Revelation and Revolution

By Schwartz, Regina M. | Cross Currents, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Revelation and Revolution


Schwartz, Regina M., Cross Currents


For Alain Badiou, the contemporary French philosopher of the radical Left, a subject is what is summoned into being by a response of persistent fidelity to an eternally enduring "truth event" which breaks disruptively, unpredictably, into the given in all of its irreducible, incommunicable singularity, beyond all law, consensus, and conventional understanding. Badiou would argue that ethics is not the singular revelation of truth, but an ongoing process, that is, the process of remaining faithful to that truth. As Terry Eagleton summarizes, "It is a question of 'persevering in the disruption,' a phrase which clips together both innovation and continuity, visionary crisis and dogged consistency, or what in Badiou's language would be the 'immortal' and the 'mortal' ... He wants, in short, to insert the eternal into time, negotiate the passage between truth event and everyday life, which is what we know as politics." (1) While Eagleton calls this politics, Badiou truth, and Levinas justice, surely it is a description of Revelation, that radical cut into the everyday by a transcendent call to a higher ethics. The difficulty of being faithful to the event--of being just--preoccupies both the rest of the biblical narrative after the portrayal of the revelation, and that difficulty has also preoccupied subsequent human history--in this sense, the revelation is indeed understood as a process, the process of struggling to remain faithful to the truth of the revelation.

While Badiou has no difficulty associating the truth-event with advent of Christ--he pursues the analysis in his book on St. Paul--he is notably less interested in the radical revelation that marks the Sinai event. And yet this revelation beautifully exemplifies his understanding: the narrative describes the creation of subjects who are asked to be faithful to the event--and it gives dire warnings of pseudo-events, fake truths, false idols. I hardly need to rehearse the aura of the exceptional that fills the narrative of the Sinai revelation, the radical break from the ordinary, from life as they knew it--with Moses leading them, not only out of Egypt, out of their habitual slavery, but also out of their camp in the wilderness to be suddenly subjected to a terrifying sound and light show: "now at daybreak on the third day there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because God had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace ... Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder" (Ex. 19:16-19). The form of fire is indistinct; the voice of thunder is unintelligible. This is not a deity who is easily reduced to a being, or for that matter, to any concept of being. The Truth has no place in the prior situation: under the terms that reigned prior to revelation, this is unintelligible, unnameable, unthinkable. The demarcation of the place of the event also points clearly to its break with the prior situation: "God said to Moses, 'Go down and warn this people not to pass beyond their bounds to come and look on God, or many of them will lose their lives ... Mark out the limits of the mountain and declare it sacred'" (Ex. 19:21-24). In the philosopher's language: A truth punches a "hole" in knowledges, it is heterogeneous to them, but it is also the sole known source of new knowledges.

The atmosphere at Sinai trembles with something else besides the shock of newness--with threat, with violence--but why? The people tremble before this God, begging Moses to intercede lest they die (Ex. 20:19). It seems that not only the message, but also the messenger is unbearable. Moses' face is radiant from his encounter with God, and he must veil himself for others to even be able to withstand the sight of him. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revelation and Revolution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.