06 July 2006

Badiou's Truth

Thinking about Simondon's account of individuation also increases my initial unease with Badiou. Two of the questions that keep occuring to me are first, why do we need truth as Badiou describes it? And second, isn't Badiou's account of subtraction radically inadequate in addressing the role that the structure or organization of a situation plays in accounting for what emerges in that situation? When I first began reading Badiou I was tremendously excited by his notion of truth-procedures and the event. This excitment, I think, was the product of a great discontent with the endless qualifications of deconstruction, the infinite practice of interpretation with regard to hermeneutics, and semio-structural analysis after semio-structural analysis. Everywhere I looked it seemed that thinkers wanted to talk about the world without intervening in the world, and it seemed to me that there was a sort of delight in handwringing about the manner in which we're all trapped within some sort of structure or hermeneutic horizon into which we're thrown. On the other hand I was put off by the sort of complacent, optomistic democratic liberalist view put forward by neo-pragmatists. If Badiou was a breath of fresh air, then this was because he loudly proclaimed that we should commit ourselves to something and act on behalf of that commitment, re-evaluating the situation from this perspective rather than understanding the event from the perspective of the encyclopaedic determinants of the situation.

However, the more I think about Badiou's theory of the event and truths following from the event, the more I wonder if there isn't something angelic in the strict separation he draws between the knowledge structuring a situation and the procedures of truth. Isn't there a way in which Badiou is giving a sort of bandaid solution to the desparation many on the left feel, faced with the prospect that the current system of global capital is impossible to change? Yet why must a truth be so radically subtracted from the structure of a situation? Why can we not instead think system change according to something closer to Deleuzian divergence, in a manner akin to how speciation takes place? And why isn't the formation of communities, the formulation of problems, and the engagement with a particular set of ideas and practices not itself a sort of commitment to the formation of new subjectivities and ways of life? Peter Hallward's latest book Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation informs me that Deleuze is an "otherworldly philosopher" who's ontology fails to formulate any program of political change and which is hostile to issues pertaining to solidarity and conflict, but given Deleuze's careful analyses of populations and the trajectories inhabiting populations as individuals, is this at all accurate or fair? Does not Deleuze's emphasis on the manner in which actualization always occurs within a field, a multiplicity, respond to these issues of conflict, solidarity, and the actualization of new solutions to problems facing us politically?

I have not yet had the opportunity to read Badiou's Logiques des mondes, but perhaps there he'll respond to some of my concerns pertaining to questions of how situations are organized. His thoughts on category theory and ordered transformations are already promising, but I still find his account of relation underdetermined.

2 Comments:

Anonymous rosey atonement said...

Another beautiful and insightful post. I was just reading a short article in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Ed. about Badiou's public discussion with Simon Critchley in New York. I think your initial enthusiasm about Badiou is echoed by many American scholars who feel frustrated with the state of "excessive qualification" in the language of deconstruction and who have very eagerly latched onto Badiou's work for hope and a way out of the quagmire. Not a misplaced hope, but your critiques here are sound. You've already moved beyond the stage of initial infatuation. I was also thinking about your post while listening to George Lakoff on NPR today talking about how the left needs to stop equivocating in its political speech and learn to embrace the repetitive word choices and "talking point" style of the right if anything is going to change in America.

The Chronicle article also captures a great quote by Badiou on his use of mathematics in his work and the resistant fear of all things math-oriented that he sees in humanities professors: "It's a phobia. My goal is to change a phobia into love."

July 08, 2006 1:09 AM  
Blogger Sinthome said...

Thanks Rosey,

Can you say a bit more about your thoughts pertaining to Lakoff? From the perspective of communications theory, I can see Lakoff's points, but I've found myself very uneasy with a number of his claims. I take it that the political is far more than "framing" or communicating effectively, and that "frames" emerge of their own accord when there's genuine and enthusiastic commitment to something. One problem today, I think, is that we merely have governance and no willingness to commit and choose. In the rush to please everyone and offend no one, nothing is said or done at all.

July 08, 2006 9:55 AM  

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