In the video Badiou explains the context of his Heidegger Seminar: it was the third and last, of a series of three seminars devoted to the question of Being, in the three years leading up to the publication of his BEING AND EVENT. The three seminars are
(1) Ontological Figure: Parmenides
(2) Theological Figure: Malebranche
(3) Figure of Withdrawal: Heidegger
Badiou’s positive philosophy is based on a critique of philosophies of withdrawal, and provides an immanent alternative.
Badiou criticises Deleuze’s concept of the virtual for perpetuating in part a philosophy of withdrawal:
the decision to think Being, not as simple unfolding, neutral, entirely actual, with no depth, but as virtuality constantly traversed by actualisations; the fact that these actualisations are like the populating of a cut (cut of the plane of immanence for you, cut of beings for Heidegger); all that entails a logic of reserved power, that I think is common, in this century, to Heidegger and to you.
My question would thus be the following: what in your view essentially distinguishes your relation virtual/ actualisations from Heidegger’s relation of Being and beings? (Badiou’s Letter to Deleuze, my translation).
However, Badiou notes that despite this conceptual withdrawal to be found in Deleuze’s thought they have in common the refusal of any historical narrative of the withdrawal and forgetting of Being:
In your work there is no “historial” set up, of the type “history of the forgetting of being”, “decline”, etc. As you say, you are certainly not tormented by the “end” of philosophy (ibid).
This LETTER TO DELEUZE dates from over 20 years ago. But I think that it still contains something very useful for today. The response to Heidegger, as we are now beginning to understand his personal orientations even more than before, must be ontological as well as ethical and political. Badiou’s new ontological hypotheses are very useful for that more general response, and despite the disagreements he manages to highlight what he has in common with the already existing response of a thinker such as Deleuze.
The eighties is a period that many thinkers have seen as one of reaction and regression. In the introduction to his recently published seminar for the year 1985 – 1986 on Parmenides, Badiou talks of this period as one of the triumph of liberal ideology and of “capitalo-parliamentary” brutality and propaganda:
“It was necessary, starting from 1983, if not earlier, to defend oneself against all contagion by the deleterious atmosphere that was to mark the eighties. The activist hope of new forms of political emancipation retreated, everywhere in the world, under the pressure of an intellectual and material counter-revolution” (Badiou, PARMENIDES, my translation).
Badiou’s reaction was to construct a protective shell, what he calls a “philosophical carapace”, to keep his philosophical passion and creativity alive despite the increasing hostility to philosophical reflection and to ideological struggle:
“I began to construct a philosophical carapace withhin which it would be impossible to allow oneself to be overcome by renunciation, and even less to become the accomplice of capitalo-parliamentarism” (ibid).
Badiou’s diagnosis of the problem of philosophical sufficiency was that the theoretical unconditionality of philosophy is tied to its practical attitude of renunciation. This is what underlies the prevalence of philosophies of withdrawal. His proposed solution was to deny to philosophy its pretention to unconditional status, and to submit its conceptual creation to a set of “conditions” or “truth procedures”.