Badiou (i): Being, Event, Subject, Truth
Badiou aims to reassert the significance of philosophy in an age that has lost a sense of its importance. We no longer know what philosophy is or what its purposes should be. We confuse it with the postmodern sophistries that run from Nietzsche and Wittgenstein to Derrida, Lyotard, Rorty, and Vattimo.1 We conflate it with other concerns: art, science, politics, psychoanalysis. We oscillate between deconstructing its past and anticipating its future forms. Above all, perhaps, we have surrendered philosophy to time, to a history we can no longer believe it transcends. Provoked by a century of disaster, our epoch announces the end of philosophy and claims to be ‘liquidating’ its archaisms (CS, 70). Badiou, however, wants rather to proclaim the end of ‘the end’.2 Philosophy should cease to ‘plead guilty’ (MP, 8). The idea that philosophers and not politicians, businessmen, the military, or even historians and sociologists should shoulder the burden of guilt for the past century is patently absurd. Badiou rather argues, in a phrase he associates above all with Beckett, that we should be intent on making ‘another step forwards’: ‘un pas de plus. Un seul pas’ (MP, 12).3 Philosophy must forget the Heideggerian ‘forgetting of being’, the more or less appalled contemplation of its historically mistaken route. The philosophical imperative is interminable (and singularly Beckettian and mathematical): ‘continuation’ (CS, 84).
1 See ‘Le Retour de la philosophie elle-même’, CS, 57–78, especially at p. 76. On the apparent oddity of casting Nietzsche as a sophist, see p. 77 n. 6.
2 This is in large part what underlies his critique specifically of the philosophical concept of postmodernism. See for instance MP, 22–3; and Alberto Toscano, ‘To Have Done with the End of Philosophy’, Pli, Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 9 (2000), 220–39. Badiou asserts that, for him, as for Lardreau and Jambet, we are still within the modern period of philosophy (MP, 25).
3 Cf ‘Réponses écrites d’Alain Badiou’, interview with student group at the Université de Paris VIII (Vincennes/Saint-Denis), Philosophie, philosophie, 4 (1992), 66–71, p. 69; and ‘D’un sujet enfin sans objet’, Après le sujet qui vient: Cahiers confrontation, 20 (Winter 1989), 13–22, p. 13, where Badiou argues the complexity of the ‘step forwards’.