Friday, February 22, 2008

Dews, Peter. "Review of Alain Badiou's BEING AND EVENT." NDPR February 18, 2008.

Being and Event consists of thirty-seven interlaced 'meditations', some more mathematical, some more philosophical, and some interpretations of major figures in the canon of Western thought. Through these discussions, Badiou develops his conception of a dimension of existence which escapes the purview of constructive knowledge, or 'the encyclopedia' as he calls it, and which can perhaps best be regarded as the dimension of revelation or the donation of meaning. It is here that he locates what he calls the 'event'. Fidelity to an event (or rather, fidelity as the process through which an event is recognized and sustained) is what constitutes us as 'subjects': as more than merely natural beings intent on satisfying our needs and reproducing our kind. Badiou is not the only French philosopher of recent times to have set the notion of fidelity at the heart of his thinking, as we shall find. But what makes Badiou's work unusual, given these preoccupations, is the crucial role which he allots to mathematics, both in specifying his complex general ontology, and in providing the basic modelling of human situations. Badiou's whole philosophy, we could say, is generated by the tension between his basic claim that mathematics is ontology, and his equally fundamental claim that, as he puts it, 'ontology is a situation' (p. 25). For this means that, although ontology exhausts what there is, it cannot capture everything which occurs: there can be other situations, regardless of how difficult it may be to portray them theoretically. So despite his hostility to the 'anti-philosophical' tradition in post-Hegelian thought, Badiou himself plays his own version of that tradition's typical game. What cannot be known is what it is most urgent to know, what really matters, politically and existentially. Badiou -- and here he differs from his post-structuralist contemporaries -- is inclined to call it 'truth'. . . . Read the rest here:

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