BADIOU SON AMOUR: dépasser les auto-limitations indues

Mon analyse du système spéculatif badiousien m’a amené à la conclusion qu’il contient une dimension empirique qui n’est pas souvent mise en lumière. Cette empiricité, qui est inscrite partout dans le système, se loge dans un grand nombre de ses présupposés, de ses thèses et de ses concepts. Cet état de fait du système est susceptible d’entrer en conflit avec un de ses critères les plus importants: la généricité.

Donc les présupposés non-thématisés de cette empiricité doivent être rendues explicites pour les soumettre à l’examen critique, en vue d’atteindre à la plus grande “généricité” possible.

A ce stade de mon propre investigation je voudrais souligner deux points:

1) le nombre des procédures de vérité est proprement une question empirique, plutôt qu’une nécessité spéculative. Badiou affirme qu’il n’y en a que quatre, mais il ne peut fournir aucune preuve apodictique de ce compte. Il préfère placer le fardeau de la preuve sur le dos des “candidats” au statut de procédure de vérité, comme si son propre compte et sa catégorisation étaient des acquis intouchables, à l’aune desquels tout “supplément” au système devait être jugé.

Cependant le système ontologique proposé par Bruno Latour reconnaît d’emblée quinze types de “modes de véridiction”. Il semble que la parcimonie ontologique de Badiou est indûment limitative et trahit peut-être un manque d’imagination ontologique.

2) la caractérisation, le contenu et même le nom de chaque procédure de vérité sont aussi dans une certaine mesure le produit d’investigations empiriques, mais qui ne sont pas thématisées en tant que telles.

Un exemple très clair nous est fourni par la procédure productrice des vérités amoureuses ou désirantes, que Badiou nomme tout simplement “amour”. On est en droit ici de poser un certain nombre de questions.

1) Est-ce que “l’amour” est le meilleur nom pour désigner un processus plus que personnel de co-individuation noétique et psycho-somatique? Derrière le nom se cache une question de catégorisation. On ferait peut-être mieux d’envisager l’amour comme une subdivision d’une procédure plus générique. Les candidats pour un nom plus générique existent déjà.

James Hillman parle de “soul-making”, Deleuze et Guattari parle d’évolution a-parallèle et de double devenir, et Bernard Stiegler analyse le processus de co-individuation comme un cas particulier de l’individuation psychique et collective.

Les sciences sont catégorisées dans une procédure nommée le “mathème”, les arts dans le “poème”. Dans les deux cas la catégorisation implique une ré-conceptualisation. Pourquoi cette nomination tautologique dans le cas de l’amour, où la procédure pertinente s’appelle “l’amour”?

“L’amour” comme nom d’une procédure de vérité qui institue l’amour comme productrice de vérités est un nom trop limitatif, et donc insuffisamment générique.

2) Est-ce que la limitation de l’amour (en tant que procédure de vérité) au “Deux” est justifiée empiriquement ou spéculativement? D’autres analyses ont été écartées sans argument. Par exemple, cette notion du Deux de l’amour est précisément ce que Deleuze essaie de dissoudre au nom des multiplicités inter-personnelles et sous-personnelles. Le “Deux” Badiousien n’exprime pas une analyse pleinement générique de l’amour.

Valider le choix conceptuel du Deux au nom du rôle fondamental joué par la “différence sexuelle” dans la formation psychique revient à accorder trop d’importance à un système discrédité de la psychanalyse, le lacanisme, qui dans ses concepts fondamentaux est un système conformiste, patriarcale, et hétéro-normatif.

Le “Deux” est une caractérisation insuffisamment générique de l’amour.

3) Comment est-ce qu’on motive l’inclusion d’un phénomène dans la rubrique de l’amour? Badiou situe la psychanalyse dans la procédure amoureuse, et je suis d’accord avec lui sur ce point. Cependant beaucoup de ses fidèles pensent que la psychanalyse est une science, ce qui la placerait dans la procédure scientifique, le “mathème”. Comment peut-on dans le système Badiousien décider de la catégorisation “correcte”, ou alors est-ce que les deux catégorisations sont justes?

La mono-catégorisation est un outil intellectuel insuffisamment générique.

4) Quel est le statut de la religion par rapport à l’amour? Badiou envisage la religion en tant que productrice d’une image de la vérité qui rivalise avec celle qui régit la philosophie. Bruno Latour situe la religion, en tant qu’instance productrice de vérités, entièrement à l’intérieur de la procédure de l’amour. En revanche il situe la psychanalyse à l’intérieur d’une autre procédure, non-répertoriée dans le système Badiousien, appelée “MET” ou la métamorphose.

Je pense que la comparaison entre la métamorphose et l’amour, et entre leurs destins respectifs dans les deux systèmes, enrichit notre compréhension de ces deux types de véridiction. Mais leur séparation en deux catégories différentes semble reposer sur une démarcation dictée par des préconçus biographiques. Grouper ensemble la religion et la psychanalyse dans une seule rubrique pourrait nous amener à changer le nom de la procédure dont elles relèvent, en faveur d’un nom plus générique que “l’amour”.

Accorder un statut ontologique à la psychanalyse lacanienne c’est lui attribuer un degré de généricité immérité.

5) Est-ce que la description badiousienne de l’amour ontologique est empiriquement juste? Badiou et Latour proposent des descriptions phénoménologiques de l’amour très différentes. On est en droit de penser que la description spécifique de l’amour proposée par Badiou est fidèle, mais qu’elle ne capte qu’une partie du phénomène amoureux. Les valeurs mises en lumière dans l’analyse latourienne de l’amour, par exemple la reprise et la proximité, ne sont pas accordées une place importante dans l’analyse badiousienne.

L’exposition ontologique ne doit pas être disjointe de la description phénoménologique, ni de la confrontation avec d’autres descriptions à visée générique comparables.

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LOVECRAFT NOETIC DREAMER (1): “Hesperia” and immanent Platonism

The most common stereotype concerning H.P. Lovecraft work associates him with the tale of supernatural horror, and with the negative affects of fear, fright, doom, despair, dread, horror, terror, etc. and with a worldview of pessimism or nihilism. However, while all these elements are indeed present in his work, I wish to argue that this conceptual and affective assemblage presents a reductive tableau of Lovecraft’s cosmological vision as expressed in his literary oeuvre.

Some writers seem to be vaguely aware of this reductionism and prefer to talk of Lovecraft as a writer of weird tales, but their use of the term “weird” is usually strongly tinged with this horrific coloration. A more englobing coloration of the weird would be provided by the recognition of the overwhelmingly oneiric quality of Lovecraft’s work.

Fortunately some commentators, for example Lovecraft’s friend and mentoree Robert Bloch, have seen and emphasised this pre-eminence of the dream.

“The one theme incontrovertibly constant in both his life and his work is a preoccupation with dreams.  From earliest childhood on, Lovecraft’s sleep ushered him into a world filled with vivid visions of alien and exotic landscapes that at times formed a background for terrifying nightmares” (Robert Bloch, introduction to THE BEST OF H.P. LOVECRAFT (New York: Ballantine, 1963)

Where this oniricity is acknowledged it is still most often reduced to only one dimension of the dream, that of the nightmare. The positive affects of awe, wonder, inspiration, desire, mystery, numinosity, expectancy and revelation are given short shrift. Ambiguous words of ambivalent connotation and coloration are glibly reduced to a single negative tone, for example the “void” is seen under the aspect of negativity and extinction.

Another theme that is blown up out of all proportion is that of the “supernatural”. Strange Gods, ancient magic, demons are either taken at face value by the most naive or seen as metaphors of the indifference of the Universe to humanity and of its eventual extinction by the more sophisticated. This terrifying supernaturalism is valorised all the more as it fits in well with the diagnosis of nihilism.

Lovecraft’s essay

These considerations cohere into the stereotype of Lovecraft the author of nihilist tales of supernatural terror. Unfortunately there are many of Lovecraft’s poems and tales that do not fit easily, either in whole or in part, into this stereotype. These are either ignored or denigrated as Romantic residues or derivative, Dunsanian works.

These more positive oneiric works can still be integrated into the nihilistic interpretation in that they often contain both a de-realisation and a de-valorisation of life, as illusion or as unsatisfying, not worth living. There is a nihilistic longing for another yet unattainable world, often synonymous with the extinction of personal identity seen as deliverance from the mistake of ever having been born, a mood of dissatisfaction and yearning underpinned by a vaguely Schopenhauerian-tinted Platonic dualism.

Yet we know that Lovecraft was both a materialist (recognising no separate supernatural or even Platonic realm) and a dreamer (subscribing to no mundane nihilism of the loss of all value). Lovecraft’s materialism is a constant of all his stories:

“There is never an entity in Lovecraft that is not in some fashion material” (S.T. Joshi, THE WEIRD TALE, 186).

Far from being a cosmic pessimist or a Romantic nihilist Lovecraft is best seen as a noetic dreamer, an oneiric materialist, an immanent Platonist. The dream, both waking (noetic) and sleeping, is part of our creative engagement with the material world and of our resistance against nihilism.

One can easily find elements of “Platonism” in Lovecraft’s stories and poetry, but I wish to argue that this is part of his revaluing or “renoetising” of a material world that is often seen as hostile to creative values, as “denoetised”. Lovecraft’s fiction presents us with a form of “immanent” or non-dualist Platonism.

Note: I am using a terminology taken from Bernard Stiegler’s DANS LA DISRUPTION (2016) for the positive vocabulary and analysis that it proposes for talking about the dream as a material phenomenon of imaginative meditation and aspiration, a “noetic” (from “nous”, Greek for intellect, intellection).

I wish to talk about the poem “Hesperia”, number XIII in the sonnet cycle FUNGI FROM YUGGOTH, to illustrate this approach to Lovecraft’s vision. I choose this because of the very interesting reading proposed by Jesse Willis and Eric Rabkin in their marvelous and intelligent podcast “Reading Short and Deep”. They provide a link to the pdf of the poem, and they discuss it on episode 54. The motto for the podcast, “there’s always more to say”, is an invitation to continue the dialogue further, or as Jung advises us to “dream the dream on”.

At first sight “Hesperia” is built on a dualism between this “dull sphere”, the finite and imperfect world of human constructions and aspirations and another world of perfection, “the land where beauty’s meanings flower”. The other Platonic world is forever out of bounds, unattainable by mere humans, unsoilable by “human tread”.

Yet this realm is not totally inaccessible, we can approach it in dreams (“Dreams bring us close”). But not just in the dreams of the night. The poem is a meditation that occurs at a visionary moment (“winter sunset”), it is a waking dream where the poet can actually see the other world. The affects that preside over this experience are not those of dread, fear and doom, but splendor, divine desires, beauty and wonder. We participate in those affects even if we cannot abide in their source. We are humans not gods and so our participation is limited to intermittent visions and cyclic dreaming.

The dominant elements are fire and water, the “flaming” winter sunset and the “starlit streams of hours”. Our world is the world of Heraclitean flux and becoming, but the “rich fires” open the way to divine desires, and the “streams of hours” derive from the “great river Time”, whose source is the eternal world. So we are never wholly separated from this world, only “half-detached”. In the other direction, starting from immanence, religion and industry (spires and chimneys) are themselves “half-detached” from this dull Earth.

We need both movements to make us fully human, subjects capable of living in time in the light of eternity. We are intermediate beings, forever “half-detached”. Certainly we are never fully detached from the dull matter of the material world, but we are also never fully immersed in dull matter either.

The poem conforms to the classical structure of the sonnet. It is traditionally composed of an octave presenting the problem and a sestet disclosing the solution.In “Hesperia” the octave is situated in the world of immanece, the movement is up and beyond. The sestet begins in the world of eternity, the movement is down into time and matter.

The initial octave is the point of view of the mundane world which opens onto a vision of divine life located in an eternal city. The gates open in certain visionary moments and we can see the way, but we cannot tread it. The sestet is the point of view from the numinous world, in which the river of Time finds its source, crossing the vast void lit by the light of the stars, and dividing into the “streams of hours” of our human heliocentric measures of time.

There is no radical separation between the two realms, no dualistic opposition, no point of absolute detachment. There is a tension between two poles. We live as more than human animals by participating in both. The poem is both cosmological, expressing a vision of the world contained in a winter sunset epiphany, and ethical, containing implicitly an answer to the question of the conduct of life.

The answer to the question of how to live is not just the impossibility of transcendence for the human subject, but also its pointlessness: we are not separated. Beauty is eternal, and even if its full meaning does not flower for us we have dreams and visions, moments of insight and poetico-cosmological epiphanies.

We cannot “tread” our way, like animals, into eternity, nor can we dwell there like gods. But we can dream our way there and come back enriched or transformed.

Another answer is contained in the hour of the vision, the “winter sunset”. Yes this is the symbol of the World Cycle and of the Eternal Return. As noetic beings we rise and sink in imagination and understanding. More specifically, “winter” and “sunset” are times not just of decline, like autumn and evening, but of disaggregation. Lovecraft is a materialist for whom all is the coming together and the dispersal of matter. The winter sunset is the season and the hour of decomposition, a time particularly favorable for sighting another world, only half-detached from our ordinary world.

Maxim 1: inspiration can come when things are falling apart.

This materialist maxim of life, that moments of decline and disaggreagation can provide the inspiration for new vision, does not sound at all pessimistic. Pessimism and nihilism are not inherent to Lovecraft’s vision but stem from the dualist spectacles with which we may read him.

This advice to look to moments of decomposition of our certainties and of our stereotypes for inspiration to new understanding and new action is complemented and reinforced by a spatial indication – the poet looks out to the horizon, to a space “half-detached” from our mundane sphere of dull indifference, to “great gates” that open onto eternity . Mundane forms are dissolved, replaced by imaginative forms burning with intensity and desire.

Maxim 2: inspiration can come if we follow the line of horizon.

A third indication for the eyes of the spirit is that beauty is no longer a matter of personal esthetic enjoyment nor is it the fruit of personal memories. The imaginative “method” is one of anamnesis, or remembering, of images and events that are not located inside our personal experience, instances of “unplaced memory”. Beauty is conjoined with meaning and memories with their source in imaginative vision:

It is the land where beauty’s meaning flowers;

Where every unplaced memory has a source

Maxim 3: inspiration can come if we search for the images, desires, and intensities active within the memories.

My vision of Lovecraft is the Nietzschean one of the artist as convalescent, both patient and doctor, sick from our civilisation and healing from it. For Lovecraft, nihilism is the sickness, not the solution or the conclusion. Dreaming and imagining actively, as valued moments in our processes of individuation, are not escapism but an important part of the cure.

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ONTOLOGICAL PLURALISM: not an ontology and more than a pluralism

Zizek’s critique of object-oriented ontology is part of a more general project, which invites comparison with Laruelle’s expanded non-philosophical project. It involves critiquing and replacing our standard forms of ontology with something related but different that both Zizek and Laruelle call “non-standard” ontology.

Convergent with Zizek’s and Laruelle’s analyses and arguments I myself have proposed a critique of standard, or “synchronic” ontologies and the preliminary characterisation of a non-standard, or “diachronic” ontology.

(For a summary and link to the full paper IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID? https://t.co/oALmX142YN.)

This text contains the first sketch of an attempt to characterise the sort of non-standard ontology that I wish to develop. In this article I make use of the single term “diachronic” to designate an alternative to standard or classical ontologies, whereas today I prefer to spell this alternative out in terms of a cluster of traits: pluralistic, heuristic, realist, open, diachronic, empirical, apophatic, and democratic.

See for example: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/feyerabends-ontology-pluralist-diachronic-apophatic-empirical-and-democratic/

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EXPANDED PHILOSOPHICAL UNIVERSE: Laruelle and philo-fan-fiction

It is by now generally admitted that François Laruelle has never really read Badiou, and in fact he has never seriously pretended to. His polemical book ANTI-BADIOU, devoted to a quantum deconstruction of Badiou’s philosophy, is both a philo-fiction and a philo-hoax.

More specifically, Laruelle is ignorant of the last ten years of Badiou’s thought, and visibly not well-acquainted with his LOGICS OF WORLDS, which was published in French in 2006, nor with the pluralisation that this book brought to Badiou’s ontology. Going further back, Laruelle has only a philo-rigid understanding of BEING AND EVENT. He also seems unable to relativise his thought by situating it as a particular contribution in a wider context, and is incapable of realising that Badiou’s set theoretic and category theoretic thought does the work that he requires of his own quantum thought.

Ignorance, perfunctory reading, decontextualised thought, inability to relativise oneself: these are the traits of philosophical sufficiency, the fault that Laruelle sees everywhere, in everyone except himself.

One may contrast this state of affairs with the thought of Slavoj Zizek. In his most recent books Zizek elaborates a quantum thought that he does not oppose to Badiou’s philosophy based on set and category theory but that he puts in parallel with it.

Reading Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU in this light implies considering the book as bridging the difference between hoax and fan fiction, making of it something rare, a “fan-hoax”.

The fan fiction corresponds to the non-philosophy side of Laruelle, and the fan-hoax to the non-standard side. Indeed we may assume that the prefix “non-” favored by Laruelle to indicate an expansion of a field beyond its customary boundaries, is best translated as “fan-“. This is on the analogy with the now defunct Star Wars Expanded Universe, haven of non-canonic fan-fiction.

This expanded philosophical universe invented by Laruelle and expressed in an expanded French has led to a new genre of translation and of philosophical discussion in what can only be called fan-English.Fan-English translations and discussions of Laruelle’s ideas are conducted in an incomprehensible language that only partially resembles English, but that one thinks surely means something in French.

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BADIOU AND A PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE: eliminating doxic residues

Badiousians often put the dogmatic cart before the investigative horse. For example they talk smugly of noone ever having proposed an acceptable fifth “candidate” for the status of truth procedure as if they formed some transcendental tribunal applying a pre-existing body of statutory law.

But there is no reason to assume that the four officially recognised procedures have been adequately vetted and are now safely ensconced in their status.

For example I think that the status of “love” as truth procedure should be revoked and that it should be re-convoked as candidate to be examined by a more more scrupulous jury: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/badious-love-procedure-avoiding-de-genericity/

The “matheme” too should be forced to re-present its candidature. Bruno Latour’s REF (referential truth) is a more satisfying and more generic term. My argument here is that Badiou’s account of the science procedure suffers from an internal suture or reduction of its internal complexity and multiplicity to the mononomic matheme. However, the diverse natural sciences are not reducible to the matheme and should rightly be considered to constitute separate strands of the composite procedure, whatever its still to be determined generic name.

Badiou has already implicitly given some material for a philosophical account of the more complete version of the procedure and of its internal divisions, but this needs to be further elaborated.

If Badiou in talking about art can comment on the motif of the horse as an eternal truth in the art procedure, from Chauvet to Picasso, then in talking about science it should be quite possible to treat the motif of the atom from Democritus to Bohr as an eternal truth in the same way. There is an astonishing lack of respect for a principle of symmetry in Badiou’s treatment of the different procedures, which suggests the continuing presence within the system of ideological clichés or doxic residues.

Karl Popper used to criticise Darwinian evolution as “metaphysical” but he later changed his mind on that categorisation. f Badiou is not intent on simply pontificating infallibly he should be able to change his mind on the categorisation of biology for example, which is far from being a case of vulgar empiricism.

In other words a Badiousian philosophy of nature should be possible if the system is not to remain a dead statue but have a life of its own.

Stated more generally, I am in agreement with Tristan Garcia’s analysis that there are big problems of categorisation present everywhere in Badiou’s system.

Note: I am indebted to a discussion with Friedrich Keunermann for helping me to clarify my ideas on this point.

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L’INCOMMENSURABILITÉ POREUSE: comparer l’incomparable (2)

Certainement mes hypothèses sont tout autre que celles de Badiou, sinon je serais dans la répétition de la philosophie “normale” (suivant l’analogie avec la “science normale” analysée par Thomas Kuhn). Tout mon blog est une cartographie des options prises par les philosophies qui ont rapport de près ou de loin avec le pluralisme ontologique.

C’est pas mal ce que j’ai fait sur 6 ans, et je ne vois personne qui a fait autant dans ce type de cartographie.

C’est grâce à ce travail que je peux repérer des point de fixation ou d’auto-limitation dans les divers systèmes que j’examine. La force critique de ces repérages est variable. Par exemple, je pense avoir montré qu’il y a une fragilité importante dans la conception et l’analyse badiousiennes de l’amour comme procédure de vérité.

Mon orientation n’est pas neutre. Elle est clairement affichée dans le titre de mon blog (“Agent Swarm” joue avec l’idée de “multiplicité active”) et dans son sous-titre pluraliste (“pluralisme et individuation dans un monde de devenir”).

Cette orientation pluraliste me permet d’éviter un rapport fusionnel avec les philosophies que j’étudie. Je suis ni badiousien, ni deleuzien, ni latourien, ni serresien, etc. C’est pour cette raison que je souligne que mes hypothèses sont “heuristiques” (c’est à dire qu’elles facilitent le cours de mes recherches) et que mes méta-critères sont “pragmatiques” (c’est à dire qu’ils émergent de mon enquête analytique et comparative en tant que formulations provisoires de valeurs partagées par moi-même et, en parties variables, par les systèmes que j’étudie).

A mes yeux la philosophie de Badiou est en contradiction dynamique entre un pluralisme qui est inscrit partout dans son système et un sur-codage limitatif systématisant. Pour un survol de mon approche méthodologique on peut se référer à cette conférence:, qui exprime mes conclusions en forme d’une analyse de l’évolution philosophique de Paul Feyerabend, même si moi-même je ne suis pas feyerabendien.

Sur la question de l’incommensurabilité entre des systèmes théoriques, mon point de vue est nuancée. Les incommensurabilités de principe (qu’il est très important de constater et d’explorer) dans les sciences sont souvent ignorées ou transgressées dans les faits par une commensurabilité pragmatique où on glisse facilement d’une théorie à une autre pour arriver à élaborer des hypothèses qui poussent la recherche plus loin.

C’est à dire: si on aborde deux systèmes (scientifiques, philosophiques, etc.) en bloc leur incommensurabilité est totale et absolue, mais si on cherche à participer au mouvement de la pensée il existe des porosités et des passages.

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LES PLURALISMES CONTEMPORAINS: comparer l’incomparable

Badiou n’est pas Latour, qui n’est pas Badiou d’accord! Les systèmes ne sont pas du tout pareils, ils sont incommensurables, OK.

Il faut bien garder à l’esprit que quand Latour parle de l’amour ou de la religion il n’est pas en train de faire des propositions divergentes à l’intérieure du système badiousien.

Mes critères pragmatiques de méta-commensurabilité (ouverture, pluralisme, réalisme, dialogue, empiricité, historicité, apophatisme) sont conçus pour nous permettre de comparer des programmes de recherche incommensurables et d’établir des échanges féconds.

Ces critères ont été élaborés sur six ans dans mes tentatives de comparer les systèmes de Paul Feyerabend, Graham Harman, Hubert Dreyfus, François Laruelle, Bruno Latour, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou et Bernard Stiegler.

Mon but n’est pas seulement de comparer ces systèmes incommensurables mais aussi de repérer des points d’auto-limitation que des perspectives alternatives peuvent nous aider à dépasser.

Un principe constant de cet effort théorique: de ne jamais prendre pour argent comptant l’auto-description qu’un philosophe fait de son propre système ni la description qu’il fait des autres systèmes. Badiou lui-même a bien suivi ce principe dans ses investigations du système de Deleuze (et de bien d’autres philosophes).

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