Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Transcendental and Inexistence in Alain Badiou's Philosophy: A Derridean Similarity?

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Transcendental and Inexistence in Alain Badiou's Philosophy: A Derridean Similarity?

Article excerpt

Though Alain Badiou and Jacques Derrida circulated in some of the same French academic circles, they rarely had anything to do with one another. While Derrida was alive he never engaged Badiou's work, neither in speech nor in writing. The opposite was also true, as we find no substantial reference to Derrida in Badiou's work until after the former's passing: It was only after Derrida's death, in Badiou's later work Logiques des mondes: L'Être et l'événement II, that Badiou explicitly acknowledged the impact of Derrida's work on his own thinking.1 Badiou concedes that his concept of inexistence is what Derrida understands by différance. "La pensée de l'inexistant formalise ce que je crois être l'enjeu de la sinueuse démarche de Jacques Derrida. Depuis ses premiers texts, et sous le nom, progressivement académisé (mais non par lui) de 'deconstruction,' son désir spéculative est de montrer que, quelle que soit la forme d'imposition discursive à laquelle vous êtes confronté, il existe un point qui échappe aux règles de cette imposition, un point de fuite. Tout l'interminable travail est de le localiser, ce qui est aussi bien impossible, puisque c'est d'être hors-lieu-dans-le-lieu qui le caractérise. Pour restreindre l'espace de fuite, il faut forcer les signifiants de l'imposition discursive, diagonaliser les grandes oppositions métaphysiques (être/ étant, esprit/matière, mais aussi bien démocratie/totalitarisme ou État de droit/ barbarie ou juif/arabe . . .) et d'inventer une langue de l'excentrement, un dispositive d'écriture acéphale. Or, tout cela gravite autour de ce qui aurait à se tenir sous l'inexistant. . . . Dirons-nous que . . . inexistence=différance" (LM 570-71).

Undoubtedly, Badiou's profound recognition of Derrida's impact on philosophy as well as his defence of Derrida2 are remarkable. In this paper, I argue that though there is a certain resonance between the two "concepts," there is also a marked point of divergence. In particular, I wish to claim that Derrida's double bind of possibility and impossibility, which are mutually co-constitutive and flow from the spatio-temporising that is différance, is less binary in its logic than Badiou's notion of inexistence allows. Also, I maintain that whereas Derrida's différance is rooted in a conception of time and space that gives différance its very flow and arch-structure, Badiou's inexistence is grounded in the time and space that stem from the very structure of the multiple that is given in what he calls the transcendental. Time is constituted with the event and the subject, by a decision and the fidelity to a decision. Badiou has no real sense of Derridean space: Badiou discusses space as localisation, atoms, situations or the containment that is proper to any set. Derridean spatialsing stems from de Saussure and his view of the differentiation between signs and words and phrases that produces meaning. For Badiou, the inexistent is set within worlds, whereas for Derrida différance never works within the logics of Badiouan worlds. It simply is already there and is already operating. In short, I claim that though there may be a resemblance between the two philosophers qua what they see is unaccountable, lies closed or hidden yet conditions any given "system" or "meaning-structure," the way they justify such accounts would suggest a greater gap than what Badiou may be prepared to concede.

BADIOU'S TRANSCENDENTAL AND THE INEXISTENT

The concept of inexistence does not appear in the first volume of Being and Event, but it is introduced and developed in the second one. Inexistence is rooted within the structure of the transcendental and worlds. Badiou defines inexistence as a mode of being-there of an element of a multiple that appears in the world. The element "exists in" the configuration of multiplicities called a world, but it never exists in any intense or maximal form. In fact, it exists in the least possible way. Every object in the world contains an inexistent element and can, according to Badiou, contain only one at any given moment (LM 610). …

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