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k-punk
17-02-2005, 05:37 PM
Infinite Thought is right. It is totally misleading to construe Badiou as a religious thinker.

Attempts to dragoon Badiou into being a crypto-Catholic theologian will inevitably produce only distortion. The whole point of Badiou's book on St Paul is that is not a religious text. What Badiou wants to abstract from St Paul's texts, what fascinates him about them, is their theories of political militancy and universality. It would be better to say that Paul is Leninist than that Lenin is Pauline.

But it seems to me that the opposition theism-atheism is less interesting or significant than the opposition theism-anti-theism.

Badiou is certainly an anti-theist: but then so is Spinoza, who is also, needless to say, a theological - or should that be theo-rational? - thinker.

Think it's worthwhile trying to think through the relationship between anti-theism, mathematics, politics, Spinoza, Lacan and Badiou.

As a starting point, some ideas:

Badiou's reliance upon mathematics is one of the ways in which his Lacanianism differs from Zizek's. Zizek's Lacan is the inheritor-subverter of German Idealism, and one of Zizek's great virtues is his astonishing decontinentalization of that trajectory. But the Lacan that is suppressed in order to make Zizek's reading work is the Lacan who was fascinated with cybernetics, Godel (http://www.miskatonic.org/godel.html) and <a href=>Cantor (http://people.bath.ac.uk/mch23/transfinite.html). Lacan's processing of incompleteness and undecidability is one of the ways in which he can make good on the dismantling of the cogito that Zizek describes so well in the first chapter of <I>Tarrying with the Negative</i>. Yes, there is thinking, there is thinkability, but it has nothing to do with me. <i>It thinks, therefore I am not. </i>

That there is no set of sets, that there is no way of logicizing axiomatic systems, is one of the meanings of Lacan's gnomic claim that the true formula of atheism is not that God is dead, but that <I>God is unconscious</i>. Modern mathematics provides a rigorous demonstration that the God of classical theism - the all-powerful Father who knows All - could not possibly exist. It can be shown that there are things which not only we - particular, contingent animals - cannot know, but which no possible being could know. This excess is thinkable, even if it is not representable or experiencable.

Seems to me that a theology based upon the unconscious God would take us towards Spinozism. Zizek is notoriously ambivalent if not to say hostile to Spinoza. Badiou is less hostile, but still does not count himself as a Spinozist. Can Badiou and Lacan be usefully deployed as part of a neo-Spinozist moNONtheism?

dominic
18-02-2005, 01:31 AM
I'm still making my way through Spinoza's "Ethics," so I can't address Badiou's possible relation to Spinoza and, more generally, rationalism . . . . What I will say is that Badiou reminds me of the early Heidegger, the Heidegger of "Being and Time," and that his recourse to set theory strikes me as veneer, the veneer of rationalism . . . . Of course I concede that I have no capacity for maths and, try as I might, can't really follow Badiou's discussions of set theory. And I should also say that I've only read "Infinite Thought" and some Badiou writings posted on line

Getting back to my point, which is this, Badiou is a return to Heidegger. Badiou speaks of four categories of truth, in philosophy, in art, in politics, in love. Zizek correctly points out, however, that St Paul is Badiou's model, that REVELATION is the model for Event/Truth in Badiou. I'll put matters crudely. (1) There is the thinker who anticipates the Event, who is open to the Event. (2) There is the Event, which event cannot be understood in terms of what came before, which could not have been calculated in advance, because it is radically heterogeneous from the world/constellation that it shakes/interrupts. (3) I this event is to indeed count as an Event, if it is to be an effective rupture or break with the existing order or State or things, then the thinker must be true to its meaning, which means, in the first instance, NAMING the event an Event, which is the same as DECIDING that the event has necessitated the need to count everything anew. (4) This decision is groundless from the standpoint of the existing order of things. Where some decide the event is the true Event, others decide that the Event is a pseudo Event, and they ignore its truth, its power, its call. The believers call the deniers blind, the deniers call the believers fools, and there is no measure to adjudicate between them. (5) The thinker who HEEDS the Event must now be true to its meaning, faithful to its call. To the extent the thinker is faithful, his words and thoughts RING true as a bell. And insofar as he falls away from the truth of the Event, he is inauthentic, his words empty, his actions hollow, his thoughts at best correct, never powerful or true. (6) Truth is now the process of making sense of the world anew, in the light of the Event . . . . And so on.

Badiou, no less than Heidegger, is on the side of Revelation, not Reason. Revelation precedes Reason. Reason merely operates in the world disclosed by the thinking of the Event.

Correct me if I'm wrong

k-punk
18-02-2005, 10:51 AM
All of this is right except for the emphasis on Revelation. The Event is precisely NOT an Experience. It is not something private, but is defined by its TRANSMISSIBILITY. The Event belongs to reason, and not at all to Revelation. The model is the demonstration of a new mathematical proof, not some ineffable, inexplicable happenstance.

dominic
18-02-2005, 01:34 PM
Badiou has four categories of truth, philosophy, science, politics, love. (I got it wrong in the passage above, substituting science with art.) The truth of love, it would seem, is *not* transmissible; it is private, its possible truth limited to two persons. Whether this infects the other categories, I'm not sure . . . . Further, the truth of religion *is* transmissible. Why equate revelation with private conscience? This is a modern notion, as is "experience." If revelation were not transmissible -- capable of being shared -- then it would not be, ipso facto, the foundation of truth and meaning. An Event is Revelatory. An Event Reveals the need to count everything anew . . . . Actually, does Badiou even use the term "transmissible"? Seems to me that he has in mind the Heideggerian concept of "space." The two lovers live "in" the truth or space of their love. Modern science exists "in" the space opened up by Galileo, Descartes, etc, and the truth of modern science consists in its keeping faith with the Event of modern science's founding . . . . Last, precisely because the Event is radically heterogenous to the standing order of things, precisely because it exceeds existing norms and measures, its Truth *cannot* simply be demonstrated. That is, Badiou may claim that he can "demonstrate" the ontological structure of Event/Truth by recourse to set theory, such that he perhaps qualifies as some kind of rationalist. But what he describes -- the Event -- is a work of Revelation. The Event reveals . . . .

k-punk
18-02-2005, 09:49 PM
Thing is though, if disovering a mathematical proof is a 'revelation', and seeing an angel is transmissible, then I have no possible concept of what you mean by a 'revelation'.

The point is that revelation CANNOT and HAS NOT been the basis of anything except pagan mystery cults like Catholicism. It can have nothing to do with (Badiou's notion of) Truth, precisely because it is not COGNITIVELY replicable. Paul's Damascene conversion is NOT what Badiou is interested in about Paul (indeed Paul himself barely mentioned it).

What is transmissible about revelation is only the kind of mind virus that the likes of Dawkins describe. Such revelation has to be taken on trust, and is therefore fit only as the basis of an authoritarian, mystagogic cult. 'I believe in Christ because I believe that X was telling the truth when they had an experience of Christ (or one of his emissaries).' The point is that, in principle, ANYONE could cognitively reproduce the steps that lead to a mathematical proof. Revelatory experience can only be undergone by those to whom it randomly happens.

I think Badiou is on dodgy ground with the love thing myself, but he obviously doesn't think it is a matter of private experience.

bat020
23-02-2005, 09:38 PM
It would be better to say that Paul is Leninist than that Lenin is Pauline.

Yes. Religion is mystified politics.


Badiou is certainly an anti-theist: but then so is Spinoza, who is also, needless to say, a theological - or should that be theo-rational? - thinker.

Not sure what you mean by "anti-theist" here, nor what is "anti-theist" about Spinoza: God is a central category in his works, surely? Badiou argues that Spinoza's ontology is fundamentally "closed", that it conflates certain crucial distinctions (eg presentation v representation, situation v state), that it admits no possibility of the event, in short that it reinstates the transcendent One.

It's also worth noting that the aspect of Spinoza that Badiou is most positive about is that which most contemporary Spinozists ignore or downplay - his "geometric method". On this note, there's a fascinating comment in Badiou's book on Deleuze:

"His [Deleuze's] canonical references (the Stoics, Hume, Nietzsche, Bergson...) were the opposite of my own (Plato, Hegel, Husserl)... Spinoza was a point of intersection, but "his" Spinoza was (and still is) for me an unrecognisable creature."

bat020
23-02-2005, 09:46 PM
Badiou reminds me of the early Heidegger, the Heidegger of "Being and Time," and that his recourse to set theory strikes me as veneer, the veneer of rationalism

That's an absurd thing to say. Badiou's work for the past two decades has been intricately, intimately, unyieldingly involved with mathematics. To dismiss this as a "veneer" is sheer philistinism.

I suspect there may be some wishful thinking going on here, after all, Badiou would be an awful lot easier to assimilate into the Academic Theory Production Industry if it wasn't for all those pesky symbols.

dominic
24-02-2005, 03:35 AM
That's an absurd thing to say. Badiou's work for the past two decades has been intricately, intimately, unyieldingly involved with mathematics. To dismiss this as a "veneer" is sheer philistinism.

I suspect there may be some wishful thinking going on here, after all, Badiou would be an awful lot easier to assimilate into the Academic Theory Production Industry if it wasn't for all those pesky symbols.

i conceded at the outset that i was not well versed in badiou . . . . i'm simply a layman who has an opinion about badiou's position, based upon my first readings of him . . . . in time, that opinion may change as i read more of badiou's works

my (provisional) opinion may also change if i'm persuaded of the merits of a contrary interpetration . . . .

however, despite your haughty remarks, you've made no argument. my choice of the word "veneer" may have been ill advised, but your reference to badiou's 20-year engagment with higher mathematics and set theory in no way establishes that his philosophy is, in the final analysis, rational. it shows only that badiou's ambition *may* have been to give a rational account of what is -- or that his ambition *may* have been to overcome heidegger . . . . but it seems to me that the primacy of the Event must mean the primacy of Revelation . . . . and that any historical actor's decision to treat the Event as the Event is just that, a decision to count everything anew . . . .

that is, Badiou gives us no rational ground for treating the Russian Revolution as an Event, on the one side, and treating the Wilsonian project for spreading liberal democracy as a pseudo-Event, on the other. And the reason there can be no rational ground is that the Truth of the Russian Revolution, or the Truth of the French Revolution, is in the most important respect a matter of Revelation

ALSO, I noted in passing above that Badiou's recourse to set theory may have proven profitable for his FORMAL ontology -- but the question is how to get from FORM to CONTENT

and just because a thinker is rigorous does not mean his philosophy is rationalist -- certainly the early heidegger was rigorous! -- and i mean this as no criticism of either heidegger or badiou -- if the world is not in the final analysis rational, then no honest philosopher can have a rationalist philosophy

again, i've only read a few things by Badiou and may well be wrong in my assessment of his position. but rather than dismiss my comments out of hand, why not condescend to make an argument?

dominic
24-02-2005, 03:49 AM
or if your position is based upon someone else's interpretation of Badiou, then why not post a link to that interpretation . . . . you know, be helpful

bat020
24-02-2005, 01:19 PM
Dominic, my point was simply that mathematics is central to Badiou's project and that it is quite witless to dismiss this engagement as a "veneer". Given that you've conceded this very point, I'm at a loss to understand your protests that I am being haughty, unhelpful, failing to provide arguments etc etc.

I can't see how there can be any doubting that Badiou's ambition is to provide a rationalist account of ontology that opposes and supersedes Heidegger's work. He explicitly says as much, on several occasions. See "Manifesto for Philosophy", for instance, or the introduction to Being and Event. Whether Badiou succeeds in his stated ambition is, of course, another matter.

dominic
24-02-2005, 03:39 PM
Badiou gives us no rational ground for treating the Russian Revolution as an Event, on the one side, and treating the Wilsonian project for spreading liberal democracy as a pseudo-Event, on the other. And the reason there can be no rational ground is that the Truth of the Russian Revolution, or the Truth of the French Revolution, is in the most important respect a matter of Revelation


actually, I gave a really poor example here. STATES spread liberal democracy, and states may be said to FORCE the (pseudo) event of liberal democracy's worldwide victory and truth -- so Badiou does seem to account for this difference. (Although this points to a second set of problems with Badiou, which is that he seems to have no interest in pursuing the question of political order -- of why one kind of political order is preferable to another kind -- for Badiou the only politics worth discussing are ecstastic politics, revolutionary politics, the politics of the mobilized collective -- but it seems to me that so long as Badiou avoids the question of the best regimes, or of better vs worse regimes, he'll be vulnerable to the charge that his philosophy lacks content)

the example I was trying to think of, however, which either Badiou or Zizek gives, is how to distinguish b/w the Russian Revolution of 1917/20 as a true event and the Fascist street revolutions of the 1920s as pseudo events -- and on this point there would seem to be no rational ground for knowing the difference

dominic
24-02-2005, 04:09 PM
Thing is though, if disovering a mathematical proof is a 'revelation', and seeing an angel is transmissible, then I have no possible concept of what you mean by a 'revelation' . . . . The point is that, in principle, ANYONE could cognitively reproduce the steps that lead to a mathematical proof. Revelatory experience can only be undergone by those to whom it randomly happens.

The mathematical proof is the work of reason. However, the decision to rely on math to explain and make sense of the world is a decision that has its basis in a kind of revelatory experience. The world understood in terms of physics seems more "true" or more "reliable" [reliability as a transmutation of truth] than does the world understood in terms of this or that religious orthodoxy. Modern science is an ongoing project, and the people who enter into that project as research scientists and mathematicians do so as a matter of faith -- faith that the most important kinds of knowledge are to be gained through the scientific method, or faith that the best life is the life devoted to scientific inquiry -- and everybody else defers to the authority of the scientific elite, largely because products and inventions traceable to modern scientific inquiry have proven so useful, made the average person's life so much more easy and comfortable, or because military technologies traceable to modern scientific inquiry have allowed nations which host such inquiry to dominate others

But the example of science is your best card, my weakest card . . . . Again, Badiou has four categories of truth: science, politics, love, philosophy . . . . Does Badiou anywhere provide a rational account of the Event of love, politics, or philosophy??? I ask this question because, again, I'm not well versed in Badiou -- and I assume you've read much more of him

Further, I do recall Badiou describing the truth of science as a process that keeps faith with the founding of modern science by Galileo/Descartes . . . . If you'd like, I can go back to "Infinite Thought" in search of quotes or consult the Zizek article posted on the web

dominic
24-02-2005, 04:24 PM
Thing is though, if disovering a mathematical proof is a 'revelation', and seeing an angel is transmissible, then I have no possible concept of what you mean by a 'revelation'.

What I mean by "revelation" is Heidegger's concept of TURNS in the history of Being

so it then becomes a matter of determining how many crucial turns have occurred in this history

However, on the level of the individual person, I mean by the term "revelation" that which is for him most true or important -- God or gods, science or philosophy, music or making money, and so forth -- for surely no person makes this decision based on reason -- and to the extent that a person fails to even make a "decision" on what is most important to him, then he merely accepts prevailing opinion -- and prevailing OPINION is the degenerate form of authoritative revelation

And rather than use the bogeyman of angels, let's talk in terms of music -- Wasn't the "truth" of rave music a matter of REVELATION for those who were drawn into its matrix? And to put it in Badiou's terms, could it not even be argued that rave music EXCEEDED the pop music/pop culture paradigm as it had stood up until 1988/1990, such that everything had to be counted anew -- AND YET the only people who would have believed this to be true were people who had undergone the revelation, who knew first-hand the power of the music and scene -- for everyone else, rave was merely a blip on the pop culture radar screen, not a true Event

bat020
24-02-2005, 04:41 PM
the example I was trying to think of, however, which either Badiou or Zizek gives, is how to distinguish b/w the Russian Revolution of 1917/20 as a true event and the Fascist street revolutions of the 1920s as pseudo events -- and on this point there would seem to be no rational ground for knowing the difference

This point is treated at length in "Ethics" - Badiou's basic argument is that fascism is not universalisable (it is based on plenitude rather than the void, its "subject" is the "German nation" rather than the international proletariat), consequently it is a simulacrum of an event, specifically of the Bolshevik event.

bat020
24-02-2005, 04:44 PM
Also, for the record, Badiou's four truth procedures are: art, science, politics, love. Philosophy is *not* a truth procedure, it does not produce truths directly and is entirely dependent on its four conditions for its existence.

dominic
24-02-2005, 06:35 PM
okay -- thanks -- that's what i'd call "helpful" comments! (i suspected that i had the four truth procedures wrong -- but hadn't reflected upon why i had them wrong)

dominic
24-02-2005, 06:38 PM
Badiou's basic argument is that fascism is not universalisable (it is based on plenitude rather than the void . . . )

what do you (or Badiou) mean by "plenitude rather than the void"?

dominic
24-02-2005, 10:01 PM
However, on the level of the individual person, I mean by the term "revelation" that which is for him most true or important -- God or gods, science or philosophy, music or making money, and so forth -- for surely no person makes this decision based on reason -- and to the extent that a person fails to even make a "decision" on what is most important to him, then he merely accepts prevailing opinion -- and prevailing OPINION is the degenerate form of authoritative revelation


actually, reading this passage over, it looks like i may be conflating inclination w/ revelation . . . .

but the expression that people give to their inclinations is largely determined by the political-religious order in which they live, by the prevailing opinions of the best way to lead one's life

Wrong
24-02-2005, 10:59 PM
but the expression that people give to their inclinations is largely determined by the political-religious order in which they live, by the prevailing opinions of the best way to lead one's life

Largely but not entirely, and I think for Badiou that's important. Isn't this where his concept of the situation comes in? For ontological reasons, the situation can't be all-encompassing, there's always the space for an event. Of course, this brings back your problem about how we figure out what is an event, which I also haven't figured out yet.

bat020
24-02-2005, 11:04 PM
what do you (or Badiou) mean by "plenitude rather than the void"?

Here's the man himself (from "Ethics", pp72-73):


When the Nazis talked about the 'National Socialist revolution', they borrowed names - 'revolution', 'socialism' - justified by the great modern political events (the Revolution of 1792, or the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917). A whole series of characteristics are related to and legitimated by this borrowing: the break with the old order, the support sought from mass gatherings, the dictatorial style of the state, the pathos of the decision, the eulogy of the Worker, and so forth.

However, the 'event' thus named - although in certain formal respects it is similar to those from which it borrows its name and characteristics, and without which it would have no constituted political language in which to formulate proposals of its own - is distinguished by a vocabulary of plenitude, or substance: the National Socialist revolution - say the Nazis - will carry a particular community, the German people, towards its true destiny, which is a destiny of universal domination.

So that the 'event' is supposed to bring into being, and name, not the void of the earlier situation, but its plenitude - not the universality of that which is sustained, precisely, by no particular characteristic (no particular multiple), but the absolute particularity of a community, itself rooted in the characteristics of its soil, its blood, and its race.

What allows a genuine event to be at the origin of a truth - which is the only thing that can be for all, and can be eternally - is precisely the fact that it relates to the particularity of a situation only from the bias of its void. The void, the multiple-of-nothing, neither excludes nor constrains anyone. It is the absolute neutrality of being - such that the fidelity that originates in an event, although it is an immanent break within a singular situation, is none the less univerally addressed.

By contrast, the striking break provoked by the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, although formally indistinguishable from an event - it is precisely this that led Heidegger astray - since it conceives itself as a 'German' revolution, and is faithful only to the alleged national substance of a people, is actually addressed only to those that it deems 'German'.

It is thus - right from the moment the event is named, and despite the fact that this nomination ('revolution') functions only under the condition of true universal events (for example the Revolutions of 1792 or 1917) - radically incapable of any truth whatsoever.

dominic
25-02-2005, 01:47 PM
(Although this points to a second set of problems with Badiou, which is that he seems to have no interest in pursuing the question of political order -- of why one kind of political order is preferable to another kind -- for Badiou the only politics worth discussing are ecstastic politics, revolutionary politics, the politics of the mobilized collective -- but it seems to me that so long as Badiou avoids the question of the best regimes, or of better vs worse regimes, he'll be vulnerable to the charge that his philosophy lacks content)

I should probably retract this statement . . . . I just read an article on the Internet about Badiou and the Organisation Politique [OP], about which I previously knew nothing -- here's the link to article, "Badiou's Politics: Equality and Justice," by Peter Hallward:

http://culturemachine.tees.ac.uk/Cmach/Backissues/j004/Articles/hallward.htm

None of which is to say that I endorse Hallward's reading of Badiou, or his attendant criticisms. Simply put, I haven't read enough of Badiou to even say. But I found the article stimulating and helpful.

Hallward treats several issues:

(1) The connection b/w Badiou's egalitarian politics and his ontology:

"It is a rudimentary principle of Badiou’s ontology, that all elements which belong to a situation belong (or are presented in, or exist, or count) in exactly the same way, with exactly the same weight. Politics is the process whereby this simple belonging [to this space here] is actively and effectively abstracted from all differentiating conditions or re-presentations."

(2) Politics as axiomatic prescription rather than reasoned argument (Badiou contra Arendt):

"The status of universal political principles, like all forms of truth, is necessarily axiomatic (or non-definitional) . . . . Justice cannot be defined, it is a pure affirmation without guarantee or proof."

"A generic or axiomatic politics asserts the ‘political capacity of all people’, the principle that ‘everyone can occupy the space of politics, if they decide to do so’"

(3) Badiou's relationship to Rousseau and the "general will":

"There is, strictly speaking, only one political actor, namely the we that comes out or demonstrates in the real of fraternity (i.e. in the element of pure presentation as such). What resists the organised political we is not an alternative political subject so much as the brute inertia of re-presentation, which is nothing other than the inertia of the status quo itself."

"All genuine politics seeks to change the situation as a whole, in the interest of the universal interest . . . .
Other, more narrow principles and demands, however worthy their beneficiaries might be, are merely a matter of ‘syndicalism’ or trade union style negotiation, i.e. negotiation for an improved, more integrated place within the established situation."

(4) The importance of the figure of the worker:

"By ‘workers’ Badiou means something almost as broad as ‘people’, insofar as they cannot be reduced to units of capital. In the subjective absence of the worker, there persists only the values of capital (production, competition, consumption). Clearly, work here includes intellectual as much as physical work. If physical work, above all factory work, nevertheless remains pre-eminent in Badiou’s account, it is because it is obviously the least counted, the most vulnerable to exclusion from the criteria of our prevailing social count. Because the factory (and its analogs) is thus on the edge of the void or in the least protected part of our political-economic situation, so ‘all contemporary politics has the factory as its place.' By not counting its workers, a factory becomes nothing more than a place of industrial production regulated by managerial decisions. By not counting its workers, a country is nothing more than a balance sheet writ large, a set of capital flows and statistics, a purely objectified (i.e. thought-less) realm."

(5) Separating the Political from the Economic and Social (in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Arendt):

Badiou and the OP have long maintained that ‘the only kind of economy is capitalist’, which is to say that ‘there is no socialist economy’ as such. What is known in France as la pensée unique adopts this economy as its sole principle, a principle of apparent ‘necessity’ driven by global competition and European monetary union. The OP seeks to articulate a viable refutation of this ‘politique unique whose present form is the declaration that the economy decides everything.’ True politics can only begin at a distance from the economy, and policies supposedly justified by economic necessity are for the OP simply synonymous with reactionary politics . . . . On the other hand, there can be no political retreat from the challenge posed by an ever more global, ever more triumphant capitalist economy . . . . Progressive politics as Badiou understands it must both operate at a level of universality that can rival that of capital itself and ensure that this rivalry unfold on a plane other than that dominated by capital. ‘I think what is Marxist, and also Leninist, and in any case true, is the idea that any viable campaign against capitalism can only be political. There can be no economical battle against the economy.’ Should politics try to confront capitalism on its own economic terrain, the eventual result will be capitalist every time . . . .

(6) Badiou's Ambivalence toward the State and Liberal Democracy, or the Vis-a-Vis:

"The OP remains suspicious of any political campaign – for instance, electoral contests or petition movements – that operates as a ‘prisoner of the parliamentary space.’ It remains ‘an absolute necessity [of politics] not to have the state as norm. The separation of politics and state is foundational of politics.’ However, it is now equally clear that ‘their separation need not lead to the banishment of the state from the field of political thought.’ The OP now conceives itself in a tense, non-dialectical ‘vis-à-vis’ with the state, a stance that rejects an intimate cooperation (in the interests of capital) as much as it refuses ‘any antagonistic conception of their operation, any conception that smacks of classism.’ There is to no more choice to be made between the state or revolution; the ‘vis-à-vis demands the presence of the two terms and not the annihilation of one of the two.’"

"The OP [has] recognised that the only contemporary movement of ‘désétatisation’ with any real power [is] the corporate-driven movement of partial de-statification in the interests of commercial flexibility and financial mobility. ‘We are against this withdrawal of the state to the profit of capital, through general, systematic and brutal privatisation. The state is what can sometimes take account of people and their situations in other registers and by other modalities than those of profit. The state assures from this point of view the public space and the general interest. And capital does not incarnate the general interest’ "

(7) The nature of the OP's political interventions:

"The OP intervenes only on particular questions, raised by specific confrontations or events, always guided by the strict, axiomatic assertion of subjective equality: political equality for everyone living in the national community, residence papers for the sans-papiers, political empowerment of all workers as workers, equal universal access to health and education, and so on."

"The prescriptions of the OP are invariably simple, minimally ‘theoretical’ principles – for example: that every individual counts as one individual, that all students must be treated in the same way, that ‘everyone who is here is from here’, that factories are places of work before they are places of profit, and so on. A political situation exists only under the prescription of such transparent statements whose universality is as clear as it is distinct"

"Badiou insists that these interventions don’t add up to form a general programme or party line. ‘God protect us from "socio-political programmes"! The essence of modern politics is to be non-programmatic. Politics, as we conceive it in the OP, promises nothing. It is both without party and without programme. It is a prescriptive form of thought, discerning possibilities entirely inaccessible to parliamentarism, and one that works entirely independently for their realisation’"

(8) The dependence of these prescriptive interventions on the State:

Hallward poses the question -- "The question is whether the very possibility of such prescription according to the general interest does not itself presuppose that same liberal-parliamentary realm upon whose systematic vilification its own critical distance depends. What kind of state can respond ‘responsibly’ to political prescriptions, if not one closely responsible to electoral pressure?"

Hallward goes further -- "That participation in the state should not replace a prescriptive externality to the state is obvious enough, but the stern either/or so often proclaimed in the pages of La Distance politique reads today like a displaced trace of the days when the choice of ‘state or revolution’ still figured as a genuine alternative."

(9) Are prescriptions aimed at the State adequate to the challenge posed by global capitalism?

Hallward poses the question -- "In what sense can a politics that defines itself as a prescription upon the state afford to remain indifferent to global economic trends whose direct effect is to undercut and limit the functions of a prescribable state? Can Badiou affirm both the fully ‘random’ distribution of events and the structural regularity of ‘global trends’ – without, at least, relating the one to the other?"

dominic
25-02-2005, 02:04 PM
What allows a genuine event to be at the origin of a truth - which is the only thing that can be for all, and can be eternally - is precisely the fact that it relates to the particularity of a situation only from the bias of its void. The void, the multiple-of-nothing, neither excludes nor constrains anyone. It is the absolute neutrality of being - such that the fidelity that originates in an event, although it is an immanent break within a singular situation, is none the less univerally addressed.
[/INDENT]

This looks like the key paragraph in the passage, but I can't make any sense of it. I think my next move will have to be to read either the book on St. Paul or else the Ethics, from which this passage was taken . . . .

As a matter of historical fact, many of the fascists on the streets in 20s and 30s were veterans of wwi trench warfare -- men who had experienced the "void"

of course badiou's conception of the "void" probably has nothing in common with the "void" of trench warfare

k-punk
25-02-2005, 07:51 PM
As a matter of historical fact, many of the fascists on the streets in 20s and 30s were veterans of wwi trench warfare -- men who had experienced the "void"

of course badiou's conception of the "void" probably has nothing in common with the "void" of trench warfare

Of course... there really is absolutely no point surrendering Badiou's take-up of terms to their commonsense rendering ---- especially since, as Bat's very lucid exposition makes clear, the void is precisely THAT WHICH CANNOT BE EXPERIENCED.

Look, experience and revelation are paradigmatically inegaliarian because they 'just happen', (I can't have a Damascene conversion by force of will); whereas IN PRINCIPLE at least, anyone can follow a mathematical proof.

I think there is are some troubling issues surrounding Badiou's concept of the Event - has he so evacuated experience that Rave or even May 68 couldn't count as an event, but 'having a certain thought' could? In other words, is he simply rehearsing the idealism that Marx decried?

Bat, the Spinoza anti-theism point is this:

theism is not just a believe in God, but a belief in a particular kind of God - a personal, transcendent, creator God who intervenes in the universe, has free will and will judge humanity at the End of Time.

Spinoza demonstrates, by use of reason alone, that such a God COULD NOT POSSIBLY exist. This is much more radical than not believing in God, since such belief is merely a contingent matter (i.e. such a belief, at least in principle, leaves open the possibility of empirical refutation). Spinoza's idea that God = Nature has been read, by atheists and theists alike, as covert atheism (Spinoza was 'really' an atheist, but, for reasons of historical context etc, he couldn't admit it). But this 'progressivist' reading (Spinoza our contemporary) is a way of domesticating the dread-ful implications of Spinoza's theo-rationalism: yes, God does exist, but It is impersonal, immanent, lacking in free will, and indifferent to human interests, because it is Indifference and Disinterestedness 'themselves'.

dominic
25-02-2005, 09:46 PM
as Bat's very lucid exposition makes clear, the void is precisely THAT WHICH CANNOT BE EXPERIENCED.

Look, experience and revelation are paradigmatically inegaliarian because they 'just happen', (I can't have a Damascene conversion by force of will); whereas IN PRINCIPLE at least, anyone can follow a mathematical proof.


Bat was quoting Badiou's "Ethics" in the paragraphs above . . . . Which is not to say that the language is not lucid, merely that I couldn't follow it

and while i think i should probably duck out of this debate now, as i haven't read enough badiou to justify saying as much about him as i have, i think you're missing the connection b/w revelation and heidegger's conception of truth as "bringing out from concealment" . . . .

perhaps I should say Appropriation rather than Revelation?

in any case, it seems clear to me that badiou takes his conception of the Truth-Event directly from Heidegger

the mathematical proof that you keep referring to is a work of cognition, techne, etc -- which is why "anyone can follow it" -- it is not a truth-event for heidegger/badiou

and as for what role "experience" as commonly understood may play in all of this, i'm not sure

(nor am i sure why i referred to the experience of the "void" in trench warfare -- i suppose i thought it somehow germane to the earlier discussion of the historical situation of the 1920s, when people had to choose b/w the Leninist and fascist alternatives -- i.e., how to tell the difference b/w real and pseudo events -- i certainly didn't mention it b/c i thought it would illuminate badiou's conception of the void)

but again, i think i'd be wise to bow out of this conversation (at least until i've read more badiou)

dominic
25-02-2005, 10:05 PM
i should, however, add that i find your thoughts on Spinoza compelling, i.e, they strike me as on the mark

but my impressions aside, i'm not in a position to discuss the relationship b/w Spinoza and Badiou

dominic
25-02-2005, 10:13 PM
God does exist, but It is impersonal, immanent, lacking in free will, and indifferent to human interests, because it is Indifference and Disinterestedness 'themselves'.

i'm not trying to be cheeky, and I'm not trying to be a troll . . . . indeed, on a certain level I'm being quite serious . . . .

but substitute God for some such term as "war" or "trench warfare" or "modern warfare" . . . . and what do you get?

bat020
28-02-2005, 11:16 PM
I think there is are some troubling issues surrounding Badiou's concept of the Event - has he so evacuated experience that Rave or even May 68 couldn't count as an event, but 'having a certain thought' could? In other words, is he simply rehearsing the idealism that Marx decried?

Hmmm, I don't think Badiou "evacuates experience" - bear in mind that events always occur at an evental site in a historic situation, they do not just appear "out of the blue". I'd agree that Badiou hasn't so far given a particularly satisfactory account of the relationship between the event and its site, but he doesn't ignore experience and empirical reality entirely, as the "miracle" interpretation of the event would suggest.

For my money the reason Badiou doesn't quite get this right is connected to the lack of a theory of relations between elements of a situation. This lacuna has long been acknowledged by Badiou himself and forms the backdrop to his turn to category theory in his latest (for the most part unpublished) work.

Re "having a certain thought", "idealism" etc - bear in mind that Badiou uses the term thinking [pensée] almost always to mean an *activity*. Thinking has nothing to do with mere cogitation or detatched speculation, rather it is always something we *do* in this world... praxis, in other words.

///

Re Spinoza - okay, I see what you mean now. I'm similarly suspicious of the all too convenient "Spinoza was an atheist really" line, it screams of a cop out. Nevertheless, without wanting to downplay the abyss between the "personal, transcendent, creator God" and Spinoza's "impersonal, immanent, indifferent" God... well, it's still God isn't it? Isn't this shift only radical from a narrowly Christian-centric point of view? How does, for instance, the far more abstract God of Islam fare in this?

Also: your (quite correct) move from tedious prattle about "personal belief" to sharp questions of necessity and reason surely throws the Does God Exist? question into even sharper relief rather than relegating it as a secondary matter.

Badiou offers his "the One is not" formula as an updated and radicalised version of Nietzsche's "God is dead" - he also explicitly links the Oneness-less of contemporary mathematics with the "desacralisation of infinity", which he sees as an essential if we are finally to bid the romantic era goodbye and activate the possibility of a truly materialist thought.

k-punk
01-03-2005, 07:20 PM
Hmmm, I don't think Badiou "evacuates experience" - bear in mind that events always occur at an evental site in a historic situation, they do not just appear "out of the blue". I'd agree that Badiou hasn't so far given a particularly satisfactory account of the relationship between the event and its site, but he doesn't ignore experience and empirical reality entirely, as the "miracle" interpretation of the event would suggest.

OK ---- but doesn't Badiou to some extent equivocate between his own thought-based version of an event and a historical event in a more everyday sense? For instance, strictly speaking, it wouldn't be the occurences on the street of 68 that would be the Event, but the change in thought that precedes and makes such occurences possible? If not, what role does the emphasis on truth procedures etc have? I mean his rationalist egalitarianism surely depends upon the idea that, in principle at least, anyone could go through the cogniitive steps of a mathematical proof; at least in the sense that this doesn't depend upon any animal proclivities? Or could an event only happen to those who are in its historical ambit as it were? I'm genuinely puzzled.


For my money the reason Badiou doesn't quite get this right is connected to the lack of a theory of relations between elements of a situation. This lacuna has long been acknowledged by Badiou himself and forms the backdrop to his turn to category theory in his latest (for the most part unpublished) work.

K - I think I agree. :p --- isn't the issue that Badiou doesn't give enough emphasis to the influence of activity upon cognition? i.e. to the simple Marxist thought that breaking out of dominant ideology is only possible in certain conditions?


Re "having a certain thought", "idealism" etc - bear in mind that Badiou uses the term thinking [pensée] almost always to mean an *activity*. Thinking has nothing to do with mere cogitation or detatched speculation, rather it is always something we *do* in this world... praxis, in other words.

Yes, I was perhaps overstating the criticism there, but I'm still suspicious of this: I mean, where does the empthasis lie - is activity a kind of thinking or is thinking being equated with activity? The latter seems to me dangerously close to the idealism Marx denounced.



Re Spinoza - okay, I see what you mean now. I'm similarly suspicious of the all too convenient "Spinoza was an atheist really" line, it screams of a cop out. Nevertheless, without wanting to downplay the abyss between the "personal, transcendent, creator God" and Spinoza's "impersonal, immanent, indifferent" God... well, it's still God isn't it? Isn't this shift only radical from a narrowly Christian-centric point of view? How does, for instance, the far more abstract God of Islam fare in this?

I don't know enough about Islam to comment, but my conjecture would be that all three of the major theistic religions have what (for them) is a heretical immanent tradition. It seems to me that it isn't 'still God' if it's not supernatural. (Most of my Christian students certainly don't think so for instance - they violently object that Spinoza's God cannot be God AT ALL). All of this begs the question: what is meant by God then? Or: what is the common ground between the theistic concept of God and Spinoza's that means that the latter is 'still' God?


Also: your (quite correct) move from tedious prattle about "personal belief" to sharp questions of necessity and reason surely throws the Does God Exist? question into even sharper relief rather than relegating it as a secondary matter.

But, again, we would have to clarify what is meant by God really... because, if God = nature, then what is someone claiming to disbelieve in God claiming not to believe in?



Badiou offers his "the One is not" formula as an updated and radicalised version of Nietzsche's "God is dead" - he also explicitly links the Oneness-less of contemporary mathematics with the "desacralisation of infinity", which he sees as an essential if we are finally to bid the romantic era goodbye and activate the possibility of a truly materialist thought.

Yes - I recongnize that these moves are crucial. Because even (the) God (of classical theism) couldn't count all the real numbers --- which precisely proves, rigorously and definitively, that this God CANNOT EXIST (because that God is supposed to be all-knowing and no being could be). Which is why in my initial post on this thread I made the link with Lacan's gnomic claim that the true slogan of atheism is not that God is dead but that God is unconscious. What you are saying also made me think about the not-all and female jouissance, which Lacan links with God and not knowing.

bat020
04-03-2005, 03:32 PM
Doesn't Badiou to some extent equivocate between his own thought-based version of an event and a historical event in a more everyday sense? For instance, strictly speaking, it wouldn't be the occurences on the street of 68 that would be the Event, but the change in thought that precedes and makes such occurences possible?

Strictly speaking, the event is a kind of "vanishing mediator" that sets off a chain of consequences, which is the truth process. Badiou's currently reformulating the mechanics of how this all happens.

Re your question, the "change in thought" does not "precede" or "make possible" the "occurences on the street" for Badiou. For him the two are quite inseparable, they are one and the same process.

His close readings of Lenin or St Just, for instance, are at pains to point out how their thought was thoroughly immersed in an unfolding political sequence. You cannot make sense of their writings without understanding that sequence, nor can you make sense of that sequence without understanding the thinking and decision making at work in its midst.


His rationalist egalitarianism surely depends upon the idea that, in principle at least, anyone could go through the cogniitive steps of a mathematical proof

Yes, Badiou's favourite example here is the extraordinary scene in Plato's Meno where a slave boy works out a geometric construction (with a bit of prodding from Socrates).


Or could an event only happen to those who are in its historical ambit as it were? I'm genuinely puzzled.

I think the tricky point is that while an event is always situated to a singular time/place, its consequences are universal and eternal. Thus we can still understand and grasp the force of Euclid's proofs, for instance, many centuries on. So the event's "historical ambit" is in a sense everywhere and for all time.

This identification of the singular with the universal (and its contrast with the particular) is a characteristic dialectical twist in Badiou - it's also a key theme in Zizek's work.


Where does the empthasis lie - is activity a kind of thinking or is thinking being equated with activity? The latter seems to me dangerously close to the idealism Marx denounced.

I'd say thinking is a kind of activity, but not the only kind. Most activity is unthinking for Badiou, and of no philosophical interest. It's the rare occasions when "truth punches a hole through knowledge" that are of value.


If God = nature, then what is someone claiming to disbelieve in God claiming not to believe in?

It would be a claim that Nature does not exist. And Badiou makes just such a claim, in fact he says the non-existence of Nature is the ontological content of the Burali-Forti Paradox (there is no ordinal that enumerates the ordinals).

k-punk
07-03-2005, 09:07 PM
It would be a claim that Nature does not exist. And Badiou makes just such a claim, in fact he says the non-existence of Nature is the ontological content of the Burali-Forti Paradox (there is no ordinal that enumerates the ordinals).

Good point. But I don't think that the Nature Spinoza insists upon is necessarily the same one that Baidou rejects. Because, for one thing, no-one can know what Nature is. Even God. Because God is unconscious. :)

fldsfslmn
01-04-2005, 08:13 AM
I wonder if the language barrier plays a part. Delivering a paper in your second language (which I'm assuming is what happened here) and then being questioned about it afterwards has got to be an exercise in frustration. And cautiousness.

k-punk
01-04-2005, 10:08 AM
Can't comment on Badiou's paper obviously, but I suspect that someone in thrall to the Continentalist ponderocracy wouldn't be uh especially receptive to it. The whole point of Badiou's philosophy is to reject the whole notion of fixed 'horizons'. How do you know what such horizons are? So, yes, he would fall foul of the 'strictures' laid down by that whole sad crew of limit-mongers ([a certain version of] Kant, Husserl, Heidegger). But of course for anyone who wants to do more than bleat on about 'conditions' and 'finitude' forever, that's a good thing.

bat020
05-04-2005, 09:29 PM
I've heard Badiou speak in English a couple of times and he is disappointing - he sketches a vague outline but doesn't fill in details. But I'm almost certain it's the language barrier. I went up to him and asked him a fairly straightforward question in English once, he kind of looked embarrassed and baffled and turned to his interpreter... Given how godawful my French is I can't really complain. And there's something to be said for keeping it simple when addressing philosophical ideas to a general audience.