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Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia

Alain Badiou: Truth, Ethics and the Formal Imperative Author(s): Christopher Norris Source: Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, T. 65, O Dom, a Verdade, e a Morte: Abordagens e Perspectivas / The Gift, Truth, and Death: Approaches and Perspectives (2009), pp. 1103-1136 Published by: Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41220921 . Accessed: 15/01/2014 10:33
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Ethicsand theFormalImperative Truth, Christopher Norris* AlainBadiou is generally of as an anti-ethical notleast thinker, thought on accountofhis ownmany and often forceful declarations to very justthat effect.1 Thushe rarely misses a chancetodenounce whathe regards as thecollusive between ethics ofmoralizing talk that (orthekinds relationship typically under that and various dominant forms of social, name) go presently political, - global-strategic class-or and - increasingly interest.2 Stillwe gender-based, shouldn't takehisdisclaimers at face value will since then serve entirely they to obscure or conceal a of ethics that is heterodox to the only conception point of repudiating but none theless cogentand (to use a anysuch description clichd butin thiscase perfectly forthat. apt expression) thought-provoking in whatever his this Badiou has devoted a For, scruples regard, goodproportionofhiswork to issuesthat ethical dimension and possessa clearly-marked I use this thatfigure as test-cases fortheexercise of intellectual conscience. conscience' thanfalling backto themoreobvious (rather phrase'intellectual not because Badious is a peculiarly or 'moral', 'social', 'political' qualifiers) work manifests rarefied orhyper-theoretical but rather because that approach the what an exceptional of dedication to of degree project thinking through ethical commitment. It is also an choice of is required apt by anygenuine in that would fall of that standard so far as he ethics short phrase rejects any to various(as he sees them)evasivesubstitute appeals such as byresorting in consensus comthosethat ultimate trust beliefs, values,shared place their munallife-forms, liberal or thesphere ofpresumptively opinion, enlightened publicopinion. on Indeedithadbetter be saidplainly that Badiouis an anti-ethical thinker about definition or of 'ethics' that has a just conception played signifievery cantroleinmodern debate. Above that Kantian all,he has resisted conception
* United (Cardiff, Cardiff University Kingdom).

AlainBadiou:

Hallward Verso, (London: 2001). 2 See A.Badiou, . Trans. Jason Barker Verso, (London: 2005);Polemics. Metapolitics especially Trans. SteveCorcoran Trans. Alberto Toscano(Cambridge: Verso, (London: 2006);TheCentury. Press, 2007). Polity

1 See

of Evil. Trans. Peter especially Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding

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to whichtheimperatives ofethical(practical) reasonare thought according of as resulting from themoralagentsexercise of a purely autonorational, will oblivious to the of mous,self-legislative promptings appet'pathological' itivedesireor self-interest.3 Nor has Badiou any timeforthatother, more of Kantian which conceives moral values socially-grounded aspect thinking their as finding theregulative idea ofa truly justification through enlightened sensuscommunis of that (or publicsphere openparticipant debate)wherein willfinds collective as the of harmonized values expression product suitably and beliefs thosebestqualified tojudge.4 and for similar Moreover, amongst - often he is to the kind of communitarian reasons, squarely opposed thinking - thatlocatesethicalvalue in thekinds withits sourcein late Wittgenstein ofjudgment ofsomegiven or cultural uponwhichthemembers community 'form oflife' wouldmostlikely in with their shared values, converge keeping and priorities.5 Thislatter he regards as indeednothbeliefs, commitments, form takenby an abjectreadiness ingmorethanthephilosophic currently in ones lotwithsomeregnant to throw or received 'commonsense' ideology doctrine. It mustbe seen as falling short of the critical vocation lamentably - or theprimeimperative to questionall such dominant views- whichhe takesto define thetaskofphilosophy at anytimeand all themoreso in an of distorted sincesystematically misinformed consensus belief. age massively Badiou has goneout of his wayto denouncethisand other variants of the turn' which he sees as justa latter-day revival presently widespread linguistic of ancientGreeksophistry and its resort to the artsof rhetoric or suasive mostoften to irrational or downright mendacious ends.6 language, deployed It is against thispervasive doxathat Badioubrings to bearall theforce ofhis as wellas hisexceptionally acuteanalytic polemical intelligence. Thusthemaintarget of his criticism is thenotion thatmereconsensus belief or agreement overa sufficient of salient issuesmight range culturally somehow offer a basis forethicalthinking. This is merely thecomplicitous of a Kantian-deontological mirror-image approachthatplaces moralvalues outside and aboveall themessy ofhistorically situated human contingencies - as andwhich moreover that often comes down choice, (for reason) just very in thethinking ofliberal such as Hannah Arendt to a counsel of ideologues detachment from theurgencies andpressures ofa fully contemplative engaged
3 A. Badiou, Trans.NormanMadarasz (Albany, ny:State University Manifesto forPhilosophy. ofNew YorkPress,1999); Infinite Truth and theReturn toPhilosophy. Trans.OliverFeltham Thought: and Justin Clemens(London: Continuum, Ed. and trans.Ray Brassier 2003); Theoretical Writings. and Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2004). 4 See forinstanceI. Kant,Political Ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge:CambridgeUniverWritings. Press, 1991). sity 0 bee Trans.G.E.M. Anscombe especiallyLudwig Wittgenstein, PhilosophicalInvestigations. (Oxford:Blackwell, 1951). 6 Badiou, cit. Manifesto forPhilosophy,

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Badiouis notably life.7 Atthesametime unimpressed bythe practico-political that seek to them are those on view. variousalternatives Among currently often conservatism the of maintain a critical edgeand avoid charge deep-laid version of a qualified leveledat thecommunitarian approachby espousing de transcend theKantian anymerely facto appealtovaluesthat deontological off thestandard consensus whileheading ofbelief rangeofanti-foundationof the communiversion a likewise alist objections qualified by endorsing creedthatmakes Here again the resultis a compromise tarianargument.8 to thestrength or scopeofsuchcriticism local adjustments roomforcertain or thedomireceived indeference ofmajority totheweight wisdom, opinion, as wellas philoBadiou finds suchnotions nantsensuscommunis. politically - for for or negate thepotential sincethey change betray bankrupt sophically the social realities thatprovides of presently the transformation existing or truth ofanyethics to assess thevalidity sole meansbywhich meriting^the notonlyto his short, name.Indeedone couldarguewithreference passionbook on thetopicbut also to numerous ate and highly passages polemical whosusand others in hiswork thatBadiou- likemanyMarxists elsewhere values various of motivated character the quasi-universal ideologically pect - is 'against sense injustaboutevery ethics' and principles currently accepted oftheterm. the questionarises:whatcan he offer In whichcase clearly by way of answer to this Anadequate candidates? forthesevariousfailed replacement outtheintricate wouldfollow logicofBadious argument question one that - is wellbeyond thescopeofthisarticle. ofsubject-areas acrossa widerange would thatanysuch treatment one can bestsummarize However by saying such roleplayedin his thinking ofthecentral consideration involve by four ofit branch thatmodern Theseare mathematics (in particular subject-areas. and theinfinite), of themultiple withset-theoretical concerned conceptions in thewakeofLacanianpsychoanalysis), as theorized thesubject (especially or formally with themoreadvanced lie squarely hiscommitments art(where and politics modesof literary, adventurous visual,and musicalproduction), ofMay 1968and continues with thelegacy he has keptfaith (in which regard ofthat to denounce betrayal every signofwhathe sees as the'Thermidorian' and othermedia-sawy representatives philosophes legacyby the nouveaux Such are the fourfold Frenchintellectual of mainstream culture). enabling morebroadlyas science, whichBadiou defines of philosophy 'conditions' in a fairly obvious to mathematics with sciencerelating love,art,and politics
Imagination,and Politics:themesfromKant and Arendt(Lanham, md:Rowman and Judgment,

7 For some highly Nedelski see RonaldBeinerand Jennifer relevant (eds.), commentary,

Littlefield, 2001). 8 See for and D. Weinstein instance Avital (eds.),TheNewLiberalism: Reconciling Shimony and Community Press, 2001). University (Cambridge: Cambridge Liberty

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means to butfinding at leastone partial wayand lovebyno meansreducible in thediscourse On theother articulation of psychoanalysis. of theoretical - philosophy 'sutured' to mustat all costsavoidbecoming hand- crucially is then whose exclusive or one of those conditions single-minded pursuit any as exposedto the worstkindsof temptation, apt to leave the philosopher in disasNazism a less witness or (albeit different, plainly Heidegger's very trous andun-self-critical scientism mode)thetechnocratic espoused bymuch analytic philosophy. If thisall seemsto leavemyquestion muchin theair then hanging very is nowhere else to that fact the fact there that, perhaps very quitesimply, lookoutside or beyond thosefourfold foran ethical dimension to conditions - is itself In each case his mostemphatic Badious thought thebestanswer. or commitments can never be pointis thatethicalchoices,acts,decisions, to evaluation from of subject any standpoint pure (hencepurely illusory) detached or contemplative reasonnoragain- themostfavored current alter- byexisting native communal norms. Rather arise at the of interpoint they section between someprevalent stateofaffairs that has hitherto settheterms for whatcounts as a proper, or in contribution valid, permissible, meaningful somespecific domainand that which arrives to disrupt, and transchallenge form all those standards ofvalidity and truth. Suchis thedialectic prexistent of'being' thatBadiou works and 'event' outwithextraordinary in originality his bookofthattitle and whichamounts to a radical, mathematically-based - or ontology of therelationship between truth and knowledge re-thinking - across all the above-mentioned and epistemology or fieldsof disciplines humanendeavor.9 Thus thought and actionshouldalwaysbe conceived in terms ofa specific with orintervention in someparticular, historiengagement artistic creation, callylocated episodeofscientific discovery, political activity, or (Badiou's favored whichalone provides the word) amorousencounter relevant evaluative context in questo assess the'truth-procedure' whereby tion. Whathe is concerned aboveall to emphasise in relation to each ofthese - even(heretaking a qualified lead from Lacan'sruminasubject-domains tionson thetopic)in thecase of sexuallove- is theabsolutecentrality of truth to anyadequateconceptualization ofthecomplex, often unpredictable which thosetransformative dynamics through episodescomeabout.10 Atstake hereis theissueofcontinued toan 'event' whoseeffect has fidelity been to raisesucha challenge to somewell-established scientific paradigm, artistic or other suchdominant ofvaluesand order, practice, political system
9 A.Badiou, andEvent. Trans. Oliver Feltham Continuum, (London: 2005);also ChrisBeing AlainBadiou'sBeingand Event: A ReadersGuide(London:Continuum, Norris, 2009). topher 10See xx:Lacan'sMajor SuzanneBarnard andBruceFink(eds.),Reading Seminar especially
Workon Love, Knowledge, and FeminineSexuality(Albany,NY: State University of New York

Press, 2002).

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beliefs. ofthis invery kind be manifest different within Fidelity mayoften ways a single as with thetwohighly French mathematicians Jean life-history, gifted Cavaillsand Albert Lautmanwho werebothResistance members shotby theoccupying German forces.11 Whiletheir and sheer moralheroism courage are beyond doubtthey shouldbothmostaptly be seen,in Badious estimate, as thinkers whosedeployment of rigorous, axiomatic-deductive procedures in their in their mathematical workwas likewise to striking effect displayed consistent ofethico-political intopractice. perfectly carrying-through precept For itjust his point- one thatplaces Badiou very muchin thecompany of - that between themin otherrespects Spinoza,despite deep disagreements ethicscan bestbe savedfrom itsvariouspresent-day distortions ideological It and abuses by precisely thisemphasison fidelity to a truth-procedure.12 then a mutter ofrigorously becomesfirst and foremost consequent reasoning in thecommonplace or moralconscience rather thanofgood faith (liberalsenseofthoseterms. humanist)
i

be mathematicians is yetmoreappropriate Thathistwoexemplars should and of set-theoretical operations, concepts, categories, giventhe centrality his claimis thatmathto Badious project as a whole.In brief, procedures to provide us witha discourse resources ematicsalone has the conceptual that oftheone and thevarious (chiefly paradoxes capableofthinking through from Plato down,and whichhave themany)thathavevexedphilosophers and thought-provoking nowreachedthepointofadequate- i.e.,productive - formulation ofCantor s as a consequence rather thanthought-disabling only in mathematical Whatthismade possiblewas thought.13 epochalrevolution orders ofinfinity) a working (and theinfinitely multiple graspoftheinfinite scanas a conceptual and mathematicians that had oncestruck philosophers ofparadoxwhichhad to be avoidedat all costsif dal and a breeding-ground Otherwise tiedintoknotsof self-contradiction. reasonwas notto finditself - it was sometimes - amongst or mystically-inclined themoretheologically all suchprosaic to regions ofspeculative treated as a pointer thought beyond limits. Badious argument rational critical-exposgoesbywayofan intensive in set-theoretical from accountof all themaindevelopments thinking itory its whatgivesthatargument to thepresent. However Dedekind and Cantor major scope and reach is thatBadiou conceivesevery quite extraordinary
11See Badiou,Metapolitics , cit. 12Badiou,"Spinoza", ClosedOntology", and "Spinoza's in Being and Event, cit.,pp. 112-20

A Critical Introduction Oxford itsPhilosophy: Press, 2004). (Oxford: University

in Theoretical cit.,pp. 81-93. Writings, 13See Badiou, and also Michael Potter, Set Theory Writings; Beingand Event and Theoretical

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about through creative and ethicaladvanceas brought scientific, political, thatis best, moststrikingly byCantors exemplified justthekindofdiscovery way of 'turning paradoxinto concept'.Thus,again, it is an eventof that is as an obstacle toprogress whathad hitherto epochalorder whereby figured sinceconceptuintoa sourceofevermoreproductive transformed suddenly a chalIn political terms thisinvolves or paradox-driven allytensile insights. theideologically thatis to say, 'count-as-one', imposed lengeto thedominant in goodstanding ofwhatqualifies for ofthisor that conception membership whose is mainethnic or other such collective nation, identity group, polity, those same 'alien' intrusion and tained precisely against bydefining enforcing conditions. membership Badioumakeshisboldand (to saytheleast)philosophically It is herethat inmodern set heterodox certain technical stepfrom developments expounding to accounting forthevariousmechanisms ofsocialvictimage, ethnic theory and political disenfranchisement that contfriue to typify thelives persecution, of manywho inhabit themargins of present-day liberal-democratic' states. His mainexample is that oftheFrench or North sans-papiers, migrant (mainly workers in a official documentation who therefore exist African) any lacking kindofsociallimbodeniedrecognition the state and of even the by deprived mostbasic citizenly Their is best he understood, claims, rights. predicament thedistinction between and inclusion with which, through belonging together thatbetween member and part,playsa crucialrole in set-theoretical thinkdistinction outwith a highdegree offormal-conceptual ing.Whatthat brings is thealwaysprecarious sinceforcibly character ofthecountrigor imposed as-oneand theever-present threat ofitsdisruption uncounted, byan errant, oranomalous that finds no place- no legitimate or recognized multiple place - within thepresently-existing order. it is Moreover, socio-political-cultural the pressures to bear by thatwhichcountsfor precisely through brought - through in some givensituation theVoid'thatinhabits nothing anysuch order on account ofitsexcluding or working to marginalize certain multiples - thatthemostdecisive in thehistory transformations comeabout,whether ofmathematical orinthecourseofpolitical events. Indeedthe'event' thought in Badiou's strongly sense of that term is qualitative just what transpires at the critical where resources runout or where point existing conceptual confronts so far its to contain or comprethinking problems beyond power hendthatthey mustbe taken to herald someimminent to itsmost challenge basicstructures and presuppositions. Limits ofspace preclude ofthis mydoingjusticeto Badiou'sworking-out between homologous relationship signaladvancesin therealmofsettheory - sometimes in political and signalevents 'failed' or,on hisreckoning, history - whichlikewiserequirethatwe as-yetunfulfilled revolutionary portents what'counts' as a matter ofofficial, text-book record from what distinguish
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Hencehis stress ofhumanliberatory counts as a matter potential. genuinely would one that rather thana positive a 'subtractive' on theneedfor ontology, sites'wheresome newly or 'eventai the symptomatic stress-points register decided theissueis never turn out- for oranomaly conflict yet might emergent - to havemarked of theinception in advanceofitsultimate working-through This maytaketheform withmomentous a 'truth-procedure' consequences. bothvexedand fascinated suchas thosethat or dilemma ofa logicalparadox role to play a tantalizing and whichcontinued theancientGreekthinkers reflection on theinfinite ofbaffled thelongcenturies when,for throughout to threat itseemedtopose a massive and mathematicians, mostphilosophers Or again,it mayarise wholeenterprise.14 oftheir or integrity thecoherence of conceptual to theverge whichit thenforces within thevery from system theparadoxes Russelldiscovered whenBertrand as famously occurred ruin, of themselves', of self-predication Ctheset of all sets thatare not members of placingmathematics his own greatproject etc.) and thereby jeopardized - as Badiou However since purely consistent on a perfectly logicalbasis.15 historical events one can see to certain withreference is keento establish whennew itself outat justthosecrucial thesameprocess junctures working or a 'site' moment at an unexpected mostoften forces emerge, socio-political and perhapsto observers whatappear(to contemporary from farremoved or as themostsignificant chroniclers a greatmanymainstream thereafter) world-transformative episodes. occurs sense is whattypically or qualitative An eventin thisauthentic to situationis suddenly when some existing by the brought crisis-point of interconflict hitherto of a anomaly, injustice, suppressed coming-to-light who those of from the of exclusion or case ests legitimately properly, tally notionsof to prevalent countaccording (e.g.,liberalor social-democratic) social a than a 'subtractive' moments At such (rather positive) only inclusivity. of sense makes since it alone what tell us can adequate transpired ontology minorities or disenfranchised that certain theway disregarded, oppressed, deniedtocommua force ofpolitical leverage maynonethelesscometoexert - whosestatus count-as-one in the dominant included those members nity so the and with mathematics role. As such deniesthem sciences, physical any the that 'eventai sites' these it is at in thepolitical likewise requijust sphere or fora breakthrough siteconditions discovery maybe seen to haveexisted there other hand On the structures. social dominant to a radicalchallenge or the at suchtimesthatthechancewillbe taken no guarantee is absolutely and seized in such a resolute, moment committed, clear-sighted way as to who those to the enableitseffective envisaged by carrying-through end-point
14Forsomehighly TheInfinite seeA.W.Moore, (London: discussion, Routledge, illuminating 2001). 15Bertrand & Unwin, Allen toMathematical Introduction 1930). (London: Russell, Philosophy

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orto to'failed' revolutions first toitscall.Hencehiscloseattention responded of like the 1871 Paris Commune well as the 'events' (as May 1968), episodes, on theleft as terrible setbacks or thathavesincegonedownamongthinkers as melancholy witness to the folly of premature, revolt.16 For ill-organized in so faras their as touchstone events Badiou,conversely, very theyfigure or the distance between their aims and their outcome is a testof falling-short forthosewho inherit boththeproblems and thepromise oftheir so fidelity far unredeemed political legacy. To phraseit likethisis perhapsto riskleaving a falseimpression of his since the of or of faith with those who thinking language fidelity keeping - might suffered suchdefeats seemwithin reachofthat liberal-humanitarian talkor all-purpose rhetoric of'humanrights' to whichBadiou is so strongly averse.At best,so he argues,such languagemerely servesas a means of the massive between what is touted homecon(for concealing gap commonly or for as and the existsumption export) 'representative democracy' actually version of it with all its manifold structural exclusions, distortions, ing along maltreatment oftarget etc.Atworst itdoes duty as a minorities, inequalities, smokescreen for the kinds of interventionist pious marauding foreign policy that seektopass off their realmotives ofeconomic and militaiy-strategic selfinterest undercoverof a human-rights in doctrine withemphatic (but this context universalist As Badiou in notes his book entirely specious) appeal. TheCentury with reference to theinvasion ofIraq and other recent episodes, suchtalkis all tooreadily to theservice ofa hegemonic liberal creed co-opted withdecidedly illiberal of thosewho might designson theliberty presume to resistits moreforceful All the same,as we have seen, blandishments.17 in is a core value Badiou'sethical evenifit is often defined fidelity thinking - evenbythoseofaxiommorebystandards oflogicalconsistency and rigour - thanthrough atic-deductive (leastof reasoning anydirect appealto ethical all Kantian) grounds. Norshouldwe conclude from hisattack on thefake universalism invoked who abuse the rhetoric of human that Badiou mustin bypoliticians rights thatcase belongto thecompany ofthosewho adopta flatly opposed,i.e.,a - nowaor anti-universalist stance. These are thinkers radically particularist a and diverse for whom 'difference' ethnic, (whether days large company or is a notion often cultural, raised, linguistic, gender-related) ironically to thestatus ofan absolute ora priori and one that is taken enough, principle to trump to the delusive of idea shared, anyappeal typecast 'Enlightenment' or trans-gender interests and values.18 IndeedBadiou is e.g.,cross-cultural
16See cit. Badiou,Polemics, especially 17 A. Badiou,TheCentury, cit. 18See forinstance IrisMarionYoung, Justice and thePolitics nj: (Princeton, ofDifference

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- as opposedto of a trueuniversalism defenders amongthemostvigorous wouldallow in that name which rhetoric themendacious currently peddled orforcibly subduethe rather thanannul, human totranscend suppress beings of thatstandin its way.Hence theremarkable variousdifferences diversity in theprocessofexplaining and activists whomhe is able to recruit thinkers relaor evendownright thison thefaceofithighly contradictory paradoxical is theparadox Atitsmostextreme anduniversalism. between tionship fidelity - can takeSt. Paul as where Badiou- an avowedatheist pushedto thepoint but deathand resurrection ofChrist s life, offidelity to theevent an exemplar in so faras he insisted ofuniversalism also as an early (albeitto the exemplar there couldbe thatin Christ ofhis Greek tolerant amusement interlocutors) ofacceptance butonlythesingleoverriding JewnorGreek neither question that event.19 or non-acceptance concerning Paulinetastefora chalhis ownsomewhat Badiou is hereover-indulging enough: paradox.Howeverhis generalpointcomes across clearly lenging of thekindpromoted thatdifference-thinking by a greatmanypresent-day and a politically left is in truth on thecultural thinkers 'advanced' or 'radical' toblockanyproswhich serves ofthought movement only ethically retrograde therecognisocial changethrough (revolutionary) genuine pectofachieving above and beyondthedivisions, tionof sharedhumaninterests disparities, in It is primarily obstruct suchchange. that ofinterest and conflicts presently ofanytruly thehumanuniversality to makethispoint- to emphasize order - thatBadiou stakes mathhisclaimfor or emancipatory politics progressive with an adequate thatproject bestsuitedto provide as thediscipline ematics It is also whyhe comesout so and social-ontological grounding. conceptual or discourse to language version oftheturn (together every strongly against or'concepterms suchas 'paradigm', with their various 'framework', surrogate can possibly thatphilosophy as thefurthest tualscheme') go in thequestfor Kant'sself-avowed on from Thiscan be seen to havefollowed truth. straight off-bounds issues which declared revolution' strictly ontological 'Copernican in repreremit its and of defining proper place pride epistemology bygiving of thehuman to thescope and limits sentational terms, i.e.,withreference It wentalongwithhis idea underconcepts.20 intuitions for bringing capacity - one to which even Badiou is likewise opposed- ofpractistrongly, fiercely
TheMoralTheory Princeton (PhilaPress,1990);also ToddMay, ofPoststructuralism University of suchthinking StateUniversity pa: Pennsylvania Press,1994)and - fora critique delphia, and the About Postmodernism TheTruth Blackwell, 1993)and Truth (Oxford: Norris, Christopher Manchester Ethics Press,1994). (Manchester: University ofCriticism 19A. Badiou,SaintPaul: TheFoundation ca: Trans. (Stanford, ofUniversalism. RayBrassier see also cultural-historical Stanford Press, 2003).Forsomeilluminating background, University 1997). the Philo andPaulAmong Bruce W.Winter, Press, University Cambridge Sophists (Cambridge: 20I. Kant, N. KempSmith Trans. Macmillan, 1964). (London: ofPureReason. Critique
1 103-1 136

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in themodeofdetached orcontemplative cal (moral)reasonas bestexercised that thoseforms ofdirect activist rather thanthrough engagement judgment most destrucorwith theworst, with behavior Kantequated merely impulsive ethicalcommitzeal.21 For him,on thecontrary, tivekindsof revolutionary in response to specific to act decisively ments involve botha readiness pres- a willingness to with that suresofcircumstance and also - quitecompatibly ofreasoning to anydecision standards consequent applythemostrigorously and courseofactionthusarrived at.
II

as exemHenceBadious invocation ofthosetwomathematician-rs/stans in this a reference additional force from his that gains plary figures respect, in meticulous detail how certain set-theomathematical, especially showing in our thinking ofthought havea validapplication about retical procedures as issues of social justice.Hence also his emphasison the ethico-political or logicalforce of a truth-procedure thatstarts out from wellas theformal of thethree mainprecepts of set theory. Firstis theirreducible multiplicity ofthe'inconsistent' overevery that is,theontological multiple priority being, of thecount-as-one thatseeksto containthatunruly excessby application it to a modeofconsistent, sinceparadoxi.e.,paradigm-preserving reducing Thisis why Badioudevotes considerable efforts avoiding conceptualization.22 to revealing the inadequacy of variousattempts to cope withthe endemic and aporiasof set-theoretical some stopgap problems thought by adopting thatresorts to a preconceived formalism either or,as in (pseudo-)solution Bertrand Russell s Theory ofTypes, to a stipulative rulethatsimply excludes for reasons ofintellectual related to this, them Second,and closely hygiene.23 - as a matter axiomaccording there is always is thepower-set towhich ofthe - an excessofsubsets formal or logicalnecessity oversets,ofinclustrictest or of partsover elements, an excess thatof course sion over belonging, offinite or calculation oncethinking all thelimits enters surpasses reckoning Third ofthevoid,orthenullset, therealm ofinfinite is theconcept multiples. in each and every as that which must be thought ofas included other setand as thelocusofthatsameubiquitous absenceor subtraclack,thatstructural tivedimension order whereby anygiven ontological might alwaysbe subject events itsutmost to disruption byanomalous beyond powerto comprehend. So muchhas been evident at leastsincePlato and thetroublesome upshot whichdemonstrate, albeitagainstthe of thosepassagesin theParmenides
21I. Kant, Critiqueof PracticalReason. Trans. WernerPluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett,2002). 22See also A. Badiou, Numberand Numbers.Trans. Robin MacKay (London: PolityPress, 2008). 23Badiou, Numberand Numbers, cit.

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ofconthatanyappearance authorswill,that'theone is not'and therefore of theconcealment or suppression mustalwaysinvolve sistent multi-plicity exceed and destroy that thatwould otherwise an inconsistent multiplicity appearance.24 in question areof tocaseswhere themultiples Thisappliesmoststrikingly Cantor to mathematical thetransfinite order that through openedup thought - against hisdiscovery all theodds ofintuitive and,up until then, conceptual - thattherecould,indeedmustbe thought to exist or logicalself-evidence Thusmathematics what Badiou different orders or 'sizes'ofinfinity. provides across the whole of finds postmodrange post-structuralist, woefully lacking ernist and other suchlinguistically-oriented discourses, i.e.,thosethatclaim their chalofthehuman andsocialsciences toradicalize thecurrency through and the naturalized tie between to the mode of signifier lenge signification there which to these theories) 'superstructuralist' signified upon (according of late-capitalist cultural and social can be seen to resttheentire apparatus a corrective to the turn to mathematics as needful hegemony.25 Onlythrough of its true vocathatearlier turn can philosophy regain something linguistic those various itscritical tochallenge orresist tion. Thishe equateswith power - rather that are scarcelydisturbed formsof ideologicalmisrecognition in place - bythenotion oflanguage(in whatever confirmed or left securely horizon of thought. However theoretical as the or ultimate endpoint guise) ofapproach that arenowadays domiBadiouisjustas critical toward thekinds of nantamongst mathematicians and mainstream bothworking philosophers short thatis to say, thosethatalso (in hisview)sellthemselves mathematics, ambitions or anyidea thatmathematics might anyontological bydisowning of issuesin theextra-mathematia moreexacting conceptualization provide domain.26 For it is precisely his leading cal (especially thesocialor political) of evenabsurd claim- onethat enables theotherwise improbable, conjunction - thatquitesimply mathematics with concerns set-theoretic political-activist efficacious as well is ontology inso far ourbest, most as itprovides practically our waythrough and beyond a as conceptually meansof thinking rigorous and dilemmas. ofreal-world issues,conflicts, variety problems, great in a sense thatrangesoverthe Badiou is thususingtheterm 'ontology' and the the abstract natural-scientific), (mathematical), physical (including
24Plato,Parmenides. Trans. Hackett, 1996);also MaryL. Gilland Paul Ryan(Indianapolis: John A. Palmer, Plato's Clarendon Press, 2002). (Oxford: Reception ofParmenides 25For an extended L. critical treatment of thesethemes, see Richard and sharply-angled ThePhilosophy and Post-structuralism Harland, (London: of Structuralism Superstructuralism: Methuen, 1987). 26Thesorts arefairly collected ofapproach that Badiouhasinmind represented bytheessays in Paul Benacerraf Selected and Hilary Putnam (edsj, ThePhilosophy of Mathematics: essays. 2nd edn.(Cambridge: Press,1983)and W.D. Hart(edj, ThePhilosophy of University Cambridge Mathematics Oxford Press,1996). (Oxford: University

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- just domains. It is a term that socio-political applies- on hisunderstanding to theextent thatthey each raise issueshaving to do withtherelationship thecase with between whatis actually to somepresent stageofscienregard become the tific advanceor stateofsocialbeingand whatmight conceivably case through some signaltransformation theadvent ofwhichcan as yetbe discerned thelocalizedemergence of stress-points, anomalies, onlythrough ofincreasing strain. Thisrealist recalcitrant socialorconceptual data,orsigns ina Heideggerian that commitment term keepsBadiouwellclearofdeploying or depth-hermeneutic like the ontological-relativist sense, or to anything de rigueur or scheme-internalist) thathas becomealmost effect (frameworkor 'post-analytic' after Forhim, Quine.27 amongst many analytic philosophers as for other recent thinkers ofontology whoresist whatthey see as that damthe itis prerequisite to anyontological agingmisconception, project meriting distinctions between truth and namethatitshouldnotletgo ofthosecrucigli in ourpresent-best and belief, or 'thereal'as itfigures knowledge, knowledge ofunderstanding and therealas it exists or evenbest-attainable states quite all such epistemic Indeedit is on thisaccount aside from considerations.28 theancient thatBadioutakeshisstandagainst chiefly Heidegger concerning declares to haveoccurred Greek instauration which philosophical Heidegger - thatis, through encounter witha through poetry primordial philosophy's and linguistically-rooted mode distinctively poetic,hence culture-specific - whileBadiou locatesits emergence in the challenge of thought posed to and paradoxes, most withitsvariousproblems philosophy by mathematics that of the one and the Thus notably preferred pointof many.29 Heidegger's a of with the origin presages history cultural-linguistic particularism, along in some needfor a hermeneutic which (and project aspires necessarily degree differences toachieve acrossall theconsequent fails) deep-laid understanding ofworldview orhorizon. a history wherein Badious, on thecontrary, presages of cross-cultural communicaconflicts and breakdowns misunderstandings, for tionhaveindeedbeen endemic butwherein can bestbe accounted they to which as so failures to achieve the thinking precisely many universality ofentrenched and and against thoseforces properly aspires despite prejudice mutual incomprehension.
27See Martin Heidegger,Being and Time. Trans. John McQuarrie and Edward Robinson and Other (Oxford:Blackwell,1980) and W. v. O. Quine, 'Ontological Essays (New York: Relativity' - Christopher Columbia University Press, 1969); also - fora full-scalecritiqueof such thinking Norris,Resourcesof Realism: Prospects (London: Macmillan, 1997) for'Post-analytic' Philosophy and New Idols of the Cave: On the Limits of Anti-realism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997). 28See Dale Press,2002). (Montreal:Queens University Jacquette, Ontology 29See Language and Thought.Trans. AlbertHofstadter(New especially Heidegger,Poetry, York: Harper & Row, 1971) and Early GreekThinking. Trans. David Krell and Frank Capuzzi (Harper & Row, 1976).

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Thisinturn a conception oftruth as inherently both requires transcending at thisor thatparticular of human thescope of knowledge temporal stage truth between advanceand thesundry cognitive disagreements concerning convariousparties or claimants to knowledge across different paradigms, and so forth. theoretical frameworks, life-forms, schemes, discourses, ceptual that Badiouis careful to mark hisdistance from a HereI shouldacknowledge as concerns mathematics sincehe thinks that Platonist outlook fully-fledged unlesswe takedue account ofthemethods, and proof-procedures techniques accrueswe shall fallback intojust the knowledge by whichmathematical so muchanalytic kinds ofstaleand unprofitable thathavetypified wrangling or objectivists on theone sideand anti-realdebatebetween hard-line realists However istsor constructivists ofvarious technical on theother.30 persuasion firm in maintaining thosemethods would he is also very that and procedures in makeno sense- thatwe could haveno graspofwhata 'proofconsisted - wereitnotfor our or whatcounted as validaxiomatic-deductive reasoning thattruth shouldbe conceived as verificationpriorgraspof the necessity thelimits ofhumanknowlor as alwayspotentially transcendent, surpassing in theformal as in thephysical there wouldsimply sciences, edge.Otherwise, of the growth of knowledge or our be no accounting forour knowledge bestconceptual or explanato understand howitis that ourpresent capacity in just thesame waythatwe can now fallshort of truth tory powersmight inthepast.What see other thinkers tohavefallen short Badious thought gives he extends this itsextraordinary and reach is the that depth speculative way can be attained crucialinsight from therealmof mathematics wheretruth to the only by means of formal(axiomatic-deductive) proof-procedures domainof politics and social ethics- not to shyaway from such language it- where thoseprocedures find a more hisavowedantipathy toward despite thanmerely application. suggestive and thepolitics The mostobviouspointat whichthesettheory converge but objectively exisis on the factthatthereexistcertain hard-to-quantify tent between thesum-total ofhumanbeingsin a given numerical disparities or other socio-economic, quiteaside from gender-related society anyethnic, traits and thesum of thosewho countforelectoral, or welfare, 'identifying' educational of a prevailing 'social-democratic' order. purposes by thelights in making this Several maincomponents ofBadious thinking cometogether to theidea of'difference' or radical'otherness' case. They include hisaversion thathas lately acquiredsuch a cachet- no doubtas thestructural comple- and also his insistence mentof identity-politics on a purely extensionalist all the partsor i.e., one thattreats approachto set-theoretical procedures, elements of a set as strictly one from another forformalindistinguishable
30See entries Note26,above. under

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In thishe standsopposedto thosemathematicians operational purposes.31 more often of mathematics) who adoptan 'intensionalist' (or philosophers there are distinctions to be made in terms approachwhereby significant of qualifying attributes or membership criteria.32 It is not hardto see how - although Badiou'spreference in thisrespect based on formal, i.e., firmly - goesalongwith mathematical and logico-semantic considerations hiscommitment to a standard ofsocialjusticeconceived in strictly terms. egalitarian This is also whyhe is strongly diverse opposedto thatotherwise rangeof - anti-realist, in recent doctrines ofmathematics fornominalist, philosophy - which and so forth malist, intuitionist, fictionalist, instrumentalist, respond to themuch-touted withobjectivism (thatit appearsto place truth problem forever to one or another beyondreach of humanknowledge) by veering ofthoseoverly reactive fallback Thushe has no time for thesorts of positions. discussion carried on byanalytic who start philosophers byposingtheissue - either as a flat dilemma truth orknowl(verification-transcendent) objective - andwhothen thecompass ofhuman most often edgewithin epistemic grasp somethird-way suchas 'truth' alternative, go on to endorse bythestandards of thisor thatrecognized whichin factcomesdownto expert community, anti-realism under a moreemollient description.33 WhatBadiou setsin place ofthisdeadlocked and largely sterile debateis a detailed accountofvarioussignalepisodesin thehistory ofmathematical those- from Parmenides and Platoto Dedekind, Cantor, thought, especially - whenknowledge and beyond came up againstthe limitsimposedby its failure to graspthefurther ofsomeprevious thatleft implications discovery it facing an as yetirresolvable what paradox.Hence his focuson precisely occursat thebreakthrough is turned intoconcept' and stagewhen'paradox in exemplary fashion withCantor's when,as happened revolution, thinking is irresistibly drawn or impelled intoa wholenewrealmofconceptual-ontothathad hitherto been marked on accountof its off-bounds logicalenquiry such a downright affront to commonsense intuition or accepted presenting - thisrecurideasofrational It is bywayofthisongoing dialectic procedure. rentpattern of advancesthatexpose some hitherto unsuspected paradox whichin turn becomesthedriver of another such advanceand thereby the sourceof another such productive since thought-provoking paradox- that
31See Note 18, above; also Badiou, Numberand Numbers,cit. and The Conceptof Model: An Introduction to theMaterialist Items. Zachaiy Luke Fraser and Epistemology of Mathematics. Tzuchien Tho (Victoria:re-press, 2007). 32See Potter, Set Theory and its Philosophy, cit. 33See Note 26, above; also Matterand Method (Cambridge: Hilary Putnam, Mathematics, on the Foundations of MathePress, 1975); CrispinWright, Cambridge University Wittgenstein matics(Cambridge,Mass.: HarvardUniversity Press, 1980), Realism,Meaningand Truth (Oxford: and Objectivity Blackwell, 1987) and Truth Press, 1992). (Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard University

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deemimpossible, whatmany Badiouis able to achieve philosophers analytic while nonetheless realist of truth thatis, to maintain a robustly conception various involved, along discovery-procedures adequateroomforthe making not claimto haveovercome with to date.Thushe laysfair their development also its 'conticharacterized above but dilemma as theset-piece only analytic which and genesis ofstructure nental1 thatis, theantinomy near-equivalent, a more andthereafter from PlatotoDescartes has dogged (in yet epistemology it concerns andbeyond. Here from KanttoHusserl insistent andvexing form) - ofreconciling - somewouldsaythestrictly insoluble theproblem problem in terms withtheidea oftruths ofabsoluteideal objectivity truth conceived certain as having beenarrived at through (knowledge-conducive) appropriate crucialstagesof locatedat certain meansbycertain thinkers chronologically ofthought.34 orprogress within a certain history discovery remarks thatthisprobin hisearly on Husserl, So whenDerrida, writings between structuralthe encounter mostsharply lem is nowadays posed by view he is nottaking a narrowly ismand phenomenology 'presentisi' but,on conheirs to a deep-laid movements as the latest thecontrary, those treating his WhatBadioubrings outthrough flict ofphilosophic aimsand priorities.35 in thescopeand powerofmathematical landmark advances focus on various oftruth on theset-theoretis thewaythata 'subtractive' conception thought or surpassing ical modelallowsus to conceiveit bothas transcending any and as a state of mathematical lacuna,anomaly, conceptual knowledge given inthecurrent stateofposinowhere suchdefect that orother paradox figures the to existence of which tiveknowledge the maysignal path somedeciyet of Badioumanages that switch Thisis thepoint at which sivefuture advance. the or from the formal to from mathematics to domains politics ontological - at any willsurely strike that socialand humansciences philosophers many of the first order or a as a ratethosein theanalytic camp category-mistake realms. confusion of even distinct, strictly non-communicating gross properly inBadious often I think, However be hardputto showjustwhere would, they of reasoned but (one process argument highly complex alwaysmeticulously and theprocedures of from mathematics thatderives itsvalidity-conditions error is to have occurred. axiomatic-deductive this thought) flagrant supposed - someIndeedhe is wellable to turn backcharges ofthissortbyremarking
34Fora detailed theGap:Epistemology andPhilossee Christopher account, Norris, Minding ofMassachusetts in theTwoTraditions Mass.:University Press, 2000); (Amherst, ofScience ophy Views and Mathematics: also Leila Haaparanta (ed.),Mind, Meaning, Essayson thePhilosophical and Frege and Boston: Kluwer, 1994). (Dordrecht ofHusserl 35See for inWriting andStructure" andPhenomenology', instance '"Genesis Derrida, Jacques Edmund andDifference. Trans. AlanBass (London: & KeganPaul,1978), pp. 154-168; Routledge AnIntroduction. John P. Leavey Neb.:University Husserl s 'Origin Trans. (Lincoln, ofGeometry': in Husserl's Trans. MarianHobson ofNebraska Press,1989);TheProblem ofGenesis Philosophy. ofChicago Press, 2003). (Chicago: University
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- that in disdainful times fashion thekinds ofterritorial that most imperative often are also thosethathavedriven muchrecent giveriseto suchobjections debateintothedead-end ofrealism versus anti-realism conceived analytical in merely abstract terms of quiteapartfrom anydetailed working-through ForitisBadiou's claimthat recent particular problematic episodes. approaches in theanalytic veinhaveoften condemned themselves to tediousirrelevance thealtogether falseidea thatin so faras mathematics by endorsing aspires to a condition offormal it cannot be conceived as offering rigour anypoints of conceptual-exploratory 'outside'or 'beyond1 its purchasefordisciplines domain. specialist m His emphatic ofthiswholewayofthinking rejection appearsmostplainly in Badiou'sconcept ofthecount-as-one as an imposedor purely stipulative limit on therange ofmultiples that meet theconditions toqualify for membercount as some under ship(to properly, legally belonging) given dispensation. Thushe devotes a gooddeal ofcomplex and demanding to explainargument comeabout- whether ingjusthowitis thatcertain epochaltransformations - through in themathematical-scientific or thesocio-political a prospheres cess thatinvolves twocrucialconcepts and the'generic') (thoseof 'forcing' thatBadiou derives from settheory from thework of and,morespecifically, themathematician Paul Cohen.36 In brief, haveto do withtheprecisely they conditions under which a given situation or stateofknowledge specified may turnout to containor to generate anomaliesthatare notjust easilycorrior lapse of logicalgrasp. gibleerrors owingto some localizedbreakdown - at whatever Rather function latent or so-far level- as they unacknowledged an indexof the failure out the further to follow of a previous implications and hence, whenviewedfrom thestandpoint ofa moreadvanced discovery as havingeffectively (or symptomatically) stage of knowledge, pointeda thevery in somecrucialand factoftheir short wayforward through falling now specifiable Badiou devotes a good deal of highly concentrated respect. toCohen's formal demonstration that thinklogico-mathematical commentary to go beyond thelimits ofconscious ingis indeedpossessedofthiscapacity or reflective) and register awareness theexistence of (letaloneself-conscious truths thatsurpassitspresent-best articulation.37 This powerof conceptual it is able to do in virtue of thewaythatcertain and evenas-yet unresolved can exist within thestateofmathematical unrecognized problems knowledge at anygiven timeand exert a nonetheless powerful that force, destabilizing is to say, a pressure to elaborate newmethods and truth-proceuponthought
36Paul J.Cohen,Set Theory and theContinuum Hypothesis (New York:W.A.Benjamin, 1966). 37See especiallyBadiou, Beingand Event,cit.,pp. 325-343.

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thoseproblems moreclearly intoviewand thenseek dureswhereby to bring that out solutions to them.Thus Tt]heterm"generic" positively designates to be discerned is in reality thegeneral truth ofa whatdoes notallowitself the truth of its considered as the foundation of all situation, knowledge being, to come'.38 to claimthatthinking Nor shouldit seemso very paradoxical mayoften consciousness or as a matter of ahead of what is accessible to press grasped or warrant. That is knowledge, understanding, epistemic appearance merely theresult of philosophy's so longbeen in thrall to thepresumption having - one thatfound in Descartes in butwas already there its classicstatement much common coin Platoandbecame rationalists, amongst empiricists, pretty Kanton down- that and consciousness are and epistemologists from thought so closelyboundup each withthe otheras to makethemjointconditions on anyadequateaccount. Yetitis clearly the for truth) knowledge (alongwith in thinking as concerns case thatanyradicalnewdeparture whether matheorthecreative artswillat somestage ethics, matics, science, physical politics, of advance what is currently available a decisive movement beyond require in terms or accustomed to consciousness of established procedures waysof In a conclusion that Badiou on. which case fully accepts philoscarrying of its trueontological-mathematical ophyhas longbeen keptin ignorance vocationby thosevariousfalseturns(fromthe rationalist/empiricist 'way thathaveall in someway ofideas'to itspresent-day spin-offs) 'linguistified' haveseemed toreactmost fallen tothiserror, evenwhere they vigorously prey notion oflanguage it.On thisviewtheWittgensteinian/Heideggerian against of all humanenquiry is just another of thatsame as theend-point showing thesophists old reactive squaredup to Socratesin defence pattern whereby or hermeneuticallyof rhetoric versusthe claimsof purebred rationalism, and Hamannrejected whatthey saw as the oriented thinkers suchas Herder critical and overweening claimsofKant's groundless philosophy.39 ofthescope However Badious chief pointis thatthisfalseidentification and limitsof thought withthe scope and limitsof consciously available has often a drastic and restriction on placed disabling philosophy's knowledge at itsmoments of mostsignificant creative, proceeds graspofhow thinking - rather It is and advance. for this reason also intellectual, ethico-political - that thananygreat attachment to thetherapeutic virtues ofpsychoanalysis Badiou setsgreat store Lacan's 'structuralist' of Freud by reading alongwith his insistence on theneed to conceptualize Freud'sdiscovery of theunconin rigorously scious and its complextopological features indeed formal,

38Ibidem, 327. p. 39See cit. forPhilosophy, especiallyA. Badiou, Manifesto

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mathematical terms.40 HereagainwhatBadioumost (orquasi-mathematical) wishesto stress is therelative and limited remit of conscious, selfpaucity conscious or reflective when with the kinds of intellectual thought compared or creative-exploratory advancethat is able to achieve breakthrough thinking at a levelwell'below' that Cartesian threshold. On theother as becomes hand, clear in his jointreading of Lacan and Descartes, Badiou is veryfarfrom thenow distinctly doctrine endorsing pass post-structuralist/postmodernist to whichnothing could be salvagedfrom thatold figment of the according the Cartesian bourgeois-humanist-rationalist imaginary, subject-presumedto-know.41 Foritis hiscontention ifwe lookelsewhere that thantotheMedita- ifwe focusrather tionsforDescartes' mostimportant contributions on the Discourse on Method and RulesfortheDirection oftheMind- thenwe shall see thathis ownthinking thatsame capacity forrunning ahead exemplified of anyconsciousgraspor apodictic thatBadiou considers self-evidence the forgenuinely or innovative It also precondition ground-breaking thought.42 his cardinal carried on outsideor helpsto emphasise point:thatprocesses - whether thespotlight ofphenomenological awareness thesecount beyond - will as 'unconscious' or 'preconscious' to thestandard distinction according often farsurpassthosecarried in terms on underthespotlight oftheir comformal and conceptual as wellas creative or imaginative reach. plexity, rigor, Thus Badiou goes along at least up to a pointwithLacan's claim that - thatinsteadof Descartes' weresubverted arguments by Freud'sdiscovery sum' we should rather sum" ubi cogito,ibi ergo 'cogito, say "'cogitoergo I "I I nonsum' think I amnot').43 therefore that is where think, am", ('where just However he is justas keento insist that whatis thereby very partially exposed to viewis a rangeofthought-processes, and procedures thatmay operations be unconscious notso muchon accountoftheir to somerealmof belonging or subliminal desire butrather on account oftheir so farexceeding repressed our present-best or logicalgrasp.Thisis whyCohen's powersof conceptual ideasof'thegeneric' and 'forcing' are ofsuchcrucialsignificance to Badiou's Whatthey allowhimto express withmaximum formal is project. precision the alwaysconceivable of knowledge and of conscious surpassing by truth ofthat which has yetto be knowledge bya preconscious grasping-in-thought
40 See Note 10, above; also J. Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. A. Sheridan (London: Trans. Tavistock,1977) and TheLanguageoftheSelf:The FunctionofLanguagein Psychoanalysis. Wilden (Baltimore:JohnsHopkins University Press, 1968). Anthony 41Badiou, Beingand Event,cit.,pp. 391-435;also E. Cadava, P. Connorand J.-L.Nancy(eds.), WhatComesAfter theSubject? (London: Routledge,1991) and Paul Smith,Discerning theSubject of Minnesota Press, 1988). (Minneapolis: University 42Ren Descartes, Selected Ed. By J. Cottingham(Cambridge:CamPhilosophicalWritings. Press, 1988). bridgeUniversity 43J.Lacan, The Insistenceof the Letterin the Unconscious,or Reason Since Freud . Trans. Jacques Ehrmann.In: Yak FrenchStudies,vol. 36/7(1966), pp. 112-147.

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as belonging to therangeofaccredited truths butwhich nonethe recognized - a persistent less exerts a transformative force and at timesdisruptive pressure- through itsvery failure to do so. Thusthere are certain anomaliesor ofa consistent and maximally ofthought that fallings-short adequatesystem can be seen (no doubtwithbenefit of hindsight but then, as Badiou might howstupid to deny ourselves injustsuch that)to haveserved reasonably say, a thought-provoking and knowledge-conducive role. Indeed it is precisely his pointin stressing thepriority ofinconsistent overconsistent multiplicity - and the problems facedby proponents of the oppositethesisfrom Plato down- that thishas beenthegreat driver ofprogress in notonly mathematics and theformal sciences butalso in areas ofhumanthought and activity that seemas faras possibleremoved from 'abstract1 or might anysuchnotionally specialist sphere. Hence the manyreproachful, even exasperated passages whereBadiou takes issuewith those whoharbor that falseidea ofmathematics, thusclosing their minds bothto itsextraordinary of and - by scope conceptual creativity no meansincompatible withthat- itsunrivalled of and degree rigour precisionin theseeking-out oftruths unavailable to other, lessformally disciplined modesofknowledge.44 If there is one mainpresumption thathas characterized debatesconcerning therelationship between theformal and thesocial - especially - itis the sciences that between mathematics and ethics orpolitics fixed idea that, to different of quitesimply, they belong spheres understanding and therefore thatanyattempt to bring themtogether willinvolve someflaor failure to maintain an set of grant category-mistake important boundarymarkers. Joshua Gertputsthiscase mostconcisely in a recent essayon the and response-dependence. in Since'thedifference topicofa priori knowledge matter between mathematics and ethics is therefore '[i]tis subject very great', safeto saythat no one has provided reasons to that the anypowerful suppose samecapacities that allowus to knowtruths oftheformer domaincouldalso be responsible forour knowledge ofthelatter'.45 However it is worth noting - itsairofstating that theconfidence with which this verdict is delivered what amounts to a matter of self-evident or even(on theterms hereestablished) - results of a prioritruth in largepartfrom the authorssubscribing to a that takes its lead from Kant s philosophic agenda ultimately epistemological inparticular theroleofjudgment most ofKantian (that project, problematical as a function or between or sensuous notions) mediating agency phenomenal intuitions and concepts ofunderstanding. moreexplicitly, Beyondthat, it comesoutofthecurrent debatearoundresponse-dependent (or responsewhich has itself in consequence of dispositional) properties grown up chiefly
44A. Badiou, is Mathematics". In: Theoretical cit., "Ontology Writings, pp. 3-93. 45Joshua an Epistemology ofCertain Substantive A Priori Truths . In:MetaphiGert,Toward vol.40 (2009),nr.2, pp. 214-236; losophy, p. 222.
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theongoing and continental thinkers effort, alike,to findsome by analytic viablethird-way to therealist/anti-realist stalemate.46 wayalternative I have arguedelsewhere thatthisalternative is really no such thing but rather a fuzzily conceived and highly unstable 'solution' that can compromise - toward be seento lean overin one or theother direction truth as objective - accordand recognition-transcendent or'truth' as epistemically constrained to the theorist's own or the area of discourse under review.47 ing predilection more is that we should here, Mypoint (likeBadiou's) specifically, anyproposal think ofmathematics and ofethicsor politics as subject to equallyrigorous standards of investigative is apt to strike on thought manyas misconceived account ofitswillfully both the Humean fact/value and collapsing dichotomy thefarmoreelaborate ofdistinctions in Kant'sdoctrine of system grounded thefaculties. Either or it will most suffer association with the that, likely by above-mentioned ofargument from and their far types response-dependence from claim to established a common scale convincing upon whichcan be such as ranged- albeitat oppositeends - botha truth-oriented discipline mathematics wheretheremight for just be room(to thisway of thinking) orexpert anda variety ofsubject-areas, such appealstobest judgment opinion as prototypically where theusualapproach hasbeenthrough color-perception, someversion oftheLockeanappeal to 'secondary In theselatter qualities'.48 sortsof case the furthest one can gettoward trans-individual standards of assertorie warrant is widespread thosewhoseresponses agreement amongst as normal and whose qualify by (whatelse?) commonly acceptedstandards are elicited underlikewise normal(non-distorting or perceptual judgments ambient conditions. natural)
IV

I have takenthisbriefdetourvia Kant and the travails of present-day in order to out contrast the indifference epistemology bring bysharp perfect thatBadiou displays towardall such (in his view) grossly inadequateand misconceived to of and approaches questions truth, knowledge responsibilWhatthey serveto promote or sustainis thatKantianidea of ity. typically thesubject- whether theepistemological or the subject-presumed-to-know deliberative of reason as its subject practical properly deploying capacities
46See forinstancethe essays on thistopic collectedin RobertoCasati and Christine Tappolet In: European Reviewof Philosophy, 3 (1998). (eds.), Response-Dependence. 47For further discussion see Christopher and Norris,TruthMatters:Realism, Anti-realism, Response-dependence (Edinburgh:EdinburghUniversity Press, 2002). 48See forinstanceMark "How to Speak of the Colours". In: PhilosophicalStudies, Johnston, 68 (1992), pp. 221-263 and various contributions to J. Haldane and C. Wright(eds.), Reality, and Projection (Oxford:OxfordUniversity Representation Prs, 1993).

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that orcontemplative ina modeofdetached andpowers keepsitself judgment of and thepressures temptations political as faras can be from engagement. what'transcendental' inno matter ofsubjectivity, It is thisconception register, means at his comand repudiate thatBadiou sets out to contest by every of the mand. Chiefamong themis his own radically opposed definition truth which a from ofa generic as 'anylocal configuration procedure subject is a truth possible, which as 'that orof'subjectivization' is supported', through theevent which for ofthesituation thetruth towards theevent [since]itturns is an event'.49 less from as distinct It is in thissense - and in thissense only, other, seeks Badiou that the thesis of versions discriminate (e.g.,post-structuralist) oftruth statusas arbiter itserstwhile thesubjectfrom to demote privileged at much remains Thatis to say,theconcept in itsvariousmodalities.50 very of some to the as it in so far but of his heart the agency pertains thinking only advancewithin someparticular or promoting in achieving subject particular in the crucial at some endeavor field of some particular field-specific point to date.Ofcoursethis or transformations ofchanges, developments, history thenearin socialor political thepossibility is notto exclude terms, (indeed, rather but individual an not will assumed be role thatsuch a by necessity) a Sartrean of like-minded 'group-in-fusion' subjects by some collectivity and of shared sense predicament purpose.51 byan exceptional together brought notionof thesubjectis one thatdependsupon his ThusBadious operative notto any sinceitrefers and 'thegeneric' of'forcing' Cohen-derived concepts of locus knowledge or transcendental self-reflexive conscious, transparent, - roughly a preof'indiscernment' to a certain butrather paraphrased: power state an existing thatmark and anomalies conscious graspoftheblind-spots the or socialrelations which ofknowledge opens wayto potentially thereby advance.Aboveall, as Badiou conceivable or barely some as yetill-defined thatwe avoid the perenthisrequires of Descartes, in his reading stresses thathas so longbedeviled and thought consciousness between nialconfusion on a greatmany influence to exerta distorting and continues philosophy of and philosophy debatesin epistemology, current psychology, cognitive becomesmoreor is to skewtheissueso that'conscious' mind. Itsmaineffect 'selfwith'advanced', less synonymous 'knowledge-conducive', 'progressive', or beyond outside as lying conceived whileanything or 'illusion-free' critical', 'unconscious' definition as byvery is treated thefocusofconsciousthought
49Badiou, andEvent, cit., pp. 391 and 393. Being 50See Note41,above. 51Jean-Paul Trans. Ensembles. Vol.1:Theory Reason. ofPractical Sartre, ofDialectical Critique AlanSheridan-Smith Books,1976)and Vol.2: TheIntelligibility ofHistory. (London:New Left Hoare(London: Trans Quintin Verso, 1994).

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from thatresult errors to all the'commonsense' and henceas prey accepting belief. intuitive offirst-hand thenaveself-evidence ratioas anyoftheseventeenth-century Badiouis as emphatic To be sure, ofreason theexercise atthrough arrived that inmaintaining nalists knowledge a decias properly can and mustbe regarded intellect or critical possessing thanthe warrant thatcan claimno better sivepowerofvetooverarguments his thought In thisrespect witness. paysconstant appealto sensory-intuitive in French strain critical-rationalist that distinctive to epistemology homage of sciencewhichhas its sourcein the'other', and philosophy scientificallyand via Bachelard descends and which oriented thinking aspectofDescartes' manithe less none to certain recognizable yet qualified highly Canguilhem to see that itis also important However in Foucault and Derrida.52 festations likeBadiou,consider whichthey, thekindsof truth-procedure prerequisite thephysical in mathematics, whether or advancement to progress sciences, as a conceived to the beholden in no sense are ethics or subject politics, ofthem we think Noragainshould knower. or reflective conscious (absurdly) like the received in anything to the 'unconscious' as belonging psychoanain quesAfter sense. sub-rational or the all, i.e., procedures lytic, pre-logical - some ofthe - amongother tionhereare thosethathaveproduced things as in mathematics, and proofs theorems mostadvancedand sophisticated remote acrossvarious achievements ofcomparable wellas a range seemingly As regards but(as Badiouwouldhaveit) closely analogoussubject-domains. notonly denotes the term remark how should we thislatter 'subject' phrase fact thatthe the of to his but someparticular also, thinking, way topic-area - of and both a is so much or thinker product producer (= part agent) subject at leastfor as to haveno existence, truth-event therelevant purposes, present status. that achieved or wherein theparticular outside they whereby episode 'I that term Event in Beingand statement Hence his cryptic subject any is supported'.53 which a truth from ofa generic local configuration procedure is possible, whicha truth is thatthrough Andagain:'subjectivization [since] is an which theevent for thetruth ofthesituation towards theevent itturns the comunderstand we should it is injustthissensethat Moreover event'.54 as and truth between mathematics, politics psychoanalysis, plexrelationship from remote is If it. his conception maximally Badiou conceives anyvulgarand inarticulate ofrepressed as a repository idea oftheunconscious Freudian us-acculturated thatchiefly thenit is justas farfrom desires ego-psycholog- thatwouldtreat his Lacan and reviled much ical approach acolytes by material such repressed of bringing a matter cure as primarily the talking
52See Norris, Mindingthe Gap, cit., fora detailed account of the relevantepisodes in this line of descent. critical-rationalist 53Badiou, Beingand Event,cit.,p. 391. 54Ibidem, 393. p.

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and hence self-controlled ofconscious, realm backintothedaylight reflective, 'What conduct. and conformable critics these maintain) (so thought socially 'is the pointat whichFreudcan only Badiou writes, localizesthe subject', and at whichhe oftheCartesian theheritage within be understood gesture, its reflexive with coincidence the latter's via self, subverts, dislocation, pure to anypurof is no to there That is possibility thinking say, transparency'.55 is the unconscious that twin on the these issues about (1) premise except pose of the that or to a discourse to reason, accessible (whether psychopracticing thatofinstinctual claimsa validity which or thephilosopher) beyond analyst at any is itself discourse thisrational and yet(2) that or commonsense belief, or be that can conditions certain to timesubject onlyemerge limiting given lies its utmost which to that shown conceptual beyond up as suchbyexposure or explanatory grasp. toa closelyandEvent o Being section thefinal Badioudevotes Thisis why ofhowLacans supposedradicalbreakwiththeheridemonstration worked morelikean unresolved is in factsomething rationalism tageof Cartesian It is also why between thosetwopremises. tension and indeedunresolvable and that hisownthinking between a distance defined so carefully he has kept their whatever or ofthemore propost-structuralists dogmatic card-carrying sourcesin Lacan,Althusser, claimedauthorizing Derrida, Barthes, Foucault, - whowouldregard oftheboura figment as merely 'thesubject' orelsewhere thestanfor deconstruction fit or liberal-humanist by imaginary only geois out to suchpowerful WhatBadiou brings moves.56 dardrangeoftheoretical to thosepartsof it addressed in every effect aspectof his work- whether the history or thosepassages concerning issues in mathematics technical - is theillusory in whenconceived natureof subjectivity events of political butalso itsabsoluteindispensability terms or Kantian-autonomist humanist could ever and politicalhistory how knowledge as a means of explaining achieveany kindof advanceagainstall the odds of entrenched prejudice, This was alwaysthe chief self-evidence. or intuitive 'commonsense' belief, in so faras it espouseda thorforpost-structuralist theory stumbling-block andthereby constructivism of version linguistic-discursive-cultural oughgoing a dead levelof to truth and of invited the twofold reality charge reducing ofany and human and agency thought (mis)recognition depriving ideological of events.57 the course affect intervene or to power - in ethico-political as well as mathematiThus Badiou is fully justified of denunciations such blanket in terms roundly cal and scientific rejecting how such means to the it offers that and insisting 'thesubject' explain only
55Idem, 431. p. 56See cit. Thought, especiallyBadiou, Infinite 57See Norris,Truth Postand theEthics of Criticism, Intellectuals, cit.; also Uncritical Theory: and theGulfWar(London: Lawrence & Wishart,1992). modernism,

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like comeabout.Allthesame thisis notto invoke advancesmight anything oras theseat selfhood locusofautonomous roleas presumptive itstraditional attributes constitutive ofthosevarious willing, reasoning, judging, (thinking, it whatitis tobe human. them define between that Rather, supposedly acting) which of choice ofjustthat is a question opensup margin precisely specifiable - whether critical atjustthat before thesubject project stagein someongoing structures to thedominant or resistance of advancedmathematical enquiry oftruth' as 'militants either when can ofsocio-political respond they power to and commitment and presson withthatproject fidelity previous through to existing, conin adherence seek refuge or else (moreoften) such events to grasp Whatis mostimportant and conduct. modes of thought formist is thathe alwaysdeploys ofthesubject aboutBadiou'sheterodox conception ofthought or in reference to somegiven itwithspecific juncture thehistory to how revolutions him is for its chief task and that events, explain political orthodox ofreceived themassive and against can occurdespite belief, weight in Badiou's Thus 'the consensus. or usageofthe subject', thinking, ideological his for but a theoretical no means is term, by place-filler precisely term just It in here advance the kinds of which drives forward that question. is signal in succeeds which mathematics the whatimpels process periodically through of failed or which a or into history concept', through 'transforming paradox date- with of 1848)can at somelater revolutions abortive (suchas theevents assume a come to it strove to achieve of that which theadvent prostrongly - sinceBadiouis notgiven to role.58 Tojustthisextent or prefigurative leptic are and mathematics orvaguely over-stretched politics analogies suggestive has A failed revolution terms. in formally homologous capableoftreatment have been what in and through itsvery ofdefining, thevirtue failure, might or theorem has yetto be accomplished, and therefore justas a longdisputed was available for which no in one mathematics adequateproof conjecture be and henceforth such or attain decades at centuries) (after proof may length truths. to theclassofknown mathematical admitted antifor thefactthatcommitted is all themorepointed Thiscomparison or areas to all three extend their basic precept mostoften realists disciplines and ethics)thatare underconsideration ofdiscourse (mathematics, history, no sense itmakesabsolutely likeMichaelDummett, a thinker here.Thus,for trueor false theorem thatit is either mathematical to sayofsomeunproven - objectively an never comeup with we cannot so - eventhough yetandmight ofsomewell-formed and truth-apt or again,to assert proof; adequateformal or didn't, occurred either thattheepisodein question historical conjecture or again,to claimthat'Jones lackofdocumentary ourtotal evidence; despite which so far leda very Jones is courageous' placedno quietlife having despite
58Badiou, "The Paris Commune: A Political Declaration on Politics." In: Polemics, cit., pp. 257-290.

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demands on himinthat andtherefore offers no grounds for respect judgment. or in ventured of Anytheorems, conjectures, hypotheses any thesedomains mustbe thought ofas falling intothe'disputed class' of statements thatare - or subject neither truenorfalsesincetruth is epistemically constrained to - and hencebetter thescopeand limits ofattainable in redefined knowledge terms of'warranted As we haveseen,Badiou comesout very assertibility'.59 thiswholeanti-realist lineofargument and goessomehighly strongly against and ingenious how set-theoretical) complex (chiefly waysaroundin showing truth can indeed transcend theboundsofexisting oraccomplished knowledge and yetnotleavetherealist or objectivist committed to a doctrine provability thatineluctably leads to an ultra-sceptical upshot.On his accountunknown truths can exert a palpablepressure forchange- a senseoftheir in standing someultimately knowable relation to someanomaly, or conceptual paradox, - whichavoidsthe absurd in the present-best shortfall stateof knowledge anti-realist conclusion thatall truths are either known or knowable. If mathis thefocusofBadious mostintensive ematics and complex as wellas most elaborate it is just as vitalto appreciate formally passagesof argument just howcloseis theconnection in histhinking between mathematics (as theprimeansto conceptualize therelationship ofbeingand event) and politics mary thatrelationship discovers its mostimportant field (as thedomainwherein ofapplication). It is herethatwe can bestgeta graspofthekindred process historical events can be seen to haveoccurred in response bywhichcertain - someabsence, to somepresumptive non-occurrence, anomaly symptomatic - thatleft or failure for lack,unresolved tension, open a space ofpossibility whatnonethelessarrived as a largely or unexpected downright unpredictable occurrence.
v

So there is a great deal riding on theissuebetween realism and anti-realismas Badiou construes oftheevent as thatwhichtranit,thatis, in terms scendsthelimits ofanygiven scheme ofso-far achieved (orextent conceptual - and thereby its absencefelt ontological grasp)whilst despitethatmaking - through ofitscharacter ofunreobliquely manifesting something symptoms solvedparadox, or conceptual strain. Thatthismust aporia,logicaltension, be thecase ifone follows outthefurthest ofsome always logicalimplications stateof knowledge is a consequence of Badious cardinalprepresent-best at through a critical-diagnostic ofall thosephilosophers, ceptarrived reading
59MichaelDummett, Elements Oxford (Oxford: Press,1977); of Intuitionism University also Truth and Other Basis ofMetaphysics (London: Duckworth, 1978)and TheLogical Enigmas ofDummett s arguments, see Norris, Truth (Duckworth, 1991).Fora critique Matters, cit.,and and theChallenge toScientific Realism ofLanguage Philosophy (London: 2003). Routledge,
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- from to Leibniz, Platoand Aristotle thinkers and political mathematicians, have either who Cantor and Dedekind to all the and thence way Spinoza or embraced reason of dictate to as it contrary every rejected emphatically can be seen to haveshiedaway their it up to a certain thinking pointwhere itsmoreradicalimplications. from that'consistent Such is his claim,to repeat, alwaysresults multiplicity' modes and in its various count-as-one of the from a restrictive operation the'incondissimulate or to is whose effect dragoon repress, object-domains of since least a matter as which sistent Cantor) formally (at multiplicity' - necessarily It is byway and exceedsit.60 bothprecedes truth demonstrable thatBadiou is able to elaboration ofthatclaimalongwithitsset-theoretical area ofontological to mathematics of the for his case every pertinence press orlessdrastic more a exists there where the including socio-political, enquiry, or the and and members between inclusion, belonging parts, nonequivalence contrasted thesepointedly as he defines and the'stateofthesituation' 'state' certain ofexclusion ofthat structure Hereagain,itis a matter terms. bywhich best be can that a structure in case this remain elements uncounted, grasped - alongwith theaforemento it- through ofresistance sources thepotential the excess of theorem tionedanalogywithCantor's concerning power-set since a it offers Thus sets. subsetsover specifiable mathematically sharp meansofexplaining i.e.,state-recognized collectivity anyacknowledged, why countfor who quiteliterally likethesans-papiers, willincludecertain parts, If there or social-communal of in respect civil,electoral, standing. nothing who this the work to core an ethical of philosopher has is, as I haveargued, it ethical of most varieties sethis faceso firmly thought present-day against with formal of combination injustthatremarkable is to be found rigor high commitment. ofpolitical and depth strength ofthisis thefactthatBadiou'smathinstance themoststriking Perhaps the on his maintaining are alike dependent ematicaland social ontologies that'twonegathatis, theprinciple axiomof double-negation-elimination, - thecon- as a matter ofstrict orthat makea positive' tives logicalnecessity statement affirmative to a straightforward oftwo'nots'is equivalent junction also - crucially itfollows Fromwhich concerned. or proposition ofthethesis - thatcertain truths can be established forhis entire arguthrough project trouble into one runs how or ad reductio ments absurdum, showing by by ifone affirms or self-evident falsehood) is,intocontradiction, absurdity, (that ofA and strict Thus: thesis. the or their "[t]he equivalence contrary negation - A - whichI holdto be directly linked to whatis at stakein mathematics, from ourdialectitime)- is so farremoved (and notsensible being-qua-being
60See Badiou, Numberand Numbers,cit., and "Ontologyis Mathematics",in: Theoretical cit.,pp. 3-93. Writings,

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thatontology and life, from cal experience, byhistory proclaimed everything and to the in this vulnerable is simultaneously empiricist thespeculapoint or of is a This tivecritique".61 principle mainstay classical,thatis, bivalent a realist of for defenders utmost of the true/false importance logicand is also thebasic sciencessinceit underwrites and physical approachto theformal exceeds in which that indeed, thattruth realistpremise maybe located - the verdict of present-best thatwhichnegatesor contradicts knowledge. a ofgranting forBadious purposes, it has theadded significance, Moreover effects whose roleto thosevariousmodesof negation decisive truth-telling logic and the maybe analyzednot onlyin the discourseof mathematics, markon thedominant leavetheir sciencesbutalso in so faras they formal existence. ofhumansocio-political structures thatof 'sensible If he takesthemto operatein a realmquiteapartfrom and life' kind of the self-evidence or from time1 by history 'proclaimed any of the significance his claim concerning thisdoes not in any way confute kinds other those about our for mathematical thinking discovery-procedures to an orderofverificationit has to do withtheir ofissue.Rather belonging or anti-realist in intuitionist be conceived cannot that truth transcendent various the into as fashion as depending particupon(or brought beingby) havebeen whichthey ofthought indexed through ular, processes temporally or kindsof mind-state in likewise specific by humanindividuals produced circumstance.62 epistemic as in realistterms, is best conceived, That is to say,whilemathematics of a prexistent on theprogressively embarked exploration further-reaching domainand notas somehow and as yetvery ontological unexplored largely its nevertheless ofenquiry in the course it or domain that making up creating excluof those structures how ofrevealing do havethepower discoveries just and socioon human mark their sionhaveleft scientific, intellectual, political, as Badiou be often most mark That cultural degrading, humanly may history. to the of thoseconfined addressto theplight makesclearin his passionate of zones wilderness into the or democracy 'representative' margin ejected Yetitis also, Franceand elsewhere. in present-day as ithas cometo function and conflicts site'wheretheresultant on occasion,themarkof an 'eventai as to overdetermined to a head or becomeso acutely are brought anomalies inducea legitiand thereby intosharprelief structures thosedominant throw intheorder some resolved be that mation-crisis epochalchange by only might been indeed has Such ofsocio-political ortheorder ofthought representation. formal to locatewithmaximum aim of Badious project: thecentral preci61Badiou, Beingand Event,cit.,p. 248. 62Dummett,Elements Intuitionism,cit.; also L. E. J. Brouwer, Brouwers Cambridge of

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at which thepoints sion(that is,bywayofa mathematically-based ontology) or explanaitslimits ofconceptual, is forced descriptive thinking up against events ofcertain character to concedetheexorbitant powerand obliged tory - thatinherently - in whichever endeavor or practical sphereof theoretical thoselimits. surpass theruling at leastwhensetagainst abouthiswork, Whatis so remarkable all readiness to is its ofpresent-day conventions transgress analytic thought, distinctions. and bynowdeep-laid ofestablished manner Among categorical such as thatbetweenthe formal themare disciplinary boundary-markers matters of'extraneous' is no roomfor there where sciences empirsupposedly and thesocial or humansciences concern ical or (evenless) socio-political as or introduced is either whereformal merely out-of-place thought rigour material. recalcitrant or otherwise means of a useful unruly regimenting so faras possiblein that it is onlybypressing For Badiou,on thecontrary, to limnthe very of a formal the claims direction and respecting ontology it to the we can think our of reality that and content structure waybeyond a that constitutes truth or so farunassimilated exorbitant kindof strictly of theevent exceedstheutmost Thatis to say, event. power ontologgenuine - one thatcannotbe conceptual graspsinceits occurrence ically-grounded or meansof practical availableproof-procedure by anycurrently predicted - willthen or somecrucial turn outtohaverevealed anomaly implementation Thistype of future-anterior in thesum-total ofpresent shortfall knowledge. construction out') is one thatBadiou frequently ('willhave turned deploys from thosevarious warrant itsformal as wellas substantive and thatderives - for - in settheory which and elsewhere advances unaccountable otherwise and the 'generic' Cohen'sconceptsof 'forcing' providethe onlyadequate denotesthe crisis-indicative To repeat, meansof theorization. yet 'forcing' as an existing ofthought movement though whereby anticipatory-progressive to register is nonethelessenabled obstacle toprogress yetscarcely registered the leveland thusprovide or preconscious subliminal as such at whatever someparticular to movethrough and beyond incentive needful impasse.In to all multiples that which denotes with thisthe'generic' belongs conjunction - no features admits ofno distinctive therefore and which in a given situation attributes ofcertain based on itspossession identifying membership-criteria - that In Badiou'swords, other suchparts. itoff from wouldmark '[a] generic to a partthatcorresponds is an "anonymous" multiplicity partofthisworld, to thewhole Andagain: '[a] generic no explicit partis identical predicate'. ofthispart- thecomponents in thefollowing sense:theelements situation as their to thesituation, or their ofa truth havetheir only belonging being, property'.63 assignable
63Badiou, Beingand Event,cit.,p. 223.

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as opposed extensional Badiou adoptsa strictly As I havesaid,thisis why that treats one of set-theoretic sets, to intensional ontology, understanding valuesas numerical oftheir in terms and elements subsets, solely multiples, It is thusconcerned undifferentiated acrossa strictly defined object-domain. and belonging of inclusion, relations withobjectively exclusion, specifiable or ratherthan withtakingaccountof certainintrinsic or non-belonging of them such that the possessionor non-possession features differential from case tocase. Ifthought decidetheissueofmembership wouldeffectively - whether or in mathematical, ethical, scientific, is to achievereal progress with maximum this to will need it then terms rigor principle apply political ormeans traits toanysuchimputed therecourse itself anddeny distinguishing mostoften Thesehavebeendeployed treatment. ofdiscriminative bywayof in the commitments and theirfavored old theories ontological conserving discriminafor rationale a handy orproviding faceofsomeradicalchallenge, whoseeffect selective or enforcing ofvarious sorts, procedures practices tory a purely ofsocialinjustice. forms is to perpetuate byespousing Only existing whatever to indifferent is that one extensionalist might perfectly approach - can or exclusion forinclusion be deemedto constitute otherwise grounds itspresfallunder doesn't which ofthat remain opentothechallenge thought those to more alert be will then It and just concepts categories. existing ently at some force subtractive their exert often most that conflict of signs emergent it ofwhatever is exposedto thechallenge thecount-as-one sitewhere eventai socioof order dominant where the or and arbitrarily excludes, preemptively a checkto itsclaimsofjusticeor encounters likewise representation political universality. extento a strict thatcommitment ofmaintaining on condition It is solely have and formal both the that sionalist sciences, managed physical, ontology or commonofreceived withtheorder breaks to achievea seriesofdecisive it is by meansof an analogousadvancethat ideas. Moreover sense-intuitive - albeit certain enabled has also been (todate)within clearlythought political of forms various limits to makerealprogress racial,ethnic, marked beyond is possibleonlyon Such progress or gender-related class-based, prejudice. and the factof the claim to inclusiveness between accountof thatconflict when of representation all systems thatcan be shownto inhabit exclusion to their (or assessment according critique subjectto thekindof immanent moststrikthatBadiou finds and truth) of validity standards own strictest force Its mathematical of in the motivating thought. history exemplified ingly of the from a absences, derives irruptions gaps, recognition dawning chiefly in sciencrisis- whether of looming of thevoid,or othersuch symptoms - that socialideology ofsomedominant or thediscourse tific discourse point Hence or to contain utmost their a truth toward comprehend. power beyond a rangeof(on theface issuesfrom on theneedto reformulate Badious stress
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ofit) heterogeneous - so faras they in ontological and therefore topic-areas allow- mathematically terms. formalized, Thishe takesto i.e.,set-theoretical offer a uniquely powerful most graspofthemeansbywhich epochalchanges often comeabout,whether in thescientific domain(where they maywellbe to a stage-by-stage formal or rational subject reconstruction after theevent) orintheethico-socio-political arenaturally more (where resistant sphere they to suchunderstanding eventhough there exists a close analogy between the various processes involved). Whatemerges through and analysisalong theselines is the continuing dialectic that forces open-ended to thelimit ofsomegiven repeatedly thought schemeand then- as a result of thetension conceptual or torsion induced reach serves as a kindof subliminal bya truth beyond present or prompt toward that obliquemeansoforientation ofas-yet precisely region unexplored terrain wherethetruth in question awaitsdiscovery. ontological So there is a sharpconflict ofviewsbetween Badiou'srealist ofmathematics conception as engaged in exploring features ofa landscapethatpossessesthosefeatures aside from how it is orprojected quite tothebestofourmapping represented on the other that and, ability hand, doctrines rangeof current (anti-realist, or conventionalist) constructivist, thatwould,in effect, instrumentalist, give thelastwordconcerning suchmatters. cartography Philosophically speaking theselatter find notonlyfrom Dummettian anti-realism with support itslinmodeofproceeding butalso from thewidespread guistic-logico-metaphysical of Quinean-Kuhnian ideas aboutontological acceptance relativity according to which'truth' shouldbe thought of as internal to thisor thatparadigm, orconceptual scheme.64 framework, Indeeditis a chief motivation ofBadiou's wholeproject to challenge whathe sees as thestrictly or backpreposterous to-front order ofpriorities thatfinds no place for as a derivaontology except tiveor secondary fieldof enquiry of human subjectto thescope and limits - very epistemic often graspand whichthenlooksto language conceived in - as theultimate holistic or cultural-contextualist terms radically horizon of or intelligibility. In thisrespect at least(and despite knowledge some otherwise deep differences of view)he is at one withthe rationalist Spinoza as theabsoluteprecedence of truth overeverything regards to lanpertaining - evenwhenusedwith and thechronic oflanguage guage, maximum liability care- to confuse or obfuscate thedeliverance oftruth.65 It is also,ofcourse, what him at oddswith that wholebroad puts markedly swathe ofpresent-day in and the human sciences which thinking philosophy promotes oflanguage justtheopposite thesis, i.e.,theprecedence ordiscourse
w bee and Other Uume, Ontological Relativity Essays, cit.,and "TtooDogmas of Empiricism", in: Froma Logical Pointof View,2nd ed. (Cambridge.MA: Harvard Univ.Press, 1961), pp. 20-46. 65 Badiou, Beingand Event,cit.,pp. 112-120.

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Badiou sees no hope of and truth. to knowledge overeverything pertaining thelinguisin these of advance except byrejecting disciplines any significant to mathematics of the claim in and stead inwhichever ticturn pursuing guise the that of the account a is, dialectic, being/event qualified provide uniquely some current-best whereby processof discovery yetrigorous unpredictable whicheludes and that to is stateof ontological by grasp subject challenge Thatsuchconsiderations modes. initsvarious thecount-as-one exceeds might - that domain thelogico-mathematical far havean impact might they beyond s most strikis Badiou on issuesofsocialand political bearcrucially justice will one that and normal claim heterodox conjure lights, philosophic by ingly After thinkers. ofanalytic thegreat bafflement all,itseems majority amongst - thefact/value ofat leasttwomajorprecepts contravention to be in flagrant second-order from of first-order and the separation ('material') dichotomy - thathavebetween a good characterized them modesofdiscourse Cformal') inthis Stillitis worth mainlineofdescent. inthat *'other' dealofwork noting, or oftruth as relative notions drift toward thatthepost-analytic connection, outin reactive is one thatstarted scheme' to thisor that'ontological internal clason just thekindofthinking s famed from fashion Quine demolition-job the for s logical-empiricist policing programme exemplified byCarnap sically is an in sharpcontrast, WhatBadious workoffers, in question.66 boundary in itslogicotruth between reasonedaccountof therelationship intricately as wellas natural-scienand itsmaterial mathematical (e.g.,socio-historical in formal totheprime sacrifices modeswhich imperative tific) rigour nothing ofjusticeor emancipatory with theinterests that critique. keepfaith thinking
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and in just thissense thatBadiou comesout It is on just thesegrounds - againstthekindof thinking thatmost more or ethics, precisely against another offers and which name under that often symptomyet nowadays goes afflicts so muchpresent-day that ofthepolarization aticinstance analytic phiand concerns ultra-formal the rift between Here it is (meta-ethical) losophy. what with or what s thatfrequently discourse a first-order just right equates communal ofsomegiven assentor bythelights counts as suchbycommunal its source to have rift seems life. this of or acculturated Again way practice formal theunyielding of thought in a reactive imperatives whereby pattern a further on the one hand suffered of Kantianmoralautonomy processof andontheother rarefaction counter-movement, gaverisetoa strong analytical demands.67 or rigorist of any such abstract i.e., a communitarian rejection
66Alfred and Semantics in:Logic, in Formalized "TheConcept ofTruth Tarski, Languages", Oxford Trans. J.H. Woodger Metamathematics. Press,1956),pp. 152-278. (Oxford: University 67See forinstance Camand theLimits MichaelSandel,Liberalism (Cambridge: ofJustice Blackwell, 1983); Walzer, (Oxford: Press,1982)and Michael Spheres ofJustice University bridge
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to Kantian morethanone reasonforBadiou'saversion So thereis clearly Kant derived that doctrine to thepolitical ethicsand,evenmore, (albeitby and the ofthesublime notions via hisaesthetic routes circuitous somehighly touchstone as a disinterest ofsubjective from his cardinal beautiful) precept - liketheFrench Revoluevents Thiswas hisidea ofgreat virtue.68 ofethical later and who came tion not as calls to activeintervention amongthose of for a mode as topics butrather as a sourceofpolitical tookthem impetus thefaculty that woulddeploy i.e.,non-interventionist thought contemplative, checkuponthewillto act or as a means as a salutary ofreflective judgment conduct.69 ofjustsuchprecipitate thestanding toholdoutagainst temptation statusquo cast around of theliberal-democratic whendefenders Moreover, a vagueamalis mostoften theresult for somekindofphilosophical support which outlook orcommunitarian thepragmatist with notions gamofKantian and other those with elective a strong inturn Wittgensteinian affinity displays to task.70 Badioutakesso roundly turn' that ofthelinguistic variants to as wellas philosophic a gooddeal ofpolemical Thushe devotes energy that order of a social as the Potemkin what he sees exploits faade denouncing serve as Thatis,they rhetoric. suchideasas a partofitslegitimizing typically of massive the which to conceal behind a smokescreen disparities economic, in little social and cultural very powerthatexist- and encounter political, conditions under resistance 'ethical' thewayofeffective prevailing currently - especially Here again,manyphilosophers liberaldemocracy. of capitalist fast and is Badiou that would thoseofan analytic playing object persuasion sorts of the as between ofcategorical a range loosewith distinctions, question or epistemology laid downbyontology on terms addressed (taking properly areasofconcern) related butalso importantly distinct tobe importantly these and some,notall, addressed and thesortsofquestions byethicists properly is his for commentator Whatcreatesmoreproblems philosophers. political with that farfrom thatBadiou is very awareness theawkward goingalong - in whichever of the postmodern-pragmatistfashion quarter present-day - that woulddismiss trend postanalytic-Wittgensteinian-Rortian-constructivist to various attachment of continuing a symptom as merely such objections in or specialist markers ofexpert obsolete deludedsinceplainly competence
but not purelycommunitarian nuanced anti-Kantian also - fora more philosophically approach - BernardWilliams,Ethics and theLimitsof Philosophy (London: Fontana, 1985). 68For an account of these complex,oftentortuouspassage of argumentin Kants writings on ethics,aestheticsand politics along with a critiqueof some of the uses to which theyhave been put by recent, especially 'postmodernist' commentators,see ChristopherNorris, "Kant AboutPostmodernism in: The Truth (Oxford:Blackwell, 1993), pp. 182-256. Disfigured", 69I. Kant, Political Ed. By Hans Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Writings. 1991). 70Badiou, AboutPostmodernism, cit.,for cit.;also Norris,The Truth forPhilosophy, Manifesto nexus of themesand ideas. discussion of thislately-emergent further

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thisor thatdiscipline. After is fond ofpointing all,as Rorty out,thisroadof is one that tends topoint thetraveler ina certain direction and thought firmly whichmakesanypreference forstopping-short or desirenotto pressright to itsultimate conclusion look morelikea fudge thana principled through stance.71 philosophic HenceBadious absolute insistence on respecting thosebasic distinctions - likethatbetween and or and comesto event, being ontology whatsoever - in the and scheme disrupt reconfigure anypresently acceptedontological absenceof whichwe could have no graspof the processwhereby revoluin come whether in or the the of about, formal, tionary changes politics history or social sciences.However, as shouldalso be clearby now,it is a natural, vitalpartofBadious project thatthereadershouldbe brought to thepoint ofre-thinking other chief the beliefs, deep-rooted philosophical amongthem idea thatformal of a certain kind that which in has its rigor home-ground mathematics and logicrather thanthemaxims and imperatives of Kantian reason- is ipsofactodevoidof anypossiblebearing on matters of practical ethicalmoment. Indeedhis workmounts a constant to those two challenge of the academic-philosophic mindsetwhose effect has been components to obstruct moreactiveengagement between thevarious mainly anycloser, modesofenquiry whosepresent-day found compartmentalization something likeitsinaugural in Kants doctrine ofthefaculties. On theone hand template is that inthefailure that has resulted ofmathemaprejudicial wayofthinking and exponents oftheformal sciencesto pursueontological ticians, logicians issuesbeyond whatthesethinkers takeas their (including social-ontological) domain.On theotherit has prevented in thinkers self-prescribed specialist ethicsand thesocial sciencesfrom of how politics, forming anyconception a mathematically-based lead themto the pointwherethat ontology might modelrunsup againstits own conceptual the limit, i.e.,whereit confronts event as that which eludesanysuchprior intrinsically specification. - as in other It shouldbe clearbynowthat on bothcounts salient respects thatI have mentioned in the courseof thisessay- Badious thinking runs athwart some of the or convensquarely deepest-laid premises governing tionsofphilosophy from Kantto thelinguistic in itssundry turn or analytic This above all to his heterodox mainland-European guises. applies conception of ethicsand his acidulousviewof whatcurrently passes underthatname - whether in academicdiscourse or in thestate-sanctioned and media-sponsored rhetoric ofliberal, or reformist centre-left, social-democratic, 'progressive' as so much to avert the policy just window-dressing designed publicgaze
especially R. Rorty, Philosophyand the Mirrorof Nature (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980); RelaPress, 1989); Objectivity, Contingency, Irony,Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University and Truth tivism, Press, 1991). (CambridgeUniversity 71See

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from thoseflagrant instances of social exclusion thatwould otherwise be seen to constitute a massiveanomaly and hencea standing to provocation more militant or activist modes of involvement. However the fact that other, Badious project is philosophically as wellas politically and ethically so much at oddswith all themajorcurrencies ofnowadays accredited is surely thought - prejudice no reason itssingular apart to ignore challenge.

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