A New Philosophy of the Subject
Badiou's philosophy of the event is itself undoubtedly one of the great events in recent French thought. Badiou is perhaps the only serious rival of Deleuze and Derrida for that meaningless but unavoidable title of “most important contemporary French philosopher, ” and his major treatise, L'Etre et l'événement (1988), is certainly the most ambitious and most compelling single philosophical work written in France since Sartre's Critique de la raison dialectique (1960). It is only appropriate, moreover, that his work at this stage remain so emphatically new to English-speaking readers, since Badiou's entire philosophy is geared to the rigorous description of innovation as such. His work is an elaborate engagement with a relatively small set of essential questions: How can something entirely new come into the world? What sorts of innovation invite and deserve fully universal affirmation? How can the consequences of such innovation be sustained in the face of the world's inevitable indifference or resistance? And how can those who affirm these consequences continue their affirmation?
Although Badiou has himself encountered no small degree of such resistance over the course of his long and unusually varied career, today he occupies a prominent though still controversial place in French philosophy. For many years a professor at the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes / Saint Denis, he was appointed head of the philosophy department at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1999. His public lectures at the Collège International