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Archive for September 8th, 2011

badiou as symptom rather than cure

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Philosophy in the twentieth century has been deeply preoccupied by – if not structured around – the question of novelty. How do (or more pessimistically, how might) new things, events, happen? Badiou, coming at the end of the chain, abandons all the previous modes of causal explanation, last but not least Deleuzian vitalism, and espouses instead a strictly non-causal explanation of change. Long story short, the event simply happens when someone decides that it has. It is not simply that he doesn’t explain how this decision might happen – his position is staked on the argument that we can’t explain how it happens, as if it were explicable it wouldn’t ever have been the new, an event, in the first place.

To me, Badiou’s conception of the event is far more symptomatic than useful. It’s symptomatic of the failure of a line of inquiry – the entire interrogation of novelty that is modern philosophy. When you have to be Pascalian about an issue, when you have to privilege the blind and (purportedly) inexplicable conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, it means the game is over.

After all, what’s even the point of explaining any of this – if an event is going to happen, it’s going to happen whether Badiou writes these books and we read them or not, as there’s no preparing for an event, no knowledge of the shape of the event that we need in order to be ready for it.

In all, my recent reading of Badiou – and the sense of his well-informed but desperate attempt to make some room for unentangled novelty – makes me even more convinced that the question of the new, of the event, was the wrong question to ask from the start. There’s another way, I think, to look at things, and it’s my gambit that certain modernist texts show the way.

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September 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

Posted in badiou, everyday