Badiou’s philosophy as expressed in his books BEING AND EVENT and LOGICS OF WORLDS is an impressive work in progress of pluralist philosophy. There are some major points that I disagree with, but the work as a whole is full of inspiring intuitions, ideas, analyses and arguments. One of Badiou’s strong points is his ability to take philosophies that are very difficult to argue with, notably those of Heidegger and Deleuze, and bring them into an argumentative field by elaborating an alternative philosophy of comparable scope and depth, and so allowing discussion of fundamental issues. To discuss Badiou’s philosophy it is not sufficient to extract de-conceptualised theses and “argue” about them or to exclaim triumphantly that they are not open to argument.
On the question of Badiou’s “postmodernism”: Badiou’s thesis is that the pluralism of the postmoderns is no big new final discovery, but that it constitutes merely a rather evident starting point for new analyses. Badiou has in common with the postmoderns the idea of pluralism. He differs from them with his theory of Truths. Huneman and Barberousse are content to group Badiou with the postmoderns without arguing their point. I think, as on several other points, that this parallel is only partially true. But to prove their point they would have to come to terms with Badiou’s theory of Truths, as well as his theory of the subject. Publishing a parodic imitation in an obscure para-academic journal is certainly not arguing at the right level, but taking the easy way out.
Along with many other readers of Badiou, my own view of his philosophy is that it is a very useful contribution to post-structuralist and post-deconstructionist discussions, but that its principle defect is a tendency towards a reifying idealism. In the light of Badiou’s most recent work towards a theory of “the immanence of truths” I no longer think that the comparison with Deleuze comes out so straightforwardly in the latter’s favour. Deleuze’s philosophy itself has often been transformed into a set of stereotypes, Deleuzism, and Badiou’s critical discussions are invaluable in freeing us of this sort of Deleuzian doxa. However, what is lacking in Huneman and Barberousse’s analyses, is a historical and conceptual context. In other words, they consider Badiou’s philosophy in isolation from its problematic.
To be clear, I am not defending Badiou’s philosophy, which is seriously flawed, but defending the necessity of a real engagement with his ideas if one is to arrive at a just evaluation, and the hoax and its sequels do not provide us with this.
Badiou compares very unfavourably with Deleuze if one stops at Badiou’s BEING AND EVENT. This book embodies what I call the “time machine” effect in French philosophy. I read the book when it came out in 1988. I was very impressed, but found it very wrong-headed. My feeling was that it would have made for a very interesting discussion with the Deleuze of DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (1969) if he had published it 20 years earlier. LOGICS OF WORLDS (2006) was an improvement, but read to me like a failed discussion with A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, 25 years too late. It’s only with his work since then, and more particularly in his seminars over the last three years prepatory to the publication of THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, that I find Badiou overcoming (at least partially) his worst idealist tendencies.
Note: I am indebted to a facebook discussion with Alezander Lee and Andrei Molotiu for helping me to clarify my ideas.