Archive for the 'Badiou' Category

Plato’s Influence on Badiou


Peter Hallward writes about the three influences Plato (429-347 BCE) has on Alain Badiou‘s thought:

First, the belief that philosophy proceeds only when provoked by things or events beyond its immediate purview, outside the conceptual homogenenity of tis own domain-an encounter with a friend or lover, an argument, a political debate or controversy, the demonstrations of mathematics or science, the illusions of poetry and art…Philosophy, in other words, lacks the pure independence of a system of “total knowledge…; for Plato, philosophy doesn’t begin thinking in relation to itself, but in relation to something else.”

Second, Badiou upholds the essential Platonic commitment to the true or Ideal, as distinct from the merely apparent or prevalent.  For both Badiou and Plato, to think means to “break with sensible immediacy.”  Thought does not begin with representation or description but with a “break (with opinion, with experience), and thus a decision…Badiou never flirts with the knid of transcendnece associated with those Forms famously expounded in the Phaedo and the Republic…What is true as opposed to false, what is real as opposed to unreal, is always clear and distinct, always ideal in the sense that any thinking subject can participate in the discovery of its consequences, as its co-inventor or “co-worker.”

With Plato, finally, Badiou asserts the emphatically universal dimension of philosophy as the only dimension consistent with truth…The operation of truth will be subjective and immanent rather than transcendent, but truth it will be, every bit as eternal as it is in Plato. (Hallward ,5-6)


Hallward, Peter.  Badiou: A Subject to Truth.  Minneapolic, MN: Unversity of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Badiou on the Master-Signifier

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Slavoj Žižek, in his book Violence, writes about Badiou’s views of the Master-Signifier and postmodernism:

Alain Badiou develops the notion of “atonal” worlds-monde atone-which lack the intervention of a Master-Signifier to impose meaningful order onto the confused multiplicity of reality…

A basic feature of our postmodern world is that it tries to dispense with this agency of the ordering Master-Signifier: the complexity of the world needs to be asserted unconditionally.  Every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it must be deconstructed, dispersed: “the modern apology for the ‘complexity’ of the world…is really nothing but a generalized desire for atony.”  Badiou’s excellent example of such an “atonal” world is the politically correct vision of sexuality as promoted by gender studies with its obsessive rejection of binary logic: the world is a nuanced world of multiple sexual practices which tolerates no decision, no instance of the Two, no evaluation, in the strong Nietzschean sense of the term. (Žižek, 34-35)


Žižek, Slavoj.  Violence.  New York: Picador, 2008.

Badiou, Overturning Traditions

Alain Badiou

Alain Badiou (b. 1937) hasn’t gained that much reocognition outside of France due to the fact of his polemical style and that he also:

refuses to accept that Nietzche was the last metaphysician, or that an educated use of ordinary language can dissolve all philosophical “non-sense,” or that Plato, Hegel, and Marx were the precursors of totalitarianism, or that Auschwitz demands a complete transformation of philosophy, or that Stalin’s crimes compel a return to republican parliamentarism, or that cultural anthropology must replace the universalism of concepts, or that recognition of “whatever works best” should replace the prescription of principles, or that philosophy must be sacrificed to an ethics of the altogether Other.  His ontology breaks with the entire neo-Heideggerian legacy, from Levinas and Derrida to Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthre.  His assertion of an absolute ontological multiplicity excludes any covertly theological recourse to the unity of being (Deleuze) or a One beyond being (Lardreau, Jambet).  His measured fidelity to Plato is a challenge to the modern triumph of sophistry (Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Lyotard).  Though faithful to the militant atheism of the Enlightenment, his peculiarly post-Lacanian realism is a principled refusal of pragmatism in all its forms.  Badiou has never accepted that “twilight of radical universalism” now condoned by so many once-Marxist intellectuals, but his singular conception of the universal sets him apart from Kant and the transcendental tradition.  His hostility to communitarianism is even stronger than his contempt for merely procedual conceptions of justice or morality.  His insistence on the rigorous universality of truth aligns him with the scientific and rationalist tradition against the linguistic or relativistic turns in all forms, but his conception of the subject marks a break with the Althusserian as much as with the conventionally empiricist conception of science.  Last but not least, Badiou’s work condemns in the strongest terms the emergence, since the late 1970s, in both French philosophy and Anglo-American cultural criticism, of an ethics oriented to the respectful recognition of (cultural, sexual, moral, political, and other) differences.  Badiou’s proximate targets here, though seldom mentioned, are those who used to be called the nouvaeux philosophes, but his argument extends to a confrontation with positions as diverse as those of Levinas and Rawls, along with much of what is called “cultural studies” in North America. (Hallward, xxii-iii)


Hallward, Peter.  Badiou: A Subject to Truth.  Minneapolic, MN: Unversity of Minnesota Press, 2003.


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