Badiou.

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
Like a good boy I've been reading Badiou's "Infinite Thought". It's not at all difficult in fact, and he's a charming, gentle and good-natured guide. What he says can be more or less distilled thus:

Analytic, Hermeneutic and Post-Modern Philosophy, the BIG THREE, variously miss the point by failing to re-align Philosophy with the essential principle of truth. Badiou looks to Maths and set-theory to help him unfreeze Philosophy and handle "truth".

Interestingly however, Badiou is not nearly as dogmatic about what constitutes the truth as some observers would lead one to suspect. While he's shy of the rampant subjectivism of Post-Modernist thought he comes down very heavily on people who claim to have pinned down truth:

"Consequently, a reasonable ethic of mathmatics is not to wish to force this point; to accept that a mathmatical truth is never complete. But this reasonable ethic is difficult to maintain. As can be seen with scientism, or with totalitarianism, there is always a desire for the omnipotence of the True. There lies the root of Evil. Evil is the will to name at any price."
 
Egs

A friend of mine is doing a thesis at the European Graduate School (EGS) , a kind of rich-kid/celebrity intellectual frottage, held out in Switzerland every Summer. This year, amongst the lecturers were Derrida, Zizek, Baudrillard and this Badiou guy, whom i'd never heard of. Anyway, my friend liked Badiou the best, and maintains that his thought is wisest and nicest. Niceness in thought is always important, and nice, i think. I listen to my friend on these issues because i have a small brain. Go, Badiou!

I didn't even know he'd been translated properly yet.
 

bat020

Active member
In recent interviews Badiou has moved away from stressing the dangers of "forcing the unnameable" - he now says this formulation conceded too much to a prevailing liberal climate prone to fretting over "totalitarianism". But many details of his system are currently being reworked for his new book, "Logics of the World" (due out sometime this year, apparently).

It's well worth checking out some of his other books in English - "Ethics" and "Manifesto for Philosophy" are both very readable, as is his bracingly untheological analysis of St Paul.
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
WOEBOT said:
Analytic, Hermeneutic and Post-Modern Philosophy, the BIG THREE, variously miss the point by failing to re-align Philosophy with the essential principle of truth. Badiou looks to Maths and set-theory to help him unfreeze Philosophy and handle "truth".
[/I]"
He also makes a distinction between Knowledge and Truth, which I found useful in getting to grips with him, though I'm inevitably going to simplify things here (he says uneasily, hedging his bets)

Knowledge is a descriptive account of things as they are, of 'the situation', as Badiou calls it. He sees mathematics as the privileged tool for such an account. Knowledge, in this sense, is objective, Platonic.

Truth, on the other hand, is produced by an active engagement with the situation which uncovers or unveils what had been previously repressed or overlooked. It is thus only through a radical immersion in the situation, with all the partiality and perspectivism that this entails, that its hidden truth can be revealed. Truth in this sense is subjective, but not in a postmodern way, where there are mutliple truths dependent on various points of view, because for Badiou there is only one truth for any given situation.
And yet that truth can only come to light through an absolute refusal to disentangle oneself from the event.

In this sense finding the truth is like falling in love.
 
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luka

Well-known member
Staff member
all this sounds as if a certain someone has been misrepresenting badiou in a pretty major way

i'm not reading it though
 

bat020

Active member
Melmoth said:
Knowledge is a descriptive account of things as they are, of 'the situation', as Badiou calls it. He sees mathematics as the privileged tool for such an account. Knowledge, in this sense, is objective, Platonic.
This isn't quite right. Mathematics is very much on the side of truth rather than knowledge for Badiou, in fact the great achievements of mathematics (eg Galois, Cantor, Godel) are almost paradigmatic examples of evental truths.

Also, mathematics for Badiou is ontology, it directly articulates being qua being. Knowledge, in contrast, is fundamentally linguistic in character and thereby secondary to being. It corresponds to "constructible sets", ie those that can be defined through linguistic formulae. Badiou argues against the "constructivist" school of mathematics that seeks to limit maths to these constructible sets.

And finally, Badiou insists that our received wisdom about Plato is quite wrong. "Platonism" for him is on the side of thought, truth, subject - and has nothing to do with "ideal objects" up in heaven.
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
bat020 said:
This isn't quite right. Mathematics is very much on the side of truth rather than knowledge for Badiou, in fact the great achievements of mathematics (eg Galois, Cantor, Godel) are almost paradigmatic examples of evental truths.

Also, mathematics for Badiou is ontology, it directly articulates being qua being. Knowledge, in contrast, is fundamentally linguistic in character and thereby secondary to being. It corresponds to "constructible sets", ie those that can be defined through linguistic formulae. Badiou argues against the "constructivist" school of mathematics that seeks to limit maths to these constructible sets.

And finally, Badiou insists that our received wisdom about Plato is quite wrong. "Platonism" for him is on the side of thought, truth, subject - and has nothing to do with "ideal objects" up in heaven.
Many thanks for this. :confused: I know that ontology is mathematical science for Badiou. But I thought another of his major distinction was between ontology (being) and philosophy (event), with mathematics associated with the former, and truth with the latter.

I guess only a certain kind of mathematics is on the side of Knowledge then? ie that of constructible sets? Not really sure what a constructible set is.


I knew that Plato bit was risky when I was typing it.
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
Badious in London

Zizek is organizing a series of lectures in memory of Derrida at Birkbeck University in London. Badiou
is speaking on June 10th.

Other Confirmed speakers:

Jean-Luc Nancy and Hillis Miller: 6 May

Jacques Ranciere: 11 May

Slavoj Zizek: 20 May

Etienne Balibar: 3 June

Pretty fierce line-up.
 

bat020

Active member
Melmoth said:
I know that ontology is mathematical science for Badiou. But I thought another of his major distinction was between ontology (being) and philosophy (event), with mathematics associated with the former, and truth with the latter.
Hmmm, not quite. Philosophy doesn't produce truths for Badiou - truths are always scientific, political, artistic or amorous (the four "conditions" of philosophy). Philosophy's function is rather to create a "space of compossibility" where these truths can be thought together.

Melmoth said:
I guess only a certain kind of mathematics is on the side of Knowledge then? ie that of constructible sets? Not really sure what a constructible set is.
In "Being and Event" Badiou associates knowledge with "constructivist" orientations of thought, including constructivist mathematics. The hallmark of constructivist thought is that beings are only considered as existing if they can be specified linguistically.

The upside of constructivism is that it is irrefutable - to prove a constructivist wrong you'd have to exhibit a being that couldn't be constructed (ie specified using language). But such an exhibition would itself be a construction...

The downside is that one gets a highly constrained and impoverished "universe" of beings, and one where being is subordinated to language, in that language "polices" being. Badiou rejects constructivist thought for these reasons.
 

simps

New member
Melmoth said:
He also makes a distinction between Knowledge and Truth, which I found useful in getting to grips with him, though I'm inevitably going to simplify things here (he says uneasily, hedging his bets)

Knowledge is a descriptive account of things as they are, of 'the situation', as Badiou calls it. He sees mathematics as the privileged tool for such an account. Knowledge, in this sense, is objective, Platonic.

Truth, on the other hand, is produced by an active engagement with the situation which uncovers or unveils what had been previously repressed or overlooked. It is thus only through a radical immersion in the situation, with all the partiality and perspectivism that this entails, that its hidden truth can be revealed. Truth in this sense is subjective, but not in a postmodern way, where there are mutliple truths dependent on various points of view, because for Badiou there is only one truth for any given situation.
And yet that truth can only come to light through an absolute refusal to disentangle oneself from the event.

In this sense finding the truth is like falling in love.
The Truth-Knowledge distinction dates back at least to Plato. Badiou is largely a Platonist and Lacanian in certain vital ways. He's a little Sartrean also. The distinction had been closed off by the Enlightenment (Descartes et al) when the two categories blurred together under the umbrella of Reason and the Cartesian thinking subject, but Badiou now insists it has to be revived, and he's right, I think.
 

simps

New member
bat020 said:
And finally, Badiou insists that our received wisdom about Plato is quite wrong. "Platonism" for him is on the side of thought, truth, subject - and has nothing to do with "ideal objects" up in heaven.
Yes. Precisely. Badiou repeatedly goes out of his way to confirm himself as a card carrying atheist. He insists that 'the one is not' and that 'there is no heaven of truths' (truths are immanent to the situation of the evental site).
 

bat020

Active member
simps said:
The Truth-Knowledge distinction dates back at least to Plato. Badiou is largely a Platonist and Lacanian in certain vital ways. He's a little Sartrean also.
Agreed, but I'd stress the "little". I'm increasingly thinking that the recent English language reception of Badiou overstates the Sartrean influence, placing too much emphasis (or the wrong emphasis) on the "void". This tends to reduce Badiou's ontology to a latter day negative theology, and consequently misread the event as some kind of "miracle"...

simps said:
Badiou now insists it has to be revived, and he's right, I think.
Seconded. Alenka Zupancic's superb Lacanian take on Neitzsche - "The Shortest Shadow" - has an excellent exposition of this theme, btw.
 

Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
Blimey, I didn't know Bat was here!

Nice one Matt, very neat introduction to the subject, and the thread isn't flying over my head. Yet. And it's always nice to see conversations over dinner being recycled as forum posts :).

Now, anyone want to explain these four philosophical categories to a busy over-worked parent?

paul.meme
 
Tend to think that Badiou is influenced by Sartre, but not quite in the way Bat fears - more on the basis of the later Sartre work, Critique of Dialectical Reason. It's here that Sartre posits the idea that the subject of politics - the group-in-fusion - emerges 'apocalyptically'. Badiou himself discusses his debt to the later Sartre at various points, which makes him, very engagingly, a slightly impossible figure: an Althusserian Sartrean....
 
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bat020

Active member
infinite thought said:
Badiou himself discusses his debt to the later Sartre at various points, which makes him, very engagingly, a slightly impossible figure: an Althusserian Sartrean....
Do you have a reference for Badiou talking about Sartre? One of the reasons I'm somewhat suspicious of the Badiou-as-Sartrean line is that I've never read anything by him that discusses Sartre at any length. Contrast this with, for instance, his intricate engagements with Rousseau (who I'd say is the strongest political influence on Badiou) in 'Being and Event' and 'Metapolitics'.
 
well there's the pamphlet , er, Jean-Paul Sartre, from 1981 (Potemkine, I think, don't have references on me now), which should be translated in Historical Materialism at some point soon, and the whole early discussion of the Althusser Reading Capital theoretical antihumanist move in a piece called 'Le (re)commencement du matérialisme dialectique' from '67. Also things in Le Siecle about the tendencies in French thought. I wouldn't want to over-egg the Sartre thing either, tho, and am intrigued by what you say about Rousseau being so important politically - have to go and think about that a bit. But still, definitely think the late Sartre at least (and even Feuerbach, for that matter) sheds some light on the way Badiou understands politics. Sartre's Critique was, afterall, his most structuralist book....
 
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Must say I hadn't heard the 'Badiou's void is like Sartrean nothingness' argument before, but can see how a weak reading of Badiou might run with it. Who were you thinking of in particular, Bat, btw? - I'm curious.
 
this is both somewhat a polemic & hope someone can clarify this for me. after reading through some shifts in badiou's works, the idea of extension i believe is still most central to his philosophy. being is an extension of appearance; appearance belongs to being. universality is an extension of subjectivity; subjectivity belongs to universality. extensivity sidesteps relativity and parallelism, and totality which substitutes ordinality for cardinality (in Sartre the Other is the summation of, constructed with, others, whereas badiou's ontology is 'subtractive' - but not in the ordinary operation but in transfinite terms - more on this later). this precludes the set of all sets as an impossible entity greater than the union of those sets, wherein a hierarchy is implicit or explicit, reducing nominal numbers to an empty set (ie names in simplest form, as such, are 'canonical'). as aleph-0 (being) and aleph-1 (appearance) have equal cardinality, truth as such a transfinite supernumery (a finite set in which there are infinite elementary combinatorics) is always co-extensive with A0*2 (the class of transfinites), Truth.

objections -
1. hypersets (russell's paradox), or sets that are members of themselves (this is sidestepped by not extensivity but intensivity)
2. constructibility (tarski's paradox): ignoring this isn't going to solve the problem - in fact this throws a wrench into the supposed non-consistence/independence of foundation and continuum, which is based on unquestioned Euclidean topoi like 'line', 'point' etc (as is #1). both are unsolvable by theorems within set theory (cf godel).

my simplistic question is: why does badiou base his philosophy in set theory & 'memberships'? it's almost a given for him, like the difference between numbers and numerals (le nom du nombre), mathema-tike as a token of numero-logos. i can think of a plethora of political reasons. i would even say badiou's 'philosophy' is not philosophy, but a perverse form of politics (we'll leave this one to deconstructionists).
 
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borderpolice

Well-known member
conquering flesh said:
1. hypersets (russell's paradox), or sets that are members of themselves (this is sidestepped by not extensivity but intensivity)
Or other forms of non-well founded sets, like Quine's NF and it's successors (where for
example AC does not hold). Later Badiou kind of ditches ZFC set theory for categories
which are of course also not well founded.

conquering flesh said:
my simplistic question is: why does badiou base his philosophy in set theory & 'memberships'? it's almost a given for him, like the difference between numbers and numerals (le nom du nombre), mathema-tike as a token of numero-logy. i can think of a plethora of political reasons. i would even say badiou's 'philosophy' is not philosophy, but a perverse form of politics (we'll leave this one to deconstructionists).
Indeed. I think of A. Badiou as the guy who tries to merge set theory -- and later topos
theory -- with marxist propaganda. Top marks for daring. And he gets away
with it, too, because virtually all philosophers have no understanding of
forcing, toposes and the fancy maths like that, but don't like to admit it.

As far as I can see, his constructions <B>really</B> don't work at all. If you read
B's output on politics or on concrete philosophical problems, the intellectual content, the
interesting arguments, amount to very little (case in point: the recently translated
book on Saint Paul and universalism).

Why the insistence on sets/maths you ask? The underlying intuition seems to be
mathematics' universality, i.e. the claim that in principle everybody would agree
with the truth of all genuinly mathematical statements. He seems to want to convince
the reader that this universality carries over to other areas of life, but all he offers
in defense is stipulation.
 
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