Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions


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But justice, which is the philosophical name for the egalitarian maxim, cannot be defined. For equality is not an objective of action, it is an axiom. There is no politics bound to truth without the affirmation-an affirmation that can neither be confirmed nor guaranteed-of a universal capacity for political truth. Some of this rhetoric suggests that Badiou is a close to being a post-modern critic; someone who offers critiques of the contemporary social order but rejects the intellectual task of conceiving alternatives.

And indeed, his work develops many trenchant criticisms of capitalism, the state, and the ideologies of the powerful. But Badiou rejects the post-modern position that the job of the philosopher is only to engage in these critical tasks. Indeed, he does not believe that post-modern critics can even be called philosophers in the strong sense.

Alain Badiou. Democracy as a Condition for Philosophy. 2006

As he puts it in Logics of Worlds :. That is because the contemporary consensus, in recognizing the plurality of languages, presupposes their juridical equality. Hence, the assimilation of humanity to animality culminates in the identification of the human animal with the diversity of its sub-species and the democratic rights that inhere in this diversity…Communities and cultures, colours and pigments, religions and clergies, uses and customs, disparate sexualities, public intimacies and the publicity of the intimate: everything and everyone deserves to be recognized and protected by the law.

Here, Badiou seems to tightly conflate the emergence of the post-modern mindset with our contemporary commitment to human rights projects and the liberal legalism that seems to imply. This may strike many people as an unusual gesture, given the propensity of post modern critics to be at the very least skeptical of human rights.

He sees both liberalism and post-modernism as branches of the same anti-philosophical tree-dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals to express their identities and viewpoints with as little intrusion as possible. This quite radical conclusion suggests that, in this respect at least, liberalism and post-modernism are alike at their core. Both traditions reject the idea that there could be ontological truths which transcends our individual bodies and languages and to which we should demonstrate some fidelity.

And indeed, he would seem to be standing on some solid ground here.

Alain Badiou: philosophy and its conditions | Reading lists @ LSE

While post-modern thinkers may speak more radically than modern liberals, according to Badiou both adopt more or less the same conclusions about truth and its relationship to politics. While he does not want to develop a political theory which once and for all will determine what truths should be adopted in politics, he is also unwilling to accept the liberal and post-modern position that there can be no truths in politics, only bodies and languages. As mentioned earlier, in these situations we have the option of showing fidelity to these ontologically emergent truths or rejecting them.

Interestingly enough, Badiou sees this as an ethical act, but one with unique connotations for our identity. In many respects he follows existential thinkers in seeing the decision to show fidelity 15 to the truth of the event as constitutive of our human subjectivity.

Events to connect

The event destroys the laws of the old hierarchy, and clears figurative space for a new and more equal social ordering. His work demonstrates a level of ambition and scope that is very in the age of democratic materialism. In a world characterized by alterative facts and growing cynicism on the potential for political change, this strikes us as an inspiring and important lesson for progressive thinkers everywhere. Show 16 footnotes.


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A political event, its truth, is addressed to everybody. Second, that politics [ la politique ] is thinkable and, most importantly, it is a thought that goes along with a practice , as is the case with the other three conditions —the sciences, the poem or, rather, the arts and love.

A return to the question of being is thus unavoidable in order to think what both exceeds being and its discourse ontology : the event, the operator of its having taken place the subject , and its consequences. As a corollary, the ethos of thinking toward action becomes also a question for thought.

Philosophy and politics

This also means that the connection between the mathematical formalism that helps to think being qua being and the excessive regime of the event is unavoidable and should neither be underestimated nor overestimated. There is a disjunctive synthesis between being and the event, and it is the mathematical formalism that enables Badiou to conceive a dialectic of scission to account for it.

The mathematical formalism is not the tip of an iceberg underneath which one may encounter an emancipatory politics overlooked by the zeal of a mathematically oriented reading of Badiou. The gesture that triggers the metaphor of the iceberg as justifying a reading of politics without the mathematic-ontological formalism may very well be commended by academic politics, which has little to do with politics as a condition of philosophy.

To put it differently, political orientation and mathematical formalism are inextricably linked.

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In the age of the withdrawal retrait of politics, Badiou seeks to think, to retreat implement a new approach retrait to the essence of the political. The determination of the essence of the political is posited on the precariousness of a contingent occurrence. In the end, politics is rare not unlike the event and the subject that ensues from it and singular. Set theory provides the ontological structures for the elucidation of the subjective procedures that result from the upsurge of the event, an excess that eludes the very fabric of the ontological structure.

In this sense, Being and Event completes the work began in Theory of the Subject where Badiou adduced the existence of a subject without ever grounding it. Subject is the name for the procedure of naming and deciding later on it becomes the operator of a lasting discipline of time in response to the consequences of the event. As in Lacan, in Badiou we are dealing with a split subject: it is a Two that both belongs to the situation and acts on this situation.


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A subject is simply an interval between an event to be elucidated and an elucidating event. The subject is not a universal or given category, neither a transcendental nor empirical subject, even less a constructed one. In Being and Event the subject is conceived as a finite fragment of a truth-procedure, or as a finite instance of an infinite process. Badiou here introduces the fundamental notion of consequence.

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Badiou shows that the subject is identified by a type of marking, a post- evental effect, whose system of operations is infinite, which means that once the subject is constituted under the mark of the event, subjective capacity is infinite. This occurs because subjective capacity amounts to drawing the consequences of a change and, if this change is evental , its consequences are infinite. In Logics of Worlds the notion of consequence is bound to the subject and, therefore, immanence becomes possible. The subject is an active and identifiable form of the production of truths.

The logic of consequences replaces the logic of naming. Badiou wants to provide a model of real change and wants to show how the event gives way to a subjective procedure of fidelity to its consequences. Fidelity is the operation enquiry by which the subject judges whether or not an element belonging to the situation can be connected to the name of the event. It should be noted that the event is beyond the situation: it is a virtuality that prescribes nothing. Fidelity names the attitude of thinking when faced with contingency.

It is an attitude that supposes an ethical stance: Continuer! This means there is rupture in the fabric of the symbolic order, but also a re-organization, although without any recourse to either narratives, or to judgments. Instead, we find, at least in Being and Event, a reflection on naming that is later abandoned in Logics of Worlds in favor of the evaluation of the intensity common to the appearing of different beings.

follow It does not depend upon the internal coherence of discourse and less upon the correspondence of words and things.

Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions
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