Badiou: A Subject to Truth

Badiou: A Subject to Truth

Badiou: A Subject to Truth

Badiou: A Subject to Truth

Synopsis

Alain Badiou is one of the most inventive and compelling philosophers working in France today--a thinker who, in these days of cynical resignation and academic specialization, is exceptional in every sense. Guided by disciplines ranging from mathematics to psychoanalysis, inspired as much by Plato and Cantor as by Mao and Mallarme, Badiou's work renews, in the most varied and spectacular terms, a decidedly ancient understanding of philosophy--philosophy as a practice conditioned by truths, understood as militant processes of emancipation or transformation. This book is the first comprehensive introduction to Badiou's thought to appear in any language. Assuming no prior knowledge of his work, it provides a thorough and searching overview of all the main components of his philosophy, from its decisive political orientation through its startling equation of ontology with mathematics to its resolute engagement with its principal competition (from Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Deleuze, among others). The book draws on all of Badiou's published work and a wide sampling of his unpublished work in progress, along with six years of correspondence with the author. Peter Hallward pays careful attention to the aspect of Badiou's work most liable to intimidate readers in continental philosophy and critical theory: its crucial reliance on certain key developments in modern mathematics. Eschewing unnecessary technicalities, Hallward provides a highly readable discussion of each of the basic features of Badiou's ontology, as well as his more recent account of appearance and "being-there." Without evading the difficulties, Peter Hallward demonstrates in detail and in depth why Badiou's ongoingphilosophical project should be recognized as the most resourceful and inspiring of his generation.

Excerpt

According to Richard Dawkins's well-known formulation, “God's utility function” in living nature is the reproduction of genes, that is, genes (DNA) are not a means for the reproduction of living beings, but the other way round: living beings are the means for the self-reproduction of genes. Ideology should be viewed in the same way, and we should ask the following question: What is the “utility function” of an ideological state apparatus (ISA)? The materialist answer is this: The utility function of an ISA is neither the reproduction of ideology qua network of ideas, emotions, and so on, nor the reproduction of social circumstances legitimized by this ideology, but the selfreproduction of the ISA itself. The same ideology can accommodate itself to different social modes, it can change the content of its ideas, and so on, just to “survive” as an ISA. However, from time to time something emerges that cannot be reduced to this placid logic of survival and reproduction: an event, an engagement for a universal cause that inexorably follows its inherent necessity, disregarding all opportunistic considerations.

So what does Alain Badiou aim at with his central notion that philosophy depends on some truth event as its external condition? When Deleuze, Badiou's great opponent-partner, tries to account for the crucial shift in the history of cinema from image-mouvement to image-temps, he makes a surprisingly crude reference to “real” history, to the traumatic impact of World War II (which was felt from Italian neorealism to American film noir). This . . .

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