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Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy. by Alain Badiou

Nov 07, 2014



Alain Badiou is already regarded as one of the most original and powerful voices in contemporary European thought, and is arguably the foremost living French philosopher. Infinite Thought brings together arepresentative selection of the range of Alain Badiou's work, illustrating the power and diversity of his thought. An excellent introduction to Badiou's important thought.

"One of the many excellences of the work of the French philosopher Alain Badiou is that he not only declares the end of the end of philosophy but then goes ahead and writes philosophy in a way that is both innovative and classical, that engages and surpasses the tradition." La Times;

"Alain Badiou enacts a return to full-blown philosophy, striking as a thunder into the morass of postmodernist sophisms and platitudes. His work aims at the very heart of politically correct radical intellectuals, undermining the foundations of their mode of life!' - Slavoj Zizek

Infinite ThoughtTruth and the Return toPhilosophyALAIN BADIOUTranslated and edited byOliver Feltham and Justin ClemensContinuumThe Tower BuildingII York RoadLondon, SE I 7 ~ Xwww.continuumbooks.com15 East 26th StreetNew York;\IY 10010Editorial material and selection Oliver Feltharn and Justin ClemensPhilosophy and Desire, Philosophy and Film, Philosophy and"the war againstterrorism" Alain BadiouPhilosophy andArt, and The Definition of Philosophy Seuil (from Conditions,1992)Philosophy and the Death of Communism Editions de l'Aube (from D'undesastre obscur, 1998)English language translations: 'Philosophy and Truth' Pli; 'Philosophyand Politices' Radical Philosophy; 'Philosophy and Psychoanalysis' (!:')Ana{ysis; all other English language translations ContinuumReprinted 2003This paperback edition published 2004 by ContinuumAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced ortransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanicalincluding photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrievalsystem, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.British Library Oatalcgufng-dn-Publicarlon DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British LibraryISB:\" 0-8264-6724-5 (Hardback)0-8264-7320-2 (Paperback)Typeset by BookEns Ltd, Royston, Herts.Printed and bound by in Great Britain by The Bath Press, BathContentsAn introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophyI Philosophy and desire2 Philosophy and truth3 Philosophy and politics4- Philosophy and psychoanalysis5 Philosophy and art6 Philosophy and cinema7 Philosophy and the 'death of communism'8 Philosophy and the 'war againstterrorism'9 The definition of philosophy10 Ontology and politics: an interview withAlain BadiouIndex of namesv3958697991109126141165169195An introduction to AlainBadiou's philosophyAlain Badiou is one of France's foremost living philosophers.Yet recognition of the force and originality of his work in theEnglish-speaking world has been slow to come, perhapsbecause it is difficult to assimilate his work within theestablished categories of 'contemporary French philosophy'.However, such recognition is now gathering momentum. Nofewer than six translations of his major works, twocollections of his essays, and one monograph on his workare currently in press.' The first English-language con-ference devoted to his work was held in May 2002 atCardiff, a critical introduction to his work has appeared,and three translations of his works ~ Ethics, Deleuze, andManifesto for Philosophy - are already on the shelves.fThe present volume aims to provide a brief, accessibleintroduction to the diversity and power of Badiou's thought,collecting a series of conference papers and essays. Theopening text sets the scene, giving a polemical overview ofthe state of philosophy in relation to the contemporaryworld. The second chapter gives a general overview, via thecategories of ethics and truth, of Badiou's model offundamental change in the domains of art, love, politicsInfinite Thoughtand science - philosophy's four 'conditions'. The followingchapters present specific applications of his central concep-tion of philosophy as an exercise of thought conditioned bysuch changes in art (Chapters 5 and 6 on poetry andcinema), love (Chapter 4 on psychoanalysis), politics(Chapter 3) and science. Since Badiou's work in relationto science is mainly found in the huge tome L' Etre etI'eoenement (Being and Event) we chose to sketch the latter'sargument in the introduction. ~ Chapters 7 and 8 exemplifya return to one of philosophy's classical roles: the analyticaldenunciation of ideology, Badiou attacking first the 'war onterrorism' and then the 'death of communism'. Thepenultimate chapter sets out Badiou's doctrine on philoso-phy in relation to its conditions, and then the collectioncloses with an interview with Badiou in which he explainsand reconsiders some of his positions.In our introduction we identify one of the manners inwhich Badiou's philosophy differs from the contemporaryFrench philosophy known as poststructuralism: its treat-ment of the question of the subject. We then engage in along, at times difficult, but necessary exegesis of Badiou's settheory ontology; necessary since it grounds his entiredoctrine, and not particularly long in relation to its matter;Being and Event comprises over 500 pages in the Frenchedition. At every point we have attempted to render thetechnical details in as clear a fashion as possible, yet withoutundue distortion.If the prospective reader wishes to skip over the moreabstruse discussions offered in the introduction, he or sheshould feel absolutely free to do so - for Badiou is still hisown best exegete. He effectively tries to speak to those whodo not spend their lives in professional institutions, but actand think in ways that usually exceed or are beneath notice.As Badiou himself puts it: 'Philosophy privileges nolanguage, not even the one it is written in.'2An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophyBadiou's questionBadiou is neither a poststructuralist nor an analyticphilosopher, and for one major reason: there is a questionwhich drives his thought, especially in his magnum opus,L'Etre et l'eoenement. This question is foreign to bothpoststructuralism and analytic philosophy - in fact not onlyforeign, but unwelcome. It is this question that governs thepeculiarity of Badiou's trajectory and the attendantdifficulties of his thought.In the introduction to L'Etre et l'ivenement Badiou seizesupon an exchange between Jacques-Alain Miller andJacques Lacan during the famous Seminar XI.4 Miller,without blinking, asks Lacan, the grand theorist of thebarred subject, 'What is your ontology?'5 For Badiou this isa crucial moment, for it reveals a fundamental difficulty -one that many argue Lacan never solved, even with hisloopy 1970s recourses to knot theory. The difficulty is that ofreconciling a modern doctrine of the subject (such as that ofpsychoanalysis) with an ontology. Hence Badiou's guidingquestion: How can a modern doctrine of the subject be reconciledwith an ontology?But what exactly does Badiou understand by a 'moderndoctrine of the subject'? Badiou takes it as given that in thecontemporary world the subject can no longer be theorizedas the self-identical substance that underlies change, nor asthe product of reflection, nor as the correlate of an object."This set of negative definitions is all very familiar to a readerof poststructuralism. Surely one could object that post-structuralism has developed a modern doctrine of thesubject?The problem with poststructuralism is that exactly thesame set of negative definitions serves to delimit its implicitontology (whether of desire or difference): there are no self-identical substances, there are no stable products of3Infinite Thou/;htreflection, and since there are no stable objects there can beno correlates of such objects. Thus in poststrucruralism thereis no distinction between the general field of ontology and atheory of the subject; there is no tension between the beingof the subject and being in general.Where Badiou sees an essential question for modernphilosophy, then, poststructuralism sees nothing. For manythis lack of distinction between the being of the subject andthe being of everything else would appear to be a virtue; theprivilege of the rational animal is finally removed in favourof a less anthropocentric ontology. There is, however, aprice to be paid for lumping the subject together withwhatever else is usually recognized in an ontology.Poststructuralism typically encounters a number of pro-blems in its theory of the subject. Funnily enough, theseproblems are quite clearly inherited From the veryphilosophical tradition whose 'death' poststructuralisrngleefully proclaims. There was enough lite left in the corpseto pass something on -- and what it passed on were the twofundamental problems in the thought of the subject.The, first ;)roblem that of identity; the second, problem,that 'the mind-body problem derIves for' the mostpart from the former, and the free will versus determinismdebate from the latter. Poststructuralists have concentratedalmost exclusively on a critique of the first problem, arguingthat there is no solution to the problem of the identity of thesubject because the subject has no substantial identity: theillusion of an underlying identity is produced by the veryrepresentational mechanism employed by the subject in itseffort to grasp its own identity. The same line of argument isalso applied to the identity of any entity th