CROSSINGS OF TRUTH PROCEDURES: Badiou’s new lesson

Badiou’s thought has taken a new turn in his ongoing seminar on THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS.

SUMMARY

In the preamble to the first class for this academic year Badiou gives a brief autobiographical overview couched in terms of his philosophical system. He divides his life into four periods:

1) Childhood (1937-1953) Badiou has nothing to say here: “we are not going to get into an auto-analysis, or anything at all like one”. Analysis has to do with the truth condition of love, and Badiou does not want to explore the Oedipal “simplicities” of early love. Perhaps he has come to accept Deleuze and Guattari’s idea that Oedipus throws the mask of ifinitude on the infinity of desire. Moreover, Badiou is talking here as a systematic philosopher, and so no “Confessions” in the style of anti-philosophy are proposed.

2) Youth (1953-1968). Here Badiou is more forthcoming. He mobilises his theory of the four truth procedures to designate the “referents” of his life. Poem (the arts): Badiou has always been a “writer” as well as a militant, a lover, and an amateur of the sciences. The dominant approach to writing during that period was that of the novel. Badiou published two novels in his youth: ALMAGESTES and PORTULANS. Politics: classical democratic electoral politics. Love: traditional romantic encounter and family setting up and settling down. Matheme (the sciences: the beginning of a lifelong interest in mathematics).

This heuristic use of the truth procedures for biographical phenomenology is potentially quite fruitful. Describing his childhood and youth up to 1968 Badiou insists on its conformity to the conventional narrative of growing up, composing a classical trajectory, a Euclidean life.

3) Adulthood – the “long adult deployment” (1968-2017). This sequence is characterised by Badiou’s engagement with new forms of politics outside the space of the parliamentary State. His writing becomes more theatre-oriented. He experiences the complexity of love: “love as an adventure to support, as complex labour”. His involvement with science becomes more precise: the “truly prolonged and detailed settling into certain sectors of mathematics, in support of philosophy”. These procedures converge on the full deployment of philosophy itself,  both convoking the four truth conditions and sustained by them.

Badiou informs us that with this “last seminar” he is in the process of putting the finishing touches to this third period, of “adult deployment”, and that this third stage of life will come to an end on 17th January 2017, on his 80th birthday, and that the next day a “fourth life” will begin.

4) Old age (beginning on 18th January 2017). Badiou has decided that this date will mark a new beginning. It is a true decision, as he remarks that adult deployment could be considered to go on indefinitely, and to include old age and being-towards-death. Badiou has explained elsewhere that he refuses this Heideggerian concept (based on an intrinsic finitude), so he prefers to mark this conceptual refusal by means of a decision. Badiou’s philosophy will be completed with the publication, after THEORY OF THE SUBJECT, BEING AND EVENT, and LOGICS OF WORLDS, by a fourth and last volume: THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, to be published on the 16th January 2017. What happens after that will be a new beginning, a decisive rupture with the previous period.

Badiou affirms there are two “methods of entry” into his philosophy.

1) The systematic approach: we can read the big four systematic books, in order.

2) The orderly voyage: ce can read the two manifestos and the seminars.

Both methods will get the student of his philosophy to the same goal in the last instance, by way of a different trajectory.

Badiou announces that he will be returning to the theory of the four truth procedures, from the point of view of “the possible crossing, the possible combination”, of two distinct truth procedures”. There is an ontological background to the question in that “a crossing of truths is ontologically a crossing of infinities of different types”. Each truth touches a specific type of infinity: “infinite of absolute proximity, inaccessible infinite, etc”. This theory of “crossings” as opposed to sutures is potentially very interesting. Bruno Latour’s position has undergone a similar re-focusing on crossings. Demarcation can only get you so far.

Next, Badiou gives an empirical survey of various crossings: love and art (poetry, novel, cinema); science and politics (including the science of the economy and politics); science and the arts (architecture, installations, quantum art, Leonardo da Vinci); politics and art (engaged art, Plato’s exclusion of the poets); love and politics (theatre, tragedy). He concludes this inventory with the affirmation that the most difficult crossing is that between love and science, because it involves “the difficulty of crossing two types of infinite that are hard to match with each other”.

COMMENTS

Given Badiou’s distinction between the ordered system and the orderly voyage, the question of crossings between truth-procedures belongs more to the orderly voyage. The ordered system is more concerned with the conditions of possibility of these truth-procedures, and with their ordered, but abstract, inventory.

Given the periodisation of his life, Badiou’s period of “adult deployment” can be further divided into four phases, corresponding to each of his four “big books”: subject, being and event, appearance and worlds, immanence and happiness. Each of these phases or sub-periods mobilise a different type of mathematics: algebra and topology, set theory, category theory, theory of very large infinities. We can also discern more general traits that are transposable to the evolution of the other truth procedures over this same period: installation, demarcation, complexification, crossing.

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6 Responses to CROSSINGS OF TRUTH PROCEDURES: Badiou’s new lesson

  1. Dominic Fox says:

    I love the idea that old age begins at 80. Classic Badiouvian chutzpah, that.

    Whether the scheme of assigning different classes of infinity to different kinds of truth procedure will come off remains to be seen. Some of the ropier bits of LoW are those dealing with “large” infinities. It’s a return to set theory, but to the wilder shores of set theory. Badiou’s always been a maximalist when it comes to mathematical ontology: anything that can be postulated (and shown not to be inconsistent) “exists”, or at least is immediately available for thinking with. This means that he has an exotic and powerful conceptual vocabulary ready-to-hand, or at least ready for philosophical transformation (I don’t want to underplay the work involved). There is genuine risk in the mobilization of such concepts: risk that you’ll get the technical details wrong (which I contend does vitiate the whole enterprise, no matter how poetically the mistake is set forth), but also risk that the loop between mathematics and philosophy is either too tight (suture, or merely retracing the steps of mathematics) or too slack (handwavey metaphor-mongering). Badiou at his best is a master of letting it out and reining it in – the “rhythm” of Being & Event is essential to its composition. It’s like watching someone work a bellows.

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  2. landzek says:

    At first glance, sounds like Hiedegger’s attempt, under a different guise. I wonder how many times we will have to encounter a method that proposes to get somewhere, somehow, specific and never get there, before we give it up? Lol. I think the effort itself is the subject of analysis, always missing itself.

    But I’ll read it closer when I have a mint.

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  3. landzek says:

    Are you taking this seminar Terrance?

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  4. Pingback: BADIOU’S PROTOCOLS OF IMMANENCE: on a poem of Cesar Vallejo | AGENT SWARM

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