any given system, the very title "a thousand plateas" indicates that we need to take into account as many different aspects at work as possible-- biological, economical, polotical, geological, etc. (this distinction between a methodology of multiple aspects of reality and an ontological expressing only One fundamental reality is continued in Manual Delanda's appropriation of Deleuze and Guattari's thought in "A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History.")
Despite these further considerations that would have been made necessicary had Badiou taken into account Deleuze's work with Guattari, "Deleuze: The Clamor of Being" provides a tremendously useful, and strikingly clear, interpretation of Deleuze's independent work to the point that it necessitates a re-reading of this work.
Amazingly enough, I was unaware of this book until Slavoj Zizek recommended it during a public lecture several days ago. Zizek was right to recommend it, but there's actually far more to the book than he let on.
Many of us in Continental philosophy have been deeply fascinated by Deleuze for years, but have never quite been able to define just what it is he's doing. It has been extremely difficult to integrate Deleuze with the stream of thinkers running from Husserl through Heidegger and beyond. Most Deleuzians have not been especially helpful in clarifying things, since they tend to be satisfied with a series of negative remarks about Plato, Hegel, et al., and hardly further the work of their hero except to propagate lame simulacra of his wonderful style.
With respect to this problem, Badiou's book is a bolt from the blue. He begins the book by frankly stating that 20th century philosophy was far more important for its focus on being than for its supposed linguistic turn. This would be a predictable statement from a dogmatic Heideggerian, but Badiou doesn't seem to be a champion of Heidegger at all, which makes the reader's ears refreshingly alert for the argument that follows.
What we receive from Badiou is: a) a very judicious account of what Heidegger's unique contribution to philosophy really is; b) a shocking but believable claim that Deleuze is Heidegger's most direct heir; and c) a masterful statement of those points on which in Badiou's opinion Deleuze goes far beyond Heidegger. This is not only the clearest statement I have ever heard of Deleuze's basic ideas, but one of the best such treatments of Heidegger as well. And all of it in just a handful of pages! Suddenly, Deleuze emerges as not just a lovable and hard-to-place flamethrower, but as the foreboding Crown Prince of a post-Heideggerian century. Wonderful and believable! I now want to go back and re-read all of Deleuze.
Badiou also hits upon an excellent idea in including as an appendix all of the key passages from Deleuze on which his interpretation is based. We all ought to do this in our commentaries from now on.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Univ. of Minnesota Press on developing a striking new format for the Theory Out of Bounds series in which Badiou's book is published. With its floppy front cover and huge overhead margins, the book looks and feels more like an elementary school workbook than a dry academic tome. As a result, the reader cannot resist making Medieval-style commentaries along the top and side of every page. Talk about "the end of the book" all you like, but whoever designed this series has done far more to alter the genre of philosophical books than most would-be revolutionaries in academia.
In sum, this is an invigorating work that puts to shame the tedious wordplay of so much American Continental thought.
On Beckett by Alain Badiou, translated by A. Toscano, edited by Nina Power (Clinamen Press) This collection of Alain Badiou's essays on Samuel Beckett is a deliberate intellectual challenge to conventional Beckett scholarship. These essays trace the development of Beckett's art-from his first works through the claustrophobic world of The Unnameable to a final engagement with questions of Other and Love. Badiou rejects the stereotypical view of Beckett as the dark existentialist; rather, he claims that the lesson of Beckett is one of moderation, precision, and courage.
Manifesto for Philosophy by Alain Badiou, translated by Norman Madarasz, (SUNY Press) If anything, Badiou's book poses a serious challenge to the dominance of Heidegger in continental philosophy today. Philosophy can never announce its own end, the end of philosophy. Neither can philosophy pretend to lose itself in the linguistic turn, in the shift from logic and reason to poetry. Philosophy, Badiou argues, must be distinguished from sophistry. Just as Plato founded philosophy from the thralls of sophism of his age, we too must recapture the 'Platonism' of philosophy in an age of anti-Platonism. Badiou's middle course between Plato, on one hand, and the likes of Heidegger and Deleuze, on the other hand, proposes the ideal of philosophy that is not-yet and, more importantly, not reducible to extreme conclusions, i.e., the rejection of philosophy as a dead endeavor. Philosophy is not the antithesis of sophism, and in this the true opposed to the false, but Badiou contends that sophism is a necessary partner of philosophy. In this schema, philosophy must be distinguished from sophism; that is, we must uphold a conception of truth, or rather, of truths. Philosophy seeks the truth in the plural, truth as multiple but which is nevertheless truth and not relative 'truth.'
In 'Manifesto,' Badiou engages with the dominant currents of philosophy today in order to reimagine the possibility of philosophy despite the skeptics. In the anglo-american vs. continental split in contemporary philosophy, one is often left to choose two impossible alternatives: logic or poetry. In 'Manifesto' Badiou opens up another way, a way that is a return to that which has always been with us all along.
Ethics; An Essay on the Understanding of Evil by Alain Badiou, translated by
Peter Hallward (Verso) enthusiastically reccommend this book to those that are
ready to examine a another way of being in this world and for those that can
move beyond narrow clingings to their safe and dominant worldviews. Badiou asks
the question about our Western identity politics and ethics "how is it working
out for us?!" Upon the answers that we receive: war, unsustainable environmental
harm, implicit and explicit oppression, etc. Badiou offers another way of being.
It concerns being faithful to a truth process- fluid, individuated, and NOT
transcendent universals, morals, and ethics. The argument against ethics is that
it places one person as an "other or lessor" and another as "benefactor".
Example: it is the ethical thing for me (the benefactor) to help the poor
Instead of "othering" poeple in our hubris that we are ethical and saintly, Badiou speaks of fidelity to a truth process. With truth as the focus and not our ethical, moral, and saintly wonderful self, transcendent evil is changed. Evil is reconceptualized as three forms: 1.being faithful to a false image of truth, 2."cheating on" your truth by giving up because of the difficulties associated with fidelity to truth, and 3. abusing the power of the truth to control others and/or amass power. What is most interesting in this book to me is the discussion of the truth process. This book is accessible yet difficult becuase it really pushes the ideas that we hold dear to accout for themselves. Well Badiou writes the book because these ideas are struturally weakened under the scrutiny. I would reccomend that upon reading you identify where you are afraid and push through the fear to follow the ideas and see where they take you. A stubbon proud mind will be frustrated with this text because it threatens one's current paradigm and they way we live in the Western world. Hope this helps you.
This is in reality only a pamphlet-sized work inflated in size by an appendaged introduction by the translator over 40 pages long and an interview also conducted by the translator about 50 pages long. Though short, this pithy little work remains important just by virtue of how widely read it is, comparable to the role of THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO to Marx's Oeuvre.
The introduction describes this work as a bit of a manifesto, and indeed, its contents are written with such bravado and conviction, combined with a laconic lucidity and concluding summaries, which one would expect to see in a manifesto. Being written by a scholar who has already written a decent sized book on Badiou, the introduction is actually key to the entire publication insofar as it situates the work itself and its author within the intellectual currents which produced both.
One becomes increasingly clear, however, is that "ethics" is throughout a word equivocated with the current global politico-economic system, which Badiou is really trying to subvert here. Hence, he hopes to supplant this order, embodied in human-rights discourse, with his own neo-Marxist, radical politics. His ethics is, therefore, an attempt to put the revolution back into "revolutionary Marxism". Though ostensibly about ethics, this is, indeed, Alain Badiou's chief of concerns
Some of his ideas are ingenious, but others are a bit loony. Predominant throughout is the theme of Truth as event which defines `the Good'. This revolutionary intervention initiates and creates subsequently a truth-process which creates and ethical good as such. Evil is not autonomous here but merely a perversion, abuse, or betrayal of the truth event. This posits as the alternative to Kantian, natural law tradition which reifies "evil" and thereafter nihilistically, in Badiou's eyes, constructs a negative ethics that is essentially conservative. Themes present in the works of Kant, Lacan, and Lvinas [whom he criticizes quite often rejecting his ethics of `the other'] often intersect, and they remain his main phantom interlocutors throughout the extended essay.
The interview at the end moves from issues particular to contemporary France like *les sans-papiers* and the status of immigrant communities to philosophical questions giving opportunity for caveats and discussions of other works besides *Ethics*.
Overall, Badiou offers some interesting ideas in this book, but writers such as Alisdair MacIntyre who are really concerned with ethics and not so much with reviving some nostalgic revolutionary politics offer much more enlightening critiques and examinations of modern ethics such as human rights, etc.
This is a very worthwhile text for anyone interested in
ethical theory, or drawn to appeals rooted in human rights. It begins with a
strong critique of the dominant strands of Western ethical theory (rights based,
virtue-based and utilitarian; also deontology, though there are elements of
Kantian theory that Badiou respects) -- that if nothing else should serve as a
kind of gadfly to provokes theorists to reconsider the upshot of their labors.
In a nutshell, Badiou's critique suggests that ethics as we know it merely
serves the status quo -- whether by proposing an unrealizable "ought" or by
limiting its prescriptions to what is realizable within the status quo and
leaving politics and economics untouched. He argues (taking his cue from a rough
approximation of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals) that what is really
wrong/dangerous/weak in Western ethics is that it takes for granted the
existence of evil (reality is such that there will be innocent suffering, people
are such that they will inflict suffering on others in the pursuit of their own
aims) and defines its good negatively as what would mitigate this evil. These
theories have no positive conception of the good. His critical observations are
quite powerfully stated and constitute a very reasonable challenge that ought to
In the positive side of his "doctrine," things get a little more muddled. It seems like he is trying to do two things: (1) formulate another ethical system that would begin from a positive conception of the good, and define evil as that which hinders or distorts that good; (2) articulate the ethical implications of his thinking regarding "events," developed elsewhere over the period of several years, and only partially clarified in this text (his master work: "Being and Event" has just appeared in English translation. The combination of these two aims is, I think, partially successful here but remains pretty vague. It is most successful (and most significant for contemporary thinking about issues like terrorism) in its description of the evils that pervert the good.
Roughly what he wants to say is that there can be no ethics within the "situation" -- this is a loose application of the is-ought distinction we find already in Hume: the situation is the world as it is, as it is understood by a present age and while this understanding gives rise to expectations and demands and limitations, it doesn't carry with it an "ethical" dimension. Ethics has to involve something more -- but since Badiou doesn't believe in a transcendent moral reality, he puts this something more into the "future," and not merely the temporal future but the radical possibility of bringing something new into the world -- the something more is the "event" that brings something new into the world, that opens up a new horizon of meaning that is irreducible to the mere situation. It makes possible relations that were not foreseen or foreseeable in the situation as it was. He mentions events like "falling in love": when someone falls in love all of a sudden we have not merely a situation but a relation between elements (two people) of the situation that in the event becomes absolute, for the lovers it is not merely a bare fact but an undeniable "truth" (a word he uses in a sense that is not well defined, but is more or less clear; it is emphatically not "truth as correspondence"). The question then becomes whether and how they will adhere to this "truth." The good, or the positive ethical "precept" for Badiou is "be faithful to the event" or "keep going, don't let this event fade, don't let it become a merely historical fact". The evil would be to either deny this truth, to be unfaithful to the lover, or alternately to treat this truth as an absolute fact -- with the possible consequence in this case that the lover terrorize his beloved, refusing to acknowledge her freedom to break away. He addresses politics (where an event would be a revolution) and science (where the event would be something like a Kuhnian paradigm shift) as other areas where events might generate a truth that can be either held to or despised.
So far, so good. There's a lot here that is worth taking seriously and thinking about. The water gets a bit murky though, in a number of places. For example, he wants to insist that the "truths" that arise from "events" are in some way universal or eternal, and what is particular is the question how the individual who finds herself compelled by the truth will live out her fidelity to that truth in the situation. It's hard to see, though, how the truth that emerges from the event of my falling in love becomes a universal truth - unless he means something very peculiar by "universal" or unless he means that the "same" thing could happen to anyone even though it will be unique to each in the event, or that in loving another person I love what is universal, that which enables them and all human beings to be faithful to events. Some things he said suggested something like that, but other things he said make me think he'd resist such a reading. There's a lot to sort out, and I'm still not sure what to make of his positive ethic -- but it's intriguing enough and there is enough interesting material here to make me want to try and go back again and figure it out. His book on Paul makes a worthwhile companion text to this one, that helped me clear up some (but not all) of the murky areas of this text.
Badiou: A Philosophy of the New by Ed Pluth (Key Contemporary Thinkers Series: Polity) Alain Badiou is one of the leading philosophers in the world today. His ground-breaking philosophy is based on a creative reading of set theory, offering a new understanding of what it means to be human by promoting an intelligence of change. Badious philosophical system makes our capacity for revolution and novelty central to who we are and develops an ethical position that aims to make us less anxious about this very capacity.
Badiou presents an account of Badious philosophy, including an in-depth discussion of The Theory of the Subject, Being and Event and Logics of Worlds. Ed Pluth, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at California State University, considers how Badious theoretical anti-humanism is linked up to what is, for all intents and purposes, a practical humanism. Central to this is an account of Badious theory of the subject, and his attempt to develop an ethic of truths. The role of set theory, Marxism, and Lacanian psychoanalysis in Badious philosophy is also given close attention.
Is there a fundamental principle for Badiou's work, in the manner of those German Idealists who found it necessary to begin their systems with an incontrovertible truth, from which everything else about their systems could be somehow derived? If there is, it would probably be the claim that the one is not, and its (seemingly contradictory) companion claim there is something of the one. Pluth in Badiou says he is not convinced that everything about Badiou's philosophy can be derived from these claims, but they do condition quite a bit of it.
Pluth begins his treatment of Badiou's philosophy proper with the structural and formal side of his philosophy: with a study of his claims about ontology, being, multiples, sets, situations, and finally evental sites and events themselves. One may get the impression that such discusions are what Badiou's philosophy is primarily about. But Badiou is far more concerned with promoting things such as the notion of a faithful subject procedure, or the idea of a generic truth.
Chapter 1 looks at Badiou's philosophical background, his activism, and some events in his life that have been central to the development of his philosophy. Pluths argument in this chapter is that Badiou, initially inclined to develop what he calls a philosophical Maoism, has long been interested in developing a materialist theory of the subject, first within the framework of a dialectical philosophy, and then within the framework of a philosophy informed by the insights of set theory.
Chapter 2 focuses on some of the main theses of Being and Event, which promotes the view that mathematics, and set theory in particular, is ontology. Pluth considers two key claims: that the one is not, and that there is something of the one, or a one-effect, after all. This sets up the basic idea that being is subtracted from presentation. The nature of a situation is discussed, and he considers some of the lessons Badiou draws from the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. Why Badiou uses set theory at all, and whether he really needs to, is a question with which Pluth concludes the chapter.
A discussion of further axioms from set theory used by Being and Event occurs in chapter 3, and this chapter also addresses some of the more complex matters raised by Being and Event such as the distinction between belonging and inclusion, between a situation and a state, the different types of multiples in a situation (normal, excrescent, and singular), and finally the notion of an evental site. He also introduces Badiou's claim that events are multiples that contain themselves as members: this seems to be their most significant property, and their most perplexing one.
Chapter 4 of Badiou considers the modifications Badiou makes to the theory of the event in Logics of Worlds. Badiou is explicit about the fact that he thinks he has in Logics of Worlds come up with a better theory of the event by focusing on the status of its effects in a situation, rather than on an event's intrinsic properties. According to the theory developed in Logics of Worlds events are changes in a world that involve changes in the very manner in which appearances in that world are ordered.
After an account of Badiou's views on infinity and truth, chapter 5 considers the concepts in Being and Event that address how inhabitants of historical situations (human individuals) handle events. Foremost among these concepts is the notion of an intervention, but the issue of naming an event, and the status of that name in a situation is also discussed, as well as the forcing of a subject.
In chapter 6 he presents his interpretation of Badiou's theory of the subject. His thesis is that the subject is his term for the real presence of change in a situation or world. He explores the anti-Cartesian and anti-phenomenological aspects of this theory, and considers whether his subject is active or passive or both or neither. He also considers whether there are one or many subjects and argues that there is really one type of subject in Badiou's philosophy until the publication of Logics of Worlds, which pluralizes the subject's forms.
Chapter 7 of Badiou continues filling in the picture of the subject in Badiou's work, yet it does so from a slightly different perspective by focusing not on the subject as such but on the different styles, deviations, tendencies, or forms that subjects take on. He approaches this from the perspective of ethics and affects. As anti-humanist as his theory of the subject is, his philosophy is still a philosophy about what it means to be human. With an important terminological distinction, Badiou posits that individuals or someones or inhabitants of situations are distinct from subjects, and are the ones who are affected by events and by truth procedures, and react to them in various ways including carrying them out, continuing with them, covering them up, or reacting against them. This chapter includes discussions of the fields in which truth procedures occur particularly art, love, and science.
Badiou's views on politics get a separate chapter, given the importance of his views on politics for so many other aspects of his work. In chapter 8 Pluth addresses the constant themes found in his writings, such as the presence of communist universals or invariants in history and his suspicion of parliamentary politics, party politics, and even voting itself. He also tracks his shift away from what he calls the insurrectionary paradigm in politics and from the theme of destruction, which is replaced by the idea of subtraction. Also, the chapter considers what is living and what is dead about Marx for Badiou.
The conclusion to Badiou discusses again the link between Badiou's theoretical anti-humanism and his practical humanism. Unlike the theoretical anti-humanism of the 1960s, Badiou's is not working out the death of Man His work entails instead an ironic resurrection of the concept of the human, and an ironic return to themes from the religious tradition such as immortality, infinity, and, of course, fidelity.
Ed Pluth's book is an admirably accessible and intellectually rigorous introduction to the work of Alain Badiou. In precise and unaffected prose, he provides compelling reconstructions of the key facets of Badiou's philosophy, from his mathematical ontology to his thinking of the event. An excellent starting-point for those new to Badiou's thought, Pluth's book also offers insightful treatments of issues of concern to more specialized readers, such as the role of affect in Badiou's understanding of the subject, and the link between his two major works, Being and Event and Logics of Worlds. Above all, Pluth convincingly shows how Badiou's philosophy combines the formal requirements of logic and ontology with an emphasis on the courage needed to live a life committed to unprecedented truths. Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London
This book is a clear-eyed walk straight to the heart of Badiou's philosophy all dross is eliminated in the pursuit of a single, astounding, idea: that if we do not take the risk of being faithful to a truth, we guarantee ourselves inhuman lives. Pluth has not only introduced Badiou's philosophy, he has crystallized it. Oliver Feltham, American University of Paris
Comprehensive and engaging, Pluth in Badiou provides a clear and careful analysis of Badious theories. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of philosophy, as well as to all those keen to develop a critical understanding of one of the most controversial and important thinkers of the twentieth century.
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