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badiou as symptom rather than cure

with 9 comments

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.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

Posted in badiou, everyday

9 Responses

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  1. Well said.

    Jim

    September 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

  2. “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.”

    Don’t leave us on such a cliff-hanger! Please expand…

    Kalat

    September 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

  3. Yes, Badiou’s events are an escape into mysticism.

    aelilea

    September 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm

  4. Tease.

    Happily, I always already knew that way.

    Ray Davis

    September 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

  5. Kalat,

    You’ll have to wait for the book!

    adswithoutproducts

    September 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm

  6. Ain’t no WHSmiths in the storm zone.

    Jim

    September 9, 2011 at 5:05 am

  7. Ain’t no Sunshine State in WH Smiths either… alas!

    Kalat

    September 9, 2011 at 11:48 am

  8. Is it true that this Badiou is a Maoist creep who’s good friends with Bernard-Henri Levi? Levi was together with Zizek on the anti-Kusturica bandwagon in the 1990s. These kinds of people should be arrested, really.

    Professor Novels, I have to confess that I was so smitten by Von Trier’s MELANCHOLIA that I forgave you for all the unpublished novels and am now eagerly expecting a review.

    parody center

    October 23, 2011 at 5:00 am

  9. Well?

    Jim

    December 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm


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