Here’s your chance (and mine) to do our academic duty and contribute to the piles of craptastic academic drek out there! Today’s announcement is a CFP on the work of living philosopher Alain Badiou from Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy!
Badiou represents an important point in contemporary Continental thought. He employs set theory, historical analysis of traditional Continental thinkers, including Rousseau, Marx, Heidegger, and Deleuze, and his own theoretical meditations in order to think through some of the foundational concepts of multiplicity, “the one” or “counting as one,” the world, subjectivity, and the event. He believes that philosophy is possible only when it is de-sutured from the events of mathematics, poetry, politics, and love. We welcome papers around these various aspects of Badiou’s work. Also, we welcome papers attempting to answer some of the following questions: What is the significance of Badiou’s work for the Continental/analytic divide in contemporary philosophy? What is the relation between subjects and events, and is Badiou’s account sufficient? Are there worlds that can resist Badiou’s logic or counting? Can one think of events on micro and macro levels? These questions are meant to stimulate ideas, but they are by no means comprehensive. All papers focused on Badiou’s work are welcome.
CALL FOR PAPERS / APPEL DE COMMUNICATION
Alain Badiou: Being, Events, and Philosophy
Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy will dedicate an upcoming issue to the emerging thought of the French philosopher Alain Badiou. With the publication of Being and the Event and Logiques des mondes (Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II), Badiou represents an important point in contemporary Continental thought. He employs set theory, historical analysis of traditional Continental thinkers, including Rousseau, Marx, Heidegger, and Deleuze, and his own theoretical meditations in order to think through some of the foundational concepts of multiplicity, “the one” or “counting as one,” the world, subjectivity, and the event. He believes that philosophy is possible only when it is de-sutured from the events of mathematics, poetry, politics, and love. We welcome papers around these various aspects of Badiou’s work. Also, we welcome papers attempting to answer some of the following questions: What is the significance of Badiou’s work for the Continental/analytic divide in contemporary philosophy? What is the relation between subjects and events, and is Badiou’s account sufficient? Are there worlds that can resist Badiou’s logic or counting? Can one think of events on micro and macro levels? These questions are meant to stimulate ideas, but they are by no means comprehensive. All papers focused on Badiou’s work are welcome.
Papers may be submitted in both French and English and should be between 5000 and 6000 words. Please double-space all submissions. The issue will be published as the Fall 2008 issue. Please submit two hard copies or an electronic copy of your paper by March 30, 2008 to the address below. Notifications of acceptance will be sent after the deadline.
Antonio Calcagno, Guest Editor, Symposium
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, King’s College in the University of Western Ontario
266 Epworth Avenue, London, ON N6A 2M3, CANADA
Alain Badiou: Être, événement et philosophie
Symposium—La revue canadienne de philosophie continentale souhaite consacrer l’un de ses prochains numéros à la pensée du philosophe français Alain Badiou. Avec la publication de L’être et l’événement (1988) et de L’être et l’événement 2. Logiques des mondes (2006), Badiou est devenu l’un des auteurs marquants de la pensée continentale contemporaine. Il utilise la théorie des ensembles, l’analyse historique des penseurs de la tradition continentale incluant Rousseau, Marx, Heidegger et Deleuze, de même que ses propres méditations théoriques pour penser quelques-uns des concepts philosophiques fondamentaux tel que la multiplicité, l’«un» ou le «compte-pour-un», le monde, la subjectivité et l’événement. Il considère que la philosophie est possible à condition de la désuturer des mathématiques, de la poésie, de la politique et de l’amour. Nous accueillerons les articles qui traitent de ces aspects du travail de Badiou. Nous considérerons également les textes cherchant à répondre à l’une ou l’autre des questions suivantes: Que signifie le travail de Badiou relativement à la division continental/analytique en philosophie contemporaine? Quelle est la relation entre le sujet et l’événement et est-ce que les propos de Badiou relatifs à cette question sont valables? Y a-t-il des mondes qui résistent à la logique développée par Badiou? Les événements doivent-ils être pensés à l’échelle micro ou macro? Quels rapports entretiennent chez Badiou la philosophie et la religion? Sans être exhaustives, ces questions visent à stimuler la réflexion. Tous les articles concernant le travail de Badiou seront bienvenus.
POUR SOUMETTRE UN TEXTE
Les textes peuvent être soumis en français ou en anglais. Ils devront être rédigés à double interligne et faire entre 5000 et 6000 mots. Ce numéro de Symposium paraîtra à l’automne 2008. Veuillez soumettre deux copies papier accompagnées d’une version sur disquette ou une version électronique avant le 30 mars 2008. Des accusés de reception seront transmis peu après la date limite. Les articles rédigés en français pourront être envoyés à:
Alain Beaulieu, co-éditeur invité, Symposium
Département de philosophie, Université Laurentienne
935, Chemin du Lac Ramsey, Sudbury, Ontario – P3E 2C6, CANADA
Finally, a chance to try and write a paper on a thinker I never really wanted to write on! Whaddya say Shahar, you want to collaborate on a paper?
That’s funny I thought the exact same thing! I started reading Badiou off and on, here and there simply to get away from good old Husserl/Heidegger/Derrida/Levinas types of phenomenology and all those types of issues that follow, but it just never captured my full interest, even after slogging through a good deal of Being and Event. Yet, there’s something in Badiou that keeps me coming back, my old adviser thinks Badiou is a monstrosity in the most Aristotelian sense, I heard Hubert Dreyfus make a rather nasty comment to the effect that Badiou is what is wrong with French philosophy today. I certainly don’t agree with either of the comments, although I’m sympathetic to the former (yes, it’s true, there’s so much going on there for Badiou, some set theory, some Lacan, add Mao, historical analysis of pivotal thinkers in the history of philosophy etc ) I don’t think I go quite that far. Anyhow, if I ever discover what precisely it is about Badiou that keeps me coming back for more, it would probably be a good idea to write on that!
My sense of Badiou is quite similar to yours Shahar (although I think Sinthome would disagree with both of us).
In fact, I’m on the verge of saying that Badiou has assembled himself a fine Machine for grinding down whatever it encounters in order to make whatever point he wants to make. It’s a kind of transcendental philosophy run amok (i.e. it wants conditions of possibility, but doesn’t want those conditions to be finite, any more than it wants to bite the Fichtean bullet and assert an infinite task)
So it doesn’t seem to me to be much of a synthetic approach, as it is a kind of formal exercise of translating everything into one’s own vocabulary — and thereby missing the point (says I) of everything one is reading (hence the difficulty in reading Being and Event: every thinker you have ever read is unhelpfully defamiliarized, mystified by formal, exoteric language, and then shown to be deficient on the grounds of its failure to do justice the the tropes involved in its translation.
It almost reminds me of Christian structures one finds in typology (and in Pauline theology in particular): devise a totally ad hoc manner of reconciling the radical discontinuities among traditions by imposing a framework on them that empties one of any independent content and value in order to privilege an other (namely your own). So it goes with Badiou: the relative strengths of ‘analytic’ and ‘contintental’ philosophy are emptied out and replaced with a nebuluous, formal model that lieteralizes everything — everything is either a concept or a name — so as to become a token of the problem of individuation drawn from equally emptied theories of math and whatever else have you.
But I’m only on the verge of saying that. the problem, for me, is due precisely to the fact that Badiou draws on too much for me to really judge whether he’s actually synthesized the material, or whether he’s just ventriloquized a number of positions. I mean, the Math is wonky in its presentation (you can’t really slice up the presentation of set construction from what a set includes, and the power-sets of a set, for example, the way Badiou does) but its still formally — in the sense that he gets the notation right — correct.
I know, I too am on the **verge** of thinking that more often than not Badiou’s approach seems to be designed to produce (and reproduce) strict conformity with his broader “system” often by rather ruthless and/or arbitrary means.
However, this is not to say that Badiou isn’t a close reader of the history of philosophy. I found his chapters on Spinoza and Hegel in B & E to be very interesting. I had the same kind of, “wait a minute, this ain’t the philosopher I’ve known all this time…” This was especially the case when I reread just yesterday the meditation on Spinoza, since I had taught a bit of Spinoza this week, I thought I’d give it another look.
Regardless, Badiou reads Spinoza’s ontology in a way that draws out his own concept of the void that’s of course, not to be found in Spinoza, at least under that particular name. Now, whether or not this is the same as Spinoza’s infinite modes is another issue, as is whether or not this is fair to Spinoza.
Yet, that type of bold reading is at once admirable, forceful and yes, impressive, but, as you point out, it is also at times, rather problematic, if only because one can wonder if he’s synthesized the ideas or not. This is the type of circular conversation I keep having with myself about Being and Event!
Anyway, it reminds me of a conference presentation I was at a few years ago in which I got into a rather heated argument with a couple of panelists about Hegel. I wasn’t really listening to closely until I heard one of the panelists declare defiantly “I read Hegel without the synthesis!” I looked around the room and waited for some sort of objection and I replied well, that’s kind of like drinking beer without alcohol isn’t it, perhaps you mean you read Hegel as being Derrida’s Hegel (if we can reduce Derrida’s position into such a characterization). This caused a bit of a tissy fit with a few of the panelists that took up the whole 25 minutes of Q & A which turned to questions of reading and interpretive criteria (which I won’t get into). That is to say, sometimes the logic of this argument is repeated in different forms over and over again when I read Badiou these days.
That conference panel sounds hilarious in retrospect Shahar (although utterly frustrating at the time)!
And I think you’re right about Badiou’s interpretative habits: they’re simultaneously bold, verging on admirable close reading, and frustrating, verging on missing the point.
And, as you say, this twofold reaction opens up onto the more general question of interpretation. It just makes me wonder, however, whether we would accept Badiou’s interpretative strategy in, say, literary criticism and theory. Though I certainly don’t want to suggest that all the humanities ought to (in the sense of must) operate with the same evaluative criteria, the same ‘techniques’ or methods, I do think the justificatory strategy Badiou is tacitly employing — i.e. competitor X thinks Y, which demonstrates a lack of my notion Z, and the lack of Z destroys the viability of X’s project — when he reads Hegel and Spinoza,is similar (if not identical) to arguing that Greek drama doesn’t possess (e.g.) any emancipatory potential, because it doesn’t critically present or evaluate race relations within its social spaces (SEK wrote something on this mismatch of ideas over at Acephalous, but I can’t find it at the moment). If I remember it correctly, SEK argued that this kind of interpretation is impossibly problematic, since this kind of retrojective interpretative strategy requires us to plant contemporary notions in a text to which they are utterly foreign, and then savage it for failing to have those notions.
If such an interpretative method is fallacious in literary criticism and theory, why would it be acceptable in philosophy? Unlike the various forms of deconstruction, which try to show, immanently, that a text is fraught with conditions for its possibility that it implicitly undermines (De Man’s tropological slippages, Derrida’s various notions and reformulations of Différance, etc.), Badiou really strong arms his texts. So I’m not sure why we find Badiou’s readings admirable.
But, as I’ve said, maybe I’m just uncomfortable with Badio in general, and need (gasp) to go back to Being and Event
I make no claim to understand Badiou with any depth (there are passages in stuff I’ve read by him which are wholly opaque to me), but what I like about him is the link he makes between ontology and math. I suspect that I like this in a way that he would not like. I take the point solely for deflationary purposes against Deleuzians who want to talk about (or push me to talk about) ontology. Sorry if this is pedantic, not my intent, but here’s how I run the argument – the most we can really say about being qua being is what can be said by mathematicians working with variables. This is a claim along the lines of what Hegel makes early in the Science of Logic, that being qua being has no content. The interesting thing about any thing is not that thing qua being but qua something else, which means ontological questions are not the interesting questions to ask about any particular thing. Not sure that’s what he has in mind, but it’s how I like to use his arguments.
Sorry to post twice, just not sure I made the point I wanted to make. What I meant to say was, this argument allows me to say to Deleuzians I run into “therefore, if you really want to do ontology, you should start doing mathematics.” All the Deleuzians I know don’t really want to do math so it means I can get out of ontology conversations via argument as opposed to rudely yawning or changing the subject abruptly. This might not work for all actual Deleuzians as there’s no requirement that Deleuzians must dislike math. If I were to meet on who then said “agreed!” and then launched into a mathematical conversation I would be forced into rudeness.
Can’t say that I like his work either though I too am advertising’s the CFP on my blog as well.
Nate, maybe if you had 1000 or so business cards that say “If you want to do ontology, do math!” made up so that you could just hand them out at the start of any conversation.
It’s win win!
Great idea. I’m pretty disorganized though – I’d probably just lose the business cards. Maybe I could get two or three custom t-shirts made instead, with that slogan on the front and notes on the back citing a few relevant passages from Badiou. Either option would certain save time at conferences. An even faster time saver (because no reading would be needed) would be for conference organizers who to hand out color coded flags (or perhaps flags with photos on them?), then people would immediately know who to avoid, who to seek out, and who to be snarky about behind their backs.
That’s not a bad idea, Nate, but I think that a tasteful neck tattoo would send the right message. If need be, I can ask my students who did their necks.
Shahar, that’s a truly fantastic idea! Like in old english looking script, yeah? Maybe in Latin!
I’ve been trying to find a way to feel more connection to other residents of Minneapolis, to re-affirm my abiding love of philosophy, to save time in conversation when confronted with annoying Deleuzian conversational habits, and to improve my look. I’d been pursuing those as different projects. Here you’ve given me one idea which helps on all four! My check is in the mail.
Any advice on how to manage hair loss? (I understand if you want payment for this round before beginning a second round of improving my life.)
I just started reading ‘Being and Event’ (currently going into Meditation three). I’m waiting to see how he can:
(a) Account for the theory of ‘inconsistent multiplicity’ without merely supplanting an ontology based on conceptual recourse to traditional metaphysics (presence, the being-as-one). If all we get is a new system of formal principles resting on the background of an appeal to ‘inconsistent ontologies’; then I will be intensely disappointed at the pressumed ‘breaking point’ in rejecting the equation of being with the one. In other words, i’m concerned that in his formulation of the axioms he will merely fall into the obvious Heideggerean trap of reproducing a new onto-theology.
(b) This split between inconsistent multiplicities and consistent ones still bothers me. The appeal to the Greek distinctions in Plato’s Parmenides hardly sattisfied me. If this pressumed appeal to inconsistent, (pure) multiplicities will be what sustains the rest of his axiomatic offering, I see no intuitive advantage in its assumption, or any fundamental difference than taking it as another occasion of a metaphysics of presence. How is a mere appeal to ‘axioms which do not define what they are quantifying’ (i.e which can only refer to multiplicities as consistent, systematic ones, making no explicit reference to inconsistent multiplicities) work any differently than, doing eidetic science in the Husserlian sense of isolating the pure logical essences which occur in thought. And how is developing this on the basis of a pressuposed non-definable ‘inconsistent multiple’ going to produce anything more than an ad-hoc ontology in accord to the equation of being to the ‘Void’ of the inconsistently multiple? This, again, reeks to me of good old Kantian transcendental philosophy, and lends itself all too easily to the familiar Heideggerean/deconstructionist repeat. I think this is why Badiou seems to concerned about discerning his own position from both the ‘Great Temptation’ of Heideggerean ‘withdrawal from being’ conceived since the equation of being and the one, and ‘anglo-American sophistry’. In turn, this proposed metaphysics seeks to blend in both the Kantian expectation for transcendental conditions of possibility and the ‘post-modern’ insistence on rejecting Platonism and propose being as non-substantial. I am not sure what will be the outcome of going through this learning, but I guess I felt the same way about Lacan before reading Zizek.
Hi, Daniel. Thanks for commenting. These are excellent concerns and one’s that I share as well, really though, some of those problems/concerns can be attributed I think to Badiou’s use of set theory which at times seems rather ad hoc and as I note above, his overall methodology seems rather violent. Now, I don’t want to be a spoiler and ruin the end for you, but do check out Alexei’s post at Now Times, which broaches some of the same concerns, esp. pertaining to the transcendental nature of Badiou’s “system.”
Thanks Shahar. I just finished meditation 6, and my worst fears each time appear closer to becoming true. At the very least, now everything turns on how he will respond the second of what he calls the ‘double-question’:
“(b) Is there a halting point- given that the process of dissemination, as we have just seen, appears to continue to infinity.”
Perhaps this knot devolves in what Alexei meant above by calling attention to Badiou’s reluctance to bite the Fichtean bullet; that of asserting an infinite task. His preliminary offering of the ‘axiom of the void’ seems to be the ‘ad-hoc’ operator which can prevent that consequence. And the way this is introduced seems too rushed, and suspiciously so:
“The solution to the problem is quite striking: maintain the position that nothing is delivered by the law of the ideas, but make this nothing be through the assumption of a proper name. In other words, verify via the exendrary choice of a proper name, the unpresentable alone as existent; on its basis the ideas will subsequently cause all forms of presentation to proceed.”
Now, perhaps i’m missing something crucial, but isn’t this merely saying ‘the axiomatic system to follow will rest by the implicit reference to a nothing, explicited only through a proper name; that is to say, with no positive account of its contents.” Of course, since pressumably there is no ‘content’ to the pure multiple, in the sense that it could be accounted for explicitly by a consistent multiplicity.
But this is approaching operational dogmatism: the axiomatic rule must be followed on the basis of a term for which not only we cannot account for- but that even attempting to account to for it becomes explicitly prohibited by its own principle. The interesting result is that this is meant to prevent the boring pseudo-Kantian impasse that we have no ‘access to the thing itself’; or put in Badiou’s own language, a consistent multiple that can serve, in its count as one (and thus affirmed consistency), as primary with respect to all other multiplicities.
Yet this seems like a transcendental copout, having designated this void as an empty term to which no multiple belongs (thus pure difference, indifferent to content). How is this anything but a formalized paraphrase of ‘that which transcends the phenomenal’ being, by definition, non-graspable by thought/language. One could without much trouble read this like the strict Kantian definition of finitude as transcendental horizon (as Heidegger does).
“There exists that to which no existence can be said to belong”, “the unpresentable is presented, as a subtractive term of the presentation of presentation”, or “a multiple exists which is subtracted from the primitive idea of the multiple”.
But then this multiple which does not conform to the idea of the multiple has the operational content of deferring its belonging to multitudes; to sets as such. This is too much- since it guarantees that as soon as we try to even utter something about the void set we already voilate its own law. This is a fantastic way to use the ‘proper name’ as a philosophical deity, in the strict sense of ontotheological. Of course, the system might thereby show its consistency pretty faultlessly afterwards: that assumption in place, the rest becomes almost uninterestingly valid. The void as that which doesn’t belong, which subsists without the quality of belonging only proper to the multiple makes this a term which hushes any objector in situ. Not only we cannot define the void, but that we can all of a sudden use it as the backbone for our entire axiomatic system without ever calling into question its consistency (for, of course, it has none).
In short, I think this (again) is a blend of the two fantasies of philosophy: the scientific rigor of inductive principles and the space for an ‘unaccountable’ term which would put an end to all pretensions of essentialism (differance, ontological difference, the inconsistent multiple). I’m not sure what to make of this, but I will nonetheless see what possibilities this offers structurally. It might not be the most interesting approach i’ve read (it’s not hard to see why Dreyfus would want to tear this guy apart) but he’s make a good job of making himself noticeable by pissing off everyone off. The analytics will abhor this intrussion of nothingness as worthy of consideration (and consider it ad hoc); continentals, especially of Heideggerean/Derridean tendency, will be apalled at pretenses of the axiomatic structure that will follow. This is very nicely identifiable in the following passage:
“There are not ‘several’ voids, there is only one void, rather than signifying the presentation of the one, this signifies the unicity of the unpresentable such as marked within presentation”.
This has been appropriated by Zizek through his own notion of the ‘parallax’ as designating either ‘the empty place without content’ or ‘the excess of content for which no place occurs’. Either we take this ‘void’ as an empty term for which no content can be attributed, or we take it as that which cannot be captured by the structure of (consistent) multiplicies and thus ontology; as an excess. Of course, in strict Badiouean nomenglature, this much would already be too much.
Thanks for the comment, this is excellent, Daniel. I’m always on the verge of saying Badiou’s system is driven by operational dogmatism vis a vis his often bizarre import of set theory. I’ll have more to say later when I have some time, but let me say one thing about your final comment:
Zizek often accuses Derrida/deconstruction of setting up something undeconstructible that drives the whole system, but it seems to me at least, that Badiou (and Zizek) are also guilty of this, or minimally, risks this same mistake they take Derrida to be making.
Hi Shahar. Thank you for your response. As for Zizek, I think he is slowly figuring out that for all his criticisms of Derrida, his own notion of the Parallax Gap is approximating some of the crucial aspects of his theory. What I mostly enjoy in Zizek is that he (finally) offers an interesting way out of the boring ‘anthropological’ ban on essentialism and metaphysics. I think, however, that Zizek comes to a big halt at the moment of producing a positive theory; he claims we should not act prematurely and theorize, seeing that the change necessary is not one we can simply enact without reflection.
But this is also approximating the Heideggerean Gelassenheit, without the guideliness. He talks about a ‘new code of discretion’, but it’s very hard to figure out what this code would be, without falling into his own criticisms. The problem I see with Zizek is, like you rightly put, that his monstrous machinery can grind up basically everything that comes in his way; but it simultaneously becomes too restrictive to advance. What would a ‘new code of discretion’ be like? He merely points at the crucial symptoms of today’s epoch, and appears actively political. But when it comes to actually proposing how change should take place, I see nothing even remotely close to being materialized. My hunch is that he will never produce such an account, and his work will be read as a playful, interesting historical moment that never materialized.
The same thing happened with Heidegger in his middle period. I think that is why Vom Ereignis must be read as the most radical book ever written in philosophy- it avoids Rorty’s rain that makes all metaphysical systems appear fleeting by envisaging a movement of thought that is not metaphysics or philosophy, but that is not passive either. The more I read that book the more I realize no one has yet come to face it with seriously. All they do is regurgitate that Heideggerean advocated a passive ‘awaiting for the gods’, a hope for a ‘second beginning’ in being-historical thinking. But there’s so much more there I think it will prove more and more important as time goes by. Too bad the translation by Emad and Maly is atrocious.
Yes, it seems to me that Zizek’s use of Bartelby does indeed approximate the quietism of Gelassenheit, at least the non-willing and yes, the waiting components of it all, but without the quirky mystical/poetic element that tends to drive it.
Even though I haven’t looked at it for a while or really thought too much about Heidegger recently, I’m not sure how radical H’s Beitrage is in actual execution, for Heidegger abandoned some of the ideas, yet, it is a good “sourcebook” for his ideas following, e.g. the “later Heidegger.”
But, one of the things I remember finding kind of goofy is the whole move towards a listening that resists our natural tendency to think in terms of representation, and which somehow at the same time “gathers” towards the source of Being (which is of course, silent).
I understand the primordial thinking he talks about is “transitional,” but he seems to think its possibility is something like a saying that is wholly responsive to the call of Being. This saying, as I understand it, would “let happen” vis a vis language the original disclosure of being, e.g. Ereignis and the whole opening of an other beginning of western history/epoch.
Really though, is such a primordial thinking really possible? Heidegger does, of course, allow us to think language divorced from metaphysics, carried out later on by Derrida (in fact I wonder if H was French and not German he would have been Derrida–ha ha, bad joke), but primordial thinking seems to me to be all too easily able to fall back into the very metaphysics/representationalism that he is so desperately trying to avoid…
This whole move towards the gathering towards the silent source seems to cut off thinking/language or minimally, shield it from the everyday realm of politics etc. (really, what’s behind this issue for me at least is the whole “Heidegger Question” that got played out during the Farias “revelations” when a lot of Heidegerreans ran for Levinasian cover). But yes, Heidegger’s gesture/call to the originary does open up language and thought to a myriad of new possibilities, but if it culminates in the crappy poetry Heidegger wrote, than count me out!
All this said, perhaps I should go have another look at Heidegger’s Beitrage.