GENERIC ONTOLOGY vs SPECIFIC BIOGRAPHY: Badiou as symptom and cure

I have been thinking of my own experience in writing for this blog (for over six years now) with trying to open up a debate with a certain number of academic groups and of coming up repeatedly against the same epistemological obstacle and dialogical impasse.

The problem arises most intensely for me when people develop or make use of some form of pluralism as an ideology to cover over practices, positions, goals that are not pluralist at all.

I will take the example of Alain Badiou, because I am very interested in his recent thinking on a pluralist ontology of the immanence of truths. However, I am constantly frustrated by certain limits to his thought that come from biographical particularities that as yet Badiou has not overcome, despite his long evolution towards ever greater ontological pluralism.

Badiou recognises the existence of four truth procedures: science, art, love, politics. But here there arises a first problem. Badiou also names these procedures: the matheme, the poem, the Two, communism.

Thus Badiou for each of his procedures has both a generic name and a specific name, and oscillates between them uncontrolledly. He talks of love (generic) and the Two (specific). I deny that the “Two” is an adequate specification of generic love (this objection is also one of Deleuze’s points against the dual conception of love).

The same problem of vacillation between a generic and a specific characterisation holds for Badiou’s deployment of the other procedures. The conflations he operates of science with the matheme, of art with the poem, and of politics with the communist hypothesis are all very reductionist manoeuvres. They are what we could call intra-procedural sutures or reductions where a generic procedure is identified with a hegemonic specific subset.

Badiou’s idea of love as necessarily the Two is not intuitive at all, but a reified historico-social stereotype. In Badiousian terms this specification of Love as the Two is a result of a crossing of two truth procedures, love and politics, in which an ideological covering (the two) from one truth procedure (the political) is pasted onto the constitutive principles of another (the love procedure).

A related problem with Badiou’s particular system is his religious use of certain sacred numbers, such as 4. There is absolutely no good reason for Badiou to recognise only 4 truth procedures (rather than 15 as in Latour’s AIME project).  The number of truth procedures and their characterisation can only be a question of pluralist heuristics. There is no reason, no transcendental deduction or empirical confirmation for holding to 4 as the number of truth procedures (Latour has 15 modes of “veridiction”). Every reader of Badiou should also read Latour (and vice versa), and think deeply about each’s prejudices and their own.

Another example Badiou’s continued Lacanism. Badiou grew up under the intellectual hegemony of Lacan (who is full of magic numbers), but there is no reason for those whoare interested in Badiou’s pluralist ontology to adopt his Lacanism any more than they should start eating the baguette.

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One Response to GENERIC ONTOLOGY vs SPECIFIC BIOGRAPHY: Badiou as symptom and cure

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

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