NOTES ON THE BADIOU STUDIES HOAX
Like many people I think that hoaxes can be a sign of intellectual vitality and social health. In Maoist terms: Let a thousand hoaxes bloom!
I would argue further that many philosophers, including Badiou, provide us with unconscious self-hoaxes. Badiou, when he is not at his best, reads like an involuntary parody of his own jargon and theses. But this is not incompatible with his being a very interesting and creative philosopher.
Any philosophy can become banalised into mere combinatory playing with its own stereotypes of expression and argument. On these occasions we could say that Badiou is just “doing Badiou”, doing his Badiou act. I have no problem with critiquing such descent into stereotype when it occurs in Badiou or in his disciples. But I don’t think it proves much.
Badiou analyses this sort of banalisation, under the term “covering over” (recouvrement). It happens to all of us, people reduce us, our personality or our ideas to a narrow set of stereotypes, or we do it to ourselves. Huneman and Barberousse are certainly not free of such stereotypes.
My problem is with the supposed target of Huneman and Barberousse’s hoax. I find they slide rather too easily between four different targets: Badiou himself, his philosophy, his anglophone reception, one particular issue of Badiou Studies.
1) Ergo Proxy: Their target cannot be Badiou’s philosophy: this would involve a lot more work and argument than they have provided. Huneman and Barberousse claim that Badiou’s philosophical practice does not respect scholarly standards of argumentation. Yet they commit the totally unscholarly mistake of trying to discuss a philosopher by talking about everything else but his philosophy.
2) Selection bias: Nor can the target be Badiou’s anglophone reception in general: here Huneman and Barberousse are content to talk in terms of vague impressions, and do not consider the many serious anglophone Badiou scholars. Huneman and Barberousse should have submitted their nonsense for example to THE BADIOU DICTIONARY, where it would have been rejected.
3) Guilt by association: If the target is one particular issue of Badiou Studies, why do Huneman and Barberousse single out an insignificant and unrepresentative Badiousian production? Unless by picking on an easy target they think they can remount the whole chain and attack Badiou’s philosophy without first doing the hard interpretative and argumentative work.
4) Fan (philo-)fiction: This leaves the fourth target, Badiou himself. There is a striking disproportion in the implied scope of the hoax and its ostensible target. Why would a director of research at the CNRS (Huneman) and a Sorbonne Professor (Barberousse) undertake a criticism of a major contemporary philosopher by spoofing a very minor journal of Badiousian philosophastery?
Huneman and Barberousse accuse Badiou of being incapable of engaging in argument, yet his reply is well-argued. Their analysis and explication of their hoax is full of ad hominem arguments, assertions without supporting evidence, and appeals to authority.
In conclusion: just as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY began as fan fiction in the wake of the TWILIGHT SAGA, we can assign both the journal BADIOU STUDIES and Huneman and Barberousse’s hoax + analysis to the same genre of Badiousian fan philo-fiction.