BADIOU AND ANTI-PHILOSOPHY: individuation vs incorporation

Badiou calls “antiphilosophers” thinkers who have a more open and ample thought than his, then reassures himself by incorporating them into his system. One can praise Badiou for his readiness to take these “antiphilosophers” seriously, despite what remains classical in his own project. The only philosophers that I have ever truly liked have quite a big dose of antiphilosophy, although this term of Badiou’s is biased. One could equally call them the “real” philosophers, but this would amount to just turning the dualism around without changing its structure. Maybe we could put them all together, and talk about who is more or less reified on certain points. However, it is true that Badiou englobes all these influences again under the reified belief “I am a philosopher”.

I am reminded of the beginning of RHIZOME, where Deleuze and Guattari say that they signed the text with their own names but that this does not make it an identitarian text – no reified belief in their own identity is implied or required. The analogy that they use is with people saying “The sun is rising” when they know this is just a manner of speaking. Deleuze and Guattari have no such belief, as they replace belief in identities with faith in becomings. Feyerabend published an article called NOT A PHILOSOPHER, and I think it is based on this same de-reifying strategy, as for me he is very obviously a philosopher in the tradition of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.

Badiou is different in that he believes in the identity of the philosopher, despite attempting to democratise it through the notion of the “desire of philosophy” that he deploys in his new book: METAPHYSICS OF REAL HAPPINESS. He talks there about the need for the philosopher of effectuating a “rupture with the course of the world”, and so implicitly of taking the path through solitude and suffering, but he undoes this step by insisting on the need to “incorporate” oneself into Truths in order to be a Subject and to know happiness.

One could call this the path of individuation, but people tend to talk about individuation as some sort of euphoric process, and in my view they are dis-individuated in doing so. I have sometimes felt obliged to intervene in such discussions to say that real individuation hurts and that sometimes it stinks. It is no euphoric individual or collective promenade in the fields of positivity. This is Jung’s point of view, that in the process of individuation one goes repeatedly through the experiences not just of difficulty and failure but of decomposition i.e. of rotting. 

So in the process of individuation (or subjectivation) the “rupture” is by far primary over the incorporation. My problem with Badiou is that ultimately for him incorporation has primacy over rupture and individuation. This is one reason why I prefer to read Badiou without the identity that he himself seems to require. Read in that way certain ideas and phrases can be extrapolated out of their limiting context and can be used to stimulate thought.

Note: I am indebted to a facebook conversation with Stingo Farin, Artxell Knaphni, and Alexandre Monnin for help in clarifying these issues.

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3 Responses to BADIOU AND ANTI-PHILOSOPHY: individuation vs incorporation

  1. grfuller says:

    Interesting. ‘Individuation’ reads as a kind of self-actualisation (joyous or miserable etc), rather than a process of always necessarily co-Individuation between an individual and an associated milieu. After Kant and Lyotard I talk about this as ‘enthusiasm’, which is similarly described as some kind of excitement-euphoria, but which Lyotard (in his reading of Kant) argues is both a passage and an impasse. The difference I think is onto-epistemological. How can one make a decision about a ‘truth event’ when the epistemological conditions of possibility simply do not exist prior to the passage? It is like Badiou expects the individual to ‘philosophise’ an associated milieu through the decision and material practice of affirming the truth, rather than the onto-epistemological process of individuation of the individual and associated milieu, which involves the impasse-passage of shifting conditions of possibility. To put it another way a prior affective-embodied ‘decision’ is intuited and ‘made’ before the decision.

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    • terenceblake says:

      This was Lyotard’s objection to Badiou, that in his system one had to decide to name the event in order for there to have been retroactively an event. Yet one had to decide first that there was an event before deciding second on the name; Further, deciding that there was an event implicitly appealed to an affection by the event, something that was lacking in Badiou’s system.

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