BADIOU’S IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: arguments 2012-2017

1) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2012-2013:

“In BEING AND EVENT, published in 1988, I proposed a new theory (at least I think it is…) concerning the triplet of being, the subject and truth. It was a matter of showing that, under the condition of a chance (the event), and in a determinate situation, a creative process could be deployed, a process that is both infinite and of universal value, and that we had good reasons to call a truth. I further showed that the being of a truth is not different from that which constitutes the being of the situation where this truth arises, namely a multiplicity of multiplicities, whose possible thought is always mathematical in type (this is the equation : mathematics = ontology). There is thus no dualism, a truth is constructed of the same stuff as the place where it is progressively created. Lastly, I defined what a subject is — different from the individual in that it is always the subject of a truth — as the local differential point of a process of truth.

As can be seen, my concern at that time was to guarantee the possibility of a thought of the being of truths on the basis of the particularity of situations, without having to accord to truths, and thus to the possible universality of thought, an irreducible type of being. The assemblage: multiplicities, event, subject, allowed me, thanks to the appropriate mathematics drawn from the work of Paul Cohen, to establish that a truth is universal because its being is generic, which means: as little marked as possible by the particularities of its situation. I could rationally affirm that a truth is, in a given particular world, an immanent exception.

This year I would like to return to this notion of immanence, and by a sort of reversal of perspective to examine not only what a truth is from the point of view of the world where it arises, but what the world becomes when it it is perceived and thought from the point of view of the truth. Or: not to justify that a mundane order can tolerate an exception, but to examine what happens to this order when it is worked on by an exception. The question can also be stated very simply : in what way can a truth change the perception of “its”world, or even the figure of being of this world?  And what, in this supposed transformation, is the function of the subject?

We shall see that to get to this thought (capital today, when what dominates are the conjoined motifs of the invariable world, of the non-existence of truths, and of the impotence of the subject), we will have to destroy the even more dominant thesis of the obligatory  finitude of existential or cognitive experiences. The affirmation that the finite, strictly speaking, does not exist, and that the dogma of “human finitude” is an imposture, is the beginning of all liberation”.

2) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2013-2014:

“Last year we established these main points:

  1. That “immanence of truths” means both that truths are not transcendent, being constructions internal to determinate worlds; and that it is important, to reply to the only important philosophical question, namely “what is it to live?”, to experience what a determinate world can be when examined from the perspective of a truth, in immanence to a truth, whether it be political, amorous, scientific or artistic.
  2. Thus the formal reply to the question “what is it to live?” is that it is important to participate in a Subject immanent to the process of a truth, a process itself immanent to a determinate world.
  3. The true life is thus to be immanent to an immanence, and this is precisely why it encounters a certain form of eternity, not outside time, but on the contrary by an extremely profound excavation of time: “We experience that we are eternal” (Spinoza).
  4. We have seen that the principal obstacle encountered on this path, the nucleus of the repressive practices that constrain us to be ignorant of the replies to the question “what is it to live?”, is the multiform ideology of the finitude of life. Which is natural, as every process of truth is virtually infinite.
  5. We have thus explored the labyrinth of the different forms taken by the couple finite/infinite, making use of, in order to do this, mathematical rudiments and poetic breakthroughs.

This year we will continue this investigation by situating ourselves this time no longer on the side of the obstacles and repressions, but on the side of immanence itself. We will try to find on what resources the human animal draws to discover in himself not only the capacity whose existence the dogma of finitude denies – the capacity to go beyond the limits of the world, or again the capacity to possibilise the impossible –, but also the power to live the world, not according to the laws of the world, but according to the laws which should be those of the world once we examine it from the perspective of the immanence of an immanent truth. In other words : to live the world, not as the individual that one is, but as the Subject that one can become”.

3) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2014-2015:

In the seminars of the last two years we have established the following points:

  1. The dominant ideology in the contemporary world, that of globalised imperial capitalism, reposes on the consensual acceptance of finitude. In this world the unsurpassable norm of the Subject is in effect satisfaction and its inevitable correlate: the competition to obtain this satisfaction.
  2. To oppose this ideology evidently does not amount to establishing oneself in the infinite as if it were a separate spiritual fatherland. That was, and still is, the strategy of religious spiritualism. Rather it is a matter of dividing the principal concept in play, namely that of finite reality.
  3. I propose that this division contrast two types of finite, and so of finitude, that which corresponds to the waste product, and that which corresponds to the work (oeuvre) We shall say that the finitude of the constrained consumer, the finitude of the democratic Westerner, corresponds to the passive circulation of waste, otherwise called “merchandise”, a circulation ruled by the inaccessible and unnamed infinite of Capital as such. We shall say that the finitude of the free man, egalitarian finitude, the finitude of Socrates, or of communism, corresponds to an active interruption of the circulation by the effect of a work. This interruption always takes the form of a demonstration, which ties it to science, of an action, which ties it to politics, of a passion, which ties it to love, or of a contemplation, which ties it to art.

It will be question this year of entering into the detail of the disciplined, creative, and living operations which allow us to stay as much as possible in the logic of the work, and to conquer, for the subject so engaged, the possibility of at last having the experience of true life and, as a consequence, of happiness”.

4) Alain Badiou, Argument Seminar 2015-2017:

“This seminar will deal with the creative relation between the finite and the infinite, in the four registers where truths exist: science, art, politics, and love. This is why it will combine conceptual explanations and examples directly drawn, for example, from certain curious mathematical results, from some typical productions of contemporary art, notably the theatre, from the political situations of the moment, and from the historical state of the relation between the sexes.

Last year, we principally dealt with the operative modalities of finitude, as the dominant ideology: the different means which convince us that to live always amounts to passively settling down in the inevitable character of finitude. In other words, everything which persuades us that to live is to accept being the finite waste product of the infinity of constraints. During the year 2015-2016, we are going to get to the affirmative side, which shows that the finite as oeuvre always results from an access to two distinct infinities, whose crossing and friction engender, precisely, the universal dimension of a finite fragment. We will do this in two steps: first the critical examination of the most profound formalism of the thought of the finite, that is the theory of constructible sets. Then a first passage through the registers of the work (the “oeuvre”), from the angle of the immanence which constitutes them, namely the dialectic of truths which interlaces two infinites and their finite result : the sciences, politics, the arts and loves”.

(My translation).

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One Response to BADIOU’S IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: arguments 2012-2017

  1. Mark says:

    As I understand the above, the subject engaged in the logic of work should lead to individual happiness, is this correct? Happiness seems to be elevated to a greater good with the phrase ” the possibility of at last having the experience of true life and, as a consequence, of happiness”

    Being a consumer or a worker could make me happy or unhappy, depending on the experience given rise to by consuming or working.

    Badiou seems to assume the individual is englobed by the subject. This seems coherent with conventional non-conventional understanding. But if the individual is understood to be a social construction then the individual encompasses the subject and integrates the processes that give rise to the subject. The individual becomes more than what can be experienced, while the subject is trapped in experience. From this perspective the individual does not act, the subject continues to beleive it is acting and may be lucky enough to experience happiness as a result.


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