Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vi-viii

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Foreword: Hallward’s Fidelity to the Badiou Event

Slavoj Žižek

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pp. ix-xiv

According to Richard Dawkins’s well- known formulation, “God’s utility function” in living nature is the reproduction of genes, that is, genes (DNA) are not a means for the reproduction of living beings, but the other way round: living beings are the means for the self- reproduction of genes. Ideology should be viewed in the same way, and we should ask the following question: What is the “utility function” of an ideological state apparatus (ISA)? The materialist answer is this...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

I am grateful to Bruno Bosteels for his meticulous and trenchant reading of an earlier version of this book, and to Gilbert Adair, Daniel Bensaïd, Ray Brassier, John Collins, Sam Gillespie, Brice Halimi, Keith Hossack, Eustache Kouvélakis, Sinéad Rushe, Daniel Smith, and Alberto Toscano for their various comments and support. Andrew Gibson and Todd May wrote helpful reviews of the...

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Notes on Translation

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pp. xvii-xvi

Although it is often diffi cult to convey the remarkable concision of Badiou’s prose (to say nothing of the power of his voice), to translate Badiou is not fundamentally problematic. Unlike Heidegger or Derrida, say, he makes no appeal to a mysterious “gift of language.” On the contrary, as a matter of fi rm principle he insists that “the transmission of thought is indifferent to language,” as he wrote in “De la Langue...

Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xviii

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Introduction: A New Philosophy of the Subject

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p. xxi

Badiou’s philosophy of the event is itself undoubtedly one of the great events in recent French thought. Badiou is perhaps the only serious rival of Deleuze and Derrida for that meaningless but unavoidable title of “most important contemporary French philosopher,” and his major treatise, L’Etre et l’événement (1988), is certainly the most ambitious...

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Part I. Matters of Principle

Chapters 1 through 3 provide essential background materials. The first chapter surveys various direct influences on Badiou’s thought, and introduces the polemical aspect of his work, his campaigns against constructivism, sophistry, and hermeneutics. This allows for a preliminary presentation of Badiou’s thought in terms of more familiar figures (aligned with Plato, Descartes, and Lacan; against Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Lyotard). The second chapter isolates the main features...

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1. Taking Sides

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pp. 3-28

Badiou presents his enterprise as another step taken in the ancient struggle of philosophy against dogmatic prejudice or doxa. Badiou’s philosophy is militant in its very essence. At its core, his philosophy involves taking a principled stand, distinguishing between claims for and against. He likes to quote Mao’s dictum “If you have an idea, one will have to divide into two” (E, 31; cf. TS, 131). He has no interest in a merely deliberative...

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2. From Maoism to L’Organisation Politique

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pp. 29-48

The question of the internal coherence of Badiou’s work is a fairly complicated one. The few published accounts of his philosophy often assume that he began writing in the mid- 1980s. There is indeed a sense in which his books up to and including Théorie du sujet (1982), the summa of his early work, have become partially obsolete by his own subsequent criteria. The break between the overtly Maoist works of the...

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3. Infinite by Prescription: The Mathematical Turn

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pp. 49-78

The impasse of Badiou’s early work, we saw, lay in its partial delegation of philosophical autonomy to historical development. His early conception of truth, like that of Hegel or Marx, was ultimately cumulative, ultimately coordinated with the singular movement of History as a whole. The expression of confidence, though maintained as a militant “confidence in confidence,” was still filtered through an at least...

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Part II. Being and Truth

The next three chapters outline the central components of Badiou’s mature philosophical system. Chapter 4 goes over the details of Badiou’s ontology, his general theory of “situation.” It includes a summary of the basic concepts of set theory, and an explanation of the crucial distinctions between belonging and inclusion, consistent and inconsistent notions of multiplicity, presentation and re- presentation, and the structure and state of a situation. Chapter 5 is concerned with the intervention, in a situation, of a subject and the truth...

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4. Badiou’s Ontology

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pp. 81-106

The only possible ontology of the One, Badiou maintains, is theology. The only legitimately posttheological ontological attribute, by implication, is multiplicity. If God is dead, it follows that the “central problem” of philosophy today is the articulation of “thought immanent to the multiple” (D, 12). Each of the truly inventive strands of contemporary philosophy— Badiou mentions Deleuze and Lyotard in particular, along with Derrida’s “dissemination” and Lacan’s “dispersive...

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5. Subject and Event

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pp. 107-152

We arrive now at the dynamic core of Badiou’s system, the dynamism that moves beyond the objective normality enforced by the state of a situation. “It is vain to suppose,” Badiou writes, “that we can invent anything at all— and all truth is invention— if nothing happens, if ‘nothing takes place but the place’” (PM, 24). A truth is something that happens, something both exceptional and universal, both...

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6. The Criteria of Truth

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pp. 153-180

The most familiar conceptions of truth define it in terms of coherence, correspondence, or confi rmation. A coherence model of truth, variously advocated by Gadamer, Davidson, Rorty, and Foucault, frames it in terms of the ultimately harmonious integration of discursive “regularities” (to use Foucault’s term) with a specific context or location. If the word truth means anything, Rorty might say, it means something...

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Part III. The Generic Procedures

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pp. 181-184

Badiou holds that the production of truth operates in four fi elds or dimensions: “science (more precisely, the matheme), art (more precisely, the poem), politics (more precisely, . . . of emancipation), and love (more precisely, the procedure that makes truth of the disjunction of sexual positions).”1 He calls the operation of truth in these four fields “generic procedures” or the “conditions of philosophy”— the terms are synonymous. The generic procedures condition philosophy, because philosophy works from the production of truths and not...

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7. Love and Sexual Difference

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pp. 185-192

Following in Plato’s footsteps, Badiou conceives of love as one of the direct conditions of philosophical thought.1 The truth of love, like that of the other conditions of philosophy, cannot simply be deduced, abstractly, by philosophers with a romantic disposition. It must be experienced or undergone. Love involves the conversion of a “hateful self” or “dead Ego”— a being that one could not, by defi nition...

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8. Art and Poetry

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pp. 193-208

If truth is a subjective composition, then of all the generic procedures, the notion of an artistic truth may for many readers be the most intuitively plausible or recognizable. Modernity has long been comfortable with versions of aesthetic defamiliarization. However, what is at issue in Badiou’s own broadly modernist conception of art is not some kind of aesthetic process or faculty, but the particular consequences of certain concrete artistic events or truths. “As opposed to aesthetic speculation,” what Badiou...

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9. Mathematics and Science

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pp. 209-222

Scientific truth, as opposed to the body of currently accepted scientific knowledge, is not a matter of what can be verifi ed through experimentation within assumed theoretical parameters. It concerns the invention of those parameters. Like any truth, scientific truth begins with an event or discovery, and is proclaimed, in the face of received wisdom, by the subject of that discovery— Galileo and Einstein are the most obvious of Badiou’s main examples. The site of such...

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10. Politics: Equality and Justice

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pp. 223-242

Politics is truth in the collective, by the collective. Though all generic procedures are addressed to everyone, only in the case of politics does this universality characterize both import and operation. Badiou writes, “Politics is the only truth procedure that is generic not only in its result, but in the local composition of its subject.” Though every situation is ontologically infinite, “only politics summons...

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11. What Is Philosophy?

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pp. 243-252

This is now a relatively simple question to answer, and it is no accident that this should be among the shortest chapters of the book. All truths are matters of thought, and thought is not the special prerogative of philosophy. Philosophy is thought thinking itself. Badiou defines philosophy as “the apprehension in thought of the conditions under which thought is exercised, in its different registers”...

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Part IV. Complications

These last chapters are slightly different in nature from the others in the book. If up to this point we have mainly pursued a straightforward exposition of Badiou’s philosophical system, here we will begin to consider a number of different problems or complications arising from this system. Chapter 12 tackles the most obvious such problem, the problem that defined much of Badiou’s work in the years immediately following the publication...

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12. Ethics, Evil, and the Unnameable

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pp. 255-270

There is today no question more topical in philosophy and in the humanities generally than the question of ethics, understood as a kind of reflective sensitivity to matters of cultural difference and civic responsibility. And there is probably no assertion of Badiou’s more shocking than his summary pronouncement “The whole ethical predication based upon recognition of the other must be purely...

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13. Generic or Specific?

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pp. 271-292

In one of his recent books Badiou develops a comparison that may serve to illustrate the central dilemma of his philosophy. The comparison is between Mallarmé’s poem Un Coup de dés and a pre- Islamic Arabian ode by Labîd ben Rabi’a, whose title translates as The desert and its code.1 In the French poem, an anonymous Master hesitates to throw the dice as he sinks slowly under the surface of the sea; reality dissolves, nothing takes place, but then suddenly, mysteriously...

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14. Being-there: The Onto-logy of Appearing

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pp. 293-316

We turn now, in closing, to the matter of Badiou’s challenging and remarkable work in progress, which promises to renew, if not transform, several of his most fundamental concepts. This renewal may in time amount to a shift as considerable as that which distinguishes (without separating) L’Etre et l’événement from Théorie du sujet. The full implications of this revision have yet to be fully integrated...

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Conclusion

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pp. 317-322

Since there should be no need to repeat here the kind of summary of Badiou’s philosophical system provided in my introduction, I will conclude with an effort to situate this system in terms deliberately foreign to its own orientation— the terms of its limit. There are at least two simple limits to any philosophy, which we might call “lower” and “upper.” The lower limit would concern what philosophy conceives as beneath its...

Appendix: On the Development of Transfinite Set Theory

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pp. 323-348

Notes

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pp. 349-426

Bibliography

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pp. 427-452

Index

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pp. 453-469