BADIOU « L’immanence des vérités »: trois hypothèses

Le projet de Badiou contient trois hypothèses sur la finitude. L’une est assez générale, elle exprime son engagement dans une pensée pluraliste:

(1) il est possible de parler de notre monde de façon éclairante en termes du jeu du fini et de l’infini pris en dehors du primat de l’Un.

Cette hypothèse place Badioudans la même mouvance de pensée que Deleuze et Lyotard (qu’il assume comme interlocuteurs virtuels), mais aussi, dans la même mouvance que Derrida et Foucault.

Sa deuxième hypothèse, plus spécifique, apporte une précision plus controversée:

(2) les avancées récentes dans la théorie mathématique des nombres infinis peuvent nous fournir les ressources linguistiques et conceptuelles pour une compréhension critique de la structure des idéologies oppressives et des façons d’en sortir.

Une troisième hypothèse sert à caractériser le fonctionnement spécifique de l’idéologie dans la société contemporaine

3) les idéologies oppressives contemporaines opèrent plutôt par recouvrement que par répression ou par négation.

Cette idée de recouvrement peut être rapprochée aux idées de la stratification et de la segmentation qui se trouvent chez Deleuze et Guattari, dans Mille Plateaux.

Pour évaluer productivement la pensée de Badiou il faut en parler de façon immanente, non pas exclusivement à son système mais au contexte théorique plus général, ce que je tente sur ce blog.

Note: je suis redevable à une conversation avec Igor Maquet qui m’a aidé à clarifier mes idées sur ces questions.

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BADIOU « L’immanence des vérités »: table de matières

Introduction générale
I. Stratégie spéculative
II. Immanence, finitude, infini
III. Le référent ontologique absolu
IV. Les deux lectures possibles de ce livre

Prologue
Présentation formelle du lieu absolu

Section I. Les formes classiques de la finitude
C1. Destinées de la finitude
S1. Un procès poétique de la finitude moderne : René Char
C2. Les quatre types de finitude
S2. La localisation de l’infini chez Hugo
C3. Les opérateurs de finitude : 1. L’identité
S3. L’impersonnalité selon Emily Dickinson
C4. Les opérateurs de finitude : 2. La répétition
S4. Paul Celan : l’oeuvre à l’épreuve des répétitions masquées
C5. Les opérateurs de finitude : 3. Le Mal
S5. Mandelstam à Voronej : ne faire aucune concession au Mal. Ni plainte, ni peur
C6. Les opérateurs de finitude : 4. Nécessité et Dieu
S6. L’être nu : ni Dieu, ni interprétation, ni nécessité
Les poèmes d’Alberto Caeiro
C7. Les opérateurs de finitude : 5. La mort
S7. Un poème de Brecht. L’inconnu : mort et identité, ou vie et universalité

Section II. Modernité de la finitude : le recouvrement
C8. Phénoménologie du recouvrement
S8. Beckett : Découvrement du recouvrement d’un infini
C9. Ontologie du recouvrement
S9. Présentation formelle de l’univers constructible
C10. Un choix crucial : constructible, ou générique?
S10. Gödel et Cohen

Section III. Souveraineté de l’infini
C11. Les quatre accès à l’infini
C12. Infinis de type inaccessible
S12. Le mathème de l’inaccessible
C13. Infinis de résistance à la division
S13. Mathème des partitions : infinis de type compact et de type Ramsey
C14. L’infini par dimension immanente des parties

Section IV. Aux abords de l’absolu
C15. À quelles conditions des classes peuvent-elles exprimer le lieu absolu?
S15. Conditions techniques pour que des classes « ressemblent » à V
C16. De plus en plus « proche » de l’absolu?
S16. Plongement élémentaire, point critique, cardinal complet
C17. Relation explicite entre le lieu absolu et un de ses attributs immanents
S17. Construction d’un modèle interne de V par ultrapuissance

Section V . Conditions d’une défaite du recouvrement
C18. Limites de la finitude moderne sous condition d’un infini. Le théorème de Scott
S18. Infinis dans le fini, infinis hors de tout fini. Démonstration du théorème de Scott
C19. Conditions ontologiques de toute initiative créatrice. Le théorème de Jensen
S19. Simplicité apparente et confusion réelle de la finitude. Le théorème de Jensen

Section VI. La revanche de Parménide
C20. La hiérarchie des infinis
S20. Différences, ordres et limites dans le royaume des infinis
C21. Fin sans fin. Le théorème de Kunen
S21. Le théorème de Kunen, et au-delà

Section VII. Théorie générale des oeuvres-en-vérité
C22. L’index de l’absoluité d’une oeuvre
S22. L’index de l’absoluité chez Platon

Section VIII. Œuvres selon l’objet : art, science
C23. Puissance de la forme : les arts
S23. Hegel, les arts et le cinéma
C24. Puissance de la lettre : les sciences
S24. Husserl, la « crise » et la science

Section IX. Œuvres selon le devenir : amour, politique
C25. L’oeuvre d’amour : la scène du Deux
S25. Auguste Comte et l’amour
C26. Politique finie, politique infinie
S26. Un vrai texte politique

Conclusion générale

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La Saga Spéculative de Badiou: un programme de recherche métaphysique pluraliste

Alain Badiou est un des plus grands philosophes de notre temps. Il poursuit son projet théorique, centré autour un programme de recherche ontologique, depuis une trentaine d’années. Pendant cette période il a publié des centaines de textes (livres, séminaires, pamphlets, articles, interviews, recensions). Le fil rouge de cette production abondante est l’élaboration d’une pensée du multiple pur et l’articulation de ses conséquences dans de multiples domaines. Badiou est un pluraliste, et c’est à ce titre qu’il m’intéresse.

Sur ce blog j’analyse la pensée d’un petit nombre de philosophes contemporains qui travaillent dans le domaine du pluralisme épistémologique et ontologique (François Laruelle, Bruno Latour, Slavoj Zizek, Bernard Stiegler, et Alain Badiou). Cette analyse est basée sur l’hypothèse (méta-ontologique) qu’on peut illuminer la structure, les forces et les faiblesses d’une philosophie en la prenant non pas comme un système statique mais en tant que “programme de recherche métaphysique”. J’emploie cette expression au sens que lui donnent Karl Popper et Imre Lakatos: un cadre conceptuel général comportant à la fois des éléments spéculatifs et des éléments testables.

Les programmes de recherche métaphysiques qui m’intéressent sont « pluralistes », au sens de donner le primat au multiple par rapport à l’un. Je cherche à les analyser, les comparer, et les mettre en dialogue en termes d’un ensemble, ouvert et flexible, de critères méta-ontologiques:

degré et nature du pluralisme, historicité (diachronicité), anti-fondationalisme, réalisme (anti-relativisme), apophatisme, fallibilisme et testabilité.

Par le moyen de cette comparaison nous pouvons mieux évaluer les points forts et les points faibles de chaque programme, et par conséquent risquer des suggestions positives pour l’améliorer.

Les critères spécifiques proposés ici ne constituent pas un méta-système dogmatique de ma propre invention. Ils sont avancés en tant qu’indicateurs heuristiques tirés des (et donc immanents aux) philosophies que j’examine (en tant qu’ensemble d’éléments unis par des ressemblances de famille).

J’ai esquissé la portée, le sens, et l’applicabilité de ces critères méta-ontologiques dans le domaine de la philosophie contemporaine (principalement française) dans mes analyses des systèmes de pensée proposés par un ensemble de penseurs pluralistes (Badiou, Zizek, Laruelle, Stiegler, Latour, mais aussi Deleuze, Lyotard, et Serres) du point de vue de leur articulation en tant que programmes de recherche métaphysiques.

De ce point de vue, la trilogie badiousienne, qu’il appelle lui-même sa « saga spéculative », est exemplaire. Il constitue une véritable « Summa Ontologica » en trois parties:

I) L’être et l’événement (1988) – 570 pages

II) Logiques des mondes (2006) – 630 pages

III) L’immanence des vérités (à paraître 2018) – 700 pages

Au fil de presque deux mille pages, Badiou nous mène sur la voie d’une méditation sur la dialectique du fini et de l’infini, comme chemin menant à la compréhension immanente de l’Être, des Vérités, des Mondes, du Sujet, et de l’Absolu. C’est une invitation à se lancer dans une aventure passionnante enchaînant des mouvements ascensionnels vertigineux, grâce à l’abstraction du langage mathématique, et des descentes précipiteuses vers la vie concrète véhiculées par le langage poétique.

Dans le prochain billet je parlerai du problème du type de langage approprié à un projet spéculatif de cette envergure et de la solution que Badiou adopte.

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BADIOU’S IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: contents (French and English)

Thanks to François Nicolas we now have a precise idea of Badiou’s forthcoming book, the third volume of « BEING AND EVENT » entitled THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS. It is due to be published by FAYARD, on September 19, 2018. Here is the table of contents in French, followed by my translation:

bad im

General Introduction

I. Speculative Strategy

II. Immanence, finitude, infinite

III. The absolute ontological referent

IV. The two possible readings of this book

Prologue.

Formal Presentation of the absolute location

Section I. The classical forms of finitude

C1. Destinies of finitude

S1. A poetic trial of modern finitude: René Char

C2. The four types of finitude

S2. The localisation of the infinite in Victor Hugo

C3. The operators of finitude: 1. Identity

S3. Impersonality according to Emily Dickinson

C4. The operators of finitude: 2. Repetition

S4. Paul Celan: the work and the ordeal of masked repetitions

C5. The operators of finitude: 3. Evil

S5. Mandelstam in Voronezh: make no concession to Evil. Neither plaint nor fear

C6. The operators of finitude: 4. Necessity and God

S6. Bare being: neither God, nor interpretation, nor necessity. The poems of Alberto    Caiero.

C7. The operators of finitude. 5. Death

S7. A poem by Brecht. The unknown: death and identity, or life and universality

Section II. Modernity of finitude: covering

C8. Phenomenology of covering

S8. Beckett: uncovering of the covering of an infinite

C9: Ontology of covering

S9. Formal presentation of the constructible universe

C10. A crucial choice: constructible or generic?

S10. Gödel or Cohen

Section III. Sovereignty of the infinite

C11. The four modes of access to the infinite

C12. Inaccessible infinites

S12. The matheme of the inaccessible

C13. Infinites of resistance to division

S13. Matheme of partitions: compact and Ramsey infinites

C14. The infinite by immanent magnitude of its parts

SECTION IV: Adjacent to the absolute

C15. On what conditions can classes express the absolute location?

S15. Technical conditions for classes to « resemble » V

[Note: « V » or the von Neumann universe is the class of hereditary well-founded sets]

C16. Closer and closer to the absolute?

S16. Elementary embedding, critical point, complete cardinal

C17. Explicit relation between the absolute location and one of its immanent attributes

S17. Construction of an internal model of V by ultrapower

Section V. Conditions for a defeat of covering

C18. Limits of modern finitude under the condition of an infinite. Scott’s Theorem.

S18. Infinites in the finite, infinites outside any finite. Demonstration of Scott’s theorem.

C19. Ontological conditions of any creative initiative. Jensen’s Theorem.

S19. Apparent simplicity and real confusion of finitude. Jensen’s Theorem.

Section VI. Parmenides’ Revenge

C20. The hierarchy of infinites

S20. Differences, orders and limits in the realm of infinites

C21. End without end. Kunen’s Theorem.

S21. Kunen’s Theorem, and beyond

Section VII. General theory of works-in-truth

C22. The index of absoluteness of a work

S22. The index of absoluteness in Plato

Section VIII. Works according to the object: art, science

C23. Power of the form: the arts

S23. Hegel, the arts and the cinema

C24. Power of the letter: the sciences

S24. Husserl, the « crisis » and science

Section IX. Works according to becoming: love, politics

C25. The work of love: the scene of the Two

S25. Auguste Comte and love

C26. Finite politics, infinite politics

S26. A true political text

General Conclusion

Dictionary, bibliography, index and iconography

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ZIZEK ON THE LACAN/DELEUZE PACT

zizek deleuze

« But what I have tried to bring about is a compromise, a pact between Deleuzians and Lacanians. Against the Deleuzians and Lacanians themselves. Of course, if you reduce Lacan to Oedipus, to interdiction,etc. this pact cannot be made. But if you envisage the Lacan of the theory of the real, who is much more interesting, links can be established with Deleuze. Deleuze is one of the Greats. Badiou is right to say that Deleuze is our sole veritable interlocutor, and not Foucault, not Derrida, not Roland Barthes. It is a shame that he is too often envisaged, in the Anglo-Saxon world, on the basis of Negri’s line, on the basis of a political appropriation » (page 17, Slavoj Zizek, A travers le réel, published by Nouvelles Editions Lignes, 2010, my translation).

 

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The Deleuze/Zizek pact and Spike Jonze’s HER

Zizek’s LESS THAN NOTHING is a very interesting and impressive synthesis not only of Hegel and Lacan, along with Badiou, but also of Deleuze, Foucault, and Lyotard.

Zizek was influenced by Deleuze more than many seem to think, but I would argue that by retroaction reading Deleuze in terms of Zizek allows us to see Deleuze in new ways.

In LESS THAN NOTHING Zizek provides us with a good example of this weird logic of creative re-reading. The book is implicitly written from the point of view of what Zizek elsewhere calls the « pact » between Lacan and Deleuze. This pact means abandoning the standard image of Deleuze as pure affirmation, which then requires a compensatory supplement of negativity (as in the recent promotion of a « dark » Deleuze).

Although I disagree with some of Zizek’s arguments and emphases he provides us with a very useful creative interpretation of Deleuze’s work, isolating out the meta-ontological heuristic core from the ontological instantiation (where many pro- and anti-Deleuzians get stuck) and opening it to be re-instantiated in many different ways.

Zizek comes even closer to Deleuze than in his previous writings, deriving several key concepts from Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE: appearance-qua-appearance and retroactive causality (that Deleuze calls « quasi-causality »), and also the  cut.

This notion of a cut or a gap is to be found everywhere in Deleuze’s work. He talks of it as the « fêlure », which can be translated objectively as « crack » and subjectively as « crack-up ».

One theme for which Zizek is closer to Deleuze than to Badiou is in his treatment of religion as a mode of subjectivation capable of instantiating his most general meta-ontological categories. This is something that is not fully assumed by Badiou as he refuses to count religion as a « fifth » condition on a par with science, art, politics, and love.

However, I disagree with Zizek’s take on Eastern Religion, in particular Buddhism. I do not think it essentially proposes enlightenment based on withdrawal from appearances, on treating the desire as an illusion. This may be the case of Theravada (or Hinayana) Buddhism, but Mahayana Buddhism favours immersion in the world of appearances.

For an imagistic presentation of these impressions one could refer to Spike Jonze’s film HER. Clint Burnham and Matthew Flisfeder have written a very interesting analysis of the film from a Zizekian perspective, but neglect some positive elements to be found in the unfolding of the story.

Viewing HER from a Deleuze/Zizek perspective one could see a sort of progression of ontological levels. Theodore buys the OS as a sort of ontic consumerist supplement to his life (like taking up a new philosophy as a new worldview), but evolving from simply « OS » to Samantha it (or she) moves from merely ontically organising Theodore’s existing life more efficiently to an ontological transformation that finally allows him to retro-actively re-vision his past and to open to the possibility of new love. In dialogue with her fellow AIs they create a « hyper-intelligent » AI (or meta-ontology) that they call Alan Watts (but that could have been called equally Zizek, or Deleuze).

Zizek’s talent for creative hybridization is such that his own followers most often lag behind him, inevitably simplifying him. I would add that most « Deleuzians » are lagging behind him too.

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REVENANT GUN: Diluted and Delayed Cognition for Enhanced Empathy

I will be using a book review of Yoon Ha Lee’s REVENANT GUN to help me articulate my ambivalent reaction to the novel, and to the trilogy it completes. The review is by Nicasio Andres Reed, and it was published in the online speculative fiction magazine STRANGE HORIZONS.

This is a very clear and interesting review, that I can recommend reading, but I can only half agree with it. It certainly goes a long way to explaining the appeal of the book, and of the trilogy MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE, but it also indirectly illuminates its weak points.

Reed is surely right to emphasise that the trilogy asks us to dive into its world , as if we were learning a radically new language. « Fluency » in the language of the book and in its subtended world is constructed by immersion rather than translation. But the deferral of the explanations is over-extended, taking a full two years. The first volume in the trilogy, NINEFOX GAMBIT, was published in June 2016, RAVEN STRATAGEM a year later in June 2017, and REVENANT GUN in June 2018. This is a long time to wait to get an explanation of such basic terms as the mothships and the remembrances.

So this first strong point (the privileging of fluency over info-dumping) is correlated with a corresponding weakness. The incipit introduces us to an ambitious demanding work. It is handled very well in that we understand presentationally what is happening, despite not getting clear representations of what is causing it or of how it works. We feel as if we have been thrown in at the deep end, and many readers, including me, like the feeling -if the book delivers on its promise to reward the initial effort at comprehension.

Thus the trilogy begins with an immersion in wonder, but after two years it ends with a belated explanations and a rather banal sf trope of creatures from the fourth dimension. The arc of the trilogy proceeds from estrangement through vagueness to familiarity. We are satisfied at the end, but also a little disappointed. The manner of filling us in is also a little clumsy and hackneyed. We have two viewpoint characters beset by ignorance: an amnesiac protagonist (young Jedao) and a robot servitor (Hemiola) from an isolated post on the periphery of the empire. Thanks to their need to catch up the deferred info-dumps can finally take place.

This deferral of explanation, or even of description, accounts for why NINEFOX GAMBIT begins like demanding sf but veers quickly into the facilities of fantasy. One suspects that the explanations were not given at the start as they had not yet been invented, but that they were later appended in reply to criticisms, as an ad hoc supplement.

It is as if Frank Herbert’s DUNE had been released over a period of two years, and that the glossary was conceived and only at the end, as a response to criticism. Instead of an integral world-building and backstory, a post-produced back end. The world-building’s coming before or along with the world gives the story depth, but world-building coming after the world is potentially trying to give a cosmetic supplement to a superficial « I hope this makes sense » approach.

My idea here is that the world-building underlying the trilogy can be compared to the heuristic core of a research programme in Popper’s and Lakatos’s sense. Too much of volume three in Lee’s trilogy seems to be composed of ad hoc supplements to ward of criticism, which is certainly not the case of DUNE’s glossary.

Taking the trilogy as a whole one can say that despite its immersive beginning it avoids cognitive overload in favour of developing empathy. As Nicasio Reed affirms:

« By the time you arrive at Revenant Gun, you’re fluent, and what you’re left with is really, really, really caring ».

In Lee’s rhetorical strategy, delayed cognition leads to increased fluency and caring. In REVENANT GUN we care about the main point of view characters: Brezan, young Jedao and Hemiola. The recounting of their personal journeys of discovery and their emotional and ethical conflicts is engrossing reading. However, we have no access to Cheris-Jedao’s thoughts and feelings, and I think we cannot really care about her, so the narrative that concludes with her final life choice is unsatisfying. Also the encounter between young Jedao and Cheris-Jedao, which could have made us care more for both, is an anti-climax.

So cognitive estrangement cedes to pragmatic fluency, and also to empathy and caring. But what sort of empathy? Here I agree with Nicasio Reed that one of the achievements of the book is to get us to care about sorts of characters that are unusual in traditional space opera. It can be said that it is a major feature of the trilogy Lee has accomplished a much needed updating of space opera’s social explorations.

In the MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE speculative wonder and empathic enjoyment go hand in hand. Lee’s queering and de-colonialising of the genre are important potentially game-changing contributions.

However, empathic enjoyment should not be reduced to simple identification. We need to identify a little, or the narrative will have no appeal, get no hold on us. We also need some speculative distance and othering, or else the reading experience can become too literal, and we may gain only narcissistic gratification. We are capable of resonating with other people’s existential quandaries and emotional intensities even when we do not or cannot identify with their tastes, experiences, or choices. Yon Ha Lee extends and varies the spectrum of possible identifications, and this is a positive achievement.

The potential drawback of such an updated space opera would be catering to an identity politics’ revamping of the genre. I think Lee mostly avoids this pitfall, although the BDSM sex scene in REVENANT GUN stands out from the rest of the trilogy’s narration. It serves as perhaps an identitarian supplement of sexual politics.

In sum, Yoon Ha Lee’s MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE trilogy is an ambitious and enjoyable work of military space opera, and REVENANT GUN is a well-wrought conclusion to the series. Lee’s stylistic choices do much to enhance the initial impact of immersion in the narrative, but they comport a number of flaws that weaken the whole.

Delayed cognition leads to lexical fluency (without clear semantics), but such superficial fluency privileges magic in both style and content. Word magic and magical technologies dilute cognition in favour of caring for and empathy with the principal characters. The primacy of empathy allows increased participation but also can encourage identification.

Yoon Ha Lee has responded to an inherent contradiction in the genres of military sf and space opera, with their futuristic technologies and regressive social and sexual politics. He has produced an excellent corrective to this contradiction, updating and revamping the genres. However, his solution is itself riven by a contradiction between the demands of speculative estrangement and tropal familiarity.

So I too am eager for more, but not more of the same.

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