BADIOU AND IMMORTALITY: literal exegesis or allegorical hermeneutics

It follows from Badiou’s concept of death, as explored in the previous post, that we human subjects are not under the régime of “being toward death”, we are not mortals (as opposed to the gods), as Heidegger calls us, as death is not intrinsic to our ontological constitution. For Badiou death is a contingent affair, and there is neither an ontological nor a logical impossibility in our becoming one day immortal (cf. Alan Harrington’s THE IMMORTALIST for an early vision of humanity engineering its own immortality).

However, this reflection only gives us quantitative immortality, which is quite consonant with capitalism and its quantitative conception of infinity. Badiou, at the end of LOGICS OF WORLDS gives us another, qualitative, idea of immortality as the ability to circulate between a variety of worlds and to incorporate oneself in different truth procedures.

The infinite of worlds is what saves us from every finite dis-grace. Finitude, the constant harping on of our mortal being, in brief, the fear of death as the only passion—these are the bitter ingredients of democratic materialism. We overcome all this when we seize hold of the discontinuous variety of worlds and the interlacing of objects under the constantly variable regimes of their appearances (514).

On this blog I have been analysing Badiou’s passage between a literal, technical acception of his concepts and a freer more metaphorical (or allegorical) acception. The literal sense is implicitly appealed to as a foundation for the allegorical, but this founding operation is illegitimate.Nor is it necessary. Badiou’s philosophising is torn between the speculative creation of concepts and the “sufficient” (in Laruelle’s sense) grounding of speculation in the foundational identity “mathematics is ontology”.

More generally, Badiou is constantly passing from a literal exegesis of the mathematics of set theory and of category theory to an allegorical hermeneutics that allows a transversal application of concepts drawn from mathematics to other domains. It is this (allegorical) transversality of his speculative creations that constitutes the interest of Badiou’s system. Badiou proposes not so much a philosophy of mathematics as a philosophy by means of mathematics.

Note: I am indebted to facebook discussions with Eric Sapp and with Nadim Bakhshov for helping me to clarify these points.

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One Response to BADIOU AND IMMORTALITY: literal exegesis or allegorical hermeneutics

  1. I keep these two statements:
    “Death is not intrinsic to our ontological constitution”
    “a philosophy by means of mathematics”

    Liked by 1 person

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