BADIOU’S REDUCTIONS (4): the suture of Being to one (specification of) Being

Along with the annihilation of regional ontologies, the homogenising of multiplicities, and the placing of inventive procedures under the commensurating hegemony of truth,  Badiou’s thesis on Being, which seems to engage him in dialogue with the philosophical tradition, amounts to nothing less than the return to a pre-heideggerian naiveté about Being. As Laruelle remarks Badiou’s ontology is ambiguous in that it « postulates the simply philosophical destruction of the ontological Difference as difference » (ANTI-BADIOU, p105). This ambiguity is another instance of what Levi Bryant termed « the tension between meta-theory and theory ». In Laruelle’s rendering of the same idea as applied to the ambiguity of Badiou’s ontology: « it does not say what it is and is not what it says it is, it claims to be an ontology but realises itself as ontic experience and thought, coinciding with a determinate knowledge produced by the sciences » (ANTI-BADIOU, p115). This determinate knowledge of ontology, produced by the Cantorian revolution, is no longer philosophical but mathematical. Being has been subjected to ontic and epistemic captation by way of the mathemic suture.

Lyotard’s critique is in a similar vein in that he calls for a suspension of judgement when faced with the decision in favour of a specification of Being: « I try as far as possible to avoid the term of ontology ». He has no objection to the notion of regional ontologies, but once again is mistrustful of an enterprise that could present itself as a pluralism but hide an ontic and epistemic captation of Being. Lyotard thinks that this captation is impossible, and betrays a transcendent positing of Being as one, which only negates the real multiplicity of inventive régimes. Against this dogmatic attitude, Lyotard affirms a more prudent and more modest attitude, « this reserve, this ignorance, this remainder, that we do not know, when we say that there is « being », if it is « one » being, and that we will never know » (Témoigner du différend », p116). This sceptical attitude towards the dogmatically posed unity that the very use of the word « being » risks imposing reserves judgement on the pretention to know that any absolute thesis of Being comports:

« All that we can know is that there are occurrences. I favour this word, it has the modesty to say that in effect something is happening … But that nothing indicates that it comes from some One » (ibid, p116-117).

Badiou claims to be faithful to the multiple, but his fundamental categories undermine that explicit commitment, and his pluralism is fragilised by this pragmatic contradiction. Lyotard remains faithful to the multiple to the point of wishing to abandon ontology rather than allow its ontic and epistemic capture:

« What I criticise in ontology is not the hypothesis of being … but it is the presupposition of the unity of being that I criticise (ibid, p116).

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