Badiou’s transformation of the mathematical distinction between constructible and generic into a philosophical distinction is a very interesting piece of conceptual creation. Badiou tells us that this distinction expresses a real alternative between two different modes of existence, two different ways of life: the mode of the constructible where everything is knowable and nameable in terms of the dominant language, and another where the existence is affirmed of infinite exceptions to whatever language is in place.

Many readers of Badiou have tried to interpret his system more freely than he does himself. The system appears to dogmatic, too metaphysical, too “sufficient” (in Laruelle’s jargon). One move has been to interpret Badiou’s set-theoretic ontology expressed in BEING AND EVENT as a regional ontology, in the category theoretical terms of LOGICS OF WORLD, and not foundational. Another has been to treat the mathematical concepts as mere applications of the more general allegorical concepts that he derives from them.

Laruelle takes the opposite path and renouncing any principle of charity (despite pious invocations of “democracy”) reads Badiou as providing the worst sort of dogmatic master language for englobing the real without remainder. Thus, he gives a constructive reading of Badiou’s work, while demanding that we read his own texts charitably, generically.

However, one of the interesting things about Badiou’s philosophy is that his conceptual tools allow us to envision other options than the particular one he opts for most of the time. I say “most of the time” because Badiou also makes an allegorical use of his own concepts in such a way as to pluralise, regionalise and relativise his original set theoretic foundational ontology.

This is what I like about the most recent phase of Badiou’s thought. His language is very generic (what I have been calling “allegorical”), and he is close not only to Heidegger but also to Lacan, Deleuze, Lyotard, and Laruelle. Badiou himself is cetainly not known for his charitable readings, and his account of Deleuze’s philosophy is a very good example of the operation of “covering over” that he denounces in contemporary ideology.

In contrast Badiou’s philosophical evolution has led him to elaborate a generic conceptual language that incorporates insights taken from his interlocutors, that he manages to free from their original systematic context and to re-activate or re-launch in the contemporary context.

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  1. JH says:

    What do you think about Badiou’s direct engagement with Deleuze?


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