This is a philosophical video book (or VOOK), a work in progress aimed at giving the first book length commentary on Alain Badiou’s THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS.
Badiou himself distinguishes two possible approaches to his philosophy:
1) the systematic approach by way of his three full-scale volumes (BEING AND EVENT, LOGICS OF WORLDS, and THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, and
2) a phenomenological approach by way of his seminars, talks, smaller books giving a more intuitive access to the system.
I attempt in this video-book to think through the book as I read it, and so to synthesise the two modes of reading by combining an in-the-making video approach with a linear reading and analysis of THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS.
A vook! Sounds good.
I wonder what you would say to some of Isabelle Stengers about Badiou, whom I have read little of.
« IS: How to get a hold [comment faire prise]? This question
proclaims that I resist what I call, pejoratively, the theatre of
concepts. Whether it’s [Alain] Badiou, [Slavoj] Žižek, and so
on, we have the impression that the one who discovers the
right concept of capitalism or communism will have discovered something extremely important. So, I “reclaim,” as the
neo-pagan witches say, a pragmatist Marx. That is, a Marx
about whom we can say when reading him, “Yes, at the time,
effectively, his analysis was an excellent hold.” But also a Marx
whose nightmare would have been thinking that more than
a century later, we would continue to rely on this hold and
to make of it concepts that are more and more disconnected
from his question. His was a pragmatic question: understanding in a “consequent” mode, that is, in contact with the possibility of transformation. So, “reclaim” Marx, recuperate him,
but also (and this is a move that I learned from the witches) rehabilitate him, reproduce him. And not for any concern
for justice on his part, but from the perspective of asking his
question once again. If we want to understand him in the
sense of transformation, we have to re-ask ourselves to what
capitalism could give hold today [il faut se re-demander à
quoi le capitalisme pourrait donner prise aujourd’hui].’
‘IS: And, Guattari spoke about axiological creationism…
There is bread on the cutting board of the censors! [mocking
laughter] But if there is anyone who is a quasi-spiritualist,
it’s Badiou! The event as a matter of fidelity, the four truths,
etc. It is spiritualism in the sense that there is a genuine
transcendence in relation to the state of things.
EB: Exactly. He does not ask the question about the
modes of existence, and this transcendence justifies
his “pure” politics…
IS: And, as soon as we in “the pure,” in “the pure and the
true”…The convergence between the true and the pure, that
is the sin of spiritualism!’
‘EB: You have situated yourself in
relation to Badiou. At the extreme
of the philo-political spectrum
that interests us, we find a certain
kind of messianism. In particular, I
am thinking of Giorgio Agamben,
Tiqqun, the Invisible Committee, etc. I can’t help myself from
seeing several points of contact
with your work, in particular at the
level of a reflection on the hold
and the capture, an attempt to
position our vulnerability to being
captured by apparatuses [dispositifs], with the difference that this
thinking is dramatized in a messianic or apocalyptic manner.
IS: Yes, but this difference is crucial,
it is everywhere…For me, Agamben is
the inheritor of a tradition from which
I want to escape, from which one must
escape. This tradition says: We are in
a disaster that conjures up a truth.
And, those that possess this truth find
themselves in a neo-colonialist situation. They have nothing to learn from
others. Their knowledge has value for
Man (or Dasein, or the Subject, or Bare
Life…). And so, once again, this means
we don’t think from where we are, but
instead for everyone in a delocalized
This is the movement to reclaim,
taking into account what has happened
to us, that we are further away from
being in a position to touch the Real.
We are very sick.’
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These quotations from Stengers are weak and beside the point. Understanding and evaluating a philosopher require work, and at the very least actually reading the philosopher. I see no work here in Stengers’ remarks on Badiou, just gossip. Also bad faith: what she claims to have learned from the « witches » is what anyone can learn from Deleuze – but also from Zizek or Badiou. Badiou’s Truths are truths-in-the-making, « eternal » only as constantly available for re-working, re-actuallizing, transforming. Coming from someone who was very influenced by Deleuze, the accusation of the « theatre of the concept », in Deleuze’s thought dramatisation, as a negative trait is rather disappointing. Perhaps Stengers here is a little tired of the concept, but such concept fatigue is by no means constant in her work. I recommend she read THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS with an open mind and she will re-discover the sense of wonder that philosophy brings, and feel anew the joy of the concept.
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