SUBTRACTING SELF-IMAGES: Badiou and Latour

I do not criticise Badiou’s concept of a truth procedure, but his meta-theoretic reification of his mode of usage of that concept. I distinguish the work of conceptual investigation within the system from the work within the reflexive image of the system and I claim this doubling can lead to the reflexive image imposing arbitrary limitations on the conceptual investigation. In the case of the truth procedures one of the limitations is the count of four.

Some pro-Badiousians seem unable to see how I can be positively approaching the Badiou machine while still wanting to tweak it in the direction that it is already evolving. They are missing a level of abstraction and also a level of concreteness.This leads them to focus on the system as product and to de-emphasise the system as productive investigation.

At the abstract level I am merely subtracting the self-induced image of the system within the system as unreliable reification. This is a simple application of Badiou’s (and Deleuze and Guattari’s) idea of subtraction.

At the concrete level I am merely remarking what everyone knows: it is laughable to think that love is necessarily limited to the Two, or that the truth procedures are the Noble Four. Here I am freeing the system from its transcendental fixations.

Nowhere do I argue that unlimited pluralism is the ultimate goal, on the contrary. Neither does Latour nor Feyerabend. My point is that the self-limitation of the system to only four truth procedures is completely unsupported. It bespeaks a lack of ontological imagination.

In talking about the existence of “magic numbers” in Badiou’s thought I do not of course think that Badiou believes in numerology, but rather that the form of his thought involves posing a halting point to the process of inquiry in the form of numbers (4 procedures, 2 of love) as transcendental posits rather than the results of inquiry, whether the investigation be empirical or conceptual.

I am not talking about Badiou’s ideas so much as a heuristic usage vs an apodictic usage of those ideas. I am proposing a “heuristic” use of those ideas, a use that regards those ideas as in flux, open, capable of variation, responsive to further investigation.

Latour talks in terms of “veridiction”, more precisely of “modes of veridiction”. This is a very different concept than Badiou’s “truth procedures”. But this very difference allows us to compare and evaluate systems rather than being struck dumb by the imposing presence of a single view.

The advantage of disposing of fully worked out alternatives is true of Badiou’s ontology compared to Heidegger’s. Badiou’s concept of Being is very different from Heidegger’s concept. But by enlarging the conceptual field with a fully worked out alternative he has brought Heidegger’s monologue back into the dialogical field. This is what I have been doing on this blog for over six years now, taking pluralist philosophies that have become in one way or another one-sided, unduly systematised and stabilised, and bringing them into dialogue with each other.

Above all, I want dialogue between alternative systems. I do not want to fall into the molar opposition of systems (Deleuze, Badiou, Latour, Laruelle, Stiegler, Feyerabend) conceived as take it or leave it totalities.

I am quite conscious of the differences, nay the incommensurability, between Badiou’s and Latour’s systems. I argue however that there is a meta-commensurability between them in that both are forms of ontological pluralism, exploring different options within that common meta-problematic or research programme. This is the common measure that I propose: ontological and epistemological pluralism.

One cannot refuse all comparison by asserting that the two projects are radically different in nature, and not just in orientation. Badiou’s project presents itself as speculative, and to that extent un-empirical, philosophy. On the other hand Latour’s project presents itself as empirical metaphysics. Yet on this blog I have been arguing that Latour’s system is far less empirical than he claims, and that it contains unsupported speculative elements at key junctures.

Similarly, Badiou’s edifice of speculative philosophy in so far as it involves configuring the contemporary space of compossibility of truths inevitably contains an empirical aspect. Truths are created and have consequences within historical worlds, this is why philosophy as the contemporary configuration of truths is necessary, and why it involves an empirical register. Badiou does not deduce his truths, he encounters them.

Thus the self-images of these two philosophies impose obstacles of only a relative nature, the difference in approach is not absolute but one of degree. Latour’s system is both more speculative and less empirical than advertised, Badiou’s philosophy is more empirical than is commonly thought.

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2 Responses to SUBTRACTING SELF-IMAGES: Badiou and Latour

  1. Adam Klein says:

    there are some interesting points in this post. I hope you are so kind as to repost it in the fb group where the debate has been going on, so it can hopefully fruitfully continue.

    Like

  2. Pingback: LATOUR/BADIOU: a “wild” comparison | AGENT SWARM

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