Infinite Thought

Truth and the Return to
Philosophy
ALAIN BADIOU
Translated and edited by
Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens
Continuum
The Tower Building
II York Road
London, SE I 7 ~ X
www.continuumbooks.com
15 East 26th Street
New York
;\IY 10010
Editorial material and selection © Oliver Feltharn and Justin Clemens
Philosophy and Desire, Philosophy and Film, Philosophy and"the war against
terrorism" © Alain Badiou
Philosophy andArt, and The Definition of Philosophy © Seuil (from Conditions,
1992)
Philosophy and the Death of Communism © Editions de l'Aube (from D'un
desastre obscur, 1998)
English language translations: 'Philosophy and Truth' © Pli; 'Philosophy
and Politices' © Radical Philosophy; 'Philosophy and Psychoanalysis' (!:')
Ana{ysis; all other English language translations © Continuum
Reprinted 2003
This paperback edition published 2004 by Continuum
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical
including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval
system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Oatalcgufng-dn-Publicarlon Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISB:\" 0-8264-6724-5 (Hardback)
0-8264-7320-2 (Paperback)
Typeset by BookEns Ltd, Royston, Herts.
Printed and bound by in Great Britain by The Bath Press, Bath
Contents
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
I Philosophy and desire
2 Philosophy and truth
3 Philosophy and politics
4- Philosophy and psychoanalysis
5 Philosophy and art
6 Philosophy and cinema
7 Philosophy and the 'death of communism'
8 Philosophy and the 'war against
terrorism'
9 The definition of philosophy
10 Ontology and politics: an interview with
Alain Badiou
Index of names
v
39
58
69
79
91
109
126
141
165
169
195
An introduction to Alain
Badiou's philosophy
Alain Badiou is one of France's foremost living philosophers.
Yet recognition of the force and originality of his work in the
English-speaking world has been slow to come, perhaps
because it is difficult to assimilate his work within the
established categories of 'contemporary French philosophy'.
However, such recognition is now gathering momentum. No
fewer than six translations of his major works, two
collections of his essays, and one monograph on his work
are currently in press.' The first English-language con-
ference devoted to his work was held in May 2002 at
Cardiff, a critical introduction to his work has appeared,
and three translations of his works ~ Ethics, Deleuze, and
Manifesto for Philosophy - are already on the shelves.f
The present volume aims to provide a brief, accessible
introduction to the diversity and power of Badiou's thought,
collecting a series of conference papers and essays. The
opening text sets the scene, giving a polemical overview of
the state of philosophy in relation to the contemporary
world. The second chapter gives a general overview, via the
categories of ethics and truth, of Badiou's model of
fundamental change in the domains of art, love, politics
Infinite Thought
and science - philosophy's four 'conditions'. The following
chapters present specific applications of his central concep-
tion of philosophy as an exercise of thought conditioned by
such changes in art (Chapters 5 and 6 on poetry and
cinema), love (Chapter 4 on psychoanalysis), politics
(Chapter 3) and science. Since Badiou's work in relation
to science is mainly found in the huge tome L' Etre et
I'eoenement (Being and Event) we chose to sketch the latter's
argument in the introduction. ~ Chapters 7 and 8 exemplify
a return to one of philosophy's classical roles: the analytical
denunciation of ideology, Badiou attacking first the 'war on
terrorism' and then the 'death of communism'. The
penultimate chapter sets out Badiou's doctrine on philoso-
phy in relation to its conditions, and then the collection
closes with an interview with Badiou in which he explains
and reconsiders some of his positions.
In our introduction we identify one of the manners in
which Badiou's philosophy differs from the contemporary
French philosophy known as poststructuralism: its treat-
ment of the question of the subject. We then engage in a
long, at times difficult, but necessary exegesis of Badiou's set
theory ontology; necessary since it grounds his entire
doctrine, and not particularly long in relation to its matter;
Being and Event comprises over 500 pages in the French
edition. At every point we have attempted to render the
technical details in as clear a fashion as possible, yet without
undue distortion.
If the prospective reader wishes to skip over the more
abstruse discussions offered in the introduction, he or she
should feel absolutely free to do so - for Badiou is still his
own best exegete. He effectively tries to speak to those who
do not spend their lives in professional institutions, but act
and think in ways that usually exceed or are beneath notice.
As Badiou himself puts it: 'Philosophy privileges no
language, not even the one it is written in.'
2
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
Badiou's question
Badiou is neither a poststructuralist nor an analytic
philosopher, and for one major reason: there is a question
which drives his thought, especially in his magnum opus,
L'Etre et l'eoenement. This question is foreign to both
poststructuralism and analytic philosophy - in fact not only
foreign, but unwelcome. It is this question that governs the
peculiarity of Badiou's trajectory and the attendant
difficulties of his thought.
In the introduction to L'Etre et l'ivenement Badiou seizes
upon an exchange between Jacques-Alain Miller and
Jacques Lacan during the famous Seminar XI.4 Miller,
without blinking, asks Lacan, the grand theorist of the
barred subject, 'What is your ontology?'5 For Badiou this is
a crucial moment, for it reveals a fundamental difficulty -
one that many argue Lacan never solved, even with his
loopy 1970s recourses to knot theory. The difficulty is that of
reconciling a modern doctrine of the subject (such as that of
psychoanalysis) with an ontology. Hence Badiou's guiding
question: How can a modern doctrine of the subject be reconciled
with an ontology?
But what exactly does Badiou understand by a 'modern
doctrine of the subject'? Badiou takes it as given that in the
contemporary world the subject can no longer be theorized
as the self-identical substance that underlies change, nor as
the product of reflection, nor as the correlate of an object."
This set of negative definitions is all very familiar to a reader
of poststructuralism. Surely one could object that post-
structuralism has developed a modern doctrine of the
subject?
The problem with poststructuralism is that exactly the
same set of negative definitions serves to delimit its implicit
ontology (whether of desire or difference): there are no self-
identical substances, there are no stable products of
3
Infinite Thou/;ht
reflection, and since there are no stable objects there can be
no correlates of such objects. Thus in poststrucruralism there
is no distinction between the general field of ontology and a
theory of the subject; there is no tension between the being
of the subject and being in general.
Where Badiou sees an essential question for modern
philosophy, then, poststructuralism sees nothing. For many
this lack of distinction between the being of the subject and
the being of everything else would appear to be a virtue; the
privilege of the rational animal is finally removed in favour
of a less anthropocentric ontology. There is, however, a
price to be paid for lumping the subject together with
whatever else is usually recognized in an ontology.
Poststructuralism typically encounters a number of pro-
blems in its theory of the subject. Funnily enough, these
problems are quite clearly inherited From the very
philosophical tradition whose 'death' poststructuralisrn
gleefully proclaims. There was enough lite left in the corpse
to pass something on -- and what it passed on were the two
fundamental problems in the thought of the subject.
The, first ;)roblem that of identity; the second, problem,
that 'the mind-body problem derIves for' the most
part from the former, and the free will versus determinism
debate from the latter. Poststructuralists have concentrated
almost exclusively on a critique of the first problem, arguing
that there is no solution to the problem of the identity of the
subject because the subject has no substantial identity: the
illusion of an underlying identity is produced by the very
representational mechanism employed by the subject in its
effort to grasp its own identity. The same line of argument is
also applied to the identity of any entity thus including the
subject within the domain of a general ontology. For
example, in his introduction to a collection of Philippe
Lacoue-Labarrhe's essays, Derrida identifies the subject
with the self- (de )constituting rnovemen t of the text; the
4
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopkv
subject is nothing other than a perpetual movement of
translation." This brings the subject within the ambit of his
much-maligned but fateful early ontological claim: 'There is
no ou tsidc- text.' The conseq uence of this move, of this
merger of the subject with a general ontology within the
context of a general critique of identity and representation,
is the emergence of a problem with the differentiation of
subjects. How can one subject be differentiated from
another without recourse to some sort of definable identity?
As for agency - philosophy's second fundamental
problem in the thought of the subject - the consequence
of poststructuralisrri's almost exclusive concentration on the
first problem has been that the critics of poststructuralism
have had an easy pitch: all they have had to do is to accuse
the poststructuralists of robbing the subject of agency: if
there is no self-identical subject, then what is the ground for
autonomous rational action? This is what lies behind the
infamous jibe that poststructuralism leads down a slippery
slope to apoliticism.
When poststructuralists do engage with the problem of
agency they again meet with difficulties, and again precisely
because they merge their theory of the subject with their
general ontology. For example, in his middle period
Foucault argued that networks of disciplinary power not
only reach into the most intimate spaces of the subject, but
actually produce what we call subjects." However, Foucault
also said that power produces resistance. His problem then
became that of accounting for the source of such resistance.
If the subject - right down to its most intimate desires,
actions and thoughts - is constituted by power, then how
can it be the source of independent resistance? For such a
point of agency to exist, Foucault needs some space which
has not been completely constituted by power, or a complex
doctrine on the relationship between resistance and
independence. However, he has neither. In his later work,
5
Infinite Thought
he deals with this problem by assigning agency to those
subjects who resist power by means of an aesthetic project of
self-authoring. Again, the source of such privileged agency -
why do some subjects shape themselves against the grain
and not others? - is not explained.
What does Badiou do when faced with these two
fundamental problems of identity and agency? First, Badiou
recognizes a distinction between the general domain of
ontology and the theory of the subject. He does not merge
the one into the other; rather, the tension between the two
drives his investigations. Second, when it comes to the two
problems, Badiou does the exact opposite to the posts true-
turalists: he defers the problem of identity, leaving a direct
treatment of it for the unpublished companion volume to
Being and Event, while he concentrates on the problem of
agency.9
For Badiou, the question of agencY'is not so much a
question of how a subject can initiate an action in an
autonomous manner but rather how a subject emerges
through an autonomous chain of actions within a changing
everyday actions or decisions that
provIde eVIdence of agency for Badiou. It is rather those
extraordinary decisions and actions which isolate'lan actor
from their context, those actions which show that a human
can actually be a free agent that supports new chains of
actions and reactions . .EQF this reason, .not every human
is always a subject;' yet some human beings become
subjects; those who act InjiJeHlj)tQ a chance encounter with
an evenilvhich disrupts the ;iluationAhey find themselves in.)&-'
A subject is born of a human being's decision that'
'something they have encountered, which has happened in
their situation - however foreign and abnormal - does in
fact belong to the situation and thus cannot be overlooked.
Badiou marks the disruptive abnormality of such an event
by stating that whether it belongs to a situation or not is,
6
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopky
strictly undecidable on the basis of.estahlished knowledge,
Moreover, the subject, as born of a decision.ds not limited to
the recognition of of an event, but extends
into a prolonged investigation pCthe consequences of such
.. 0vestigation is not a passive, scholarly affair;
it entails not only the active transformation of the situation
the event occurs but also the active transformation
of the human being. Thus in Badiou's
such thinK.as a sll!?ject without such of
subjectivization. - ' . '
For example, when two people [ill in love, their 'meeting'
- whether that meeting be their first hours together, or the
length of their entire courtship - forms an event for them in
relation to which they change their lives. This certainly does
not mean that their lives are simply going to be the.,better,
for it; on the contrary, love may involve
friends, and rupture with one's family. The: point is that love
changes their relation to the world The
duration of the lovers' relationship depends upon their
fidelity to that event and how they change according to
what they discover through their love. In the realm 9f'
science the most obvious exal11ple of an event is the
Copernican revolution, the those
scientists who worked within its wake contributing to the
field we now name 'modern physics'.
The consequence of such a definition of the subject seems
to be that only brilliant scientists, modern masters, seasoned
militants andcommitted lovers are adIriitte'a into rhe fold. A
Is Badiou's definition of the subject
exclusive or elitist? On the one side, you have human beings,
nothing much distinguishing them from animals in their
pursuit of their interests, and then, on the other side, vou
the ne;-erite or fatttJful
has a dangerous ring, and one could be forgiven for
comparing it at first glance to Mormon doctrine. However-
7
infinite Thought
and this is crucial - there is no predestination in Badiou's
account. There is nothing other than chance encounters
between particular humans and particular events; arid
subjects may be born out of such encounters. There is no
higher order which prescribes who will encounter an event
and decide to act in relation to it. There is only chance.
Furthermore, there is no simple distinction between subjects
and humans. I I Some humans become subjects, but only
some of the time, and often they break their fidelity to an
event and thus lose their subjecthood.
Thus, Badiou displaces the problem of agency from the
level of the human to the level of being. That is, his problem
is no longer that of how an individual subject initiates a new
chain of actions, since for him the subject only in
the course of such a chain of actions. His problem is
accounting for how an existing situation - given that being,
for Badiou, is nothing other than multiple situations - can
be disrupted and transformed by such a chain of actions.
This displacement of the problem of agency allows Badiou
to avoid positing some mysterious autonomous agent within
each human such as 'free will'. However, the direct and
unavoidable consequence of the displacement is that the
problem of agency becomes the ancient philosophical
problem of how the new occurs in being.
It is no coincidence that Badiou's question - Wha; is the
compatibility of a subject with a general ontology? - leads
directly to this venerable philosophical problem, since it is
this very problem which also underlies Badiou's early work,
Theorie du sujet.r? In that work, Badiou's solution was to
develop a complex poststructuralist remodelling of the
Hegelian dialectic. In L'Etre et l'eoenement, Badiou's solution
is simply}o happen', events without
directly assignal:Sle causes which disrupt the order of
established situations. If decisions are taken by subjects to
work out the consequences of such events, new situations
8
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
emerge as a result of their work. Such events
part of 'what is', and so they do not fall under the purview of
Badiou's general.ontology. Thus the
being of subject and th:
ontology IS a contingent relationship, wInch hmges oB._the
occurrence of an eventand the decision of a subject toactjn
fideli tv to that event.
WI;at, then, is this 'general domain' of Badiou's ontology?
A1adem ontology: being as multiple multiplicities
As already mentioned, there are two major traditions that
a relation to ontology in late twentieth-century
philosophy: the analytic tradition and the post-Heidegger-
ean tradition. The analvtic tradition either forecloses
ontology in favour of epistem;lOgy)or reduces ontology to
a property of theories.P The post-Heideggerean tradition
perpetually announces the end of fundamental ontology,
while basing this pronouncement on its own fundamental
ontology of desire or difference.
Despite his rejection of their conclusions, Badiou does not
simpfy dismiss the claims of these traditions. On the contrary,
Badiou takes his starting point from both traditions: the
concept of 'situation' from vVittgenstein and the idea of the
'ontological difference' from Heidegger. He then forges a
new ontology within the furnace of their critiques of
ontology.
Heidegger formulates the ontological difference as the
difference between Being and.beings; (hat is, the difference
between heings and the fact of their Being, that
they are. For Badiou the term risks substantialization;
it is too close to the term 'existant' or 'object'.
Instead, Badiou proposes the term situation', which he defines
as a 'presented multip)i(;it):::J.pr as the 'place of taking place'
(EE, 32). The term i'situatioif is prior to any distinction
9
Infinite Thought
between substances and/or relations and .. socovershoth.
Situations include all those flows, properties, aspects,
concatenations of events, disparate collective phenomena,
bodies, monstrous and virtual, that one might want to
examine within an ontology. The concept of 'situation' is
also designed to accommodate anything which is, regardless
of its modality; that is, regardless of whether it is necessary, z
contingent, possible, actual, potential, or virtual- a whim; .a ('
supermarket, a work of art, a dream, a playground fight, a
fleet of trucks, a mine, a stock prediction, a game of chess, or
a set of waves.
If Aristotle's fundamental ontological claim is 'There are
substances', then Badiou's is 'There are situations', or, in
other words, 'There are multiple multiplicities'. The key
difference between Badiou's claim and that of Aristotle is
that for Aristotle each substance is a unity that belongs to a
totality - the cosmos - which is itself a unity. For Badiou,
there is no unified totality that encompasses these multiple
multiplicities. Furthermore, there is no basic or primordial
unity to these multiplicities.
It is these two aspects of his ontology which, according to
Badiou, guarantee its modernity. for Badiou, the task of
r.nodern. ontology is to break with classical ontology's
fundamental both in the latter's
duaTitf\lIld irlirs totality-:f Leibniz expressed this belief of
classical ontology in die formula: 'What is not a being is not
a being.'H
However, breaking with theclassical unity of being is no
simple task for ontology./fhe problem is that even if there is
no primordial equivalence between unity and being, for
Badiou one must still recognize, following Lacan, that there is
oneness - 'II y a de l'un;' That is, although unity is not
primordli.i), there is ." some kind of effect of unity-in the
Badiou's solution to this problem is
to argue thatsituations --:_presented multiplicities - do have
10
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
unity, s\Jcb unity is the result of an operation termed the
count is what Badiou terms the situation's
structurii) A structure determines what belongs and does not
belOlig to the situation by counting various multiplicities as
elements:\of the situation. An element is a basic unit of a
situation. A structure thereby generates unity at the level of
eacli)element of the unity at the
level of the whole unifyiIlgJhe
elements. This a-'statiC
1
-definition of a situation: a
• situation is a
. we h':V"e"rio"iCa::-ph'ilosophers have often
thought of unity as the fundamental property of Being, for
Badiou unity is the ifject"J gL§j:ructuratiQu.. and not a
ground, origin, or end. The consequence of the unity of
situations being the effect of an operation is that a multiple
that belongs to one situation may also belong to another
situation: situations do not have mutually exclusive
iden ti ties.
The operation of the count-for-oms is not performed by
some agent separate to the multiplicity of the situation: in
classical or even relativist ontologies one can discern such an
agent, going under the names of God, History, or Discourse.
The distinction between a situation andjts structuring
count-for-one only holds, strictly speaking, within ontology;
the situation is "nothing other "than this
'counting-for-one'.16 If a situation is a counting-far-one,
then Badiou also has a dynamic definition of a situation.
Once he has both a dynami« as welLis a
situation - the operation of counting-for-one, and unified
presented multiplicity - he is able to join his doctrine of
multiplicity to a reworking of Heidegger's ontological
difference.
Badiou states that the ontological difference.stands between
a situation and the being of that situation; as for Heidegger,
this disjointing, in thought, of situations from their being
II
Infinite Though!
allows ontology to unfold. Unlike Heidegger, however, the
being of a situation is not something that only a poetic
saying can approach: it is, quite simply and banally, the
situation 'before' or rather, without the effect of the count-
for-one; it is the situation as a non-unified or inconsistent
multiplicity. 'After' or with the effect of the count-for-one.sa
situation is a unified or consistent multiplicity. '
. In order to understand this distinction) between an
'm'iI(tiplicity . and a consistent rnultiplicjjy,
consider the situation of a football team. The particular
team we in. mind is a of unruly players
each havmg their own position, and weaknesses;
all of whom are united, however undisciplined and chaotic
their play, by their belonging to the team 'The Cats".'?
Consider then the same team from the point of view of its
being: it is a disparate multiplicity of human bodies, each its
own multiplicity of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, bile and
testosterone, each of these sub-elements in turn a multi-
plicity of cells and so on, which, at the level of their
brute existence, have nothing to do with that unity termed
'The Cats'. That is, at the level of the being of each element
of the team there is nothing which inherently determines
that it is an element of this football team. Thus. at the
indifferent level of being, the situation termed Cats' is
an inconsistent and non-unified multiplicity. Granted, the
proper name 'Cats' does have a certain interpellative power
in the Althusscrian sense, but it neither resides at nor
generates the level of being for Badiou the word neither
murders nor creates the thing, it merely assigns the 'thing' -
a multiplicity - a certain identity.
In order to understand how Badiou might equate these
inconsistent multiplicities with being, consider stripping
something of all of its properties to the extent that even its
identity and unity are removed. For many philosophers,
parading their commitment to desubstantialization, there
12
An introduction to Alain Badiou's phdosopkv
would be nothing left after such an operation. However, for
Badiou, what would be left would simply be the being of
that 'something', and such being could only bl' described as
Not even
would be 'matter' would have been one of
the general properties we stripped away from our 'some-
thing', Badiou's 'inconsistent multiplicity' is therefore not to.
be equated with Aristotelian 'prime matter'; its 'actual"
status is, moreover, 'undecidable'. Precisely because a
situation provokes the question 'What was there before )all
situations?' but provides no possible access to this 'before'
that is not irremediably compromised by post-situational
terminology and operations, it is impossible to speak oLin
anYdixect way, With the thought of:inconsistent m'ulh:'
'phci tY.'1.,it.l.lOU
gh
t ..• .. liIl1i!.s; wha-r
Badiou calls, following Lacan, its 'real' .J)
, ,,-_ _.'
It is at this point that we turn to a discussion of Badiou's
'use of by means of which he gives all this rather
loose metaphysical talk a solid and precise basis.
set theory?
Since Aristotle, ontology has been a privileged sub-
discipline of philosophy; otherwise known as the discourse
on being. Badiou puts forward a radical thesis: if being is
inconsistent multiplicity, then the only suitable discourse for
talking about it is no longer philosophy but mathematics.
For Badiou, mathematics is ontology",: Mathematicians, un-
beknownst to themselves, do nothing other than continually
speak of or write being. This thesis enables Badiou to
reformulate the classical language of ontology being,
relations, qualities in mathematical terms: more specifi-
cally, those of set theory because it is one of the foundational
disciplines of contemporary mathematics; any mathematical
proposition can be rewritten in the language of set theory.
13
Infinite Thought
In 1/ Eire el I'eoenement, Badiou sets forth two doctrines to
support his adoption of set theory. The first, the doctrine on
inconsistent multiplicity, is explained in the previous
section. The second is the doctrine on the void. Together,
these doctrines serve to bridge the gap between set theory,
with its infinity of sets, and Badiou's multiplicities of
situations.
Take the first doctrine. If the being of situations is
inconsistent multiplicity, what is required of the language of
such being? Simply that this language must present multi-
plicity as inconsistent, that is, as non-unified. To fulfil such a
requirement a number of conditions must be met. First, in
order to present multiplicity without unity, the multiples
presented in this language cannot be multiples of individual
things of any kind, since this would be to smuggle back in
precisely what is in question the being of the One.
Consequently, these multiples must also be composed of
multiples themselves composed of multiples, and so OIL
Second, ontology cannot present its multiples as belonging
to a universe, to one all-inclusive total multiple - for that
would be to smuggle back the One at a globallcvel. As such,
ontology's multiples must be boundless; they cannot have an
upper limit. The third condition is that ontology cannot
determine a single concept of multiplicity, for that would
also unify its multiplicities and, by so doing, unify being.
Set theory is the formal theory of non-unified multi-
plicities. It 'meets each of the three conditions outlined
above. First, a set is a multiple of multiples called elements.
However, there is no fundamental difference between
elements and sets, since every element of a set is itself a
set. Second, there is no set of sets; that is, there is no ultimate
set which includes all the different types of set found in set
theory. Such a set would have to thereby include itself,
which is expressly forbidden, on pain of paradox, by one of
set theory's axioms, that of foundation.!" In set theory there
14
An introduction to Alain Badiou's !ihilosophy
is an infinity of infinite types of infinite sets. As for the third
condition, there is neither definition nor concept of a set in
set theory. What there is in its place is a fundamental relation
- 'belonging' as well as a series of variables and logical
operators, and nine axioms stating how they may be used
together. Sets emerge from operations which follow these
rules.
The second doctrine, which Badiou uses to bridge the gap
between set theory's infinity of sets and particular non-
ontological situations, is Ns doctrine on 'the void'>. Like the
doctrine of inconsistent multiplicity.x it is also a doctrine
about the nature of situations. Badiou argues that, in every
situation, there is a beirlg of the 'nothing'. He starts by
stating that whatever is recognized as 'something', or as
existing, in a situation is counted-for-one in, that situation
and vice versa. what is r/oilz'ing",in a situation
must go uncounted. However, it is not as though there is
simply nothing in a situation which is uncounted - both the
the count-lor-one and the inconsistent multiple
which exists before the count are, by definition, uncoun-
table. Moreover, both are necessary to the existence of a
situation orprt;.se!rtat!on;fprecise!y because they constitute a
.situation as a situ;iTonthey-cannot be within the
situation itself." they
constitute what Badiou terms the 'rultnlng'()r'fhe" <void' of
a situation.
Badiou states that this void is the 'subtractive suture to
being' of a situation (EE, 68). The of
being to presentation because it is the point through which a
situation comes to be - the count-far-one - yet by which
being - as inconsistent multiplicity - is foreclosed from
presentation. The void is 'subtractive' for two reasons. The
first is that it is subtracted from presentation and, second, it
does not participate in any of the qualities of the situation -
although it is proper to the situation, it is as if all of the
15
Infinite Thought An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopf!y
Set theol)'
A set is a unified multiplicity: its clements arc not indefinite
and dispersed; one is able to speak of a (single, unified) set.
Badiou reads l1 E as saying that multiple l1 is 'counted-for-
one' as an element of the set or the set is the 'count-far-
one' of all those elements l1. Each of those elements l1 could
the subset X
xCS
the set S
Sets are made up of elements. The elements of a set have no
distinguishing quality save that of belonging to it. This is why
they are referred to simply as variables o: Y- both when
they are elements and when they arc themselves considered
as sets. The relation of belonging is the basic relation of set
theory; it is written l1 E l1 belongs to or, l1 is an element
of the set There is another relation in set theory, termed
inclusion, which is based entirely on belonging. Sets have
'subsets', that are included in the sets. A subset is a grouping
of some of a set's elements. Each of a subset's elements must
belong to the initial set. Take for example the set 8 which
consists of the elements l1, y. It can be written {«, It
has various subsets like {o, and y}. Each subset can
itself be given a name, indexed to an arbitrary mark. For
example, the latter subset y}, might be called the subset
X. Its inclusion in 8 is written X c 8.
elements
particularities of the situation are removed or subtracted
from it. So, for Badiou, every situation is ultimately founded
on a void. This is not Heidegger's Ab-grund, nor is it some
theological creation ex nihilo. The void of a situation is
simply what is not there, but what is necessary for anything
to be there.
When we turn to set theory, it turns out it makes one
initial existential claim, that is, it begins by saying that just
one set exists. This particular set is subtracted from the
conditions of every other set in set theory: that of having
elements. This is thc null-set, a multiple of nothing or of the
void.
20
On the sole basis of this operations
regulated by formal axioms, set an infinity of
further sets. Set theory thus weaves its sets out ofa 'void',
out of what, in any other situation, is the subtractive suture
to being of that situation. In other words, we already know
that ontology connects to other situations through being the
theory of inconsistent multiples. In each and every non-
ontological situation, its inconsistent multiplicity is a void.
The only possible presentation of a 'void' in set theory is the
null-set. Thus, the second way in which set theory connects
to situations is that it constructs its inconsistent multiples out
of its presentation of the void, of the suture to bcing of every
situation.v'
So much for the general connection between situations and
set theory's infinite sets. There is also a connection specific to
each situation: Badiou holds that the structure of each
situation can be written as a type of set. That is, leaving all
of a situation's properties aside and considering only the
basic relations which hold throughout its multiplicity, one
can schematize a situation in ontology as a set.
What, then, are sets and how are they written?
16
17
Infinite Thought
be counted and grouped and subdivided in different
manners, resulting in different sets: there is no restriction
on the number of different sets they can belong to. As noted
above, this is the great flexibility of set theory once one
strips identity away from multiplicity there is nothing to
prevent a multiplicity from belonging to any number of
other multiplicities, nothing, that is, save its structure
(certain types of sets only admit multiples with certain
structures, but more on that later).
If one compares set theory to classical ontologies, indeed
even to that of Deleuze, its modernity is immediate. It
makes no claims concerning the nature of being, nor
concerning the adequation of its categories to being. It
makes no attempt to anchor its discourse in necessity
through an appeal to some ground, whether etymological,
natural or historical. It does not place itself as one linkage
within a larger unified machinery such as 'evolution' or
'complexity' or 'chaos'. If there is a grand philosophical
claim in Badiou's enterprise, it is not made within the
discourse of set theory itself but rather holds in the
identification of set theory as ontology. The basis of set
theory is simply a set of axioms. The necessity of these
axioms has been tested rather than declared insofar as all
operations made on their basis must have logically
consistent results. These results have been tested through a
century of work within set theory. Nine axioms regulate the
operations and the existences which weave the tissue of set
theory's universe.
For Badiou these axioms constitute a decision in thought, a
starting point. The axioms themselves, of course, are not
pure historical beginnings since they are the result of a series
of reformulations made over the first few decades of set
theory: these reformulations were designed to prevent the
occurrence of logical inconsistency within the domain of set
theory. Rather, they mark the beginning of something new
18
",In introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
in scientific thought inasmuch as, for example, it was not
possible to conceive of two different types of infinity, one
larger than the other, before Cantor's pioneering work in set
theory.
Set theory itself comes in a number of varieties: for
example, there are foundational and anti-foundational
types, with varying numbers and types of axioms. Badiou's
own choice is to plump for the orthodox version of Zermelo-
Fraenkel set theory, with its nine axioms. These are
generally called: Extensionality, Separation, Power-Set,
Union, Empty Set, Infinity, Foundation, Replacement
and Choice. An explanation of all nine of these axioms
would exceed the range of this presentation, but a quick
sketch of five of the nine axioms should shed some light on
how the universe of set theory unfolds.
The first concerns identity and difference, the axiom of
extension: If every element y of a set II is also an element of a
set ~ and the inverse is true, then the sets II and ~ are
indistinguishable and therefore identical. Consequently, in
set theory ontology, the regime of identity and difference is
founded upon extension, not quality. That is, every
difference is localized in a point: for two sets to be different,
at least one element of one of the sets must not belong to the
other.
The next three 'constructive' axioms allow the construc-
tion of a new set on the basis of an already existing set. The
axiom of separation states: 'If there exists a set a, then there
exists a subset ~ of ll, all of whose elements y satisfy the
formula F.' It enables a set defined bv a formula to be
I
separated out from an initial set. If one gives values to the
variables one could then, for example, separate out the
subset, ~ , of all green apples from the set of apples, II ('green
apples' being the formula in this example).
The power-set axiom states that all of the subsets of an
initial set grouped together form another set termed the
19
Infinite Thought
power-set. Take for example the set {«, ~ , X}. Its three
elements can be grouped into the following subsets: {«}, { ~ } ,
{X}, {«, ~ } , {a, X}, and { ~ , X}, to which must be added both
what is termed the 'maximal' subset { e l , ~ , X}, and, by virtue
of a rule explained later, the null-set {0}. The power-set of
{«, ~ , X} is thus:
{{o:}, { ~ } , {X}, {«, ~ } , {ex, X}, { ~ , X}, {ex, ~ , X} {0}}·
It is important to note that the power-set of any set is always
demonstrably larger than the initial set. This means one can
always generate larger sets out of any existing set.
The axiom of union states that all of the elements, 8, of
the elements, 'Y, of an initial set, o; themselves form another
set ~ termed the union-set. The new set ~ is thus the union-
set of the initial set o; conventionally written ua. It shows
that sets are homogeneously multiple when decomposed.
All the axioms listed so far presume the existence of at least
one set but they do not themselves establish the existence of
sets. The axiom of the null-set, on the other hand, does. It
forms set theory's first ontological commitment. It states that
there exists a null-set, an empty set to which no elements
belong - 0. This null-set is the initial point of existence from
which all the other sets of set theory are unfolded using the
constructive axioms. For example, from 0, by the operations
prescribed by the axiom of the power-set, one can
demonstrate the existence of its power-set {0}' and then
by repeating the operation, further sets can be unfolded such
as {0, {0}} and {0, {0}' {0, {0}}}. It is just such
unfolding which constitutes the infinity of sets.
Each of these axioms has profound consequences for
philosophical problems, once one allows that set theory is
ontology. In order to use set theory to address philosophical
problems Badiou makes a distinction between ontology
proper, that is, the formal language of set theory, and the
discourse of meta-ontology, that is, a translation of set theory's
20
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
axioms and theorems into philosophical terms. Thus for every
set-theoretical term, there is an equivalent in the discourse of
philosophy. For example, a set is spoken of in meta-ontology
as a 'multiplicity', a 'situation' or a 'presentation'.
One of the traditional philosophical problems to which
set theory responds is that of the relationship between being
and language. According to Badiou, this relationship is
concentrated in the way set theory ties the existence of sets
together with their definitions. In one of the first formula-
tions of set theory, that of Gottlieb Frege, a set is defined as
'the extension of a concept'. This means that for any well-
formed formula in a first order logic which defines a
concept, a set of elements exists, each of which satisfies the
forrnula.i? That is, there can be no sets, and thus nothing in
existence, for which there is no concept: every existing set
corresponds to a concept. Or, whenever one has a defined
concept, one can directly deduce the existence of a
corresponding multiple. Thus, the relationship between
language and being is one of exact correspondence.
However, Frege's definition of sets - and, by implication,
his articulation of the relationship between language and
being - met with a problem. In 1902, Bertrand Russell
discovered a well-formed formula to which no existent set
could correspond without introducing contradiction into set
theory.s'' The formula is 'the set of all sets which are not
members of themselves'. The contradiction ensues when one
asks whether the set of elements which satisfies this formula
belongs to itself or not. If it does belong to itself then, by
definition, it does not, and if it does not belong to itself, then
it does. This contradiction ruins the consistency of the
formal language in which the formula is made. The
consequence of the paradox is that it is not true that for
every well-formed formula a corresponding multiple exists.
In order to avoid Russell's paradox, the axiom of
separation was developed. It proposes another relationship
21
Infinite Thought
between the existence of multiples and well-formed for-
mulas. Frege's definition of that relationship runs as follows:
( 3 ~ ) (Va) [F(a) ~ (a € ~ ) J
This proposition reads: 'There exists a set ~ such that every
term a which satisfies the formula F is an element of that
set.' The axiom of separation on the other hand looks like
this:
(Va) ( 3 ~ ) (Vy) [( (y E a) & F(y)) ~ (y E ~ ) ] .
It reads: 'If there exists a set a, then there exists a subset ~ of
a, all of whose elements y satisfy the formula F.' The
essential difference between Frege's definition and the
axiom of separation is that the former directly proposes an
existence while the latter is conditional upon there already
being a set in existence, a. The axiom of separation says that
if there is a set already in existence, then one can separate out
one of its subsets, ~ , whose elements validate the formula F.
Say for example that the formula F is the property 'rotten'
and one wants to make the judgement 'Some apples are
rotten.' Via the axiom of separation, from the supposed
existence of the set of all apples, one could separate out the
subset of rotten apples.
The relationship between being and language implied by
the axiom of separation is therefore not one of an exact fit,
but rather one in which language causes 'a split or division
in existence' (EE, 53). The conclusion Badiou thus draws
from set theory for the traditional philosophical problem of
the relationship between language and being is that,
although language bestows identity on being, being is in
excess of language. This is quite clearly a materialist thesis
as befits Badiou's Marxist heritage. In meta-ontological
terms, the axiom of separation states that an undefined
existence must always be assumed in any definition of a type
of multiple. In short, the very conditions of the inscription of
22
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoph»
existence in language require that existence be in excess of
what the inscriptions define as existing.
So, what is the general result of Badiou's adoption of set
theory as the language of being? Quite simply that it has
nothing to say about beings themselves ~ this is the province
of other discourses such as physics, anthropology and
literature. This is one reason why Badiou terms set theory a
subtractive ontology: it speaks of beings without reference to
their attributes or their identity; it is as if the beings ontology
speaks of have had all their qualities subtracted from them.
As a result, unlike Plato and Aristotle's ontologies, there is
neither cosmos nor phenomena, neither cause nor substance.
Set theory ontology does not propose a description of 'the
furniture of the world', nor does it concern itselfwith 'carving
reality at the joints'. Its own ontological claim simply
amounts to saying there is a multiplicity of multiplicities.
Furthermore, set theory ontology is indifferent to the
existence or non-existence of particular situations such as
'the world' or 'you, the reader': Badiou writes: 'we are
attempting to think multiple-presentation regardless oj time
(which is founded hy intervention), and space (which is a
singular construction, relative to certain types of presenta-
tion)' (EE, 293). What set theory ontology does, in lieu of
presenting 'what there is', is present the ontological schemas
of any ontological claim; that is, it presents the structure of
what any situation says exists.
Ontological schemas of different situations
Although set theory ontology does not recognize the infinite
differentiations of concrete situations, it does recognize a
number of differences in the structure of situations. This
allows it to schernatize different concrete situations.
According to Badiou's meta-ontology, there are three.basic
structures which are found underpinning every existent
23
Infinite Thought
situation. To understand the differentiation of these
structures it is necessary to return to the axiom of the
power-set and its meta-ontological equivalents.
The axiom of the power-set says that there is a set of all
the subsets of an initial set, termed the power-set. In meta-
ontological terms, the power-set is the state of a situation.
This means that every multiple already counted
counted again at the level of its sub-multiples: the state is
thus a second count-for-one. Or, according to another of
Badiou's meta-ontological translations, if a set schematizes.a,
presentation, then its power-set schematizes the representa-
tion of that presentation.v' The state is made up of all the
possible regroupings of the elements of a situation; as such it
is the structure which underlies any representational or
grouping mechanism in any situation. \¥e should note that
as such the term 'state' includes but is in no way reducible to
the position of a government and its administration in a
political situation.
Badiou distinguishes three types of situation:(rtatural,
historical and neutral. What makes them different at a
structural level are the types of multiple which compose
There are three types of multiple: normal multiples,
:vhIch ar; both presented by the by
ItS (they are counted-for-one twice); l,X"crescentmultiples,
are represented by the state; and singular
multiples, which only occur at the level of presentation,
and which escape the effect of the second count-for-one. i
Natural situations are defined as having no singular
multiples all of their multiples are either normal or
excrescent, and each normal element in turn has normal
elem:nts (E1!, 146). Neutral situations are defined as having
a mIX of singular, normal and excrescent multiples.?"
Historical situations are defined by their having at least
one 'evental-sitc'; a sub-type of singular multiple." In set
theory terms, a singular multiple is an element of a set, but
24
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoPhY
not one of its subsets. Since each of a set's subsets is made
entirely of elements that already belong to the ini tial set.
the definition of a singular multiple is that, first, it is an
element of an initial set, and, second, some of its own
elements in turn do not belong to the initial set. It is these
foreign elements which are responsible for the singularitv
of a singular multiple. An eoental-site is an extreme varietv
of a singular multiple: none of an evental-site's
also belong to the initial set. Leaving
aside, let us turn to examples of natural and historical
situations.
Take, for an example of a natural situation, the ecosystem
of a pond. Ths which it presents include individual
fish, tadpoles,' reeds and stones. Each of these elements is also
represented at the level of the state of the situation, which
also qualifies as the level of the knowledges of a
situation - these elements are known elements of the situation.
Each element of an ecosystem is also one of the ecosystem's
subsets, because each of their clements also belong' in turn , ,
to ecosystem; for example each fish's eating and breeding
habits belong to the ecosystem as well as to each fish. These
elements are thus normal multiples. If one examines such a
it contains no singular terms: nothing is presented
which IS not also represented. The test of whether a situation
is natural or not is whether there is any element of the
situation whose content is not also part of the situation - in
ecology, every element of a system, at whatever level of size
or effect, is interconnected. The situation of the ecosystem of
a pond is thus a natural situation.
Take, by contrast, as an example of a historical situation,
a collection of possible answers to the nationalist concern of
what it is to be Australian. Some of the multiples presented in
this situation would be individual stories about bronzed
lifesavers, Anzac soldiers, larrikins, whinging poms, wow-
sers, convicts, explorers, bushrangers and squatters. One
25
Infinite Thought
would also find Don Bradman and the Eureka Stockade
belonging to such a collection. In the twenty-first century,
this situation's elements would also comprise individual
stories about the Italian-Australians, the Irish-Australians,
the Chinese-Australians, the Greek-Australians, the Turk-
ish-Australians, and so on. At the level of the state of the
situation one has submultiples such as hedonism, mateship,
equality understood as samencss, the imperatives 'fair go!'
and 'she'll be right mate!', anti-British sentiment, distrust of
authority, the privileging of know-how over theory,
Protestantism, and Catholicism, etc.
From both socio-economic and cultural perspectives,
immigrant groups are both presented and re-presented.
Their contribution to 'what it is to be Australian' is both
known and knowable. For this reason we would argue that
none of the presen ted 'immigrant' multiples are singular
multiples. On the other hand, constitutively resistant to
Anglo-Saxon dreams of assimilation, the multiple 'abori-
ginals' forms an evcnral-site; its contents remain unknown.
Of course, within other situations such as cultural, socio-
logical and bureaucratic assessments of Australia, 'abori-
ginals' are re-presented. However, these specialized
discourses are not in the position of furnishing answers to
the nationalist question 'What is it to be Australian?' The
multiple 'aboriginals' forms an evental-sitc because the
sovereignty of Australia, the 'immigrant nation', wzsfounded
upon the dispossession of indigenous peoples. Their relation
to this particular piece of land was crucially not recognized
at the very beginning of this entity termed 'Australia'. Any
representation of the content of the multiple 'aboriginals'
with reference to what it is to be Australian, would thus
cause the unity of the situation to dissolve - in a sense, it
would entail the dissolution of 'Australia' itself It is this
constitutive irrepresentability at the heart of Australian nation-
alism that makes it a historical situation.
26
An introduction to Alain Badiou's jJhilosoply
Badiou uses this division between natural and historical
situations to return to his basic question: How does the new
happen in being? In our mythical, pollution-free pond,
though there may be generation after generation of 'new'
baby fish, nothing really changes: barring another natural
catastrophe the ecosystem will remain in a state of home-
ostasis. In natural situations Ecclesiastes' proverb holds
true: there is nothing new under the sun. In historical
situations things are quite different. To return to our
example of Australian nationalism, the inherent instability
of the situation (it harbouring an unknowable evental-site in
its midst) renders it susceptible to wholesale political
transformation.
However, the existence of an evental-site in a situation
does not guarantee that change will occur. For that
something extra is required, a 'supplement' as Badiou says,
which is an event. \'\1e are not talking about any ordinary
event here, like a birthday or Australia beating France in
rugby, but rather of a totally disruptive occurrence which
has no place in the scheme of things as they currently are.
Who will say what this event has been or will be for
Australian nationalism was it the erection by Aboriginal
activists of a tent embassy opposite the National Parliament
in 1972? The occurrence of an event is completely
unprcdictable.27 There is no meta-situation - 'History' -
which would programme the occurrence ofevents in various
selected .situations, ..... ;, .,
The precariousness of historical change extends further:
not only must an event occur at the evental-site of a
situation, but someone must recognize and name that event
as an event whose implications concern the nature of the
entire situation. Thus it is quite possible that an event occur
in a situation but that nothing changes because nobody
recognizes the event's importance for the situation. This
initial naming of the event as an event, this decision that it
27
InJinite Thought
has transformational consequences for the entirety of a
situation, is what Badiou terms an 'intervention'. The
intervention is the first moment of a process of fundamental
change that Badiou terms a 'fidelity', or a 'generic truth
procedure'. A generic truth procedure is basically a praxis
consisting of a series of enquiries into the situation made by
militants who act in fidelity to the event. The object of these
enquiries is to work out how to transform the situation in
line with what is revealed by the event's belonging to the
situation. For example, within the situation of art in the
early twentieth century, certain artists launched an enquiry
into the nature of sculpture once Picasso's cubist paintings
had been recognized as 'art'. The procedure made up
such enquiries is termed a 'truth procedure' because It
unfolds a new multiple: the 'truth' of the previous situation.
Here Badiou draws upon - and displaces - Hcidegger's
conception of truth as the presentation of being. The new
entitv is a truth inasmuch as it presents the multiple-being of
the previous situation, stripped bare of any predicates, of
anv identitv.
For example, take an art critic in the early twentieth
century who has just recognized that a cubist painting can,
indeed, be called 'art'. If he was called upon to make a
predicative definition of the contemporary situation of art -
that is, if someone asked him 'What is an?' - he would have
found it impossible to respond - at that very moment, for
hirn, the disruptive event we now call 'cubism' was laying
bare the situation of art as a pure multiplicity of colours,
forms, materials, proper sl?aces with nofixed
contours.: In fact, the common accusation that contemporary
art is indeterminate, and as such could be
'anything whatsoever' with a label slapped on it stuck in a
gallery; this very accusation actually unknowingly strikes
upon the very nature of a new multiple: it is 'anything
whatsoever' with regard to established knowledge.
28
An introduction to Alain Badiou's jilli/osOpkJi
To understand how a new multiple - such as 'modern art'
- can both exist, and be stripped bare of any predicates (as
such being globally indescribable or 'anything whatsoever')
we must turn back to Badiou's use of set theory.
Generic sets and processes of transformation
In order to think about processes of fundamental change
within his ontology Badiou had to work out how a multiple,
a set, can be new. It is at this point that Badiou introduces
the - what he calls 'the gene:ic' or
'indis"c:ertllbrhtv'. ThIS IS at once an extremely difficult
concept, bas;d on the most innovative mathematical
procedures, yet also intuitively graspable. Badiou takes. this
concept from the work of Paul Cohen, an American
. ,.,. 1963 28
mathematician who invented the genenc set 111 •
The first point to work out is what the reference point
could be within ontology for such Especially since set
theory ontology appears to be a static, flat discourse, with
no recpgnition of the .supposed universality of the situations
of'time' .and 'history':) The reference point turns out to be
In set theory, one can have 'models' of set theory
which' are interpretations that flesh out the bare bones of sets
and elements by giving values to the variables (such as y =
green apples in the example used above). A model of set
theory has its own language in which various formulas
express certain properties such as 'green'. The model itself,
as a structured multiplicity, can be treated itself as a set.
Cohen takes as his starting point what he terms a 'grollIl51
model' of set theory. Badiou takes this model as the schema
of a historical situa'tion. Each subset of this model satisfies a
property which can be expressed in the language used in the
model. That is, every multiple found in the model can be
discerned using the tools of language. A generic set, on the
other hand, is a subset that is 'new' insofar as it cannot be
29
Infinite Thought
discerned by that language. For every property that one
formulates, even the most general such as 'this apple and
this apple and this apple ... ', the generic set has at least one
clement which does not share that property. This makes
sense intuitively: when someone tries to tell you about a new
experience, whether it be meeting a person or seeing a work
of art, they have a lot of trouble describing it accurately
and, every time you try to help them by suggesting that it
might be a bit like the person x or the filmy, they say, 'No,
no, it's not like that!' For every property or concept you
come up with to describe this new thing, there is something
in that new thing which does not quite fit. This is all very
well, but having a set which one 'can't quite describe'
sounds a bit vague for set theory. The innovation of Paul
Cohen's work lay in his discovery of a method of describing
such a multiple without betraying its indiscernibiluyt''
But what about the process of this new multiple coming
into being? How does a generic set provide the ontological
schema of processes of radical change in political, scientific,
artistic, and amorous situations? Badiou holds that the
ground model schematizes an established historical situation
before an event arrives. One can define a concept of a
generic subset within such a situation but one cannot know
that it exists - precisely because it is one of those 'excrescent'
multiples noted above (which are not presented at the level
of belonging to a situation). The generic subset is only
present at the level of inclusion, and, unlike all the other
subsets, it cannot be known via its properties. To show that
a gcneric set actually exists, Cohen develops a proccdurc
whereby one adds it to the existing ground model as a type
of supplement, thereby forming a new set. Within this new
set, the generic multiple will exist at the level of belonging,
or in meta-ontological terms, presentation. The new
supplemented set provides the ontological schema of a
historical situation which has undergone wholesale change.
30
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopky
Furthermore, Cohen developed a method of making
finite descriptions of this new supplemented set using only
the resources of the initial set. Cohen termed this procedure
'forcing' and Badiou adopts it as an on tological model of the
numerous practical enquiries that subjects who act in
fidelity to an event make while they arc attempting to
bring about the change entailed by the event. That is,
although, say, an activist working towards justice for the
indigenous peoples in Australia will not know what overall
shape justice will take, they will be able to predict certain of
its features and some of their predictions may be verified
early on in the process of change. For example, a particular
experiment in public health practices in indigenous com-
munities may reveal itself to be part of the movement
towards justice due to its sensitivity to issues of self-
determination and cultural difference.
For Badiou, the actual work which carries out the
wholesale change of a historical situation - in his terms, the
fidelity practised by subjects to an event consists of such
experiments; finite enquiries into the nature of the event, using
an invented idiom to approximate what is discovered through
such enquiries. Historically, one can understand this concept
of fidelity as a remodelling of the Marxist concept of praxis,
subtracting the latter from the encompassing unities of
historical determinism, revolutionary theory and the Party
line. What results from suchsubtractions is a praxis made up
of a hazardous series of bets, bets on the nature of the situation
to come. Many of these bets will fall wide of the mark, but
those that hit the target will help construct the new situation.
Of course, Badiou recognizes that the number of shapes a
fidelity can take, especially in domains as different as art,
politics, science and love, is infinite; and further, that a
number of different fidelities may be developed in the same
situation to the same event - for example, both Pierre
Boulez and John Cage developed their music in fidelity to
Infinite Thought
the event of Schoenberg's invention of the twelve-tone series,
but in very different directions. Yet Badiou's general claim is
that in each case of a fidelity it is a matter of the new coming
into being, and in set theory ontology the only way to
schematizc that process is through Paul Cohen's concepts of
the generic set and forcing. Thus, however particular - and
indeed, however precarious a decolonization process
within a colonialist political situation, at the level of the
structure of its multiplicity, it is a generic set. The relation
this process entertains with the established colonialist
situation is not one of pure exteriority (romanticism) nor
of subsumption (realism), but that of indiscernibiliiy. That is,
none of the categories employed by colonialist discourses
serve to discern its nature.
Hence the indiscernibility of a generic truth procedure
grounds both its singularity and its sovereignty, insofar as it
is subtracted from and thus independent of any known
entity in the situation, such as 'parliamentary democracy',
'mining interests', 'the proletariat', or 'the native'.
But within the debates around post-colonialism, the
romantics and the realists will always have one last
objection to an argument such as ours: that there is an
exception to the rule, since the categories of one colonialist
discourse in particular seem to serve quite well for
discerning the nature of a decolonization process, the latest
categories of European philosophy, those of Alain Badiou's
set theory ontology. However, this would be to miss the
point entirely. Ontology does not discern the nature of any
situation, much less that of a particular fidelity. Ontology
only speaks of the structure of multiplicity: it has nothing to
say about the qualities or identitv of anv concrete situation.
For Badiou such would be the province of other discourses,
practical or theoretical. This is the first guard against
imperialism built into Badiou's philosophv - the indifference
of ontology towards the concrete. .
32
An introduction to Alain Badiou's
The second guard lies in Badious refusal of any
transitivity between ontology and politics. As a good
materialist, .Iie recognizes the autonomy of material
processes and argues that the names philosophy comes up
with to reflect particular political transformations arenot and
cannot be identical to those names that are thrown up by the
actual process of transformation within a political situation.
The task of philosophy is not to predict nor determine the
shape ofjustice, or of modern art, or even the form a unified
field theory might take. Philosophy's task is to reflect and
learn from those transformations happening in contempor-
ary historical situations; to the point where it develops what
Badiou terms a of compossibility' for all contemporary
fidelities. The relationship behveefi·philosophy and politics
- as with art, science and love - is thus one of conditioning
or dependence. Philosophy is no longer sovereign. rt is as if
philosophy has finally heard that cry addressed to it for
decades, a cry voiced by so many artists, scientists, activists
and lovers whose activities it has deafly appropriated from
on high, the cry 'SHUT UP AND LISTEN!!!'
And even if Badiou's conception of philosophy maintains
a strict separation between the practice of philosophy and
the diverse practices of art, politics, science and love, it docs
have one practical consequence. Quite simply, if you want
to do politics, go become an activist, go decide what event
has happened in your political situation. If you want to do
philosophy, try to think the compossibility of contemporary
events in each of the four domains of art, politics, science
and love (and, of course, read all of Being and Event once it's
published). Just don't confuse the two.
A note on notes
Following Badiou's practice, we do not reference texts he
mentions, trusting the readers' own curiosity to guide them.
33
Infinite Thought
Admittedly, it is a rather abrupt gesture. It does not place
thought under the sign of the demand for knowledge but
simply under that of desire.
Notes
I. The following titles by Alain Badiou are currently in press or
forthcoming: Being and Eoent, trans. Oliver Feltham (London:
Continuum Books, forthcoming); Theoretical 11/ritings, trans.
and ed. Alberto Toscano and Ray Brassier (London:
Continuum Books, 2003); Handbook of Inaesthetics, trans. A.
Toscano (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003); St.
Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. R. Brassier
(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 20(3); On Beckett,
ed. and trans. Nina Power and A. Toscano with Bruno
Bosteels (Manchester: CIinamen, 2(03); The Century/Le Siecle,
trans. A. Toscano with responses by A. Toscano and Slavoj
Zizek (Paris/London: Seuil/Verso, 2003). Badiou's Abreg« de
lvlitapolitique (Paris: Seuil, 1998), translated by Jason Barker,
is forthcoming from Verso. See also Peter Hallward, Subject to
Truth: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Alain Badiou
(Minneapolis: C niversity of Minnesota Press, forthcoming)
and P. Hallward (ed.), Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future
of PhilosojJlry (London: Continuum Books, forthcoming).
2. See J. Barker, Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction (London:
Pluto Press, 2002); A. Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the
Understanding of F.vil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso,
2001); A. Badiou, Gilles Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans.
Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
2(00); A. Badiou, AfaniJesto for trans. Norman
Madarasz (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999).
3. A. Badiou, L'Etr« et l'eoenement (Paris: Editions elu Seuil,
1988). All further references will appear as page numbel'S in
brackets in the body of the text.
4. Jacques Lacan was a French psychoanalyst famous for his
::34
An introduction to Alain Badiou's j)hilosopkv
fusion of Freud, Saussurean linguistics, structuralist anthro-
pology, French psychiatry and mathematics into one
continually evolving and powerful theory of the subject.
Jacques-Aiain Miller subsequently became Lacan's son-in-
law, executor of his esta te, head of one of the largest Lacanian
schools of psychoanalysis, and one of Laran's premier
comrnentators.
5. Ontology is thc philosophical discourse defined by Aristotle as
the science of being qua being. Historically it has treated such
questions as 'What is being?' and 'Why is there something
rather than nothing?'
6. For a particularly dense and concentrated elaboration of
Badiou's theory of the subject see 'A finally objectless subject',
in the Who Comes After the Subject? ed. E. Cadava
(London: Routledge, 1991'I.
7. Jacques Derrida, 'Desistance', in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe,
Mimesis, Politics, Philosophy, ed. C. Fynsk (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).
8. See, for instance, ]VI. Foucault, Power!Knowledge: Selected
Interrinos and Other Writings ed. C. Gordon, trans.
C. Gordon et al. (New York: Pantheon, 1980).
9. A. Badiou, Logiques des mondes
Insofar as Badiou's concept of a , multiple, which
makes up the 'stuff of his faithful subjects, delivers a rigorous
definition of singularity, one could argue that the classical
problem of the identity of subjects, or that of their
differentiation, is indirectly treated inasmuch as the generic
multiple is strictly differentiated from every predicate, See
'Generic scts and processes of transformation', pp. 29 33.
10. 'Fidelity', 'event', and 'situation' are all technical terms of
Badiou;s .ontology and their meaning will he explained in
what follows; however, the reader's intuitive sense of these
words can be trusted to provide an initial approximation.
11. At this point we should note an important complication of
Badiou's theory of the subject; Badiou also terms 'subject' the
35
Infinite 7 hought
actual individual theorems which make up modern physics.
Similarly in the domain of art he terms 'subject' particular
musical works rather than their composers. This shift simply
reinforces his separation between the human as an individual
animal, and the human acting as subject, thatis asapoint of
risk, invention and geclsion, . . .-
12. A. Badiou, Thiorie du suje! (Paris: Seuil, 1981).
13. See Willard V. O. Quine, 'Ontological relativity', Il1
Ontological Relatioity and Other ESSIlYf (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1969).
14. G. W. Leibniz, 'Letter to Arnauld April 30 1687', in
Philosophical Writings, trans. J. NT. Morris (London: Dent &
Sons, 1934),72.
15. According to Badiou this was also Kant's problem in the first
critique insofar as the latter did not grant immediate unity
either to the thing itself or to the sensuous manifold, yet
attempted to account for the apparent unity of experience.
16. See the interview included in this volume.
17. We would like to thank our colleague Amelia Smith for this
example.
18. This axiom was introduced in order to deal with a paradox
that appeared early in the development of set theory.
Russell's paradox emerges on the basis of sets being able to
be members of themselves. It is more familiar in the paradox
of the barber who shaves all the men in the village who don't
shave themselves: who shaves the barber? We return to this
paradox below.
19. Students of philosophy may be reminded of the status of
Kant's Ding-an-sidi and of transcendental apperception in the
first Critique.
20. In French, l'ensemble-uide. In Badiou's text this harmonizes at
a terminological level with the French for 'the void of a
situation': le vide de la situation.
21. The doctrine on inconsistent multiplicity is prior, in the order
of argument, to the doctrine on the void of situations
36
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoph»
because to accept that set theory's null-set presents the
nothing of situations, one must already have accepted that
sets present the being of situations.
22. A first order logic consists of a series of signs: existential and
universal quantifiers, variables, properties and logical con-
nectors; disjunction, conjunction, implication, negation and
equivalence. Properties are never found in the position of
variables, that is, first order logic does not express properties
of properties: that is the province of second order logic.
23. See B. Russell, 'Letter to Frege', in J. Van Heijenoort (ed.},
From Frege to Codel: A Source Book in Mathematical Logic
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 124.
24. vVe should note that if this meta-ontological translation is
legitima te, the superior size and complexity of the power-set,
with regard to its initial set, has fundamental consequences
for the classical philosophical problem of the relationship
between presentation and representation (and thus for any
practice based on the critique of representations), as it does
for the classical political problem of the relation between the
state and the people.
25. Due to the excess of inclusion over belonging - the superior
size of a set's power-set compared to itself - every situation
has excrescent multiples.
26. 'Evental-site' is a neologism that has been coined in order to
translate Badiou's site euenementiel. 'Event-site' is not appro-
priate, because it suggests that the site is defim:d by the
occurrence of an event, whereas in Badiou's conception, there
is no guarantee that an event will occur at a site ivinementiel,
the sole guarantcc being that if an event does occur in the
situation it will do so at that particular point of the latter
termed the evental-site.
27. This is precisely how Badiou breaks with historical dctcrrnin-
Isms.
28. The reference for the mathematicians is P. Cohen, Set Theory
and the Continuum Hypothesis (]\\ew York: W.A. Benjamin, 1966).
Infinite Thought
29. See Meditations 34 and 3.1 of L'Etre et I'eoenement for a full
explanation of Cohen's method.
38
CHAPTER 1
Philosophy and desire
This philosophical investigation begins under the banner of
poetry; thus recalling the ancient tie between poetry and
philosophy.'
Rirnbaud employs a strange expression: 'Ies revoltes
logiques", 'logical revolts'. Philosophy is something like a
'logical revolt'. Philosophy pits thought against injustice,
against the defective state of the world and oflife. Yet it pits
thought against injustice in a movement which conserves
and defends argument and reason, and which ultimately
proposes a new logic.
Mallarme states: 'All thought begets a throw of the dice.'
It seems to me that this enigmatic formula also designates
philosophy, because philosophy proposes to think the
universal - that which is true for all thinking - yet it does
so on the basis of a commitment in which chance always
plays a role, a commitment which is also a risk or a wager;
The four-dimensional desire ifphilosoph);
These two poetic formulas capture the desire of philosophy,
for at base the desire of philosophy implies a dimension of
revolt: there is no philosophy without the discontent of
39
Infinite Thought
thinking in its confrontation with the world as it is. Yet the
desire of philosophy also includes logic; that is, a belief in the
"power of argument and reason. Furthermore, the
\philosophy involves unioersality: philosophy '-addresses all "
since it supposes that all humans
think. Finally, p·h11osophy'takesns,kj·:-'ITii'iiKiilg·'i's·'a!\vaysa·
dCt:'lsl(lir"which supports independent points of view. The
desire of philosophy thus has {(JUr dimensions: revolt, logic,
universality and risk.
I think that the contemporary world, our world, the
world that we strive to think and transform, exerts an
intense pressure upon these {(JUr dimensions of the desire of
philosophy; such that all four dimensions, faced by the
world, find themselves in a difficult and dark passage in
which the destiny and even the very existence of philosophy
is at stake.
To begin with, as far as the dimension of revolt is
concerned, this world, our world, the 'vVestern' world (with
as many inverted commas as you want), docs not engage in
thought as revolt, and for two reasons. First, this world
already decrees itself free, it presents itself as 'the free world'
- this is the very name it gives itself; an 'isle' of liberty on a
planet otherwise reduced to slavery or devastation, Yet, at
the same time - and this is the second reason this world,
our world, standardizes and commercializes the stakes of
such freedom. It submits them to monetary uniformity, and
with such success that our world no longer has to revolt to
be free since it guarantees us freedom. However, it does not
guarantee us the free use of this freedom, since such use is in
reality already coded, orientated and channelled by the
infinite glitter of merchandise. This is why this world exerts
an intense pressure against the very idea that thinking can
be insubordination or revolt.
Our world also exerts a strong pressure on -the. dimension
,I'
of logic; essentially because the world is submitted to the
and desire
profoundly illogical regime of communic.ation. Comn,-lUnica-
tion transmits a universe made up of disconnected Images,
remarks, statements and commentaries whose accepted
principle is incoherence. Day after day communication
undoes all relations and all principles, in an untenable
juxtaposition that dissolves every relation bet.ween the
elements it sweeps along in its flow. And what IS perhaps
even more distressing is that J;I)}I;S,s,C\o,rrrnu;nication presents
the world to us as a spectacle devoid of memory, a spectacle
in which new images and new remarks cover, erase and
consign to oblivion the very images and remarks that have
just been shown and said. The logic which is specifically
"'undone is the logic of time. It is these processes of
communication which exert pressure on the resoluteness of
thinking's fidelity to logic; proposing to thought in the latter's
place a type of imaginary dissemination.
As for the universal dimension of the desire of philosophy,
our world is no longer suited to it because the world is
essentially a specialized and fragmentary world; fragmented
in response to the demands of the innumerable ramifications
of the technical configuration of things, of the apparatuses of
production, of the distribution of salaries, of the diversity of
functions and skills. And the requirements of this specializa-
tion and this fragmentation make it difficult to perceive
what might be transversal or universal; that is, what might
be valid for all thinking.
Finally we have the dimension of risk. Our world does not
favour riskv commitments or risky decisions, because it is a
world in w'hich nobody has the means any more to submit
their existence to the perils of chance. Existence requires
more and more elaborate calculation. Life is
calculating security, and this obsessiOii with calcul .
. . a armean hv othcsis tha
e sat Irow e Ice, because in such a wQ!lQ.
LOu lIluch fISk In a throw of the dice.
41
Infinite Thought
The desire for philosophy thus encounters four, prj ncipal
obstacles in the world. These are: the reign of
the reign of communication, the need for technical
specialization and the necessity for realistic calculations of
security. How can philosophy take on this challenge? Is
philosophy eapable of such a challenge? The answer must be
sought in the state of contemporary philosophy.
The present state
What are the principal global tendencies in contemporary
philosophy if we consider it from a bird's eye point of view?
I think it can be said that three principal orientations can
be distinguished in philosophy today. These orientations
correspond, in some measure, to three geographical loca-
tions. I will first name and then describe them. The first can
be called the hermeneutic orientation, which historically
goes back to German romanticism. The best-known names
attached to this orientation are Heidegger and Gadamcr,
and its historical site ,V1s originally German. Then there is
the analytic orientation, originating with the Vienna Circle.
The principal names connected to it are those of Wittgcn-
stein and Carnap. Despite its Austrian origin, it now
dominates English and American academic philosophy.
Finally, we have what can be called the postmodern
orientation, which in fact borrows from the other two. It
is without doubt the most active in France, and includes
thinkers as different as Jacques Dcrrida and Jean-Frans;ois
Lyotard. It is equally very active in Spain, Italy and Latin
America.
A hermeneutic orientation, an analytic orientation, and a
postmodern orientation: there are, of course, innumerable
intersections, mixtures and networks of circulation between
the three, but together they form the most global and
descriptive geography possible of contemporary philosophy.
4-2
Philosophy and desire
What then interests us is how each orientation designates or
identifies philosophy.
The hermeneutic orientation assigns philosophy the aim
of deciphering the meaning of Being, the meaning of Being-
in-the-world, and its central concept is that of interpretation.
There are statements, acts, writings, and configurations
whose meaning is obscure, latent, hidden or forgotten.
Philosophy must be provided with a method of interpreta-
tion that will serve to clarify this obscurity, and bring forth
from it an authentic meaning, a meaning which would be a
figure of our destiny in relation to the destiny of being itself.
The fundamental opposition for hermeneutic philosophy is
that of the closed and the open. In what is given, in the
immediate world, there is something dissimulated and
closed. The aim of interpretation is to undo this closure
and open it up to meaning. From this point of view the
vocation of philosophy is a 'vocation devoted to the open'.
This vocation marks a combat between the world of
philosophy a,mIthe world of technique since the latter is
the accomplishment of closed nihilism.
The analytic orientation holds to
be the strict demarcation of those utteranc:es which have
meaning and those which do not. The aim is to demarcate
what can be said and what it is impossible or illegitimate to
say. The essential instrument of analytic philosophy is the
logical and grammatical analysis of utterances, and
ultimately of the entire language. This time the central
concept is not interpretation but the rule. The task of
philosophy is to discover those rules that ensure an
agreement about meaning. The fundamental opposition
here is between what can be regulated and what cannot be
regulated, or what conforms to a recognized law assuring an
agreement about meaning, and what eludes all explicit laws,
thus falling into illusion or discordance. For the analytic
orientation, the aim of philosophy is therapeutic and
43
Infinite Thought
critical. It is a question of curing us of the illusions and the
aberrations oflanguage that divide us, by isolating what has
no meaning, and by returning to rules which are
transparent to all.
Finally, the postmodern orientation holds the aim of
philosophy to be the deconstruction of the accepted facts of
our modernity. In particular, postrnodern philosophy
proposes to dissolve the great constructions of the nineteenth
century to which we remain captive - the idea of the
historical subject, the idea of progress, the idea of revolution,
the idea of humanity and the ideal of science. Its aim is to
show that these great constructions that we
live in the multiple, that there are no great epics of history
or of thought; that there is an irreducible plurality of
registers and languages in thought as in action; registers so
diverse and heterogeneous that no great idea can totalize or
reconcile them. At base, the objective of postmodern
philosophy is to deconstruct the idea of totality - to the
extent that philosophy itself finds itself Conse-
quently, the postmodern orientation activates what might
be called mixed practices, de-totalized practices, or impure
thinking practices. It situates thought on the outskirts, in
areas that cannot be circumscribed. In particular, it installs
philosophical thought at the periphery of art, and proposes
an untotaJizable mixture of the conceptual method of
philosophy and the sense-orientated enterprise of art.
The common themes rif the three orientations ofphilosophy
Do these three orientations - so summarily described - have
anything in common? Does anything allow us to say that,
despite this diversity, features can be found which signal a
unity of contemporary philosophy? I would suggest that
there are two principal features that the three orientations,
hermeneutic, analytic and postmodern, have in common. It
44
Philosophy and desire
is these common features which signal that the three
orientations of philosophy are all contemporary, and that
however different they may be, their destiny is joined: they
do not simply provide one possible division of thought but
rather provide three expressions of the same demands that
our epoch makes on philosophy.
The first of these features is negative. All three orienta-
tions hold that we are at the end of metaphysics, that
philosophy is no longer in a position to sustain its locus
classicus; that is, the great figure of the metaphysical
proposition. In a certain sense, these three
maintain that philosophy is itself situated within the end of
philosophy, or that philosophy is announcing a certain end
of itself
\Ve can immediately give three examples. It is clear that
for Heidegger the theme of the end is the central element of
his thinking. For Heidegger our time is characterized by the
closure of the history of metaphysics, and thus of an entire
epoch going back to Plato, an entire epoch of the history of
being and thought. This closure is first realized in the
distress and dereliction of the injunction of technology.
No philosophy could be further from Heidegger's than
Carnap's. Yet Carnap also announces the end of any
possibility of metaphysics because, for him, rnetaphysics
consists of nothing more than utterances that are non-
regulated and devoid of meaning. The aim of analytic
therapy is to cure the metaphysical symptom; that is, to cure
the patient of utterances whose analysis shows that thev
cannot give rise to assent because 'they are devoid ;f
meaning.
If we take Jean-Frans-.ois Lyotard, one of his central
themes is what he calls 'the end of the great narratives' - the
great narratives of the revolution, of the proletariat, and of
progress. Once more we have an 'end'; the end of the great
narratives being the end of the great configurations of the
45
Infinite 7 hough! Philosophy and desire
The }laws in contemporary philosophy
The first is that the metaphysics of truth has become
impossible. This axiom is negative. Philosophy can no
longer pretend to be what it had for a long time decided to
be, that is, a search for truth. The second axiom is that
language is the crucial site of thought because that is where
the question of meaning is at stake. Consequently, the
question of meaning replaces the classical question of truth.
y conviction is that these two axioms represent a real
danger for thinking in general and for philosophy in
particular. I think that their development and their
infinitely subtle, complex and brilliant formulation, as
found in contemporary philosophy, render philosophy
incapable of sustaining the desire which is proper to it in
the face of the pressure exerted by the contemporary world.
These axioms cannot give philosophy the means to sustain
its desire under the quadruple form of revolt, logic,
universality and risk.
If philosophy is essentially a meditation on language, it
will not succeed in removing the obstacle that the
specialization and fragmentation of the world opposes to
universality. To accept the universe of language as the
absolute horizon of philosophical thought in fact amounts to
accepting the fragmentation and the illusion of commu-
nication - for the truth of our world is that there are as
many languages as there are communities, activities or kinds
of knowledge. I agree that there is a multiplicity oflanguage
games. This, however, forces philosophy if it wants to
preserve the desire for universality - to establish itself
elsewhere than within this multiplicity, so as not to be
exclusively subordinated to it. If not, philosophy will
become what in one way it mostly is, an infinite description
of the multiplicity of language games.
subject and history that have been associated with modern
metaphysics.
We find then a theme common to the three orientations,
which is the theme of an end, of a drawing to a close, of an
This theme can be articulated in another
wa y: the ideal of truth as it was put forth by classical
philosophy has come to its end. For the idea of truth we
must substitute the idea of the plurality of meanings. This
opposition between the classical ideal of truth and the
modern theme of the polyvalence of meaning is, in my
opinion, an essential opposition. We might say in a
schematic, but not inexact way, that contemporary
philosophy institutes the passage from a truth-orientated
philosophy to a meaning-orientated philosophy.
In each of these three principal orientations, contempor-
ary philosophy puts the category of truth on trial, and with
it the classical figure of philosophy. That is what these three
orientations have in common on the negative side. What
they have in common on the positive side - and this is
crucial is the central place accorded to the question of
language. The philosophy of this century has become
principally a meditation on language, on its capacities, its
rules, and on what it authorizes as far as thought is
concerned. This is clear in the very definition of the
orientations I have been talking about: the hermeneutic
orientation, in a certain sense, always consists of the
interpretation of speech acts; the analytic orientation
consists of the confrontation between utterances and the
rules which govern them; and the postmodern orientation
promotes the idea of a multiplicity of sentences, fragments,
and forms of discourse in the absence of homogeneity.
Language has thus become the great historical transcen-
dental of our times.
To recapitulate, contemporary philosophy has two
fundamental axioms, common to all three orientations.
" ... /'
46 47
Infinite Thought
Or else, but this would be even worse, philosophy might
elect one particular language, claiming that the latter is the
only one that can save it. We know what this leads to.
Heidegger explicitly upheld the thesis of the intrinsic
philosophical value, first of the Greek language, and then
of the German language. He said: 'Being speaks Greek.' He
said that the German language was, in a way, the only
language in which thought could sustain the challenge of its
destinv. And there is an ineluctable connection between this
electidn of a language and the political position that resulted
in Heidegger's commitment to German nationalism in the
criminal form given to it by Nazism.
As for analytic philosophy, it is absolutely clear that it
accords a unilateral privilege to scientific language as the
language in which rules are both explicit and the most
adequate to the subject of the language. This is clear in the
way in which sense and non-sense are differentiated by
presenting the distinction in the guise of a rule, as can be
seen in mathematics and scientific language in general. But
this privilege is itself philosophically dangerous because it
leads directly to a contempt for all sites and spaces which
rebel against the configuration of scientific language. And
the privilege accorded this language isolates a figure of
rationality that is ineluctably accompanied by disdain or
contempt or the closing of one's eyes to the fact that even
today the overwhelming majority of humanity is out of
reach of such a language.
On the other hand, if the category of truth is ignored, if
we never confront anything but the polyvalence of meaning,
then philosophy will never assume the challenge that is put
out to it by a world subordinated to the merchandising of
money and information. This world is an anarchy of more
or less regulated, more or less coded fluxes, wherein money,
products and images are exchanged. If philosophy is to
sustain its desire in such a world, it must propose a principle
48
Philosophy and desire
of interruption. It must be able to propose to thought
something that can interrupt this endless regime of
circulation. Philosophy must examine the possibility of a
point of interruption - not because all this must be
interrupted - but because thought at least must be able to
extract itself from this circulation and take possession of
itself once again as something other than an object of
circulation. It is obvious that such a point of interruption
can only be an unconditional requirement; that is, some-
thing which is submitted to thought with no other condition
than itself and which is neither exchangeable nor capable of
being put into circulation. That there be such a point of
interruption, that there be at least one unconditional
requirement, is, in my opinion, a condition sine qua non for
the existence of philosophy. In the absence of such a point,
all there is is the general circulation of knowledge, informa-
tion, merchandise, money and images. In my opinion, this
unconditional requirement cannot be solely supported by
the proposition of the polyvalence of meaning. It also needs
the reconstruction or re-emergence of the category of truth.
\Ve are subjected to the media's inconsistency of images
and commentaries. What can be opposed to this? I do not
think that anything can be opposed to it except the patient
search for at least one truth, and perhaps several; without
which the essential illogicism of mass communication will
impose its temporal carnival.
Philosophy also requires that we throw the dice against
the obsession for security, that we interrupt the calculus of
life determined by security. But what chance has philosophy
of winning, except in the name of a value that would ordain
this risk and give it a minimum.of consistency and weighe
... '_',,' ." ;'(" ." .. ) '\ " _,1 /). ..... , ~ .. "")
Here again I believe it isyain to imagine that in the absence
of a principle of truth, one can oppose an existential gamble
to the caleulus of life, a gamble that could give rise to
something that could be called liberty.
'}9
Infinite Thought
Given the axioms of contemporary philosophy, can the
desire for philosophy be maintained in the world such as it
is? Can we maintain the four dimensions of revolt, logic,
universality and risk against the four contemporary
obstacles: merchandise, communication, technical division
and the obsession with security?
I submit that this cannot be done within the framework
of the hermeneutic, analytic or postmodern orientations of
philosophy. In my opinion these orientations are too
strongly committed to the polyvalence of meaning and the
plurality oflanguages. There is something in them that goes
too far in reflecting the physiognomy of the world itself.
They are too compatible with our world to be able to
sustain the rupture or distance that philosophy requires.
Towards a new style afphilosophy
1'.1Yposition is to break with these frameworks ofthought, to
find another philosophical style, a style other than that of
interpretation, of logical grammarian analysis, or of
polyvalence and language games -- that is, to rediscover a
foundational style, a decided style, a style in the school of a
Descartes for example.
Such a position can be supported by t\'\TO ideas, both
simple, but in my opinion both preliminary to the
development of philosophy. The first idea is that language
is not the absolute horizon of thought. The great linguistic
turn of philosophy, or the absorption of philosophy into the
meditation on language, must be reversed. In the Craiylus,
which is concerned with language from beginning to end,
Plato says, 'We philosophers do not take as our point of
departure words, but things.' Whatever may be the
difficulty or obscurity of this statement, I am for philoso-
phy's revivifying the idea that it does not take as its point of
departure words, but things. Needless to say, it must be
50
PhilosojJ!ty and desire
acknowledged that a language always constitutes what can
be called the historical matter of truth and of philosophy. A
language always gives what I would call the colour of
philosophy, its tonality, and its inflexion. All these singular
figures are proposed to us by language. But I would also
maintain that this is not the essential principle of the
organization of thought. The principle that philosophy
cannot renounce is that of its universal transmissibilitv,
whatever the prescription of style or colour, whatever (ts
connection to such or such a language. Philosophy cannot
renounce that its address is directed to everyone, in principle
if not in fact, and that it does not exclude from this address
linguistic, national, religious or racial communities. Philo-
sophy privileges no language, not even the one it is written
in. Philosophy is not enclosed within the pure formal ideal of
scientific language. Its natural element is language, but,
within that natural element, it institutes a universal address.
The second idea is that the singular and irreducible role
of philosophy is to establish a fixed point within discourse, a
point of interruption, a point of discontinuity, an uncondi-
tional point. Our world is marked by its speed: the speed of
historical change; the speed of technical change; the speed of
communications; of transmissions; and even the speed with
which human beings establish connections with one
another. This speed exposes us to the danger of a very
great incoherency. It is because things, images and relations
circulate so quickly that we do not even have the time to
measure the extent of this incoherencv, Speed is the mask of
inconsistency. Philosophy must propose a
process. It must onstruct a time for thought, which, in
of t 1e injunc.·
Its oWl'h-I·COi1stCter-thts'·a slllgularity of philosopTiy; that its
because today revolt requires leisureli-
n. . . -1tiinRing,'
rdi'ClllOus, IS alone capan e <restablishing the fixed point,'
51
Infinite Thought
whatever it may be, whatever its name may be, which we
need in order to sustain the desire of philosophy.
At base, it is a question of philosophically reconstructing,
with a slowness which will insulate us from the speed of the
world, the category of truth - not as it is passed down to us by
metaphysics, but rather as we are able to reconstitute it,
taking into consideration the world as it is. It is a question of
reorganizing philosophy around this reconstruction and
giving it the time and space that arc proper to it. This
supposes that philosophy will no longer be in pursuit of the
world, that it will stop trying to be as rapid as the world,
because by wanting to be as rapid, philosophy dissolves itself
at the very heart of its desire, no longer being in a state to
maintain its revolt, to reconstitute its logic, to know what a
universal address is, or to take a chance and liberate existence.
The world questions philosoph]
Evidently the problem is one of knowing if, in the world as it
is, there is the slightest chance for such an enterprise to
flourish or be heard, or if what is proposed here is yet
another vain invocation. There is no doubt that philosophy
is ill. As always, the problem is knowing whether this illness
is mortal or not, knowing what the diagnostic is, and
knowing whether the proposed remedy is not in fact, as is
often the case, exactly what will finish off the patient. Truth
is suffering from two illnesses. In my opinion, it is suffering
from linguistic relativism, that is, its entangleme,n(i
l1
't1H;
problematic of the disparity' or meanings( a'rid it is' also
suffering from historical pessimism, including about itself.
My hypothesis is that although philosophy is ill, it is less
ill than it thinks it is, less ill than it says it is. One of the
characteristics of contemporary philosophy is to elaborate
page after page on its own mortal illnesses. But you know,
when it is the patient who says he is ill, there is always a
52
Philosophy and desire
chance that it is at least in part an imaginary illness. And I
think that this is the case, because the world itself, despite all
the negative pressures it exerts on the desire of philosophy,
the world, that is the people who live in it and think in it,
this world, ,4) of
phy is too morose to respond due to the morbidity of its own
vision of itself.
Four reasons make me believe that the world is asking
something of philosophy.
The first reason is that we now know that there is no
chance that the human sciences will replace phdosoJ?!i.L
TIie-a\vareness of this seems to me to be fairly widespread
since the human sciences have become the home of the
statistical sciences. The human sciences are thereby
themselves caught up in the circulation fnd its
polyvalence, because they measure rates of circulation. That
is their purpose. At base they are in the service of polls,
election predictions, demographic averages, epidemiologic"
rates, tastes and distastes, and all that certainly makes f()j-
interesting labour. But this statistical and numerical
information has nothing to do with what humanity, nor
what each absolutely singular being, is about. Everyone
knows that the singular is always, in the final analysis, the
true centre of any decision which counts, and that all truth
is first presented in the form of the absolutely singular - as
can be seen in scientific invention, artistic creation, political
innovation or the encounter that comprises love. In every
place where, in some way, a truth is pronounced on
existence, it is founded on a singularity. Averages, statistics,
sociology, history, demography, or polls are not capable of
teaching us what the history of a truth is. Philosophy is thus
required by the world to be a philosophy of
be capable of pronouncing and thinking the singular, which
is precisely what the general apparatus of human sciences
does not have as its vocation. That is the.first reason,"
53
Infinite Thought
The second reason is that we are witnessing the ruin of
the g-reat collective enterprises that we once imagined
carried within themselves the seeds of emancipation and
truth. vVe know now that there are no such great
cmancipatory forces, that there is neither progress,' nor
proletariat, nor any such thing. We know that we are not
caught up by such forces and that there is no hope for us of
sustaining- our desire by simply incorporating ourselves
into such a force, or by being a member of such a force.
What does this mean? This means that each of us, and not
lonly the philosopher, knows that today" if\v(: ar.e
confronted with the inhuman, we must make our own
decision and speak in our own name. One cannot hide
\behind any g-reat collective config-uration, any supposed
force, any metaphysical totality which might take a
position in one's stead. But in order to take a position in
one's own name when faced with the inhuman, a fixed
point is needed for the decision. An unconditionaJ principle
is needed to regulate both the decision and the This
is what everyone calls today the necessity of a return to
ethics. But let us not be mistaken. Philosophically, the
return to ethics necessitates the return of an unconditional
principle. There is a moment when one must be able to say
that this is right and that is wrong, in light of the evidence
of the principle. There cannot be an infinite regression of
qui1Jb'ling and calculating. There must also be utterances
of which it can be said they are unconditionally true. We
know very well that when a position on a given question
and an agreement on that position are demanded,as a last
resort it is necessary to find a position which will be
unconditionally true for everyone. Thus one cannot say
that each of us must take a position in his or her own name
once faced with the inhuman, without re-eng-ag-ing
philosophy in the dimension of truth. And this is required
by the world as it is, and this is required of philosophy.
54
Philosophy and desire
The third reason is connected to the recent rise ofreactive
or archaic passions; that is, the rise of cultural, .religious
j
national and racist passions. Tllese-histoncaHy
phenomena have also given birth to a demand upon
philosophy. Confronted by these passions once again,
philosophy is urg-ed to speak about where reason lies, for
these passions are the contemporary fig-ures of irrational
archaism and they carry wi th them death and devastation.
Philosophy is required to make a pronouncement about
contemporary rationality. We know that this rationality
cannot be the repetition of classical rationalism, but we also
know that we cannot do without it, if we do not want to find
ourselves in a position of extreme intellectual weakness when
faced with the threat of these reactive passions. We must
then forg-e a rational philosophy in this sense of the term;
that is, in the sense that philosophy must reiterate, under the
conditions of the times, what it has already resolved.
The fourth is theworld we live in is a
vulnerable, precarious world. It is in no way a world
stabilized witilin the umty of its history. We must not allow
the global acceptance of the themes of liberal economy and
representative democracy to dissimulate the fact that the
world the twentieth century has given birth to is a violent
and fragile world. Its material, ideological and intellectual
foundations arc disparate, disunited and largely inconsistent.
This world does not announce the serenity of a linear
development, but rather a series of dramatic crises and
paradoxical events. Take two recent examples, the Gulf\Var
and the fall of bureaucratic Add to these the war
in Bosnia and the Rwandan massacres, But do not be
mistaken; these events are only the first in a long series.
Philosophy is required to receive
and accept the drama of the event without anxiety. \Ve do
not fundamentally need a philosophy of HiE structure of
thing-so We need a philosophy open to the irreduci ble
55
Infinite Thought
singularity of what happens, a philosophy thatean be reel
an? by . the i:1expec!e.sf Such a
philosophy would then be a prrllosophY.9f the event. This too
is required of philosophy by the world, as it is.
A new doctrine the subject
":"'hat is .thus of us by the world is a philos0..pEY..2f
smgulanty, a philosophy of contemporary rationality, and a
philosophy of the event. This is a 'tel
accomplish this programme WT must go beyond the three
principal tendencies of philosophy I have described. We
need a more determined and more imperative philosophy,
but one that is, at the same time, more modest, more remote
from the worldand 'Il1orc,descriptive. A philosophy which is
a rational intertwining of the singularity of the event and of
truth. A philosophy open to chance, but a chance. submitted
t? the law of reason; a philosophy maintaining uncondi-
tional principles, unconditional but submitted to a non-
theological law.
This will allow us to propose a new doctrine of the subject
and I think this is the essential objective. We will be able
to say what a subject is in terms other than those of
Descartes, Kant or Hegel. This subject will be singular and
not universal, and it will be singular because it will always
be an event that constitutes the subject as a truth.
'. In view of this programme, it can be said, it's true, that
the metaphysics of truth is ruined and classical rationalism is
insufficient. But in a way the deconstruction of metaphysics
and the contestation of rationalism are also insufficient. The
world needs philosophy to be re-founded upon the ruins of
metaphysics as combined and blended with the modern
criticism of metaphysics.
I am convinced, and this is the reason for my optimism,
that the world needs philosophy more than philosophy
56
Philosophy and desire
thinks. Philosophy is ill, it might _be dying, but I am sure
that the world (the world, neither a God nor a prophet, but
the world) is saying to philosophy: 'Get up and walk!'
Note
1. Translator's note: This paper was given in Sydney in 1999.
I ts original title was 'The desire of philosophy and the
contemporary world'. In French, the phrase 'le desir de
philosophic' is ambiguous as to the syntactic status of
'philosophie'. In the objective sense of lhe genitive, it is
philosophy which is desired. However, in the subjective sense,
it can also be said that it is philosophy which desires, or that
there is a desire which traverses philosophy.
57
2
4
3
CHAPTER 2
Philosophy and truth
It is time to advance four fundamental theses on truth;'
Regarding the question of truth, the Heideggerean
edifice leaves no other solution than that of the poem.
inorder to destrov this edifice and find another solution,
we cannot reverse the historical process delineated by
Heidegger himself. On the contrary, we must assume,
against the analytic tradition, that the essence of truth
remains inaccessible if its question is enclosed in the
narrow form of the judgement or the proposition. Yet, at
the same time, we cannot allow, Iieidrgger melan-
cholic vision of the loss of the un-veiling.' .
\Ve must of truth both as the construction of a
fidelity to an event, and as the generic potency of a
transf"6rmation of a domain of knowledge.
All the categories by which the essence of a truth can be
submitted to thought are negative: undecidability,
''ihqisterrli'blllty, \he generic not-all (pas-tout), and the
unnameable. The ethic of truths resides entirely in the
measure taken of this negative, or in other words" ill the
limitations placed on the potency of truth by the hazards
of its construction.
58
Philosophy and truth
\Ye shall select three references from the HeideggfTean
doctrine of truth. The first:
In becoming a property of the proposition, not only docs truth
displace its locus; it transforms its essence.
This must be understood as stating that the entire effect of
the decline of thought, which is also the decline of being, is
manifested in the fact that truth is presented, after Plato, as
localizable in the proposition. This localization is also a de-
naturing. Nothing of the truth, in its authentic sense,
remains accessible if we allow that the phenomenon of truth
occurs in the proposition.
The context of the second passage is Heidegger's question
concerning what.the major points of meditation must be if
one wishes to' capture 'the distress of Europe in thought. For
Heidegger, the essential events of this distress arc
of the gods, the destruction of the earth, the becoming SOCIal
of man and the preponderance of the mediocre. In this
passage, Heidegger tells us that for such a meditation one
thing is decisive:
The mutation occurs through the interpretation of spirit as
intellect, the latter being understood as the simple faculty to
reason correctly in theoretical and practical consiclera tions,
and as the estimation of things already presented.
It is clear that spirit can only be interpreted as intellect ifit
manipulates truth in the form of a proposition. For a
proposition is effectively the linguistic phenomenon of any
estimation of things, insofar as they are things already
presented. Consequently, the de-naturing of the essence of
truth, which localizes it in the
of possibility at the origins of Western distress. ' ,.' .
The third passage concerns what can be said about an
access to truth freed- from the form of the proposition. \Vhat is
a language that expresses the truth otherwise than in the
59
lnfinite Thought
Philosophy and truth
Modern philosophy is a criticism of truth as adequation.
Truth is not adequation rei et intellectus. Truth is not limited to
the form of judgement. Hegel shows that truth is a path.
Heidegger suggests that it is a historical destiny.
I will start from the following idea: a truth is, first of all,
something new. What transmits, wflat repeats, we shall call
knoioledge. Distinguishing truth from knowledge is essential.
It is a distinction that is already made in the w(jrk of Kant:
the distinction between reason and understanding. It is a
capital distinction for Heideggcr: the distinction between
truth - aletheia - and cognition or science - techne.
If a truth is something new, what is the essential
philosophical problem concerning truth? It is the problem
. of jts appearance and its 'becoming'. A truth must be
.submitted totholight,not as a judgement, but as a proces,S
in thereal. -
The·sCliema you have represents the 'becoming' of a
truth.
.1. i
Unnameable
Good/Evil
Finite
Forcing
Fidelity
\
-:
Undecidable
Event
Nomination
b ~ "
~ ~
scientific or logical form of the proposition? 1\ language that is
related, not to things already presented, but to things which
have not yet arrived? There is no doubt about the answer;
such a language can be found in the poem. Heidegger writes:
" \In poetry which is authentic and great, an essential superiority
!tof the spirit reigns over everything which is purely science. A
I;superiority in virtue olwhich thr, poet always. speaks as if being
1i was expressed and called upon for the first nmc.
Thus, for Heidegger, if the declining destiny of being is to
de-nature truth in the proposition - if the proposition,
commanding the interpretation of the spirit as pragmatic
intellect governs the ravage of the earth then the onlv real
recourse' lies in the p o e n ~ . In turn, the poem is explicitly
opposed to the mathematical because, f(Jr Heidegger, the
mathematical is nothing other than the transparent triumph
of the propositional form of truth. When the proposition
reigns, when the intellect reigns, then he says, 'the Being of
beings becomes thinkable within the pure thought of the
mathcrnatical'.
1\1y entire argument will be to ackncwledgethat truth
remains unthinkable if we attempt to contain it within the
form of the proposition. But that furthermore, conceiving
truth as a historical process requires nei ther the thesis of the
Platonic decline, nor the attribution of a superiority of
essence for poetry over the mathematical, or over any other
type of truth procedure.
Our epoch is most certainly that of a rupture with all that
Philippe Lacouc-Labarrhe has shown to depend on the
motif of mimesis. One of the forms of this motif: which
, explicitly" attaches truth to imitation, is the conception of
truth as a relation: a relation of appropriateness between the
intellect and the thing intcllccted; a relation of adequation,
which always supposes, as Heidegger very well perceived.
that truth be localizable in the form of a proposition.
bU
bl
Infinite Thought
For the process of a truth to begin,
What. there already is - the situation of knowledge.as such n
generates nothing other than repetition. for , a . !S}l,th +.0
affirm its ,.there, must be a !1
1I S
supplement iscgmmllted to chance. It IS unprechqablt,
incalculable. It is beyond what is. I call it an e"fJ1LA truth
thus appears, in its newness, because an evental
in terrupts repcti tion.
the appearance, with Aeschylus, of theatrical
Tragedy; the irruption, with GaIileo, of
physics; an amorous encounter which changes a whole life:
the French Revolution of I 792.
An event is linked La the notion of the undecidable. Take
the statement: 'This event belongs to the situation.' If it is
possible to decide, using the rules of established knowledge,
whether this statement is true or false, then theso-called
event is not an event. Its occurrence would be calculable
within the situation. Nothing would permit us to say: here
begins a truth. On the basis of the undecidability of an
helonzinz to a situation a wal},er has to be made. This
v b '-
is why a truth begins with an axiom of truth. It a
decision - the decision to sa)' that the event has
taken place.
The undecidability of the event induces the appearance
of a subject of the event. Such a subject is constituted by an
utterance in the form of a wager. This utterance is as
follows: 'This event has taken place, it is something which I
can neither evaluate, nor ckmonstrate, but to which I shall
be faithful.' To begin with, a subject is what fixes an
undecidable event, because he or she takes the chance of
deciding upon it. . _
This decision opens up the infinite procedure of venhca-
tion of the true. This procedure is the examination, within
the situation, of the conscquences of the axiom that decided
upon the event. Such a procedure is an exercise of fidelity.
b2
and truth
Nothing regulates its course, since the axiom that supports it
has arbitrated outside of any rule of established knowledge.
The procedure thus Iolllows a chance-driven course, a
"course without a concept.
But what is a pure choice, a choice without a concept?
Obviously, it is a choice confronted by two indiscernible
jerms. Two terms arc indiscernible if no effect of language
allows them to be distinguished. But if no formula of
language discerns two terms in a situation, then it is certain
that the choice of verifying one term rather than the other
will find no support in the objectivity of their difference.
Such a choice is then an absolutely pure choice, free from
any other presupposition than that of having to choose, and
with no indication marking the proposed terms, the term
will the verification of the consequences of the
axiom to commence'.
This means that the subject of a truth demands the
indiscernible. The indiscernible organizes the pure point of
Subject in the process of verification. A subject is what
disappears between two subjectis a throw
of the dice which does not iabolish chance, but which
accomplishes chance through the verification of the axiom
that it as a subject. What was decided concerning the
event must pass by this term, indiscernible from
Its Such is the local act of a truth; it consists in a pure
choice between two indiscernibIcs. Suchan act is thus
absolutely finite.
For example, the work of Sophocles is a subject for the
artistic truth - or procedure of Greek tragedy, a truth
begun by the event of Aeschvlus. This work is creation' that
a pure choice in what, bdi"lre it, was indiscernible. it
IS a finite work. However, Tragedy itself; as an artistic truth,
continues to infinity. The work of Sophocles is a finite
of this infinite truth. In the same way, the sClerltl1lc'
truth decided by Galileo is pursued to infinity. But the laws
63
Infi"nite '7 Iiought
of physics which have been successively invented are finite
subjects of this truth.
The trajectory of a truth begins with an undecidable
event. It finds its act in a finite subject confronted by the
indiscernible. The course of verification of the true
continues; it invests the situation with successive choices.
Little bv little the contour of a subset of the situation is
outlined', in which the effects of the cvental axiom arc
is that this subset is infinite, that it remains
. Yet it is possible to state that, if we suppose its
termination, then such a subset will ineluctably be one that
no predicate can unify - an untotalizable subset) a subset
that can be neither constructed nor named in the language.
Such subscts are called g(;lzeriiC.subg1S.We shall say that-a
truth, supposed as finished, is gellerlc.
In contrast, if a succession of pure choices engendered a
subset which could be unified under a predication, then the
course of the truth would have to have been secretly
governed by a law, or the indiscernibles wherein the subject
finds its act would have to have been, in reality, discerned
bv some superior understanding. But no such law exists.
and creation remain incalculable. So the path of
a truth cannot coincide in infinity with any concept.
Consequently, the verified terms compose, or rather will
have composed, if we suppose their infinite totalization, a
generic subset of the Universe. Indiscernible in its act, or
Subject, a truth is generic in its result, or in its being. It IS
withdrawn Irorn any unification by a single predicate.
For example, after Galileo, there does not exist a closed
and unified subset of knowledge that we could call 'physics'.
What does exist is an infinite and open set of laws and
experiments; and even if we suppose the completion of this
set, there is no way it could be captured by a single formula
of language. There is no law of physical laws. As such, 'the
physical' is a generic set, both infinite and indistinct -- this is
64
Philosophy and truth
what the being ofphysicaltruth is. In the same way, after the
1792 Revolution, there were all sorts of revolutionary
politics. But there is no single political formula whici)
totalizes these revolutionary politics. The set called 'revolu-
tionary politics' is a generic truth of the politif,al..
What happens is that we can always anticipatethe idea of
a completed generic truth. The generic being of a truth is
never presented. A. truth is uncompletable. But what we can
know, on a formal level, is that a truth will always have
taken place as a generic infinity. This allows the possible
fictioning of the eflects of such a truth having-taken-place,
That is, the subject can make the hypothesis of a Universe
where this truth, of which the subject is a local point, will
have completed its generic totalization. I call the antici-
patory hypothesis of the generic being ofa truth, a'16i-i:zltg:1A
forcing is the powerful fiction Of a completed truth. Starting
with such a fiction, 1 can force new bits of knowledge,
without even verifying this knovdedgc.
Thus, Galileo was able to make the hypothesis that all
nature can be written in mathematical language, which is
the hypothesis of a complete physics. On the basis of this
anticipation, heforees his Aristotelian adversary to abandon
his position. In the same way, someone in lo,,:e can say, 'I
will always love you,' which is the anticipating hypothesis of
a truth of integral love. On the basis of this hypothesis, they
force the other to come to know and treat them differentlv.
The construction of a truth is made bv a choice within d;e
indiscernible. It is made locally, within the finite, But the
,potency of a truth depends' OT! the hXl?9Jhi,?dcal forcil;g:)It
.. consists in saying: 'If we suppose the generic infinity of a
truth to be completed, then such or such a bit of knowledge
must imperatively be transformed.'
The problem is to know whether such,.a.pDtency of
_anticipation is total. If we cesi force all the bits of knowledge
concerned then we end up with the romantic problem of
Infinite Thought
absolute love, the scientific problem of science as integral
n'lgb, and the political problem of totalitarianism. This
problem can be expressed simply: can we, from the basis of a
finite Subject of a truth, name and/ince into knowledge all the
elements that this truth concerns? How far does the
anticipating potency of generic infinity go? is
that there is alioays, in any situation, a real poinuhaU1!,ri yIJ
this potency. . >-
I call point the situation. It is what,
within the situation, never has a name in the eyes of truth. A
term that consequently remains unjorce..a.b.1r;. This term fixes
the limit of the potency ofa truth. The
is excluded from having a proper name, and ::vhatis alone in
such exclusion. The unnameable is then the proper of the
proper, so singular in its singularity that it does not even
tolerate having a proper name. The unnameable is the point
where the situation in its most intimate being is submitted to
thought; in the pure presence that no knowledge can
circumscribe. The unnameable is something like the
..truth be said.
For example, tne mathematical consists of pure deduc-
tion. We always suppose that it contains no contradictions.
But Godel showed that it is impossible to demonstrate, within
a mathematical theory, that this very theory is non-
contradictory. A mathematical truth thus cannot [orce the
non-contradictoriness of mathematics. 'We will say that non-
contradiction is the unnameable of the mathematical. And it is
clear that this unnameable is the real of the mathematical;
for if a mathematical theory is contradictory, it is destroyed.
Consequently, a reasonable ethic of mathematics is to not
wish to force this point; to accept that a mathematical truth is
never complete. But this reasonable ethic is difficult to
maintain. As can be seen with scientism, or with totalitarian-
ism, there is always a Ior the omnipotence of the True.
There lies the root is the will to name at arl)' price.
66
and truth
Usually it is said that Evil is lies, ignorance, or deadly
stupidity. The condition of Evil is much rather the process of
a truth. There is Evil only insofar as there is an axiom of
truth at the point of the undecidable, a path of truth at the
point of the indiscernible, an anticipation of being for the
generic, and the forcing of a nomination at the point of the
unnameable. '., v . I
If the Iorcing of the unnameable exclusion is a ais;l'ster,'
this is because it affects the entire situation, by pursuing
singularity itself, whose emblem is the unnameable. In this
sense, the desire in fictioning to suppress the unnameable
frees the destructive capacity contained in all truth.
As such the ethic of a truth resides entirely in a sort of
caution as far as its powers are concerned. The effect of the
undecidable, of the indiscernible and of the generic, or in
other words, the effect of the event, the subject and the
truth, must recognize the unnameable as a limitationf,if its
path.
Finally, Evil is the desire for 'Everything-to-be-said.' To
contain Evil, the potency of the True must be measured.
What helps us is the study of the negative
characters of the path of truthrthe event is undecidablejthe
subject is linked to the indiscerniblertruth itself is generic,
untotalizable; and the halting point of its potency is the
unnameable. This gives us four negative categories. The
philosophical study of these categories is capital. It can be
fuelled by each and every thought event that shapes our
times.
The undecidability of an event and the suspension of its
name, are both features of politics that are particularly
active today. It is clear for a French man or woman that the
events of May '68 continue to comprise an unattested or
anonymous promise. But even the 1792 revolution or the
Bolshevik revolution of 1917 remain partly undecided as to
what they prescribe for philosophy.
67
In/inite Thought
The theory of indiscernibles is in itself an entire
mathematical theory, from the Galois groups to the
indiscernibles in the theory of models. But we can also say
that one of the aims of contemporary poetics is to found i;1
language a point of indiscernibility between prose and
poetry, or between image and thought.
The theory of the generic is at the heart of the ultimate
forms of the logic of sets, following upon Paul Cohen's
theorem. But the modern politics of emancipation, delivered
from the dialectical scheme of classes and parties, has as its
aim a 'generic' democracy, a promotion of the common-
place, of equality abstracted from any predicate. And a
whole field of prose, such as Samuel Beckett's, tries. bv
successive subtractions, to designate the naked of a
generic humanity.
Finally, the unnameable is the central motif of the
thought of the political that wishes to submit Nazism to
thought; as it is of the poet who explores the limits of the
force of language; as it is for the mathematician who looks
for the ,unde1inables of a structure; as it is lor the person in
love tormented by what love bears of the sexual unname-
able.
Thus the ethic of truths, relation or un-relation, between
the construction of a truth and its potency, is that by which
we take the measure of what our times arc capable of, as
well as what our times are worth. Such is, in a word. the
very task of philosophy. .
Note
1. This paper was given in Sydney in 1999. Its original title was
'The ethic of truths: construction and potency'.
68
CHAPTER 3
Philosophy and politics
From Plato until the present day, there is one word which
crystallizes the philosopher's concern in regard to politics:
-'illstice'.1 The question that the philosopher addresses to
politics can be formulated as: Can there be a just politics?
Or a politics which does justice to thought?
Our point of departure must be the fopo\,Y.ipg: injustice is
clear, justice is obscure. Those who haveundergone injustice
provide irrefutable testimony concerning the former. But
who can testify for justice? Injustice has its affect: suffering,
revolt. Kothing, however, justice: it presents itself
neither as spectacle nor as
Is our sole issue then that of saying that justice is merely
the absence of injustice? Is justice nothing more than the
empty neutrality of a double negation? I do not think so.
Nor do I think that injustice is to be found on the side of the
perceptible, or experience, or the subjective, while justice is
found on the side of the intelligible, or reason, or the
objective. Tnjustice is not the immediate disorderof that for
which justice would provide an ideal orcItT.
Justice' is a word from philosophy; at least if we leave
aside, as we must, its legal signification, which is entirelv
devoted to the police and the judiciary. Yet this word
69
Infinite Thought
philosophy is under condition. It is under the condition or
the political. For philosophy knows that lor the truths to
which it testifies, it is incapable of rendering them real in the
world. Even Plato knows that while the philosopher would
probably havc to be king {ell' there to be justice, the very
possibility of such royalty's existence would not depend
upon philosophy. It would depend upon political circum-
stances; the latter remain irreducible.-
We will term 'justice' the name by which a philosophy
designates the possible truth of a political orientation.
The vast majority of empirical political orientations have
nothing to do with truth. We know this. They organize a
repulsive mixture of power and opinions. The subjectivity
that animates them is that of the tribe and the lobby, of
electoral nihilism and the blind confrontation of commu-
nities. Philosophy has nothing to sa y about such politics; for
]2.hilosophy thinks thought alons whereas these orientations
present themselves explicitly as unthinking, or as non-
thought. The only subjective element which is important to
such orientations is that of interest. " "
Historically speaking, there have been some political
orientations that have had or will have a connection with a
truth, a truth of the collective as such. They are rarc
attempts, and they are often brief, but thcy alone can act as
a condition of philosophy's thinking.
These political sequences are singularities:' they do not
trace a destiny, nor do they construct a monumental
history. Philosophy, however, can distinguish a common
feature among them. This feature is that from the people
they engage these orientations require nothing but their
strict generic humanity. In their principles of action, these
orientations take no account of the particularity of
interests. They induce a representation of the capacity of
the collective which refers its agents to the strictest
equality.
70
Philosophy and politics
What docs 'equality' signify here? Equality means that a
political actor is represented under the sole sign of his or her
specifically human capacity. Interest is not a specifically
human capacity. All living beings protect their interests as
an imperative for survival. The is specifically
human is that of thought, nOtlitng othef"t1lan-
_-. ,uulllVUblll <
'tIla"tby v\1trid'l-thc path 'Of a truth seizes and traverses the
human animal.
Therefore, for a political orientation to be worthy of
submission to philosophy under the idea 'justice', its unique
general axiom must be: people think, people are capable of
truth. vVhen Saint-Just defined public consciousness before the
Convention in April 1794, he was thinking of a strictly
egalitarian recognition of the capacity for truth: 'May you
have a public consciousness, for all hearts are equal as to
sentiments of good and bad, and this consciousness is madc
up of the tendency of the people towards the general good.'
During an entirely different political sequence in the
Cultural Revolution in China, the same principle can be
found: for example, in the sixteen-point decision of 8 August
1966, 'Let the masses educate themselves in this great
revolutionary movement, let them determine the
distinction between what is just and what is not.'
Thus a political orientation touches upon truth provided
that it is founded upon thc cgalitarian principle ofa capacity
to discern the just or the good: philosophy understands both
,terms undcr the sign of a collective's capacity for truth.
It is very important to note that 'equality' docs not refer
to anything objective. It is not a question of an equality of
status, of income, of function, and even less of the
supposedly egalitarian dynamics of contracts or reforms.
is subjective. It is equality with respectto.public
consciousness for Saint-JustLor with respect to political mass
movement for Mao Tse-tung. Such equality is in no way a
social programme. Moreover, it has nothing to do with the
71
Infinite 7 liought
social. It is a political maxim, a prescription. Political
equality is not what we want or plan, it is what we declare
under fire of the event, here and now, as what is, and as
what should be. In the same way, for philosophy, 'justice'
cannot be a State programme: 'justice' is the qualification of
an egalitarian political orientation in act.
The difficulty with most doctrines of justice is that they
seek a definition of justice and then they try to find means
for its realization. But justice, which is the
name for the egalitarian political maxim, cannot be deQ!1ed.
For equality is not an objective for action, it is an axiom of
action. There is no political or:ientati,on linked to truth
which does not possess an '- an affirmation
which has neither a guarantee nor a proof - of a universal
capacity for political truth. Here thought cannot usc the
scholastic method of definitions. It must use a method which
proceeds via the comprehension of axioms.
'justice' is nothing other than one of the words by which
a philosophy attempts t;) 'Ieize the egalitarian axiom inherent
in a veritable political sequence. This axiom is given in
singular statements, characteristic of the sequence, such as
Saint-just's definition of public consciousness, or Mao's
thesis on the immanent self-education of the revolutionary
mass rnovernent.
justice is not a concept as such, entailing a search for its
more or less approximate in the empirical
world, Rather, once justice is 1'orlceived of as an operator of
capture for egalitarian political orientations - true political
orientations - then it defines an effective, axiomatic, and
immediate subjective fi.gure. This is what gi.ves all its depth
to Samuel Beckett's surprising affirmation in How It Is: 'In
any case we are within justice, I've never heard anyone say
the contrary.' That is, justice>·· which captures the latent
axiom of a political subject - necessarily designates not what
must be, but what is. Either the egalitarian axiom is present
72
Philosophy and !)o/itirs
in political statements, or it is nolo Consequently, either we
are within justice, or we are not. This also means: either the
political exists, in the sense that philosophy encounters
thought within it, or it does not. But if it does, and if we
relate to it immanently, then we are within justice.
Any definitional and programmatic approach to justice
turns it into a dimension of the action ofthe State. Butlhe
State has nothing to do with justice, for the State is not a
subjective and axiomatic figure. The State as such is
'indifkrent or hostile to the existence of any political
orientation which touches truths. The modern State aims
solely at fulfilling certain functions, oraL crafling..a
consensus of opinion. Its sole subjective dimension is that
of transforming economic necessity - that is, the objective
logic of Capital, into resignation or resentment. This is why
any programmatic or State definition of justice.' changes the
latter into its contrary: justice becomes the harmonization of
the interplay of interests. But justice, which is the theoretical
name for an .axiom.·oJ.: equality, necessarily refers to an
entirely disinterested subjectivity>
In other words, _':lilY politics of emancipation, or any
politics which imposes an egalitarian maxim, is a thought in
act. Thought is the specific mode by which a human animal
is traversed and overcome by a tru th. In such a
subjectivization one goes beyond the limits of interest, such
that tbepolitical
.interests. I t thus follows, as demonstrated by all political
sequences which concern philosophy, that the State is
incapable of recognizing anything appropriate to it in such
a process.
The State, in its
an.. which a thou?ht
lI1 act entaIE, m

a:twft'y's'llfarnfe,rs Itself lI1 times of trial and trouble. It
73
2
lnfinite 7'hough:
follows that justice, far from being a possible category of
state or social order, is what names the principles at work
in rupture and disorder. Even Aristotle, whose entire gocd
is a fiction of political stability, declares at the beginning of
Book -1 of his Politics: o/'roC; ycip TO lCJOV
Vi which can be transla ted as, 'Generally, it
is the who rise in rebellion.' However,
Aristotle's conception is still a state conception; his idea of
equality is empirical, objective and definitional. The
veritable philosophical statement would rather be: Poli-
tical statements bearing truth rise up in the absence of any
state or social order. The latent egalitarian maxim is
heterogeneous to the State. It is thus always during trouble
and disorder that the subjective imperative of equality is
affirmed. What the philosopher names 'justice' seizes the
subjective order of a maxim, found within the ineluctable
disorder to which the State of interests is exposed by that
very order.
Finally, what does making a philosophical statement on
justice, here and now, amount to:
First it is a matter of knowing which singular political
orientations to call upon; that is, which ones are worth our
trying to seize the thought specific to them via the resources
of the philosophic apparatus - one of whosc pieces is the
word 'justice'.
This is not an easy job in today's confused and chaotic
world, when Capital seems to triumph on the basis of its
own weaknesses, and when what is fuses miserably with what
can he. IdentifY'iug those rare sequences through which a
political truth is constructed, without being discouraged by
the propaganda of capitalistic parliamentarian government,
is itself a sustained exercise of thought. SLill more diflicult is
attempting -- within the very order of practising politics- to
bc faithful to some egalitarian axiom, and finding con-
temporary statements of such.
and politics
Second, it is a matter of philosophically selzmg the
political orientations in question, whether they be of the
past or the present. The task is then double:
To examine their statements and prescriptions in order
to uncover the egalitarian nucleus which bears a
universal signification.
To transform the generic category of 'justice' by
it to the test of singular statements; that is,
to thc irreducible specificity of how such statements bear
forth and inscribe the egalitarian axiom in action.
Finally, it is a matter of showing that, thus transformed, the
category of justice designates the contemporary figure of a
political subject; furthermore, showing that it is by means of
such a figure that philosophy assures, via its own names, the
inscription of what our time is capable of in eternity..
This political subject has had several for
example, not in the sense of an elector or a city councillor,
but in the sense the French Revolution gives to the word;
there is also f.'professional revolutionary', ," and "'grass-roots
activist'rWithout doubt, we live in a time in which this name
"is in a time when this subject's name must befound.
In other words, even if we have a history, with neither
continuity nor concept, of what 'justice' has beep able. to
designate, we still do not know clearly what it c1esignates"
today. Of course we know in an abstract sense, because
'justice' always signifies the philosophical capture of a latent
egalitarian axiom. But this abstraction is useless. The
imperative of philosophy is to seize the event of truths, their
newness, and their precarious trajectory. It is not the concept
that philosophy turns towards eternity as the communal
dimension of thought, it is rather the singular process of a
truth. It is in relation to its own epoch that philosophy tries to
work out whether the hypothesis of the Eternal Return can
be supported without ridicule or scandal.
7.1
Infinite Thought
Is the current state of political orientations such that
philosophy can employ the category ofjustice? Is there not a
risk here of confusing chalk with cheese, of reproducing the
vulgar pretension of governments to render justice? When we
see so many 'philosophers' attempting to appropriate for
themselves state schemes with as little thought in them as
Europe, democracy in the capitalist-parliamentary sense,
liberty in the sense of pure opinion, or shameful nationalisms,
when we see philosophy thus prostrated before the idols of the
day, then clearly some pessimism is understandable.
But after all, the conditions for the exercise of philosophy
have always been rigorous. The words of philosophy arc
always misused and turned around when these conditions
are not observed. There have been intense political
sequences in the twentieth century. There arc faithful
followers of these sequences. Here' or there, in as yet
incomparable situations, some statements envelop, in an
and non-subjugated manner, the egalitarian
axiom.
The collapse of the socialist States has itself a positive
dimension. Certainly, it was a pure and simple collapse; no.
political orientation worthy of the name played the smallest
part in it. And ever since, this political vacuity has not
ceased to engender monsters. Yet these terrorist States
incarnated the ultimate fiction of a justice which had the
solidity of a body, of a justice which took the form of a
governmental programme. What the collapse did was attest
to the absurdity of such a representation. It frees justice and
equality from any fictive incorporation. It rej.urried them to
'. - ''''I." "'. ,/.."
their being, both' volatile' and of free rein, of
thought acting from and in the of a collective
seized by its truth. The collapse of the socialist States teaches
us that the ways of egalitarian politics do not pass by State
power, but rather by an immanent subjective determina-
tion, an axiom of the collective.
76
Philosophy and politics
After all, from Plato and his unfortunate escapade in
Sicily up to Heideggcr's circumstantial aberrations, passing
by the passive relationship between Hegel and Napoleon,
and without forgetting Nietzsche's madness of pretending
'to split the history of the world in two', everything shows
that it is not History on a large scale that authorizes
philosophy. It is rather what Mallarrne called 'restrained
action' ...
(..... ,,) ) 't! ",)\ . ,1,/':,)' "._." .. )
Let us be militants of restrained action. Let us be, within
philosophy, those who eternalize the figure of such action.
We have too often wished that justice would act as the
foundation for the consistency of the social bond, when it
can only name the most extreme moments of inconsistency:
for the effect of the egalitarian axiom is to undo bonds, to
desocialize thought, and to affirm the rights of the infinite
and the immortal against finitude,against being-for-death.
Within the subjectivedirl1ensio;l of the declaration of
equality, nothing else is of interest save the universality of
this declaration, and the active consequences to which it
gIves nse. ,
Justice is the philosophical name of the inconsistency, fin'
the State or society, of any egalitarian political orientation.
Here we can rejoin the poem in its declarative and
axiomatic vocation, for it is Paul Celan who probably gives
us the most exact image of what we must understand by
'justice':
On inconsistencies
Rest:
two fingers are snapping
in the abyss, a
world is stirring
in the scratch-sheets, it all depends
on you
77
Infinite Thought
Keep in mind the lesson of the poet: in matters of justice,
where it is upon inconsistency that we must lean or rest, it is
truc, as true as a truth can be, that it all depends on you,
Note
I, This is a modified version of a translation bv Thelma Sowlev
of 'Philosophic et politique', which in Radic;!
% Uuly/August 1999),29-32,
78
CHAPTER 4
Philosophy and psychoanalysis
There is a psychoanalytic theory. 1 There is also a psycho-
analytic practice, called the clinic. But what directly
concerns the philosopher is neither the theory nor the
practice. What concerns the philosopher is knowing whether
psychoanalysis is a thinking.
I call thinking the non-dialectical or inseparable unity of
a theory and a practice. To understand such a unity the
simplest case is that of science; in physics there are theories,
concepts and mathematical formulas and there are also
technical apparatuses and experiments. But Physics as a
thinking does not separate the two. A text by Galileo or
Einstein circulates between concepts, mathematics and
experiments, and this circulation is the movement of a
unique thinking.
Politics is,als? "il .' thinking., Take the great political
thinkers: Robespierre, Lenin, Chc Guevara,
Mao. There you have concepts, theory, and even some
philosophy. You also have fundamental writings: directives,
commands and decisions. These writings are designed to
concentrate the immanent relation between concepts and
action. Finally you have treatments of concrete situations
and their transformations. Here again, thinking circulates
79
Infinite Thought
between theoretical hypotheses, statementsa!!d singular
situations; and this thinking is a unique movement:)
Psvchoanalvsis also l)resents-- itself as a thinking. In
, , ,
Lacari's case, everything can be found which is also found
in physics: there are fundamental theoretical concepts, such
as the Subject, the Ideal, the signifier, the Narne-of-the-
Fa the1', etc. There are formalized writings such as the
matheme for the fantasy, the formulas of sexuation or the
Borromean knot. There is the clinical experience - the cure
-, which has precise rules, and there is even what could he
called experimental apparatuses; for example, the protocol of
the pass, invented by Lacan in 1967, and designed to verify
the existence of an analytic act. 2
What then becomes interesting for the philosopher is the
comparison of psychoanalysis with other thinkim?JL-,slI,dJ:as
science and politics. Of course, as practices, they are
completely different. But that docs not prevent the thinkings
from having some characteristics in common. When is it
that two thinkings have something in common? It is when
the movement of thinking has the same structure. That is,
when"within the unity oj the thinking there is the same relation
between the moment if writing and the moment
or experience.
For example, science and politics are completely different
thinkings. Why? Because in the science of physics the
experiment is an artificial construction which must be
repeatable. Mathematical writing corresponds to experiments
solely when the repetition of an experiment gives the same
result. This identity is inscribed in a mathematlcal equation.
In politics, however, the relationship between writing and
experience is completely different. A political situation is
always singular; it is never repeated. Therefore political
writings - directives or commands - are justified inasmuch
as they inscribe, not a repetition, but, on the contrary.uhe
unrepeatable. When the content of a political statement is a
"
so
Philosophy and
repetition, the statement is rhetorical and empty. It does not
form pan of a thinking. On this basis one candistinguish
between true political activists and politicians>, True political
actioists announce an unrepeatable possibility of a situation
while a politician makes speeches based on the repetition of
opinions>, Truepolitical activists think a singular situation;
politicians do not think. .. ./
The result is that political thinking is completely different
to scientific thinking. Politics declares an irreducible and
unrepeatable possibility. Science writes down a necessity
and constructs apparatuses for a repetition.
What can be said of psychoanalytic thinking? \Vhat is
certain is that in psychoanalysis the experience is not like
that of science. It is a clinical experience which concerns a
singular subject. Obviously one can say that no subject is
ever the repetition of another. In psychoanalytic thinking,
the relation between theoretical writing and the clinical
situation is not established by the artificial construction of a
repetition. One can thus say that
resembles political ..
One sign of this resemblance between psycl1(lanalySlS
and politics is the necessity for a collective org-anization,,?f
knowledge. That organization is necessary to poTitT'(:s/is
well known, as is the fact that there have always been
associations of psychoanalysts. Whv? It's simple: if the
concrete situations dealt with are singular and unrepeat-'
able, you can only \verify your thinking iifi .
manner, bv transmission to others. , ..----- ----"-,,.. ,'.
In s(':ier;ce there are two verifiable guarantees: the
sruarantee of mathematical demonstration, which can be
t:J • •
reconstructed by anyone, and the guarantee of experiments,
which can be repeated. Scientific thinking is ruled by
repetition. \Vhat counts is the possibility of repetition. But
what can be done when there is no repetition, neither
demonstrative nor experimental? One must then shoir other
81
Injz'nite Thought
peoplethe relation between €
the singularnprocess, One must rally these others around
thinking, by referring to what does not repeat itself. An
organization is thus necessary, in which one can discuss the
assessment of unrepeatable experiences. What then counts is
not the possibility of repetition; it is rather the possible
thinking of what does not repeat itself. Moreover, one must
obtain the subjective agreement of those with.whomnne is
organized. They must recognize that there is indeed a
thinkable relation between, on the one hand,' your
statements and writings, and on the other hand, ,'the
singularity of the clinic,- in the ease of
action in the ease of politics.
. But is all this enough to say that political thinking and
psychoanalytic thinking really resemble each other? In both
cases there are theoretical statements or principles, un-
repeatable situations, and collective organizations which
validate the thinking. 1 believe, however, that there remains
a great difkrence between the two.
In politics, thinking searches within a situation for a
possibility that thedominant state ofthin/;s does not allow to beseen.
For example: today, in Europe as elsewhere, the state of
things is the market economy, competition, the private
sector, the taste for money, familial comfort, parliamentary
elections, etc. A genuine political thinking will attempt to
find a possibility which is not homogeneous with this state of
things. A political thinking will say: here is a collective
possibility; perhaps it is small and local, but its rule is not
that of the dominant rule. And a political thinking will
formulate this possibility, practise it, and draw all of its
consequences. Political thinking always ruptures with the
dominant state of things. In short, it ruptures with the State.
And obviously, in order to do such work, one must enter into
the situation, one must meet people and enter into discussion
with them; one must exit from one's proper place. Political
82
Ph£!osoj!hy and psychoanalysis
thinking demands a displacement, a journey which is always,
dare I say, abnormal. For example, in May '68 and after in
France, when the intellectuals went en masse to work in the
factories, they embarked upon an absolutely abnormal
journey in relation to the State. In doing so they created the
conditions for an entirely new relation between the
statements and the situations of politics.
Does the same thing happen in psychoanalysis? Well, the
first thing one notices is that in psychoanalysis it is not the
analyst who makes the journey - it is the analysand.
Moreover, this journey is fixed. There is a place - the
analyst's consulting rooms - there is a couch, and there are
appointments to be kept. The second difference is that one
must pay. This point is important because I am convinced
that all genuine thinking is Fee. For example, one does not
enter into politics to earn money, nor does one engage in
politics to have a position, power, or privilege. Those who
do so are politicians, but politicians do not think. Politics as
thinking has no other objective than thinking; that is, no
other objective than the transformation of unrepeatable
situations - for in a thinking, there is no distinction between
theory and practice. Politics is disinterested, exactly .like
science. Newton and Eiilstein's goal wasta resolve the
and 9"his IS also exactly
goal or great arhsts IS to give their thinking the
form of a work, and nothing more. The goal of politics is to
resolve political problems, problems that politics poses to
itself. The question then arises of whether psychoanalysis is
disinterested. Despite everything, yes. Freud's or Lacan's
goal is not solely the client's cure. The goal is to think the
singularity of the human subject: the human subject
confronted on the one side with language,_and, on the
other, with.sexuality.
But there is a problem which is still more profound.
Political thinking searches for an active possibility which is
83
In/i'nlte lIwlIghL
not controlled by the State or by the blind laws of the
economy. \Vhat does psychoanalytic thinking search for?
What does it expcct of the Subject? Does it search for an
absolutely new possibility?
The Subject who comes into analysis is a suffering subject,
sufkring from his or her symptom. The stakes of the cure arc
primarily that the subject no longer suffers, or suffers less.
Rut does this involve, as in politics, the inoention of a
possibility? Or rather solely a displacement q{tfze.,'umzjitom? -
A true politics always situates itself in the faults or the
impasses of a situation's structure. Of course, psychoanalysis
also begins with disorders and symptoms. Rut politics
searches for the most radical disorders,
and therefore works against structure: whereas it seems that
psychoanalysis searches to reduce symptoms. Psychoanalysis
thus works towards a 'normal' functioning of subjective
structure. -
( As such, psychoanalytic thinking- aims at.Jhr;§£Ib.iect
accommodating Its real. Whereas a political thinking aims at
.the exhaustion of a structure's- or a State's to
accommodate the point of the real worked by that political
thinkir.lg.. Pe:haps .wha t separates politics li:(JfP:::,±i"slfhQ:.
analysis IS this relation to the real. For psychoanalvsis -the
relation to the real is always finally in a structure.
For politics the relation to the real is always subtracted from
the State.
But perhaps all this is simply due to a difference of matter.
\Vhat psychoanalysis aims to think is the difference of thesexes.
The major thesis of psychoanalysis is: There Is no sexual
relation. \Vhence a negative figure which can be transformer]
into scepticism. What politics aims to think is the difference
between collective presentation and State Its
major thesis: There is a possibility of pure pre;enta-iion.
\:Vhencc an aflirmative figure which can be transformed into
dogmatism.
84
Philosoph» and psychoanalysis
The best solution would be the following: that political
thinking protects itself from dogmatism by listening to
psychoanalysis, and that psychoanalytic thinking protects
itself from scepticism by listening to politics. After all, this is
what Lacan authorizes us to do! In Seminar XX he compares
the relation Lacan-Freud to the relation Lenin Marx,
whereby recognizing that the comparison of tv, 0 thinkings is
possible, and furthermore, that they may educate one
another.f
But where can two different thinkings encounter each
other? They can onlv do so in philosophy. The ultimate
solution to' our problem, the relation between psycho-
analysis and politics, finally depends upon a philosophical
choice.
Can one then attempt a direct comparison of psycho-
analysis and philosophy?
The question which is formally common to both
philosophy and psychoanalysis is without doubt the
question of trutho I t can be phrased as follows: How does
a truth touch the real? For example, in November 1975
Lacan declares: "Truth can only concern, the real.' It is
clear that philosophy and psychoanalysis have always
asked themselves: What is truth such that it only concerns
the real?
Psychoanalysis and contemporary philosophy have a
point in common: they do not think that truth is
or and
thmg. for Heidegger, truth IS Fhr Althusscr, It IS
a ruled production. For myself, ,it is_<t \:l.1.i(:.11 is
.opened by an event. and which constructs an infinite generic
set. For Lacan, it is the depositing of speech in the Other.
Thus truth is something other than a correct relationship
between thought and object. In fact, for Lacan anel [or
contemporary philosophy, thought is separated from th.e
real. It has no direct access to, or acquailltance with rhis
8.5
Infinite Thought
real. Let's say that between the
hole, an abyss, a void. The truth is first(;f all the effect of a
separation, a loss, or a voiding.
For example, for Heidegger, truth occurs within a
structure of forgetting. The history of truth is that of the
forgetting of being. mvself, a truth commences bv an
event, but this .. always
abolished; there will never be any, !!!.e
event thus forms the real and a truth. -FoT
Lacan, what foundsrtruth is the Other as-'ii'-Tiole in
knowledge. Thus he declares, on ifKlfayT97i '
hole there and that hole is called the Other; the Other as
place where speech, through being deposited, founds truth.'
Philosophy and psychoanalysis elaborate the same q ues-
Lion: What is the thinkable relationship between truth and
the void? The crux of the problem is the localizatigno[ the
void. Philosophy and psychoanalysis agree that tr'uth -is
separation; that the real is irreducible or, as Lacan savs,
unsvrnbolizable; that truth is different to knowledze and
.. - b ,
truth thus only occurs under condition of the void. It could
be said that at base every theory consists of a localization of
the void which authorizes truth, of its placement, and of the
construction of its algebra and topology.
Thus for Heidegger, the void is thought as a figure of the
Open. I t is that for which poetry destines language. It is
liberation hom the violent will of technology' which
saturates and destroys our Earth. In Althussers work there
are two theories of the void. On the one hand, a structure
only functions under the condition of an empty place. This
is the theory of the causality of lack. On the other hand,
philosophy itself uses empty categories because it is a }Jure
act, an intervention. It traces lines of demarcation without
ever knowing; any object. ... m.' .'---.
For myself the void is first of all the mathernatical mark of
being qua being, the void-set. It is what sutures rnathcma-
86
Philo.\o/lh)! and
tical discourse to pure presentation. furthermore, the void is
the destiny of any event, since the being of an event is a
disa ppearing. .
for Lacan, on the other hand, the void is not on the side
of being. This, I think, is a crucial point of conflict. Let us
say that philosophy localizes the void as COlldition of truth
on the side of being qua being, while psychoanalysis localizes
the void in the Subject, Subject is what disappears in
the gap I t is on this basis that Lacan
undertook the critique of philosophy or what he calls
antiphilosophy. Why?
For Lacan, if the void is on the side of being, this means
that thought is also on the side of being, because thought is
precisely the exercise of separation. But on that basis one
would say that being itself thinks. For Lacan the
fundamental axiom of all philosophy is this idea that being-
thinks. I cite: 'The supposition that being thinks is what
founds the philosophical tradition from Parrnenidcs on-
wards.' For Lacan, this axiom is unacceptable. Thought
must be an effect of the Subject, and not a supposition
concerning- being. \. , >0;- .:
I t appears that conflict is Inevitable. The conflict
concerns the trianglc. Subject, Truth, Real. The topology
of this triangle is different in philosophy and in psycho-
analysis. However, this difference must be examined in
detail. I will start with two statements by Lacan:
20 March 1973: The ideal of psychoanalysis is 'that, on
the basis of its experience, a knowledge of truth can be
constituted' .
15 Mav 1973: The core of his Leaching is that 'there are
some of being that cannot be known'. Or: 'Of
what cannot be demonstrated, something true, however,
can be said.'
87
Infini:« Thought
There is a great difficulty here, a kind of contradiction. How
can one obtain a 'knowledge of truth' if the content of that
truth is precisely what cannot be known? How can a
of the truth of the unknown exist? In psycho-
analysis, what cannot be known ends up being the
knowledge of a truth. This is clearly because what is not
k.nown consciously is known otherwise. Is it not, quite
SImply, because the unconscious thinks? But that the
unconscious thinks, or, if you like, that 'it thinks', is this so
to the philosophical idea according to which being
dunks?
In the end, to localize the void and truth. both
philosophy and psychoanalysis need an axiom concerning
thought.
The philosophical axiom: Thought must be understand-
, able on the basis of being.
, The psychoanalytic axiom: There is unconscious thought.
What the two have in common this time is that truth is torn
away from consciousness; the effect of truth is thought
outside conscious and reflexive production. This also means
that the void is not that of consciousness: it is not Sartre's
nothingness.
One very important consequence of this localization of
the void outside consciousness is theimportance.of
vVhy? Because mathematics is precisely the
thinking which has nothing to do with the experiences of
consciousness; it is the thinking which has no relatiol1 to

formalization
In fact, the veritable apparatus for the localization of the
void is mathematics, because in its transmission, it entirelv
empties out what separates us from the real. Betv\i.een..-tJl:'
real and mathematical form This is why
88
Philosophy and
Lacan writes: 'Mathematical ]()rmalization is our goal, our
ideal. Why? Because it alone is matheme, that is, capable of
being transmitted in its entirety.' In the same manner, I
posit that mathematics is the science of being qua being.. And
thus I would say. like Lacan, that mathematical Iorrnaliza-
tion is compatible with our discourse, the philosophical
discourse.
1\:1y proposition is the following: Psychoanalysis and
philosophy have a common border; the ideal of the
mathcme. The real terrain for the examination of the
relation between psychoanalysis and philosophy is f(Jlwd
first of all in mathematics. There is no point in creating
direct confrontations between the grand categories we
share, such as being, the real, the subject, and truth. Rather
what should be asked is: how do psychoanalysis and
philosophy tackle the great constructions of mathematics
and logic?
In fact, one can construct a list of questions that the
psychoanalyst and the philosopher can discuss together.
These arc strange questions. For example:
Is there a relation between sexuation and opinions?
Is the philosophical idea of the One linked to the fantasy
of the Wnman:'
Is the object cause of desire involved in the critical
examination of the limits of truth?
Isn't the main obstacle to the death of God (as Kietzschl':',
moreover, thought) to be found on the side of feminine
[ouissance (enjoyment)?
Could the1'1':' be a philosophical thinking of the becoming-
analyst, or of the pass?
Is there a logical subject?
But to guide these discussions in an ordered manner one
must start from mathematics. Thus, to conclude, I v\"ould
say that the common desire on the basis of which
89
Infinite Thought
psychoanalysis and philosophy can enter into discussion is
the desire of the matheme. Tt is quite a rare desire! This is
why the discussion is also quite rare.
Notes
I. This paper was given in Melbourne in 1999 at the Australian
Centre of Psychoanalysis. 1t was originally published in an
earlier version of the same translation in the Centre's journal
Analvsis 9 (200m.
2. Translator's note: In French, the word eXjlirirnce signifies both
experiment and experience. This double signification should
be kept in mind when either of the two English words occur.
3. .J. Lacan, Seminar XX Encore (Paris: Editions elu Scuil, 1989).
All translations from Encore hy Oliver Feltham unless noted.
90
CHAPTER .5
Philosophy and art
Every philosophical enterprise turns back towards its
temporal conditions in order to treat their compossibility
at a conceptual level.] This turning back is clearly
discernible in Heidegger's work, in four different modes.
The support taken from the intimate ck-stasis of time,
Irorn affect, from experience as filtered by the care of a
question which directs its metamorphosis. This is the
existential-ontological analysis of Sein lind Zeit.
2 National-socialist politics, practised by Heidegger in a
militant fashion as the German occurrence of resolute
decision and of thought's engagement against the nihilist
reign of technique, an engagement anchored in the
ca tegories of work, soil, community, and the appropria-
tion of the site.
3 The hermeneutic and historial re-evaluation of the
history of philosophy thought as the destiny of being in
its coupling to the logo.\'. Such are the brilliant analyses of
Kant and Hegel, of Nietzsche and Leibniz, and then the
lessons taken from the Greeks, singularly from the pre-
Socratics.
91
Infinite Thought
4 The great German poems, seized from 19:)5 on, via the
course on Holderlin, as privileged interlocutors for the
thinker.
This fourth support still survives today despite everything
that managed to affect the three others. Jts audience in
France, including the poets, from Rent' Char to Michel
Deguy, is the strongest remaining validation of Heideggcr's
success in philosophically touching an unnoticed point of
thought detained in poetic language. It is therefore
indispensable, for whoever wishes to go beyond Heidcggcr's
philosophical power, to reconsider the couple formed, in this
philosophy's terms, by the saying of the poets and the
thought of the thinker. The reformulation of that which
both joins together and separates the poem and philosophi-
cal discursivity is an imperative which, thanks to Heidegger,
we are obliged to submit ourselves to: whatever the avatars
or his 'affair' may be.
Let us begin by recalling that, fIJI' Heideggcr, there is an
original indistinetion between the two terms, In the pre-
Socratic sending of thought, which is also the destinal
sending of being, the logos is poetic as such. Jt is the poem
that takes ward of thought, as we see in the Poem of
Parrnenidcs, or in the sentences of Heraclitus.
It is by a kind of axiomatic contestation of this point that
J wish to begin the reconstruction of an other relation, or non-
relation, between poetry and philosophy.
\Vhen Parrnenides places his poem under the invocation
of the Goddess, and begins with the image of an initiatory
cavalcade, J think that it is necessary to maintain that this is
not, that this is not yet philosophy. For every truth that
accepts its dependence in regard to narrative and revelation
is still detained in mystery: philosophy exists solely through
its desire to tear the latter's veil.
The poetic form, with Pannenides, is essential; it covers
Philosophy and Ill!
With, authority the rnaintenance of discourse in the
of the sacred. However, philosophy can onlv
begin by a desacralization: it institutes a regime of disc ours;'
which is its own earthly legitimation. Philosophy requires
that the profound utterance's authority be interrupted bv
argumentative secularization. .
Moreover it is at this very point that Parmenides provides
a sort of pre-commencement of philosophy: in regard to the
question of non-being', he sketches a reasoninz hv the
absurd, This latent recourse to an n'de of
consistency is an interruption, within the poem, of the
collusion organized by the poem between truth and the
sacred authority of the image or story.
It is essential to see that the support for such an
interruption can only be of the order of the matherne, if
one understands by this the discursive singularities or
mathematics. Apagogic reasoning is without doubt the
most significant matrix of an argumentation that does not
itself on the basis of anything other than the
Imperative of consistency, and which turns out to be
incompatible with any legitimation by narrative or bv the
initiated status of the subject of the enunciation.' Here, the
n;atheme is that which, by causing the Speaker to
disappear, by removing any mysterious validation from its
site, exposes argumentation to the test of its autonomy and
thus to the critical or dialogic examination of its pertinence.
Philosophy began in Greece because there alone the
matherne allowed an interruption of the sacral exercise of
validation by narrative (the mytheme, as Lacoue-Labarthe
:-v
ould
say). Parmenides names the jJre-moment - still
internal to the sacred narrative and its poetic capture- of
this interruption.
. It is well known that Plato named this interruption
hansell', pushing reflection to a point of systematic suspicion
towards anything reminiscent of the poem. Plato proposes a
93
Infinite Thought
complete analysis of the gesture of interruption that
constitutes the possibility of philosophy:
As fix the poem's imitative capture, its seduction without
concept, its legitimation without Idea, it must be
removed, hanned from the space in which philosophy's
royalty operates. This is a distressing, in terminable
rupture (see Rook X of The Republic), but it is a question
of the very existence of philosophy, and not solely of its
style.
Tlle support that mathematics furnishes for the desacra-
lization or depoetization of the truth must be explicitly
sanctioned: pedagogically via the crucial place given to
arithmetic and geometry in political education, and
ontologically via their intelligible dignity which provides
an antechamber to the ultimate deployments of the
dialectic.
For Aristotle - as little a poet as is possible in his technique
of exposition (Plato, on the other hand, and he recognizes it,
is at every moment sensible to the charm of what he
excludes) _: the Poem is no longer anything but a particular
object proposed to the dispositions of Knowledge; at the
same time, moreover, that mathematics finds itself having
all the attributes of ontological dignity accorded to it by
Plato withdrawn. 'Poetics' is a regional discipline of
philosophical activity. With Aristotle, the foundational
debate is finished, and philosophy, stabilized in the
connection of its parts, no longer turns back dramatically
upon what conditions it.
Thus, from the Greeks onwards, three possible regimes oj the
bond between the poem and philosophy have been encountered
and named.
The first, which we will call Parrnenidian, organizes a
fusion between the subjective authority of the poem and
94
and art
the validity or statements held as philosophical. Even
when 'mathematical' interruptions figure under this
fusion, they are definitively subordinated to the sacred
aura of utterance, to its 'profound' value, to its
enunciative legitimacy. The image, language's equivo-
cations, and metaphor escort and authorize the saying of
the True. Authenticity resides in the flesh of language.
2 The second, which we will call Platonic, organizes a
distance between the poem and philosophy. The former is
held to be separate as an undermining fascination, as a
seduction which is diagonal to the True; the latter must
disallow that what it deals with could be dealt with by
poetry, in its place. The dl()rt of uprooting from
prestige of poetic metaphor is such that support is
required, support taken from what, in language, is
opposed to poetic metaphor: the literal univocitv of
mathematics. Philosophy can onlv establish itself in' the
/ ,
game of contrasts between the poem and the matheme,
both its primordial conditions (the poem, whose authority
it must interrupt, and the matherne, whose dignity it must
promote). \Ve can also say that the Platonic relation to
the poem is a relation (negative) of condition, which implies
other conditions (the mathcme, politics, love).
3 The third, which we will call Aristotelian, organizes the
inclusion of the knowledge ofthe poem within philosophy,
itself representable as Knowledge of knowledges. The
poem is no longer thought in terms of the drama of its
distance or its intimate proximity; it is grasped within the
category of the object, within what, in being defined and
reflected as such, delimits a regional discipline within
philosophy. This regionality of the poem founds what
will be Aesthetics.
We can also say: the three possible relations of philosophy
(as thought) to the poem are identifying rioalry, argumentative
95
Infinite Thought
distance and aesthetic regionality. l n the first case, philosophy
wants the poem; in the second, it excludes it: and in the
third, it categorizes it.
In regard to this triple disposition, what is the essence of
the process of Heideggerean thought?
It can be schcmatized as having three components:
Heidegger has quite legitimately re-established the
autonomous function of the thought of the poem. Or,
more precisely, he has sought to determine the place- a
place itself withdrawn, or undetectable from which the
community of destiny between the conceptions of the
thinker and the saying of the poet can be perceived. It
could be said that this sketch of a community of destiny
is primarily opposed to the third type of relation, that
which is subsumed by an aesthetics of inclusion.
Heidegger has subtracted the poem from philosophical
knowledge, to render it to truth. By doing so, he has
founded a radical critique of all aesthetics, of any
regional philosophical determination of the poem. This
foundation is established as a pertinent trait of moder-
nity (its non-Aristotelian character).
2 Heidegger has shown the limits of a relation of condition
that illuminates solely the separation of the poem and
philosophical argument. In some sharp and distictive
analyses, he has established that, over a long period,
from Holderlin onwards, the poem acts in relay with
philosophy with regard to essential themes, principally
because tor this entire period philosophy is captive either
of the sciences (positivisms or of politics (Marxisrns).
Philosophy is their captive just as we have said that in
Parmcnides it is still captive of the poem: it does not
dispose, in regard to these particular conditions of its
existence, of a sufficient game to establish its own law. I
proposed calling this period the 'age of poers"? Let us say
96
Philosophy and art
tha.t, investing this age with novel philosophical means,
showed that it was not always possible, nor
Just, to establish distance from the poem via the Platonic
pn).cedure of banishment. Philosophy is sometimes
obh?ed expose. itself to the poem in a more perilous
fasll1Ol:: it must think for its own accoun t of the operations
by which the poem sets a date with a truth of Time ({(lI·
the the principal truth poetically put
to work IS the dcst itutirin of the category of objectivitv as
necessary form of ontological prcscn tation whence' the
poetically crucial character of the theme of Presence;
:ven,.fl)l" example with Mallarrne, in its inverted form,
isolation, or Subtraction).
3 Cnf?rtunatcl!') wi.thin his historial assemblage, and more
Ill. his evaluation of the Greek origin of
plnlosophy, could for want of validating
the Itself ongll1ary character of the recourse to the
mathemc >- but renege on the judgement of interruption,
and restore, under various and subtle philosophical
names, the sacral authority of the poetic utterance, and
the ide.a that t,he authentic lies ill the flesh of language.
There lS a profound unity between, on the one hand, the
recourse to Parmenides and Heraclitus considered as
delimi.ting a site of pre-forgetting and the coming-forth
of Bemg, and, on the other hand, the heavv and
Iallacious recourse to the sacred in the most
of the analyses of poems, especially the analyses ofTrakl.
Heideggerean misunderstanding of true nature
of the Platonic g:sture, at it: core the misunderstanding
of the mathematical sense of the Idea (which is precisely
what, de-naturalizing it, exposes it to the withdrawal
Being), entails that instead of inventing a fourth relation
the philosopher and poem, neither fusional, nor
dist anr-cd , nor aesthetic, Heidegger emptily prophesies a
97
Infinite Thought
reactivation of the Sacred in an indecipherable coupling
of the saying of poets and the thinking of thinkers.
\Ve will retain from Heidegger the devaluation of all
philosophical aesthetics and the critical limitation of the
effects of the Platonic procedure of exclusion. \Ve will
contest, on the other hand, that it is again necessary, under
conditions that would be those of the cnd of philosophy, to
suture this end to the poem's authority without argument.
Philosophy continues, inasmuch as positivisrns arc ex-
hausted and Marxisms eviscerated, but also inasmuch as
poetry itself, in its contemporary force, enjoins us to
discharge it from every identifying rivalry with philosophy,
and to undo it from the false couple of the saying of the
poem and the thinking of the philosopher. For this couple of
saying and thinking forgetful of the ontological subtrac-
tion inaugurally inscribed by the matherne ~ is in fact that
formed by the sermon of the end of philosophy and the
romantic mvth of authenticitv.
, ,
That philosophy continues liberates the poem, the poem
as a singular operation of truth. What would be the poem
after Heidegger, the poem after the age of poets, the post-
romantic poem? The poets will tell us, they have already
told us, because to dcsuture philosophy and poetry, to leave
Heidegger behind without returning to aesthetics, is also to
think otherwise that from which the poem proceeds,
thinking it in its operating distance, and not in its myth.
Two indications alone:
When Mallarrne writes: 'The moment of the Notion of
an object is therefore the moment of the reflection of its
pure present in itself or its present purity', what
programme does he sketch fill' the poem, if it is attached
to tilt' production of the Notion? It will be a question of
determining by which operations internal to language
one can make a 'present purity' arise; that is, the
98
Philosophy and art
separation, the isolation, the coldness of that which is
only present insofar as it no longer has any presentable
relation to reality. One could maintain that poetry is the
thought of the presence of the present. And that it is
precisely because of this that it is not in rivalry with
philosophy, which has as its stake the compossibility of
Time, and not pure presence. Only the poem accumu-
lates the means of thinking outside-place, or beyond all
place, 'on some vacant and superior surface', wha t of the
present does not let itself be reduced to its reality, but
summons the eternity of its presence: 'A Constellation,
icy with forgetting and desuetude.' Presence that, ElI"
from contradicting thc matherne, also implies 'the unique
numbel' that cannot be another'.
2 When Celan tells us,
Wurfscheibe, mit
Vorgesichten bes ternt,
wirf dich
aus dir hinaus.
which can be translated as,
Cast-disc, with
Foreseeings bcstarred,
cast yourself
out your outside.
what is the intimacy of this intimation? It can be
understood in the following manner: when the situation
is saturated by its own norm, when the calculation of
itself is inscribed there without respite, when there is no
longer a void between knowledge and prediction, then
one must be pOelical£v ready for the outside-of-self. For the
nomination of an event - in the sense in which I speak of
it, that is, an undecidable supplementation which must
be named to occur for a being-faithful, thus for a truth -
99
Infinite Thought
this nomination is aluiavs poetic. To name a supplement.
a chance, an incalculable, one must draw from the void
of sense, in default of established significations, to the
peril of language. One must therefore poeticize, ihe
poetic name of the event is wh.at .outslde ot
ourselves, through the flaming nng of prcd IC uons.
The poem freed Cram philosophical poeticizing; undoubt-
edlv it will have always been these two though ts, these two
the prf'scncf' of the present in the transfixion of
realities, the name of the event in the leap outside calculable
interests.
Nonetheless, we can and we must, we philosophers, leave
to the poets the care of the future of poetry beyond all th:lt
the hermeneutic concern of the philosopher pressed upon It.
Our singular task is rather to rethink, from the point of
philosophy, its liaison or its un-I,iaison With. the in
terms that can he neither those of the Platonic banishment,
nor those of the Heideggcrean suture, nor even those of the
dassificatorv care of an Aristotle or a Hegf'l. What is it
which, in act of philosophy as in its style of thought, is
found from the very origin under the condition of the poem.
at the same time as under that of the matheme, or politics,
or love? Such is our question.
The moderns, even more so, the postmoderns, have
willingly exposed the wound which be inflic.ted upon
philosophy by the unique mode in which hteratur.e,
art in general, bear witness to our modernity. There will
alwavs have been a challenge laid down by art to the
and it is on the basis of this challenge, this wound,
that it is necessary to interpret the Platonic g-esture winch
can only esta the royalty of the philosopher by
banishing the poets.
To my mind, there is nothing in such a gesture that is
specific to poetry or literature. Plato also has to hold
100
Philosophy and art
philosophical love, plulo-sophia, at a distance from real love
gripped in the malaise of a desire for object: He also has to
hold real politics at a distance, that of Athenian democracy,
in order to fashion the philosophical concept of politeia. He
must equally affirm the distance and the supremacy of the
dialectic in regard to mathematical dianoia. Poem, matheme,
politics and love at once condition and insult philosophy.
Condition and insult: that's the way it is.
Philosophy wants to and must. establish itself at this
subtractive point where language consecrates itself to
thought without. the prestige and the mimetic incitements
of the image, fiction or narrative; where the principle of
amorous intensity unbinds itself from the altcrity of the
object and sustai;ls itself from the law of the Same; where
illumination of the Principle pacifies the blind violence
that mathematics assumes in its axioms and its hypotheses;
where, finally, the collective is represented in its symbol, and
not in thc excessive real of political situations.
Philosophy is under the conditions of art, science, politics
and love, but it is always damaged, wounded, serrated by
the evental and singular character of these conditions.
Nothing of this contingent occurrence pleases it. Why?
To explain this displeasure of philosophy with regard to
the real of its conditions presumes that one sets at the heart
of its disposition the following, that truth is distinct from
sense. If philosophy had only to interpret its conditions, if its
destinv was hermeneutic, it would be pleased to turn back
towards these conditions, and to interminably say: such is
the sense of what happens in the poetic work, the
mathematical theorem, the amorous encounter, the political
revolution. Philosophy would be the tranquil aggregate of
an aesthetics, an epistemology, an erotology and a political
sociology. This is a very old temptation, which, when one
cedes to it, classifies philosophy in a section of what Lacan
calls the discourse of the Universitv.
101
Infinite Thought
Hut 'philosophy' begins when this aggregate turns out to
be inconsistent, when it is no longer a question of
interpreting the real proced urcs where tru th lies, bu t of
founding a unique place in which, under the contemporary
conditions of these procedures, it may be stated how and
why a truth is not a sense, being rather a hole in sense. This
'how' and this 'why', founders of a place of thought under
conditions, arc only practicable in the displeasure of a
refusal of donation and of hermeneutics. They require the
primordial defection of the donation of sense, ab-sense,
abnegation in regard to sense. Or rather, indecency. They
require that truth procedures be subtracted from the evenral
singularity that weaves them in the real, and that knots
them to sense in the mode of traversing the latter, of
hollowing it out. They thus require that truth procedures be
disengaged from their subjective escort, including the
pleasure of the object delivered there.
As such philosophy wil1:
Envisage love according to the truth alone that weaves
itself upon the Two of sexuation, and upon the Two
quite simply. But without the tension of pleasure;
displeasure that sustains itself from the object of love.
Envisage politics as truth of the infinity of collective
situations, as a treatment in truth of this infinitv, but
without the enthusiasm and the sublimitv or' these
situations themselves. '
Envisage mathematics as truth of multiple-bcing in and
by the letter, the power of literalization, but wi thout the
intellectual beatitude of the resolved problem.
Envisage finally the poem as truth of sensible presence
deposited in rhythm and image, but without the
corporeal captation by this rhythm and this image.
What causes the constitutive displeasure of philosophy with
regard to it, conditions, with the poem as with the others, is
102
Philosophy and art
having to depose, along with sense, whatever jouissance
(enjoyment) is determined there, at the very point where
a truth occurs as a hole in the knowledges that make sense.
Being more particularly a question of the literary act,
whose kernel is the poem; what is the forever offended and
recalcitrant procedure of this deposition?
The relation is al1 the more narrow since philosophy is an
effect oflanguage. The literary is specified for philosophy as
fiction, as comparison, image or rhythm, and as narrative.
The deposition takes here the figure of a !Jlacement.
Certainly, philosophy uses fictive incarnations in the
texture of its exposition; hence the characters of Plato's
dialogues, and the staging of their encounters, or the
conversation of a Christian philosopher and an improbable
Chinese philosopher with Malcbranche." Or the at once
epic and novelistic singularity of Nietzsche's Zarathustra,
kept so much in the fiction of character that Heidegger is
able to ask, in a text which is perhaps a little too
hermeneutic: 'Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?'
Philosophy uses image, comparison and rhythm. The
image of the sun serves to expose to the day of presence that
there is something esscntially withdrawn in the Idea of the
Good. And who doesn't know the marvellous paragraph 67
of Leibnizs Monadologv, filled with cadences and allitera-
tions: 'each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden
full of plants, and like a pond full offish. But each branch of
the plant, each member of the animal, each drop of its
humours is again such a garden or such a pond'?
Finally, philosophy uses the narrative, the fable and the
parable. The myth of Er closes Plato's Republic. Hegel's
philosophy of History is in many respects the monumental
narrative and recitation of those great subjective entities
that are named the Orient, Greece, or Rome. And
'Zarathustra, dying, holds the earth embraced.'
Nonetheless, these occurrences of the literarv as such are
Infinite Thought
placed under the jurisdiction of a principle of thought that
they do not constitute. They are localized in points at which-
in order to complete the establishment of the place in which
why and how a truth hollows sense and escapes interpreta-
tion is stated one must precisely, through a paradox of
exposition, propose a fable, an image or a fiction to
interpretation itself
Philosophy has subtracted from the truth procedures that
condition it all aura of sense, all trembling and all pathos, to
seize truth's proving of itself as such. But there is a moment
where it falls on the radical underside of all sense, the void of
all possible presentation, the hollowing of truth as a hole
toithou! borders. This moment is that in which the void, ab-
sense - such as philosophy ineluctably encounters them at
the point of truth's proving of itself -- must be themselves
presented and transmitted.
The poem occurs in philosophy when the latter, in its will
to universal address, in its vocation to make the place that it
erects inhabited by all, falls under the imperative of having
to propose to sense and to interpretation the latent void that
sutures all truth to the being of that of which it is truth. This
presentation of the unpresentable void requires the deploy-
ment within language of the latter's literary resources; but
under the condition that it occur at this very point; thus
under the general jurisdiction of an entirely different style,
that of argumentation, of conceptual liaison, or of the Idea.
The poem occurs in philosophy at one ~ l its points, and this
localization is never ruled by a poetic or literary principle. It
depends on the moment at which the argument places the
unpresentable, and where, by a torsion prescribed by the
argument, the nudity of the operations of the true is only
transmissible by a return, always immoderate, to the
pleasure of sense, which is always also a pleasure of the
senses. The literary in philosophy is the directed transmis-
sion, the vectoring, through an cftl'ct of sense, of the
104
Phifo\ojJl!y and art
following: the relation of a truth to sense is a defective or
void relation. It is this defection that exposes philosophy to
the imperative of a localized fiction. The moment at which
the argumentation fails imitates, amid the power of the
argument itself, this, that truth causes the failure of
knowledge.
It is hardly astonishing that in these conditions the
greatest known philosophical poem is that of an author Ior
whom the Void as such is the original principle Ior an
intransigent materialism. Evidently Lucretius is the philoso-
pher in -question. For Lucretius, aJl truth establishes itself
from a combination of marks, from a rain ofletters, atoms, in
the pure unpresentable that is the void. This philosophy is
particularly subtracted Irorn sense, particularly disappoint-
ing for thejouis.\ance of interpretation. Moreover, it cannot be
incorporated into the Heideggcrean schema of metaphysics.
Nothing in it is ontotheological; there is no supreme being for
Lucretius, the heaven is void, the gods arc indifferent. Is it
not remarkable that the only thinker who is also an immense
poet be precisely the one who causes the Heideggerean
historical assemblage to default, the one who takes the
history of being through a disseminated multiplicity foreign
to everything that Heidegger tells us of metaphysics since
Plato? Is it not symptomatic that this singular fusion of poem
and philosophy, unique in history, be precisely that which is
entirely foreign to the schema through which Heidegger
thinks the correlation of the poem and thought? Never-
theless, it is this materialist, neuter thought, entirely
orientated towards the deposition of the imaginary, hostile
to any unanalysecl effect of presence, which requires, in order
to expose itself, the prestige of the poem.
Lucretius sustains philosophy by the poem all the way
through, fell' the very reason that apparently ought to
engage him in a banishment of the Platonic type. Because
his only principle is material dissemination. Because it
10.1
Infinite Thought
exposes as place for the proving of the true the most radical
de-fection or sacred bonds.
At the beginning or Book 4 of De rerum natura, which one
should translate bv 'Of the real of being-multiple', Lucretius
undertakes, Plato if you like, to legitimate the poem
as the expository imperative or his philosophy. What are his
arguments? There are principally three.
First, the book treats, Lucretius says, of an 'obscure
thing'. And the presentation of this obscurity of
requires light in and by language, the luminous verses 01 the
poem: 'obscura de re tam Lucida jJango carmina',
Next, Lucretius sets himself to disengage spirit from the
tight bonds of religion. Jn order to operate this unbinding,
this subtraction from the sense that religion continually
pours out, what is necessary is a force of saying, a prestige,
such as lavished upon us by the graces of the Muse,
Finallv, the bare truth. anterior to the occupation of its
place, essentially appearssad. The philosophical place, the
place of the occurrence, or the proving ground of the true,
when seen from a distance, is, for most people, melancholic.
This deposition of pleasure must bc sustained by a super-
numerary and lateral pleasure, that lavished by the finery,
Lucretius says, of 'sweet poetic honey'.
Thus the poem, this time, reopens the entire philosophi-
cal exposition, the entire philosophical address to the
universal occupation of its site, It docs this under the triple
injunction of the melancholy of truths seen from a distance,
or, says Lucretius, 'not yet practised'; of the unbinding, or
of sense, that obliterates religion; and finally or
the obscure, whose heart is the unpresentable void, that
occurs within transmission via the razing light of its glorious
linguistic body.
However, that which, in these injunctions, strictly main-
tains the gap between philosophy and poetry remains.
Because language (La langue) and the charm of verse are only
106
Philosophy and art
there in the position ofsupplement. They escort the will of the
transmission. They arc thus still and always localized,
prescribed. The real law or the discourse remains constructive
and rational argument, such as Lucretius receives Irom
Epicurus. Lucretius explains why he has recourse to the
poem; it is almost an excuse, and its referent is he to whom
one addresses oneself; who must be persuaded that the
elfthe true seen from a distance changes in to the joy or
being when seen close up. When it is a question of Epicurus,
what is required is no longer legitimation, but pure and
simple praise. The poem must be excused, the argument must
be praised. The gap remains, essential.
This is because the poem exposes itself as imperative in
language, and, in doing so, produces truths. Philosophy does
not produce any. It supposes and subtractively distributes
them according to their proper regime of separation from
sense. Philosophy only summons the poem for itself at the
point at which this separation must expose what the
argument, which frames and borders it, can on Iv sustain
by returning to what made it possible: the' effective
singularity of a truth procedure, singularity that is in the
bathing pool, in the winding sheet, in the source of sense.
The poem is summoned by philosophy when the latter
must also sav, in Lucretius' expression: 'I vovaze throuzh
"' .i b h
unvisited places in the domain of the Picridcs, never befo-re
1 love to go and draw water from virgin springs.'
I'hc poem marks the moment of the empty page in which
the argument proceeds, proceeded, will proceed. This void,
this empty page, is not 'all is thinkable'. It is, on the
contrary, under a rigorously circumscribed poetic mark, the
means of saying, in philosophy, that at least one truth,
elsewhere, but real, exists, and drawing from this recogni-
tion, against the melancholy of those who regard from afar,
the most joyful consequences,
107
Infiniie Though!
Notes
1. Translator's note: This chapter was published as 'I .e Recours
philosophique au in A. Badiou, Conditions (Paris:
Scuil, 19921,93107. 'Cornpossibilitv is a term drawn fi'OITI
Lcibniz. meaning common or shared possibility.
2. I proposecl the category of an 'age of poets' for the first time in
my Mrmi/esla jin Phitosaji/zV (New York: SUNY Press 1(99).
3, The obvious reference here is Deleuze and Guattari's brilliant
analysis of the 'conceptual character' in rV/za! is
trans. G. Burchell and H. Tomlinson (London: Verso, 19(4),
posterior to the current essay. However, the distance should
be remarked. In my conception, philosophical theatrality
designates the following: the essence of philosophy (the
seizure 'in Truth') is all aer. For Dcleuze and Guattari, as
always, everything is referred to movement and description:
the rouceptual character is the nomad on the plane of
immanence.
108
CHAPTER 6
Philosophy and cinema
1 On the notion o] ' the situation of cinema'
There is no 'objective' situation of cinema, That IS, the
situation of cinema - or, the current conjuncture of this
artistic procedure cannot be situated 'in itself. 'What is
(the films which are released) does not produce,
on Its own, any sort of intelligibility, There arc general
reasons behind this lack, but there arc also reasons linked to
the singularity of the cinematographic procedure.
(a) General reasons
The relation of thought to the current moment in art is one
of a localized prescription and not a description. Everything
d.epends upon the point at which one is subjectively
and upon the axioms which are used to support
Judgements. The point at which we choose to situate
ourselves is called L'Art du Cinema, which claims a local
status quite different to that of a simple review: a group or
thought, possessing an orientation and particular protocols
fin' enquiry.' It possesses two foundational axioms; drawn
from Denis Levy's work:
109
Cinema is capable of being an art, in the precise sense in
which one can identify, among the undividedness of forms
and subjects, cinema-ideas.
2 This art has been traversed by a major rupture, between
its idcntificatory, representative and humanist ('Holly-
woodian ') vocation and a moderni tv which is distanced.
involving the spectator in an entirely different manner."
The 'current situation of cinema' (or conjuncture) can then
be called the legibility of an indistinct real (films which arc
made) on the basis of two axioms. One can then produce
derived propositions, or propositions of the situation. These
propositions identify the situation, not 'objectively', but on
the basis of engagements concerning something which has
recognizable artistic autonomy. This is a little like
parliamentary politics, in a giv:en situation, only being
identifiable on the basis of the statements of the Organisation
j]olitique.
2
In what follows what must not be forgotten is that it is the
films of Oliveira, of Kiarostami, of Straub, of the earlv
Wender», of a certain Pollet, of some Godards, etc., whicll
prescribe the conjuncture, or which provide the measure 1(11'
derived judgements. They are what allow us to identify
everything in the situation which is relatively progressive
from the standpoint of art, even when this progressivism
occurs within frameworks or references foreign to what L'Art
du Cinema terms modernity. They also provide the measure
of the new, precisely because they were the new. The new
does not enter into a dialectic with the old, but rather with
the old new, or the new of the preceding sequence.
(b) Particular reasons
The latter arc attached to a thesis which has been
incorporated into L'Art du Cinema's doctrine: that of the
essential impurity of cinema. Up till the present, this thesis
110
PhilosojJ!!v and cinema
has signified above all that the passage of an idea in a film
presupposes a complex summoning forth and displacement
of the other arts (theatre, the novel, music, painting ... ),
and that as such 'pure cinema' does not exist, except in the
dead-end vision of avant-garde formalism. This thesis of
impurity must be expanded: the following principle should
be proposed; the cinema is a place of intrinsic indisccrn-
ibility between art and non-art. No film, strictly speaking, is
controlled by artistic thinking from beginning to end: It
always bears absolutely impure elements within it. drawn
from ambient imagery, from the detritus of other arts, and
from conventions with a limited shelf life. Artistic
can only be discerned in a film as a process (!!'puri/ication oj its
own immanent non-artistic character. This process is never
completed. Even better, if it was completed, thereby
generating the supposed purity of experimental cinema (or
even certain radical normative statements bv Bresson on
'cinematographic writing'}, then the artistic capacity itself:
or rather, its universal address, would be suppressed.
Cinema's artistic operations are incornpletable purification
operations, bearing on current non-artistic forms, or
indistinct imagery (Rimbaud's 'idiotic paintings').
The result of all this is that the dominant forms of non-art
are immanent to art itself, and make up part of its
intelligibility. Hence the permanent necessity of enquiry
into the dominant formal tendencies within current
and of the identification of circulating, even
industrial, schemas of the visible and the audible: because it
is upon the latter that artistic operations are potentially
performed. .
2 Four examples
(a) The Godardian technique of 'dirty sound' (inaudible
phrases, superimposition of sounds, parasitical noises,
111
Infinite Thought
etc.) is an attempt at a formal purification of what has
invaded contemporary production; that is, the constant
confusion of music (in its post-rock form), brutal sounds
(arms, explosions, cars, planes, etc.) and dialogues
reduced to their operational ineptness. In current
production, there is an imposition of sound, or a
submission to the demand, characteristic of contempor-
ary youth, for a permanent rhythmic background
accompanying every activity, even speech or writing:
this is what Godard transforms into an adulterated
murmur. By means of this operation, what Godard does
is treat the confusion of the world as artifice, as
voluntary principle of the confusion of thoughts.
(b) The usage of car sequences in Kiarostami or even
Oliveira's films works on an overwhelming stereotype of
contemporary imagery, thanks to which the opening
scene of two films out of every three is a car sequence.
Thc operation consists of making an action scene into
the place of speech, of changing what is a sign of speed
into a sign of slowness, of constraining what is an
extcriority of movement to become a form of reflexive or
dialogic interiority.
(c) Sexu;l activity, filmed directly on bodies, f(JI'I11S a major
part of what is authorized by dominant contemporary
imagery. It is opposed to the metonymy of desire, which
was one of the kev characteristics of classic cinemato-
graphic art, and wllich aimed at avoiding the censor by
sexualizing tiny details. The artistic problem is thus:
what usage can be made of sexualized nudity in its
tendentiously full exposition? The attempts at purifying
such material are innumerable; whether they turn it
towards speech (in contemporary French comedy), or
ritualize it (certain of Anionioni's sequences), or make
distanced citations of it, or render it banal by
incorporating it into a genre (as Eastwood does in The
! 12
Philosoph» and cinema
Bridges o] Madison Coun{v) , or overpornographize it in an
abstract manner (Godard at times):
(d) SpeciaI effects of any kind, the formalized spectacle of
destruction, of cataclysm, a sort of Late Roman Empire
consummation of murder, cruelty and catastrophe:
these are the obvious ingredients of current cinema.
They are inscribed in a proven tradition, but there is no
longer much of an attempt to embed them in a
consistent fable with a moral, indeed religious, vocation.
They derive from a techniq ue of shock and one-
upmanship, which is related to the end of an epoch in
which images were relatively rare and it was difficult to
obtain them. The endless discussions about the 'virtual"
and the image of synthesis refer to nothing other than
the overabundance and facilitv of the image including
the spectacularly catastrophic or terrorizi;lg image.
Here again, attempts at purification exist, directed
towards a stylized inflation, a type of slowed calligraphy
of general explosion; the grand master evidently being
John \Voo.
3 A thesis and its consequences
One can then formulate the following principle: A Jilm IS
contemporary, and thus destined jin everyone, inasmuch as the
material whose purification it /!,uarantees is -identifiable as belonging
to the non-art if its times.
This is what makes cinema, intrinsicallv and not
empirically, into a mass art: its internal referen't is not the
artistic past of forms, which would suppose an educated
spectator, but a common imagery whose filtering and
distancing treatment is guaranteed by potential artistic
operations. Cinema gathers around identifiably non-artistic
materials, which arcideological indicators of the epoch. It
then transmits, potentially, their artistic purification, within
1Ll
Infinite Thought
the medium of an apparent indiscernibility between art and
non-art.
Whence, to think the current situation of cinema, a
number of directions for our enquiry:
(a) Of course, we will maintain the idea that the artistic
operations of modernity consist in purifying visible and
audible materials of everything which binds them to the
domination of representation, identification rea-
lism. But we will add that the current challenge IS that
of extending this treatment to everything. binds
the materials to the pure formal consumptlOn of Images
and sounds, whose privileged operators today are:
pornographic nudity, the cataclysmic special effect,
the intimacy of the couple, social melodrama, and
pathological cruelty. Fo: .it is on.ly by these
operators, while recogmzmg their neces.slty, that one
gives oneself the chance encountenng a real in
situation, and thus of assunng the passage, or the
visitation of a new cinema-idea.
(b) \Vhat is tims required is knowledge of materials in. their
real movement, and knowledge of the dorniriant
tendencies which organize the latter.
(c) Cinematic works must be dealt with and hypotheses of
configuration made: this on the basis of th: operations
purification and displacement of. mat.enals the.lr
operators; operations through which cinema-ideas
occur which are effectively contemporary and which
have a universal address.
At this point in time, it is quite probable that the basic unit
of investigation is not so much a film its totality as. som.e
moments of film, moments within wluch an operation IS
legible. Legibility means the following: one grasps, at the
same time, the subjacent material, which assures that the
film is contemporary, the protocol of purification, which is
114
Philosophy ana' cinema
the artistic index, and the passage of t he idea (or encounter
with a real), which is the effect of the protocol. In the
current phase of transition, within which the weight of non-
art is crushing (because, and we will come back to this, in
general, nothing else is opposed to it apart from a formalized
distance), it is necessary to engage in the work of
identification of operations including those occurring within
films which are globally deficient. In this work we will not
be entirely guided by the notion of auteur, because, no doubt,
nobodv as vet maintains a mastered and consistent relation
to the of material (what is it to make films when
every image is faciLe?). If such a relation emerged, then we
would have a great mass auteur on our hands, such as
Chaplin or Murnau, and without a doubt we would have
such within a determined genre born from the situation. Yet
nothing of the sort is on the horizon, neither in explosive
neo-thrillers (despite the existence of auteurs of quality such
as Woo or de Palma), nor in gore films (despite Craven's
subtle displacements), nor in pornography (Benazeraf has
not kept any of his promises), nor in social melodrama
(despite the efforts of a few English film-makers).
There is thus a necessity for an enquiry into the details,
guided by the sense of possible situations, by our 'con-
sumerist' visits to the cinema (to a certain degree we should
share in the innocent fairground mass aspect of 'seeing
films'), by our instinct, and by the decoding of current
criticism.
4 Exceptions
One should set apart the cases in which, for a certain
period of time, a vast political modification, a global event,
authorized the discredit of ordinary ind ustrial materials
(let us say Hollywoodian materials, or Indian, or
Egyptian), and made possible an original grasp of the
115
Infinite Thought
even tal site. During at least one temporal sequence, tilt'
cinema's mass dimension was incompatible with a direct
concern to invent forms in which the real of a country
occurs as a problem. This was the case in Germany, as the
escort of leftism (Fassbindcr, Schroeter, Wendcrs ... 1, in
Portugal after the 1975 revolution (Oliveira, Botelho ,
and in Iran after the Islamic revolution (Kiarostami ).
In all of these examples it is clear that what cinema is
capable of touches the country, as a subjective category
(what is it to be from this countryr ). There are cinema-
ideas concerning this point, such as its previous invisibility
is revealed by the event. A national cinema with a
universal address emerges; a national school, recognizable
in everything up to its insistence on certain formal aspects.
5 Formal operators and dominant motifs
Besides national exceptions, the enquiry must determine the
situation with regard to conclusive operations practised
upon a certain number of dominant motifs, more or less
coded within genres. What virtual ideas arc at work in these
operations?
(a) The visibility of the sexual, or, more generally, the motif
of erogenous nudity. The question is that of knowing
what this motif; purified, but without any possibility of
a return to the classical metonymies imposed by
censorship, can bring to bear concerning the non-
relation between love and sexuality. Or how can it
prove an exception (when first of all it confirms it) to the
contemporary subsumption of love by the functional
organization of enjoyment. What degree of visibility can
be tolerated by what one could call the amorous body?
A simple critical analysis of pornography is only the first
stage, as can be seen in Godard's abstract pornographic
116
Philosopf!}, and cinema
scenes, for example in Sauve qui pellt (La oie ), As vet no
conclusive work has been done on this point, ar;d the
identification of some attempted operations upon this
motif would be welcome.
A subsidiary question would be that of asking oneself
whether pornography, X movies, could become 'a genre.
Let us agree that what is termed 'genre' has given rise to
artistic enterprises. Otherwise, one can speak of
specialities. Is pornography necessarily a speciality
and not a genre? And if so, why? This is a particularly
interesting question with regard to the very essence of
cinema insofar as it is confronted with the full visibilitv
of the sexual. I
(b) Extreme violence, cruelty. This is a complex zone,
which includes the theme of the torturing serial killer
(Seuen) , and its horror gore variations iHalloioeen,
Scream . . .), the violent nco-thriller, certain films about
the mafia (even Casino contained shots of an unmea-
sured cruelty), and films about the end of the world
with various tribal survivors cutting each other's
throats. It is not a matter of variations of the horrifying
film as a genre. The element of cruelty, the slashing, the
crushing of bones, the torture, prevails over suspense
and fear. I t is an ensemble which actually evokes the
late Roman Empire, because its essential material
consists of its variations on putting-to-death.
The point is one of knowing whether all this could be
exposed to a tragic treatment. Before judging these
bloody torturing images, one must remember that tales
of horrendous executions, the variety of murders, and
the monstrosity of actions, were all major elements of
the most relined tragedies. All one has to do is reread
the tale of Hyppolite's death in Racine's Phaedrus. After
all, one can hardly better the Greek story of Atreus and
Thyestcs, a major narrative commonplace in tragedy in
117
Infinite Though!
which onc sees a father eat his own children. Here, our
enquiry is guided by a simple question: do embyronic
operations exist which announce that all this material
which acts like an urban mythology for today - will be
integrated into attempts at contemporary baroque
tragedy?
(c) The figure of the worker. It is well known that there has
recently been a return, via England, but also in
American documentaries, of social melodrama. Even
in France, all sorts of attempts, from Reprise to Manus et
Jeanette, aim at giving a verdict on a certain figure of the
worker, in the milieu of the PCF or May '68.
3
The problem is then one of knowing whether cinema
can contribute to the subjective generalization of the
autonomy of the figure of the worker. For the moment
the cinema only deals with the latter's end, and as such
gives rise to nostalgic operations, like those of Biassed
OJ;:
The history of this question is very complex, if one
thinks simultaneously of Modern Times (Chaplin), of
French noir romanticism (Le Jour se leve) , of the epic
Soviet films, and of the films of the sequence opened by
'68 (Tout va bien, Oser lutter ... ). Today the question
would be: What is the formal operator which purifies
this figure's passage of all nostalgia, and contributes to
its installation? That is, to its detachment from any social
objectivity? What is at stake is the very possibility of a
real encounter of cinema and politics; no doubt the
figure of the worker would have to be the film's
unfigurable real point much as it is sketched, after
all, in Denis Levy's DEcote de Afai (1979).
(d) The millenarian motif. This occurs in the register of
planetary catastrophes from which some yankee hero
saves us. The subjacent real is globalization, the
hegemony of one sole superpower, and also ecological
118
Philosophy and cinema
ideologies concerning the glohal village and its survival,
The fundamental imagery is that of the catastrophe,
and not that of salvation. Moreover, this 'genre' already
comes with its own ironic version (see Mnrs Attacks). The
point lies in knowing whether the motif of a general
threat can provide the material for an operation which
would transmit the idea that the world is prey to
Capital in its unbridled form, and hy this vcry Iact
rendered, globally, foreign to thc very truths that it
detains in its midst. This time it is clear that it is the
possibility of an epic film which is at stake, but of an
epic whose 'hero' is restricted action, truth procedures'
confidence in themselves.
The petit-bourgeois comedy. Here we have a highly
prized modern variation of the French intimist tradi-
tion. The comedy revolves around a young hystericized
woman, of a certain vacuity, who is fI'aught by her
amorous, social and even intellectual wanderings. As
such, this genre is linked to Marivaux and Musset, as it
is to the Marianne of Caprices, and given its clear
delineation in the work of its founding father, Rohmer.
Almost all recent French 'auteurs' have heen involved
in this business. It is still a minor genre with regard to
the American comedy of the 1930s and 40s, which is
similar in many respects, termed by Stanley Cavell the
comedy of 'remarriage'.
Why such minor inferiority? We should be able to
respond to this question. For example, it could be said
that the central weakness of these films is that the
central stakes of the intrigue remain undetermined. In
the American films as in Marivaux there is a decision or
a declaration at the end of the day. The comedy of
uncertainty and the double game is articulated around
this fixed point. This is what allows Marivaux's prose to
be simultaneously underhand and extremely firm. If'
119
Infinite Thought
Rohmer remains superior to his descendants, it is
because among his Christian allusions to grace, he
occasionally finds something which is at stake. In Conte
d'Automne it is obvious that the main motif is: 'Happier
arc the simple of mind, the grace of love is reserved for
them.' Nothing of the sort is to be found in the work ofa
Desplechin, a Barbosa or a Jacquot. In the end, this
genre only gains artistic force when it gives itself: on the
basis of an unshakeable confidence in love's capacities, a
fixed point, such as required by all comedies in order to
tie down their internal wanderings.
Psychoanalysis, made much use of by current auteurs
(including the sad Woody Allen), is a dead end, because,
paradigmatically, it is the place of the interminable.
vVe can no longer symbolize the fixed point by
marriage or even remarriage. No doubt, as Rohmer
suggests, and sometimes Techine, it is to be found where
love encounters another truth procedure. It would then
be necessary to formalize a subjective ex-centring, a
conversion, a visible distancing, and finally, a displace-
ment with regard to the dominant conception, even if
the latter serves as initial material, a conception which is
a mix of narcissism and hystcricized inertia.
6' Cinema and the other arts
The generalization of the notion of impurity must not cause
us to forget that it is first of all an impurity with regard to
other arts. What are the contemporary forms of this
question?
(a) On cinema and music. The schema must be drawn up
on the basis of rhythm. vVe will call 'rhythm' not exactly
the characteristics of the editing, but a diffused
temporality which fixes, even if it is a matter of a
120
Philosophy and cinema
sequence shot, the tonality 01' the movement (staccato.
or hurried, or expanded, (;1' slow and majestic, etc. .. . j.
Rhythm engages every dement of the film, and not only
the organization of shots and sequences. For example,
the style of acting or the intensitv of the colours
contribute to rhythm just as much as the speed of the
succession of shots. At base. rhythm is the srcne-ral
pulsation of filmic transitions. lvlusic is a type of
immediate commentary upon the latter, often purely
redundant or emphatic. Yet it is clearly rhythm which
ties cinema to music.
The twentieth century, which, after all, was the
century of cinema, essentially witnessed three types of
music. First, there was post-romantic music which
maintained the artifices of the finishinc tonalitv such
as found in Mahler or symp'honic
melancholy, and which continues, via Strauss or
Rachmaninov, right through to the current day, and
singularly in cinema. Second, the great creation of
American blacks, jazz, which has its major artists from
Armstrong; to Monk, but to which we must also attach,
in mass, everything which falls under the term 'vout h
music', from rock to techno. Finally, there was a
continuation through rupture of veritable musical
creation, which, from Schoenberg to Brian Fernev-
hough, liquidated tonality and constructed a universe ;)1
musical singularities, serial and post-serial.
At the cinema, we have watched a massive mO\'(O-
ment, as yet incomplete (because every nco-classical
film reclassicizes music), from post-romantic music t()
post-jazz music. This accompanies, at the level of
rhythm, a passage from an emphatic aesthetic of
dilation (taken to its extreme in the openings of
Westerns, which are genuinely symphonic) to all
aesthetic of fragmenta tion, whose matrix, as everyone
121
Infinitl' Thought
remarks, is the video clip, a sub-product of youth-
music,
The central problem seems to be the following: could
a rhythm be invented which would tie cinema to the
real of music as art, and not to the decomposed forms
olsyrnphonisrn or the demagogic: forms of youth music?
How is it possible that cinema has left aside the entirety
of contemporary musical creation? Why, besides post-
romanticism and post-jazz, isn't there a cinema of post-
serial music? Do we not have here it being a matter,
after all, of what has been, for a century, genuine music
one of the reasons which - cinema being the essential
mass art -- relegates the sole restrained action of
musical creation to the shadows? \Ve must return to
the few attempts at filmic and thus rhythmic incor-
poration of the music of our times, in Straub or
Oliveira's work, in order to discern the operations
which make a strength out of it, but which have also
limited it.
(b) On cinema and theatre. L'Art du Cinema has spent a lot
of time working on this question. In order to progress
further the best question to be asked is probably the
following: What is a cinematic actor today? This is a
question which traverses all the other questions. Today,
an American actor is dominated by the imperative of
sexual visibility, by confrontation with extreme violence
and by millenarian heroism. He is an immobile
receptacle for a type of disintegrating cosmos. He alone
bears the latter's consistency, or what remains of it. In
the end, he forms a type of invulnerable body. More-
over, this is why the actor is essentially a man, an
impassive athlete. Women are almost uniformly dec-
orative, far more so now than in the previous epoch,
during which they were able to occupy the pernicious
centre of the narrative. Or, in the case of neo-comcdy,
122
Philosophv and cinema
women arc mere figures from magazines, neurotic prey
for 'women's problems'.
\Ve should ask ourselves what exactly is going on in
cinema's impurification of the theatre actor. The
reappearance within cinema of the subtle actor or
actress that is, one who would divert the evidence of the
image through their acting, who would keep him or
herself in reserve with regard to this evidence, and who
would poetize it - such a reappearance would be
welcome news, and it is news whose traces must be
tracked down (they exist). Obviously what is in
question in the film must allow the actor to act in such
a way; this means that the gap between what is shown
and the subjective fold of such showing must remain
measured. Techinc, fill' example, succeeds in doing just
this in several sequences. In any case, what is certain is
that one cannot lend support to a subtle actor if one
incessantly juxtaposes him or her, as some sort of
resistant massioity, to a visual and sonorous harassment,
or, ifhis or her body and its gestures is abandoned to the
interminable plasticity of neuroses.
7 A general hypothesis
At a completely global level, we can frame the particular
enquiries which we have just set out by formulating, at our
own risk, the following hypothesis: the moment is one qf neo-
classicism.
This hypothesis signifies three things:
The strictly modern subtractive sequence (subtraction of
the actor and of the narrative construction, prevalence of
the text, indiscernibility of fiction and documentary,
etc.) is saturated.
No new configuration is perceptible qua event.
123
Infinite Thought
What we see is an exasperated and overdrawn version of
pre-existent schemas, or a manipulation to the second
degree of these schemas, genres included, which are cited
and submitted to a hystericization of their sources. This
is what can be termed contemporary formalism. Its most
general signature is the mobility of the ~ a ~ l e r a w l ~ i ~ h
steps over the notion of the shot by aimmg to Jom
together, in a single movement, visible configurations
which are disparate, or classically non-unifiable.
Yet, against formalism, whose encounter with any real is
improbable, or exterior (hence the ends of formalist films,
which most often relapse into sugared realism, as ifsaying or
affirming supposed a renunciation of the movement of form)
one can predict an academic reaction, which has even
already begun here and there.
We will term nco-classical the effort at an internal
purification of the academic reaction and its regime of
visibility. There is already something of this genre in the
best sequences of The Titanic, or even Brassed Off It is a
matter of operations which assume the reactive conjuncture,
but which work it on the basis of the saturated modern
sequence. A little like Picasso between the cubist sequence of
the 1910s, and the opening, from the 1930s-40s onwards, of
genuine non-figurative art. He accepted a certain return to
representative forms, but he worked them from the
standpoint of cubism itself.
Our last question will be: What are the few clues of such
an effort worth today? What do they promise?
Notes
1. Translator's note: This article originally appeared as 'Con-
siderations sur l'ctat actuel clu cinema', L' Art du Cinema 21
(March 1999). The latter is a review appearing five times a
124
Philosophy and cinema
year which collects the ongoing work of a number of
researchers. See www.imaginet.fr/secav for their archives.
2. Translator's note: L'Organisation politique is the activist group
of which Badiou is a founding member.
3. Translator's note: The PCF is the French Communist Party.
125
CHAPTER 7
Philosophy and the' death of
. .,
commumsm
Will the evocation of death allow us to find an appropriate
way of naming what we have witnessed? Yet are we solely
witnesses." And besides, who is this 'we' that I am
interrogating, and what could be said concerning what it
is? There is no longer a 'we', there hasn't been for a long
time. The 'we' entered into its twilight well before the 'death
of communism'. Or rather, the dismantlement of the Soviet
Party-State is nothing more than the objective crystal-
lization (because objectivity, or representation, is always the
State, or a state, a state of the situation) of the fact that a
certain thought of 'we' has been inoperative for more than
twenty years. For it was 'we communists', as a specification
added to 'we revolutionaries', which in turn gave political
and subjective force to the 'we' supposed as the ultimate
referent, the 'we' of class, the 'we proletarians', that none
declared, but that every ideal community posed prior to
itself as a historical axiom. Or, in other words: We, faithful
to the event of October' I 7.
When I say 'we communists', and even more so when I
think of Lenin (it is of his thought that I think, and not of his
126
Philosophy and the 'death (if communism'
precarious statues, even if nobody will ever make me say 'St
Petersburg') or of the Russian revolution, I do not of
the a party that I have always fought, always held fc)r
what It has never ceased to be: the site of a politics which is
hesitan.t :md brutal, the site of an arrogant incapacity.
Even less s,o IS It a matter of the CSSR, despotic grey totality,
of October '17 into its contrary (politics under the
condition of Lenin, the insurrection in its seizure and its
catching hold, turned into the police-run blindness of the
State). Thought's decisions and what they carry along with
them at the level of more or less secret nominations are
to institutional figures. Presentation, multiplicity
":,,Ithout is never entirely grasped within representa-
tion. No, It was not a question of localizable entities, or
apparatuses or symbols. There was something at stake,
something which had the power of making us stand up in
thought. For it is for thought in general that there was no
other conceivable 'we' than that under the banner of
communism. 'Communism' named the effective history of
'we'. It was in this manner that, as an adolescent, I
understood Sartre's vulgar maxim: 'Every anti-communist
is a dog,' for every anti-communist manifested his hatred of
'we', his determination to exist solely within the limits of se!I
possession - which is always the possession of a few goods.
Today the latent universal statement is that every
communist is a dog. But this is not important - or rather
no more important than the historical soiling of a noble
word, which, after all, is the destiny of words, especially the
most noble: to be dragged in blood and mud. It is not
important, because the figure of 'we' to which this word was
devoted has been long since abolished. The word no longer
covered other than representation, the party, the
State, the ineluctable usurpation, by the One's deadly lock
of what was for a time the glorious uprise of the
multiple. The 'Death of communism' signifies that, in the
127
Infinite Thought
long term, what is dead in presentation the emblematic
'we' under which, since October, or since 1793, political
thought conditioned a philosophy of the community - must
also die in representation. Whatever no longer has the force
of the pure multiple can no longer preserve the powers of the
One. \Ve must rejoice in this: it is the mortality of the
structural capacities of usurpation.
Of course, ifrequired, at the level of the order of the State
(of things) there is a 'death of communism'. But, for
thought, it is no more than a second death. Outside the
State, there among the emblem and the insurrection,
'communism' had, for a long time, named nothing more
than the tomb of a secular 'we'.
That this death be a second death is attested by a
remarkable fact of opinion, which is nevertheless real: the
'death of communism' is rhetorically deployed alongside the
'break up of the Soviet empire'. That 'communism' thus be
tied to 'empire' in the destiny of what is mortal proves -
since subjectively 'communism' named the universal com-
munity, the end of class, and thus the contrary of all empire
- that this 'death' is only the event-or-dying of what is
alreadv dead.
' E v ~ n t ' ? Does death come or arrive in the form of an
event? And what is there to say of such a second or
secondary death? I hold death to be a fact, an attestation of
belonging subjacent to the neutral plasticity of natural
being. Everything dies - which also means no death is an
event. Death is found on the side of multiple being, of its
ineluctable dissociation. Death is the return of the multiple
to the void from which it is woven. Death is under the law of
the multiple (or mathematical) essence of being qua being, it
is indifferent to existence. 'Homo liber denulla re minus quam de
morte cogitat,' decidedly, Spinoza was right; there is nothing
to be thought in death, even if it be the death of an empire,
other than the intrinsic nullity of being.
128
Philosopl!y and the' death of communism'
Every event is an infinite proposition in the radical form
of a singularity and a supplement. Everyone feels, and not
without anxiety, that there is nothing proposed to us by the
current dislocations. There was a Polish event, between the
Gdansk strikes (or even earlier, during the formation of the
KOR, the invention of an innovative route between workers
and intellectuals) and Jaruzclski's coup d'etat. There was
the sketch of a German event, during the Leipzig protests.
Even in Russia there was the uncertain attempt on the part
of the Vorkouta miners. But of truth faithful to these
irruptions, nothing, such that everything remains undecid-
able. Then Valesa, the Pope, Helmut Kohl, Yeltsin ...
Who would dare interpret these proper names in the burst
or the lightning strike of an evental proposition? Who
could ci te one sale unheard-of sta tement, one sole
nomination without precedent, in the erosion, both sudden
and soft, undivided and confused, of the despotic form of
the Party-State? These years will remain exemplary for the
following: that an abrupt and complete transformation in a
situation does not in any way signify that the grace of an
event has occurred. I liked saying what we said before, to
keep our distance from these 'movements' so celebrated by
opinion: 'not everything which moves is red'. 2 In the
serenity of the concept, let us say that not everything that
changes is an event, and that surprise, speed, and disorder
can be mere simulacra of the event, and not its promise of
truth. The simulacra of the 'Romanian revolution', now
recognized, also give us a paradigm. In truth, what has
occurred is nothing more than this: what was subjectively
dead must enter into the State of death, and finally be
recognized there as such.
Moreover, how could the 'death of communism' be the
name of an event once we remark that every historical event
is communist, inasmuch as 'communist' designates the
trans-temporal subjectivity of emancipation?
129
Infinite Thought
The particular figure constituted in the lineage of October
'17 of 'we communists' has certainly been obsolete for a long
time (since when? - a delicate question, which is not a
matter of philosophy, but of politics. Politics alone, from the
point of the prescription that opens it up, thinks the lacunary
periodicity of political subjectivity." In my eyes, in any case,
it is at least since May '68 as tar as France is concemed.)
However, philosophically, 'communist' is not reducible to
the finished sequence during which parties attributed the
term to themselves, nor to the sequence during which the
idea of a politics of emancipation was being debated under
this name. For every word it seizes, however recent,
philosophy seeks an in-temporal consonance. Philosophy
exists solely insofar as it extracts concepts from a historical
pressure which would grant them nothing other than a
relative sense. What does 'communist' signify in an absolute
sense? What is it that philosophy is able to think under this
name (philosophy under the condition of a politics)?
Egalitarian passion, the Idea of justice, the will to break
with the compromises of the service of goods, the deposing of
egotism, the intolerance of oppression, the vow of an end to
the State;" the absolute pre-eminence of multiple-presenta-
tion over representation; the tenacious militant determina-
tion, set in motion by some incalculable event, to maintain,
come what may, the proposition of a singularity without
predicate, an infinity without determination or immanent
hierarchy; what I term the generic, which when its
procedure is political - provides the ontological concept of
democracy, or of communism, it's the same thing.:>
This subjective form: philosophy recognizes that it has
always been and will always be a constant escort ofthe great
popular uprisings, when the latter are, precisely, not captive
and opaque (as is everything shown to us today; national-
isms, the fascination of the market, mafiosi and demagogues,
all hauled up high on the parliamentary mast), but in free
130
Philosophy and the 'death oj communism'
rupture with being-in-situation, or counted-being, which
would rein them in. From Spartacus to Mao (not the Mao
of the State, who also exists, but the extreme,
complicated Mao), from the Greek democratic insurrections
to the worldwide decade 1966-76, it is and has been, in this
sense, a question of communism. It will always be a question
of communism, even if the word, soiled, is replaced by some
other designation of the concept that it covers, the
philosophical and thus eternal concept of rebellious
subjectivity. I named such, around 1975, the 'communist
invariants'." I maintain the expression, against that of the
'death of communism'. And that- at the verv moment in
which a monstrous avatar, literally (a 'State of
communism'!) is falling apart - it thus be a matter of the
following: any event, which is politically foundational of
truth, exposes the subject that it induces to the etcrnirv of
the equal. 'Communism', in having named this eternity,
cannot adequately serve to name a death.
Here I shall strike up (before the prohibition of eternity
prepared by any justification of commodities) a chant of
which I am the author, a chant 'after the style of Saint-John
Perse' as was said in the grand siecle, 'after the style of the
Ancients'." Written eighteen veal'S azo it was then in
'- " b ,
agreement with the leading active opinion, that of the
revolutionaries of the period after May '68, and singularly of
the Maoists. Published twelve years ago, it had already
begun, again, to smack of heresy. Actually sung on stage
seven years ago, it had become mysterious, - strangely
obstinate. And today:'! As for myself, I have retouched it a
little (certainly not in repentance of its sense, but simply
because I have less ofa taste for Saint-John Perse nowadays.
Against aesthetic nihilism, I hold that convictions and
commitment are more durable than tastes. Must be.': To
these variations in its coincidence with the spirit of the times,
the chant opposes a measure which is its own, and which
131
frylnite Thought
touches upon, as we shall sec, centuries, millennia. I t is thus
also (and this is why, even absolutely alone - which is not the
case - I would murmur it here) a chant of announcement, the
multiple name of what is always to come.
Who then spoke of solitude:
Defeated! Legendary defeated!
I call here for your unacceptance.
You: oppressed of backward times, slaves of the sun-sacrifice
mutilated for the darkness of tombs. Men of great labour sold
with the earth whose colour they bear. Children exiled by the
closure of the fields to the service of cotton fabrics and coal.
For it is enough to wait, and to think: no one accepts, never.
Spartacus, Jacquou le croquant, Thomas Munzer.
You, vagabonds of the plain, Taipings of the great loess,
Chartists, Luddites, plotters from the labyrinth of thefaubourgs,
Babouvist egalitarians, sans-culottes, cornrnunards, spartakists.
All the people of popular sects and seditious parties, section-
leaders of the time of the Terror, men of the pike and pitchfork,
of the barricades and burnt castles.
The crowd of so many others: to have done with what they
were; discovering in the declaration of their act the latent
separating thought.
You: sailors throwing their officers to carnivorous fish, utopians
of elegiac cities fighting in forest clearings, Quechua miners in
the Andes greedy for dynamite. And these rebel Africans in
successive tides amid the colonial stench under the protection of
God and of shields of panthers. Without forgetting he who, all
alone, took up his hunting rifle, as if for wild boars, and began
the resistance to the aggressor in the forests of Europe.
For of what breaks the circle nothing is lost. No one forgets,
ever.
Robespierre, Saint-Just, Blanqui, Varlin.
You: deployment in the streets of great processions of every
kind. Sinister students, girls demanding the rights of women,
132
Philosoph} and the' death of communism'
banners of great clandestine trade unions, old-timers woken to
the of general strikes, veterans of failed coups, workers
on bikes.
The few-numbered (epochs against the grain): maintainers of
the. exact idea in the basements with hand-run presses.
Thinkers of the obsolete and of the to-come. Sacrificial
consciences white like the Rose. Or even those, armed with
long bamboos who made a science out of the skewering of the
fattest policemen, while all the rest remained obscure to them.
out of a dimensionless liberty, writing forms the
innumerable.
Marx, Engels.
You: haranguers and warriors of the peasants' league,
camisard prophets, women of clubs, of assemblies and
and high-school students from grassroots,
action, triple U1110n and grand alliance committees. Soviets of
factori.es. and companies, popular tribunals, grand
commissions of Villagers for the redistribution of land the
fIlling of an irrigation dam, the formation of militia. Revolu-
tionary groups for the control of prices, the execution of
prevaricators and the surveillance of stocks.
For meditation upon what gathers and multiplies will not rest.
Nothing is forever disseminated.
Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg, Chou en Lar, Mao Tse-
tung.
All of you. You judge what is lacking and you examine the
abolition: .
'Who speaks offailure? What was done and thought was done
and thought. In its beginning, its time and its caesura. Leave
the weighing of results to the accountants. For what was at
stake in our reign was the invention of separation. and not the
establishment of the weighty office of a duration.'
The infinity of situations, who then will exhaust them: The
event in which the dice are cast, who then will appease it?
Trust yourself to your imperative. Turn yourself away from
133
Injinite Thought
pmver. That you be indifferent to the verdict, and that nothing
in you ever consents.
To necessity.
The satisfi'ed, they can pass OIl. The fearful, they
proliferate. It is our intact singularity has made this
great hole in the world in which, century after century, the
semaphore of communism is fixed.'
The glancing light of the semaphore, th.e of
centuries by the rare pivoting insurrection of this light;
would this' all be extinct because a medioere tyranny
decided to take it upon itself to announce that it was dead?
This is exactly what I do not believe.
Note that it is not the uprisen solar masses who decided
the end of the Party-State, the end of the Soviet empire. The
regulating of this' elephant occurred through an
disordering, which was both concerted and. yet de":Old of
perspective. The affair to this day entl:e.ly a
state affair. No political invention - or mvention of politics
has lent any articulation to the That
thousands of people marked here or there, the streets
and in a few factories, that they were happy with what was
happening was the least that they could do! an.
indication that thev thought and wanted the expenence of
a noveltv without 'precedent, alas, that was not observed.
And could it have been otherwise if it is true, as
affirmed bv all and sundry, that what they think and want,
the people'ofRussia and Hungary and Bulgaria,.is not.hing
other than what already exists, and has done for quite a
while, in our sad countries called, who knows why,
'Western'? Such a will can do nothing but comfort the
pre-eminence of the state and constitutional of these
processes. Elections and property P?htlClans and
racketeers: is this all they want? If so, It is quite reasonable
to trust the execution of such processes, not to the inventions
134
Philosophy and the' death of communism'
of thought, but to specialists in the manoeuvre of
apparatuses, indeed to the experts of the International
Monetary Fund. As for a little supplement for the soul, the
Pope is in on the affair. And as for a touch of passionate
excess - without which the simulacrum of an event would be
far too peaceful - there will be a search among history as far
back as before the war of 1914 to find the means to cast one
bestial nationality against another.
If there is no event, it is because what is at stake is the
history of States, and in no way the history of politics. This
distinction is crucial. It is easy to object that the history of
communism tied the 'Soviet' state paradigm to militant
subjectivity, and that the dismantling of one closed down
the other. I maintain the opposite thesis: militant sub-
jectivity, philosophically received in the form of the 'we',
was obsolete or inactive well before the system of the Party-
State entered into the sequence of its ruin.
What exact role did the 'Soviet paradise' play in the
subjective, that is political, constitution of militancy named
communist? It is a major theme of received opinion that it
played an important role, and that the 'revelations' for
example, those of Solzhenitsyn - of state and Stalinist
infamy bore a fatal blow to 'utopia'. But this story docs not
stand up, just like any story which tries to describe a
subjectivity (in this case, political) under the categories of
lies, error and illusion. No real political figure organizes its
consistency around the nothingness of a fallacious repre-
sentation, nor has a paradigm (a State or a norm) at the
centre of its determinations. Certainly, October' 17 as event
engages practical fidelities, but the thought which cements
them together depends on the event as such, and not on its
state projection. And the becoming of these fidelities is
tributary, not to propaganda (servile vision of conscious-
ncsscs), but to situations. The force of the communist
reference in France owes its (debatable, but from an
135
Infinite Thought
entirely different point of view) first of all to the outcome of
the First World War, then to the Popular Front, then to
antifascism and the Resistance; and very little to the
anarchic and bloody history of the Soviet State. Any
svstematic conjunction with the history of that State has
bought itself, not an increase in power, but painful weakness
and difficult crises. In the same manner, in order to create
his own resource in historicitv, Mao thinks not the Russian
economy but the Chinese peasantry and the struggle against
the Japanese invasion. At the level of subjectivity, the
concrete history of communisms (I refer to them this time in
their common identity, that of parties, groups, militants,
official or dissident) does not rely upon the 'paradisaical'
State, which serves solely as a random objectification. At the
beginning, the most inventive, those who attuned the party
to the essential history of the place in which its actions took
place, Mao, Tito, Enver Hoxha; all of them finished by
breaking with the matrix of the Soviet State - they saw
clearly that its objectivity did not even serve their
immediate intentions.
How, otherwise, can one explain that this sequential
communism reached its greatest power, including its
seduction for thought, between 1930 and 1960; that is, in
the very epoch in which the Stalinist crimes were
unleashed? And that it entered into its twilight from
Brczhnev onwards, an era of 'stagnation' in which people
were no longer killed, and in which the physiognomy of the
State, always a little repugnant, nevertheless bore compar-
ison to that of, let's say, the United States of the Vietnam
War, or to that of the Brazil of the security guerillas
( w h ~ r e , apparently, a superb market economy reigns)?
What explanation is there? The blindness offaith? But why
faith when everything is getting worse, and the weakening
of such faith when everything is not as bad? Ignorance,
that useful contingency?
136
Philosophy and the' death if communism'
There is a hypothesis which is both stronger and simpler:
it is that the political and thus subjective history of
communisms is essentially divided from their State history.
The criminal objectivity of the Stalinist State is one thing,
the militant subjectivity of communists is another; the latter
has its own referents, its own singular development, and its
own non-objective prescriptions. Criminal objectivity only
ever functioned as a general argument - it has always
perfectly functioned for reactionaries, read Tintin in the land
of the Soviets, a 1929 text - inasmuch as political subjectivity,
the sequential 'we', was obsolete.
I t is not the revelation of crime, by Solzhenitsyn or
anyone else, which ruined the political hypothesis of
communism ('communism' understood here within the
twentieth century's sequence of 'we'). It is the death - once
again, the ancient death - of the hypothesis which allowed
these 'revelations' to have such efficacy. Because if political
subjectivity has become unable to support, by itself, in
thought and in act, the singularity of its trajectory (and thus
also its philosophical connection to emancipatory eternity,
to the invariants), then there is no longer any other
reference than that of the State, and it is true that the
criminal character of such and such State becomes an
argument without answer.
It is not because the Stalinist state was criminal that the
Leninist prescriptions, crystallized in October' 17, ceased to
expose communism to its eternity within time (moreover,
what relation is there between these prescriptions, that
event and the Stalinist State, apart from pure empirical
consequence?). It is because there were no longer any
possible militants of such an exposition, for intrinsic and
purely political reasons, that the Stalinist State once it had
retroactively become the absurd incarnation of the Idea -
functioned as an unanswerable historical argument against
the Idea itself.
137
Infinite Thought
This is whv the ruin of the Party-State is a process
immanent to the history of States. It succumbs to its objective
solitude, to its subjective abandon. It succumbs by the
absenting of politics, and singularly of any politics
deserving the name 'communist'. The anarchic confused
deplorable spectacle - but necessary and legitimate
because what is dead must die - of this ruin testifies, not
to the 'death of communism', but to the immense
consequenees of its lack.
Notes
1. Translator's note: The original text formed the first chapter of
A. Badiou, D'un desastre ohscur (Paris: Editions de l'aube,
1998), 7-25.
2. Translator's note: In French the slogan rhymes: 'Tout ce qui
bouge n'est pas rouge.'
3. The philosophical statement about these questions is limited
to posing the rarity of politics as generic procedure, its
discontinuous existence. In my Theorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil,
1982) I formulate this in the following terms: 'Every subject is
political. This is why there are few subjects, and little
politics.' The body of philosophical statements concerning
this point is very complex. It involves the doctrine, founded
by Sylvain Lazarus, of historical modes oj politics.
4. Translator's note: The service of goods (le service des biens) is a
phrase coined by Lacan to designate political and social
organization functioning under the register of demand, rather
than that of desire. See.J. Lacan, Seminar VII: The Ethics of
Psychoanalysis 1959-60, trans. D. Porter (London: Routledge,
1992).
5. The generic that is, the status in thoug-ht of the infinite
multiplicity as any multiplicitv whatsoever, as the materiality of a
truth - is the most important concept advanced by the
philosophical propositions of my book L'Etre et l' evenement
138
Philosophy and the' death of communism'
(Paris: Seuil, 1988) [Being and Event, trans. O. Feltham
(London: Continuum Books, forthcoming) J.
6. The theory of communist invariants is sketched in mv little
book, written in collaboration with Francois l 3 a l m ~ s , De
l'ideologie (Paris: Maspero, 1976).
7. This 'chorus of the divisible defeat' is an extract from
L'Echarpe rouge, rornanopera (Paris: Maspero, 1976). Re-
worked, the 'rornanopera' became the libretto of a real opera,
for which Georges Aperghis composed the music, and which
was performed at the Lyon opera, at Avignon, then at
Chaillot, in a staging by Antoine Vitez with sets by Yannis
Kokkos in 198,1-. The chorus, over astonishing, complex and
violent music, was sung by all of the opera's players, in
emblematic workers' outfits. Pierre Vial crossed the stage,
sheltering from who knows what storm via the effect of an old
umbrella. He had the air of a survivor, of a tramp of eternal
insurrections, and he grumbled 'communism! communism!'
in an unforgettable manner.
Once again, the unappeasable pain caused in me bv the
death of Antoine Vitez. The 'death of communism', h;wv it
tormented him! And yet, how he managed to hold onto it
with his clarity! His text 'Cc qui nous reste' ['\Vhat remains
for us'] must he read, from 1990, so close to his death. It is
included in the precious and loyal collection proposed by
Daniele Sallenave and Georges Banu, under the title Le thcdlre
des idees (Paris: Gallimard, 1991). I would like to cite the
eighth statement from this text: 'The crime- what can be
termed for simplification Stalin's crime, hut it clearly goes
beyond Stalin - is that of leaving hope in the hands of the
irrational, of obscurantists, of demagogues.' But after the
execution of the crime, Antoine Vitez, as always, goes straight
to prescriptions. To what he calls 'our role': 'sarcasm,
invective and prediction, critique of the current times,
announce'. In these few pages I am, I think, a player of
this 'role'. There will be many others.
139
Infinite Thought
8. 'The invention of politics' is the title of a book - the last by
Moses Finley, the great historian of antiquity. It is a
significant reference in the theoretical work of Sylvain
Lazarus. His commentary can be read in S. Lazarus,
L' Anthropologie du nom (Paris: Scuil, 1996).
140
CHAPTER 8
Philosophy and the 'war
against terrorism'
A Method
Faced with the destruction of New York's Twin Towers by
planes whose passengers, like the nco-pilots - those
assassinating impostors - were transformed into incendiary
projectiles, there was, everywhere, the evidence of a
certain affect.' For those who more or less secretly
celebrated - an extremely numerous crowd, hundreds of
millions of human beings, all enemies of the lugubrious
and solitary American superpower -- it was nevertheless a
matter of an unbelievable mass crime. 'Attack' is an
inappropriate word; it evokes the nihilist bombings of the
Tsar's coaches, or the attack of Sarajevo - it has a fin de
siecle resonance to it, but that of another century. At the
beginning of this millennium, the evidence of that affect
registers the extraordinary combination of violence, calm,
quiet relentlessness, organization, indifference to fire,
agony and destruction, which was necessary in conditions
of such technological sophistication to bring about the
death of many thousands of common people and ordinary
141
Infinite Thought
workers deep in the heart of a great metropolis. It was an
enormous murder, lengthily premeditated, and yet silent.
No one has claimed responsibility for it. That is why one
could say that, formally speaking, this mass crime - which
aimed, anonymously and with the most perfect cruelty, to
destabilize a 'normal' situation - conjures up the fascist
concept of action. And as a consequence, everywhere
throughout the world, and quite apart from the immediate
position of one's soul- devastated or complicit - there was
a paralysing stupefaction, a kind of paroxysmally denied
disbelief: the affect that signals a disaster.
Philosophy, of course, must take the evidence of this affect
into account. Nevertheless it is also philosophy's duty to not
remain satisfied with affect. Relig-ion may declare its trust in
the heart's self-evidences. Art, says Gilles Deleuze, gives
form to percepts and affects. Philosophy, however, must
depart from the latter to arrive at the concept - this is its
arid destination no matter how traumatic the point from
which its research departs, or a construction is undertaken.
As such, a second kind of evidence is proposed to
philosophical labour; this time not that of an affect, but of a
name, the name 'terrorism'. This nominal evidence (that
the mass crime of New York - signalled by the affect of the
disaster - is a terrorist action) has since played a decisive
role. By fixing a designated enemy, it has cemented a world
coalition, authorized the UN to declare that the US is in a
state of 'legitimate defence', and initiated the prog-ramming
of the targets of vengeance. At a deeper level, the word
'terrorism' has a triple function:
1. It determines a subject - this is the subject who is
targeted by the terrorist act, who is struck, who is
plunged into mourning and who must lead the vengeful
riposte. This subject is named either 'Our Societies', or
'The West', or 'The Democracies' or, even, 'America'
142
Philosophy and the' war against terrorism'
but the latter at the price, swiftly paid by the editors,
that 'we' are 'all American'.
2. It supports predicates - on this occasion terrorism is
'Islamic'.
3. It determines a sequence - the entire current sequence is
from now on considered as 'the war against terrorism'.
vVe are warned that it will be a long war, an entire
epoch. In short, the 'war ag-ainst Islamic terrorism' takes
over from the Cold (and Hot: Korea, Vietnam, Cuba
... ) War against communism.
There, once again, philosophy has a duty: if it is to register
the widespread evidence of the word 'terrorism' as an
important symptom, then it must examine the latter's origin
and application.
1n short, there. arc two ruks to the method. First,
philosophy is never transitive to affect no matter how
widespread the latter might be. A crime is a crime, agreed.
But the consequences of a crime - even one that, formally, is
fascistic- cannot mechanically be other crimes. And this
desig-nation, 'crime', should also be applied to State crimes,
including those - innumerable - committed by 'democratic'
States. As we well know -- in fact, at the least since Aeschylus'
Oresteia and thus for a long time -- the question is always to
know how to reinstate justice in the place of vengeance.
Second, however commonly held the dominant nomina-
tions may be, philosophy cannot accept them without
critical examination. Philosophy knows that in general such
nominations are under the control of the powers that be and
their propaganda.
As such, we will proceed to a meticulous examination of
names. Our point of departure will be the central name,
'terrorism'. Then, following upon that, we will submit the
trio of the predicate ('Islamic'), the subject ('The West'),
and the sequence ('the war against terrorism') to critique.
143
Infinite Thought
B Terrorism?
Originally, a 'terrorist' was someone who legitimated and
practised Terror. It was an objective designation that was
only defamatory for certain political adversaries. For
example, during the French Revolution the Grand Jacobins
of the Committee for Public Safety had no problem
declaring themselves 'terrorists'. They officially made
Terror part of daily business. By that they meant a
provisional but complete confusion of political and judicial
power, justified by exceptional circumstances (civil war and
war), the repressive deployment of expeditious measures
without appeal, and widespread recourse to the death
penalty. Terror was explicitly thought of as a contingent
necessity (Robespierre was known for his categorical and
principled opposition to the death penalty) when political
virtue - that is, the republican conviction - was still too
precarious to assure victory over the enormous coalition of
domestic and foreign counter-revolutionaries. Saint-Just
asked - 'What do they want, those who want neither terror
nor virtue?' The Thermidorians provided the response -
they wanted the end of the revolution, the reign of
corruption, and suffrage for the wealthy alone.
It is remarkable that the word 'terrorism', which clearly
qualified a particular figure of the exercise of State power,
has come, little by little, to signify exactly the contrary.
Indeed, for a long time now the word 'terrorist' has been
used by the State to designate all violent and/or armed
political adversaries, precisely in view of their non-Slate
character. As examples we can list the Russian terrorists of
Narodnaia Volin at the end of the last century; all those of the
anarchist tradition, including the Bande Ii Bonnot in France;
and the character of Chen, in Man's Fate, who, already,
incarnated the decision of the suicide attack and to which
Malraux gave - without justifying it politically - a terrible
144
Philosophy and the' war against terrorism'
grandeur. But the word has finally come to designate - and
it is here that it takes on a negative connotation - from the
position of the dominant, all those who engage in a combat,
using whatever means at hand, against a given order which
is judged to be unacceptable. 'Terrorists', the anti-Nazi
resistors for Petain and his militia; 'terrorists', the Algerian
patriots of the KLF for every French government without
exception between 1954 and 1962; as are also the
Palestinian fighters for the State of Israel, and the Chechens
for Putin and his clique. 'Terrorists' lastly, for Bush and his
servile patriotic opinion, the nebulous, or at least extremely
opaque, group of those who attack and incriminate
Americans' goods and lives.
It must be said that today, at the end of its semantic
evolution, the word 'terrorist' is an intrinsically propagan-
distic term. It has no neutral readability. It dispenses with
all reasoned examination of political situations, of their
causes and consequences.
In fact, it is a term that has become essentially formal.
'Terrorist' no longer designates a political orientation or the
possibilities of such and such a situation, but rather, and
exclusively, the form of action. And it does so according to
three criteria. It is first and foremost - for public opinion
and those who attempt to shape it- a spectacular, non-State
action, which emerges - reality or myth - from clandestine
networks. Second, it is a violent action aiming to kill or
destroy. Lastly, it is an action which makes no distinction
between civilians and non-civilians.
This formalism approaches Kant's moral formalism. This
is why a 'moral philosophy' specialist like Monique Canto
believed she could declare that the absolute condemnation
of 'terrorist' actions and the symmetrical approval of
reprisals, including those of Sharon in Palestine, could and
should precede any examination of the situation, and be
abstracted from any concrete political considerations. When
145
Infinite Thought
it is a matter of 'terrorism', according to this Iron lady of a
new breed, to explain is already to justify. It is thus
appropriate to punish without delay and without further
examination. Henceforth, 'terrorism' qualifies an action as
the formal figure of Evil. Moreover, this is exactly how Bush
from the very beginning conceived of the deployment of
vengeance: Good (in concrete, State terrorism directed
against peasant villages and the ancient cities of Central
Asia) against Evil (non-State terrorism directed at '\Vestern'
buildings) .
It is at this point, where rationality risks collapsing
beneath the immensity of the propagandistic evidence, that
one must be careful with the details. In particular, one must
examine the effects of the nominal chain induced by the
passage from the adjective 'terrorist' - as the formal
qualification of an action to the substantive 'terrorism'.
Indeed, such is the moment when, insidiously, form becomes
substance. Three kinds of efkct are thereby rendered
possible: a subject-effect (facing 'terrorism' is a 'we'
avenging itself); an alterity-effect (this 'terrorism' is the
other of Civilization, the 'Islamic' barbarian); and finally, a
periodization-effect (now commences the long 'war against
terrorism') .
C Who is this' we' facing terrorism?
It is obvious that 'terrorism' is a non-existent substance, an
empty name. But this void is precious because it can be
filled. And, first of all, as always, it is filled (as it was for 'the
Bache' or 'the jew') by that which is supposed to be opposed
to it (the 'Frenchman' or the 'Aryan'). On this occasion,
facing 'terrorism' there is a 'we' defending itself Now,
outside America - a name sufficient for American imperi-
alist patriotism but hardly so for the anti-terrorist coalition,
except if 'we are all American', which even the committed
146
Philosopky and the 'war against terrorism'
anti-terrorists balk at declaring - three names have been
found for this 'we' facing the beast: a perilous but weighty
name, 'the \,vest'; a neutral name, 'our societies'; and a
legitimating name, 'the democracies'.
In relation to the first of these names, it is regrettable to
have to note that philosophy compromised itself there long
ago; what with The Decline oj the West - Spengler's b e s t - s c l l e ~
- at the end of the nineteenth century, and with what
continues nowadays in the phrase 'the end of Western
metaphysics'. The 'Western' appropriation of thought -
which is nothing but the intellectual trace of four centuries
of imperialism - resounds right up to and including the
opposition of the West (Christian? Jewish?; to 'Islamic
terrorism'. Apart from anything else, let us recall for the
younger generations that for decades the political usc of the
term 'the Occident' was confined to the racist extreme right,
to the point of being the name of one of its most violent
groupuscules.
2
Moreover, it seems to us that the litany of
colonial atrocities committed throughout the entire world,
the savagery of the world-scale slaughters, the wars of
national liberation in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa, the
armed revolts in Latin America, the universal value of the
Chinese revolution, and the febrile sterility of the world in
which we live, is sufIicient for those who see an opposition
being drawn up between 'Western values' and 'Terrorism'
to conclude that 'terrorism' is a hollow word.
When 'our societies' are spoken of and it is declared that
'terrorism' wanted to 'strike them in their very heart' or
'destabilize' them, let us agree that what is being referred to
is either still 'the West' but in a more demure fashion, or it is
a material paradigm; a certain state of objective wealth
which, in itself, has no kind of value for the philosopher and
furthermore which would not be able to ground any kind of
consistent solidarity. If this is not the case, then why docs the
crime of New York affect 'our societies', while neither the
147
Infinite Thought
millions of AIDS deaths in Africa nor the genocidal disasters
in Rwanda affect them in any way? 'our societies',
designating in a faintly obscene manner the completely
relative well-being of some of the wealthiest human groups
(minorities) on the planet, hardly make for a presentable
EKe-off against the supposed substance of terrorism. Even if
Monique Canto- her again - judges that it is philosophi-
cally superior and indispensable in the situation to remind
us that being very rich is not a moral fault. Yet, to go
against the grain of her formalist zeal, we would only grant
her such a point after a meticulous and concrete examina-
tion of the origins of the wealth in question. For it could wel!
be that all genuinely considerable wealth today is entirely,
and by way of necessity, implicated in certain indubitable
crimes.
Of the three names for 'us' only the third, fundamentally
propagandistic, remains: what 'terrorism' targets is the
'Democracies', and in their heart, that exemplary democ-
racy which we all know as the United States of America. As
any old patriot from over there will tell you, 'it's a free
country', and those Saudi fanatics, that's what they wanted
to mutilate. 'Terrorism against democracy'; such is the
formula for consensus. I mean, for the overwhelming majority
of our contemporaries: here, in this jaded 'democratic'
country, France, the sale space for a political inscription of
the mass crime of New York is the one outlined by that
formula. It is this formula which has neutralized reactions
and generated general support, albeit a little plaintive, for
the American war. Finally, it has been conceded that, in
any case, if the democracies are attacked by terrorism then,
in view of their excellence, they have the right to avenge
themselves. What remains to be known is against whom
these legitimate reprisals are to be carried out.
148
PhilosoPkv and the 'ioar against terrorism'
D c Terrorism): substance and predicates
At point let us introduce a precise philosophical
proposition: every substantialization of a formal adjective
a dominant predicate. If one goes from the
adjective 'terrorist', which qualifies an action by its form,
to 'terrorism', which is an empty substantive, one cannot
hope to 'fill' such a void by its adversary alone (The West,
Democracy, etc.). It is also necessarv to endow it with a
predicate (just as it was necessarv 1914 for all
intents and purposes, that the be bestial and -
contrary to the reflective and Cartesian Frenchman _
delivered over to obscure and instinctive forces, while
around 1933 the Jew had to be cosmopolitan and abstract-
contrary to the Aryan, tied to blood and soil. Today, the
substantial support called 'terrorism' only has
bemg inasmuch as it receives the predicate 'Islamic'.
What exactly is the value of this predicate? One might be
satisfied by saying that it has already been corrupted bv its
function, which is to furnish this 'Terrorism' with a
of historical colour. Taken on its own it comes down to the
observation that religion has been subjected to political
ins.trumentalization; another ancient 'Western' story, the wily
alliances between the State and the Church do not date from
yesterday. In any case, the conjunction of religion and all
kinds of political processes, some extremely violent, is not a
particularity of Islam. Think of religion'- Catholicism in
Poland for example - and the important role it played in the
resistance against communism; whenever that' occurred
religion was congratulated by the 'democratic' states.
In the case at hand, that of Bin Laden if however, it
really concerns him, which nobody up to this date has been
to prove what is certain is that the point of departure
IS a series of extraordinary complex manoeuvres in relation
to the manna of oilfields in Saudi Arabia and that the
149
Infinite Thought
character is, after all, a good American: someone for whom
what matters is wealth and power, and for whom the means
are of less concern. Such are his rivals also, his comrades in
power in the region. As far as making terror reign in the
name of pure hard-line Islamic fundamentalism, the
sovereigns of Saudi Arabia know what they're doing, yet
to my knowledge not a single notable democrat has ever
asked for an armada of B-52s to go and wipe them out. It
must be strongly suspected, then, that for these democrats
there is both 'Islamic terrorism' and 'islamic Terrorism'. The
first, supported by the Americans and by way of conse-
quence a friend to 'our societies', is to be, if not admired,
then at least tolerated: turn a blind eye and keep going. The
second, which managed to strike 'us' by means of its devious
calculations: stigmatize it and bomb it into annihilation! In
the final analysis, it is a matter of knowing how one is
situated with regard to access to oil.
In passing, let us underline Wagner's prophetic virtue
when, in his trilogy, he staged the curse attached to the
Rhine's gold. Indeed, it is one of the great modern curses to
have the equivalent of that gold in one's subsoil. South
Africa's diamonds, Bolivia's tin-metal, the precious stones of
the Congo and Sierra Leone, the oil in the Middle East and
the Congo - as many regions or countries put to fire and the
sword, become the stakes of rapacious and cynical calcula-
tions, because the planetary administration of their mineral
resources necessarily escapes them. Let us note in passing
that it does not seem as if 'Our Societies', our paradigmatic
'Democracies', as for what concerns them, draw the least
consequence from these atrocious disasters. In any case, if
like the god Wotan Bin Laden speaks at length, and
somewhat confusedly, of destiny and religion, it seems that
his business is rather that of knowing how to seize some
black gold such as to inherit that Nibelungen collection, the
Gulf petroleum monarchies.
150
Philosophy and the 'toar against terrorism'
It is worth remarking that the political instrumentaliza-
tion of religion has in turn been persistently instrumenta-
lized by the United States themselves. This has been one of
the great constants of their politics for decades. Fearing
Soviet influence, they fought everything that even mildly
resembled secular politics in the Arab world. Whether
Nasser in Egypt, or de Baas in Iraq, or in Syria, the United
States did not get involved except to create more and more
serious problems for these leaders, while on the other hand
they supported without fail the retrograde fanatics of Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan. In Indonesia they lent a
helping hand to the eradication of a progressive pro-third-
world regime by encouraging a Saint Bartholomew of
communists, or of alleged communists, bringing about the
death of five thousand. In Palestine evervone knows that
from the very beginning the Israeli considered the
development of Harnas to be an excellent thing; against the
Fatah hegemony, whose slogan, as you may for a
secular democratic Palestine, and which included a number
of Christians in its ranks. Finally, the Talibani themselves
are a joint creature of the Americans and the Pakistanis, set
in place against any takeover of power in Kabul by groups
which were potential allies of either the Russians, the
Chinese, or the Iranians. Taken in their entirety these
manoeuvres disqualify the relevance of the prcdicate
'Islamic' when it is a matter of designating the 'terrorist'
enemies of the United States.
Let us note the singular status of what we can call the
instrumentalization of an instrumentalization. In the
Middle East or elsewhere, certain cliques of politicians
instrumentalize religion in order to facilitate their projects
(in fact: in order to take over power from other azeinz or
b h
discredited cliques of politicians). American
regularly attempt to instrumentalize that instrumentaliza-
tion, with a view to maintaining control over this or that
I.'i 1
Infinite Thought
situation. But the instrumentalization of an instrumcntali-
zation is a delicate mechanism. It is exposed to brutal
deviations. In this manner, the United States (and the
French who were very active at the time) instrumentalized
Saddam Hussein, who instrumentalized the opposition
between the Sunnites and the Shiites against his Iranian
neighbours. The goal of the 'Western' powers was to derail
the Iranian revolution, while Saddam Hussein's goal was to
set himself up as a great regional power. The result: a
terrifying war on the scale of the war of 1914-18, hundreds
of thousands dead, the consolidation of the Iranian regime,
and Saddam Hussein becoming an uncontrollable creature,
then a 'terrorist' enemy. Inasmuch as the same story has
reoccurred with the Talibani, we propose to all States the
following maxim: 'Be extremely careful when instrumenta-
lizing an instrumen talization,' especially one including
religion, a subjective sustenance that does not let itself be
easily manipulated by cruel and underhand politicians.
What the predicate 'Islamic' actually does is dissimulate
a number of unappetizing (state) political operations, that
are important to keep from public attention, behind 'cultural'
categories whose subjective resources can be quite easily
activated. In France, it is very easy to awaken an anti-Arab
zeal for a thousand reasons, whether in the vulgar and post-
colonialist form given to it by the extreme right, or in the
more historical and 'ethical' form given to it by the Zionist
or feminist intellectual petit-bourgeoisie. Thus we will see
some rejoicing that Kabul is being bombarded to 'liberate
Afghani women', others saying to themselves that Israel can
always procure some benefits from the situation, while a
third lot will think that a massacre of 'Bougnouls'3 is always
a good thing. None of all this has anything to do with the
crime of New York, neither in the latter's causes, nor in its
form, nor in its real effects. But all of them, validating the
syntagm 'Islamic terrorism', rally behind the Hag of the
152
Phiiosophy and the' war against terrorism'
vengeful crusade, a crusade of various enthusiasms, and
especially of innumerable apathies.
The philosophical lesson is thus the following: when a
predicate is attributed to a formal substance (as is the case
with any derivation of a substantive from a formal
adjective) it has no other consistency than that of giving
an ostensible content to that form. In 'Islamic terrorism',
the predicate 'Islamic' has no other function except that of
supplying an apparent content to the word 'terrorism'
which is itself devoid of all content (in this instance,
political). What is at stake is an artificial historicization
which leaves what really happened (the crime of New York)
unthought. This does not prohibit, but rather commands
that what originates in that unthought - in the name of the
inconsistent term designating it ('Islamic terrorism') - be a
sort of trompe l'oeil history of the period which has just
opened.
E What 'war' against terrorism?
What is coming, our leaders tell us, is the 'war of the
democracies against Islamic terrorism'; a long and difficult
period.
But why a 'war'? Just as with 'terrorism' and 'Islamic'
this word is extremely problematic in relation to the
situation. What we will maintain here is that 'war' is the
symmetrical term - it is also entirely formal - to the very
vague 'terrorism'.
I t is important to register that the usage of the term 'war'
(immediately employed by high American officials in their
declarations, and then by their governmental and opinion-
making servants) is something new. Previously, when
governments declared that their duty was 'to eradicate
terrorism', they were careful not to speak of war. Indeed,
how does one declare war upon a few delinquent civilians or
153
Infinite Thought
a bunch of fanatical bombers or upon a group of anarchists?
The word 'war' is far too dignified; moreover, it has been
assigned far too exclusively to conflicts between for
such usage. Even during the endless and very violent
colonial war against the Algerian patriots, which mobilized
hundreds of thousands of soldiers, French governments from
Mitterand to De Gaulle always spoke of 'maintaining order'
and of 'pacification'. Even today, using the same methods as
the French in Algeria forty years ago in order to settle
accounts with Chechen nationalists (systematic torture,
internment camps, destruction of villages, rape) Putin
carefully avoids saying that there is, strictly speaking, a
war. It is an immense police operation, wherein, to employ
his own expression, 'we will go looking for the terrorists right
into the sewers' and so on. In sum, governments have
opposed repression to terrorism, generally :,sing the
violent and abject of means, but always within the symbohc
register of policing. . .
Whv then. in the case that concerns us here, IS It a matter
of war, including, or even especially, at the level of the
symbolic register? The crime of New York, like all crime,
calls for police mobilization in order to track down and
judge its authors or its financial backers. Without doubt, in
'doing so, the modern 'services' will use fear and extremely
unethical methods. But war?
Mv thesis is that the American imperial power, in the
representation it makes of itself: has war as the
privileged, indeed unique, form of the attestation of its
existence. Moreover, one can observe today that the
powerful subjective unity that carries the .away
in their desire for vengeance and war IS Immediately
constructed around the flag and the army.
The United States has become a hegemonic power in and
through war: from the civil war, said to be that of Secession
(the first modern war due to its industrial means and the
154
Philosophy and the (war against terrorism'
number of deaths); then the two World Wars; and finally
the uninterrupted series of local wars and military
interventions of all kinds since the Korean War up until
the presen t ransacking of Afghanistan, passing via Lebanon,
the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Libya, Panama, Barbados, the
Gulf "Val', and Serbia, not to mention their persistent
support for Israel in its endless war against the Palestinians.
Of course, one will hasten to add that the USA won the day
in the Cold War against the USSR on the terrain of military
rivalry (Reagan's Star Wars project pushed the Russians to
throw in the towel) and intend to do the same thing against
China, hoping to discourage any project of great magnitude
by the imposition of an exhausting armament race (this is
the only sense possessed by the pharaonic anti-missile shield
project) .
This should remind us, in these times of economic
obsession, that power continues to be, in the last instance,
military. Even the USSR, however run-down it was,
inasmuch as it was considered as an important military
power (and above all by the Americans), it continued to co-
direct the world. Today the USA has the monopoly over
aggressive protection via enormous forces of destruction,
and it does not hesitate to use them. The consequences are
evident, including (notably) the idea that the American
people has of itself and of what must be done. Let us hope
that the Europeans and the Chinese - draw the obvious
lesson from the situation: those who do not watch carefully
over their armed forces are promised nothing, save
servitude.
Being forged in this fashion amid the continual barbarity
of war - leaving aside the genocide of the Indians and the
importation of tens of millions of black slaves - the USA
quite naturally considers that the only riposte worthy of
them is a spectacular staging of power. The particular
adversary chosen matters very little, in fact, and can be
155
Infinite Thought
entirely disconnected from the initial crime. The pure
capacity to destroy this or that will do the job, even if the
latter ends up being a few thousand poor devils or a
phantom 'government'. In the end, any war is suitable, as
long as the appearance of victory is overwhelming.
What we have here (and will also have if the USA
continues in Somalia and in Iraq, etc.) is war as the abstract
form of a theatrical capture of an adversary ('terrorism')
which in its essence is vague and elusive. The war against
nothing: save against what is itself removed from any war.
F Parenthesis on 'anti-Americanism'
Certain 'intellectuals' have judged the moment ripe to
stigmatize the compulsive anti-Americanism to which
French intellectuals are occasional victims. It is well known
that in this type of polemic, those whom the journalist-
intellectuals call 'French intellectuals' are the other journalist-
intellectuals who don't share their position. As a result, the
more the word 'intellectual' is emphasized the more
intellectuality itself is absent. It is a requirement of this
debate that each camp declares itsclfto be persecuted and in
the minority, at least insofar as it is composed solely of
veterans who can be seen every day on television, and whose
countenance or loquaciousness one cannot help but admire
if one picks up a magazine. \Ne have thus been treated to
the spectacle of J acques J uillard and Bernard-Henri Levy,
two particularly copious editorialists, presenting themselves
as the solitary dispensers of justice, worn down by dint of
their good fight for liberty and modernity against the
enslaving, archaic, and repulsive horde of French intellec-
tuals.
The central argument of these heroes of the fraternal
alliance with the American bombers amounts to the
following: that to be against the USA in this affair, as in
1:'>6
Philosoph)! and the "toar against terrorism'
many others, is to be against freedom. It is as simple as that.
Bernard Henri-Levy, who is never particular about details,
states that anti-Americanism is fascistic. As for .Julliard
literally in his own twilight by dint of having been right all
along - his axiom is that 'French intellectuals' do not like
freedom.
We could be satisfied in saying that an orientation of
thought, for the sale reason that Bernard-Henri Levy has
declared it fascist, at the very least deserves to be considered
with attention. We would hasten to add that if 'freedom' is
that of politically and intellectually resembling Jacques
Juillard, then it is assuredly better not to be free.
But what we will say is this: if there exists one unique
great imperial power which is always convinced that its
most brutal interests coincide with the Good; ifit is true that
every year the USA spends more on their military budget
than Russia, China, France, England and Germany put
together; and if that Nation-State, devoted to military
excess, has no public idol other than wealth, no allies other
than servants, and no view of other peoples apart from an
indifferent, commercial, and cynical one; then the basic
freedom of States, peoples and individuals consists in doing
everything and thinking everything in order to escape, as
much as possible, from the commandments, interventions
and interference of that imperial power.
'Anti-Americanism' is meaningless. The American people
have brought humanity admirable inventions in all orders
of experience. But today there cannot be the least political
liberty or independence of mind, without a constant and
unrelenting struggle against the imperium of the USA.
One can, of course, have as one's sale ambition to be
considered by the masters in Washington as their most
zealous servant. It seems sometimes as if Tony Blair dreams
of a posthumous repose for his Old England; that of
becoming the 51st state of the Union. He is reminiscent of
157
InJinite Thought
those vassal 'Kings' of Rome, whose pusillanimity is
depicted in certain of Corneille's tragedies: 'Ahl Don't put
me on bad terms with the [RomanJ Republic!' says Prusias,
Bithynie's Petain, to Nicomede, the potential resistance
fighter. Let's take the liberty of siding with Nicomede and
considering that the inevitable condition of our freedom is
that of being at odds, seriously at odds, with American
'democracy', just like Corncilles hero with the Roman
'Republic'. At odds, one might say, 'till death'. For the
American superpower is nothing but the deadly guarantee
of the obscene accumulation of wealth, The American army
is the instrument of the Race of 'Western' lords against the
wretched of the entire planet.
G The disjunctive synthesis of two nihilisms
We can now return to our point of departure: philosophy
facing the event. We have reached the important critical
stage which is that of the destitution of terms. Of the
consensual statement 'the war of the Democracies against
Islamic Terrorism' more or less nothing intelligible remains.
What, then, is our own formula? Joyfully borrowing a
concept from Gilles Deleuze we shall say: What is testified to
by the crime of New York and the following battles is the
disjunctive synthesis oj two nihilisms.
Let's clarify this aphorism.
There is a synthesis, because, to our mind, the principal
actors in this matter belong to the same species. Yes, Bin
Laden, or whoever financed the crime, despite being on one
side, and the foundations of the American superpower on
the other; these two belong to the same world, that -
nihilistic - of money, of blind power, of cynical rivalry, of
the hidden gold of primary resources, of total scorn for
peoples' everyday lives, and of the arrogance of a self-
certitude based on the void. And moral and religious
158
Philosophy and the' war against terrorism'
platitudes plated onto all that: on both sides Good, Evil, and
God serve as rhetorical ornaments to jousts of financial
ferocity and to schemes for hegemonic power.
There is a disjunction in that it is inevitably through the
form of crime that these actors seek and find each other.
Whether the crime is the private, secretly machinated and
suicidal crime of New York, or whether it is that of Kabul,
Kandahar, and elsewhere - a State crime reinforced with
anaesthetized machines bringing death to others and 'zero
death' to one's own.
The mass crime was the exact inverse of the imperial
brutality. It was sown to the latter like an inner lining, and
its personnel, real or borrowed (Bin Laden, the Taliban,
etc.), came directly from the cookhouses of the American
hegemony; it had been educated and financed by the latter,
its only desire was to have a preferable place in the latter's
system. In such a configuration religion is nothing but a
demagogic vocabulary worth neither more nor less than the
fascist's populist 'anti-capitalism' slogans in the Thirties.
One speaks for the 'disinherited' Muslims, but wants to
become a billionaire Saudi Arabian, that is, an American,
just as one claimed to be the mouthpiece of the 'German
Worker' solely in order to become the devoted table
companion of arms merchants. With Bush, one has God at
one's side, along with the Good, Democracy, and also
America (it's the same thing) for tracking down Evil - but
in reality it is a matter of reminding all those disobedient
imperial creatures that they will be reduced to ashes if they
even think about undermining the Master. Ifnot them, then
their parents. Damn it, it's the aerial vendetta! And if not
their parents, then the accursed villains with whom they
live. And if not them then their hosts, no matter, any
unfortunates vaguely resembling them will do! As the
Defence Secretary, Rumsfeld, declared, with the frank
speech of an imperialist on the hunt, it is a matter of killing
159
Infinite Thought
as many people as possible. It must be said that some of
those suave American professors lent him a helping hand in
asking whether or not, considering the circumstances, it
wouldn't be useful to use torture - to which some even more
refined American professors objected that it would be in all
respects preferable to expedite the suspects to allied
countries in which torture was an official method. Upon
the latest news, we hear that they are being rounded up,
drugged and chained for transportation to the thousands of
cells hastily constructed in a base at Guantanamo: on the
island of Cuba, let's appreciate the irony.
In the same way as the crime of New York, America's
war is unconnected to any law or right and is indifferent to
any project. On both sides, it is a matter of striking blindly
to demonstrate one's strike capacity. What is at stake are
bloody and nihilistic games of power without purpose and
without truth.
All the formal traits of the crime of New York indicate its
nihilistic character: the sacralization of death; the absolute
indifference to the victims; the transformation of oneself and
others into instruments ... but nothing speaks louder than
the silence, the terrible silence of the authors and planners of
this crime. For with affirmative, liberating, non-nihilistic
political violence not only is responsibility always claimed,
but its essence is found in claiming responsibility. In 1941,
when the first resistance fighters killed a German officer or
blew up a pylon, it was solely in order to be able to say 'it's
us, the Resistance! Resistance exists and will continue to
strike back!' The tract, saying who did what, however
perilous it might be, must accompany the act. Violence is a
Trhact. There is none of that today. The act remains
unnamed and anonymous just like the culprits. There lies
the infallible sign of a type of fascist nihilism.
Opposite it we find another nihilism for which an old
name is appropriate, 'Capital'. Des Kapital: nihilist in its
160
Philosophy and the' war against terrorism'
extensive form, the market having become worldwide;
nihilist in its fetishization of the formalism of communica-
tion; and nihilist in its extreme political poverty, that is to
say, in the absence of any project other than its perpetuation
- the perpetuation of hegemony fell' the Americans and of
vassalage, made as comfortable as possible, for the others.
At the level of structure, this nihilism could be called the
nihilism of virtual equality. In one respect, the governments
which are its servants organize monstrous inequalities, even
in relation to life itself. If you are born in Africa you will
probably live for around 30 years, whereas the figure is 80 if
you are born in France. Such is the 'democratic' con-
temporary world. But at the same time (and this is what
keeps the democratic fiction itself alive in the people's hearts
and minds) there is an egalitarian dogmatism, that of an
equality in their placement in front of commodities. The
same product is offered everywhere. Armed with this
universal commercial offer, contemporary 'democracy' can
forge a subject from such abstract equality: the consumer; the
one who, in his or her virtuality opposite the commodity, is
ostensibly identical to any other in his or her abstract
humanity as buying power. Man as shopping. As man (or
woman) the consumer is the same as everyone else insofar as
he or she looks at the same window display (that he or she has
less money than others, and thus unequal buying power, is a
secondary and contingent matter, and anyhow, it's no one's
fault save perhaps their own, if we look closely). The
principle is that anyone who is able to buy - as a matter of
right - anything being sold is the eq ual of anyone else.
However, as we all know, this equality is nothing but
frustration and resentment. It is clearly the only equality
that 'Western' governments and billionaire 'terrorists' can
conjointly lay claim to.
At the level of circumstance, capitalist nihilism has
arrived at a stage of the non-existence of any world. Yes
t , .I'
161
Infinite Thought
today there is no world, there is nothing but a group of
singular disconnected situations. There is no world simply
because the majority of the planet's inhabitants today do
not even receive the gift of a name, of a simple name. When
there was class society, proletarian parties (or those
presumed to be such), the CSSR, the national wars of
liberation, etc., no matter which peasant in no matter what
region - just as no matter which worker in no matter what
town - could receive a political name. That is not to say that
their material situation was better, certainly not, nor that
that world was excellent. But symbolic positions existed, and
that world was a world. Today, outside of the grand and
petty bourgeoisie of the imperial cities, who proclaim
themselves to be 'civilization', you have nothing apart from
the anonymous and excluded. 'Excluded' is the sole name
for those who have no name, just as 'market' is the name of a
world which is not a world. In terms of the real, outside of
the unremitting undertakings of those who keep thought
alive, including political thinking, within a few singular
situations, you have nothing apart from the American army.
H To conclude: philosopliy?
If the situation is as we say it is the disjunctive synthesis of
two nihilisms - then, as can be seen, it is formidable. It
announces the repetition of disaster.
From this moment on, the task of philosophy is to
welcome everything into thought which maintains itself
outside that synthesis. Everything which affirmatively seizes
a point of the real and raises it to the symbol will be taken
by philosophy as a condition of its own becoming.
But to do that philosophy must break with whatever leads
it into the eircuits of nihilism, with everything that restrains
and obliterates the power of the affirmative. It must go
beyond the nihilistic motif of the 'end of Western
162
Philosoph} and the' war against terrorism'
metaphysics'. More generally, it must detach itself from the
Kantian heritage, from the perpetual examination of limits,
the critical obsession, and the narrow form of judgement.
For one single thought has an immensity far beyond any
judgement.
In a word: it is essential to break with the omnipresent
motifoffinitude. Its origins both critical and hermeneutical,
as well regarded by the phenomenologists as by the
positivists, the motif of finitude is the discrete form via
which thought yields in advance, accepting the modest role
it is enjoined to play, in all circumstances, by contemporary
nihilism in all its ferocity.
The duty of philosophy is thus clear: to rationally
reconstitute the reserve of the affirmative infinity that every
liberating project requires. Philosophy does not have, and
has never had at its own disposal the effective figures of
emancipation. That is the primordial task of what is
concentrated in political doing-thinking. Instead philosophy
is like the attic where, in difficult times, one accumulates
resources, lines up tools, and sharpens knives. Philosophy is
exactly that which proposes an ample stock of means to
other forms of thought. This time, it is on the side of
affirmation and infinity that philosophy must select and
accumulate its resources, its tools and its knives.
Notes
I. Translator's note: The first version of this paper was given at
the Ecole Normale Supcrieurr- on 26 October 2001. We
would like to acknowledge Steven Corcoran's translation,
published in the journal Theorv and Event, which was used as a
base for the current translation. The original title was
'Philosophical considerations of some recent facts'.
2. Translator's note: In English the French Occidentale is
translated by vVestern, but although the la trer clearly
163
Infinite Thought
desig-nates the developed world, it does not resound as
strongly with the second religious (Christian and Jewish)
sense of the former. Thus, in anglophone countries it makes
little sense to call a political group 'The Western Party', while
in France during the 1960s anel '70s, as Badiou recalls,
'l'Occidcnt' was the name of an extreme right-wing party ...
3. Translator's note: 'Bougnoul' is a racist term which is
employed in France to designate North-Africans or Arabs.
164
CHAPTER 9
The definition of philosophy
Philosophy is prescribed by several conditionsxhat arc the
types of truth procedures, or generic proced ures. 1 These
types are science (more precisely, the matheme) ,art (more
precisely, the poem), politics (more precisely) politics i!!-
interiority or the politics ofemancipation) and'tlovc
precisely, the procedure that makes truth out of the
disjunction of sexuated positions).
is the place of W?:J:. the 'there
are lzl y a] of truths and their CODlPQSSlblhty IS stated. In
.order to do this, philosophy sets up an operating category,
Truth, which openLllJLanactive void within
void is located according to the inverse of a sucdsslr)n" (the
style of exposition) and the beyond of a limit
(the style of persuas'iv_e,' 'of subjeetivizing, exposition).
Philosophy, as discourse, thus organizes the superposition
of a fiction of knowing and a fiction of art.
_
fictionings, philosophy sezzesJruths.. TIllS seizure IS ItS aq1.\By
this act, philosophy declares that there arc truths, and
ensures that thought is seized by this 'there are'. The seizure
by the act attests to the unity of thought.
165
Infinite Thought
Fiction of knowing, philosophy imitates the matheme.
Fiction of art, it imitates the poem. Intensity of an act, it is
like a love without object. Addressed to all such that all may
be within the seizure of the existence of truths. it is like a
political strategy without the of power. .
Via this quadruple discursive imitation,_philosQP\:!Y...knors
the system of its conditions into itself: This is the reason why a
philosophy is homogenous to itsepoch's stylistics. Nonetheless,
this permanent contemporaneity orients ritself not towards
empirical time, but towards what Plato of
time', towards the internporal essence of time that
names eternity. The philosophical seizure of truths' exposes
them tQ eternity; one could say, with Nietzsche, to the eternity
of their' return. This eternal exposition is all the more real in
that the truths are seized in the extreme urgency and extreme
precariousness of their temporal trajectory. , . .
The act of seizure, such as an eternity orientates
truths from the straightjacket of separaterJb<;!!!..frw
the law of the world. Philosophy is subtrac;tivf; in that jj.
.makes a hole in sense, or interrupts - such that the truths
all be said together - the circulatioDQL.s.ense.
Philosophy is asenselessact; yet, in
Philosophy is never an interpretation of experience. It is
the act of Truth in regard to truths. And this act, which,
according to the law of the world, is unproductive (it does
not produce even one truth), places a subject without
object, open solely to the..truths that pass in its seizing.
\ Let us call everything which supposes a
icontinui ty between truths and the circulation of
Philosophy, then, against all hermeneutics, that is, against
the religious law of sense,scts orQhe..)
basis of the void. It, thus subtracts thought
presupposition of
The by which philosophy seizes
these truths 'outside sense' come under tour modalitiesxjhe
166
The definition
which relates to the event ('l.JrIJJh is not; it
i!?-clis<';:.f!:!!i.ble" which relates e '" (the
a truth is Ifat:i7'
generIc, which relates to being (the being of a truth is an
set subtracted every predicate of knowledge);
and which relates to the Good (forcingthe
nomination of an unnameable engenders disaster).
The .schema ?f of the four subtractive figures
(undecidable, indiscernible, generic and unnamcable)
specifies a philosophical doctrine of the Truth. This schema
.lays out the thougbr.ofrhe. YQid.QQxhepasis
.are..:ieized_,- ' ." '.. _..._-_...._-... __....
, , ,Evt;ry, philosophical process IS polarized by a specific
The sophist is externally (or
discursively] indiscernible from tile philosopher, since his
operation also combines fictions of and fictions of
art. Subjectively, the two are opposed, because the sophist's
linguistic strategy aims at doing without any pOSitive
assertion concerning truths. In this sense, we can also define
philosophy as the act by which indiscernible discourses are
_revertheless opposed, or rather as what
its double. 'Philosophy is always the breaking of a mirror.
This which the sophist
places everythmg which philosophy deals with in its act. If
the philosopher would c(mtemplaf€:himself upon this surface
alone, then he will see his double, the sophist, emerge there,
and thereby he could take the latter for himself
This sophist exposes philosophy internally
to a temptatlOn'\ihose effect is to divide it again. Because the
desire to finish with sophist once andjor all impedes the
seizure of truths: 'once and for all' inevitably means that
Truth annuls the chance of truths, and that philosophv
_::vrongfully declares itself productive of truths. Through SUCll
a declaration being-true ends up in the position of stand-in
for the act of Truth.
167
Infinite Thought
A triple effect of the sacred, of ecstasy and terror .thereby
corrupts the philosophical operation, and can lead it from
the aporctic void that sustains its act
tiQI}l', By which philosophy induces" every disastefiii-
thought,
The ethics of philosophy, which wards .off disaster,
consists entirely in a constant reserve with r<;g;:trd__to its
sophistic double, a reserve which allows philosophy to
remove itself from the temptation of dividing itself (accord-
ing to the couple void/substance) in order to deal with its
original foundational duplicity (sophist/philosopher).
The history of philosophy is the history of its ethics: a
succession of violent gestures via which philosophy has
withdrawn itselffrom its disastrous reduplication. Or rather:
'philosophy in .its.i history is. l1othing more .. than.a.xlesuh-
stantialization of the Truth,
of its act.
Note
1. This paper appears in the collection, A. Bacliou, Conditions
(Paris: Seuil, 1992), 7982.
168
CHAPTER 10
Ontology and politics
An interview with Alain Badiou
OF: Can you elab'orate your concept of structure, given that
you identify it as the operator of the count-far-one of a
situation? 1
AB: The problem is how a multiplicity becomes consister-J'
responses to this question: first, at the level of
second., at the level of'representation,
.Structure IS the name I give to the combination of the two
}evels, presentation and Structure is not the
same thing as the state of a situation because the state of the
situation is only the second level, the level of representation.
Structure includes the first level of presentation, belonging,
and the second level also - the state, the second count-for-
one. Structure, I think, has two determinations and not one
determination. The first is the level of presentation, which
only designates that some sort of multiplicity is in the
situation. The second level, the state, of inclusion, designates
that multiplicity is not corrupted by the void. Structure
consists of both levels.
169
Infinite Thought
OF: Can one ask what counts-for-one a situation? Does it
make sense to ask what performs the operation of the count-
for-one of the situation? Is there an agent?
AB: The operation is the situation itself. The operation is
not distinct from the multiplicity in itself. There is no
presentation of multiplicity and the operatio.n. Th: opera-
tion is the same thing as the presentation. It IS possible
this terminology is not very good and I have to change It,
because the real problem is the variation between being and
being-there. It's a problem of the localization of being and
not only a problem of structure or of the count-for-one. In
the work in progress, the terminology is reworked, though
the count-for-one remains a part of my thinking." But the
true problem is the question of the localization of being,
and, which requires the introduction of other concepts than
presentation, representation and so on.
OF: It appears to be the privilege of the situation of
ontology that the registers of unity and identity are dearly
separated. Are they necessarily fused in your account of the
structures of non-ontological situations?
AB: I don't think there is at this point a privilege of the
situation [of ontology] because in every situation in thinking
the problem of unity and of identity arc I
have to elaborate the question of identity from the tfuestlOn
of the unity of the multiplicity it's the same thing. The
unity of the multiplicity is the ontological identity. And t.his
point is true in the ontological situation, mathematics,
because one set is the identity of a multiplicity, but it's the
same thing in other situations because I don't concern
myself with qualitative identity.
OF: How can non-ontological situations be differentiated if
not on the basis of some universal language into which they
are all translated?
170
Ontology andpolitics
AB: The difference between situations is a matter of
experience. We have to distfriguisll situations from the point
of view of truth' -- an anonymous situation - and situations
from the point of view of knowledge. From the point of view
of knowledge, the situations are different on the basis of
experiences and the encyclopaedia of knowledge. r name
this sort of difference 'predicative difference', and there are
predicative differences between situations. This is not very
different to the fact that, I don't know, a horse is not a cat.
In a situation there is always a distribution of predicates
which establish this sort of difference. From the point of
view of truth, situations are seized in their being and the
difference becomes ontological difference. Here we have to
think that the multiplicity of the situation is not the same as
another multiplicity. The set is not the same. The type of
infinity is not the same but all these considerations are only
practicable from the point of view of the process of the truth,
and not from the point of view of the encyclopaedia of
knowledge.
JC: It's clear that these points of view arc very different -
the point of view of knowledge which is obviously in a
situation, names, predicates, cats, horses, etc., and the point
of view of truth, which is not predicative, indiscernible in a
situation, etc. A truth, for you, is universal. And since truth
is rare, it doesn't always happen: not every situation is
truthful. Is then the inverse possible, that in a situation
everyone has access to knowledge?
AB: In a situation the access to knowledge is different for
different people, for different beings. But my thesis is that in a
situation there is always an encyclopaedia of knowledge which
is the same for everybody. But the access to this knowledge is
very different. \Ve can speak in Marxist terms, we can say that
in a situation there is an ideological dispositif [apparatus]
which is dominant - in the end it's the same thing.
171
Infinite Thought
JC: Would you say Marxism talks about encyclopaedic
knowledges but doesn't talk about the truth?
AB: No, no I think that in Marxism, the category of
Marxism designates the same thing that I designate by the
dispositi] of the encyclopaedia of knowledge. Bu t in Marxism
also there is a series of truths, which is different from
ideology.
GB: Can I ask a related question? This is a very naive
question. How can you avoid decisionism? And, if I could
explain that, I remember in George Lukacs, History and Class
Consciousness, he says, 'Decisions, real decisions, precede the
facts,' but from the point of view of Marxism he can
understand the entirety of bourgeois knowledge and super-
sede it. As you recall the standing point of totality is one that
is both ontological and takes in the entirety of bourgeois
knowledge. So, after the decision is made, there is a basis for
knowing that you have taken the right decision and a basis
for discussion with other people who are not yet Marxists.
Would you agree with Lukacs? Once the decision is made is
there a basis for knowing that you have made the right
decision?
AB: I think there is no decisionism at all in my philosophy.
There is a complete misreading on this point. Lyotard said
that I was an absolute decisionist, a sort of new Carl
Schmitt. But I think there's some confusion here because,
after all, the crucial question is the event and the event is not
the result of a decision. The difliculty is that in T' Etre et
l'cvcnernent, I say that the name of the event is the matter ofa
pure decision and 1 have to change that point. It's not very
good terminology, the terminology of the nomination. 1 now
think that the event has consequences, objective conse-
quences and logical consequences. These consequences are
separated by the event. The effect of the event is a profound
172
Ontology and politics
transformation of the logic of the situation and that is not
an effect of decision. The decision is uniquely to be faithful
to the transformation. So, you can have a discussion with
pe.ople about the logical consequences of being or not
bemg faithful [to the event]' What the consequences are in
an.d .about the. situation involves a rational discussion, and
this IS not so different from the Marxist conception in which
you can say that practice is a mix of decision and theoretical
of decisions. In the current form of my work I don't
attribute the decision to the name of the event, but to the
event and, finally, to the logical consequences of the
ThIS. IS part of a transformation of my concept of the
subject. It IS not exactly the same as in L'Etre et l'eoenement.
So, I am not a decisionist at all ... now.
OF: There are some questions related to this discussion. In
L'Etre el l'clJcnement, you say: 'In the same situation, and for
the. same event;, different criteria [of connection] could exist
which define different fidelities.t" How would a local co'niest
between two generic procedures be anything other than a
:ontest of power and interpretations? From a perspective
Immanent to a historical situation, what would mark a
generic procedure as genuinely generic? You have said a
non-generic authoritarian or theological position would fuse
truth and sense - could you explain by example?
AB: I.t is necessary. to recognize that nothing attests that a
genenc procedure IS generic. On this point I
same conception of truth as Spinoza. Truth is an
index SUI. Truth is the proof of itself There is no external
So, the genericity of the procedure of truth is
effective in .the This point is very important
because major philosophical differences are linked to it. For
very different thinkers - Heidegger, Lacan, Spinoza,
Delcuze, myself - there is a conviction that truth has no
guarantee, and for other analytical philosophers it is
173
Infinite Thought
necessary for truth to have guarantees 111 thought and
judgement. It is the principal split today.
OF: So, say I'm faithful to an event and engaged in a
generic procedure and there are some other people who
think thcv are in the same historical situation and who are
faithful to the event in another generic procedure. How
would we judge each other or is there just conflict?
AB: There is no abstract answer to that sort of problem. It is
a matter of the concrete situation. If I am faithful to a
political event, after May '68 on the one hand, and on the
other hand I am in love with a woman, well, that's my
situation. There is no abstract possibility for grasping this
sort of situation. There is no problem at all in fact. The
situation is always traversed by different generic procedures
at difkrent levels which concern different situations, an
infinity of multiplicities and so on. That is the concrete
analysis of the situation. It is not an ontological problem.
OF: If a generic procedure is the truth of a situation do
generic procedures traverse more than one situation?
AB: Two generic procedures are never actually in the same
situation of reference because they are truths of their
situations. But a concrete situation is not exactly the
ontological scheme of the situation. A concrete situation is
an interplay of different situations in the ontological sense of
the term. Ontology is not by itself the thinking of a concrete
situation. Ontology is a situation, the ontological situation
which is the situation of thinking, and finally, the
mathematical situation. We can think a part ofthe concrete
situation from the ontological schema. We can say, there is a
multiplicity, it is infinite and so on. But there is a concrete
analysis which is not ontological at all. Ontology is not
Hegel's absolute knowledge!
174
Ontology and politics
JC: If that's the case then there are no subjects, in your
sense, working within a situation. To explain that, is there a
super-Christian subject within the religious situation? For
example, it's not an individual person who is a subject in
your sense, because they enter into the process of becoming a
subject. Is there one 'tiber-subject' or 'ultra-subject' that we
can consider 'Christian' that's still faithful to the event of
Christ? A subject which has lasted over 2000 years and
which is that subject in its very slow vanishing (in our terms)
- but in your terms? Can you consider the subject in these
terms?
AB: I don't think so. There is no super subject. A subject is a
subject of a definite situation, the Occidental situation from
the Roman Empire and so on. There is a particularity
situation and the subject is a particular
philosophical category has very
political
be a Slrl5Ject, in another sltuifionffiere is a
su

__categnry.rs.
very di':'.,c;r:sk, __
-- -
OF: A related question. Tn Theone du sujet you embrace
Heiner Muller's maxim: 'For something to come, something
must go', and say that destruction is a necessary partner of
creation. Yet in L' Etre et I'eoenement, you change your
position and say that any violence arises from the state of the
situation and is not a necessary part of the generic
procedure. \Vhy the change?
AB: I think that in Theorie du sujet destruction is a dialectical
concept. Destruction signifies that a part of the situation can
be destroyed for the new, for the event. It is sometimes
necessary. I don't say in L'Etre et I'eoenemeni that destruction
175
Infinite Thought
is always a bad thing. It can be necessary to destroy
something for the newness of the event. But I don't think it
is a necessary part of the newness. Because I think the
newness is a supplementation and not a destruction. It is
something which happens, something which comes, and this
point is the crucial point. It is possible that for the becoming
of the newness something has to be destroyed but it is not
the essence, the being, the kernel of the process. I t can just
be a consequence. In Theorie du sujet I thought that
negativity was creative in itself and I don't think that
now. I think that creativity is a sort of affirmation and not a
sort of negation.
JC: Can you then think if; say, destruction and the event are
independent of each other, destruction mayor may not be
part of that event, but in a sense destruction may be an
essential part of an event? Sometimes destruction will be part
of an event: can vou be faithful to the consequences of that
destruction'? Fo;' example, in the French Revolution,
following all the consequences of the Terror may have been
legitimate and ethical.
AB: It is always possible that destruction takes place
amongst the consequences of an event. You can't always
avoid destruction. It's a part of the partieula\lty of ~ , t ; v . ~ ~ n t ,
the relation between destruction and affirmation. in
political events this relation is very difficult to think and
control. In political events and generic processes the
violence is always there because many people don't like
newness. The transformation of the situation is always
against some people rich men, men in power. In political
truth the relation between, on the one hand, destruction
and violence, and on the other hand, affirmation and
supplementation, is a complex relation. I think that in
Theorie du sujet, political truth was paradigmatic for me.
When I wrote 'destruction is necessary', it was because
176
Ontology and politics
political truth was the point. But if we take another
paradigm it appears that destruction is a particularity of the
consequences of the political event but not an internal
characteristic of the process of truth in itself.
OF: In L'Etre et l'eoenemeni you say: 'The heterogeneity of
language games is at the base of the diversity of situations,
Being is unfolded in multiple ways because its unfolding is
only presented in the multiple of languages' (321-2). What
must be added to this to distinguish it from what you
precisely characterize as the ontology of 'idealinguistery'
(linguistic idealism)?
AB: Yes, yes, it is a sort of citation of Wittgcnstein, a sort of
strange beast between vVittgenstein and me. The text is not
very good. The idea is simple. The idea is that being in a
situation, you have predicative diversity in the encyclopae-
dia of knowledge and the diflerence between parts of a
situation is always seized by predicative difference; the
language of the situation is the medium of knowledge. From
the point of view of knowledge, it is the source of difference.
But finally the true differences are the differences of the sets
themselves, of the multiplicities. So the text is only saying
that in the knowledge of the situation we have an access to
differences by the medium of language, by the medium of
predicates. So difference in knowledge is predicative.
Naturally, it is not my thinking that language constitutes
differences. There is an access via language to difference in
knowledge - first point - but language doesn't constitute the
ontological differences, not at all. And when we have the
capacity of having the point of view of truth we understand
that the differences which arc ontological differences are
absolutely distinct from predicative differences. 'Idealin-
guistery', linguistic idealism, on the other hand, consists in
thinking that language constitutes differences. From my
point of view this is to fuse knowledge and truth. We always
177
Infinite Thought
have to separate truth from knowledge or, in Marx's
language, truth from ideology, or in Plato's language, truth
from doxa, to have an access to the real and when we don't
separate truth from knowledge we don't have access to the
real and then we have the possibility of declaring that
language constitutes differences. But the key point is the
difference between knowledge and truth, and I have to insist
that this is the crucial point of philosophical discussion
today. I am more and more convinced of this.
OF: To return to ontological schemas. 'What says that a
particular situation has a certain ontological schema? \\That
criteria can be used to judge this given that all non-
ontological qualities of the situation have been subtracted
when it is written in ontology? That is, we know how to
proceed from non-ontological situations to the situation of
ontology - abstraction, subtraction but how can the
ontological difference be traversed in the other direction (in
a positive manner)?
AB: It's the same problem! There is just one question, and it
is, 'What is the difference between different situations?' I
think it is the question - for you! The moment of thinking
from concrete situations is by subtraction and abstraction and
the question is how are we going [can we go] in the other
direction, from ontology to concrete situations. But I think we
don't have to go in the other direction. \\Te have a concrete
situation. We can think the ontological structure of that
situation. We can! It is very difficult sometimes, but we can.
So we can think about infinite multiplicity, something about
the natural multiplicity, something about the historical
character of the situation, something about the evental site
and so on. There is an ontological schema of the situation.
With this schema we can understand the situation. The
crucial point is, are we able to understand the situation from
the point of view of truth or only from the point of view of
178
Ontology and politics
knowledge! If we can understand the situation from the point
of view of truth then there is a process of truth which is
irreducible to the ontological categories. Because when the
subject is constituted in the concrete development of a truth,
he or she experiences the situation, directly, and that sort of
experience has nothing to do with ontology. When we are in
a political fight, or in love, or in a concrete artistic creation
we are not in the ontological situation.
DR: Are you saying then that it is impossible to understand
a situation ontologically without prior experience or
knowledge of the ontological essence of a situation?
AB: My conviction is that everybody who is engaged in
faithfulness in the relation to an event has an understanding
of the situation. So it is not a prerequisite to have prior
knowledge. Prior knowledge is always necessary to under-
stand the being, the ontological schema of the situation, the
mathematical categories and so on, because we have to work
for that sort of understanding; terrible work! But from the
point of view of singular truth we have an access from the
event itself and not from preconstituted knowledge. The
truth creates the understanding of the process of truth and
the subject is this sort of understanding. So, the truth needs
nothing than itself. It's. -'. is
not a q uesuon of knowledge; It IS the knowledge.
This is the reason why the people who defend knowledge are
against events: the subject which is constituted within a
truth, in a way, has no need of knowledge. Such a subject is
a transformation of knowledge, a complete transformation
of knowledge.
GB: What happens when the real event lies in the future -
Lenin in 1917? Could you explain your understanding of
Lenin in 1917? Because vou can say that Lenin was faithful
before the Russian Revl;lution, to 1905.
179
Infinite Thought
AB: Lenin explained that he was faithful to the Commune of
Paris. There is always an event for faithfulness and we know
that when the Russian Revolution lasted longer than the
Paris Commune, Lenin danced on the snow! The constitu-
tion of Lenin as a subjective revolutionary depends on the
fact that, in contrast to Trotsky and others, he was not
faithful to Marxism - he was a Marxist, naturally ~ but he
was not faithful to Marxism, he was faithful to the French
Revolution and the Paris Commune it's another thing. It's
a very important point and it is the same question.
Knowledge is important, but the faithfulness which
consti tutes the subject the revolutionary subject, the
political subject - is not made of knowledge but made of
other things than knowledge. In the case of Lenin it is very
interesting. On the one hand, Lenin was in the middle of the
people who were Marxists in the first years of the twentieth
century yet, on the other hand, he refers systematically to
events and not exclusively to the doctrine or theory.
AL: You seem to situate the question of the event as a
historical phenomenon and I was reminded when you were
speaking of Lacan's comment in Encore where he compares
Lenin's relation to Marx with his own in relation to Freud.
It's interesting to think about the relation of fidelity and
truth not so much in relation to a political or cultural event
but to an event in thought itself. Is that something you
would consider?
AB: Yes. The case of Lacan is very clear. Lacan says that the
American psychoanalysis was not faithful to Freud and that
his faithfulness is a faithfulness to Freud, not Freud as a
person, not even as a theory, but as an event in thinking, of
universal thinking. Lacan thought that the majority of
psychoanalysts had forgotten that event. So there are events
in thinking, I agree with you. There is an example which is
very clear for me. Just before the Renaissance Greek
1RO
Ontology and politics
mathematics were forgotten, especially the writmgs of
Archimedes. It is very surprising to see that Greek
mathematics in the Renaissance and in the first years of
the l700s were constituted as a faithfulness to Archimedes-
after a long obscurity since the text had existed but nobody
could read it. The Renaissance was the capacity to be
faithful in reading to these absolutely fi:>rgotten and obscure
writings.
OF: In L'Etre et l'euenement you argue that historicity is
constituted by events and generic procedures. You also talk
of the modern epochal decision as to the infinity of being.
How exactly would you distance yourself from Heidegger's
history of being?
AB: If history is constituted by events and generic truths
there is no unified history, there is nothing like 'History'.
There are historical sequences, a multiplicity of historical
sequences. If I say, for example, that there is a sequence
after Galileo, of modern physics, then I think the event of
the creation of modern mathematical physics opens a
sequence of the thinking or understanding of Nature. That
sort of thing has nothing to do with the Heideggerean
conviction of a monumental history of being from the
Greeks until the present day with its sequences of the
forgetting of being, metaphysics, nihilism and so on. I think
it is necessary to speak of historicity and not of a History. I
think there is a profound historicity of truth, which is quite
natural, since truth is a process and not a donation. But
there is not a History of being' or a History of truth; rather
there are histories of truths, of the multiplicity of truths. So,
I am neither Hegelian, nor Heideggerean! Because the
common feature of Hegel and Heidegger's thought is
precisely that of thinking there is a History of being and
thought.
181
Irifi"nite Thought
OF: Why do you say all or almost all situations are infinite
when set theory does not say that all sets are infinite? How
do you move from saying the modern decision that being is
infinite to: (1) there is an infinity of situations, and then to
(2) every situation is infinite?
AB: When I say that all situations are infinite, it's an axiom.
It is impossible to deduce this point. It is an axiomatic
conviction, a modern conviction. I think it is better to think
that all situations are infinite. It is better for thinking to say
that situations are infinite. Because we come after a long
philosophical period in which the theme of finitude and the
conviction that all situations are finite was dominant, and
we are suffering the effects of that sort of conviction. For
example, for a long time, Marxism itself had the conviction
that all situations could be reduced to finite parameters:
two-class struggle, dominant ideology, imperialism versus
socialism and so OIl. Today, with a great deal of caution, we
must draw as a conclusion a sort of ethics of thinking from
that history. The ethics of thinking today is to say that it is
better to think that all situations are infinite, that it is very
difficult to reduce a situation to finite parameters. It is a
conviction. It is not a deduction. Naturally, from the point
of view of the strictest ontology, there is no necessity to say
that all situations are infinite, because finite multiplicities
exist. But the question is not there, the question is not purely
objective. In pure objectivity it is always possible to say
there are finite situations. In fact, a lot of philosophers say
precisely that, that situations arc finite. Such is the theme of
the essential finitude of the human being. I think it is
necessary to work against that kind of conviction. The
consequences of the tact that situations are infinite - we don't
know them very well. It is a new axiom. It constitutes a
rupture to say that situations are infinite and that human life
is infinite and that we are infinite. Tt is a new axiom and we
182
Ontology and politics
have to explore its consequences. It is more interesting and
more attuned to the necessity of the times than declaring that
we are finite and all is finite, we are mortal beings, being for
death and so on. We are being-for-the-infinite.
L.M: So your mathematics supports that, that's what you're
saying?
AB: Yes. Absolutely. If my ontology is linked with
mathematics, as you know, the theme of infinity is most
important in that link. Because mathematics is the only
rational thinking of infinity. The story of infinity has b e e ~
marked by theological thinking for a long, long time. We
must liberate this category from the theological conception,
and mathematics is the unique means for doing so. vVe must
think the infinity of the situations without the theological
conception. It is possible only today, now, for us, with
mathematics and this is why I often say one philosophical
task is to be faithful to Cantor. This faithfulness to Cantor is
not yet accomplished.
OF: One classic question for a philosopher. Doesn't any
ontology have to include an account of its applicability to
non-ontological situations? For example, doesn't any
ontology have to attempt to explain why science works?
AL: It is related to why you think mathematics is the answer
to this q uestion of inlinity.
AB: There are two different questions. The first question is:
Is ontology able or not to explain science and the functions
of science? The second question is: Wh y is mathematics
necessary in ontology itself? It is not the same question.
OF: No. Just one question, because for Andrew mathe-
matics is a science itself. Doesn't any ontology have to
attempt to explain why science functions, for example, why
we can send man to the moon and back?
183
Infinite Thought
AB: Yes. The difficulty in my conception is that ontology
has to explain why science operates but ontology is
mathematics, so mathematics has to explain how mathe-
matics operates and it is a real problem, a real problem. A
large part of L' Eire et l' evenement tries to explai n with the
means of mathematics why mathematics is ontology. As a
matter offact it is its task. We must say fill' example, if being
is inconsistent multiplicity the consequence of this thesis is
that ontology is necessarily a sort of set theory, a consistent
theory of inconsistent multiplicity. \Ve have a complex
relation between ontology and science, in my case ontology
and mathematics, in the case of Kant between ontology and
physics. There is a complex relation between ontology and
science because there is an ontological status of science itself.
So philosophical categories are appropriate for thinking the
relation between science as science and science as an
ontological enterprise. This question has bcen a part of
philosophy since the Greeks; it is not particular to my
philosophy. One part of philosophy is to organize discussion
between science and science. In Plato we can say that there
is a discussion between Greek mathematics and Greek
mathematics, a philosophical discussion between the mathe-
matics of the working mathematicians and mathematics as
part of thinking being itself. In L' Etre et l' enenement the same
thing occurs. There is a philosophical discussion between set
theory as a mathematical creation and set theory as an
ontological thinking. Science doesn't organize that discus-
sion. This is the reason why philosophy is necessary. Science
doesn't include an evaluation of its double nature.
Philosophy is able to organize the discussion between
science and science or to think the double nature of science,
mathematics or physics, or biology (which is the case for
Aristotle). A large part of Aristotle's work is devoted to a
discussion between biology and the science of the being of
living beings. This is also the case with Bergson, who mounts
184
Ontology and politics
a philosophical discussion between the theory of life and the
theory of life. It is a very important point. There is no
intrinsic relation between science and philosophy. Philoso-
phy is not an interpretation of science. Philosophy is the
method for organizing the discussion between science and
science, science on the side of specific production and science
as a part of the thinking of being qua being.
OF: A question on modality. In your article on Wittgenstein
there is a passage on the relation between being and the
laws of existence, the 'rnondanite du monde' [the worldhood
of the world]. What is it that regulates the fact that there are
certain situations which exist? The question is: What will be
the role of modality in your new work? Are you developing
another logic of modality or another modal ontology:
AB: It is a terrible question. The question is more complex
than anything I have ever written! No, but I understand it
very well. In my philosophy there are two instances of
contingency and so of modality. First in a situation there is
no reason for the existence of that situation. I am not
Leibnizean. I don't think there is a principle of sufficient
reason. There is an irreducible contingency to a situation
because, on the one hand, there is no intrinsic interior mark
of the necessity of the situation. On the other hand, the
event itself is marked by contingency. There is a double
contingency of truth: the contingency of the situation of
which it is the truth, and the contingency of the event of
which the truth is the process of consequences. The ontology
of truth, the thinking of the being of the truth, is a theory of
modality. In the work in progress, the second book of L'Etre
et l'euenement, which I am going to publish one day, I have to
explain that the process of truth is not necessary but
contingent. The consequences of such contingency for the
concept of truth will then have to be explained because in
the philosophical tradition truth is always linked to necessity
185
Infinite Thought
and not to contingency. This question is a logical question
because truth, in my conviction, is a transformation - not of
the being of a situation, because its being remains the same -
but of the logic of the situation. A truth is a
of the articulation of the multiplicity of the situation - Its
logic- and this transformation is linked to contingency,
both of the event and of the situation. A truth doesn't
express a necessity of the situation. It expresses the
contingency of the situation, the sort of contingency which
is linked to the central ontological void of the situation. All
of a situation's characteristics are affected by the transfor-
mation of its logic. It is thus necessary to explain what a
logical transformation is when you move from one logic to
another logic. This movement from a logic to another logic
is the real effect of truth procedures. It is only possible to
understand this movement if we have a solid conception of
the logic of a situation. The logic of a situation is different to
its being. We have to think not only multiplicity but also
multiplicity here -- not sein, but da-sein. The logic is of the da,
of here. of localization. Localization requires a sort of
conception of the situation. I can demon-
strate that the logic of the situation is a sort of modal logic.
It's between cla:ssical logic - because being in itself is
classical, set theory is classical - but the logic of the
situation, of the localized multiplicity, that sort of logic is
between classical logic and intuitionist logic. This is a
technical question, but not so technical that it is impossible
to explain!
JC: If that's the case and you have to think that truth in the
classical sense is always necessary, then in classical
philosophy there's no dispute possible about the force of
the truth the truth is maybe pure force. It's necessary, it's
unavoidable. However, if truth is contingent, then you are
left with the question of the force of a truth in a situation
186
Ontology and politics
and the differences between a big event and a little event, in
terms offorce. Is there then a possible meta-logical, or meta-
ontological way to talk about the contingency ofthejorce of
an event?
AB: The distinction between events is alwavs a distinction
between the consequences of events because an event in itself
is always a perfect weakness. It is such because the being of
an event is to disappear; the being of an event is
disappe(l}:!PZ, The event is nothing - just a "sori-or
illumination but the consequences of an event within a
situation are always very different and it is true that there
are major consequences, long sequences of truth, or brief
sequences. There are a large variety of truths. The means for
interpreting this sort of differenceisthe Iransformation of
the logical apparatus of the situation. It is possible in my
elaboration of this question, to evaluate the difference
between a large transformation and a weak logical
transformation. It is perfectly possible.
JC: Is it also a qualitative difference? Are there different
beings of the truth of different cvents? Can, then, if you are
talking about a transformation in the logic of situations, and
each situation has a truth and there is a being of that truth,
maybe you can talk about big or small events and these are
quantitative differences? Are there qualitative differences in
the being of truths of different situations?
AB: It is possible to treat that sort of difference as qualitative
difference because they concern the appearance of the
situation. The second book of L'Etre ei l'ivinement _. which
doesn't exist at all! treats appeanlllce, which is the name for
the logical constitution of the situation. In thls book I
transform the concept ofsituation which inL'Etre et l'eoenement
is only thought from the point of view of pure multiplicity:
this gives an ontological conception of situation. In the
187
Infinite Thought
second book there is the same ontological conception of the
situation but I have to explain that the situation is not only
a multiplicity but also a multiplicity-here - sein-da - a
localized multiplicity, and not localized from the point of
view of totality because there is no such totality. There is a
characteristic of multiplicity which is that of being here,
and it is necessarily internal to the situation: such is the
appearing of the situation or its logical constitution, it's the
same thing. So when we say that the consequences of an
event are significant, we are saying the logical transforma-
tion of the situation can be evaluated from the situation
itself as an important transformation and the norm of that
sort of evaluation is in that situation itself, not outside it.
Important or unimportant can be said from inside the
situation.
RH: This follows on from Justin's question and from the
example of Lenin. If there's a fidelity or faithfulness to the
event, surely unfaithfulness to the event can always be
faithfulness to another event? Which is also a question
related to the ontological difference.
AB: Unfaithfulness for me is always what happens to a
faithfulness. Unfaithfulness is only something thi
I1kahkfI.QlJ1
the point of view of already having faithfulness ...
IV: There's no unfaithfulness as such, you always have to
have first faithfulness and then you get unfaithfulness. You
can't be unfaithful as such.
AB: Ifin a situation somebody doesn't care about the event
at all it is not, in my words, unfaithfulness, it is indifference
and indifference is always a form of reaction to the event;!ln
my "curient elaboratioti I narhelnisposlfiClh
subject. The reactive subject is the sllbject who says the
'event is- not important' and "so"on, but--iha'ti';;--ilot
unfaithfulness, it is a sort of indifference. Unfaithfulness is
188
Ontology and politics
when a subject is constituted by faithfulness but that
faithfulness disappears.
IV: He renounces his fidelity, a sort of treason.
,..... .... "', .,
AB: Yes, unfaithfulness is renllT\"(iatiotl.
RH: Is that faithfulness to another event?
IV: No.
AB: I think it is not a faithfulness to another event.
RH: So renunciation is not an event?
IV: No. I am very sorry.
OF: Three more questions. First, Louis has a question about
the Holocaust.
LM: You wrote at the beginning of the Manifesto that I
philosophers are perhaps
their persistent response to the question of the Holocaust.
My question is: How shall we view your response to that?
Can we indeed suggest, or view your response, as perhaps a
conceited response as well, in that you would wish - not
necessarily incorrectly, but perhaps incorrectly to move on
or to attempt to move on, a 'new philosophy'? You wrote
that around 1989. How would you view that now, the
question of the conceitedness of those French philosophers?
AB: The difIiculty of the problem is that the question of
Auschwitz and the Holocaust is in my opinion a profound
political question which has not yet been clarified. In my
opinion the philosophical discourse about it is a substitute for
the lack of a political treatment of the question. 'Many
philosophers have said that after Auschwitz it is impossible to
philosophize or that great philosophy has crashed and so on.
But I think this is not the true problem. The true problem is
that for complex reasons there has been no political treatment
189
Infinite Thought
of the question of what happened in the Nazi period. When I
say that it is necessarv to take one step further, I want to say
two different things. The first one is that it is not possible fill'
philosophy to have, about the question of Auschwitz, the
Holocaust and the Nazi period, a better discourse than other
thinkings. It is a political question; we are obliged to assign
this question to historical and political thinking. Philosophy is
able to elaborate some categories about the Holocaust,
naturally, and in my Ethics I try to do something about that,
but it is not the crucial point. The crucial point today is what
is, after Auschwitz, after the crash of the socialist state and so
on, what is a political task? Is there or is there not a politics of
emancipation? Are we all buried in the capitalist period
forever:'! The second point is that I don't think it is
acceptable to say that because of the history of the century
philosophy is impossible or absolutely consummated. So
when I say 'one step further' it is simply a manner of saying I
don't believe in the discourse of the end, the end of
philosophy and so on. Because I-prefer affirmation. to
negation, I prefer to talk of trying to make a step rather
than always saying philosophy is bad, or impossible, and as
such paralysing philosophy.
OF: To finish we have two questions on love.
AI.: This is a question that came from some passages in the
Manifesto where you discuss Lacan and his contribution to
the philosophical use of love. You say in those passages
almost that Lacan was a theorist of love despite himself. It's
interesting to consider that first of all, but second of all to
consider what Lacan thought he was, a theoretician of
desire and the unconscious.- I wondered why you singled
out whv vou take love from Lacan rather than the
the unconscious.
AB: I extract love from Lacan because I think love from
190
Ontology and politics
Plato onwards is a specific condition of philosophy. I
understand perfectly that Lacan is a theoretician of desire
and of the unconscious, and the field of psychoanalysis. But
there are also many texts and interventions about love in
Lacan's work: and I think that the situation of the Lacanian
text about love is complex, complete with formal contra-
dictions; it is very interesting ... I was just saying that, as
philosophers, we have to, if we want, assume the experience
of love as a condition of philosophy. Plato says the same
thing in the Symposium. To do this, we have to assume the
Lacanian hypotheses concerning love, which are very
complex and very new. Lacan's conception of love is not
the same as that of Freud. Naturally it is the same thing
with desire and the unconsciousness but with love, it's not at
all the same thing. Lacan distinguishes love and desire in
philosophical terms because he says that love is connected
with being and desire is connected with the object, it's not
exactly the same thing. This is why, I think, that all
philosophers who assume that love is a condition of
philosophy have to sustain the experience of the Lacanian
text on love.
OF: Last question. Justin, it's yours about faithfulness, you
know, isn't faithfulness itself an act of love ... ?
AB: (To .Justin) You don't know your own question?
JC: I can barely remember my own name ... It's more to do
with the question of fidelity and its possible identity with
love. For you it seems absolutely crucial that love,
mathematics, politics, they're absolutely separate, abso-
lutely heterogeneous, they don't intermingle with each other
in any way, yet in 'What is love?' there are two sexuated
positions, there's man who rnetaphorizes, and woman who
knots the four truth-processes together. Insofar as these are a
knotting- that is, in fidelity to an event of love a woman
191
Infinite Thought
knots all of these - is one not in love when one is faithful to a
political event?
AB: The problem is the problem of the connection between
the different procedures. It is a problem which is very
interesting and complex. For instance, there are some
similarities between politics and love, and I demonstrate this
with technical concepts, numericity and the unnameable and
so on; a singular connection between artistic creation and
political thought also, and also a connection between love
and science because love and science are the two procedures
which don't know that they are procedures, in fact. It is not
the same with artistic creation. We know perfectly that it is a
procedure of truth in rivalry with science. It is not the same,
naturally, fell' the other conditions. It is necessary to elaborate
a general theory of the connections of the knots between
different procedures but the difficult point is to have criteria
for such an evaluation: however, it is possible once you have
categories for the different steps of the procedures. I am
working on this point. There are some texts in Conditions. The
crucial concepts are the concept of the numericity of the
procedure and the concepts of the connection of the
procedure with the event, the undecidable, the indiscern-
ible, the unnameable, and the nature of the stopping point
of the procedure. With all of these categories it is possible
and necessary to have a thinking of the different connections
between different procedurcs of tru ths. As you remark, there
is some connection between politics and love, it's an old
story because, for example, all the French tragedies, Racine,
Corneille, speak about the link between love and politics, a
perfect example. In Lacan, for example, we find some
connection, very interesting, between love and science. The
link between politics and artistic creation is vcrI' elaborate,
for example, in the work of Deleuze. It's a very interesting
field.
192
Ontology and politics
Notes
I. This interview took place on 8 September 1999, at the
C y Melbourne. The discussion was in English.
Participants 111 the interview included aside from Badiou
himself Isabelle Vodoz, Geoff Boucher, Justin Clemens,
Ralph Humphries, Oliver Fcltham, Andrew Lewis, Louis
fvfagee and Dan Ross. Insofar as the questioners could be
identified from the tape-recording, their initials appear in the
body of the text. Aside from minor grammatical emendations,
the transcript of the interview has been reproduced here in its
entirety.
2. Editor's note: Badiou was referring to the companion volume
to 1/ Eire et l' eomement, whose current title stands as Logiquesdes
mondes (Logics of worlds), forthcoming from Editions du
Seuil. .
3. Alain Badiou, L'Etre et l'evinernent (Paris: Seuil, 1988),2589.
193
Index ~ f Names
Index of Names
Deguy, M. 92
Deleuze, G. 18,!O8 n.3, 142,
158, 173, 19:1
Derrida, J. 4, 35 n. 7, 12
Descartes, R. 50, 56
Kohl, H. 129
Lacan, J. 3, 10, 13, 35 nA,
80,83,8:1-9, 101, 138 nA,
173, 180, 190-2
Lacoue-Labarthe, P. 4, 60,
93
Lazarus. S. 138 n.3, 140
n. 8
Leibniz, G. 10,36 n.14, 91,
1 0 ~ ) , 185
Lenin, V. 79,85, 126 7,
179--80, 188
Levy, D. 109, 118
Levy, B-H. 156-7
Lucretius 105-7
Lukas, G. 172
Lyotarcl, J.-F. 42, 45, 17
Nasser, G. 151
Newton, 1. 83
Nietzsche, F. 77,91, 103,166
Mahler, G. 121
Malebranche, X 103
Mallarme, S. 39,41, 77,
97-9
Malraux, A. 144
Mao Tse-Tung 71-2,79,131,
136
Marivaux, P. 119
Marx, K. 85, 178, 180
Miller, ].-A. 3, 35 nA
Mitterancl, F. 154
:\Ionk, T. 121
Muller, H. 175
Murnau, G. 115
Musset, A. 119
Kant, 1. 36 n.15, 56, 91, 145,
184
Kiarostami, A. 110, 112, 116
Hallward, P. 34 n.I-2
Hegel, G. W. F. 56,61, 77,
91, !0O, 103, 174, 181
Heidegger, M. 9, II, 12, 16,
42,45,48,58-61, 77,85-6,
91 2,96-8, 100, 103, 105,
173,181
Heraclitus 92, 97
Holderlin, F. 92, 96
Hoxha, E. 136
Hussein, S. 1.')2
Gadamer, H.-G. 42
Galileo, G. 62-5, 79, 181
Gaulle, C. de. 154
Godard, ].-L. 110 13, 116
Godel, K. 66
Guattari, F. 108 n. 3
Guevara, C. 79
Eastwood. C. 112-Ui
Einstein, A. 79, 83
Epicurus 107
Fassbinder, W. 116
Fcrncvhough, B. 121
Finley, M. 139 n.8
Foucault, M. 5
Freud, S. 35 nA, 83, 85, 180,
191
Frege, G. 21,22
]aruzclski, W. 129
Juillarcl, J. 156-7
163
158, 192
115
136
145-6, 159
Cage, J. 31
Canto, M. 145, 148
Cantor, G. 19, 183
Carnap, R. 42, 45
Cavell, S. 119
Celan, P. 77, 99
Chaplin, C. 115, 118
Char, R. 92
Cohen, P. 29-32, 37 n. 28, 38
n. 29, 68
Corcoran, S.
Corneille, P.
Craven, VV.
Brezhnev, L.
Bush, C.W.
Badiou, A. passIm
Balmes, F. 139 n.6
Barker, ]. 34 n.I-2
Beckett, S. 68, 72
Benazeraf, .J. liS
Bergson, H. 184
Bin Laden, O. 149 50, 158,
159
Blair, T. 157.
Bonaparte, K. 77
Botelho, J. 116
Boulez, P. 31,
Bradman, D. 26
Aeschylus 62-3, 143
Allen, W. 120
Al th usser, L. 12, 85-6
Antonioni, M. 112
Archimedes 181
Aristotle to, 13,23,65,74,
945, 100, 184
Armstrong, L. 121
194 195
infinite Thought
Oliveira, 1'\11. de. 110, 1J2,
Ilfi,l22
Palma, B. de. 115
Parmenides, 87, 92 4,96-7
Persc,S.-J. 131
Petain, M. 145
Picasso, P. 28, 124
Pollet, J.-D. 110
Plato 23,45,50,69, 70, 77,
93 5,97, 100-1, 103,
105-6, 166, 178, 184, 191
Putin, V. 145, 154
Quine, W. V. O. 36 n.13
Rachmaninov, S. 121
Racine, J. 117, 192
Reagan, R. 155
Rimbaud , A. 39, III
Robespierre, M. 79, 14·}
Rohmer, E. 119-20
Rumsfeld, D. 159
Russell, B. 21, 37 n.23
Saint-Just, L. de 71-2, 144
Schmitt, C. 172
Schoenberg, A. 32, 121
Schroerer, W 116
Sharon, A. 14:)
Smith, A. 36 n.l 7
Solzhenitsyn, A. 135, 137
Sophocles 63
Sowley, T. 78 n.l
Spartacus 131
Spengler, O. 147
Spinoza, B. 128, 173
Stalin, J. 137
Straub, J-M. 110, 122
Strauss, R. 121
Tchaikovsky, P. 121
Tcchine, A. 120, 123
Tito 136
Trakl, G. 97
Trotsky, 180
Vitez, A. 139 n.7
Wagner, R. ISO
Wendcrs, W. 1]()
Wittgcnstcin, L. 9,42,177,
185
Woo, J. 113
Yeltsin, B. 129
196

Continuum The Tower Building II York Road London, SE I 7~X www.continuumbooks.com

15 East 26th Street New York ;\IY 10010

Editorial material and selection © Oliver Feltharn and Justin Clemens

Philosophy and Desire, Philosophy and Film, Philosophy and"the war against terrorism" © Alain Badiou Philosophy andArt, and The Definition of Philosophy © Seuil (from Conditions, 1992) Philosophy and the Death of Communism © Editions de l'Aube (from D'un desastre obscur, 1998)
English language translations: 'Philosophy and Truth' © Pli; 'Philosophy and Politices' © Radical Philosophy; 'Philosophy and Psychoanalysis' (!:') Ana{ysis; all other English language translations © Continuum Reprinted 2003 This paperback edition published 2004 by Continuum All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Oatalcgufng-dn-Publicarlon Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Contents
An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy Philosophy and desire Philosophy and truth Philosophy and politics Philosophy and psychoanalysis Philosophy and art Philosophy and cinema Philosophy and the 'death of communism' Philosophy and the 'war against terrorism' 9 The definition of philosophy 10 Ontology and politics: an interview with Alain Badiou Index of names I 2 3 45 6 7 8
39

58 69
79

91 109 126 141 165 169 195

ISB:\" 0-8264-6724-5 (Hardback) 0-8264-7320-2 (Paperback)

Typeset by BookEns Ltd, Royston, Herts. Printed and bound by in Great Britain by The Bath Press, Bath

v

An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy
Alain Badiou is one of France's foremost living philosophers. Yet recognition of the force and originality of his work in the English-speaking world has been slow to come, perhaps because it is difficult to assimilate his work within the established categories of 'contemporary French philosophy'. However, such recognition is now gathering momentum. No fewer than six translations of his major works, two collections of his essays, and one monograph on his work are currently in press.' The first English-language conference devoted to his work was held in May 2002 at Cardiff, a critical introduction to his work has appeared, and three translations of his works ~ Ethics, Deleuze, and Manifesto for Philosophy - are already on the shelves.f The present volume aims to provide a brief, accessible introduction to the diversity and power of Badiou's thought, collecting a series of conference papers and essays. The opening text sets the scene, giving a polemical overview of the state of philosophy in relation to the contemporary world. The second chapter gives a general overview, via the categories of ethics and truth, of Badiou's model of fundamental change in the domains of art, love, politics

' 2 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy Badiou's question Badiou is neither a poststructuralist nor an analytic philosopher. He effectively tries to speak to those who do not spend their lives in professional institutions. necessary since it grounds his entire doctrine. for it reveals a fundamental difficulty one that many argue Lacan never solved. the grand theorist of the barred subject. ~ Chapters 7 and 8 exemplify a return to one of philosophy's classical roles: the analytical denunciation of ideology. and then the collection closes with an interview with Badiou in which he explains and reconsiders some of his positions. especially in his magnum opus. We then engage in a long. and not particularly long in relation to its matter. he or she should feel absolutely free to do so . and for one major reason: there is a question which drives his thought.for Badiou is still his own best exegete.4 Miller.in fact not only foreign. but necessary exegesis of Badiou's set theory ontology. Surely one could object that poststructuralism has developed a modern doctrine of the subject? The problem with poststructuralism is that exactly the same set of negative definitions serves to delimit its implicit ontology (whether of desire or difference): there are no selfidentical substances. nor as the correlate of an object. Badiou attacking first the 'war on terrorism' and then the 'death of communism'. L'Etre et l'eoenement. but unwelcome. 'What is your ontology?'5 For Badiou this is a crucial moment. If the prospective reader wishes to skip over the more abstruse discussions offered in the introduction. It is this question that governs the peculiarity of Badiou's trajectory and the attendant difficulties of his thought. nor as the product of reflection. Being and Event comprises over 500 pages in the French edition. In our introduction we identify one of the manners in which Badiou's philosophy differs from the contemporary French philosophy known as poststructuralism: its treatment of the question of the subject. As Badiou himself puts it: 'Philosophy privileges no language. The difficulty is that of reconciling a modern doctrine of the subject (such as that of psychoanalysis) with an ontology. The following chapters present specific applications of his central conception of philosophy as an exercise of thought conditioned by such changes in art (Chapters 5 and 6 on poetry and cinema). This question is foreign to both poststructuralism and analytic philosophy . even with his loopy 1970s recourses to knot theory.Infinite Thought and science . without blinking. but act and think in ways that usually exceed or are beneath notice. politics (Chapter 3) and science. The penultimate chapter sets out Badiou's doctrine on philosophy in relation to its conditions. In the introduction to L'Etre et l'ivenement Badiou seizes upon an exchange between Jacques-Alain Miller and Jacques Lacan during the famous Seminar XI. yet without undue distortion." This set of negative definitions is all very familiar to a reader of poststructuralism. there are no stable products of 3 . not even the one it is written in. asks Lacan. at times difficult. Hence Badiou's guiding question: How can a modern doctrine of the subject be reconciled with an ontology? But what exactly does Badiou understand by a 'modern doctrine of the subject'? Badiou takes it as given that in the contemporary world the subject can no longer be theorized as the self-identical substance that underlies change. At every point we have attempted to render the technical details in as clear a fashion as possible. Since Badiou's work in relation to science is mainly found in the huge tome L' Etre et I'eoenement (Being and Event) we chose to sketch the latter's argument in the introduction.philosophy's four 'conditions'. love (Chapter 4 on psychoanalysis).

and the free will versus determinism debate from the latter." However. however. then how can it be the source of independent resistance? For such a point of agency to exist. he has neither. that o(age~iY" 'the mind-body problem derIves for' the most part from the former.ht reflection. When poststructuralists do engage with the problem of agency they again meet with difficulties. In his later work. and again precisely because they merge their theory of the subject with their general ontology. there is no tension between the being of the subject and being in general. Funnily enough. first .is constituted by power. the 4 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopkv subject is nothing other than a perpetual movement of translation. and since there are no stable objects there can be no correlates of such objects. in his introduction to a collection of Philippe Lacoue-Labarrhe's essays. Where Badiou sees an essential question for modern philosophy. a price to be paid for lumping the subject together with whatever else is usually recognized in an ontology. The same line of argument is also applied to the identity of any entity thus including the subject within the domain of a general ontology. problem. poststructuralism sees nothing. then. then what is the ground for autonomous rational action? This is what lies behind the infamous jibe that poststructuralism leads down a slippery slope to apoliticism. Foucault also said that power produces resistance. these problems are quite clearly inherited From the very philosophical tradition whose 'death' poststructuralisrn gleefully proclaims. Poststructuralism typically encounters a number of problems in its theory of the subject. For many this lack of distinction between the being of the subject and the being of everything else would appear to be a virtue. For example. However. the second." This brings the subject within the ambit of his much-maligned but fateful early ontological claim: 'There is no ou tsidc. There is. but actually produce what we call subjects.the consequence of poststructuralisrri's almost exclusive concentration on the first problem has been that the critics of poststructuralism have had an easy pitch: all they have had to do is to accuse the poststructuralists of robbing the subject of agency: if there is no self-identical subject. The.philosophy's second fundamental problem in the thought of the subject . There was enough lite left in the corpse to pass something on -. the privilege of the rational animal is finally removed in favour of a less anthropocentric ontology.text. is the emergence of a problem with the differentiation of subjects. If the subject . Poststructuralists have concentrated almost exclusively on a critique of the first problem. His problem then became that of accounting for the source of such resistance. of this merger of the subject with a general ontology within the context of a general critique of identity and representation. Foucault needs some space which has not been completely constituted by power. arguing that there is no solution to the problem of the identity of the subject because the subject has no substantial identity: the illusion of an underlying identity is produced by the very representational mechanism employed by the subject in its effort to grasp its own identity. Derrida identifies the subject with the self. For example. 5 . How can one subject be differentiated from another without recourse to some sort of definable identity? As for agency .right down to its most intimate desires.and what it passed on were the two fundamental problems in the thought of the subject.' The conseq uence of this move. or a complex doctrine on the relationship between resistance and independence. Thus in poststrucruralism there is no distinction between the general field of ontology and a theory of the subject. actions and thoughts .Infinite Thou/. in his middle period Foucault argued that networks of disciplinary power not only reach into the most intimate spaces of the subject.)roblem i~ that of identity.(de )constituting rnovemen t of the text.

when it comes to the two problems. Thus in Badiou's philosophy!bc. and rupture with one's family.~lie~ated friends. It is rather those extraordinary decisions and actions which isolate'lan actor from their context. but extends into a prolonged investigation pC the consequences of such aqe.is not explained. leaving a direct treatment of it for the unpublished companion volume to Being and Event.b~ing is always a subject.!f. those actions which show that a human can actually be a free agent that supports new chains of actions and reactions . on the other side. it entails not only the active transformation of the situation in~Flich the event occurs but also the active transformation of the human being. love may involve debt. seasoned militants andcommitted lovers are adIriitte'a into rhe fold. Again. The: point is that love changes their relation to the world i~r~~o~~bly:'The duration of the lovers' relationship depends upon their fidelity to that event and how they change according to what they discover through their love. which has happened in their situation . nothing much distinguishing them from animals in their pursuit of their interests. rather. Badiou recognizes a distinction between the general domain of ontology and the theory of the subject.)&-' A subject is born of a human being's decision that' 'something they have encountered.ds not limited to the recognition of the'\)~:'c\l'h~nce of an event.however foreign and abnormal . and then. He does not merge the one into the other.not every human . the subject..9 For Badiou. or the length of their entire courtship .forms an event for them in relation to which they change their lives.Infinite Thought he deals with this problem by assigning agency to those subjects who resist power by means of an aesthetic project of self-authoring. However7 . you have human beings. the question of agencY'is not so much a question of how a subject can initiate an action in an autonomous manner but rather how a subject emerges through an autonomous chain of actions within a changing \situa~ion<I~~~U~"it~. . A little~nfai~. and one could be forgiven for comparing it at first glance to Mormon doctrine.' yet some human beings become subjects. those who act InjiJeHlj)tQ a chance encounter with an evenilvhich disrupts the . while he concentrates on the problem of agency.' .iluationAhey find themselves in. scholarly affair. the source of such privileged agency why do some subjects shape themselves against the grain and not others? . modern masters.EQF this reason.as a sll!?ject without such apr(lt~esS of subjectivization. when two people [ill in love. their 'meeting' . This certainly does not mean that their lives are simply going to be the.pot everyday actions or decisions that provIde eVIdence of agency for Badiou. ' For example. TN~ 0vestigation is not a passive.estahlished knowledge. . In the realm 9f' science the most obvious exal11ple of an event is the Copernican revolution. The consequence of such a definition of the subject seems to be that only brilliant scientists.i~g() such thinK.-erite or fatttJful ~~~'this has a dangerous ring. for it. as born of a decision.better.whether that meeting be their first hours together.does in fact belong to the situation and thus cannot be overlooked. .v~nt. Moreover. Second. the tension between the two drives his investigations. Badiou does the exact opposite to the posts trueturalists: he defers the problem of identity. Badiou marks the disruptive abnormality of such an event by stating that whether it belongs to a situation or not is. vou -11a~cC the ne. perh. on the contrary. 6 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopky strictly undecidable on the basis of.lp'~? Is Badiou's definition of the subject exclusive or elitist? On the one side. What does Badiou do when faced with these two fundamental problems of identity and agency? First. the e~ls~iIlg subject~being those scientists who worked within its wake contributing to the field we now name 'modern physics'.

but only some of the time. there is no simple distinction between subjects and humans. Badiou takes his starting point from both traditions: the concept of 'situation' from vVittgenstein and the idea of the 'ontological difference' from Heidegger.. Badiou proposes the term situation'.~!~)~~_ ~~~twe. His problem is accounting for how an existing situation . Despite his rejection of their conclusions.I£".given that being._the occurrence of an eventand the decision of a subject toactjn fideli tv to tha t event. However. which he defines as a 'presented multip)i(.~t' 'e~Tent.Wha.can be disrupted and transformed by such a chain of actions. Badiou's solution was to develop a complex poststructuralist remodelling of the Hegelian dialectic. There is no higher order which prescribes who will encounter an event and decide to act in relation to it. Thus. Such events d9.. wInch hmges oB. the direct and unavoidable consequence of the displacement is that the problem of agency becomes the ancient philosophical problem of how the new occurs in being. Heidegger formulates the ontological difference as the difference between Being and.r? In that work..leads directly to this venerable philosophical problem.r:r:. That is. there are two major traditions that . WI. If decisions are taken by subjects to work out the consequences of such events. The analvtic tradition either forecloses ontology in favour of epistem. ontology IS a contingent relationship. (hat is.P The post-Heideggerean tradition perpetually announces the end of fundamental ontology. his problem is no longer that of how an individual subject initiates a new chain of actions.~s~~~t!d. the difference between ifldi~ld~-al heings and the fact of their Being.beings. is nothing other than multiple situations .lO gy)or reduces ontology to a property of theories. I I Some humans become subjects. Furthermore. it is too close to the term 'entity~ 'existant' or 'object'. new situations 8 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy emerge as a result of their work. On the contrary. and often they break their fidelity to an event and thus lose their subjecthood.there is no predestination in Badiou's account. The term i'situatioif is prior to any distinction 9 As already mentioned. part of 'what is'. He then forges a new ontology within the furnace of their critiques of ontology. for Badiou. In L'Etre et l'eoenement. Theorie du sujet.: happen'. There is nothing other than chance encounters between particular humans and particular events. Instead. is this 'general domain' of Badiou's ontology? A1adem ontology: being as multiple multiplicities '~~iiox a relation to ontology in late twentieth-century philosophy: the analytic tradition and the post-Heideggerean tradition. then.at. Thus the r11. There is only chance.s. Badiou's solution is simply}o . This displacement of the problem of agency allows Badiou to avoid positing some mysterious autonomous agent within each human such as 'free will'. Badiou displaces the problem of agency from the level of the human to the level of being.LB<lgl~~"S. Badiou does not simpfy dismiss the claims of these traditions. and so they do not fall under the purview of Badiou's general.pr as the 'place of taking place' (EE.t~e being of ~he subject and th: gen:ql~:d~malQ}.~?!t)()r. events without directly assignal:Sle causes which disrupt the order of established situations. 32). since for him the subject only eI!lerg~s in the course of such a chain of actions. since it is this very problem which also underlies Badiou's early work.ontology. It is no coincidence that Badiou's question . arid subjects may be born out of such encounters.o. is the compatibility of a subject with a general ontology? . For Badiou the term 'bein~s) risks substantialization. while basing this pronouncement on its own fundamental ontology of desire or difference.it):::J.infinite Thought and this is crucial . that they are.

a dream. Badiou states that the ontological difference.do have 10 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy unity. guarantee its modernity. regardless of its modality. a work of art. It is these two aspects of his ontology which. in thought.~a:. potential. and unified presented multiplicity . as for Heidegger. for Badiou one must still recognize. a fleet of trucks.'H However. or. although unity is not primordli. possible. . The key difference between Badiou's claim and that of Aristotle is that for Aristotle each substance is a unity that belongs to a totality .i:/ duaTitf\lIld irlirs totality-:f Leibniz expressed this belief of classical ontology in die formula: 'What is not a being is not a being. If Aristotle's fundamental ontological claim is 'There are substances'. z contingent. The operation of the count-for-oms is not performed by some agent separate to the multiplicity of the situation: in classical or even relativist ontologies one can discern such an agent. actual.16 If a situation is a counting-far-one. then Badiou also has a dynamic definition of a situation. a mine.ity. within ontology." some kind of effect of unity-in the ·Rr~sentatio~ofl~eing. then Badiou's is 'There are situations'. according to Badiou. 'There are multiple multiplicities'. !?. that there is ~qme oneness . this disjointing. concatenations of events. going under the names of God.which is itself a unity.ill. the situation is "nothing other "than this "ol?~r9:tionof 'counting-for-one'. Situations include all those flows. regardless of whether it is necessary. properties.' That is. there is . or end. strictly speaking.he is able to join his doctrine of multiplicity to a reworking of Heidegger's ontological difference. aspects.a (' supermarket. for Badiou unity is the ifject"J gL§j:ructuratiQu. ontology is to break with classical ontology's fundamental uDityDf9~ing both in the latter's ing~". there is no unified totality that encompasses these multiple multiplicities. origin. History.da~~{tlon()fa situation . disparate collective phenomena.a whim. in other words. An element is a basic unit of a situation.Infinite Thought between substances and/or relations and .Lk-o~Thiscount is what Badiou terms the situation's structurii) A structure determines what belongs and does not belOlig to the situation by counting various multiplicities as elements:\of the situation. and not a ground. For Badiou. we h':V"e"rio"iCa::-ph'ilosophers have often thought of unity as the fundamental property of Being. monstrous and virtual.1ic. that one might want to examine within an ontology. Once he has both a dynami« as welLis a~~. a game of chess. that is.stands between a situation and the being of that situation. socovershoth.'II y a de l'un. or Discourse. bodies.15Badiou's solution to this problem is to argue thatsituations --:_presented multiplicities . . or a set of waves. following Lacan.the cosmos . breaking with theclassical unity of being is no simple task for ontology. Wherc..:ratesunity at the level of the whole siiu·a·ti~py unifyiIlgJhe rnultipli5~ity()f elements./fhe problem is that even if there is no primordial equivalence between unity and being.~t ·"cqYE. of situations from their being II s\Jcb unity is the result of an operation termed the . the task of r. for Badiou. a playground fight. a stock prediction.the operation of counting-for-one.nodern. The concept of 'situation' is also designed to accommodate anything which is. Furthermore. or virtual.i). there is no basic or primordial unity to these multiplicities. The consequence of the unity of situations being the effect of an operation is that a multiple that belongs to one situation may also belong to another situation: situations do not have mutually exclusive id en tities. This i:~' a-'statiC1 -definition of a situation: a • situation is a pres~nted_!:1lul!il11i<. A structure thereby generates unity at the level of eacli)element of the siill~tion:}r:l~?gen!.. The distinction between a situation andjts structuring count-for-one only holds.

Granted... each of these sub-elements in turn a multiplicity of cells and so on. With the thought of:inconsistent m'ulh:' 'phci t Y.a certain identity. moreover. which.". mind is a :~irlsha~}.. This thesis enables Badiou to reformulate the classical language of ontology being. following Lacan..it.t~nt multipiici~~ Not even -'t~rmie~s '~~tt~r' would be aceeptaDre. the being of a situation is not something that only a poetic saying can approach: it is. without the effect of the countfor-one. quite simply and banally. For many philosophers. for Badiou. by their belonging to the team 'The Cats". That is. liIl1i!. .l. Unlike Heidegger. unbeknownst to themselves. all of whom are united.~-since 'matter' would have been one of the general properties we stripped away from our 'something'. however undisciplined and chaotic their play.• Badiou calls. 'After' or with the effect of the count-for-one.'? Consider then the same team from the point of view of its being: it is a disparate multiplicity of human bodies.Infinite Though! allows ontology to unfold. .s. muscles. 'undecidable'. consider stripping something of all of its properties to the extent that even its identity and unity are removed. at the indifferent level of being. the situation termed Th~ Cats' is an inconsistent and non-unified multiplicity. but it neither resides at nor generates the level of being ~ for Badiou the word neither murders nor creates the thing. the situation 'before' or rather. at the b~r~ level of their brute existence. parading their commitment to desubstantialization. and a consistent rnultiplicjjy. wha-r .. ontology has been a privileged subdiscipline of philosophy. Thus.~. the proper name 'Cats' does have a certain interpellative power in the Althusscrian sense. bile and testosterone. there 12 An introduction to Alain Badiou's phdosopkv would be nothing left after such an operation. consider the situation of a football team. ' ._ fVJ~y set theory? Since Aristotle. relations.' ~". However. its 'real' . it is impossible to speak oLin anYdixect way. however. qualities ~ in mathematical terms: more specifically.s~~~yn . mathematics is ontology". its 'actual" status is. nerves.t· 'm'iI(tiplicity . Badiou's 'inconsistent multiplicity' is therefore not to. at the level of the being of each element of the team there is nothing which inherently determines that it is an element of this football team.Dr~)~ti~t~i.'. otherwise known as the discourse on being. 13 .lOU gh t thereforetouct~~. be equated with Aristotelian 'prime matter'.: Mathematicians.!~.J) It is at this point that we turn to a discussion of Badiou's 'use of seJJhe()x~) by means of which he gives all this rather loose metaphysical talk a solid and precise basis. The particular team we ~ave in.sa situation is a unified or consistent multiplicity. then the only suitable discourse for talking about it is no longer philosophy but mathematics. and such being could only bl' described as an'lnconsis. do nothing other than continually speak of or write being. what would be left would simply be the being of that 'something'. those of set theory because it is one of the foundational disciplines of contemporary mathematics. Precisely because a situation provokes the question 'What was there before )all situations?' but provides no possible access to this 'before' that is not irremediably compromised by post-situational terminology and operations. any mathematical proposition can be rewritten in the language of set theory. Badiou puts forward a radical thesis: if being is inconsistent multiplicity. In order to understand how Badiou might equate these inconsistent multiplicities with being. arteries. it is the situation as a non-unified or inconsistent multiplicity.et of unruly players each havmg their own position. ~rengths and weaknesses.'f. have nothing to do with that unity termed 'The Cats'. each its own multiplicity of bones. it merely assigns the 'thing' a multiplicity . For Badiou.'1.-_ _. In order to understand this distinction) between an i.

there is neither definition nor concept of a set in set theory.!" In set theory there 14 An introduction to Alain Badiou's !ihilosophy is an infinity of infinite types of infinite sets. Set theory is the formal theory of non-unified multiplicities. that is. since every element of a set is itself a set. as non-unified. in order to present multiplicity without unity. Second. Badiou sets forth two doctrines to support his adoption of set theory. by one of set theory's axioms. what is required of the language of such being? Simply that this language must present multiplicity as inconsistent.in a situation must go uncounted. there is no fundamental difference between elements and sets. It 'meets each of the three conditions outlined above. The third condition is that ontology cannot determine a single concept of multiplicity. However. To fulfil such a requirement a number of conditions must be met. that of foundation. As such. Take the first doctrine. and Badiou's multiplicities of situations. by so doing. which Badiou uses to bridge the gap between set theory's infinity of sets and particular nonontological situations. and so OIL Second. it does not participate in any of the qualities of the situation although it is proper to the situation.ss~ry biit~. for that would also unify its multiplicities and. Such a set would have to thereby include itself. that is. Badiou states that this void is the 'subtractive suture to being' of a situation (EE. in a situation is counted-for-one in. and nine axioms stating how they may be used together. these doctrines serve to bridge the gap between set theory.situation as a situ.fprecise!y because they constitute a . the doctrine on inconsistent multiplicity. in every situation. Together. The void~~t~sutur~'" of being to presentation because it is the point through which a situation comes to be . Consequently. Sets emerge from operations which follow these rules. both are necessary to the existence of a situation orprt. 68). second. these multiples must also be composed of multiples themselves composed of multiples.yet by which being .. The first. If the being of situations is inconsistent multiplicity. The second doctrine." _A~. ontology cannot present its multiples as belonging to a universe. with its infinity of sets. What there is in its place is a fundamental relation .is foreclosed from presentation. that situation and vice versa. since this would be to smuggle back in precisely what is in question the being of the One. there is a beirlg of the 'nothing'.iTonthey-cannot be p~ese~ted within the situation itself. they cannot have an upper limit. it is as if all of the 15 . Moreover. As for the third condition. Like the doctrine of inconsistent multiplicity.~gp:i~~~nI~121e. or as existing. ontology's multiples must be boundless. The second is the doctrine on the void. it is not as though there is simply nothing in a situation which is uncounted . there is no ultimate set which includes all the different types of set found in set theory. The first is that it is subtracted from presentation and. He starts by stating that whatever is recognized as 'something'. to one all-inclusive total multiple . what is r/oilz'ing".the count-far-one . is Ns doctrine on 'the void'>.~so<.. By"i~plicatiori. However.both the ~operation'of the count-lor-one and the inconsistent multiple which exists before the count are.Infinite Thought In 1/ Eire el I'eoenement. they constitute what Badiou terms the 'rultnlng'()r'fhe" <void' of a situation.x it is also a doctrine about the nature of situations. there is no set of sets.se!rtat!on. unify being. on pain of paradox.for that would be to smuggle back the One at a globallcvel. a set is a multiple of multiples called elements.as inconsistent multiplicity .'belonging' as well as a series of variables and logical operators. uncountable. First. which is expressly forbidden. First. is explained in the previous section. the multiples presented in this language cannot be multiples of individual things of any kind. The void is 'subtractive' for two reasons. Badiou argues that. by definition.

l1 belongs to ~. y. it turns out it makes one initial existential claim. What. 20 On the sole basis of this s~t. Its inclusion in 8 is written X c 8. the set S xCS the subset X elements A set is a unified multiplicity: its clements arc not indefinite and dispersed. it begins by saying that just one set exists. unified) set. y}. Take for example the set 8 which consists of the elements l1. The elements of a set have no distinguishing quality save that of belonging to it. in any other situation. for Badiou. are sets and how are they written? An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopf!y Set theol)' Sets are made up of elements. Badiou reads l1 E ~ as saying that multiple l1 is 'counted-forone' as an element of the set ~.v' So much for the general connection between situations and set theory's infinite sets. It has various subsets like {o. leaving all of a situation's properties aside and considering only the basic relations which hold throughout its multiplicity. termed inclusion. l1 is an element of the set ~. a multiple of nothing or of the void. that are included in the sets. the second way in which set theory connects to situations is that it constructs its inconsistent multiples out of its presentation of the void. of the suture to bcing of every situation. which is based entirely on belonging. is the subtractive suture to being of that situation. but what is necessary for anything to be there. that is. The only possible presentation of a 'void' in set theory is the null-set.y}. Y. In each and every nonontological situation. we already know that ontology connects to other situations through being the theory of inconsistent multiples. There is also a connection specific to each situation: Badiou holds that the structure of each situation can be written as a type of set. This is why they are referred to simply as variables ~ o: ~. That is. So. For example. one is able to speak of a (single. indexed to an arbitrary mark.Infinite Thought particularities of the situation are removed or subtracted from it. In other words. set theory\:iI!Jfolcl~an infinity of further sets. the latter subset {~. its inconsistent multiplicity is a void. y}. Set theory thus weaves its sets out ofa 'void'. then. It can be written {«. Sets have 'subsets'. Each of those elements l1 could 16 17 . The void of a situation is simply what is not there. ~. or. There is another relation in set theory. every situation is ultimately founded on a void. us~ng operations regulated by formal axioms. Each of a subset's elements must belong to the initial set. might be called the subset X. ~} and {~. it is written l1 E ~. one can schematize a situation in ontology as a set. When we turn to set theory. Each subset can itself be given a name. ~. This is not Heidegger's Ab-grund. out of what.both when they are elements and when they arc themselves considered as sets. This is thc null-set. or the set ~ is the 'count-farone' of all those elements l1. A subset is a grouping of some of a set's elements. The relation of belonging is the basic relation of set theory. This particular set is subtracted from the conditions of every other set in set theory: that of having elements. nor is it some theological creation ex nihilo. Thus.

Nine axioms regulate the operations and the existences which weave the tissue of set theory's universe.Infinite Thought be counted and grouped and subdivided in different manners. The axiom of separation states: 'If there exists a set a. for example.In introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy in scientific thought inasmuch as. Set theory itself comes in a number of varieties: for example. whether etymological. it was not possible to conceive of two different types of infinity. It does not place itself as one linkage within a larger unified machinery such as 'evolution' or 'complexity' or 'chaos'. the regime of identity and difference is founded upon extension. at least one element of one of the sets must not belong to the other. Rather. with its nine axioms. for example. natural or historical. then there exists a subset ~ of ll.' It enables a set defined bv a formula to be separated out from an initial set. separate out the subset. it is not made within the discourse of set theory itself but rather holds in the identification of set theory as ontology. every difference is localized in a point: for two sets to be different. II ('green apples' being the formula in this example). For Badiou these axioms constitute a decision in thought. Power-Set. there are foundational and anti-foundational types. a starting point. The power-set axiom states that all of the subsets of an initial set grouped together form another set termed the I 19 . all of whose elements y satisfy the formula F. but more on that later). they mark the beginning of something new 18 ". Consequently. The first concerns identity and difference. then the sets II and ~ are indistinguishable and therefore identical. that is. one larger than the other. Separation. Union. If there is a grand philosophical claim in Badiou's enterprise. The basis of set theory is simply a set of axioms. of all green apples from the set of apples. not quality. nothing. but a quick sketch of five of the nine axioms should shed some light on how the universe of set theory unfolds. before Cantor's pioneering work in set theory. If one compares set theory to classical ontologies. These results have been tested through a century of work within set theory. the axiom of extension: If every element y of a set II is also an element of a set ~ and the inverse is true. The axioms themselves. That is. Empty Set. The next three 'constructive' axioms allow the construction of a new set on the basis of an already existing set. It makes no claims concerning the nature of being. Badiou's own choice is to plump for the orthodox version of ZermeloFraenkel set theory. These are generally called: Extensionality. It makes no attempt to anchor its discourse in necessity through an appeal to some ground. ~. Infinity. nor concerning the adequation of its categories to being. save its structure (certain types of sets only admit multiples with certain structures. this is the great flexibility of set theory once one strips identity away from multiplicity there is nothing to prevent a multiplicity from belonging to any number of other multiplicities. An explanation of all nine of these axioms would exceed the range of this presentation. are not pure historical beginnings since they are the result of a series of reformulations made over the first few decades of set theory: these reformulations were designed to prevent the occurrence of logical inconsistency within the domain of set theory. in set theory ontology. indeed even to that of Deleuze. of course. its modernity is immediate. If one gives values to the variables one could then. resulting in different sets: there is no restriction on the number of different sets they can belong to. As noted above. Replacement and Choice. The necessity of these axioms has been tested rather than declared insofar as all operations made on their basis must have logically consistent results. Foundation. with varying numbers and types of axioms.

~. {X}. for which there is no concept: every existing set corresponds to a concept. The axiom of the null-set. If it does belong to itself then. that is. ~. {~. a translation of set theory's 20 axioms and theorems into philosophical terms. and. of the elements. For example. The new set ~ is thus the unionset of the initial set o. {ex. by definition. by virtue of a rule explained later.met with a problem. the relationship between language and being is one of exact correspondence. X}. a set is spoken of in meta-ontology as a 'multiplicity'. X} {0}}· It is important to note that the power-set of any set is always demonstrably larger than the initial set. It is just such unfolding which constitutes the infinity of sets. 8. For example. 'Y. It forms set theory's first ontological commitment. this relationship is concentrated in the way set theory ties the existence of sets together with their definitions. According to Badiou. the axiom of separation was developed. the formal language of set theory. {«. it does not. themselves form another set ~ termed the union-set. The consequence of the paradox is that it is not true that for every well-formed formula a corresponding multiple exists.and. {0}' {0. and {~. Or. X}. {a. once one allows that set theory is ontology. X} is thus: {{o:}. {~}. ~}. This means that for any wellformed formula in a first order logic which defines a concept. {~}.s'' The formula is 'the set of all sets which are not members of themselves'. a 'situation' or a 'presentation'. one can directly deduce the existence of a corresponding multiple. that is. there is an equivalent in the discourse of philosophy. that of Gottlieb Frege.i? That is. X}. ~}. there can be no sets. a set is defined as 'the extension of a concept'. from 0. X}. {0}} and {0.0. to which must be added both what is termed the 'maximal' subset {el.Infinite Thought An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosophy power-set. and if it does not belong to itself. his articulation of the relationship between language and being . The contradiction ensues when one asks whether the set of elements which satisfies this formula belongs to itself or not. then it does. does. All the axioms listed so far presume the existence of at least one set but they do not themselves establish the existence of sets. ~. The axiom of union states that all of the elements. {ex. This null-set is the initial point of existence from which all the other sets of set theory are unfolded using the constructive axioms. However. on the other hand. It states that there exists a null-set.~. In 1902. {«. The power-set of {«. by implication. whenever one has a defined concept. In order to use set theory to address philosophical problems Badiou makes a distinction between ontology proper. a set of elements exists. conventionally written ua. Bertrand Russell discovered a well-formed formula to which no existent set could correspond without introducing contradiction into set theory. further sets can be unfolded such as {0. Frege's definition of sets . Thus. {X}. and thus nothing in existence. o. This contradiction ruins the consistency of the formal language in which the formula is made. one can demonstrate the existence of its power-set {0}' and then by repeating the operation. It proposes another relationship 21 . of an initial set. {0}}}. X}. One of the traditional philosophical problems to which set theory responds is that of the relationship between being and language. Its three elements can be grouped into the following subsets: {«}. each of which satisfies the forrnula. by the operations prescribed by the axiom of the power-set. and the discourse of meta-ontology. an empty set to which no elements belong . X}. It shows that sets are homogeneously multiple when decomposed. This means one can always generate larger sets out of any existing set. In order to avoid Russell's paradox. Each of these axioms has profound consequences for philosophical problems. the null-set {0}. Thus for every set-theoretical term. Take for example the set {«. In one of the first formulations of set theory.

The axiom of separation says that if there is a set already in existence. then there exists a subset ~ of a. is present the ontological schemas of any ontological claim. Say for example that the formula F is the property 'rotten' and one wants to make the judgement 'Some apples are rotten. in lieu of presenting 'what there is'. So. a. what is the general result of Badiou's adoption of set theory as the language of being? Quite simply that it has nothing to say about beings themselves ~ this is the province of other discourses such as physics. set theory ontology is indifferent to the existence or non-existence of particular situations such as 'the world' or 'you. Frege's definition of that relationship runs as follows: (3~) (Va) [F(a) ~ (a € ~)J An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoph» existence in language require that existence be in excess of what the inscriptions define as existing. all of whose elements y satisfy the formula F. that is. According to Badiou's meta-ontology. In meta-ontological terms. 293).' The axiom of separation on the other hand looks like this: (Va) (3~) (Vy) [( (y E a) & F(y)) ~ (y E ~)]. 53). the reader': Badiou writes: 'we are attempting to think multiple-presentation regardless oj time (which is founded hy intervention). It reads: 'If there exists a set a. it presents the structure of what any situation says exists. it is as if the beings ontology speaks of have had all their qualities subtracted from them. there are three. ~. This is quite clearly a materialist thesis as befits Badiou's Marxist heritage. the very conditions of the inscription of Ontological schemas of different situations Although set theory ontology does not recognize the infinite differentiations of concrete situations. neither cause nor substance. relative to certain types of presentation)' (EE. This allows it to schernatize different concrete situations. anthropology and literature. being is in excess of language.Infinite Thought between the existence of multiples and well-formed formulas. one could separate out the subset of rotten apples. This is one reason why Badiou terms set theory a subtractive ontology: it speaks of beings without reference to their attributes or their identity. whose elements validate the formula F. The relationship between being and language implied by the axiom of separation is therefore not one of an exact fit. then one can separate out one of its subsets. it does recognize a number of differences in the structure of situations.' Via the axiom of separation. the axiom of separation states that an undefined existence must always be assumed in any definition of a type of multiple. but rather one in which language causes 'a split or division in existence' (EE. and space (which is a singular construction. from the supposed existence of the set of all apples. Its own ontological claim simply amounts to saying there is a multiplicity of multiplicities. although language bestows identity on being. nor does it concern itselfwith 'carving reality at the joints'. there is neither cosmos nor phenomena. The conclusion Badiou thus draws from set theory for the traditional philosophical problem of the relationship between language and being is that. Furthermore. What set theory ontology does. As a result. In short.basic structures which are found underpinning every existent 22 23 . Set theory ontology does not propose a description of 'the furniture of the world'. This proposition reads: 'There exists a set ~ such that every term a which satisfies the formula F is an element of that set.' The essential difference between Frege's definition and the axiom of separation is that the former directly proposes an existence while the latter is conditional upon there already being a set in existence. unlike Plato and Aristotle's ontologies.

Infinite Thought
situation. To understand the differentiation of these structures it is necessary to return to the axiom of the power-set and its meta-ontological equivalents. The axiom of the power-set says that there is a set of all the subsets of an initial set, termed the power-set. In metaontological terms, the power-set is the state of a situation. This means that every multiple already counted as-~me~i; counted again at the level of its sub-multiples: the state is thus a second count-for-one. Or, according to another of Badiou's meta-ontological translations, if a set schematizes.a, presentation, then its power-set schematizes the representation of that presentation.v' The state is made up of all the possible regroupings of the elements of a situation; as such it is the structure which underlies any representational or grouping mechanism in any situation. \¥ e should note that as such the term 'state' includes but is in no way reducible to the position of a government and its administration in a political situation. Badiou distinguishes three types of situation:(rtatural, historical and neutral. What makes them different at a structural level are the types of multiple which compose the~. There are three types of multiple: normal multiples, :vhIch ar; both presented by the situa~ion ~r.:?lepr~sented by ItS ~tate (they are counted-for-one twice); l,X"crescentmultiples, whlc~ are o~ly represented by the state; and singular multiples, which only occur at the level of presentation, and which escape the effect of the second count-for-one. Natural situations are defined as having no singular multiples ~ all of their multiples are either normal or excrescent, and each normal element in turn has normal elem:nts (E1!, 146). Neutral situations are defined as having a mIX of singular, normal and excrescent multiples.?" Historical situations are defined by their having at least one 'evental-sitc'; a sub-type of singular multiple." In set theory terms, a singular multiple is an element of a set, but
i

An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoPhY
not one of its subsets. Since each of a set's subsets is made entirely of elements that already belong to the ini tial set. the definition of a singular multiple is that, first, it is an element of an initial set, and, second, some of its own elements in turn do not belong to the initial set. It is these foreign elements which are responsible for the singularitv of a singular multiple. An eoental-site is an extreme varietv of a singular multiple: none of an evental-site's element~" also belong to the initial set. Leaving ll;~~aL'situations aside, let us turn to examples of natural and historical situations. Take, for an example of a natural situation, the ecosystem of a pond. Ths m~IItipks which it presents include individual fish, tadpoles,' reeds and stones. Each of these elements is also represented at the level of the state of the situation, which ~adio.u also qualifies as the level of the knowledges of a situation - these elements are known elements of the situation. Each element of an ecosystem is also one of the ecosystem's subsets, because each of their clements also belong', in turn , to t~e ecosystem; for example each fish's eating and breeding habits belong to the ecosystem as well as to each fish. These elements are thus normal multiples. If one examines such a sit~ati~n, it contains no singular terms: nothing is presented which IS not also represented. The test of whether a situation is natural or not is whether there is any element of the situation whose content is not also part of the situation - in ecology, every element of a system, at whatever level of size or effect, is interconnected. The situation of the ecosystem of a pond is thus a natural situation. Take, by contrast, as an example of a historical situation, a collection of possible answers to the nationalist concern of what it is to be Australian. Some of the multiples presented in this situation would be individual stories about bronzed lifesavers, Anzac soldiers, larrikins, whinging poms, wowsers, convicts, explorers, bushrangers and squatters. One

24

25

Infinite Thought
would also find Don Bradman and the Eureka Stockade belonging to such a collection. In the twenty-first century, this situation's elements would also comprise individual stories about the Italian-Australians, the Irish-Australians, the Chinese-Australians, the Greek-Australians, the Turkish-Australians, and so on. At the level of the state of the situation one has submultiples such as hedonism, mateship, equality understood as samencss, the imperatives 'fair go!' and 'she'll be right mate!', anti-British sentiment, distrust of authority, the privileging of know-how over theory, Protestantism, and Catholicism, etc. From both socio-economic and cultural perspectives, immigrant groups are both presented and re-presented. Their contribution to 'what it is to be Australian' is both known and knowable. For this reason we would argue that none of the presen ted 'immigrant' multiples are singular multiples. On the other hand, constitutively resistant to Anglo-Saxon dreams of assimilation, the multiple 'aboriginals' forms an evcnral-site; its contents remain unknown. Of course, within other situations such as cultural, sociological and bureaucratic assessments of Australia, 'aboriginals' are re-presented. However, these specialized discourses are not in the position of furnishing answers to the nationalist question 'What is it to be Australian?' The multiple 'aboriginals' forms an evental-sitc because the sovereignty of Australia, the 'immigrant nation', wzsfounded upon the dispossession of indigenous peoples. Their relation to this particular piece of land was crucially not recognized at the very beginning of this entity termed 'Australia'. Any representation of the content of the multiple 'aboriginals' with reference to what it is to be Australian, would thus cause the unity of the situation to dissolve - in a sense, it would entail the dissolution of 'Australia' itself It is this constitutive irrepresentability at the heart of Australian nationalism that makes it a historical situation.
26

An introduction to A lain Badiou's jJhilosoply
Badiou uses this division between natural and historical situations to return to his basic question: How does the new happen in being? In our mythical, pollution-free pond, though there may be generation after generation of 'new' baby fish, nothing really changes: barring another natural catastrophe the ecosystem will remain in a state of homeostasis. In natural situations Ecclesiastes' proverb holds true: there is nothing new under the sun. In historical situations things are quite different. To return to our example of Australian nationalism, the inherent instability of the situation (it harbouring an unknowable evental-site in its midst) renders it susceptible to wholesale political transformation. However, the existence of an evental-site in a situation does not guarantee that change will occur. For that something extra is required, a 'supplement' as Badiou says, which is an event. \'\1 e are not talking about any ordinary event here, like a birthday or Australia beating France in rugby, but rather of a totally disruptive occurrence which has no place in the scheme of things as they currently are. Who will say what this event has been or will be for Australian nationalism was it the erection by Aboriginal activists of a tent embassy opposite the National Parliament in 1972? The occurrence of an event is completely unprcdictable.27 There is no meta-situation - 'History' which would programme the occurrence ofevents in various selected .situations, ..... ;, ., The precariousness of historical change extends further: not only must an event occur at the evental-site of a situation, but someone must recognize and name that event as an event whose implications concern the nature of the entire situation. Thus it is quite possible that an event occur in a situation but that nothing changes because nobody recognizes the event's importance for the situation. This initial naming of the event as an event, this decision that it

27

InJinite Thought
has transformational consequences for the entirety of a situation, is what Badiou terms an 'intervention'. The intervention is the first moment of a process of fundamental change that Badiou terms a 'fidelity', or a 'generic truth procedure'. A generic truth procedure is basically a praxis consisting of a series of enquiries into the situation made by militants who act in fidelity to the event. The object of these enquiries is to work out how to transform the situation in line with what is revealed by the event's belonging to the situation. For example, within the situation of art in the early twentieth century, certain artists launched an enquiry into the nature of sculpture once Picasso's cubist paintings had been recognized as 'art'. The procedure made up ~f such enquiries is termed a 'truth procedure' because It unfolds a new multiple: the 'truth' of the previous situation. Here Badiou draws upon - and displaces - Hcidegger's conception of truth as the presentation of being. The new entitv is a truth inasmuch as it presents the multiple-being of the previous situation, stripped bare of any predicates, of anv identitv. For example, take an art critic in the early twentieth century who has just recognized that a cubist painting can, indeed, be called 'art'. If he was called upon to make a predicative definition of the contemporary situation of art that is, if someone asked him 'What is an?' - he would have found it impossible to respond - at that very moment, for hirn, the disruptive event we now call 'cubism' was laying bare the situation of art as a pure multiplicity of colours, forms, materials, proper names",',>~itles.~pd sl?aces with nofixed contours.: In fact, the common accusation that contemporary art is ~ra{uit()li~, indeterminate, and as such could be 'anything whatsoever' with a label slapped on it stuck in a gallery; this very accusation actually unknowingly strikes upon the very nature of a new multiple: it is 'anything whatsoever' with regard to established knowledge. 28

An introduction to Alain Badiou's jilli/osOpkJi
To understand how a new multiple - such as 'modern art' - can both exist, and be stripped bare of any predicates (as such being globally indescribable or 'anything whatsoever') we must turn back to Badiou's use of set theory.

Generic sets and processes of transformation
In order to think about processes of fundamental change within his ontology Badiou had to work out how a multiple, a set, can be new. It is at this point that Badiou introduces the cp\tr,e~~ir\c~)0fh~s,,;~v9rk - what he calls 'the gene:ic' or 'indis"c:ertllbrhtv'. ThIS IS at once an extremely difficult concept, bas;d on the most innovative mathematical procedures, yet also intuitively graspable. Badiou takes. this concept from the work of Paul Cohen, an American . mathematician who invented the , . , . 1963 • 28 genenc set 111 The first point to work out is what the reference point could be within ontology for such no~tJty. Especially since set theory ontology appears to be a static, flat discourse, with no recpgnition of the .supposed universality of the situations of'time' .and 'history':) The reference point turns out to be /l~nguag~.· In set theory, one can have 'models' of set theory which' are interpretations that flesh out the bare bones of sets and elements by giving values to the variables (such as y = green apples in the example used above). A model of set theory has its own language in which various formulas express certain properties such as 'green'. The model itself, as a structured multiplicity, can be treated itself as a set. Cohen takes as his starting point what he terms a 'grollIl51 model' of set theory. Badiou takes this model as the schema of a historical situa'tion. Each subset of this model satisfies a property which can be expressed in the language used in the model. That is, every multiple found in the model can be discerned using the tools of language. A generic set, on the other hand, is a subset that is 'new' insofar as it cannot be
29

Cohen termed this procedure 'forcing' and Badiou adopts it as an on tological model of the numerous practical enquiries that subjects who act in fidelity to an event make while they arc attempting to bring about the change entailed by the event. scientific. Many of these bets will fall wide of the mark. is infinite. science and love. artistic. it cannot be known via its properties. Of course. subtracting the latter from the encompassing unities of historical determinism. the generic multiple will exist at the level of belonging. Badiou recognizes that the number of shapes a fidelity can take. they say.for example. they have a lot of trouble describing it accurately and. and. What results from suchsubtractions is a praxis made up of a hazardous series of bets. One can define a concept of a generic subset within such a situation but one cannot know that it exists . '. thereby forming a new set. The generic subset is only present at the level of inclusion. For every property that one formulates. Historically. there is something in that new thing which does not quite fit. politics. and further. finite enquiries into the nature of the event. or in meta-ontological terms. one can understand this concept of fidelity as a remodelling of the Marxist concept of praxis. To show that a gcneric set actually exists. unlike all the other subsets. an activist working towards justice for the indigenous peoples in Australia will not know what overall shape justice will take. and amorous situations? Badiou holds that the ground model schematizes an established historical situation before an event arrives. presentation. it's not like that!' For every property or concept you come up with to describe this new thing. a particular experiment in public health practices in indigenous communities may reveal itself to be part of the movement towards justice due to its sensitivity to issues of selfdetermination and cultural difference. the generic set has at least one clement which does not share that property. whether it be meeting a person or seeing a work of art. although. Cohen developed a method of making finite descriptions of this new supplemented set using only the resources of the initial set.Infinite Thought discerned by that language. 'No. For Badiou. For example. The new supplemented set provides the ontological schema of a historical situation which has undergone wholesale change. both Pierre Boulez and John Cage developed their music in fidelity to .. 30 An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosopky Furthermore. but those that hit the target will help construct the new situation. the fidelity practised by subjects to an event consists of such experiments. but having a set which one 'can't quite describe' sounds a bit vague for set theory. This makes sense intuitively: when someone tries to tell you about a new experience. no. even the most general such as 'this apple and this apple and this apple . especially in domains as different as art. every time you try to help them by suggesting that it might be a bit like the person x or the filmy.. Within this new set. they will be able to predict certain of its features and some of their predictions may be verified early on in the process of change. The innovation of Paul Cohen's work lay in his discovery of a method of describing such a multiple without betraying its indiscernibiluyt'' But what about the process of this new multiple coming into being? How does a generic set provide the ontological schema of processes of radical change in political. that a number of different fidelities may be developed in the same situation to the same event . revolutionary theory and the Party line. using an invented idiom to approximate what is discovered through such enquiries. the actual work which carries out the wholesale change of a historical situation . This is all very well.precisely because it is one of those 'excrescent' multiples noted above (which are not presented at the level of belonging to a situation). say. bets on the nature of the situation to come.in his terms. That is. Cohen develops a proccdurc whereby one adds it to the existing ground model as a type of supplement.

Ontology does not discern the nature of any situation. go become an activist. insofar as it is subtracted from and thus independent of any known entity in the situation. however particular .Iie recognizes the autonomy of material processes and argues that the names philosophy comes up with to reflect particular political transformations are not and cannot be identical to those names that are thrown up by the actual process of transformation within a political situation. or even the form a unified field theory might take. Quite simply. trusting the readers' own curiosity to guide them. such as 'parliamentary democracy'. scientists. or 'the native'. but in very different directions. 'mining interests'. if you want to do politics. . we do not reference texts he mentions. The relation this process entertains with the established colonialist situation is not one of pure exteriority (romanticism) nor of subsumption (realism). this would be to miss the point entirely. Hence the indiscernibility of a generic truth procedure grounds both its singularity and its sovereignty. but that of indiscernibiliiy. at the level of the structure of its multiplicity. the latest categories of European philosophy.and indeed. those of Alain Badiou's set theory ontology. or of modern art.the indifference of ontology towards the concrete. The relationship behveefi·philosophy and politics . activists and lovers whose activities it has deafly appropriated from on high. much less that of a particular fidelity. As a good materialist. Philosophy's task is to reflect and learn from those transformations happening in contemporary historical situations. Thus. it docs have one practical consequence. r t is as if philosophy has finally heard that cry addressed to it for decades. Yet Badiou's general claim is that in each case of a fidelity it is a matter of the new coming into being. try to think the compossibility of contemporary events in each of the four domains of art. a cry voiced by so many artists. This is the first guard against imperialism built into Badiou's philosophv . politics. since the categories of one colonialist discourse in particular seem to serve quite well for discerning the nature of a decolonization process. science and love . politics. That is. However. the romantics and the realists will always have one last objection to an argument such as ours: that there is an exception to the rule. 'the proletariat'. science and love. go decide what event has happened in your political situation. of course. practical or theoretical. however precarious a decolonization process within a colonialist political situation. and in set theory ontology the only way to schematizc that process is through Paul Cohen's concepts of the generic set and forcing. Ontology only speaks of the structure of multiplicity: it has nothing to say about the qualities or identitv of anv concrete situation. A note on notes Following Badiou's practice. For Badiou such would be the province of other discourses. If you want to do philosophy. science and love (and.Infinite Thought the event of Schoenberg's invention of the twelve-tone series. But within the debates around post-colonialism. Just don't confuse the two. to the point where it develops what Badiou terms a ~pace of compossibility' for all contemporary fidelities. An introduction to Alain Badiou's philoso!}f~v The second guard lies in Badious refusal of any transitivity between ontology and politics. read all of Being and Event once it's published). none of the categories employed by colonialist discourses serve to discern its nature.is thus one of conditioning or dependence. The task of philosophy is not to predict nor determine the shape ofjustice. Philosophy is no longer sovereign. it is a generic set. . the cry 'SHUT UP AND LISTEN!!!' And even if Badiou's conception of philosophy maintains a strict separation between the practice of philosophy and the diverse practices of art.as with art. 32 33 .

2003).). trans. and 'situation' are all technical terms of Badiou. Toscano with Bruno Bosteels (Manchester: CIinamen. A. ]VI. 1999). for instance. Foucault. Subject to Truth: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Alain Badiou (Minneapolis: C niversity of Minnesota Press.Infinite Thought Admittedly. Jacques Lacan was a French psychoanalyst famous for his An introduction to Alain Badiou's j)hilosopkv fusion of Freud. Insofar as Badiou's concept of a . trans. Fynsk (Cambridge. pp. ed. and one of Lar an's premier comrnentators. Toscano with responses by A. Barker. 1980). Hallward (ed. 'event'. 4. Badiou also terms 'subject' the ::34 35 . 1998). one could argue that the classical problem of the identity of subjects. ed. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of F. A. or that of their differentiation. At this point we should note an important complication of Badiou's theory of the su bject. Notes I. Politics. L'Etr« et l'eoenement (Paris: Editions elu Seuil. ed. Jacques-Aiain Miller subsequently became Lacan's son-inlaw. Logiques des mondes (Pa~·i~:. ~eneric multiple.vil. Mimesis. translated by Jason Barker. See 'Generic scts and processes of transformation'. head of one of the largest Lacanian schools of psychoanalysis. Peter Hallward (London: Verso. 20(3). and trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum Books. Badiou's Abreg« de lvlitapolitique (Paris: Seuil. C. trans. 2(00). A. executor of his esta te. All further references will appear as page num bel'S in brackets in the body of the text. trans. (New York: Pantheon. C. 1989). trans. Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. See also Peter Hallward. ~vpograp/~y. Theoretical 11/ritings. 2(03). delivers a rigorous definition of singularity. St. 2001). CA: Stanford University Press. in the antholo~y Who Comes After the Subject? ed. 5. Gordon. 2003). The following titles by Alain Badiou are currently in press or forthcoming: Being and Eoent. 10. which makes up the 'stuff of his faithful subjects. 1988). 3. NY: SUNY Press. trans. structuralist anthropology. AfaniJesto for Philosop/~v. 'Desistance'. Badiou. See. C. Power!Knowledge: Selected Interrinos and Other Writings 1972~1977. Cadava (London: Routledge."Se~i~~orthcoming). Toscano (Stanford. The Century/Le Siecle. trans. 9. Gordon et al. 7. A. the reader's intuitive sense of these words can be trusted to provide an initial approximation. trans. A. trans. is forthcoming from Verso. Norman Madarasz (Albany. French psychiatry and mathematics into one continually evolving and powerful theory of the subject. Badiou. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. CA: Stanford University Press. it is a rather abrupt gesture. 29 33. 11. Toscano and Slavoj Zizek (Paris/London: Seuil/Verso. MA: Harvard University Press. A. Alberto Toscano and Ray Brassier (London: Continuum Books. 'Fidelity'. For a particularly dense and concentrated elaboration of Badiou's theory of the subject see 'A finally objectless subject'. forthcoming) and P.s . Handbook of Inaesthetics. however. 8. Gilles Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. Badiou. Badiou. Philosophy. On Beckett. Brassier (Stanford. Badiou. 2003). Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction (London: Pluto Press. E. Saussurean linguistics. Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of PhilosojJlry (London: Continuum Books. 2. 1991 'I. It does not place thought under the sign of the demand for knowledge but simply under that of desire. is indirectly treated inasmuch as the generic multiple is strictly differentiated from every predicate. A. Jacques Derrida. R. forthcoming). Nina Power and A. and ed. forthcoming).ontology and their meaning will he explained in what follows. in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. See J. Ontology is thc philosophical discourse defined by Aristotle as the science of being qua being. Historically it has treated such questions as 'What is being?' and 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' 6. 2002).

From Frege to Codel: A Source Book in Mathematical Logic (Cambridge. because it suggests that the site is defim:d by the occurrence of an event. This axiom was introduced in order to deal with a paradox that appeared early in the development of set theory. W. Badiou. 15. 16.A. 'Event-site' is not appropriate. Due to the excess of inclusion over belonging . implication. In French. 12. trans. one must already have accepted that sets present the being of situations. disjunction. that is. 36 . first order logic does not express properties of properties: that is the province of second order logic. to the doctrine on the void of situations An introduction to Alain Badiou's philosoph» because to accept that set theory's null-set presents the nothing of situations. with regard to its initial set. 26. thatis asapoint of risk. We would like to thank our colleague Amelia Smith for this example. 27. 21. 23. 1969). It is more familiar in the paradox of the barber who shaves all the men in the village who don't shave themselves: who shaves the barber? We return to this paradox below. has fundamental consequences for the classical philosophical problem of the relationship between presentation and representation (and thus for any practice based on the critique of representations). 1934). NT. Morris (London: Dent & Sons. In Badiou's text this harmonizes at a terminological level with the French for 'the void of a situation': le vide de la situation.. 25. This is precisely how Badiou breaks with historical dctcrrninIsms. 24. MA: Harvard University Press. 1966).the superior size of a set's power-set compared to itself . the sole guarantcc being that if an event does occur in the situation it will do so at that particular point of the latter termed the even tal-site. 1981). yet attempted to account for the apparent unity of experience. as it does for the classical political problem of the relation between the state and the people. A first order logic consists of a series of signs: existential and universal quantifiers. Van Heijenoort (ed. properties and logical connectors. According to Badiou this was also Kant's problem in the first critique insofar as the latter did not grant immediate unity either to the thing itself or to the sensuous manifold. 18.72. Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis (]\\ew York: W. the superior size and complexity of the power-set. Benjamin. Students of philosophy may be reminded of the status of Kant's Ding-an-sidi and of transcendental apperception in the first Critique. 13. 'Even tal-site' is a neologism that has been coined in order to translate Badiou's site euenementiel. Leibniz. l'ensemble-uide.Infinite 7 hought actual individual theorems which make up modern physics. in the order of argument. 17. vVe should note that if this meta-ontological translation is legitima te. See Willard V. 'Ontological relativity'. G. in J. Russell's paradox emerges on the basis of sets being able to be members of themselves. 'Letter to Arnauld April 30 1687'. Il1 Ontological Relatioity and Other ESSIlYf (New York: Columbia University Press. Quine. 19. Russell. variables.A. See B. See the interview included in this volume. J. 28. . Thiorie du suje! (Paris: Seuil. The doctrine on inconsistent multiplicity is prior. invention and geclsion. 20. there is no guarantee that an event will occur at a site ivinementiel. 'Letter to Frege'. conjunction. negation and equivalence. The reference for the mathematicians is P. and the human acting as subject. 14. Cohen. whereas in Badiou's conception. O. . in Philosophical Writings. 22. 1967).every situation has excrescent multiples. 124.}. This shift simply reinforces his separation between the human as an individual animal. Properties are never found in the position of variables. Similarly in the domain of art he terms 'subject' particular musical works rather than their composers.

See Meditations 34 and 3. Philosophy pits thought against injustice. because philosophy proposes to think the universal . Mallarme states: 'All thought begets a throw of the dice. CHAPTER 1 Philosophy and desire This philosophical investigation begins under the banner of poetry. a commitment which is also a risk or a wager. against the defective state of the world and oflife. 'logical revolts'. These two poetic formulas capture the desire of philosophy.1 of L'Etre et I'eoenement for a full explanation of Cohen's method.yet it does so on the basis of a commitment in which chance always plays a role. Yet it pits thought against injustice in a movement which conserves and defends argument and reason. for at base the desire of philosophy implies a dimension of revolt: there is no philosophy without the discontent of 38 39 .' Rirnbaud employs a strange expression: 'Ies revoltes logiq ues".that which is true for all thinking . The four-dimensional desire if philosoph).Infinite Thought 29. Philosophy is something like a 'logical revolt'.' It seems to me that this enigmatic formula also designates philosophy. and which ultimately proposes a new logic. thus recalling the ancient tie between poetry and philosophy.

Our world does not favour risk v commitments or risky decisions. It is these processes of communication which exert pressure on the resoluteness of thinking's fidelity to logic. because it is a world in w'hich nobody has the means any more to submit their existence to the perils of chance. erase and consign to oblivion the very images and remarks that have just been shown and said. exerts an intense pressure upon these {(JUr dimensions of the desire of philosophy.nication presents the world to us as a spectacle devoid of memory.ween the elements it sweeps along in its flow. a belief in the "power of argument and reason. standardizes and commercializes the stakes of such freedom. at the same time . of the apparatuses of production.and this is the second reason ~ this world.-the. Comn. statements and commentaries whose accepted principle is incoherence. since such use is in reality already coded. proposing to thought in the latter's place a type of imaginary dissemination. an 'isle' of liberty on a planet otherwise reduced to slavery or devastation.s. of the diversity of functions and skills. what might be valid for all thinking. our world. this world already decrees itself free. dimension I' of logic. Finally we have the dimension of risk. Yet. p·h11osophy'takesns. remarks.I)}I. Finally. and this obsessiOii with calcul . fragmented in response to the demands of the innumerable ramifications of the technical configuration of things. .Infinite Thought thinking in its confrontation with the world as it is. Yet the desire of philosophy also includes logic. However. . The logic which is specifically "'undone tf~ere is the logic of time.kj·:-'ITii'iiKiilg·'i's·'a!\vaysa· dCt:'lsl(lir"which supports independent points of view. a armean hv othcsis tha e sat Irow e Ice. This is why this world exerts an intense pressure against the very idea that thinking can be insubordination or revolt. that is. docs not engage in thought as revolt. Day after day communication undoes all relations and all principles.tr}~i!. of the distribution of salaries. a spectacle in which new images and new remarks cover.rrrnu.-lUnication transmits a universe made up of disconnected Images. As for the universal dimension of the desire of philosophy. First.ip~ingbeings since it supposes that all humans think. logic. Furthermore. I think that the contemporary world. And the requirements of this specialization and this fragmentation make it difficult to perceive what might be transversal or universal. our world is no longer suited to it because the world is essentially a specialized and fragmentary world.5-1h. our world. the world that we strive to think and transform. essentially because the world is submitted to the Philosop/~v and desire profoundly illogical regime of communic. that is.f. Life is devote~ calculating security.S. the desir~_(). To begin with. universality and risk. our world. The desire of philosophy thus has {(JUr dimensions: revolt. \philosophy involves unioersality: philosophy '-addresses all " "'hur:t. because in such a wQ!lQ. such that all four dimensions. 41 . it does not guaran tee us the free use of this freedom. And what IS perhaps even more distressing is that J. faced by the world. find themselves in a difficult and dark passage in which the destiny and even the very existence of philosophy is at stake. It submits them to monetary uniformity. as far as the dimension of revolt is concerned. it presents itself as 'the free world' . the 'vVestern' world (with as many inverted commas as you wan t). and for two reasons.C\o. this world.1<. in an untenable juxtaposition that dissolves every relation bet. Our world also exerts a strong pressure on.this is the very name it gives itself. and with such success that our world no longer has to revolt to be free since it guarantees us freedom.ation. LOu lIluch fISk In a throw of the dice. orientated and channelled by the infinite glitter of merchandise. Existence requires more and more elaborate calculation.

in the immediate world. of course. The principal names connected to it are those of Wittgcnstein and Carnap. the aim of philosophy is therapeutic and 43 The present state ~fphilosoph.Infinite Thought The desire for philosophy thus encounters four. These orientations correspond. and bring forth from it an authentic meaning. There are statements.y What are the principal global tendencies in contemporary philosophy if we consider it from a bird's eye point of view? I think it can be said that three principal orientations can be distinguished in philosophy today. writings. The fundamental opposition for hermeneutic philosophy is that of the closed and the open. The task of philosophy is to discover those rules that ensure an agreement about meaning. A hermeneutic orientation. The aim is to demarcate what can be said and what it is impossible or illegitimate to say. hidden or forgotten. an analytic orientation. there is something dissimulated and closed.ois Lyotard. which in fact borrows from the other two. the reign of communication. latent. Philosophy and desire What then interests us is how each orientation designates or identifies philosophy.V1s originally German. it now dominates English and American academic philosophy. Finally. originating with the Vienna Circle. These are: the reign of mer(~han'dise. Despite its Austrian origin. How can philosophy take on this challenge? Is philosophy eapa ble of such a challenge? The answer must be sought in the state of contemporary philosophy. It is without doubt the most active in France. the meaning of Beingin-the-world. In what is given.mIthe world of technique since the latter is the accomplishment of closed nihilism. It is equally very active in Spain. This vocation marks a combat between the world of philosophy a. The first can be called the hermeneutic orientation. This time the central concept is not interpretation but the rule. mixtures and networks of circulation between the three. The aim of interpretation is to undo this closure and open it up to meaning. Italy and Latin America. The best-known names attached to this orientation are Heidegger and Gadamcr. From this point of view the vocation of philosophy is a 'vocation devoted to the open'. and a postmodern orientation: there are. The essential instrument of analytic philosophy is the logical and grammatical analysis of utterances. I will first name and then describe them. and its historical site .aj!?~f ph. thus falling into illusion or discordance. but together they form the most global and descriptive geography possible of contemporary philosophy. acts. the need for technical specialization and the necessity for realistic calculations of security. a meaning which would be a figure of our destiny in relation to the destiny of being itself. The hermeneutic orientation assigns philosophy the aim of deciphering the meaning of Being. Philosophy must be provided with a method of interpretation that will serve to clarify this obscurity. and ultimately of the entire language.. Then there is the analytic orientation. The analytic orientation holds thf. innumerable intersections. and its central concept is that of interpretation. The fundamental opposition here is between what can be regulated and what cannot be regulated. in some measure. and includes thinkers as different as Jacques Dcrrida and Jean-Frans.il~)s~phy to be the strict demarcation of those utteranc:es which have meaning and those which do not. For the analytic orientation. we have what can be called the postmodern orientation. to three geographical locations. 4-2 . which historically goes back to German romanticism. and configurations whose meaning is obscure. and what eludes all explicit laws. prj ncipal obstacles in the world. or what conforms to a recognized law assuring an agreement about meaning.

that there is an irreducible plurality of registers and languages in thought as in action. the objective of postmodern philosophy is to deconstruct the idea of totality . or that philosophy is announcing a certain end of itself \Ve can immediately give three examples. features can be found which signal a unity of contemporary philosophy? I would suggest that there are two principal features that the three orientations. and by returning to rules which are transparent to all. that is. registers so diverse and heterogeneous that no great idea can totalize or reconcile them.f meaning. and of progress. If we take Jean-Frans-. and proposes an untotaJizable mixture of the conceptual method of philosophy and the sense-orientated enterprise of art. In particular. and thus of an entire epoch going back to Plato. the idea of progress. postrnodern philosophy proposes to dissolve the great constructions of the nineteenth century to which we remain captive . that philosophy is no longer in a position to sustain its locus classicus. This closure is first realized in the distress and dereliction of the injunction of technology. an entire epoch of the history of being and thought. rnetaphysics consists of nothing more than utterances that are nonregulated and devoid of meaning. The aim of analytic therapy is to cure the metaphysical symptom.have anything in common? Does anything allow us to say that. No philosophy could be further from Heidegger's than Carnap's. the postmodern orientation holds the aim of philosophy to be the deconstruction of the accepted facts of our modernity. In particular. the idea of humanity and the ideal of science. their destiny is joined: they do not simply provide one possible division of thought but rather provide three expressions of the same demands that our epoch makes on philosophy. that there are no great epics of history or of thought. Yet Carnap also announces the end of any possibility of metaphysics because. in areas that cannot be circumscribed. the great figure of the metaphysical proposition.. analytic and postmodern. the postmodern orientation activates what might be called mixed practices.so summarily described .~tdtlted. Consequently. that we live in the multiple. The common themes rif the three orientations ofphilosophy Do these three orientations . these three orient~tions maintain that philosophy is itself situated within the end of philosophy. hermeneutic. or impure thinking practices. It is clear that for Heidegger the theme of the end is the central element of his thinking. At base. de-totalized practices. It situates thought on the outskirts. the end of the great narratives being the end of the great configurations of the critical. the idea of revolution. and that however different they may be. Finally. have in common. by isolating what has no meaning. In a certain sense. that is. despite this diversity. to cure the patient of utterances whose analysis shows that thev cannot give rise to assent because 'they are devoid . Its aim is to show that these great constructions are:'. of the proletariat.Infinite Thought Philosophy and desire is these common features which signal that the three orientations of philosophy are all contemporary. one of his central themes is what he calls 'the end of the great narratives' . The first of these features is negative.to the extent that philosophy itself finds itself destabiliz~~d. All three orientations hold that we are at the end of metaphysics.ois Lyotard.the idea of the historical subject. It 44 45 . For Heidegger our time is characterized by the closure of the history of metaphysics. It is a question of curing us of the illusions and the aberrations oflanguage that divide us.the great narratives of the revolution. it installs philosophical thought at the periphery of art. Once more we have an 'end'. for him.

contemporary philosophy has two fundamental axioms. This axiom is negative. The second axiom is that language is the crucial site of thought because that is where the question of meaning is at stake. however. universality and risk. 46 47 . and forms of discourse in the absence of homogeneity. This. that is. " ~ . but not inexact way. and the postmodern orientation promotes the idea of a multiplicity of sentences. Philosophy can no longer pretend to be what it had for a long time decided to be. For the idea of truth we must substitute the idea of the plurality of meanings. These axioms cannot give philosophy the means to sustain its desire under the quadruple form of revolt.. so as not to be exclusively subordinated to it. as found in contemporary philosophy.nt. /' The }laws in contemporary philosophy ~I y conviction is that these two axioms represent a real danger for thinking in general and for philosophy in particular. of a drawing to a close. an essential opposition. If philosophy is essentially a meditation on language. and with it the classical figure of philosophy. of an ~~c~'ml. and on what it authorizes as far as thought is concerned. philosophy will become what in one way it mostly is. activities or kinds of knowledge. Language has thus become the great historical transcendental of our times. This is clear in the very definition of the orientations I have been talking about: the hermeneutic orientation. That is what these three orientations have in common on the negative side.Infinite 7 hough! subject and history that have been associated with modern metaphysics. Consequently.. the question of meaning replaces the classical question of truth. This theme can be articulated in another wa y: the ideal of truth as it was put forth by classical philosophy has come to its end. fragments.to establish itself elsewhere than within this multiplicity. common to all three orientations. an infinite description of the multiplicity of language games. To recapitulate. I agree that there is a multiplicity oflanguage games. in my opinion. What they have in common on the positive side . The philosophy of this century has become principally a meditation on language. forces philosophy if it wants to preserve the desire for universality . contemporary philosophy puts the category of truth on trial.ii~h~lt. that contemporary philosophy institutes the passage from a truth-orientated philosophy to a meaning-orientated philosophy. render philosophy incapable of sustaining the desire which is proper to it in the face of the pressure exerted by the contemporary world.and this is crucial is the central place accorded to the question of language. always consists of the interpretation of speech acts. on its capacities.for the truth of our world is that there are as many languages as there are communities. complex and brilliant formulation. the analytic orientation consists of the confrontation between utterances and the rules which govern them. which is the theme of an end. I think that their development and their infinitely subtle. in a certain sense. Philosophy and desire The first is that the metaphysics of truth has become impossible. This opposition between the classical ideal of truth and the modern theme of the polyvalence of meaning is. logic. If not. We find then a theme common to the three orientations. In each of these three principal orientations. its rules. a search for truth. We might say in a schematic. it will not succeed in removing the obstacle that the specialization and fragmentation of the world opposes to universality. To accept the universe of language as the absolute horizon of philosophical thought in fact amounts to accepting the fragmentation and the illusion of communication .

'_'. We know what this leads to.' He said that the German language was.. a gamble that could give rise to something that could be called liberty. more or less coded fluxes. without which the essential illogicism of mass communication will impose its temporal carnival. But this privilege is itself philosophically dangerous because it leads directly to a contempt for all sites and spaces which rebel against the configuration of scientific language. as can be seen in mathematics and scientific language in general. . it is absolutely clear that it accords a unilateral privilege to scientific language as the language in which rules are both explicit and the most adequate to the subject of the language." . that we interrupt the calculus of life determined by security. in a way.. claiming that the latter is the only one that can save it. a condition sine qua non for the existence of philosophy.... He said: 'Being speaks Greek. On the other hand. that there be at least one unconditional requirement. one can oppose an existential gamble to the caleulus of life. philosophy might elect one particular language. information. and then of the German language. This is clear in the way in which sense and non-sense are differentiated by presenting the distinction in the guise of a rule. If philosophy is to sustain its desire in such a world. all there is is the general circulation of knowledge. money and images. And there is an ineluctable connection between this electidn of a language and the political position that resulted in Heidegger's commitment to German nationalism in the criminal form given to it by Nazism. It is obvious that such a point of interruption can only be an unconditional requirement.Infinite Thought Or else." . this unconditional requirement cannot be solely supported by the proposition of the polyvalence of meaning. ) '\ " _. is. It also needs the reconstruction or re-emergence of the category of truth. "") 48 '}9 . something which is submitted to thought with no other condition than itself and which is neither exchangeable nor capable of being put into circulation. That there be such a point of interruption. Heidegger explicitly upheld the thesis of the intrinsic philosophical value. but this would be even worse..1 /). In my opinion. first of the Greek language. It must be able to propose to thought something that can interrupt this endless regime of circulation. . Philosophy must examine the possibility of a point of interruption . In the absence of such a point. ..of consistency and weighe Here again I believe it isyain to imagine that in the absence of a principle of truth..but because thought at least must be able to extract itself from this circulation and take possession of itself once again as something other than an object of circulation. then philosophy will never assume the challenge that is put out to it by a world subordinated to the merchandising of money and information. if the category of truth is ignored. the only language in which thought could sustain the challenge of its destinv. And the privilege accorded this language isolates a figure of rationality that is ineluctably accompanied by disdain or contempt or the closing of one's eyes to the fact that even today the overwhelming majority of humanity is out of reach of such a language. As for analytic philosophy. What can be opposed to this? I do not think that anything can be opposed to it except the patient search for at least one truth.not because all this must be interrupted .' . it must propose a principle Philosophy and desire of interruption.'(" . merchandise. This world is an anarchy of more or less regulated. wherein money. if we never confront anything but the polyvalence of meaning.. that is. except in the name of a value that would ordain this risk and give it a minimum. Philosophy also requires that we throw the dice against the obsession for security. and perhaps several. But what chance has philosophy of winning. products and images are exchanged.~ . in my opinion. \Ve are subjected to the media's inconsistency of images and commentaries.

IS alone capan e <restablishing the fixed point. -1tiinRing. it must be 50 . images and relations circulate so quickly that we do not even have the time to measure the extent of this incoherencv. because today revolt requires leisureli~ss ~~ n . analytic or postmodern orientations of philosophy. whatever the prescription of style or colour. The great linguistic turn of philosophy. All these singular figures are proposed to us by language. . In my opinion these orientations are too strongly committed to the polyvalence of meaning and the plurality oflanguages. and that it does not exclude from this address linguistic.c~ rdi'ClllOus... but things. the speed of communications. not even the one it is written in.' Whatever may be the difficulty or obscurity of this statement. and its inflexion. Its natural element is language. in ~!:-0ace of t 1e injunc. both simple. Plato says. Such a position can be supported by t\'\TO ideas.' 51 Towards a new style afphilosophy 1'.. Philosophy is not enclosed within the pure formal ideal of scientific language. I am for philosophy's revivifying the idea that it does not take as its point of departure words. 'We philosophers do not take as our point of departure words. This speed exposes us to the danger of a very great incoherency.1 Yposition is to break with these frameworks ofthought. The first idea is that language is not the absolute horizon of thought. In the Craiylus. but in my opinion both preliminary to the development of philosophy. It is because things. There is something in them that goes too far in reflecting the physiognomy of the world itself. a point of discontinuity. Speed is the mask of inconsistency. the speed of technical change.. to rediscover a foundational style.that is. communication. a style other than that of interpretation. A language always gives what I would call the colour of philosophy. must be reversed. It must onstruct a time for thought.· ~~!!_~~i1st~~te. Philosophy cannot renounce that its address is directed to everyone. technical division and the obsession with security? I submit that this cannot be done within the framework of the hermeneutic. can the desire for philosophy be maintained in the world such as it is? Can we maintain the four dimensions of revolt. which is concerned with language from beginning to end. PhilosojJ!ty and desire acknowledged that a language always constitutes what can be called the historical matter of truth and of philosophy. but things. Needless to say. an unconditional point. it institutes a universal address. in principle if not in fact. logic. Philosophy privileges no language. to find another philosophical style. . within that natural element. or the absorption of philosophy into the meditation on language. that its '-#rfiik1f~kisurely. a style in the school of a Descartes for example. of logical grammarian analysis.ua. They are too compatible with our world to be able to sustain the rupture or distance that philosophy requires.~ Its oWl'h-I·COi1stCter-thts'·a slllgularity of philosopTiy.a. The principle that philosophy cannot renounce is that of its universal transmissibilitv. a decided style.. which. but.Infinite Thought Given the axioms of contemporary philosophy.' sI~::. The second idea is that the singular and irreducible role of philosophy is to establish a fixed point within discourse. Philosophy must propose a retarci~ti~n" process. religious or racial communities. of transmissions. universality and risk against the four contemporary obstacles: merchandise. its tonality. whatever (ts connection to such or such a language. But I would also maintain that this is not the essential principle of the organization of thought. a point of interruption. and even the speed with which human beings establish connections with one another. Our world is marked by its speed: the speed of historical change. or of polyvalence and language games -. national.

nor what each absolutely singular being. But this statistical and numerical information has nothing to do with what humanity. that is. it is founded on a singularity.not as it is passed down to us by metaphysics. or polls are not capable of teaching us what the history of a truth is. its entangleme. election predictions. and knowing whether the proposed remedy is not in fact. to know what a universal address is. the true centre of any decision which counts.4) . sociology. but rather as we are able to reconstitute it.n(i 't1H.1C?so­ phy is too morose to respond due to the morbidity of its own vision of itself. In my opinion. which we need in order to sustain the desire of philosophy. But you know. My hypothesis is that although philosophy is ill. the category of truth . to reconstitute its logic. in some way. epidemiologic" rates. in the world as it is. That is their purpose. Four reasons make me believe that the world is asking something of philosophy. despite all the negative pressures it exerts on the desire of philosophy. . At base they are in the service of polls.~thing of phiIQ~Oph: Xe~. The human sciences are thereby themselves caught up in the circulation ?f\. Averages. less ill than it says it is. there is always a 52 . when it is the patient who says he is ill. and that all truth is first presented in the form of the absolutely singular . The first reason is that we now know that there is no chance that the human sciences will replace phdosoJ?!i. or if what is proposed here is yet another vain invocation. whatever its name may be. This supposes that philosophy will no longer be in pursuit of the world. history.Pri. It is a question of reorganizing philosophy around this reconstruction and giving it the time and space that arc proper to it. As always. no longer being in a state to maintain its revolt. exactly what will finish off the patient.first reason.~o be capable of pronouncing and thinking the singular. tastes and distastes. or to take a chance and liberate existence.as can be seen in scientific invention. which is precisely what the general apparatus of human sciences does not have as its vocation. with a slowness which will insulate us from the speed of the world. There is no doubt that philosophy is ill.?:s~i"n~ ~:)Rl. At base. Truth is suffering from two illnesses. the problem is knowing whether this illness is mortal or not.L TIie-a\vareness of this seems to me to be fairly widespread since the human sciences have become the home of the statistical sciences. Everyone knows that the singular is always. knowing what the diagnostic is. demography. that it will stop trying to be as rapid as the world. and all that certainly makes f()jinteresting labour. And I think that this is the case. it is suffering from linguistic relativism. artistic creation. because by wanting to be as rapid. l1 problematic of the disparity' or meanings( a'rid it is' also suffering from historical pessimism." 53 The world questions philosoph] Evidently the problem is one of knowing if. this world. it is a question of philosophically reconstructing. demographic averages. That is the. the world. it is less ill than it thinks it is. political innovation or the encounter that comprises love. Philosophy is thus req uired by the world to be a philosophy of singularity. In every place where. in the final analysis. as is often the case. because the world itself.Infinite Thought whatever it may be. that is the people who live in it and think in it. philosophy dissolves itself at the very heart of its desire. One of the characteristics of contemporary philosophy is to elaborate page after page on its own mortal illnesses. a truth is pronounced on existence. including about itself. is about. because they measure rates of circulation. Philosophy and desire chance that it is at least in part an imaginary illness. there is the slightest chance for such an enterprise to flourish or be heard. taking into consideration the world as it is.mea~ing fnd its polyvalence. statistics.

if we do not want to find ourselves in a position of extreme intellectual weakness when faced with the threat of these reactive passions. Tllese-histoncaHy ()bs(:~V:. We know that this rationality cannot be the repetition of classical rationalism. This world does not announce the serenity of a linear development. the rise of cultural. This is what everyone calls today the necessity of a return to ethics. An unconditionaJ principle is needed to regulate both the decision and the a~~ent. But do not be mistaken. a fixed point is needed for the decision. but we also know that we cannot do without it. 54 Philosophy and desire The third reason is connected to the recent rise ofreactive or archaic passions. Confronted by these passions once again. Its material. what it has already resolved. or by being a member of such a force. that is. philosophy is urg-ed to speak about where reason lies. \Ve do not fundamentally need a philosophy of HiE structure of thing-so We need a philosophy open to the irred uci ble j 55 . knows that today" if\v(: ar. Thus one cannot say that each of us must take a position in his or her own name once faced with the inhuman. .Infinite Thought The second reason is that we are witnessing the ruin of the g-reat collective enterprises that we once imagined carried within themselves the seeds of emancipation and truth. vVe know now that there are no such great cmancipatory forces. We must not allow the global acceptance of the themes of liberal economy and representative democracy to dissimulate the fact that the world the twentieth century has given birth to is a violent and fragile world. without re-eng-ag-ing philosophy in the dimension of truth.our desire by simply incorporating ourselves into such a force. nor any such thing. we must make our own decision and speak in our own name. in light of the evidence of the principle.' nor proletariat. What does this mean? This means that each of us. the return to ethics necessitates the return of an unconditional principle.. that there is neither progress.~on is t. Philosophy is required to make a pronouncement about contemporary rationality. under the conditions of the times. any supposed force.h~t theworld we live in is a vulnerable. We know very well that when a position on a given question and an agreement on that position are demanded. these events are only the first in a long series. Philosophy is required to ensur. One cannot hide \behind any g-reat collective config-uration.f)1a!. for these passions are the contemporary fig-ures of irrational archaism and they carry wi th them death and devastation.e confronted with the inhuman. But let us not be mistaken. Philosophically. We must then forg-e a rational philosophy in this sense of the term. that is.~ble phenomena have also given birth to a demand upon philosophy. There is a moment when one must be able to say that this is right and that is wrong. in the sense that philosophy must reiterate. and not lonly the philosopher. It is in no way a world stabilized witilin the umty of its history. any metaphysical totality which might take a position in one's stead. disunited and largely inconsistent. ideological and intellectual foundations arc disparate. But in order to take a position in one's own name when faced with the inhuman. And this is required by the world as it is. There cannot be an infinite regression of qui1Jb'ling and calculating.~e<).religious national and racist passions. precarious world. There must also be utterances of which it can be said they are unconditionally true. but rather a series of dramatic crises and paradoxical events. and this is required of philosophy.as a last resort it is necessary to find a position which will be unconditionally true for everyone. The fourth ~!1g. Add to these the war in Bosnia and the Rwandan massacres.~ tha~th()ugllLcan. We know that we are not caught up by such forces and that there is no hope for us of sustaining. receive and accept the drama of the event without anxiety. Take two recent examples. the Gulf\Var and the fall of bureaucratic socia~ism.

it's true. surpri~.9f the event. 'tel accomplish this programme WT must go beyond the three principal tendencies of philosophy I have described.pEY. In French.·t:~~if. This too is required of philosophy by the world.sf Such a philosophy would then be a prrllosophY. Philosophy is ill. But in a way the deconstruction of metaphysics and the contestation of rationalism are also insufficient. Translator's note: This paper was given in Sydney in 1999. This subject will be singular and not universal. more remote from the worldand 'Il1orc. that the metaphysics of truth is ruined and classical rationalism is insufficient. it is philosophy which is desired. a philosophy maintaining unconditional principles. but the world) is saying to philosophy: 'Get up and walk!' Note 1. but I am sure that the world (the world. We need a more determined and more imperative philosophy. Kant or Hegel.. Philosophy and desire thinks. A philosophy open to chance.thus deI~anded of us by the world is a philos0. it might _be dying. it can be said. and it will be singular because it will always be an event that constitutes the subject as a truth.2f smgulanty. This is a programmeirl-. the phrase 'le desir de philosophic' is ambiguous as to the syntactic status of 'philosophie'. unconditional but submitted to a nontheological law. A philosophy which is a rational intertwining of the singularity of the event and of truth. I am convinced. submitted t? the law of reason. byth~'Vvorld as it is.~of the i:1expec!e. However. In the objective sense of lhe genitive.. In view of this programme. but a chance. a philosophy thatean be reel an? 'n6ilrisl~ed by ~th~ . or that there is a desire which traverses philosophy. This will allow us to propose a new doctrine of the subject ~ and I think this is the essential objective. and this is the reason for my optimism. '. more modest. neither a God nor a prophet.descriptive. in the subjective sense. a philosophy of contemporary rationality. We will be able to say what a subject is in terms other than those of Descartes. at the same time. 56 57 . A new doctrine ~f the subject ":"'hat is . that the world needs philosophy more than philosophy I ts original title was 'The desire of philosophy and the contemporary world'. it can also be said that it is philosophy which desires. and a philosophy of the event. The world needs philosophy to be re-founded upon the ruins of metaphysics as combined and blended with the modern criticism of metaphysics. but one that is.Infinite Thought singularity of what happens.

that the essence of truth remains inaccessible if its question is enclosed in the narrow form of the judgement or the proposition.' Regarding the question of truth. \Vhat is a language that expresses the truth otherwise than in the 58 59 . remains accessible if we allow that the phenomenon of truth occurs in the proposition. Consequently. which is also the decline of being. or in other words" ill the limitations placed on the potency of truth by the hazards of its construction. not only docs truth displace its locus. the essential events of this distress arc ~he f1i~ht of the gods. against the analytic tradition. after Plato.' . For Heidegger. the Heideggerean edifice leaves no other solution than that of the poem. The third passage concerns what can be said about an access to truth freed. Yet. is manifested in the fact that truth is presented. 4 All the categories by which the essence of a truth can be submitted to thought are negative: undecidability. and the unnameable.from the form of the proposition. 2 in order to destrov this edifice and find another solution. ''ihqisterrli'blllty. \he generic not-all (pas-tout). The context of the second passage is Heidegger's question concerning what.the major points of meditation must be if one wishes to' capture 'the distress of Europe in thought. the latter being understood as the simple faculty to reason correctly in theoretical and practical consiclera tions.i~)th!jcondit~c. This localization is also a denaturing. Heidegger tells us that for such a meditation one thing is decisive: The mutation occurs through the interpretation of spirit as intellect.Philosophy and truth \Ye shall select three references from the HeideggfTean doctrine of truth. we must assume. and as the generic potency of a transf"6rmation of a domain of knowledge. as localizable in the proposition. we cannot allow. The first: In becoming a property of the proposition. In this passage. insofar as they are things already presented. which localizes it in the propositiol!:. Nothing of the truth. 3 \Ve must con~eiv~ of ~ truth both as the construction of a fidelity to an event. The ethic of truths resides entirely in the measure taken of this negative.' . the de-naturing of the essence of truth. CHAPTER 2 Philosophy and truth It is time to advance four fundamental theses on truth. ' . at the same time. and as the estimation of things already presented.. Iieidrgger hi~s melancholic vision of the loss of the un-veiling. the destruction of the earth. On the contrary. It is clear that spirit can only be interpreted as intellect ifit manipulates truth in the form of a proposition. we cannot reverse the historical process delineated by Heidegger himself. For a proposition is effectively the linguistic phenomenon of any estimation of things. the becoming SOCIal of man and the preponderance of the mediocre. it transforms its essence. in its authentic sense. This must be understood as stating that the entire effect of the decline of thought.lI1 of possibility at the origins of Western distress.

It is a distinction that is already made in the w(jrk of Kant: the distinction between reason and understanding. first of all.if the proposition.techne.1. What transmits. i \ Fidelity Finite bU bl . something new. poet always. when the intellect reigns. In turn. 'the Being of beings becomes thinkable within the pure thought of the mathcrna tical'. such a language can be found in the poem. conceiving truth as a historical process requires nei ther the thesis of the Platonic decline. Heidegger writes: " \In poetry which is authentic and great.submitted totholight.lnfinite Thought scientific or logical form of the proposition? 1\ language that is related. not to things already presented. we shall call knoioledge. that truth be localizable in the form of a proposition. the mathematical is nothing other than the transparent triumph of the propositional form of truth. what is the essential philosophical problem concerning truth? It is the problem . If a truth is something new. but to things which have not yet arrived? There is no doubt about the answer. I will start from the following idea: a truth is. of jts appearance and its 'becoming'. A truth must be . f(Jr Heidegger.not as a judgement. a relation of adequation. commanding the interpretation of the spirit as pragmatic intellect governs the ravage of the earth then the onlv real recourse' lies in the poen~. then he says. ! I . an essential superiority tof the spirit reigns over everything which is purely science. It is a capital distinction for Heideggcr: the distinction between truth . wflat repeats. Philosophy and truth Modern philosophy is a criticism of truth as adequation. Undecidable Event -: Unnameable Good/Evil Forcing Nomination b~" ~~ . Truth is not adequation rei et intellectus. is the conception of truth as a relation: a relation of appropriateness between the intellect and the thing intcllccted. When the proposition reigns. which always supposes. if the declining destiny of being is to de-nature truth in the proposition . Distinguishing truth from knowledge is essential.S in thereal. speaks as if being 1i was expressed and called upon for the first nmc.and cognition or science . nor the attribution of a superiority of essence for poetry over the mathematical. Thus. for Heidegger. A . Heidegger suggests that it is a historical destiny. One of the forms of this motif: which explicitly" attaches truth to imitation. 1\1y entire argument will be to ackncwledgethat truth remains unthinkable if we attempt to contain it within the form of the proposition.superiority in virtue olwhich thr. The·sCliema you have represents the 'becoming' of a truth. Our epoch is most certainly that of a rupture with all that Philippe Lacouc-Labarrhe has shown to depend on the motif of mimesis.aletheia . But that furthermore. as Heidegger very well perceived. the poem is explicitly opposed to the mathematical because. Hegel shows that truth is a path. but as a proces. or over any other type of truth procedure. Truth is not limited to the form of judgement.

but to which I shall be faithful. In the same way. Take the statement: 'This event belongs to the situation. Examp~e. a .0 I affirm its newl~~s~" . indiscernible from Its ~ther. in its newness. This utterance is as follows: 'This event has taken place.~. since the axiom that supports it has arbitrated outside of any rule of established knowledge. because an evental stil~plement in terrupts repcti tion._ This decision opens up the infinite procedure of venhcation of the true.er has to be made. Its occurrence would be calculable within the situation. But the laws 63 b2 . A subject is what disappears between two indiscr. and with no indication marking the proposed terms. This v b 'is why a truth begins with an axiom of truth.. It IS unprechqablt.Asubjectis a throw of the dice which does not iabolish chance.s~ the appearance. but which accomplishes chance through the verification of the axiom that f~unds it as a subject.illq~v the verification of the consequences of the axiom to commence'. I call it an e"fJ1LA truth thus appears. of the conscq uences of the axiom that decided upon the event.as such generates nothing other than repetition. the term w~ich will . This work is creation' that ~s. It begins~yith a grou~dless decision . the irruption.Infinite Thought For the process of a truth to begin. Tragedy itself. was indiscernible.the situation of knowledge. incalculable. Two terms arc indiscernible if no effect of language allows them to be distinguished. Nothing would permit us to say: here begins a truth.fr!e!I~. But if no formula of language discerns two terms in a situation. Suchan act is thus absolutely finite. a subject is what fixes an undecidable event. with GaIileo._1!111.there. whether this statement is true or false. bdi"lre it. a choice without a concept? Obviously. For example. 1 S supplement iscgmmllted to chance.the decision to sa)' that the event has taken place. But what is a pure choice. of mathemati~al physics.suN){(!. Such a subject is constituted by an utterance in the form of a wager. it is something which I can neither evaluate. The procedure thus Iolllows a chance-driven course.' If it is possible to decide.th +. with Aeschylus. within the situation. somethill£. continues to infinity. of theatrical Tragedy. free from any other presupposition than that of having to choose. there already is . On the basis of the undecidability of an ev~nt's helonzinz to a situation a wal}. This means that the subject of a truth demands the indiscernible. it is a choice confronted by two indiscernible jerms.or procedure of Greek tragedy. n Philos()jJf~v and truth !1 Nothing regulates its course. Such is the local act of a truth. Such a choice is then an absolutely pure choice. m ust be a . Such a procedure is an exercise of fidelity. What was decided concerning the ~ndeCldablc event must pass by this term. . The undecidability of the event induces the appearance of a subject of the event. the work of Sophocles is a subject for the artistic truth . The work of Sophocles is a finite ~ubjeet of this infinite truth. an amorous encounter which changes a whole life: the French Revolution of I 792. it consists in a pure choice between two indiscernibIcs. nor ckmonstrate. It is beyond what is. using the rules of established knowledge.!S}l. then theso-called event is not an event. then it is certain that the choice of verifying one term rather than the other will find no support in the objectivity of their difference. a "course without a concept. a pure choice in what. The indiscernible organizes the pure point of t~e Subject in the process of verification. a truth begun by the event of Aeschvlus. because he or she takes the chance of deciding upon it.. However.' To begin with. the sClerltl1lc' truth decided by Galileo is pursued to infinity.0-1<l£J?('rl. for . An event is linked La the notion of the undecidable. This procedure is the examination.rni~}es. "~nd it IS a finite work. What. as an artistic truth.

without even verifying this knovdedgc. Little bv little the contour of a subset of the situation is outlined'.. The set called 'revolutionary politics' is a generic truth of the politif. there were all sorts of revolutionary politics. 1 can force new bits of knowledge. or the indiscernibles wherein the subject finds its act would have to have been.g:)It . This allows the possible fictioning of the eflects of such a truth having-taken-place.an untotalizable subset) a subset that can be neither constructed nor named in the language. On the basis of this anticipation. It IS withdrawn Irorn any unification by a single predicate.. l~veIllion and creation remain incalculable. heforees his Aristotelian adversary to abandon his position. someone in lo. the subject can make the hypothesis of a Universe where this truth. So the path of a truth cannot coincide in infinity with any concept.v~Tified. Consequently.' which is the anticipating hypothesis of a truth of integral love. It is made locally. The trajectory of a truth begins with an undecidable event. Such subscts are called g(. Galileo was able to make the hypothesis that all nature can be written in mathematical language.pDtency of _anticipation is total. and even if we suppose the completion of this set. On the basis of this hypothesis. or ~s Subject. But what we can know. of which the subject is a local point. A. But the . within the finite. or rather will have composed. intermi~(. if a succession of pure choices engendered a subset which could be unified under a predication. 'the physical' is a generic set. is gellerlc.ble. after Galileo. There is no law of physical laws.this is 64 Philosophy and truth what the being ofphysicaltruth is. there does not exist a closed and unified su bset of knowledge that we could call 'physics'. What happens is that we can always anticipate the idea of a completed generic truth..lzeriiC. As such. If we cesi force all the bits of knowledge concerned then we end up with the romantic problem of .1t is ~:lear that this subset is infinite.?dcal forcil. the verified terms compose. The generic being of a truth is never presented. consists in saying: 'If we suppose the generic infinity of a truth to be completed. they force the other to come to know and treat them differentlv.We shall say that-a truth. then such or such a bit of knowledge must imperatively be transformed. For example.e indiscernible. then the course of the truth would have to have been secretly governed by a law. 'I will always love you. in which the effects of the cvental axiom arc . a truth is generic in its result. But there is no single political formula whici) totalizes these revolutionary politics. Indiscernible in its act. In the same way. Starting with such a fiction. supposed as finished. In the same way. it invests the situation with successive choices.subg1S. if we suppose its termination. truth is uncompletable. will have completed its generic totalization. Yet it is possible to state that. Thus.a. in reality. I call the anticipatory hypothesis of the generic being ofa truth. both infinite and indistinct -.potency of a truth depends' OT! the hXl?9Jhi.' The problem is to know whether such. discerned bv some superior understanding. The construction of a truth is made bv a choice within d. which is the hypothesis of a complete physics. if we suppose their infinite totalization.. It finds its act in a finite subject confronted by the indiscernible. What does exist is an infinite and open set of laws and experiments. The course of verification of the true continues.Infi"nite '7 Iiought of physics which have been successively invented are finite subjects of this truth. that it remains . a'16i-i:zltg:1A forcing is the powerful fiction Of a completed truth. there is no way it could be captured by a single formula of language. then such a subset will ineluctably be one that no predicate can unify .al. after the 1792 Revolution. a generic su bset of the Universe.:e can say. is that a truth will always have taken place as a generic infinity. or in its being. But no such law exists. In contrast. on a formal level. That is.

.. a path of truth at the point of the indiscernible. in the pure presence that no knowledge can circumscribe.Infinite Thought absolute love. For example. a reasonable ethic of mathematics is to not wish to force this point.b. or in other words. And it is clear that this unnameable is the real of the mathematical. But even the 1792 revolution or the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 remain partly undecided as to what they prescribe for philosophy. never has a name in the eyes of truth. there is always a ds. What helps us is the rig~)l'ous study of the negative characters of the path of truthrthe event is undecidablejthe subject is linked to the indiscerniblertruth itself is generic. for if a mathematical theory is contradictory.::si~e Ior the omnipotence of the True. a real poinuhaU1!. It is clear for a French man or woman that the events of May '68 continue to comprise an unattested or anonymous promise. an anticipation of being for the generic. But Godel showed that it is impossible to demonstrate.l'ster. The undecidability of an event and the suspension of its name. or deadly stupidity. There lies the root orEvil. Consequently.' this is because it affects the entire situation. This gives us four negative categories. and ::vhatis alone in such exclusion. the scientific problem of science as integral n'lgb. the potency of the True must be measured. Finally. As can be seen with scientism.ri yIJ this potency. whose emblem is the unnameable. >. Evil is the desire for 'Everything-to-be-said.. The unnameable is the point where the situation in its most intimate being is submitted to thought.~ . It is what. to accept that a mathematical truth is never complete. A term that consequently remains unjorce. I If the Iorcing of the unnameable exclusion is a ais. must recognize the unnameable as a limitationf. The unnameable is then the proper of the proper. The condition of Evil is much rather the process of a truth. A mathematical truth thus cannot [orce the non-contradictoriness of mathematics. from the basis of a finite Subject of a truth.. and the halting point of its potency is the unnameable. or with totalitarianism.~. within a mathematical theory. ignorance.b. tne mathematical consists of pure deduction. 'We will say that noncontradiction is the unnameable of the mathematical. But this reasonable ethic is difficult to maintain. It can be fuelled by each and every thought event that shapes our times.. so singular in its singularity that it does not even tolerate having a proper name. v . This problem can be expressed simply: can we. 66 Philosop/~y and truth Usually it is said that Evil is lies. The philosophical study of these categories is capital.§~\lcr is that there is alioays.a. of the indiscernible and of the generic. the subject and the truth.. in any situation.~Evil is the will to name at arl)' price. it is destroyed.if its path. We always suppose that it contains no contradictions.\vhat is excluded from having a proper name. and the political problem of totalitarianism. untotalizable. The unnameable is something like the inexpressible!~~)~~\T~~ytl~~~&. 67 . that this very theory is noncontradictory. In this sense. the effect of the event.1r. This term fixes the limit of the potency ofa truth. As such the ethic of a truth resides entirely in a sort of caution as far as its powers are concerned.' To contain Evil.. There is Evil only insofar as there is an axiom of truth at the point of the undecidable.llnnamea~lf~fthe situation. are both features of politics that are particularly active today.truth a~thori~(~sto be said. . by pursuing singularity itself. I call thi~ point the'. the desire in fictioning to suppress the unnameable frees the destructive capacity contained in all truth. '. within the situation. The 1Uiilam~~. name and/ince into knowledge all the elements that this truth concerns? How far does the anticipating potency of generic infinity go? lV!)I~aI1. and the forcing of a nomination at the point of the unnameable.lejs. The effect of the undecidable.

of equality abstracted from any predicate. . its legal signification. relation or un-relation. Such is. This paper was given in Sydney in 1999. or reason.In/inite Thought The theory of indiscernibles is in itself an entire mathematical theory. Thus the ethic of truths.Y. has as its aim a 'generic' democracy.unde1inables of a structure. between the construction of a truth and its potency. Justice' is a word from philosophy. Those who haveundergone injustice provide irrefutable testimony concerning the former. Finally.1 language a point of indiscernibility between prose and poetry. while justice is found on the side of the intelligible. as it is lor the person in love tormented by what love bears of the sexual unnameable. 68 . And a whole field of prose. or the objective. is that by which we take the measure of what our times arc capable of. such as Samuel Beckett's. Kothing. CHAPTER 3 Philosophy and politics From Plato until the present day. But the modern politics of emancipation. or between image and thought. as we must. at least if we leave aside. or experience.sigllal~ justice: it presents itself neither as spectacle nor as sendment~ Is our sole issue then that of saying that justice is merely the absence of injustice? Is justice nothing more than the empty neutrality of a double negation? I do not think so. tries. Nor do I think that injustice is to be found on the side of the perceptible. justice is obscure. as well as what our times are worth. as it is for the mathematician who looks for the . a promotion of the commonplace. But who can testify for justice? Injustice has its affect: suffering. to designate the naked existence~of a generic humanity. The theory of the generic is at the heart of the ultimate forms of the logic of sets. Its original title was 'The ethic of truths: construction and potency'. bv successive subtractions. But we can also say that one of the aims of contemporary poetics is to found i. Yet this word ~f 69 Note 1. however. which is entirelv devoted to the police and the judiciary.ipg: injustice is clear. the very task of philosophy. as it is of the poet who explores the limits of the force of language. in a word. following upon Paul Cohen's theorem. . or the subjective. from the Galois groups to the indiscernibles in the theory of models. there is one word which crystallizes the philosopher's concern in regard to politics: -'illstice'. revolt.1 The question that the philosopher addresses to politics can be formulated as: Can there be a just politics? Or a politics which does justice to thought? Our point of departure must be the fopo\. delivered from the dialectical scheme of classes and parties. Tnjustice is not the immediate disorderof that for which justice would provide an ideal orcItT. the unnameable is the central motif of the thought of the political that wishes to submit Nazism to thought.

It is very important to note that 'equality' docs not refer to anything objective.Infinite Thought philosophy is under condition. 'Let the masses educate themselves in this great revolutionary movement. for a political orientation to be worthy of submission to philosophy under the idea 'justice'. its unique general axiom must be: people think. It would depend upon political circumstances. vVhen Saint-Just defined public consciousness before the Convention in April 1794. Moreover. These political sequences are singularities:' they do not trace a destiny. For philosophy knows that lor the truths to which it testifies. It is under the condition or the political. We will term 'justice' the name by which a philosophy designates the possible truth of a political orientation. for all hearts are equal as to sentiments of good and bad. They are rarc attempts. It is equality with respectto. for ]2. They induce a representation of the capacity of the collective which refers its agents to the strictest equality. and this consciousness is madc up of the tendency of the people towards the general good. a~ls nOtlitng othef"t1lan_ is . 70 Philosophy and politics What docs 'equality' signify here? Equality means that a political actor is represented under the sole sign of his or her specifically human capacity.. the latter remain i r r e d u c i b l e . of income. people are capable of truth. the same principle can be found: for example.' Thus a political orientation touches upon truth provided that it is founded upon thc cgalitarian principle ofa capacity to discern the just or the good: philosophy understands both . it has nothing to do with the < 71 . however. of function. there have been some political orientations that have had or will have a connection with a truth. and they are often brief. in the sixteen-point decision of 8 August 1966. and even less of the supposedly egalitarian dynamics of contracts or reforms. Therefore. Philosophy. u u lllVUblll 'tIla"tby v\1trid'l-thc path 'Of a truth seizes and traverses the human animal. of electoral nihilism and the blind confrontation of communities. Even Plato knows that while the philosopher would probably havc to be king {ell' there to be justice. he was thinking of a strictly egalitarian recognition of the capacity for truth: 'May you have a public consciousness. a truth of the collective as such. The capacity~hich is specifically human . that of thought. They organize a repulsive mixture of power and opinions. let them determine themselve~s the distinction between what is just and what is not.public consciousness for Saint-JustLor with respect to political mass movement for Mao Tse-tung. these orientations take no account of the particularity of interests. but thcy alone can act as a condition of philosophy's thinking.hilosophy thinks thought alons whereas these orientations present themselves explicitly as unthinking. In their principles of action. or as nonthought. "" Historically speaking. Interest is not a specifically human capacity. The vast majority of empirical political orientations have nothing to do with truth.terms undcr the sign of a collective's capacity for truth. We know this. The only subjective element which is important to such orientations is that of interest. the very possibility of such royalty's existence would not depend upon philosophy. _~quality is subjective. The subjectivity that animates them is that of the tribe and the lobby. This feature is that from the people they engage these orientations require nothing but their strict generic humanity. Such equality is in no way a social programme. can distinguish a common feature among them. Philosophy has nothing to sa y about such politics. All living beings protect their interests as an imperative for survival. It is not a question of an equality of status. it is incapable of rendering them real in the world. nor do they construct a monumental history.' During an entirely different political sequence in the Cultural Revolution in China.

axiom.I'. or it does not. justice>·· which captures the latent axiom of a political subject .·oJ. But justice. or any politics which imposes an egalitarian maxim.. justice is not a concept as such. and if we relate to it immanently. as demonstrated by all political sequences which concern philosophy. It must use a method which proceeds via the comprehension of axioms.tr-Thls.then it defines an effective. ~er-i~ftffi~-ti:r~ :!h01~.true political orientations . cannot be deQ!1ed. Either the egalitarian axiom is present Philosophy and !)o/itirs in political statements. There is no political or:ientati. and r:o~ as what should be."!.. once justice is 1'orlceived of as an operator of capture for egalitarian political orientations .interests. ~~onversely. the objective logic of Capital. characteristic of the sequence. an. as what is.ILhical name for the egalitarian political maxim. or we are not.a consensus of opinion.an affirmation which has neither a guarantee nor a proof .of a universal capacity for political truth. 'justice' cannot be a State programme: 'justice' is the qualification of an egalitarian political orientation in act. Butlhe State has nothing to do with justice.a~ions in the empirical world. I've never heard anyone say the contrary.on linked to truth which does not possess an a:filrln'ati~'i'i''. a prescription. into resignation or resentment. which is the phil()~g. The modern State aims solely at fulfilling certain functions. This also means: either the political exists.. Its sole subjective dimension is that of transforming economic necessity . and immediate subjective fi. Rather. In such a subjectivization one goes beyond the limits of interest. Any definitional and programmatic approach to justice turns it into a dimension of the action of the State.. This is what gi. 'j ustice' is nothing other than one of the words by which a philosophy attempts t. such as Saint-just's definition of public consciousness.. I t thus follows. This is why any programmatic or State definition of justice. or Mao's thesis on the immanent self-education of the revolutionary mass rnovernent.+j..rs Itself lI1 times of trial and trouble.. or it is nolo Consequently. _':lilY politics of emancipation.Infinite 7 liought social.. For equality is not an objective for action.gure.·~s~·~~f\Y. which is the theoretical name for an .' changes the latter into its contrary: justice becomes the harmonization of the interplay of interests. in its being. is a thought in act. oraL crafling.) 'Ieize the egalitarian axiom inherent in a veritable political sequence.s_jl}giJlfJ:t.iI}~lijler. necessarily refers to an entirely disinterested subjectivity> In other words.j.necessarily designates not what must be.Q .~.y. but what is. But if it does.I}LJ.-. This axiom is given in singular statements. for philosophy. in the sense that philosophy encounters thought within it. that the State is incapable of recognizing anything appropriate to it in such a process.L~~al ~rient~ltion which i~ a thou?ht lI1 act entaIE. Thought is the specific mode by which a human animal is traversed and overcome by a tru th. such that tbepolitical proce~sjt~clLJ2~CQIJl.lL!g_j~l~tj. for the State is not a subjective and axiomatic figure.' That is. it is what we declare under fire of the event.)56~i tl~~lrti·litli·· a:twft'y's'llfarnfe. it is an axiom of action. m pn~EoTfion-ro--ttt--f~<-t~~. The State as such is 'indifkrent or hostile to the existence of any political orientation which touches truths.. It 72 73 .: equality. either we are within justice. Political equality is not what we want or plan. It is a political maxim.s:L. The State. then we are within justice. here and now. axiomatic.ves all its depth to Samuel Beckett's surprising affirmation in How It Is: 'In any case we are within justice. In the same way. Here thought cannot usc the scholastic method of definitions.that is. The difficulty with most doctrines of justice is that they seek a definition of justice and then they try to find means for its realization. But justice. entailing a search for its more or less approximate real~z.

The veritable philosophical statement would rather be: Political statements bearing truth rise up in the absence of any state or social order. Even Aristotle. it is the pursiJe~s'ofequalitywho rise in rebellion. IdentifY'iug those rare sequences through which a political truth is constructed. here and now. whose entire gocd is a fiction of political stability. is what names the principles at work in rupture and disorder.c. It is in relation to its own epoch that philosophy tries to work out whether the hypothesis of the Eternal Return can be supported without ridicule or scandal.. declares at the beginning of Book -1 of his Politics: o/'roC. 'Generally.'professional revolutionary'. the inscription of what our time is capable of in eternity ." and "'grass-roots activist'rWithout doubt. It is thus always during trouble and disorder that the subjective imperative of equality is affirmed. Finally. Wh at the philosopher names 'justice' seizes the subjective order of a maxim. in a time when this subject's name must befound. and their precarious trajectory.' However. furthermore. whether they be of the past or the present. but in the sense the French Revolution gives to the word. SLill more diflicult is attempting -. Finally. with neither continuity nor concept. To transform the generic category of 'justice' by 2 ~~. it is rather the singular process of a truth. there is also f.one of whosc pieces is the word 'justice'. to thc irreducible specificity of how such statements bear forth and inscribe the egalitarian axiom in action. even if we have a history. what does making a philosophical statement on justice. we live in a time in which this name "is i~'~uspense. found within the ineluctable disorder to which the State of interests is exposed by that very order. because 'justice' always signifies the philosophical capture of a latent egalitarian axiom. amount to: First it is a matter of knowing which singular political orientations to call upon.to bc faithful to some egalitarian axiom. But this abstraction is useless. it is a matter of showing that. that is. is itself a sustained exercise of thought. when Capital seems to triumph on the basis of its own weaknesses. their newness. of what 'justice' has beep able.1 . we still do not know clearly what it c1esignates" today. thus transformed. ycip TO lCJOV ~1l1"OUVn. his idea of equality is empirical. without being discouraged by the propaganda of capitalistic parliamentarian government. and when what is fuses miserably with what can he. . Aristotle's conception is still a state conception. showing that it is by means of such a figure that philosophy assures.i)~itting it to the test of singular statements. and finding contemporary statements of such. The task is then double: To examine their statements and prescriptions in order to uncover the egalitarian nucleus which bears a universal signification. CJTCta:~ci(oYCJt Vi which can be transla ted as.lnfinite 7 'hough: follows that justice. it is a matter of philosophically selzmg the political orientations in question. Of course we know in an abstract sense. far from being a possible category of state or social order. This is not an easy job in today's confused and chaotic world.within the very order of practising politics. objective and definitional. The latent egalitarian maxim is heterogeneous to the State. The imperative of philosophy is to seize the event of truths. 7. In other words. that is. to designate. via its own names. not in the sense of an elector or a city councillor. which ones are worth our trying to seize the thought specific to them via the resources of the philosophic apparatus . It is not the concept that philosophy turns towards eternity as the communal dimension of thought. Philoso!J/~y and politics Second. This political subject has had several names:'-'~:itizen'i for example. the category of justice designates the contemporary figure of a political subject.

Yet these terrorist States incarnated the ultimate fiction of a justice which had the solidity of a body. it was a pure and simple collapse.. no. It frees justice and equality from any fictive incorporation.1. It rej. this political vacuity has not ceased to engender monsters. The words of philosophy arc always misused and turned around when these conditions are not observed. . passing by the passive relationship between Hegel and Napoleon. those who eternalize the figure of such action.)' " . when it can only name the most extreme moments of inconsistency: for the effect of the egalitarian axiom is to undo bonds. Certainly. There arc faithful followers of these sequences. of any egalitarian political orientation. within philosophy. from Plato and his unfortunate escapade in Sicily up to Heideggcr's circumstantial aberrations. ) Let us be militants of restrained action.' of free rein.~. Within the subjectivedirl1ensio. when we see philosophy thus prostrated before the idols of the day.)\ . of thought acting from and in the diri~ction of a collective seized by its truth. . The collapse of the socialist States teaches us that the ways of egalitarian politics do not pass by State power. The collapse of the socialist States has itself a positive dimension.Infinite Thought Is the current state of political orientations such that philosophy can employ the category ofjustice? Is there not a risk here of confusing chalk with cheese... some statements envelop. and without forgetting Nietzsche's madness of pretending 'to split the history of the world in two'. an axiom of the collective. And ever since. democracy in the capitalist-parliamentary sense." "j. nothing else is of interest save the universality of this declaration. the conditions for the exercise of philosophy have always been rigorous. but rather by an immanent subjective determination. of a justice which took the form of a governmental programme. . fin' the State or society.urried them to }~ '.l of the declaration of equality. Let us be. " . for it is Paul Celan who probably gives us the most exact image of what we must understand by 'justice': On inconsistencies Rest: two fingers are snapping in the abyss." "'. There have been intense political sequences in the twentieth century. . .) ) 't! ". Justice is the philosophical name of the inconsistency. it all depends on you 77 76 .. everything shows that it is not History on a large scale that authorizes philosophy. to desocialize thought. the egalitarian axiom. and to affirm the rights of the infinite and the immortal against finitude.. liberty in the sense of pure opinion. Philosophy and politics After all. But after all.against being-for-death. We have too often wished that justice would act as the foundation for the consistency of the social bond./.' their being. Here we can rejoin the poem in its declarative and axiomatic vocation./':. in an in~exible and non-subjugated manner. then clearly some pessimism is understandable. and the active consequences to which it gIves nse. It is rather what Mallarrne called 'restrained action' . of reproducing the vulgar pretension of governments to render justice? When we see so many 'philosophers' attempting to appropriate for themselves state schemes with as little thought in them as Europe. both' volatile' and ()hS~1nate. political orientation worthy of the name played the smallest part in it. or shameful nationalisms. in as yet incomparable situations. _ .''''I.. a world is stirring in the scratch-sheets. Here' or there. . What the collapse did was attest to the absurdity of such a representation. (..

called the clinic. This is a modified version of a translation bv Thelma Sowlev of 'Philosophic et politique'. and this circulation is the movement of a uniq ue thinking. Take the great political thinkers: Robespierre.. that it all depends on you. Mao.29-32. But Physics as a thinking does not separate the two. mathematics and experiments. thinking circulates 78 79 . 1 There is also a psychoanalytic practice.! Plzi!osof)/~y % CHAPTER 4 Uuly/August 1999). Here again. which app~ared in Radic. Philosophy and psychoanalysis There is a psychoanalytic theory. But what directly concerns the philosopher is neither the theory nor the practice. What concerns the philosopher is knowing whether psychoanalysis is a thinking. I call thinking the non-dialectical or inseparable unity of a theory and a practice. To understand such a unity the simplest case is that of science. These writings are designed to concentrate the immanent relation between concepts and action. Finally you have treatments of concrete situations and their transformations. Chc Guevara.Infinite Thought Keep in mind the lesson of the poet: in matters of justice. theory. it is truc. You also have fundamental writings: directives. as true as a truth can be. where it is upon inconsistency that we must lean or rest. commands and decisions. Politics is. Note I. Saint-J~st.als? "il . A text by Galileo or Einstein circulates between concepts. Lenin. There you have concepts. in physics there are theories. and even some philosophy.' thinking. concepts and mathematical formulas and there are also technical apparatuses and experiments.

not a repetition. and the guarantee of experiments.'. it is never repeated.itself as a thinking. such as the Subject. which can be repeated. When is it that two thinkings have something in common? It is when the movement of thinking has the same structure. When the content of a political statement is a Philosophy and !)..dJ:as science and politics. But that docs not prevent the thinkings from having some characteristics in common. But what can be done when there is no repetition. . invented by Lacan in 1967. Of course. Truepolitical activists think a singular situation. There is the clinical experience . Mathematical writing corresponds to experiments solely when the repetition of an experiment gives the same result. On this basis one can distinguish between true political activists and politicians>. Lacari's case. For example. In psychoanalytic thinking. you can only \verify your thinking iifi asubjecti~e-:~ . ~"cientifi~thi. the relationship between writing and experience is completely different. which has precise rules. the statement is rhetorical and empty.----"-./ The result is that political thinking is completely different to scientific thinking. It does not form pan of a thinking. That is. In politics. This identity is inscribed in a mathematlcal equation. Therefore political writings .. In s(':ier. everything can be found which is also found in physics: there are fundamental theoretical concepts.uhe unrepeatable. the N arne-of-theFa the 1'. as practices. It is a clinical experience which concerns a singular subject. the signifier. and designed to verify the existence of an analytic act.the cure -.. statementsa!!d singular situations. \Vhat counts is the possibility of repetition. bv transmission to others. There are formalized writings such as the matheme for the fantasy.. manner. the formulas of sexuation or the Borromean knot. Scientific thinking is ruled by repetition. That organization is necessary to poTitT'(:s/is well known. Politics declares an irreducible and unrepeatable possibility. however. science and politics are completely different thinkings.£f:.. but.~ychoana{v\i. . . .----.?f knowledge. and there is even what could he called experimental apparatuses. when"within the unity oj the thinking there is the same relation between the moment if writing and the moment oj~tr. and this thinking is a unique movement:) Psvchoanalvsis also l)resents-. neither demonstrative nor experimental? One must then shoir other 81 " so . the Ideal. Obviously one can say that no subject is ever the repetition of another. Why? Because in the science of physics the experiment is an artificial construction which must be repeatable. . for example.Infinite Thought between theoretical hypotheses. One can thus say that psychoa~alyticthinking resembles political thirking~moTe th_a~. One sign of this resemblance between psycl1(lanalySlS and politics is the necessity for a collective org-anization.ce there are two verifiable guarantees: the sruarantee of mathematical demonstration. etc. the relation between theoretical writing and the clinical situation is not established by the artificial construction of a repetition. What can be said of psychoanalytic thinking? \Vhat is certain is that in psychoanalysis the experience is not like that of science.ansfm:matjj)Jl or experience.~~~l. Whv? It's simple: if the concrete situations dealt with are singular and unrepeat-' able.are justified inasmuch as they inscribe.slI. the protocol of the pass. politicians do not think. 2 What then becomes interesting for the philosopher is the comparison of psychoanalysis with other thinkim?JL-. which can be t:J • • reconstructed by anyone. In .. True political actioists announce an unrepeatable possibility of a situation while a politician makes speeches based on the repetition of opinions>. Science writes down a necessity and constructs apparatuses for a repetition.\ repetition. A political situation is always singular. . . they are completely different.directives or commands . on the contrary. as is the fact that there have always been associations of psychoanalysts.

'7>~nof action in the ease of politics . For example: today. dare I say.soQLy~~amL the singularnprocess. Freud's or Lacan's goal is not solely the client's cure. familial comfort. For example. There is a place . by referring to what does not repeat itself. one must exit from one's proper place. one does not enter into politics to earn money..s does not allow to beseen. In short. Those who do so are politicians. An organization is thus necessary. A political thinking will say: here is a collective possibility. and draw all of its consequences. that there remains a great difkrence between the two.sexuality. They must recognize that there is indeed a thinkable relation between. etc. 1 believe. Moreover. Moreover.'the singularity of the clinic. or privilege. In politics. in order to do such work. problems that politics poses to itself. But is all this enough to say that political thinking and psychoanalytic thinking really resemble each other? In both cases there are theoretical statements or principles. Does the same thing happen in psychoanalysis? Well. The second difference is that one must pay. in Europe as elsewhere. Political thinking always ruptures with the dominant state of things.whomnne is organized. and nothing more. yes. unrepeatable situations. nor does one engage in politics to have a position. Political Ph£!osoj!hy and psychoanalysis thinking demands a displacement.for in a thinking.~­ thinking. with. parliamentary elections. they embarked upon an absolutely abnormal journey in relation to the State. What then counts is not the possibility of repetition. In doing so they created the conditions for an entirely new relation between the statements and the situations of politics. Politics as thinking has no other objective than thinking. Newton and Eiilstein's goal wasta resolve the problems~'igIitand nortii~n. Despite everything. competition. but politicians do not think. power. and on the other hand. it ruptures with the State.' your statements and writings. the private sector. One must rally these others around . a journey which is always. in May '68 and after in France. the state of things is the market economy. it is rather the possible thinking of what does not repeat itself. on the other. practise it.like science. The goal is to think the singularity of the human subject: the human subject confronted on the one side with language. exactly . This point is important because I am convinced that all genuine thinking is Fee. one must meet people and enter into discussion with them. in which one can discuss the assessment of unrepeatable experiences. the first thing one notices is that in psychoanalysis it is not the analyst who makes the journey . A genuine political thinking will attempt to find a possibility which is not homogeneous with this state of things. the taste for money._and. no other objective than the transformation of unrepea table situations . . when the intellectuals went en masse to work in the factories. one must enter into the situation.in the ease of psychoanalysis. that is.it is the analysand.the analyst's consulting rooms .Injz'nite Thought peoplethe relation between th~&t-af€mellt. and collective organizations which validate the thinking. For example. The question then arises of whether psychoanalysis is disinterested. Political thinking searches for an active possibility which is 83 82 . Politics is disinterested. And obviously. thinking searches within a situation for a possibility that the dominant state ofthin/. abnormal. on the one hand. . and there are appointments to be kept. there is no distinction between theory and practice. one must obtain the subjective agreement of those with. perhaps it is small and local. But there is a problem which is still more profound.there is a couch. 9"his IS also exactly ffi~e goal or great arhsts IS to give their thinking the form of a work. this journey is fixed. The goal of politics is to resolve political problems. but its rule is not that of the dominant rule. And a political thinking will formulate this possibility. however.

it is the depositing of speech in the Other.In/i'nlte lIwlIghL not controlled by the State or by the blind laws of the economy. Psychoanalysis thus works towards a 'normal' functioning of subjective structure.lg. The major thesis of psychoanalysis is: There Is no sexual relation. In fact. For psychoanalvsis -the relation to the real is always finally inscrib~d in a structure. psychoanalytic thinking. \Vhat does psychoanalytic thinking search for? What does it expcct of the Subject? Does it search for an absolutely new possibility? The Subject who comes into analysis is a suffering subject. finally depends upon a philosophical choice.the exhaustion of a structure's.enta-iion.e real. whereby recognizing that the comparison of tv. \Vhat psychoanalysis aims to think is the difference of the sexes. analysis IS this relation to the real. this is what Lacan authorizes us to do! In Seminar XX he compares the relation Lacan-Freud to the relation Lenin Marx. truth IS un~tf~. for Lacan anel [or contemporary philosophy. in November 1975 Lacan declares: "Truth can only concern. \:Vhencc an aflirmative figure which can be transformed into dogmatism. Can one then attempt a direct comparison of psychoanalysis and philosophy? The question which is formally common to both philosophy and psychoanalysis is without doubt the question of tru tho I t can be phrased as follows: How does a truth touch the real? For example. for Heidegger.f But where can two different thinkings encounter each other? They can onlv do so in philosophy. and which constructs an infinite generic set. It IS a ruled production.5 . It has no direct access to.' It is clear that philosophy and psychoanalysis have always asked themselves: What is truth such that it only concerns the real? Psychoanalysis and contemporary philosophy have a point in common: they do not think that truth is co:resp~ll1den~e or adequat~o~.iect accommodating Its real. as in politics. the inoention of a possibility? Or rather solely a displacement q{tfze. the relation between psychoanalysis and politics.?yghtand . and furthermore. that they may educate one another. and that psychoanalytic thinking protects itself from scepticism by listening to politics. . For myself.or a State's ~bilitv to accommodate the point of the real worked by that political thinkir. thought is separated from th. ( As such. After all. 84 Philosoph» and psychoanalysis The best solution would be the following: that political thinking protects itself from dogmatism by listening to psychoanalysis. \Vhence a negative figure which can be transformer] into scepticism.t~ thmg..§£Ib.11 is . psychoanalysis also begins with disorders and symptoms.c_Jlr. Of course. Whereas a political thinking aims at . Rut politics searches for the most radical conseqm~ncesQLsuchdisorders. Pe:haps .c::e~~ \:l.opened by an event.it is_<t Pt?. For politics the relation to the real is always subtracted from the State.i(:. What politics aims to think is the difference between collective presentation and State repr~se!ltation.'umzjitom? A true politics always situates itself in the faults or the impasses of a situation's structure. Thus truth is something other than a correct relationship between thought and object. Fhr Althusscr. 0 thinkings is possible. Its major thesis: There is a possibility of pure pre. Rut does this involve.±i"slfhQ:.th.Jhr. sufkring from his or her symptom. or suffers less.aims at. The ultimate solution to' our problem..wha t separates politics li:(JfP:::.J)e\wee. or acq uailltance with rhis 8.1. and therefore works against structure: whereas it seems that psychoanalysis searches to reduce symptoms. The stakes of the cure arc primarily that the subject no longer suffers. For Lacan. But perhaps all this is simply due to a difference of matter. the real.

f~or mvself. unsvrnbolizable. and of the construction of its algebra and topology.being. It is liberation hom the violent will of technology' which saturates and destroys our Earth. the Other as place where speech. an intervention.' Philosophy and psychoanalysis elaborate the same q uesLion: What is the thinkable relationship between truth and the void? The crux of the problem is the localizatigno[ the void... The history of truth is that of the forgetting of being. kn~:vle~gejo(it.!.. For Lacan the fundamental axiom of all philosophy is this idea that beingthinks. Thus for Heidegger.. Let us say that philosophy localizes the void as COlldition of truth on the side of being qua being. \. for Heidegger. this axiom is unacceptable. because thought is precisely the exercise of separation. on ifKlfay T97i ' ~ni'IS-=~ hole there and that hole is called the Other. this means that thought is also on the side of being.\o/lh)! and p~jclw{ma{v~i\ tical discourse to pure presentation. however. is a crucial point of conflict. For example. Truth. that truth is different to knowledze . but this . for Lacan.' . >0.~'beeil abolished. a structure only functions under the condition of an empty place. and tI~at . the void is not on the side of being. . furthermore.: I t appears that conflict is Inevitable. philosophy itself uses empty categories because it is a }Jure act. the void is thought as a figure of the Open. This. I will start with two statements by Lacan: 20 March 1973: The ideal of psychoanalysis is 'that. However. The truth is first(. But on that basis one would say that being itself thinks. On the other hand. of its placement. this difference must be examined in detail. on the basis of its experience. a loss. and not a supposition concerning. On the one hand. The topology of this triangle is different in philosophy and in psychoanalysis. there will never be any.. I think. m. In Althussers work there are two theories of the void. while psychoanalysis localizes the void in the Subject. f()i~'ih-e Subject is what disappears in the gap betweentvv()~~ignifiers. I cite: 'The supposition that being thinks is what founds the philosophical tradition from Parrnenidcs onwards..~. I t is that for which poetry destines language. .e event thus forms the real and a bsentC:'au~e--f*·a truth. It traces lines of demarcation without ever knowing.I t is on this basis that Lacan undertook the critique of philosophy or what he calls antiphilosophy. truth occurs within a structure of forgetting. . the void-set. 15 Mav 1973: The core of his Leaching is that 'there are some r~lations of being that cannot be known'. a void. ha~ always ~re~I'. . This is the theory of the causality of lack. ' . through being deposited. Philo. -FoT Lacan.Infinite Thought real. Or: 'Of what cannot be demonstrated. It is what sutures rnathcma- 86 87 . Thus he declares.a hole. founds truth. The conflict concerns the trianglc. something true.f all the effect of a separation. Real. Why? For Lacan.' For myself the void is first of all the matherna tical mark of being qua being. Let's say that between thougl!u~nd the re~LtJ. that the real is irreducible or. an abyss. b truth thus only occurs under condition of the void. Philosophy and psychoanalysis agree that tr'uth -is separation. a knowledge of truth can be constituted' . or a voiding. as Lacan savs. on the other hand. since the being of an event is a disa ppearing. Thought must be an effect of the Subject. It could be said that at base every theory consists of a localization of the void which authorizes truth. Subject. if the void is on the side of being. ey~ni:·. can be said. any object. !!!. a truth commences bv an event. the void is the destiny of any event.. what foundsrtruth is the Other as-'ii'-Tiole in knowledge.' For Lacan.

or of the pass? Is there a logical subject? But to guide these discussions in an ordered manner one must start from mathematics. . such as being. The psychoanalytic axiom: There is unconscious thought.~f~~~~ (~~formalization . the philosophical discourse. it is the thinking which has no relatiol1 to ~f1rin:l~c~d~~~}iE!~iet'~~.Infini:« Thought There is a great difficulty here. both philosophy and psychoanalysis need an axiom concerning thought.~~~§~~~~~~-~-J~~~. Is it not. is this so di~krcnt to the philosophical idea according to which being dunks? In the end. that is. The real terrain for the examination of the relation between psychoanalysis and philosophy is f(Jlwd first of all in mathematics. the effect of truth is thought outside conscious and reflexive production. the ideal of the mathcme. if you like. m~t}li.' In the same manner. These arc strange questions. Rather what should be asked is: how do psychoanalysis and philosophy tackle the great constructions of mathematics and logic? In fact. And thus I would say.of m~th:matics: vVhy? Because mathematics is precisely the thinking which has nothing to do with the experiences of consciousness.. For example: Is there a relation between sexuation and opinions? Is the philosophical idea of the One linked to the fantasy of the Wnman:' Is the object cause of desire involved in the critical examination of the limits of truth? Isn't the main obstacle to the death of God (as Kietzschl':'. that mathematical Iorrnalization is compatible with our discourse. There is no point in creating direct confrontations between the grand categories we share.-tJl:' real and mathematical form tll~~-~~.. able on the basis of being. to conclude. The philosophical axiom: Thought must be understand.nown consciously is known otherwise. a kind of contradiction. it entirelv empties out what separates us from the real. Why? Because it alone is matheme. This also means that the void is not that of consciousness: it is not Sartre's nothingness. the subject. because the unconscious thinks? But that the unconscious thinks. one can construct a list of questions that the psychoanalyst and the philosopher can discuss together. Philosophy and p"~yclllJalla£J!si\ Lacan writes: 'Mathematical ]()rmalization is our goal. what cannot be known ends up being the knowledge of a truth. Betv\i.een. Thus. to localize the void and truth. . the veritable apparatus for the localization of the void is mathematics. This is why 88 . This is clearly because what is not k. One very important consequence of this localization of the void outside consciousness is theimportance. moreover.!~g. How can one obtain a 'knowledge of truth' if the content of that truth is precisely what cannot be known? How can a knowl~dge of the truth of the unknown exist? In psychoanalysis. I v\"ould say that the common desire on the basis of which 89 What the two have in common this time is that truth is torn away from consciousness. I posit that mathematics is the science of being qua being.' ~ In fact. thought) to be found on the side of feminine [ouissance (enjoyment)? Could the 1'1':' be a philosophical thinking of the becominganalyst. like Lacan. and truth. or. 1\:1 y proposition is the following: Psychoanalysis and philosophy have a common border. the real. that 'it thinks'. capable of being transmitted in its entirety.E. our ideal. quite SImply.. because in its transmission.

Notes I. in four different modes. 1989).Infinite Thought psychoanalysis and philosophy can enter into discussion is the desire of the matheme. and then the lessons taken from the Greeks. from experience as filtered by the care of a question which directs its metamorphosis. Translator's note: In French. singularly from the preSocratics. 90 91 . . and the appropriation of the site. 2. 1t was originally published in an earlier version of the same translation in the Centre's journal Analvsis 9 (200m. of Nietzsche and Leibniz. soil.5 Philosophy and art Every philosophical enterprise turns back towards its temporal conditions in order to treat their compossibility at a conceptual level.] This turning back is clearly discernible in Heidegger's work. This is the existential-ontological analysis of Sein lind Zeit. the word eXjlirirnce signifies both experiment and experience. Irorn affect. CHAPTER . an engagement anchored in the ca tegories of work. practised by Heidegger in a militant fashion as the German occurrence of resolute decision and of thought's engagement against the nihilist reign of technique. Tt is quite a rare desire! This is why the discussion is also quite rare. Lacan. All translations from Encore hy Oliver Feltham unless noted. This paper was given in Melbourne in 1999 at the Australian Centre of Psychoanalysis. Such are the brilliant analyses of Kant and Hegel. community. This double signification should be kept in mind when either of the two English words occur. 3 The hermeneutic and historial re-evaluation of the history of philosophy thought as the destiny of being in its coupling to the logo.J.\'. 2 National-socialist politics. The support taken from the intimate ck-stasis of time. Seminar XX Encore (Paris: Editions elu Scuil. 3.

in this philosophy's terms. by the saying of the poets and the thought of the thinker. The reformulation of that which both joins together and separates the poem and philosophical discursivity is an imperative which. it~ authority the rnaintenance of discourse in the pro~lmlty of the sacred. Let us begin by recalling that. that this is not yet philosophy. This latent recourse to an autonomOl.Infinite Thought 4 The great German poems. Moreover it is at this very point that Parmenides provides a sort of pre-commencement of philosophy: in regard to the question of non-being'. from Rent' Char to Michel Deguy. Plato proposes a 93 . Parmenides names the jJre-moment . within the poem. for whoever wishes to go beyond Heidcggcr's philosophical power. It is essential to see that the support for such an interruption can only be of the order of the matherne. as privileged interlocutors for the thinker. to reconsider the couple formed. seized from 19:)5 on. J t is the poem that takes ward of thought. with Pannenides.' which is its own earthly legitimation. thanks to Heidegger. However. of the collusion organized by the poem between truth and the sacred authority of the image or story. pushing reflection to a point of systematic suspicion towards anything reminiscent of the poem. between poetry and philosophy. . It is well known that Plato named this interruption hansell'. there is an original indistinetion between the two terms. Philosophy began in Greece because there alone the matherne allowed an interruption of the sacral exercise of validation by narrative (the mytheme. the n. by causing the Speaker to disappear. Philosophy requires that the profound utterance's authority be interrupted bv argumentative secularization. fIJI' Heideggcr.~ n'de of consistency is an interruption. In the preSocratic sending of thought. as we see in the Poem of Parrnenidcs.still internal to the sacred narrative and its poetic capture. .atheme is that which. if one understands by this the discursive singularities or mathematics. as Lacoue-Labarthe :-v ould say). Philosophy and Ill! With. which is also the destinal sending of being. J ts audience in France. or in the sentences of Heraclitus. It is by a kind of axiomatic contestation of this point that J wish to begin the reconstruction of an other relation. philosophy can onlv This fourth support still survives today despite everything that managed to affect the three others. it covers begin by a desacralization: it institutes a regime of disc ours. including the poets. via the course on Holderlin. we are obliged to submit ourselves to: whatever the avatars or his 'affair' may be. Apagogic reasoning is without doubt the most significant matrix of an argumentation that does not ~ustain itself on the basis of anything other than the Imperative of consistency. For every truth that accepts its dependence in regard to narrative and revelation is still detained in mystery: philosophy exists solely through its desire to tear the latter's veil.' Here.of this interruption. The poetic form. and begins with the image of an initiatory cavalcade. is essential. It is therefore indispensable. the logos is poetic as such. J think that it is necessary to maintain that this is not. exposes argumentation to the test of its autonomy and thus to the critical or dialogic examination of its pertinence. is the strongest remaining validation of Heideggcr's success in philosophically touching an unnoticed point of thought detained in poetic language. he sketches a reasoninz hv the absurd. or nonrelation. by removing any mysterious validation from its site. and which turns out to be incompatible with any legitimation by narrative or bv the initiated status of the subject of the enunciation. \Vhen Parrnenides places his poem under the invocation of the Goddess.

to its enunciative legitimacy. 'Poetics' is a regional discipline of philosophical activity. For Aristotle . from the Greeks onwards. Even when 'mathematical' interruptions figure under this fusion. Tlle support that mathematics furnishes for the desacralization or depoetization of the truth must be explicitly sanctioned: pedagogically via the crucial place given to arithmetic and geometry in political education. and philosophy. to its 'profound' value. organizes a fusion between the subjective authority of the poem and Ph£losojJf~y and art the validity or statements held as philosophical. three possible regimes oj the bond between the poem and philosophy have been encountered and named. hanned from the space in which philosophy's royalty operates. and ontologically via their intelligible dignity which provides an antechamber to the ultimate deployments of the dialectic. both its primordial conditions (the poem. game of contrasts between the poem and the matheme. The dl()rt of uprooting from th~' prestige of poetic metaphor is such that support is required. language's equivocations. love). and not solely of its style. no longer turns back dramatically upon what conditions it. The poem is no longer thought in terms of the drama of its distance or its intimate proximity. This regionality of the poem founds what will be Aesthetics. as a seduction which is diagonal to the True. which we will call Aristotelian. and he recognizes it. \Ve can also say that the Platonic relation to the poem is a relation (negative) of condition. Philosophy can onlv establish itself in' the . Thus. The former is held to be separate as an undermining fascination. in language. This is a distressing. is opposed to poetic metaphor: the literal univocitv of mathematics. argumentative 94 95 .Infinite Thought complete analysis of the gesture of interruption that constitutes the possibility of philosophy: As fix the poem's imitative capture. and the matherne. delimits a regional discipline within philosophy. but it is a question of the very existence of philosophy. the foundational debate is finished. organizes the inclusion of the knowledge ofthe poem within philosophy. it must be removed.as little a poet as is possible in his technique of exposition (Plato. moreover. stabilized in the connection of its parts. which we will call Parrnenidian. is at every moment sensible to the charm of what he excludes) _: the Poem is no longer anything but a particular object proposed to the dispositions of Knowledge. in being defined and reflected as such. the latter must disallow that what it deals with could be dealt with by poetry. which implies other conditions (the mathcme. organizes a distance between the poem and philosophy. 3 The third. The image. politics. 2 The second. itself representable as Knowledge of knowledges. on the other hand. in terminable rupture (see Rook X of The Republic). it is grasped within the category of the object. With Aristotle. / We can also say: the three possible relations of philosophy (as thought) to the poem are identifying rioalry. Authenticity resides in the flesh of language. The first. whose authority it must interrupt. at the same time. support taken from what. which we will call Platonic. that mathematics finds itself having all the attributes of ontological dignity accorded to it by Plato withdrawn. its seduction without concept. within what. they are definitively subordinated to the sacred aura of utterance. and metaphor escort and authorize the saying of the True. whose dignity it must promote). its legitimation without Idea. in its place.

. he has founded a radical critique of all aesthetics. or Subtraction). This foundation is established as a pertinent trait of modernity (its non-Aristotelian character). :ven. at it: core the misunderstanding of the mathematical sense of the Idea (which is precisely what. Heidegger emptily prophesies a >- 96 97 . ~~'Idegger could not~ for want of validating the Itself ongll1ary character of the recourse to the mathemc but renege on the judgement of interruption. from Holderlin onwards.a place itself withdrawn.ting a site of pre-forgetting and the coming-forth of Bemg. In some sharp and distictive analyses. and restore. Philosophy is their captive just as we have said that in Parmcnides it is still captive of the poem: it does not dispose. entails that instead of inventing a fourth relation b:~tv\ieen the philosopher and poem. especially the analyses ofTrakl. philosophy wants the poem. ln the first case. or undetectable . in its inverted form.a that t. to establish distance from the poem via the Platonic pn). over a long period. itself to the poem in a more perilous fasll1Ol:: it must think for its own accoun t of the operations by which the poem sets a date with a truth of Time ({(lI· the cons~dered pe~iod: the principal truth poetically put to work IS the dcst itu tirin of the category of objectivitv as necessary form of ontological prcscn tation whence' the poetically crucial character of the theme of Presence. on the other hand. principally because tor this entire period philosophy is captive either of the sciences (positivisms or of politics (Marxisrns). on the one hand. he has established that. neither fusional. that which is subsumed by an aesthetics of inclusion. to render it to truth. of any regional philosophical determination of the poem. the sacral authority of the poetic utterance. in the second. investing this age with novel philosophical means.Infinite Thought distance and aesthetic regionality. exposes it to the withdrawal ~f Being). and. under various and subtle philosophical names. de-naturalizing it. his evaluation of the Greek origin of plnlosophy. 2 Heidegger has shown the limits of a relation of condition that illuminates solely the separation of the poem and philosophical argument.t. nor aesthetic. There lS a profound unity between. and more pa~"tIeularly Ill. it excludes it: and in the third. the recourse to Parmenides and Heraclitus considered as delimi. it categorizes it. in regard to these particular conditions of its existence. T~le Heideggerean misunderstanding of th~~ true nature of the Platonic g:sture.~. In regard to this triple disposition.thin his historial assemblage. By doing so. the heavv and Iallacious recourse to the sacred in the most cont~stable of the analyses of poems. of a sufficient game to establish its own law. Or.he authentic lies ill the flesh of language.fl)l" example with Mallarrne. ~-Ieldeg·ger showed that it was not always possible. what is the essence of the process of Heideggerean thought? It can be schcmatized as having three components: Heidegger has quite legitimately re-established the autonomous function of the thought of the poem. Heidegger has subtracted the poem from philosophical knowledge. isolation. Philosophy is sometimes obh?ed ~o expose. nor d istanr-cd .cedure of banishment. more precisely. I proposed calling this period the 'age of poers"? Let us say Philosophy and art tha. nor Just. and the ide. 3 C nf?rtunatcl!') wi. the poem acts in relay with philosophy with regard to essential themes. he has sough t to determine the place. from which the community of destiny between the conceptions of the thinker and the saying of the poet can be perceived. It could be said that this sketch of a community of destiny is primarily opposed to the third type of relation.

What would be the poem after Heidegger. When Celan tells us. which can be translated as. under conditions that would be those of the cnd of philosophy. if it is attached to tilt' production of the Notion? It will be a question of determining by which operations internal to language one can make a 'present purity' arise.Infinite Thought reactivation of the Sacred in an indecipherable coupling of the saying of poets and the thinking of thinkers. thinking it in its operating distance. and to undo it from the false couple of the saying of the poem and the thinking of the philosopher. For this couple of saying and thinking forgetful of the ontological subtraction inaugurally inscribed by the matherne ~ is in fact that formed by the sermon of the end of philosophy and the romantic mvth of authenticitv.' Presence that. thus for a truth 99 2 . cast yourself out your outside. mit Vorgesich ten bes tern t. that is. the poem as a singular operation of truth. enjoins us to discharge it from every identifying rivalry with philosophy. that it is again necessary. which has as its stake the com possibility of Time. the isolation. because to dcsuture philosophy and poetry. For the nomination of an event . \Ve will contest. the 98 Philosophy and art separation. Two indications alone: When Mallarrne writes: 'The moment of the Notion of an object is therefore the moment of the reflection of its pure present in itself or its present purity'. or beyond all place. and not pure presence. then one must be pOelical£v ready for the outside-of-self. when there is no longer a void between knowledge and prediction. wirf dich aus dir hinaus. Only the poem accumulates the means of thinking outside-place. to suture this end to the poem's authority without argument. the poem after the age of poets. with Foreseeings bcstarred. but also inasmuch as poetry itself. to leave Heidegger behind without returning to aesthetics. Cast-disc. 'on some vacant and superior surface'.in the sense in which I speak of it. . and not in its myth. \Ve will retain from Heidegger the devaluation of all philosophical aesthetics and the critical limitation of the effects of the Platonic procedure of exclusion. in its contemporary force. the coldness of that which is only present insofar as it no longer has any presentable relation to reality. icy with forgetting and desuetude. . wh a t of the present does not let itself be reduced to its reality. Philosophy continues. what is the intimacy of this intimation? It can be understood in the following manner: when the situation is saturated by its own norm. when the calculation of itself is inscribed there without respite. inasmuch as positivisrns arc exhausted and Marxisms eviscerated. the postromantic poem? The poets will tell us. One could maintain that poetry is the thought of the presence of the present. Wurfscheibe. also implies 'the uniq ue num bel' that cannot be another'. And that it is precisely because of this that it is not in rivalry with philosophy. on the other hand. That philosophy continues liberates the poem. is also to think otherwise that from which the poem proceeds. but summons the eternity of its presence: 'A Constellation. they have already told us. ElI" from contradicting thc matherne. that is. an undecidable supplementation which must be named to occur for a being-faithful. what programme does he sketch fill' the poem.

it would be pleased to turn back towards these conditions. nor those of the Heideggcrean suture. nor even those of the dassificatorv care of an Aristotle or a Hegf'l. He must equally affirm the distance and the supremacy of the dialectic in regard to mathematical dianoia. the prestige and the mimetic incitements of the image. from the point of philosophy.iaison With. politics and love at once condition and insult philosophy. al~d ihe poetic name of the event is wh. in default of established significations. that truth is distinct from sense. we philosophers. finally. which. Why? To explain this displeasure of philosophy with regard to the real of its conditions presumes that one sets at the heart of its disposition the following. Condition and insult: that's the way it is. establish itself at this subtractive point where language consecrates itself to thought without. one must draw from the void of sense. this wound. leave to the poets the care of the future of poetry beyond all th:lt the hermeneutic concern of the philosopher pressed upon It. a chance. at the same time as under that of the matheme. If philosophy had only to interpret its conditions. through the flaming nng of prcd IC uons. serrated by the evental and singular character of these conditions. undoubtedlv it will have alwa ys been these two though ts. an epistemology. fiction or narrative. its liaison or its un-I.ted upon philosophy by the unique mode in which po~try. art in general. have willingly exposed the wound which w~uld be inflic. Philosophy wants to and must. but it is always damaged. or love? Such is our question. 101 100 .outslde ot ourselves.e. where th~ illumination of the Principle pacifies the blind violence that mathematics assumes in its axioms and its hypotheses. if its destinv was hermeneutic. even more so. Philosophy would be the tranquil aggregate of an aesthetics. Nothing of this contingent occurrence pleases it. To name a supplement. in terms that can he neither those of the Platonic banishment. at a distance from real love gripped in the malaise of a desire for aJ~ object: He also has to hold real politics at a distance. the political revolution. wounded. Plato also has to hold Philosophy and art philosophical love. or politics. Philosophy is under the conditions of art. to the peril of language. where. Poem. the name of the event in the leap outside calculable interests. Nonetheless. the I~oem. when one cedes to it. To my mind. where the principle of amorous intensity unbinds itself from the altcrity of the object and sustai. and not in thc excessive real of political situations. the postmoderns. One must therefore poeticize. and to interminably say: such is the sense of what happens in the poetic work.at th~ows ~lS . There will alwavs have been a challenge laid down by art to the COJlC~pt. The poem freed Cram philosophical poeticizing. science. Our singular task is rather to rethink. an incalculable. matheme. hteratur. these two dOl~ations: the prf'scncf' of the present in the transfixion of realities. is found from the very origin under the condition of the poem.Infinite Thought this nomination is aluiavs poetic.ls itself from the law of the Same. politics and love. we can and we must. What is it which. the mathematical theorem. plulo-sophia. an erotology and a political sociology. bear witness to our modernity. This is a very old temptation. the amorous encounter. that of Athenian democracy. classifies philosophy in a section of what Lacan calls the discourse of the Universitv. the collective is represented in its symbol. in order to fashion the philosophical concept of politeia. The moderns. and it is on the basis of this challenge. in tI~e act of philosophy as in its style of thought. there is nothing in such a gesture that is specific to poetry or literature. that it is necessary to interpret the Platonic g-esture winch can only esta bli~h the royalty of the philosopher by banishing the poets.

conditions." Or the at once epic and novelistic singularity of Nietzsche's Zarathustra. What causes the constitutive displeasure of philosophy with regard to it. They require the primordial defection of the donation of sense. Certainly. what is the forever offended and recalcitrant procedure of this deposition? The relation is al1 the more narrow since philosophy is an effect oflanguage. And 'Zarathustra. and the staging of their encounters. but without the intellectual beatitude of the resolved problem. whose kernel is the poem. when it is no longer a question of interpreting the real proced urcs where tru th lies. holds the earth embraced. and upon the Two quite simply. founders of a place of thought under conditions. The deposition takes here the figure of a !Jlacement. indecency. as a treatment in truth of this infinitv. as comparison. including the pleasure of the object delivered there.Infinite Thought Hut 'philosophy' begins when this aggregate turns out to be inconsistent. As such philosophy wil1: Envisage love according to the truth alone that weaves itself upon the Two of sexuation. but without the enthusiasm and the sublimitv or' these situations themselves. hence the characters of Plato's dialogues. But each branch of the plant. displeasure that sustains itself from the object of love. comparison and rhythm. This 'how' and this 'why'. ab-sense. image or rhythm. Envisage politics as truth of the infinity of collective situations. And who doesn't know the marvellous paragraph 67 of Leibnizs Monadologv. and like a pond full offish. these occurrences of the literarv as such are . Being more particularly a question of the literary act. it may be stated how and why a truth is not a sense. ' Envisage mathematics as truth of multiple-bcing in and by the letter. each member of the animal. dying. The literary is specified for philosophy as fiction. The myth of Er closes Plato's Republic. or the conversation of a Christian philosopher and an improbable Chinese philosopher with Malcbranche. and as narrative. They require that truth procedures be subtracted from the evenral singularity that weaves them in the real. kept so much in the fiction of character that Heidegger is able to ask. is 102 Philosophy and art having to depose. the fable and the parable. but without the corporeal captation by this rhythm and this image. and that knots them to sense in the mode of traversing the latter. But without the tension of pleasure. abnegation in regard to sense. Or rather. Greece.' Nonetheless. filled with cadences and alliterations: 'each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants. They thus require that truth procedures be disengaged from their subjective escort. along with sense. with the poem as with the others. Hegel's philosophy of History is in many respects the monumental narrative and recitation of those great subjective entities that are named the Orient. philosophy uses the narrative. Envisage finally the poem as truth of sensible presence deposited in rhythm and image. of hollowing it out. or Rome. under the contemporary conditions of these procedures. in a text which is perhaps a little too hermeneutic: 'Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?' Philosophy uses image. bu t of founding a unique place in which. The image of the sun serves to expose to the day of presence that there is something esscntially withdrawn in the Idea of the Good. being rather a hole in sense. at the very point where a truth occurs as a hole in the know ledges that make sense. arc only practicable in the displeasure of a refusal of donation and of hermeneutics. whatever jouissance (enjoyment) is determined there. each drop of its humours is again such a garden or such a pond'? Finally. philosophy uses fictive incarnations in the texture of its exposition. the power of literalization.

in the pure unpresentable that is the void. neuter thought. this. Nothing in it is ontotheological. always immoderate. in its vocation to make the place that it erects inhabited by all.\ance of interpretation. in order to expose itself. It is hardly astonishing that in these conditions the greatest known philosophical poem is that of an author Ior whom the Void as such is the original principle Ior an intransigent materialism. fell' the very reason that apparently ought to engage him in a banishment of the Platonic type.such as philosophy ineluctably encounters them at the point of truth's proving of itself -. from a rain ofletters.1 . the gods arc indifferent. hostile to any unanalysecl effect of presence. which is always also a pleasure of the senses.must be themselves presented and transmitted. thus under the general jurisdiction of an entirely different style. But there is a moment where it falls on the radical underside of all sense. For Lucretius. absense . and this localization is never ruled by a poetic or literary principle. Is it not remarkable that the only thinker who is also an immense poet be precisely the one who causes the Heideggerean historical assemblage to default. which requires. or of the Idea. the nudity of the operations of the true is only transmissible by a return. that truth causes the failure of knowledge. the void of all possible presentation. all trembling and all pathos. amid the power of the argument itself. of the 104 Phifo\ojJl!y and art following: the relation of a truth to sense is a defective or void relation. through a paradox of exposition. Lucretius sustains philosophy by the poem all the way through. by a torsion prescribed by the argument. to seize truth's proving of itself as such. the prestige of the poem. The literary in philosophy is the directed transmission. Evidently Lucretius is the philosopher in -question. Because it 10.Infinite Thought placed under the jurisdiction of a principle of thought that they do not constitute. through an cftl'ct of sense. propose a fable. an image or a fiction to interpretation itself Philosophy has subtracted from the truth procedures that condition it all aura of sense. The poem occurs in philosophy at one ~l its points. the one who takes the history of being through a disseminated multiplicity foreign to everything that Heidegger tells us of metaphysics since Plato? Is it not symptomatic that this singular fusion of poem and philosophy. it is this materialist. The moment at which the argumentation fails imitates. falls under the imperative of having to propose to sense and to interpretation the latent void that sutures all truth to the being of that of which it is truth. It is this defection that exposes philosophy to the imperative of a localized fiction. Moreover. Because his only principle is material dissemination. They are localized in points at whichin order to complete the establishment of the place in which why and how a truth hollows sense and escapes interpretation is stated one must precisely. This presentation of the unpresentable void requires the deployment within language of the latter's literary resources. particularly disappointing for thejouis. the hollowing of truth as a hole toithou! borders. This philosophy is particularly subtracted Irorn sense. It depends on the moment at which the argument places the unpresentable. there is no supreme being for Lucretius. the vectoring. aJl truth establishes itself from a combination of marks. and where. The poem occurs in philosophy when the latter. of conceptual liaison. be precisely that which is entirely foreign to the schema through which Heidegger thinks the correlation of the poem and thought? Nevertheless. in its will to universal address. it cannot be incorporated into the Heideggcrean schema of metaphysics. atoms. This moment is that in which the void. that of argumentation. unique in history. but under the condition that it occur at this very point. the heaven is void. entirely orientated towards the deposition of the imaginary. to the pleasure of sense.

essential. Finallv. under a rigorously circumscribed poetic mark. At the beginning or Book 4 of De rerum natura. or subtr~ction of sense. Because language (La langue) and the charm of verse are only 106 Philosophy and art there in the position ofsupplement.i 107 . and drawing from this recognition. in the winding sheet. The real law or the discourse remains constructive and rational argument. says Lucretius. and its referent is he to whom one addresses oneself. the book treats. or the proving ground of the true. that lavished by the finery. Jn order to operate this unbinding. in the source of sense. which one should translate bv 'Of the real of being-multiple'. what is necessary is a force of saying. The poem is summoned by philosophy when the latter must also sav. However.Infinite Thought exposes as place for the proving of the true the most radical de-fection or sacred bonds. exists. Philosophy only summons the poem for itself at the point at which this separation must expose what the argument. prescribed. produces truths. in Lucretius' expression: 'I vovaze throuzh b h unvisited places in the domain of the Picridcs. This is because the poem exposes itself as imperative in language. and. the means of saying. the argument must be praised. again~t Plato if you like. is not 'all is thinkable'. The poem must be excused. to legitimate the poem as the expository imperative or his philosophy. such as Lucretius receives Irom Epicurus. The gap remains. Thus the poem. 'not yet practised'. It is. who must be persuaded that the sa~lness elfthe true seen from a distance changes in to the joy or being when seen close up. in doing so. never befo-re tr~dden. that which. Lucretius explains why he has recourse to the poem. Lucretius sets himself to disengage spirit from the tight bonds of religion. is. They escort the will of the transmission. First. the most joyful conseq uences.' I'hc poem marks the moment of the empty page in which the argument proceeds. against the melancholy of those who regard from afar. Next. this subtraction from the sense that religion continually pours out. a prestige. or. in these injunctions. Lucretius says. Lucretius says. this time. They arc thus still and always localized. proceeded. and finally or the obscure. what is required is no longer legitimation. When it is a question of Epicurus. for most people. singularity that is in the bathing pool. The philosophical place. essentially appearssad. on the contrary. elsewhere. of the unbinding. anterior to the occupation of its place. It supposes and subtractively distributes them according to their proper regime of separation from sense. melancholic. will proceed. This void. but pure and simple praise. can on Iv sustain by returning to what made it possible: the' effective singularity of a truth procedure. strictly maintains the gap between philosophy and poetry remains. such as lavished upon us by the graces of the Muse. of an 'obscure thing'. And the presentation of this obscurity of b:~ing requires light in and by language. of 'sweet poetic honey'. Lucretius undertakes. it is almost an excuse. that occurs within transmission via the razing light of its glorious linguistic body. in philosophy. reopens the entire philosophical exposition. "' . Philosophy does not produce any. 1 love to go and draw water from virgin springs. that obliterates religion. which frames and borders it. when seen from a distance. the luminous verses 01 the poem: 'obscura de re tam Lucida jJango carmina'. What are his arguments? There are principally three. that at least one truth. the bare truth. the place of the occurrence. It docs this under the triple injunction of the melancholy of truths seen from a distance. this empty page. the entire philosophical address to the universal occupation of its site. but real. This deposition of pleasure must bc sustained by a supernumerary and lateral pleasure. whose heart is the unpresentable void.

meaning common or shared possibility. the distance should be remarked. everything is referred to movement and description: the rouceptual character is the nomad on the plane of immanence. G. The point at which we choose to situate ourselves is called L'Art du Cinema.93107.e Recours philosophique au l~O('me'. trans. 19921.Infiniie Though! Notes 1. 3. Tomlinson (London: Verso. 2. the current conjuncture of this cannot be situated 'in itself. in A. but there arc also reasons linked to the singularity of the cinematographic procedure. Badiou. any sort of intelligibility. Translator's note: This chapter was published as 'I . Everything d. For Dcleuze and Guattari. Burchell and H. 'Cornpossibilitv is a term drawn fi'OITI Lcibniz. drawn from Denis Levy's work: 108 109 . There arc general reasons behind this lack.or.' It possesses two foundational axioms. (a) General reasons The relation of thought to the current moment in art is one of a localized prescription and not a description. The obvious reference here is Deleuze and Guattari's brilliant analysis of the 'conceptual character' in rV/za! is Philw()p/~y?. on Its own. the situation of cinema . as always. 'What is artistic procedure hap~Jening' (the films which are released) does not produce. CHAPTER 6 Philosophy and cinema 1 On the notion o] ' the situation of cinema' There is no 'objective' situation of cinema. and upon the axioms which are used to support Judgements. which claims a local status quite different to that of a simple review: a group or thought. philosophical theatrality designates the following: the essence of philosophy (the seizure 'in Truth') is all aer. That IS. Conditions (Paris: Scuil. However. 19(4). posterior to the current essay. In my conception. I proposecl the category of an 'age of poets' for the first time in my Mrmi/esla jin Phitosaji/zV (New York: SUNY Press 1(99).epends upon the point at which one is subjectively ~ltuated. possessing an orientation and particular protocols fin' enq uiry.

involving the spectator in an entirely different manner. strictly speaking.PhilosojJ!!v and cinema Cinema is capable of being an art. in a giv:en situation. but rather with the old new. cinema-ideas. the novel. precisely because they were the new. Hence the permanent necessity of enquiry into the dominant formal tendencies within current produc~ion. among the undivided ness of forms and subjects. Cinema's artistic operations are incornpletable purification operations. One can then produce derived propositions. but on the basis of engagements concerning something which has recognizable artistic autonomy. would be suppressed. the cinema is a place of intrinsic indisccrnibility between art and non-art. this thesis 2 Four examples (a) The Godardian technique of 'dirty sound' (inaudible phrases. of some Godards. The result of all this is that the dominant forms of non-art are immanent to art itself. The new does not enter into a dialectic with the old. parasitical noises. This process is never completed. and make up part of its intelligibility. They are what allow us to identify everything in the situation which is relatively progressive from the standpoint of art. even industrial. Artistic ac~ivitv can only be discerned in a film as a process (!!'puri/ication oj its own immanent non-artistic character. its universal address. from the detritus of other arts. between its idcntificatory. These propositions identify the situation. This art has been traversed by a major rupture. . 2 In what follows what must not be forgotten is that it is the films of Oliveira. They also provide the measure of the new. ). is controlled by artistic thinking from beginning to end: It always bears absolutely impure elements within it. drawn from ambient imagery. 111 110 . even when this progressivism occurs within frameworks or references foreign to what L'Art du Cinema terms modernity. Up till the present. of Straub. superimposition of sounds. music. etc. This is a little like parliamentary politics. This thesis of impurity must be expanded: the following principle should be proposed. No film. except in the dead-end vision of avant-garde formalism. (b) Particular reasons The latter arc attached to a thesis which has been incorporated into L'Art du Cinema's doctrine: that of the essential impurity of cinema. thereby generating the supposed purity of experimental cinema (or even certain radical normative statements bv Bresson on 'cinematographic writing'}. or propositions of the situation. representative and humanist ('Hollywoodian ') vocation and a moderni tv which is distanced. not 'objectively'. schemas of the visible and the audible: because it is upon the latter that artistic operations are potentially performed.. 2 The 'current situation of cinema' (or conjuncture) can then be called the legibility of an indistinct real (films which arc made) on the basis of two axioms. of the earlv Wender». painting . in the precise sense in which one can identify. and that as such 'pure cinema' does not exist.. of Kiarostami. of a certain Pollet. Even better. or indistinct imagery (Rimbaud's 'idiotic paintings'). bearing on current non-artistic forms. and of the identification of circulating. if it was completed. only being identifiable on the basis of the statements of the Organisation j]olitique." has signified above all that the passage of an idea in a film presupposes a complex summoning forth and displacement of the other arts (theatre. or which provide the measure 1(11' derived judgements. or the new of the preceding sequence. whicll prescribe the conjuncture. and from conventions with a limited shelf life.. then the artistic capacity itself: or rather.

explosions. for a permanent rhythmic background accompanying every activity. a type of slowed calligraphy of general explosion. their artistic purification. into a mass art: its internal referen't is not the artistic past of forms. indeed religious. the grand master evidently being John \Voo. They derive from a techniq ue of shock and oneupmanship. even speech or writing: this is what Godard transforms into an adulterated murmur.) is an attempt at a formal purification of what has invaded contemporary production.Infinite Thought etc. potentially. 3 A thesis and its consequences One can then formulate the following principle: A Jilm IS contemporary. the constant confusion of music (in its post-rock form). intrinsicallv and not empirically. and thus destined jin everyone. inasmuch as the material whose purification it /!.l activity. In current production. characteristic of contemporary youth. vocation. of constraining what is an extcriority of movement to become a form of reflexive or dialogic interiority. of changing what is a sign of speed into a sign of slowness. and wllich aimed at avoiding the censor by sexualizing tiny details. the formalized spectacle of destruction. thanks to which the opening scene of two films out of every three is a car sequence. or a submission to the demand. a sort of Late Roman Empire consummation of murder. This is what makes cinema. Cinema gathers around identifiably non-artistic materials. planes. which was one of the kev characteristics of classic cinematographic art. cruelty and catastrophe: these are the obvious ingredients of current cinema. which would suppose an educated spectator. as voluntary principle of the confusion of thoughts. or overpornographize it in an abstract manner (Godard at times): (d) Specia I effects of a ny kind. of cataclysm. Thc operation consists of making an action scene into the place of speech. cars. f(JI'I11S a major part of what is authorized by dominant contemporary imagery. filmed directly on bodies. (c) Sexu.) and dialogues reduced to their operational ineptness. The endless discussions about the 'virtual" and the image of synthesis refer to nothing other than the overabundance and facilitv of the image including the spectacularly catastrophic or terrorizi. which arcideological indicators of the epoch. (b) The usage of car sequences in Kiarostami or even Oliveira's films works on an overwhelming stereotype of contemporary imagery. etc. The artistic problem is thus: what usage can be made of sexualized nudity in its tendentiously full exposition? The attempts at purifying such material are innumerable. whether they turn it towards speech (in contemporary French comedy). but there is no longer much of an attempt to embed them in a consistent fable with a moral. They are inscribed in a proven tradition. or render it banal by incorporating it into a genre (as Eastwood does in The ! 12 Philosoph» and cinema Bridges o] Madison Coun{v) . that is. or make distanced citations of it. what Godard does is treat the confusion of the world as artifice. which is related to the end of an epoch in which images were relatively rare and it was difficult to obtain them. or ritualize it (certain of Anionioni's sequences). It then transmits. Here again.uarantees is -identifiable as belonging to the non-art if its times. brutal sounds (arms. within 1Ll . there is an imposition of sound. directed towards a stylized inflation. attempts at purification exist.lg image. It is opposed to the metonymy of desire. but a common imagery whose filtering and distancing treatment is guaranteed by potential artistic operations. By means of this operation.

and we will come back to this. which assures that the film is contemporary. and made possible an original grasp of the 115 . and pathological cruelty. it is necessary to engage in the work of identification of operations including those occurring within films which are globally deficient.ly by p~rifying these operators. guided by the sense of possible situations. while recogmzmg their neces. a number of directions for our enquiry: (a) Of course. whose privileged operators today are: pornographic nudity. nor in pornography (Benazeraf has not kept any of his promises). Whence. by our 'consumerist' visits to the cinema (to a certain degree we should share in the innocent fairground mass aspect of 'seeing films'). and the passage of t he idea (or encounter with a real). the protocol of purification. in general. In this work we will not be entirely guided by the notion of auteur. 4 Exceptions One should set apart the cases in which. or Egyptian). a global event. to think the current situation of cinema. There is thus a necessity for an enquiry into the details.e moments of film. nor in gore films (despite Craven's subtle displacements). because. it is quite probable that the basic unit of investigation is not so much a film i~ its totality as. or the visitation of a new cinema-idea. the cataclysmic special effect.it is on. their real movement. the subjacent material. within which the weight of nonart is crushing (because.enals ~nd the. nobodv as vet maintains a mastered and consistent relation to the 'mut~tion of material (what is it to make films when every image is faciLe?). and knowledge of the dornirian t tendencies which organize the latter. (b) \Vhat is tims required is knowledge of materials in. that one gives oneself the chance o~ encountenng a real in situation. At this point in time. social melodrama. and thus of assunng the passage. whicl~ binds the materials to the pure formal consumptlOn of Images and sounds. Fo: . identification an~l realism. nor in social melodrama (despite the efforts of a few English film-makers). and by the decoding of current criticism. But we will add that the current challenge IS that of extending this treatment to everything. Legibility means the following: one grasps. nothing else is opposed to it apart from a formalized distance). such as Chaplin or Murnau.slty. (c) Cinematic works must be dealt with and hypotheses of configuration made: this on the basis of th: operations ~)f purification and displacement of. moments within wluch an operation IS legible. we will maintain the idea that the artistic operations of modernity consist in purifying visible and audible materials of everything which binds them to the domination of representation. or Indian. mat. the intimacy of the couple. operations through which cinema-ideas \~!lll occur which are effectively contemporary and which have a universal address. which is the effect of the protocol. If such a relation emerged.lr operators. no doubt. a vast political modification. which is 114 Philosophy ana' cinema the artistic index. and without a doubt we would have such within a determined genre born from the situation. a uthorized the discredit of ordinary ind ustrial materials (let us say Hollywoodian materials. for a certain period of time. then we would have a great mass auteur on our hands. neither in explosive neo-thrillers (despite the existence of auteurs of quality such as Woo or de Palma). at the same time. Yet nothing of the sort is on the horizon.Infinite Thought the medium of an apparent indiscernibility between art and non-art. by our instinct. som. In the current phase of transition.

prevails over suspense and fear. can bring to bear concerning the nonrelation between love and sexuality. In all of these examples it is clear that what cinema is capable of touches the country. What degree of visibility can be tolerated by what one could call the amorous body? A simple critical analysis of pornography is only the first stage. more generally.Infinite Thought even tal site. the enquiry must determine the situation with regard to conclusive operations practised upon a certain number of dominant motifs. because its essential material consists of its variations on putting-to-death. a major narrative commonplace in tragedy in I 5 Formal operators and dominant motifs Besides national exceptions. or. Before judging these bloody torturing images. ar. cruelty. After all. X movies. which includes the theme of the torturing serial killer (Seuen) . Scream . such as its previous invisibility is revealed by the event. could become 'a genre. for example in Sauve qui pellt (La oie ). All one has to do is reread the tale of Hyppolite's death in Racine's Phaedrus. as a subjective category (what is it to be from this countr yr ). purified. 1. and cinema scenes. the crushing of bones. and films about the end of the world with various tribal survivors cutting each other's throats. Wendcrs . and the monstrosity of actions. one can hardly better the Greek story of Atreus and Thyestcs. the slashing. (b) Extreme violence. in Portugal after the 1975 revolution (Oliveira. I t is an ensemble which actually evokes the late Roman Empire. and in Iran after the Islamic revolution (Kiarostami ).d the identification of some attempted operations upon this motif would be welcome. This was the case in Germany. as can be seen in Godard's abstract pornographic 116 117 . . What virtual ideas arc at work in these operations? (a) The visibility of the sexual. the motif of erogenous nudity. Is pornography necessarily a speciality and not a genre? And if so. as the escort of leftism (Fassbindcr. one must remember that tales of horrendous executions. As vet no conclusive work has been done on this point. This is a complex zone. one can speak of specialities. During at least one temporal sequence. A national cinema with a universal address emerges.. Botelho . and its horror gore variations iHalloioeen. why? This is a particularly interesting question with regard to the very essence of cinema insofar as it is confronted with the full visibilitv of the sexual. Philosopf!}. The element of cruelty.. the violent nco-thriller. more or less coded within genres. Let us agree that what is termed 'genre' has given rise to artistic enterprises. A subsidiary question would be that of asking oneself whether pornography. There are cinemaideas concerning this point. recognizable in everything up to its insistence on certain formal aspects. a national school. The point is one of knowing whether all this could be exposed to a tragic treatment. Schroeter. certain films about the mafia (even Casino contained shots of an unmeasured cruelty). Or how can it prove an exception (when first of all it confirms it) to the contemporary subsumption of love by the functional organization of enjoyment. tilt' cinema's mass dimension was incompatible with a direct concern to invent forms in which the real of a country occurs as a problem. but without any possibility of a return to the classical metonymies imposed by censorship.). were all major elements of the most relined tragedies. . It is not a matter of variations of the horrifying film as a genre. The question is that of knowing what this motif. the torture. the variety of murders. Otherwise.

It is well known that there has recently been a return. of the epic Soviet films. Moreover. and of the films of the sequence opened by '68 (Tout va bien. For the moment the cinema only deals with the latter's end. This occurs in the register of planetary catastrophes from which some yankee hero saves us. of social melodrama. truth procedures' confidence in themselves. and also ecological 118 . no doubt the figure of the worker would have to be the film's unfigurable real point much as it is sketched. The petit-bourgeois comedy. and given its clear delineation in the work of its founding father. foreign to thc very truths that it detains in its midst. this genre is linked to Marivaux and Musset. ). who is fI'aught by her amorous. This is what allows Marivaux's prose to be simultaneously underhand and extremely firm.Infinite Though! which onc sees a father eat his own children. (d) The millenarian motif. in Denis Levy's DEcote de Afai (1979). The subjacent real is globalization. after all.. but also in American documentaries. and not that of salvation. If' 119 OJ. via England. 3 The problem is then one of knowing whether cinema can contribute to the subjective generalization of the autonomy of the figure of the worker.will be integrated into attempts at contemporary baroque tragedy? (c) The figure of the worker. as it is to the Marianne of Caprices. Here we have a highly prized modern variation of the French intimist tradition. of a certain vacuity. the hegemony of one sole superpower. and contributes to its installation? That is. It is still a minor genre with regard to the American comedy of the 1930s and 40s. of French noir romanticism (Le Jour se leve) . Oser lutter . globally. As such. The fundamental imagery is that of the catastrophe. This time it is clear that it is the possibility of an epic film which is at stake. in the milieu of the PCF or May '68. this 'genre' already comes with its own ironic version (see Mnrs Attacks). Even in France. to its detachment from any social objectivity? What is at stake is the very possibility of a real encounter of cinema and politics. Here. it could be said that the central weakness of these films is that the central stakes of the intrigue remain undetermined. if one thinks simultaneously of Modern Times (Chaplin). Almost all recent French 'auteurs' have heen involved in this business. social and even intellectual wanderings. termed by Stanley Cavell the comedy of 'remarriage'. like those of Biassed Philosophy and cinema ideologies concerning the glohal village and its survival. Why such minor inferiority? We should be able to respond to this question. For example. and hy this vcry Iact rendered. from Reprise to Manus et Jeanette. which is similar in many respects. The comedy revolves around a young hystericized woman. aim at giving a verdict on a certain figure of the worker. all sorts of attempts. The point lies in knowing whether the motif of a general threat can provide the material for an operation which would transmit the idea that the world is prey to Capital in its unbridled form. and as such gives rise to nostalgic operations. Today the question would be: What is the formal operator which purifies this figure's passage of all nostalgia.: The history of this question is very complex. our enquiry is guided by a simple question: do embyronic operations exist which announce that all this material which acts like an urban mythology for today . Rohmer.. In the American films as in Marivaux there is a decision or a declaration at the end of the day. The comedy of uncertainty and the double game is articulated around this fixed point. but of an epic whose 'hero' is restricted action.

the style of acting or the intensitv of the colours contribute to rhythm just as much as the speed of the succession of shots. It would then be necessary to formalize a subjective ex-centring. In Conte d'Automne it is obvious that the main motif is: 'Happier arc the simple of mind. there was a continuation through rupture of veritable musical creation. there was post-romantic music which maintained the artifices of the finishinc tonalitv such as found in Mah ler or Tchaikovsk~'s symp'honic melancholy. he occasionally finds something which is at stake. because. jazz. a Barbosa or a Jacquot. but to which we must also attach. and not only the organization of shots and sequences. a fixed point. from Schoenberg to Brian Fernevhough. At the cinema. which are genuinely symphonic) to all aesthetic of fragmenta tion. from post-roman tic music t() post-jazz music.' Nothing of the sort is to be found in the work ofa Desplechin. as everyone 121 6' Cinema and the other arts The generalization of the notion of impurity must not cause us to forget that it is first of all an impurity with regard to other arts. Rhythm engages every dement of the film. At base. The schema must be drawn up on the basis of rhythm. No doubt. which has its major artists from Armstrong. even if it is a matter of a 120 . is a dead end. a passage from an emphatic aesthetic of dilation (taken to its extreme in the openings of Westerns. but a diffused temporality which fixes.)1 musical singularities. as yet incomplete (because every nco-classical film reclassicizes music). This accompanies. (. via Strauss or Rachmaninov. .1' slow and majestic. or expanded. What are the contemporary forms of this question? (a) On cinema and music. it is the place of the interminable. in mass. such as required by all comedies in order to tie down their internal wanderings. and finally. First. to Monk. a visible distancing. even if the latter serves as initial material. from rock to techno. it is because among his Christian allusions to grace. at the level of rhythm. vVe can no longer symbolize the fixed point by marriage or even remarriage. and singularly in cinema. whose matrix. The twentieth century. Finally. as Rohmer suggests. the grace of love is reserved for them. a conception which is a mix of narcissism and hystcricized inertia. made much use of by current auteurs (including the sad Woody Allen). a conversion. or hurried. we have watched a massive mO\'(Oment. often purely redundant or emphatic. For example. which. Second. after all. lvlusic is a type of immediate commentary upon the latter.Infinite Thought Rohmer remains superior to his descendants. this genre only gains artistic force when it gives itself: on the basis of an unshakeable confidence in love's capacities. right through to the current day. a displacement with regard to the dominant conception. serial and post-serial. everything which falls under the term 'vou t h music'.. the great creation of American blacks. rhythm is the srcne-ral pulsation of filmic transitions. liquidated tonality and constructed a universe . it is to be found where love encounters another truth procedure. j. Psychoanalysis. and which continues. and sometimes Techine. the tonality 01' the movement (staccato. . essentially witnessed three types of music. was the century of cinema. Philosophy and cinema sequence shot. Yet it is clearly rhythm which ties cinema to music. which. paradigmatically. etc. vVe will call 'rhythm' not exactly the characteristics of the editing. In the end.

Obviously what is in question in the film must allow the actor to act in such a way. Philosophv and cinema women arc mere figures from magazines. indiscernibility of fiction and documentary. to a visual and sonorous harassment. (b) On cinema and theatre. and it is news whose traces must be tracked down (they exist). we can frame the particular enquiries which we have just set out by formulating. 122 7 A general hypothesis At a completely global level. isn't there a cinema of postserial music? Do we not have here it being a matter. the following hypothesis: the moment is one qf neoclassicism. L'Art du Cinema has spent a lot of time working on this question. and not to the decomposed forms olsyrnphonisrn or the demagogic: forms of youth music? How is it possible that cinema has left aside the entirety of contemporary musical creation? Why. for a century. after all. who would keep him or herself in reserve with regard to this evidence.cinema being the essential mass art -. \Ve should ask ourselves what exactly is going on in cinema's impurification of the theatre actor. a sub-product of youthmusic. fill' example. during which they were able to occupy the pernicious centre of the narrative. Or. He is an immobile receptacle for a type of disintegrating cosmos. 123 . far more so now than in the previous epoch.such a reappearance would be welcome news. etc.relegates the sole restrained action of musical creation to the shadows? \Ve must return to the few attempts at filmic and thus rhythmic incorporation of the music of our times. in order to discern the operations which make a strength out of it. ifhis or her body and its gestures is abandoned to the interminable plasticity of neuroses. In order to progress further the best question to be asked is probably the following: What is a cinematic actor today? This is a question which traverses all the other questions. of what has been. The central problem seems to be the following: could a rhythm be invented which would tie cinema to the real of music as art. neurotic prey for 'women's problems'. In any case. He alone bears the latter's consistency. an American actor is dominated by the imperative of sexual visibility. but which have also limited it. this means that the gap between what is shown and the subjective fold of such showing must remain measured. or what remains of it. or. one who would divert the evidence of the image through their acting. besides postromanticism and post-jazz. This hypothesis signifies three things: The strictly modern subtractive sequence (subtraction of the actor and of the narrative construction. The reappearance within cinema of the subtle actor or actress that is. genuine music one of the reasons which . succeeds in doing just this in several sequences. Today. Techinc.) is saturated. this is why the actor is essentially a man. at our own risk. he forms a type of invulnerable body.Infinitl' Thought remarks. an impassive athlete. by confrontation with extreme violence and by millenarian heroism. as some sort of resistant massioity. what is certain is that one cannot lend support to a subtle actor if one incessantly juxtaposes him or her. No new configuration is perceptible qua event. and who would poetize it . prevalence of the text. Moreover. Women are almost uniformly decorative. in Straub or Oliveira's work. in the case of neo-comcdy. In the end. is the video clip.

Translator's note: L'Organisation politique is the activist group of which Badiou is a founding member. What we see is an exasperated and overdrawn version of pre-existent schemas. The latter is a review appearing five times a 124 125 . Its most general signature is the mobility of the ~a~lera wl~i~h steps over the notion of the shot by aimmg to Jom together. genres included. Translator's note: This article originally appeared as 'Considerations sur l'ctat actuel clu cinema'. of genuine non-figurative art. which has even already begun here and there. He accepted a certain return to representative forms. We will term nco-classical the effort at an internal purification of the academic reaction and its regime of visibility. There is already something of this genre in the best sequences of The Titanic. Our last question will be: What are the few clues of such an effort worth today? What do they promise? Notes 1. or exterior (hence the ends of formalist films. Translator's note: The PCF is the French Communist Party. but he worked them from the standpoint of cubism itself.imaginet. 2. or a manipulation to the second degree of these schemas. and the opening. or even Brassed Off It is a matter of operations which assume the reactive conjuncture. 3. Yet. See www.fr/secav for their archives. as ifsaying or affirming supposed a renunciation of the movement of form) one can predict an academic reaction. or classically non-unifiable.Infinite Thought Philosophy and cinema year which collects the ongoing work of a number of researchers. This is what can be termed contemporary formalism. in a single movement. whose encounter with any real is improbable. visible configurations which are disparate. A little like Picasso between the cubist sequence of the 1910s. which are cited and submitted to a hystericization of their sources. which most often relapse into sugared realism. but which work it on the basis of the saturated modern sequence. against formalism. from the 1930s-40s onwards. L' Art du Cinema 21 (March 1999).

by the One's deadly lock dowI~. the ineluctable usurpation. the insurrection in its seizure and its catching hold. after all. is the destiny of words. For it is for thought in general that there was no other conceivable 'we' than that under the banner of communism. Thought's decisions and what they carry along with them at the level of more or less secret nominations are a~terior to institutional figures.t :md brutal.o IS It a matter of the CSSR.which is always the possession of a few goods. which in turn gave political and subjective force to the 'we' supposed as the ultimate referent. No.or rather no more important than the historical soiling of a noble word. There was something at stake. always held fc)r what It has never ceased to be: the site of a politics which is ~oth hesitan. or apparatuses or symbols. Presentation. the State. faithful to the event of October' I 7.Ithout cO~1Cept. in other words: We. Today the latent universal statement is that every communist is a dog. The word no longer covered a~ything other than representation. Or rather. I do not thil~k of the p~rty. or representation. and not of his 126 . When I say 'we communists'. I understood Sartre's vulgar maxim: 'Every anti-communist is a dog. It is not important. is never entirely grasped within representation. something which had the power of making us stand up in thought. or a state. is always the State. Or. because the figure of 'we' to which this word was devoted has been long since abolished. as a specification added to 'we revolutionaries'. multiplicity ":. a party that I have always fought. there hasn't been for a long time. . But this is not important . especially the most noble: to be dragged in blood and mud. despotic grey totality. as an adolescent. of what was for a time the glorious uprise of the multiple. even if nobody will ever make me say 'St Petersburg') or of the Russian revolution.' for every anti-communist manifested his hatred of 'we'. the site of an arrogant incapacity. For it was 'we communists'. in the 127 CHAPTER 7 Philosophy and the' death of . the party. which. 'Communism' named the effective history of 'we'. a state of the situation) of the fact that a certain thought of 'we' has been inoperative for more than twenty years. but that every ideal community posed prior to itself as a historical axiom. the 'we proletarians'. It was in this manner that. his determination to exist solely within the limits of se!I possession . The 'we' entered into its twilight well before the 'death of communism'. rever.." And besides. that none declared. and what could be said concerning what it is? There is no longer a 'we'. It was not a question of localizable entities. The 'Death of communism' signifies that. who is this 'we' that I am interrogating.. Even less s. and even more so when I think of Lenin (it is of his thought that I think. the dismantlement of the Soviet Party-State is nothing more than the objective crystallization (because objectivity.Philosophy and the 'death (if communism' precarious statues. the 'we' of class.s~l of October '17 into its contrary (politics under the condition of Lenin. turned into the police-run blindness of the State). commumsm Will the evocation of death allow us to find an appropriate way of naming what we have witnessed? Yet are we solely witnesses.

in the erosion. one sole nomination without precedent.' decidedly. I liked saying what we said before.. of its ineluctable dissociation. and not its promise of truth. Whatever no longer has the force of the pure multiple can no longer preserve the powers of the One. to keep our distance from these 'movements' so celebrated by opinion: 'not everything which moves is red'. since October. Who would dare interpret these proper names in the burst or the lightning strike of an even tal proposition? Who could ci te one sale unheard -of sta temen t. or since 1793. and finally be recognized there as such. undivided and confused. But. there among the emblem and the insurrection. the Pope. 'Homo liber denulla re minus quam de morte cogitat. also give us a paradigm. 2 In the serenity of the concept. named nothing more than the tomb of a secular 'we'. the end of class.that this 'death' is only the event-or-dying of what is alreadv dead. There was the sketch of a German event. There was a Polish event. what is dead in presentation the emblematic 'we' under which. ifrequired. other than the intrinsic nullity of being. Spinoza was right. Yeltsin . That this death be a second death is attested by a remarkable fact of opinion. even if it be the death of an empire. 'Ev~nt'? Does death come or arrive in the form of an event? And what is there to say of such a second or secondary death? I hold death to be a fact. speed. which is nevertheless real: the 'death of communism' is rhetorically deployed alongside the 'break up of the Soviet empire'. In truth. an attestation of belonging subjacent to the neutral plasticity of natural being. at the level of the order of the State (of things) there is a 'death of communism'. Of course. Even in Russia there was the uncertain attempt on the part of the Vorkouta miners. and that surprise.Infinite Thought long term. Then Valesa. Everyone feels. the invention of an innovative route between workers and intellectuals) and Jaruzclski's coup d'etat. Everything dies . both sudden and soft.. it is no more than a second death. Death is under the law of the multiple (or mathematical) essence of being qua being. during the formation of the KOR. what has occurred is nothing more than this: what was subjectively dead must enter into the State of death. Helmut Kohl. let us say that not everything that changes is an event. But of truth faithful to these irruptions. and not without anxiety. that there is nothing proposed to us by the current dislocations. during the Leipzig protests. of the despotic form of the Party-State? These years will remain exemplary for the following: that an abrupt and complete transformation in a situation does not in any way signify that the grace of an event has occurred. and disorder can be mere simulacra of the event. how could the 'death of communism' be the name of an event once we remark that every historical event is communist. Death is the return of the multiple to the void from which it is woven. and thus the contrary of all empire . between the Gdansk strikes (or even earlier. for a long time. for thought.must also die in representation.which also means no death is an event. there is nothing to be thought in death. 'communism' had. Moreover. That 'communism' thus be tied to 'empire' in the destiny of what is mortal proves since subjectively 'communism' named the universal community. Death is found on the side of multiple being. inasmuch as 'communist' designates the trans-temporal subjectivity of emancipation? 129 . Outside the State. \Ve must rejoice in this: it is the mortality of the structural capacities of usurpation. it is indifferent to existence. such that everything remains undecidable. The simulacra of the 'Romanian revolution'. nothing. political thought conditioned a philosophy of the community . now recognized. 128 Philosopl!y and the' death of communism' Every event is an infinite proposition in the radical form of a singularity and a supplement.

philosophy seeks an in-temporal consonance. or of communism. What does 'communist' signify in an absolute sense? What is it that philosophy is able to think under this name (philosophy under the condition of a politics)? Egalitarian passion. not captive and opaque (as is everything shown to us today. which is politically foundational of truth." Written eighteen veal'S azo . to smack of heresy. Politics alone. the vow of an end to the State. from the point of the prescription that opens it up." In my eyes. it is and has been. a question of communism. but the rebelli~us extreme. From Spartacus to Mao (not the Mao of the State. against that of the 'death of communism'. precisely. . 'Communism'.': To these variations in its coincidence with the spirit of the times." the absolute pre-eminence of multiple-presentation over representation.) However. it was then in '" b agreement with the leading active opinion. when the latter are. mafiosi and demagogues. which is not a matter of philosophy. but in free 130 rupture with being-in-situation.it thus be a matter of the following: any event.at the verv moment in which a monstrous avatar. Actually sung on stage seven years ago. all hauled up high on the parliamentary mast). Must be.:> This subjective form: philosophy recognizes that it has always been and will always be a constant escort ofthe great popular uprisings. 'after the style of the Ancients'. the chant opposes a measure which is its own. the philosophical and thus eternal concept of rebellious subjectivity. in this sense. literally disastrou~ (a 'State of communism'!) is falling apart . complicated Mao ). is replaced by some other designation of the concept that it covers. but of politics. thinks the lacunary periodicity of political subjectivity. philosophically. soiled. And that. who also exists.a delicate question. an infinity without determination or immanent hierarchy. it is at least since May '68 as tar as France is concemed. and which 131 . the fascination of the market. from the Greek democratic insurrections to the worldwide decade 1966-76. it had already begun. nor to the sequence during which the idea of a politics of emancipation was being debated under this name. it's the same thing. Against aesthetic nihilism. 'communist' is not reducible to the finished sequence during which parties attributed the term to themselves. Published twelve years ago. what I term the generic. it had become mysterious. to maintain. nationalisms. again. the will to break with the compromises of the service of goods. in any case. the Idea of justice. even if the word. I hold that convictions and commitment are more durable than tastes. a chant 'after the style of Saint-John Perse' as was said in the grand siecle. which would rein them in. the intolerance of oppression. cannot adequately serve to name a death." I maintain the expression. exposes the subject that it induces to the etcrnirv of the equal. but simply because I have less ofa taste for Saint-John Perse nowadays. the proposition of a singularity without predicate. And today:'! As for myself. in having named this eternity. come what may. It will always be a question of communism. I named such.Infinite Thought Philosophy and the 'death oj communism' The particular figure constituted in the lineage of October '17 of 'we communists' has certainly been obsolete for a long time (since when? . which when its procedure is political . or counted-being. around 1975.provides the ontological concept of democracy. I have retouched it a little (certainly not in repentance of its sense. For every word it seizes.strangely obstinate. the tenacious militant determination. set in motion by some incalculable event. the 'communist invariants'. the deposing of egotism. however recent. that of the revolutionaries of the period after May '68. and singularly of the Maoists. Here I shall strike up (before the prohibition of eternity prepared by any justification of commodities) a chant of which I am the author. Philosophy exists solely insofar as it extracts concepts from a historical pressure which would grant them nothing other than a relative sense.

camisard prophets. Men of great labour sold with the earth whose colour they bear. Children exiled by the closure of the fields to the service of cotton fabrics and coal. Rosa Luxembourg. even absolutely alone . You: oppressed of backward times. centuries. Luddites. writing forms the innumerable. never. cornrnunards. Without forgetting he who.I would murmur it here) a chant of announcement. as if for wild boars. 'Who speaks offailure? What was done and thought was done and thought. out of a dimensionless liberty. and not the establishment of the weighty office of a duration. In its beginning. plotters from the labyrinth of thefaubourgs. The crowd of so many others: to have done with what they were. sectionleaders of the time of the Terror. Chartists. Chou en Lar. The few-numbered (epochs against the grain): maintainers of the. For what was at stake in our reign was the invention of separation. all alone. All the people of popular sects and seditious parties. Soviets of factori. Engels. who then will appease it? Trust yourself to your imperative. Nothing is forever disseminated. while all the rest remained obscure to them. of the barricades and burnt castles. Or even those. You: haranguers and warriors of the peasants' league. the formation of militia. For it is enough to wait. Sinister students. grand commissions of Villagers for the redistribution of land the fIlling of an irrigation dam.' The infinity of situations. armed with long bamboos who made a science out of the skewering of the fattest policemen.frylnite Thought touches upon. who then will exhaust them: The event in which the dice are cast. Philosoph} and the' death of communism' banners of great clandestine trade unions. And these rebel Africans in successive tides amid the colonial stench under the protection of God and of shields of panthers. ~or. discovering in the declaration of their act the latent separating thought. All of you. Babouvist egalitarians. took up his hunting rifle. No one forgets. Thomas Munzer. For of what breaks the circle nothing is lost. wor~ers and high-school students from grassroots. utopians of elegiac cities fighting in forest clearings. I t is thus also (and this is why. Varlin. men of the pike and pitchfork. girls demanding the rights of women. workers on bikes. J acquou le croquant. and mil~tary companies. of assemblies and fed:ratio~s. Sacrificial consciences white like the Rose. Who then spoke of solitude: Defeated! Legendary defeated! I call here for your unacceptance. Blanqui. triple U1110n and grand alliance committees. vagabonds of the plain. Leave the weighing of results to the accountants. You. You judge what is lacking and you examine the abolition: . You: sailors throwing their officers to carnivorous fish. Saint-Just. Quechua miners in the Andes greedy for dynamite. For meditation upon what gathers and multiplies will not rest. women of clubs. and began the resistance to the aggressor in the forests of Europe. Robespierre. action. Marx. and to think: no one accepts. ever. Lenin. the execution of prevaricators and the surveillance of stocks. sans-culottes. Trotsky. millennia. Revolutionary groups for the control of prices. its time and its caesura.es. Mao Tsetung. Taipings of the great loess. Turn yourself away from 132 133 . popular tribunals. slaves of the sun-sacrifice mutilated for the darkness of tombs. spartakists. exact idea in the basements with hand-run presses. Spartacus. You: deployment in the streets of great processions of every kind.which is not the case . old-timers woken to the I~emory of general strikes. veterans of failed coups. as we shall sec. Thinkers of the obsolete and of the to-come. the multiple name of what is always to come.

It is quite reasonable to trust the execution of such processes. the end of the Soviet empire. not to propaganda (servile vision of consciousncsscs). political) under the categories of lies.Injinite Thought pmver. and that the 'revelations' for example. But this story docs not stand up. yet de":Old of perspective. It is easy to object that the history of communism tied the 'Soviet' state paradigm to militant subjectivity.hing other than what already exists. just like any story which tries to describe a subjectivity (in this case. P?htlClans and racketeers: is this all they want? If so. the semaphore of communism is fixed. would this' all be extinct because a medioere tyranny decided to take it upon itself to announce that it was dead? This is exactly what I do not believe. and in no way the history of politics.8 That thousands of people marked here or there. indeed to the experts of the International Monetary Fund. I maintain the opposite thesis: militant subjectivity. This distinction is crucial.of state and Stalinist infamy bore a fatal blow to 'utopia'. that they were happy with what was happening was the least that they could do! ~ut an. in our sad countries called. The regulating of this' elephant occurred through an int~rnal disordering. As for a little supplement for the soul. that is political. and that the dismantling of one closed down the other. but to situations. alas. of these processes. What exact role did the 'Soviet paradise' play in the subjective. No real political figure organizes its consistency around the nothingness of a fallacious representation. 1~ the streets and in a few factories. that what they think and want.. 'Western'? Such a will can do nothing but comfort the pre-eminence of the state and constitutional vi~~. If there is no event. To necessity. and has done for quite a while.:s. That you be indifferent to the verdict. indication that thev thought and wanted the expenence of a noveltv without 'precedent. The force of the communist reference in France owes its t~lte (debatable.' Philosophy and the' death of communism' of thought.ly a state affair. not to the inventions 134 . bu t to specialists in the manoeuvre of apparatuses.e illumin~tio. constitution of militancy named communist? It is a major theme of received opinion that it played an important role. they can pass OIl.or mvention of politics has lent any articulation to the circums~ance. The fearful. but the thought which cements them together depends on the event as such. And the becoming of these fidelities is tributary. but from an 135 The glancing light of the semaphore. philosophically received in the form of the 'we'. the Pope is in on the affair. that was not observed. which was both concerted and. error and illusion. and not on its state projection. was obsolete or inactive well before the system of the PartyState entered into the sequence of its ruin. Elections and property oW~le:s.there will be a search among history as far back as before the war of 1914 to find the means to cast one bestial nationality against another.n of centuries by the rare pivoting insurrection of this light. And as for a touch of passionate excess . Certainly. The satisfi'ed. they ca~ proliferate. who knows why.without which the simulacrum of an event would be far too peaceful . those of Solzhenitsyn . century after century. it is because what is at stake is the history of States. and that nothing in you ever consents. The affair to this day ha~ rema~ned entl:e. No political invention . Note that it is not the uprisen solar masses who decided the end of the Party-State. th. as affirmed bv all and sundry. And ho~ could it have been otherwise if it is true. It is our intact singularity whic~ has made this great hole in the world in which. the people'ofRussia and Hungary and Bulgaria. October' 17 as event engages practical fidelities.is not. nor has a paradigm (a State or a norm) at the centre of its determinations.

and the weakening of such faith when everything is not as bad? Ignorance. Mao thinks not the Russian economy but the Chinese peasantry and the struggle against the Japanese invasion. Any svstematic conjunction with the history of that State has bought itself. for intrinsic and purely political reasons. then to antifascism and the Resistance. all of them finished by breaking with the matrix of the Soviet State . militants. an era of 'stagnation' in which people were no longer killed. or to that of the Brazil of the security guerillas (wh~re. It is the death .they saw clearly that its objectivity did not even serve their immediate intentions. by Solzhenitsyn or anyone else. its own singular development. ceased to expose communism to its eternity within time (moreover.inasmuch as political subjectivity. that event and the Stalinist State. then there is no longer any other reference than that of the State. Mao. It is because there were no longer any possible militants of such an exposition.of the hypothesis which allowed these 'revelations' to have such efficacy. In the same manner. by itself. then to the Popular Front. including its seduction for thought. the concrete history of communisms (I refer to them this time in their common identity. 137 . the sequential 'we'. I t is not the revelation of crime. the most inventive. that the Stalinist State once it had retroactively become the absurd incarnation of the Idea functioned as an unanswerable historical argument against the Idea itself. Tito. what relation is there between these prescriptions. read Tintin in the land of the Soviets. that of parties. that useful contingency? 136 Philosophy and the' death if communism' There is a hypothesis which is both stronger and simpler: it is that the political and thus subjective history of communisms is essentially divided from their State history. in the very epoch in which the Stalinist crimes were unleashed? And that it entered into its twilight from Brczhnev onwards. a 1929 text . let's say. apart from pure empirical conseq uence?).once again. but painful weakness and difficult crises. was obsolete. The criminal objectivity of the Stalinist State is one thing. those who attuned the party to the essential history of the place in which its actions took place. Because if political subjectivity has become unable to support. in order to create his own resource in historicitv. the latter has its own referents. otherwise. nevertheless bore comparison to that of. It is not because the Stalinist state was criminal that the Leninist prescriptions. a superb market economy reigns)? What explanation is there? The blindness offaith? But why faith when everything is getting worse. can one explain that this sequential communism reached its greatest power. which serves solely as a random objectification.it has always perfectly functioned for reactionaries. and its own non-objective prescriptions. the ancient death . and it is true that the criminal character of such and such State becomes an argument without answer. apparently. Enver Hoxha. to the invariants). groups. Criminal objectivity only ever functioned as a general argument .Infinite Thought entirely different point of view) first of all to the outcome of the First World War. not an increase in power. and very little to the anarchic and bloody history of the Soviet State. crystallized in October' 17. which ruined the political hypothesis of communism ('communism' understood here within the twentieth century's sequence of 'we'). that is. the United States of the Vietnam War. the singularity of its trajectory (and thus also its philosophical connection to emancipatory eternity. and in which the physiognomy of the State. At the beginning. How. At the level of subjectivity. official or dissident) does not rely upon the 'paradisaical' State. the militant subjectivity of communists is another. in thought and in act. always a little repugnant. between 1930 and 1960.

In my Theorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil. Translator's note: In French the slogan rhymes: 'Tout ce qui bouge n'est pas rouge. 7.1-. for which Georges Aperghis composed the music. 1976). Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-60. This 'chorus of the divisible defeat' is an extract from L'Echarpe rouge. announce'. complex and violent music. was sung by all of the opera's players. Notes 1.J. The generic that is. O. 1992). 7-25. as always. 1976). its discontinuous existence. of a tramp of eternal insurrections. Translator's note: The service of goods (le service des biens) is a phrase coined by Lacan to designate political and social organization functioning under the register of demand. to its subjective abandon. 1982) I formulate this in the following terms: 'Every subject is political. not to the 'death of communism'. how he managed to hold onto it with his clarity! His text 'Cc qui nous reste' ['\Vhat remains for us'] must he read. Philosophy and the'death of communism' (Paris: Seuil. and little politics. founded by Sylvain Lazarus. I think. Pierre Vial crossed the stage. The philosophical statement about these questions is limited to posing the rarity of politics as generic procedure. Reworked. To what he calls 'our role': 'sarcasm. De l'ideologie (Paris: Maspero. Lacan. 6. rornanopera (Paris: Maspero. The anarchic confused deplorable spectacle . The 'death of communism'. the status in thoug-ht of the infinite multiplicity as any multiplicitv whatsoever. goes straight to prescriptions. Badiou. and he grumbled 'communism! communism!' in an unforgettable manner.' The body of philosophical statements concerning this point is very complex. and which was performed at the Lyon opera.of this ruin testifies. Feltham (London: Continuum Books. the 'rornanopera' became the libretto of a real opera. critique of the current times. The chorus. 1998).what can be termed for simplification Stalin's crime. under the title Le thcdlre des idees (Paris: Gallimard. but to the immense con seq uenees of its lack. I would like to cite the eighth statement from this text: 'The crime. 1988) [Being and Event. the unappeasable pain caused in me bv the death of Antoine Vitez. a player of this 'role'. Once again. hut it clearly goes beyond Stalin . forthcoming) J. and singularly of any politics deserving the name 'communist'. h. 5. trans.but necessary and legitimate because what is dead must die . 1991). This is why there are few subjects.' But after the execution of the crime. It is included in the precious and loyal collection proposed by Daniele Sallenave and Georges Banu. rather than that of desire. of historical modes oj politics.is that of leaving hope in the hands of the irrational.Infinite Thought This is whv the ruin of the Party-State is a process immanent to the history of States. sheltering from who knows what storm via the effect of an old umbrella. It succumbs by the absenting of politics. D'un desastre ohscur (Paris: Editions de l'aube. in a staging by Antoine Vitez with sets by Yannis Kokkos in 198. Antoine Vitez. trans. written in collaboration with Francois l3alm~s. of demagogues. over astonishing. of obscurantists. so close to his death. It involves the doctrine. from 1990. at Avignon. Translator's note: The original text formed the first chapter of A.is the most important concept advanced by the philosophical propositions of my book L'Etre et l'evenement 138 139 . There will be many others. 2. It succumbs to its objective solitude. 4.wv it tormented him! And yet. then at Chaillot. D. as the materiality of a truth . Porter (London: Routledge. in emblematic workers' outfits. In these few pages I am. He had the air of a survivor.' 3. invective and prediction. The theory of communist invariants is sketched in mv little book. See.

those assassinating impostors . indifference to fire. It is a significant reference in the theoretical work of Sylvain Lazarus. it evokes the nihilist bombings of the Tsar's coaches. organization. which was necessary in conditions of such technological sophistication to bring about the death of many thousands of common people and ordinary 141 140 . quiet relentlessness. L' Anthropologie du nom (Paris: Scuil.' For those who more or less secretly celebrated .were transformed into incendiary projectiles. At the beginning of this millennium.it was nevertheless a matter of an unbelievable mass crime. His commentary can be read in S. CHAPTER 8 Philosophy and the 'war against terrorism' A Method Faced with the destruction of New York's Twin Towers by planes whose passengers. calm. 1996). everywhere. 'The invention of politics' is the title of a book . like the nco-pilots . the evidence of a certain affect.an extremely numerous crowd. there was.the last by Moses Finley.it has a fin de siecle resonance to it. the great historian of antiquity. the evidence of that affect registers the extraordinary combination of violence. hundreds of millions of human beings. Lazarus. all enemies of the lugubrious and solitary American superpower -. agony and destruction. 'Attack' is an inappropriate word.Infinite Thought 8. or the attack of Sarajevo . but that of another century.

is a terrorist action) has since played a decisive role. 142 143 . philosophy has a duty: if it is to register the widespread evidence of the word 'terrorism' as an important symptom.signalled by the affect of the disaster . of course. or a construction is undertaken.even one that. who is plunged into mourning and who must lead the vengeful riposte. we will proceed to a meticulous examination of names. Our point of departure will be the central name. And this desig-nation. a kind of paroxysmally denied disbelief: the affect that signals a disaster. arc two ruks to the method.Infinite Thought workers deep in the heart of a great metropolis. Philosophy. It determines a subject . the 'war ag-ainst Islamic terrorism' takes over from the Cold (and Hot: Korea. ) War against communism. should also be applied to State crimes.this is the subject who is targeted by the terrorist act. authorized the UN to declare that the US is in a state of 'legitimate defence'. This subject is named either 'Our Societies'.which aimed. A crime is a crime. That is why one could say that. including those . This nominal evidence (that the mass crime of New York . philosophy is never transitive to affect no matter how widespread the latter might be. the subject ('The West'). It supports predicates . the word 'terrorism' has a triple function: 1. and quite apart from the immediate position of one's soul. philosophy cannot accept them without critical examination. however. formally. that 'we' are 'all American'. Relig-ion may declare its trust in the heart's self-evidences. Then. There. or 'The Democracies' or. As such. an entire epoch. or 'The West'. this mass crime .in fact.conjures up the fascist concept of action. Nevertheless it is also philosophy's duty to not remain satisfied with affect. must take the evidence of this affect into account.committed by 'democratic' States.there was a paralysing stupefaction. At a deeper level. Second. It was an enormous murder. As we well know -. Philosophy knows that in general such nominations are under the control of the powers that be and their propaganda. once again. however commonly held the dominant nominations may be. anonymously and with the most perfect cruelty. 'America' Philosophy and the' war against terrorism' but the latter at the price. 3. but of a name. In short. a second kind of evidence is proposed to philosophical labour. who is struck. and initiated the prog-ramming of the targets of vengeance. lengthily premeditated. By fixing a designated enemy. and the sequence ('the war against terrorism') to critique.this is its arid destination no matter how traumatic the point from which its research departs. agreed.on this occasion terrorism is 'Islamic'. And as a consequence. formally speaking. and yet silent. 2. Vietnam.devastated or complicit . it has cemented a world coalition. It determines a sequence . 1n short. at the least since Aeschylus' Oresteia and thus for a long time -. is fascistic. swiftly paid by the editors. 'terrorism'.. Art. But the consequences of a crime . must depart from the latter to arrive at the concept . No one has claimed responsibility for it.cannot mechanically be other crimes. 'crime'. As such. even. Philosophy. to destabilize a 'normal' situation . there.innumerable . then it must examine the latter's origin and application. we will submit the trio of the predicate ('Islamic').the entire current sequence is from now on considered as 'the war against terrorism'. this time not that of an affect.the question is always to know how to reinstate justice in the place of vengeance. the name 'terrorism'. says Gilles Deleuze. gives form to percepts and affects. Cuba . following upon that.. everywhere throughout the world. vVe are warned that it will be a long war. First.

little by little. during the French Revolution the Grand Jacobins of the Committee for Public Safety had no problem declaring themselves 'terrorists'. When 145 B Terrorism? Originally. This formalism approaches Kant's moral formalism. the nebulous. the repressive deployment of expeditious measures without appeal. which emerges . and widespread recourse to the death penalty. could and should precede any examination of the situation. It is first and foremost . who. It has no neutral readability. justified by exceptional circumstances (civil war and war). at the end of its semantic evolution. 'Terrorist' no longer designates a political orientation or the possibilities of such and such a situation. It was an objective designation that was only defamatory for certain political adversaries. and exclusively. but rather. as are also the Palestinian fighters for the State of Israel. for Bush and his servile patriotic opinion. For example. precisely in view of their non-Slate character. It dispenses with all reasoned examination of political situations. Indeed. and be abstracted from any concrete political considerations. Lastly.without justifying it politically . the Algerian patriots of the KLF for every French government without exception between 1954 and 1962. including those of Sharon in Palestine. against a given order which is judged to be unacceptable. 'Terrorists'.was still too precarious to assure victory over the enormous coalition of domestic and foreign counter-revolutionaries. a 'terrorist' was someone who legitimated and practised Terror. to signify exactly the contrary.that is.a spectacular. the form of action.and it is here that it takes on a negative connotation . non-State action. But the word has finally come to designate .from clandestine networks. it is an action which makes no distinction between civilians and non-civilians.'What do they want. They officially made Terror part of daily business. Second. including the Bande Ii Bonnot in France. the anti-Nazi resistors for Petain and his militia. and suffrage for the wealthy alone. It must be said that today. 'Terrorists' lastly. all those of the anarchist tradition. and the Chechens for Putin and his clique. And it does so according to three criteria. it is a term that has become essentially formal. This is why a 'moral philosophy' specialist like Monique Canto believed she could declare that the absolute condemnation of 'terrorist' actions and the symmetrical approval of reprisals. It is remarkable that the word 'terrorism'. already. the reign of corruption. or at least extremely opaque. the word 'terrorist' is an intrinsically propagandistic term.for public opinion and those who attempt to shape it. Terror was explicitly thought of as a contingent necessity (Robespierre was known for his categorical and principled opposition to the death penalty) when political virtue . in Man's Fate. all those who engage in a combat. group of those who attack and incriminate Americans' goods and lives. those who want neither terror nor virtue?' The Thermidorians provided the response they wanted the end of the revolution. it is a violent action aiming to kill or destroy.a terrible 144 .from the position of the dominant. 'terrorists'. of their causes and consequences. for a long time now the word 'terrorist' has been used by the State to designate all violent and/or armed political adversaries. using whatever means at hand. incarnated the decision of the suicide attack and to which Malraux gave . and the character of Chen.Infinite Thought Philosophy and the' war against terrorism' grandeur. As examples we can list the Russian terrorists of Narodnaia Volin at the end of the last century. which clearly qualified a particular figure of the exercise of State power. the republican conviction . Saint-Just asked .reality or myth . By that they meant a provisional but complete confusion of political and judicial power. In fact. has come.

and the febrile sterility of the world in which we live. it seems to us that the litany of colonial atrocities committed throughout the entire world. Philosopky and the 'war against terrorism' anti-terrorists balk at declaring . except if 'we are all American'. Indeed. Moreover. as always. State terrorism directed against peasant villages and the ancient cities of Central Asia) against Evil (non-State terrorism directed at '\Vestern' buildings) . 'the \. But this void is precious because it can be filled.a name sufficient for American imperialist patriotism but hardly so for the anti-terrorist coalition. and with what continues nowadays in the phrase 'the end of Western metaphysics'. the savagery of the world-scale slaughters. what with The Decline oj the West . a certain state of objective wealth which. according to this Iron lady of a new breed. And. it is regrettable to have to note that philosophy compromised itself there long ago. which even the committed 146 . Three kinds of efkct are thereby rendered possible: a subject-effect (facing 'terrorism' is a 'we' avenging itself). insidiously. facing 'terrorism' there is a 'we' defending itself Now. where rationality risks collapsing beneath the immensity of the propagandistic evidence. a neutral name. Apart from anything else. such is the moment when. an empty name.three names have been found for this 'we' facing the beast: a perilous but weighty name.as the formal qualification of an action to the substantive 'terrorism'. The 'Western' appropriation of thought which is nothing but the intellectual trace of four centuries of imperialism . while neither the 147 C Who is this' we' facing terrorism? It is obvious that 'terrorism' is a non-existent substance. the 'Islamic' barbarian). has no kind of value for the philosopher and furthermore which would not be able to ground any kind of consistent solidarity.vest'. In particular. It is at this point.Infinite Thought it is a matter of 'terrorism'.resounds right up to and including the opposition of the West (Christian? Jewish?. the armed revolts in Latin America. the wars of national liberation in Asia. this is exactly how Bush from the very beginning conceived of the deployment of vengeance: Good (in concrete. or it is a material paradigm. and finally. in itself. one must examine the effects of the nominal chain induced by the passage from the adjective 'terrorist' .at the end of the nineteenth century. the Middle-East and Africa. Henceforth.Spengler's best-sclle~ . to explain is already to justify. 'the democracies'. In relation to the first of these names. let us agree that what is being referred to is either still 'the West' but in a more demure fashion. 'terrorism' qualifies an action as the formal figure of Evil. to 'Islamic terrorism'. form becomes substance. first of all. to the point of being the name of one of its most violent groupuscules. an alterity-effect (this 'terrorism' is the other of Civilization. If this is not the case. 'our societies'. It is thus appropriate to punish without delay and without further examination. outside America . that one must be careful with the details. it is filled (as it was for 'the Bache' or 'the jew') by that which is supposed to be opposed to it (the 'Frenchman' or the 'Aryan'). let us recall for the younger generations that for decades the political usc of the term 'the Occident' was confined to the racist extreme right. 2 Moreover. is sufIicient for those who see an opposition being drawn up between 'Western values' and 'Terrorism' to conclude that 'terrorism' is a hollow word. the universal value of the Chinese revolution. then why docs the crime of New York affect 'our societies'. When 'our societies' are spoken of and it is declared that 'terrorism' wanted to 'strike them in their very heart' or 'destabilize' them. On this occasion. and a legitimating name. a periodization-effect (now commences the long 'war against terrorism') .

while around 1933 the Jew had to be cosmopolitan and abstractcontrary to the Aryan. remains: what 'terrorism' targets is the 'Democracies'. Taken on its own it comes down to the observation that religion has been subjected to political ins. What remains to be known is against whom these legitimate reprisals are to be carried out.Catholicism in Poland for example . For it could wel! be that all genuinely considerable wealth today is entirely. France. Even if Monique Canto. in this jaded 'democratic' country. such is the formula for consensus.Infinite Thought millions of AIDS deaths in Africa nor the genocidal disasters in Rwanda affect them in any way? 'our societies'. In the case at hand. that exemplary democracy which we all know as the United States of America. we would only grant her such a point after a meticulous and concrete examination of the origins of the wealth in question.). It is this formula which has neutralized reactions and generated general support. that's what they wanted to mutilate. that of Bin Laden if however.and the important role it played in the resistance against communism. the conjunction of religion and all kinds of political processes. for the overwhelming majority of our contemporaries: here. and by way of necessity. Today. I mean. it really concerns him. designating in a faintly obscene manner the completely relative well-being of some of the wealthiest human groups (minorities) on the planet. if the democracies are attacked by terrorism then. the sale space for a political inscription of the mass crime of New York is the one outlined by that formula. the wily alliances between the State and the Church do not date from yesterday. which is an empty substantive.judges that it is philosophically superior and indispensable in the situation to remind us that being very rich is not a moral fault. which qualifies an action by its form. fundamentally propagandistic. Democracy. At thi~. they have the right to avenge themselves. implicated in certain indubitable crimes. 'Terrorism against democracy'. point let us introduce a precise philosophical proposition: every substantialization of a formal adjective re(~uir. which is to furnish this 'Terrorism' with a sembl~nce of historical colour. to go against the grain of her formalist zeal. another ancient 'Western' story.her again . for the American war. and those Saudi fanatics. In any case. albeit a little plaintive. it has been conceded that. which nobody up to this date has been ~blc to prove what is certain is that the point of departure IS a series of extraordinary complex manoeuvres in relation to the manna of oilfields in Saudi Arabia and that the 149 148 . some extremely violent. If one goes from the adjective 'terrorist'. PhilosoPkv and the 'ioar against terrorism' D c Terrorism): substance and predicates Of the three names for 'us' only the third. the suppo~ed substantial support called 'terrorism' only has bemg inasmuch as it receives the predicate 'Islamic'. to 'terrorism'. As any old patriot from over there will tell you. tied to blood and soil. one cannot hope to 'fill' such a void by its adversary alone (The West. Finally. hardly make for a presentable EKe-off against the supposed substance of terrorism. It is also necessarv to endow it with a predicate (just as it was necessarv ~lround 1914 for all intents and purposes. is not a particularity of Islam.trumentalization. Yet. that the B~)che be bestial and contrary to the reflective and Cartesian Frenchman _ delivered over to obscure and instinctive forces. 'it's a free country'.es a dominant predicate. Think of religion'. in view of their excellence. etc. whenever that' occurred religion was congratulated by the 'democratic' states. in any case. What exactly is the value of this predicate? One might be satisfied by saying that it has already been corrupted bv its function. and in their heart.

In Indonesia they lent a helping hand to the eradication of a progressive pro-thirdworld regime by encouraging a Saint Bartholomew of communists. with a view to maintaining control over this or that I. against the Fatah hegemony. if not admired. he staged the curse attached to the Rhine's gold. the United States did not get involved except to create more and more serious problems for these leaders. Let us note the singular status of what we can call the instrumentalization of an instrumentalization. they fought everything that even mildly resembled secular politics in the Arab world. and somewhat confusedly. bringing about the death of five thousand. it is a matter of knowing how one is situated with regard to access to oil. Bolivia's tin-metal. or de Baas in Iraq. Fearing Soviet influence. then at least tolerated: turn a blind eye and keep going. and for whom the means are of less concern. As far as making terror reign in the name of pure hard-line Islamic fundamentalism. the Talibani themselves are a joint creature of the Americans and the Pakistanis. the sovereigns of Saudi Arabia know what they're doing. In the Middle East or elsewhere. become the stakes of rapacious and cynical calculations. or of alleged communists. South Africa's diamonds. the oil in the Middle East and the Congo . Kuwait and Pakistan.-was for a secular democratic Palestine. then. set in place against any takeover of power in Kabul by groups which were potential allies of either the Russians.Infinite Thought character is. American governm~~nts regularly attempt to instrumentalize that instrumentalization. let us underline Wagner's prophetic virtue when. Whether Nasser in Egypt. This has been one of the great constants of their politics for decades. a good American: someone for whom what matters is wealth and power. while on the other hand they supported without fail the retrograde fanatics of Saudi Arabia. In passing. Finally. yet to my knowledge not a single notable democrat has ever asked for an armada of B-52s to go and wipe them out. The first. Such are his rivals also.as many regions or countries put to fire and the sword. The second. if like the god Wotan Bin Laden speaks at length. In Palestine evervone knows that from the very beginning the Israeli servic~s considered the development of Harnas to be an excellent thing. that for these democrats there is both 'Islamic terrorism' and 'islamic Terrorism'. as you may re~all. our paradigmatic 'Democracies'. or in Syria. supported by the Americans and by way of consequence a friend to 'our societies'. Indeed.'i 1 . is to be. because the planetary administration of their mineral resources necessarily escapes them. Taken in their entirety these manoeuvres disqualify the relevance of the prcdica te 'Islamic' when it is a matter of designating the 'terrorist' enemies of the United States. the precious stones of the Congo and Sierra Leone. his comrades in power in the region. in his trilogy. Let us note in passing that it does not seem as if 'Our Societies'. after all. the Chinese. whose slogan. certain cliques of politicians instrumentalize religion in order to facilitate their projects (in fact: in order to take over power from other azeinz or b h discredited cliques of politicians). It must be strongly suspected. it is one of the great modern curses to have the equivalent of that gold in one's subsoil. as for what concerns them. draw the least conseq uence from these atrocious disasters. the Gulf petroleum monarchies. 150 Philosophy and the 'toar against terrorism' It is worth remarking that the political instrumentalization of religion has in turn been persistently instrumentalized by the United States themselves. and which included a number of Christians in its ranks. or the Iranians. it seems that his business is rather that of knowing how to seize some black gold such as to inherit that Nibelungen collection. In any case. which managed to strike 'us' by means of its devious calculations: stigmatize it and bomb it into annihilation! In the final analysis. of destiny and religion.

and Saddam Hussein becoming an uncontrollable creature. the United States (and the French who were very active at the time) instrumentalized Saddam Hussein. others saying to themselves that Israel can always procure some benefits from the situation. and then by their governmental and opinionmaking servants) is something new. that are important to keep from public attention. What we will maintain here is that 'war' is the symmetrical term . Previously. Inasmuch as the same story has reoccurred with the Talibani. when governments declared that their duty was 'to eradicate terrorism'. In France. we propose to all States the following maxim: 'Be extremely careful when instrumentalizing an instrumen talization. In 'Islamic terrorism'. rally behind the Hag of the 152 Phiiosophy and the' war against terrorism' vengeful crusade.it is also entirely formal . it is very easy to awaken an anti-Arab zeal for a thousand reasons. But all of them. whether in the vulgar and postcolonialist form given to it by the extreme right. The goal of the 'Western' powers was to derail the Iranian revolution. This does not prohibit. The philosophical lesson is thus the following: when a predicate is attributed to a formal substance (as is the case with any derivation of a substantive from a formal adjective) it has no other consistency than that of giving an ostensible content to that form. validating the syntagm 'Islamic terrorism'. while a third lot will think that a massacre of 'Bougnouls'3 is always a good thing. political).' especially one including religion.be a sort of trompe l'oeil history of the period which has just opened.to the very vague 'terrorism'. It is exposed to brutal deviations. how does one declare war upon a few delinquent civilians or 153 . is the 'war of the democracies against Islamic terrorism'. E What 'war' against terrorism? What is coming.in the name of the inconsistent term designating it ('Islamic terrorism') . What the predicate 'Islamic' actually does is dissimulate a number of unappetizing (state) political operations. None of all this has anything to do with the crime of New York. a subjective sustenance that does not let itself be easily manipulated by cruel and underhand politicians. then a 'terrorist' enemy. or in the more historical and 'ethical' form given to it by the Zionist or feminist intellectual petit-bourgeoisie. Indeed. In this manner. who instrumentalized the opposition between the Sunnites and the Shiites against his Iranian neighbours. behind 'cultural' categories whose subjective resources can be quite easily activated. but rather commands that what originates in that unthought . a long and difficult period. the consolidation of the Iranian regime. I t is important to register that the usage of the term 'war' (immediately employed by high American officials in their declarations. a crusade of various enthusiasms. What is at stake is an artificial historicization which leaves what really happened (the crime of New York) unthought. and especially of innumerable apathies. hundreds of thousands dead.Infinite Thought situation. our leaders tell us. Thus we will see some rejoicing that Kabul is being bombarded to 'liberate Afghani women'. nor in its form. But why a 'war'? Just as with 'terrorism' and 'Islamic' this word is extremely problematic in relation to the situation. But the instrumentalization of an instrumcntalization is a delicate mechanism. neither in the latter's causes. while Saddam Hussein's goal was to set himself up as a great regional power. The result: a terrifying war on the scale of the war of 1914-18. nor in its real effects. the predicate 'Islamic' has no other function except that of supplying an apparent content to the word 'terrorism' which is itself devoid of all content (in this instance. they were careful not to speak of war.

Today the USA has the monopoly over aggressive protection via enormous forces of destruction. The United States has become a hegemonic power in and through war: from the civil war. in the form~l representation it makes of itself: has war as the privileged. wherein. Moreover. indeed unique. . in these times of economic obsession. and finally the uninterrupted series of local wars and military interventions of all kinds since the Korean War up until the presen t ransacking of Afghanistan. at the level of the symbolic register? The crime of New York. destruction of villages. it continued to codirect the world. Libya. which mobilized hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Barbados. form of the attestation of its existence. military. in 'doing so. using the same methods as the French in Algeria forty years ago in order to settle accounts with Chechen nationalists (systematic torture.ricans . but always within the symbohc register of policing. Panama. however run-down it was. that power continues to be. generally :. calls for police mobilization in order to track down and judge its authors or its financial backers.away in their desire for vengeance and war IS Immediately constructed around the flag and the army. to employ his own expression. one will hasten to add that the USA won the day in the Cold War against the USSR on the terrain of military rivalry (Reagan's Star Wars project pushed the Russians to throw in the towel) and intend to do the same thing against China. governments have opposed repression to terrorism. save servitude. The consequences are evident. Whv then. Even during the endless and very violent colonial war against the Algerian patriots. Without doubt. In sum. Being forged in this fashion amid the continual barbarity of war . the Bay of Pigs. and can be 155 . said to be that of Secession (the first modern war due to its industrial means and the 154 Philosophy and the (war against terrorism' number of deaths). . strictly speaking. including. and it does not hesitate to use them. Let us hope that the Europeans ~ and the Chinese . passing via Lebanon. Even today. Of course. it has been assigned far too exclusively to conflicts between stat~s for such usage. internment camps.leaving aside the genocide of the Indians and the importation of tens of millions of black slaves . the modern 'services' will use fear and extremely unethical methods. not to mention their persistent support for Israel in its endless war against the Palestinians. The particular adversary chosen matters very little. This should remind us. one can observe today that the powerful subjective unity that carries the ~me. the Gulf "Val'. But war? Mv thesis is that the American imperial power. It is an immense police operation. IS It a matter of war. a war. Even the USSR. in fact. like all crime.sing the mo~t violent and abject of means.the USA quite naturally considers that the only riposte worthy of them is a spectacular staging of power. then the two World Wars. in the case that concerns us here. and Serbia.draw the obvious lesson from the situation: those who do not watch carefully over their armed forces are promised nothing. hoping to discourage any project of great magnitude by the imposition of an exhausting armament race (this is the only sense possessed by the pharaonic anti-missile shield project) . 'we will go looking for the terrorists right into the sewers' and so on. or even especially. including (notably) the idea that the American people has of itself and of what must be done. in the last instance. Vietnam. inasmuch as it was considered as an important military power (and above all by the Americans). rape) Putin carefully avoids saying that there is.Infinite Thought a bunch of fanatical bombers or upon a group of anarchists? The word 'war' is far too dignified. moreover. French governments from Mitterand to De Gaulle always spoke of 'maintaining order' and of 'pacification'.

ifit is true that every year the USA spends more on their military budget than Russia. We could be satisfied in saying that an orientation of thought.J ulliard literally in his own twilight by dint of having been right all along . England and Germany put together. states that anti-Americanism is fascistic. It seems sometimes as if Tony Blair dreams of a posthumous repose for his Old England. and if that Nation-State. The pure capacity to destroy this or that will do the job. presenting themselves as the solitary dispensers of justice. Philosoph)! and the "toar against terrorism' many others. any war is suitable. even if the latter ends up being a few thousand poor devils or a phantom 'government'. One can. and whose countenance or loquaciousness one cannot help but admire if one picks up a magazine. Bernard Henri-Levy. The central argument of these heroes of the fraternal alliance with the American bombers amounts to the following: that to be against the USA in this affair. It is a requirement of this debate that each camp declares itsclfto be persecuted and in the minority. interventions and interference of that imperial power. But today there cannot be the least political liberty or independence of mind. from the commandments. In the end. then it is assuredly better not to be free. It is as simple as that. for the sale reason that Bernard-Henri Levy has declared it fascist. 'Anti-Americanism' is meaningless. \N e have thus been treated to the spectacle of J acques J uillard and Bernard-Henri Levy. and repulsive horde of French intellectuals. commercial. of course.Infinite Thought entirely disconnected from the initial crime. devoted to military excess. and cynical one. then the basic freedom of States. is to be against freedom. and no view of other peoples apart from an indifferent. who is never particular about details. peoples and individuals consists in doing everything and thinking everything in order to escape. those whom the journalistintellectuals call 'French intellectuals' are the other journalistintellectuals who don't share their position. the more the word 'intellectual' is emphasized the more intellectuality itself is absent. no allies other than servants. worn down by dint of their good fight for liberty and modernity against the enslaving. without a constant and unrelenting struggle against the imperium of the USA.) is war as the abstract form of a theatrical capture of an adversary ('terrorism') which in its essence is vague and elusive. He is reminiscent of 157 F Parenthesis on 'anti-Americanism' Certain 'intellectuals' have judged the moment ripe to stigmatize the compulsive anti-Americanism to which French intellectuals are occasional victims. The war against nothing: save against what is itself removed from any war. As a result. at least insofar as it is composed solely of veterans who can be seen every day on television. that of becoming the 51st state of the Union. two particularly copious editorialists. have as one's sale ambition to be considered by the masters in Washington as their most zealous servant. As for . as in 1:'>6 . China. France. It is well known that in this type of polemic. at the very least deserves to be considered with attention.his axiom is that 'French intellectuals' do not like freedom. as much as possible. But what we will say is this: if there exists one unique great imperial power which is always convinced that its most brutal interests coincide with the Good. archaic. The American people have brought humanity admirable inventions in all orders of experience. has no public idol other than wealth. as long as the appearance of victory is overwhelming. etc. We would hasten to add that if 'freedom' is that of politically and intellectually resembling Jacques Juillard. What we have here (and will also have if the USA continues in Somalia and in Iraq.

secretly machinated and suicidal crime of New York. declared. And if not them then their hosts. one has God at one's side. to Nicomede. and of the arrogance of a selfcertitude based on the void.a State crime reinforced with anaesthetized machines bringing death to others and 'zero death' to one's own. At odds. One speaks for the 'disinherited' Muslims. with the frank speech of an imperialist on the hunt. and elsewhere . or whether it is that of Kabul. and the foundations of the American superpower on the other. Evil. The American army is the instrument of the Race of 'Western' lords against the wretched of the entire planet. or whoever financed the crime. In such a configuration religion is nothing but a demagogic vocabulary worth neither more nor less than the fascist's populist 'anti-capitalism' slogans in the Thirties. of cynical rivalry. then their parents. For the American superpower is nothing but the deadly guarantee of the obscene accumulation of wealth. If not them. With Bush. that is. Let's take the liberty of siding with Nicomede and considering that the inevitable condition of our freedom is that of being at odds. etc. because. any unfortunates vaguely resembling them will do! As the Defence Secretary. the Taliban. but wants to become a billionaire Saudi Arabian. it had been educated and financed by the latter. seriously at odds. these two belong to the same world. Bithynie's Petain. Democracy. that nihilistic . with American 'democracy'. Whether the crime is the private. Kandahar.but in reality it is a matter of reminding all those disobedient imperial creatures that they will be reduced to ashes if they even think about undermining the Master. is our own formula? Joyfully borrowing a concept from Gilles Deleuze we shall say: What is testified to by the crime of New York and the following battles is the disjunctive synthesis oj two nihilisms.of money. then the accursed villains with whom they live. just as one claimed to be the mouthpiece of the 'German Worker' solely in order to become the devoted table companion of arms merchants. We have reached the important critical stage which is that of the destitution of terms. Let's clarify this aphorism. it is a matter of killing 159 G The disjunctive synthesis of two nihilisms We can now return to our point of departure: philosophy facing the event. Rumsfeld. one might say. Yes. And moral and religious 158 . Philosophy and the' war against terrorism' platitudes plated onto all that: on both sides Good. along with the Good. Of the consensual statement 'the war of the Democracies against Islamic Terrorism' more or less nothing intelligible remains. no matter. Bin Laden. and God serve as rhetorical ornaments to jousts of financial ferocity and to schemes for hegemonic power. of total scorn for peoples' everyday lives. and also America (it's the same thing) for tracking down Evil . then. There is a synthesis. of blind power. an American. What. 'till death'. came directly from the cookhouses of the American hegemony. real or borrowed (Bin Laden. Damn it. and its personnel. it's the aerial vendetta! And if not their parents. to our mind. the principal actors in this matter belong to the same species.InJinite Thought those vassal 'Kings' of Rome. It was sown to the latter like an inner lining. whose pusillanimity is depicted in certain of Corneille's tragedies: 'Ahl Don't put me on bad terms with the [RomanJ Republic!' says Prusias. The mass crime was the exact inverse of the imperial brutality. its only desire was to have a preferable place in the latter's system. just like Corncilles hero with the Roman 'Republic'. the potential resistance fighter. There is a disjunction in that it is inevitably through the form of crime that these actors seek and find each other. despite being on one side. of the hidden gold of primary resources.).

is ostensibly identical to any other in his or her abstract humanity as buying power.the perpetuation of hegemony fell' the Americans and of vassalage. is a secondary and contingent matter. Opposite it we find another nihilism for which an old name is appropriate. the absolute indifference to the victims. let's appreciate the irony. but its essence is found in claiming responsibility. 161 . the transformation of oneself and others into instruments . whereas the figure is 80 if you are born in France.. On both sides. but nothing speaks louder than the silence. as we all know.as a matter of right . liberating. The same product is offered everywhere. Man as shopping. however perilous it might be. for the others. At the level of structure. Violence is a Trhact. Armed with this universal commercial offer. However. What is at stake are bloody and nihilistic games of power without purpose and without truth.Infinite Thought as many people as possible. capitalist nihilism has arrived at a stage of the non-existence of any world. in the absence of any project other than its perpetuation . In one respect. As man (or woman) the consumer is the same as everyone else insofar as he or she looks at the same window display (that he or she has less money than others. when the first resistance fighters killed a German officer or blew up a pylon. this nihilism could be called the nihilism of virtual equality. this equality is nothing but frustration and resentment. in his or her virtuality opposite the commodity. the terrible silence of the authors and planners of this crime. America's war is unconnected to any law or right and is indifferent to any project. But at the same time (and this is what keeps the democratic fiction itself alive in the people's hearts and minds) there is an egalitarian dogmatism. It is clearly the only equality that 'Western' governments and billionaire 'terrorists' can conjointly lay claim to.anything being sold is the eq ual of anyone else. I ' t. 'Capital'. There is none of that today. even in relation to life itself. Upon the latest news. if we look closely). that of an equality in their placement in front of commodities. the Resistance! Resistance exists and will continue to strike back!' The tract. we hear that they are being rounded up. and nihilist in its extreme political poverty.. must accompany the act. Yes . It must be said that some of those suave American professors lent him a helping hand in asking whether or not. The act remains unnamed and anonymous just like the culprits. that is to say. Des Kapital: nihilist in its 160 Philosophy and the' war against terrorism' extensive form. it wouldn't be useful to use torture . non-nihilistic political violence not only is responsibility always claimed. In the same way as the crime of New York. the market having become worldwide. nihilist in its fetishization of the formalism of communication. If you are born in Africa you will probably live for around 30 years. it's no one's fault save perhaps their own. drugged and chained for transportation to the thousands of cells hastily constructed in a base at Guantanamo: on the island of Cuba.to which some even more refined American professors objected that it would be in all respects preferable to expedite the suspects to allied countries in which torture was an official method. the one who. contemporary 'democracy' can forge a subject from such abstract equality: the consumer. and anyhow. Such is the 'democratic' contemporary world. saying who did what. For with affirmative. At the level of circumstance. All the formal traits of the crime of New York indicate its nihilistic character: the sacralization of death. it was solely in order to be able to say 'it's us. considering the circumstances. it is a matter of striking blindly to demonstrate one's strike capacity. The principle is that anyone who is able to buy . There lies the infallible sign of a type of fascist nihilism. made as comfortable as possible. and thus unequal buying power. In 1941. the governments which are its servants organize monstrous inequalities.

proletarian parties (or those presumed to be such). the motif of finitude is the discrete form via which thought yields in advance. There is no world simply because the majority of the planet's inhabitants today do not even receive the gift of a name. one accumulates resources. in difficult times. by contemporary nihilism in all its ferocity. 'Excluded' is the sole name for those who have no name. But symbolic positions existed. including political thinking. the task of philosophy is to welcome everything into thought which maintains itself outside that synthesis. We would like to acknowledge Steven Corcoran's translation. lines up tools. The duty of philosophy is thus clear: to rationally reconstitute the reserve of the affirmative infinity that every liberating project requires. as well regarded by the phenomenologists as by the positivists. Philosoph} and the' war against terrorism' metaphysics'. just as 'market' is the name of a world which is not a world. outside of the grand and petty bourgeoisie of the imperial cities. the CSSR. which was used as a base for the current translation. But to do that philosophy must break with whatever leads it into the eircuits of nihilism. For one single thought has an immensity far beyond any judgement.just as no matter which worker in no matter what town . certainly not. From this moment on.then. it must detach itself from the Kantian heritage. with everything that restrains and obliterates the power of the affirmative. it is on the side of affirmation and infinity that philosophy must select and accumulate its resources.Infinite Thought today there is no world. That is the primordial task of what is concentrated in political doing-thinking. Translator's note: In English the French Occidentale is translated by vVestern. More generally. Translator's note: The first version of this paper was given at the Ecole N ormale Supcrieurr. It announces the repetition of disaster. When there was class society. there is nothing but a group of singular disconnected situations. nor that that world was excellent. Its origins both critical and hermeneutical. as can be seen. etc. you have nothing apart from the anonymous and excluded. from the perpetual examination of limits.on 26 October 2001.could receive a political name. you have nothing apart from the American army. The original title was 'Philosophical considerations of some recent facts'. it is formidable. within a few singular situations. It must go beyond the nihilistic motif of the 'end of Western 162 Notes I. That is not to say that their material situation was better. Instead philosophy is like the attic where. no matter which peasant in no matter what region . This time. Everything which affirmatively seizes a point of the real and raises it to the symbol will be taken by philosophy as a condition of its own becoming. Philosophy does not have. of a simple name. Philosophy is exactly that which proposes an ample stock of means to other forms of thought. who proclaim themselves to be 'civilization'. and that world was a world. its tools and its knives.. but although the la trer clearly 163 . H To conclude: philosopliy? If the situation is as we say it is the disjunctive synthesis of two nihilisms . the critical obsession. In a word: it is essential to break with the omnipresent motifoffinitude. and the narrow form of judgement. in all circumstances. and sharpens knives. accepting the modest role it is enjoined to play. Today. the national wars of liberation. outside of the unremitting undertakings of those who keep thought alive. published in the journal Theorv and Event. In terms of the real. 2. and has never had at its own disposal the effective figures of emancipation.

Infinite Thought
desig-nates the developed world, it does not resound as strongly with the second religious (Christian and Jewish) sense of the former. Thus, in anglophone countries it makes little sense to call a political group 'The Western Party', while in France during the 1960s anel '70s, as Badiou recalls, 'l'Occidcnt' was the name of an extreme right-wing party ... 3. Translator's note: 'Bougnoul' is a racist term which is employed in France to designate North-Africans or Arabs.

CHAPTER 9

The definition of philosophy
Philosophy is prescribed by several conditionsxhat arc the types of truth proced ures, or generic proced ures. 1 These types are science (more precisely, the matheme) ,art (more precisely, the poem), politics (more precisely) politics i!!interiority or the politics ofemancipation) and'tlovc (~ore precisely, the procedure that makes truth out of the disjunction of sexuated positions). ~hi!osophy is the place of t~lO~2:~t W?:J:. bo.~h the 'there are lzl y a] of truths and their CODlPQSSlblhty IS stated. In .order to do this, philosophy sets up an operating category, Truth, which openLllJLanactive void within thought.Jb~ void is located according to the inverse of a sucdsslr)n" (the style of argumenta~ive exposition) and the beyond of a limit (the style of persuas'iv_e,' 'of subjeetivizing, exposition). Philosophy, as discourse, thus organizes the superposition of a fiction of knowing and a fiction of art. _ ~n.~ll~_\1Q~ OpelleQ-;:9-?'8~~~aR,or ~nte~val_~f ~ll.~~ fictionings, philosophy sezzesJruths.. TIllS seizure IS ItS aq1.\By this act, philosophy declares that there arc truths, and ensures that thought is seized by this 'there are'. The seizure by the act attests to the unity of thought.

164

165

Infinite Thought
Fiction of knowing, philosophy imitates the matheme. Fiction of art, it imitates the poem. Intensity of an act, it is like a love without object. Addressed to all such that all may be within the seizure of the existence of truths. it is like a political strategy without the ~'tak'es' of power. . Via this quadruple discursive imitation,_philosQP\:!Y... nors k the system of its conditions into itself: This is the reason why a philosophy is homogenous to itsepoch's stylistics. Nonetheless, this permanent contemporaneity orients ritself not towards empirical time, but towards what Plato calls'tl1~21VY.<lY.s of time', towards the internporal essence of time that philo~?phy names eternity. The philosophical seizure of truths' exposes them tQ eternity; one could say, with Nietzsche, to the eternity of their' return. This eternal exposition is all the more real in that the truths are seized in the extreme urgency and extreme precariousness of their temporal trajectory. , . . The act of seizure, such as an eternity orientates it,.t~;1;[~· truths from the straightjacket of sense;.i~ separaterJb<;!!!..frw the law of the world. Philosophy is subtrac;tivf; in that jj. .makes a hole in sense, or interrupts - such that the truths ~.may all be said together - the circulatioDQL.s.ense. Philosophy is asenselessact; yet, in that,jtj~.r:.-~~;). Philosophy is never an interpretation of experience. It is the act of Truth in regard to truths. And this act, which, according to the law of the world, is unproductive (it does not produce even one truth), places a subject without object, open solely to the..truths that pass in its seizing. \ Let us call '~rel1g10n'~ everything which supposes a icontinui ty between truths and the circulation of s.ell.~t;. Philosophy, then, against all hermeneutics, that is, against the religious law of sense,scts 0':l..!-...~?E2E9~SiI21_f'~~E~ili~ rQhe..) o basis of the void. It, thus subtracts thought fr.Qllj.f.v~[y presupposition of aJ~.e, The s~hh~~~ilv~~3Peratu;;ls by which philosophy seizes these truths 'outside sense' come under tour modalitiesxjhe
166

The definition ~rjJhilosophy

~~~~~<:i~~g.l~.J which relates to the event ('l.JrIJJh is not; it -Qi:~HJ~);:the i!?-clis<';:.f!:!!i.ble" which relates t(~Jr e '" (the traiec~ory o~ a truth is llOt·~o.!IS!ralhed,··l;ut Ifat:i7' 9"ils'1~he
generIc, which relates to being (the being of a truth is an infi~ite set subtracted fr~m every predicate of knowledge); and '~he ~11?arnea?I~, which relates to the Good (forcingthe nomination of an unnameable engenders disaster). The .schema ?f c?nnec~ion of the four subtractive figures (undecidable, indiscernible, generic and unnamcable) specifies a philosophical doctrine of the Truth. This schema .lays:ieized_,- thougbr.ofrhe. YQid.QQxhepasis of~;hichtrutfi7, out the .are.. ' ." '.. _ ..._-_...._-...__ ....

a?~ers~ry,{~~.:SC;Rl1~1) The sophist is externally (or
discursively] indiscernible from tile philosopher, since his operation also combines fictions of kno,~ledge and fictions of art. Subjectively, the two are opposed, because the sophist's linguistic strategy aims at doing without any pOSitive assertion concerning truths. In this sense, we can also define philosophy as the act by which indiscernible discourses are _revertheless opposed, or rather as what separatesit~;e1ffr()]TI its double. 'Philosophy is always the breaking of a mirror. This mirr()E.i~:hl':SUr~'1.,-:eg(I.a.rgllilg,~Ll1Pon hich the sophist w places everythmg which philosophy deals with in its act. If the philosopher would c(mtemplaf€:himself upon this surface alone, then he will see his double, the sophist, emerge there, and thereby he could take the latter for himself This relat.iont.o~he sophist exposes philosophy internally to a temptatlOn'\ihose effect is to divide it again. Because the desire to finish with th(~ sophist once andjor all impedes the seizure of truths: 'once and for all' inevitably means that Truth annuls the chance of truths, and that philosophv _::vrongfully declares itself productive of truths. Through SUCll a declaration being-true ends up in the position of stand-in for the act of Truth.
167

, , ,Evt;ry, philosophical process

IS

polarized by a specific

Infinite Thought
A triple effect of the sacred, of ecstasy and terror .thereby corrupts the philosophical operation, and can lead it from the aporctic void that sustains its act to_uiminS!.tJ?!_f~:rip= tiQI}l', By which philosophy induces" every disastefiiithought, The ethics of philosophy, which wards .off disaster, consists entirely in a constant reserve with r<;g;:trd__to its sophistic double, a reserve which allows philosophy to remove itself from the temptation of dividing itself (according to the couple void/substance) in order to deal with its original foundational duplicity (sophist/philosopher). The history of philosophy is the history of its ethics: a succession of violent gestures via which philosophy has withdrawn itselffrom its disastrous reduplication. Or rather: 'philosophy in .its.i history is. l1othing more .. than.a.xlesuhstantialization of the Truth, which.isalsQthe~':lto-liberation of its act.

CHAPTER 10

Ontology and politics
An interview with Alain Badiou

Note
1. This paper appears in the collection, A. Bacliou, Conditions (Paris: Seuil, 1992), 7982.

OF: Can you elab'orate your concept of structure, given that you identify it as the operator of the count-far-one of a situa tion? 1 AB: The problem is how a multiplicity becomes consister-J'
,presentati?Il.:~and, second., at the level of'representation, .Structure IS the name I give to the combination of the two }evels, presentation and repre~~nt!tlon. Structure is not the same thing as the state of a situation because the state of the situation is only the second level, the level of representation. Structure includes the first level of presentation, belonging, and the second level also - the state, the second count-forone. Structure, I think, has two determinations and not one determination. The first is the level of presentation, which only designates that some sort of multiplicity is in the situation. The second level, the state, of inclusion, designates that multiplicity is not corrupted by the void. Structure consists of both levels.
There_<:lr~.!Wo responses to this question: first, at the level of

168

169

r name this sort of difference 'predicative difference'. And since truth is rare. But the access to this knowledge is very different. a horse is not a cat.his point is true in the ontological situation.. situations are seized in their being and the difference becomes ontological difference. Is then the inverse possible. It IS possible th~t this terminology is not very good and I have to change It. cats. This is not very different to the fact that. From the point of view of knowledge. predicates. because one set is the identity of a multiplicity.in the end it's the same thing. The type of infinity is not the same but all these considerations are only practicable from the point of view of the process of the truth. the situations are different on the basis of experiences and the encyclopaedia of knowledge. etc. for you.n. Here we have to think that the multiplicity of the situation is not the same as another multiplicity. though the count-for-one remains a part of my thinking. The operation is not distinct from the multiplicity in itself. and not from the point of view of the encyclopaedia of knowledge. representation and so on. which requires the introduction of other concepts than presentation.Infinite Thought OF: Can one ask what counts-for-one a situation? Does it make sense to ask what performs the operation of the countfor-one of the situation? Is there an agent? AB: The operation is the situation itself. but it's the same thing in other situations because I don't concern myself with qualitative identity.an anonymous situation . it doesn't always happen: not every situation is truthful." But the true problem is the question of the localization of being. JC: It's clear that these points of view arc very different the point of view of knowledge which is obviously in a situation. OF: It appears to be the privilege of the situation of ontology that the registers of unity and identity are dearly separated. and. because the real problem is the variation between being and being-there. A truth. horses. I don't know. names. The unity of the multiplicity is the ontological identity. But my thesis is that in a situation there is always an encyclopaedia of knowledge which is the same for everybody. OF: How can non-ontological situations be differentiated if not on the basis of some universal language into which they are all translated? 170 Ontology and politics AB: The difference between situations is a matter of experience.and situations from the point of view of knowledge. which is not predicative. for different beings. 171 . that in a situation everyone has access to knowledge? AB: In a situation the access to knowledge is different for different people. There is no presentation of multiplicity and the operatio. Th: operation is the same thing as the presentation. From the point of view of truth. And t. We have to distfriguisll situations from the point of view of truth' -. the terminology is reworked. The set is not the same. In the work in progress. In a situation there is always a distribution of predicates which establish this sort of difference. Are they necessarily fused in your account of the structures of non-ontological situations? AB: I don't think there is at this point a privilege of the situation [of ontology] because in every situation in thinking the problem of unity and of identity arc indiscerni~l~: I have to elaborate the question of identity from the tfuestlOn of the unity of the multiplicity it's the same thing. and there are predicative differences between situations. and the point of view of tru th. It's a problem of the localization of being and not only a problem of structure or of the count-for-one. indiscernible in a situation. etc. mathematics. we can say that in a situation there is an ideological dispositif [apparatus] which is dominant . \Ve can speak in Marxist terms. is universal.

In L'Etre el l'clJcnement. real decisions. he says. I say that the name of the event is the matter ofa pure decision and 1 have to change that point. no I think that in Marxism. 'Decisions. So. myself . Would you agree with Lukacs? Once the decision is made is there a basis for knowing that you have made the right decision? AB: I think there is no decisionism at all in my philosophy. and for other analytical philosophers it is 173 172 . GB: Can I ask a related question? This is a very naive question. to the logical conseq uences of the eve~t. The effect of the event is a profound Ontology and politics transformation of the logic of the situation and that is not an effect of decision. Bu t in Marxism also there is a series of truths. Delcuze. For very different thinkers . the genericity of the procedure of truth is effective in . objective consequences and logical consequences. So. In the current form of my work I don't attribute the decision to the name of the event.. and for the. It IS not exactly the same as in L'Etre et l'eoenement. to recognize that nothing attests that a genenc procedure IS a~thentically generic.' but from the point of view of Marxism he can understand the entirety of bourgeois knowledge and supersede it. but to the event dire::t~y and. there is a basis for knowing that you have taken the right decision and a basis for discussion with other people who are not yet Marxists. The decision is uniquely to be faithful to the transformation. As you recall the standing point of totality is one that is both ontological and takes in the entirety of bourgeois knowledge. History and Class Consciousness.about the. precede the facts. But I think there's some confusion here because. It's not very good terminology.ople about the logical consequences of being or not bemg faithful [to the event]' What the conseq uences are in an. now.. The difliculty is that in T' Etre et l'cvcnernent.Infinite Thought JC: Would you say Marxism talks about encyclopaedic knowledges but doesn't talk about the truth? AB: No. So.Heidegger. you can have a discussion with ot~er pe. These consequences are separated by the event.could you explain by example? AB: I. situation involves a rational discussion. after the decision is made.. and this IS not so different from the Marxist conception in which you can say that practice is a mix of decision and theoretical con~rol of decisions. if I could explain that.the p~ocess i~sclf. a sort of new Carl Schmitt. you say: 'In the same situation. This point is very important because major philosophical differences are linked to it. Lacan. Truth is the proof of itself There is no external guar~nte:. Lyotard said that I was an absolute decisionist. I remember in George Lukacs. same event. the category of Marxism designates the same thing that I designate by the dispositi] of the encyclopaedia of knowledge. the crucial question is the event and the event is not the result of a decision. the terminology of the nomination. Truth is an index SUI.there is a conviction that truth has no guarantee. OF: There are some questions related to this discussion. IS part of a transformation of my concept of the subject. different criteria [of connection] could exist which define different fidelities. what would mark a generic procedure as genuinely generic? You have said a non-generic authoritarian or theological position would fuse truth and sense . So. ThIS.t is necessary. 1 now think that the event has consequences. which is different from ideology. How can you avoid decisionism? And. after all. finally.t" How would a local co'niest between two generic procedures be anything other than a :ontest of power and interpretations? From a perspective Immanent to a historical situation.d . I am not a decisionist at all . Spinoza. There is a complete misreading on this point. On this point I ~Iave th~ same conception of truth as Spinoza.

Infinite Thought necessary for truth to have guarantees judgement.!:.t_~~~Jlle::<. Ontology is a situation. If I am faithful to a political event. There is no super subject. Ontology is not Hegel's absolute knowledge! tr~.i.]. in another sltuifionffiere is a su1:iTectjifJ~ve-Wlrich-ti-dttIer~iif. It is a matter of the concrete situation. the ontological situation which is the situation of thinking. 111 Ontology and politics thought and JC: If that's the case then there are no subjects. Yet in L' Etre et I'eoenement. There is no problem at all in fact.Cl.Ill1:ill. I don't say in L'Etre et I'eoenemeni that destruction 174 175 . is there a super-Christian subject within the religious situation? For example.. There is no abstract possibility for grasping this sort of situation..0'~~f political (!Ei0Jl.._aJ.-in·-a-tntnt·sinf. say I'm faithful to an event and engaged in a generic procedure and there are some other people who think thcv are in the same historical situation and who are faithful to the event in another generic procedure.t*~ OF: A related question. after May '68 on the one hand. there is a multiplicity. and on the other hand I am in love with a woman. To explain that. We can say. A concrete situation is an interplay of different situations in the ontological sense of the term.~.~)~r~':':.llie-Cbiill§ su bi~~Jt OF: So. and say that destruction is a necessary partner of crea tion.e.::~_:~?. That is the concrete analysis of the situation. It is not an ontological problem. the mathematical situation. in your sense.:.r:sk.c. very di':'.IQrtr~hing.i?~tion there_ca~ be a Slrl5Ject. working within a situation. the Occidental situation from the Roman Empire and so on.:!. and finally. you change your position and say that any violence arises from the state of the situation and is not a necessary part of the generic procedure.IhIT..~~l. an infinity of multiplicities and so on. ~~~~_e. How would we judge each other or is there just conflict? AB: There is no abstract answer to that sort of problem. for the event. There is a particularity ofth~ situation and the subject is a particular subject:J~ philosophical category . it is infinite and so on.. The situation is always traversed by different generic procedures at difkrent levels which concern different situations.but in your terms? Can you consider the subject in these terms? AB: I don't think so. But a concrete situation is not exactly the ontological scheme of the situation. Destruction signifies that a part of the situation can be destroyed for the new.I!19fi':'-. because they enter into the process of becoming a subject.~)he su~ has very ~gll.~t!.~g.~ __categnry.Q. A subject is a subject of a definite situation. OF: If a generic procedure is the truth of a situation do generic procedures traverse more than one situation? AB: Two generic procedures are never actually in the same situation of reference because they are truths of their situations.__ - AB: I think that in Theorie du sujet destruction is a dialectical concept..!1fr~~~_<:~gs:.rs. It is sometimes necessary.(s.~.5!t~h}..r. that's my situation. We can think a part ofthe concrete situation from the ontological schema. Is there one 'tiber-subject' or 'ultra-subject' that we can consider 'Christian' that's still faithful to the event of Christ? A subject which has lasted over 2000 years and which is that subject in its very slow vanishing (in our terms) . something must go'. It is the principal split today. But there is a concrete analysis which is not ontological at all. it's not an individual person who is a subject in your sense. Ontology is not by itself the thinking of a concrete situation. well.ub. Tn Theone du sujet you embrace Heiner Muller's maxim: 'For something to come. \Vhy the change? -- ~h~5:.

destruction mayor may not be part of that event. destruction and the event are independent of each other. and this point is the crucial point. We always 177 . AB: It is always possible that destruction takes place amongst the consequences of an event. on the other hand. Naturally. But if we take another paradigm it appears that destruction is a particularity of the consequences of the political event but not an internal characteristic of the process of truth in itself. the being. It can be necessary to destroy something for the newness of the event. and on the other hand.' example. Being is unfolded in multiple ways because its unfolding is only presented in the multiple of languages' (321-2). the kernel of the process. not at all. on the one hand. I think that creativity is a sort of affirmation and not a sort of negation. Because I think the newness is a supplementation and not a destruction.but language doesn't constitute the ontological differences. following all the consequences of the Terror may have been legitimate and ethical. but in a sense destruction may be an essential part of an event? Sometimes destruction will be part of an event: can vou be faithful to the consequences of that destruction'? Fo. it was because 176 Ontology and politics political truth was the point. JC: Can you then think if.Infinite Thought is always a bad thing. of the multiplicities. I t can just be a consequence. It's a part of the partieula\lty of ~. political truth was paradigmatic for me. What must be added to this to distinguish it from what you precisely characterize as the ontology of 'idealinguistery' (linguistic idealism)? AB: Yes. But I don't think it is a necessary part of the newness. The transformation of the situation is always against some people rich men. men in power.v. you have predicative diversity in the encyclopaedia of knowledge and the diflerence between parts of a situation is always seized by predicative difference. is a complex relation. In Theorie du sujet I thought that negativity was creative in itself and I don't think that now. yes. When I wrote 'destruction is necessary'. You can't always avoid destruction. in political events this relation is very difficult to think and control. affirmation and supplementation. The idea is simple. In political events and generic processes the violence is always there because many people don't like newness. There is an access via language to difference in knowledge . it is a sort of citation of Wittgcnstein. The text is not very good. a sort of strange beast between vVittgenstein and me. OF: In L'Etre et l'eoenemeni you say: 'The heterogeneity of language games is at the base of the diversity of situations. it is not my thinking that language constitutes differences. So the text is only saying that in the knowledge of the situation we have an access to differences by the medium of language. destruction and violence. It is possible that for the becoming of the newness something has to be destroyed but it is not the essence.~~nt. by the medium of predicates. And when we have the capacity of having the point of view of truth we understand that the differences which arc ontological differences are absolu tely distinct from predicative differences. In political truth the relation between. The idea is that being in a situation. the relation between destruction and affirmation. 'Idealinguistery'. So difference in knowledge is predicative. From my point of view this is to fuse knowledge and truth. something which comes. linguistic idealism. It is something which happens.t. it is the source of difference. say. From the point of view of knowledge. the language of the situation is the medium of knowledge. But finally the true differences are the differences of the sets themselves. in the French Revolution.first point . I think that in Theorie du sujet. consists in thinking that language constitutes differences.

The truth creates the understanding of the process of truth and the subject is this sort of understanding. I am more and more convinced of this. With this schema we can understand the situation. Because when the subject is constituted in the concrete development of a truth. Such a subject is a transformation of knowledge. or in a concrete artistic creation we are not in the ontological situation. because we have to work for that sort of understanding. the truth needs nothing ot~er than itself. 'What is the difference between different situations?' I think it is the question . truth from doxa. a complete transformation of knowledge. to have an access to the real and when we don't separate truth from knowledge we don't have access to the real and then we have the possibility of declaring that language constitutes differences. So. in Marx's language. There is an ontological schema of the situation.abstraction. OF: To return to ontological schemas. the mathematical categories and so on. tr~tlt is -' not a q uesuon of knowledge.lution.c. to 1905. or in Plato's language. subtraction ~ but how can the ontological difference be traversed in the other direction (in a positive manner)? AB: It's the same problem! There is just one question. But I think we don't have to go in the other direction. and I have to insist that this is the crucial point of philosophical discussion today. we know how to proceed from non-ontological situations to the situation of ontology . 179 . terrible work! But from the point of view of singular truth we have an access from the event itself and not from preconstituted knowledge. Prior knowledge is always necessary to understand the being. So it is not a prerequisite to have prior knowledge. and that sort of experience has nothing to do with ontology. something about the evental site and so on. are we able to understand the situation from the point of view of truth or only from the point of view of 178 Ontology and politics knowledge! If we can understand the situation from the point of view of truth then there is a process of truth which is irreducible to the ontological categories. When we are in a political fight. But the key point is the difference between knowledge and truth. something about the historical character of the situation. V~TY impQr~~t:T~. We can! It is very difficult sometimes. from ontology to concrete situations. something about the natural multiplicity. It's.for you! The moment of thinking from concrete situations is by subtraction and abstraction and the question is how are we going [can we go] in the other direction. GB: What happens when the real event lies in the future Lenin in 1917? Could you explain your understanding of Lenin in 1917? Because vou can say that Lenin was faithful before the Russian Revl. The crucial point is. and it is. DR: Are you saying then that it is impossible to understand a situation ontologically without prior experience or knowledge of the ontological essence of a situation? AB: My conviction is that everybody who is engaged in faithfulness in the relation to an event has an understanding of the situation. but we can. the ontological schema of the situation. It IS the ~~ciioii)Jf knowledge. We can think the ontological structure of that situation. This is the reason why the people who defend knowledge are against events: the subject which is constituted within a truth. has no need of knowledge. he or she experiences the situation. \\Te have a concrete situation. truth from ideology. So we can think about infinite multiplicity. directly. 'What says that a particular situation has a certain ontological schema? \\That criteria can be used to judge this given that all nonontological qualities of the situation have been subtracted when it is written in ontology? That is. or in love. in a way.Infinite Thought have to separate truth from knowledge or.

he refers systematically to events and not exclusively to the doctrine or theory. a multiplicity of historical sequences. Knowledge is important. there is nothing like 'History'. in contrast to Trotsky and others. of the multiplicity of truths. but the faithfulness which consti tutes the subject the revolutionary subject. nihilism and so on. If I say. I am neither Hegelian. There are historical sequences. nor Heideggerean! Because the common feature of Hegel and Heidegger's thought is precisely that of thinking there is a History of being and thought. There is an example which is very clear for me. for example. 181 . he was faithful to the French Revolution and the Paris Commune it's another thing. of modern physics. How exactly would you distance yourself from Heidegger's history of being? AB: If history is constituted by events and generic truths there is no unified history. You also talk of the modern epochal decision as to the infinity of being. he was not faithful to Marxism . Lacan thought that the majority of psychoanalysts had forgotten that event.Infinite Thought AB: Lenin explained that he was faithful to the Commune of Paris. I think there is a profound historicity of truth. the political subject . which is quite natural. Lenin was in the middle of the people who were Marxists in the first years of the twentieth century yet. naturally ~ but he was not faithful to Marxism. Just before the Renaissance Greek 1RO Ontology and politics mathematics were forgotten. Lenin danced on the snow! The constitution of Lenin as a subjective revolutionary depends on the fact that. not Freud as a person. There is always an event for faithfulness and we know that when the Russian Revolution lasted longer than the Paris Commune. Lacan says that the American psychoanalysis was not faithful to Freud and that his faithfulness is a faithfulness to Freud. I agree with you.he was a Marxist. The Renaissance was the capacity to be faithful in reading to these absolutely fi:>rgotten and obscure writings.is not made of knowledge but made of other things than knowledge. metaphysics. OF: In L'Etre et l'euenement you argue that historicity is constituted by events and generic procedures. not even as a theory. It is very surprising to see that Greek mathematics in the Renaissance and in the first years of the l700s were constituted as a faithfulness to Archimedesafter a long obscurity since the text had existed but nobody could read it. but as an event in thinking. It's a very important point and it is the same question. AL: You seem to situate the question of the event as a historical phenomenon and I was reminded when you were speaking of Lacan's comment in Encore where he compares Lenin's relation to Marx with his own in relation to Freud. So there are events in thinking. Is that something you would consider? AB: Yes. In the case of Lenin it is very interesting. On the one hand. rather there are histories of truths. since truth is a process and not a donation. I think it is necessary to speak of historicity and not of a History. of universal thinking. then I think the event of the creation of modern mathematical physics opens a sequence of the thinking or understanding of Nature. That sort of thing has nothing to do with the Heideggerean conviction of a monumental history of being from the Greeks until the present day with its sequences of the forgetting of being. So. It's interesting to think about the relation of fidelity and truth not so much in relation to a political or cultural event but to an event in thought itself. that there is a sequence after Galileo. on the other hand. But there is not a History of being' or a History of truth. especially the writmgs of Archimedes. The case of Lacan is very clear.

It is not a deduction. for example. we must draw as a conclusion a sort of ethics of thinking from that history. a lot of philosophers say precisely that. a modern conviction. Because mathematics is the only rational thinking of infinity. This faithfulness to Cantor is not yet accomplished. We must liberate this category from the theological conception. there is no necessity to say that all situations are infinite. It is a new axiom. and then to (2) every situation is infinite? AB: When I say that all situations are infinite. why we can send man to the moon and back? 183 182 . OF: One classic ontology have to non-ontological ontology have to question for a philosopher. It is impossible to deduce this point. Absolutely. But the question is not there. because finite multiplicities exist. Because we come after a long philosophical period in which the theme of finitude and the conviction that all situations are finite was dominant. it's an axiom. the question is not purely objective. We are being-for-the-infinite. The consequences of the tact that situations are infinite . from the point of view of the strictest ontology. Such is the theme of the essential finitude of the human being. dominant ideology.we don't know them very well. because for Andrew mathematics is a science itself. It is better for thinking to say that situations are infinite. The story of infinity has bee~ marked by theological thinking for a long. In fact. now. If my ontology is linked with mathematics. with mathematics and this is why I often say one philosophical task is to be faithful to Cantor. In pure objectivity it is always possible to say there are finite situations. that situations arc finite. and we are suffering the effects of that sort of conviction. I think it is necessary to work against that kind of conviction.M: So your mathematics supports that. being for death and so on. It constitutes a rupture to say that situations are infinite and that human life is infinite and that we are infinite. T is a new axiom and we t Ontology and politics have to explore its consequences. AB: There are two different questions. that it is very difficult to reduce a situation to finite parameters. Naturally. It is a conviction. doesn't any attempt to explain why science works? AL: It is related to why you think mathematics is the answer to this q uestion of inlinity. the theme of infinity is most important in that link. OF: No.Irifi"nite Thought OF: Why do you say all or almost all situations are infinite when set theory does not say that all sets are infinite? How do you move from saying the modern decision that being is infinite to: (1) there is an infinity of situations. Doesn't any ontology have to attempt to explain why science functions. I think it is better to think that all situations are infinite. It is an axiomatic conviction. Doesn't any include an account of its applicability to situations? For example. Today. It is possible only today. for us. The ethics of thinking today is to say that it is better to think that all situations are infinite. that's what you're saying? AB: Yes. For example. and mathematics is the unique means for doing so. long time. for a long time. imperialism versus socialism and so OIl. we are mortal beings. L. It is more interesting and more attuned to the necessity of the times than declaring that we are finite and all is finite. Marxism itself had the conviction that all situations could be reduced to finite parameters: two-class struggle. with a great deal of caution. The first question is: Is ontology able or not to explain science and the functions of science? The second question is: Wh y is mathematics necessary in ontology itself? It is not the same question. Just one question. vVe must think the infinity of the situations without the theological conception. as you know.

a consistent theory of inconsistent multiplicity. and the contingency of the event of which the truth is the process of consequences. The ontology of truth. The difficulty in my conception is that ontology has to explain why science operates but ontology is mathematics. Science doesn't organize that discussion. It is a very important point. In the work in progress. it is not particular to my philosophy.Infinite Thought AB: Yes. So philosophical categories are appropriate for thinking the relation between science as science and science as an ontological enterprise. First in a situation there is no reason for the existence of that situation. the event itself is marked by contingency. I am not Leibnizean. there is no intrinsic interior mark of the necessity of the situation. In your article on Wittgenstein there is a passage on the relation between being and the laws of existence. This is the reason why philosophy is necessary. This question has bcen a part of philosophy since the Greeks. on the one hand. We must say fill' example. This is also the case with Bergson. the second book of L' Etre et l'euenement. On the other hand. In L' Etre et l' enenement the same thing occurs. mathematics or physics. Philosophy is the method for organizing the discussion between science and science. a real problem. who mounts 184 Ontology and politics a philosophical discussion between the theory of life and the theory of life. the 'rnondanite du monde' [the worldhood of the world]. Science doesn't include an evaluation of its double nature. I have to explain that the process of truth is not necessary but contingent. The consequences of such contingency for the concept of truth will then have to be explained because in the philosophical tradition truth is always linked to necessity 185 . Philosophy is not an interpretation of science. In my philosophy there are two instances of contingency and so of modality. There is a complex relation between ontology and science because there is an ontological status of science itself. science on the side of specific prod uction and science as a part of the thinking of being qua being. The question is more complex than anything I have ever written! No. \Ve have a complex relation between ontology and science. There is a philosophical discussion between set theory as a mathematical creation and set theory as an ontological thinking. As a matter offact it is its task. I don't think there is a principle of sufficient reason. the thinking of the being of the truth. if being is inconsistent multiplicity the consequence of this thesis is that ontology is necessarily a sort of set theory. a philosophical discussion between the mathematics of the working mathematicians and mathematics as part of thinking being itself. A large part of L' Eire et l' evenement tries to explai n with the means of mathematics why mathematics is ontology. Philosophy is able to organize the discussion between science and science or to think the double nature of science. is a theory of modality. There is a double contingency of truth: the contingency of the situation of which it is the truth. or biology (which is the case for Aristotle). In Plato we can say that there is a discussion between Greek mathematics and Greek mathematics. but I understand it very well. in my case ontology and mathematics. There is an irreducible contingency to a situation because. so mathematics has to explain how mathematics operates and it is a real problem. One part of philosophy is to organize discussion between science and science. What is it that regulates the fact that there are certain situations which exist? The question is: What will be the role of modality in your new work? Are you developing another logic of modality or another modal ontology: AB: It is a terrible question. which I am going to publish one day. There is no intrinsic relation between science and philosophy. OF: A question on modality. in the case of Kant between ontology and physics. A large part of Aristotle's work is devoted to a discussion between biology and the science of the being of living beings.

which is the name for the logical constitution of the situation. of the localized multiplicity. in my conviction. In the and not to contingency. It is such because the being of an event is to disappear. to evaluate the difference between a large transformation and a weak logical transformation. It's necessary. This movement from a logic to another logic is the real effect of truth procedures. It's between cla:ssical logic . The means for interpreting this sort of differenceisthe Iransformation of the logical apparatus of the situation. it's unavoidable. It is thus necessary to explain what a logical transformation is when you move from one logic to another logic. but not so technical that it is impossible to explain! JC: If that's the case and you have to think that truth in the classical sense is always necessary. It is perfectly possible. The logic is of the da. long sequences of truth. A truth is a transformati~m of the articulation of the multiplicity of the situation . Is there then a possible meta-logical. both of the event and of the situation. of here. This is a technical question. It is only possible to understand this movement if we have a solid conception of the logic of a situation. then in classical philosophy there's no dispute possible about the force of the truth the truth is maybe pure force.Its logic. maybe you can talk about big or small events and these are quantitative differences? Are there qualitative differences in the being of truths of different situations? AB: It is possible to treat that sort of difference as qualitative difference because they concern the appearance of the situation. It expresses the contingency of the situation. the sort of contingency which is linked to the central ontological void of the situation. of localization. It is possible in my elaboration of this question. JC: Is it also a qualitative difference? Are there different beings of the truth of differen t cven ts? Can.Infinite Thought Ontology and politics and the differences between a big event and a little event. in terms offorce. I can demonstrate that the logic of the situation is a sort of modal logic. set theory is classical . or brief sequences.just a "sori-or illumination but the consequences of an event within a situation are always very different and it is true that there are major consequences.because being in itself is classical. We have to think not only multiplicity but also multiplicity here -. if truth is contingent. that sort of logic is between classical logic and intuitionist logic. or metaontological way to talk about the contingency ofthejorce of an event? AB: The distinction between events is alwavs a distinction between the consequences of events because an event in itself is always a perfect weakness.and this transformation is linked to contingency. and each situation has a truth and there is a being of that truth. However. then. if you are talking about a transformation in the logic of situations. Localization requires a sort of transcel~dental conception of the situation. A truth doesn't express a necessity of the situation. The event is nothing . There are a large variety of truths. The logic of a situation is different to its being. then you are left with the question of the force of a truth in a situation 186 187 . In thls book I transform the concept ofsituation which inL'Etre et l'eoenement is only thought from the point of view of pure multiplicity: this gives an ontological conception of situation.not sein. All of a situation's characteristics are affected by the transformation of its logic.but the logic of the situation. is a transformation . but da-sein. which doesn't exist at all! treats appeanlllce.not of the being of a situation. the being of an event is disappe(l}:!PZ. This question is a logical question because truth. The second book of L'Etre ei l'ivinement _. because its being remains the same but of the logic of the situation.

. If there's a fidelity or faithfulness to the event. not outside it. The reactive subject is the sllbject who says the 'event is. How would you view that now.Ql1~~j:~Q'i'i-t their persistent response to the question of the Holocaust. in that you would wish . a sort of treason. AB: Unfaithfulness for me is always what happens to a faithfulness. and not localized from the point of view of totality because there is no such totality. it's the same thing.~tive subject.. RH: So renunciation is not an event? IV: No. in my words. AB: I think it is not a faithfulness to another event. AB: Yes. cer~ain co~te~p(~:ary philosophers are perhaps f. . Louis has a question about the Holocaust. 'Many philosophers have said that after Auschwitz it is impossible to philosophize or that great philosophy has crashed and so on.sein-da . RH: This follows on from Justin's question and from the example of Lenin. it is a sort of indifference. . OF: Three more questions. My question is: How shall we view your response to that? Can we indeed suggest.. Important or unimportant can be said from inside the situation. So when we say that the consequences of an event are significant.. you always have to have first faithfulness and then you get unfaithfulness. unfaithfulness. as perhaps a conceited response as well. the question of the conceitedness of those French philosophers? AB: The difIiculty of the problem is that the question of Auschwitz and the Holocaust is in my opinion a profound political question which has not yet been clarified.not important' and "so"on. In my opinion the philosophical discourse about it is a substitute for the lack of a political treatment of the question. but perhaps incorrectly to move on or to attempt to move on. IV: He renounces his fidelity. we are saying the logical transformation of the situation can be evaluated from the situation itself as an important transformation and the norm of that sort of evaluation is in that situation itself.Infinite Thought second book there is the same ontological conception of the situation but I have to explain that the situation is not only a multiplicity but also a multiplicity-here . .. The true problem is that for complex reasons there has been no political treatment 189 LM: You wrote at the beginning of the Manifesto that I .. I am very sorry. IV: There's no unfaithfulness as such. a 'new philosophy'? You wrote that around 1989.--ilot unfaithfulness.. AB: Ifin a situation somebody doesn't care about the event at all it is not.not necessarily incorrectly. You can't be unfaithful as such... "'.QlJ1 the point of view of already having faithfulness .!ln my "curient elaboratioti I narhelnisposlfiClh Tli~-r~<l.. RH: Is that faithfulness to another event? IV: No. but --iha'ti'. it is indifference and indifference is always a form of reaction to the event. Unfaithfulness is 188 Ontology and politics when a subject is constituted by faithfulness but that faithfulness disappears. or view your response..a localized multiplicity.. There is a characteristic of multiplicity which is that of being here. But I think this is not the true problem.. and it is necessarily internal to the situation: such is the appearing of the situation or its logical constitution. surely unfaithfulness to the event can always be faithfulness to another event? Which is also a question related to the ontological difference. Unfaithfulness is only something thi I1kahkfI. unfaithfulness is renllT\"(iatiotl. First.

The crucial point today is what is. Justin. in fidelity to an event of love a woman 190 191 . they're absolutely separate.: This is a question that came from some passages in the Manifesto where you discuss Lacan and his contribution to the philosophical use of love. what is a political task? Is there or is there not a politics of emancipation? Are we all buried in the capitalist period forever:'! The second point is that I don't think it is acceptable to say that because of the history of the century philosophy is impossible or absolutely consummated.. naturally.. I understand perfectly that Lacan is a theoretician of desire and of the unconscious. OF: To finish we have two questions on love. The first one is that it is not possible fill' philosophy to have. they don't intermingle with each other in any way. a better discourse than other thinkings.. after the crash of the socialist state and so on. but it is not the crucial point. ? AB: (To . But there are also many texts and interventions about love in Lacan's work: and I think that the situation of the Lacanian text about love is complex. it's not at all the same thing. as philosophers. Naturally it is the same thing with desire and the unconsciousness but with love. mathematics. Lacan distinguishes love and desire in philosophical terms because he says that love is connected with being and desire is connected with the object. To do this.Justin) You don't know your own question? JC: I can barely remember my own name . which are very complex and very new. it is very interesting . politics.. if we want. yet in 'What is love?' there are two sexuated positions. and the field of psychoanalysis.Infinite Thought of the question of what happened in the Nazi period. you know. AB: I extract love from Lacan because I think love from Ontology and politics Plato onwards is a specific condition of philosophy. it's yours about faithfulness. Philosophy is able to elaborate some categories about the Holocaust. a theoretician of desire and the unconscious.. but second of all to consider what Lacan thought he was. Lacan's conception of love is not the same as that of Freud. about the question of Auschwitz. to negation.. after Auschwitz. Plato says the same thing in the Symposium. complete with formal contradictions. absolutely heterogeneous. It is a political question. and as such paralysing philosophy. we have to. I want to say two different things. or impossible. isn't faithfulness itself an act of love . This is why. Insofar as these are a knotting. I think. the unconscious. I prefer to talk of trying to make a step rather than always saying philosophy is bad. it's not exactly the same thing. It's more to do with the question of fidelity and its possible identity with love. When I say that it is necessarv to take one step further. OF: Last question. So when I say 'one step further' it is simply a manner of saying I don't believe in the discourse of the end. the end of philosophy and so on. the Holocaust and the Nazi period. Because I-prefer affirmation. we are obliged to assign this question to historical and political thinking. You say in those passages almost that Lacan was a theorist of love despite himself. that all philosophers who assume that love is a condition of philosophy have to sustain the experience of the Lacanian text on love. there's man who rnetaphorizes.I wondered why you singled out whv vou take love from Lacan rather than the Fre~dia~ s~bversion. and in my Ethics I try to do something about that. assume the experience of love as a condition of philosophy.that is. For you it seems absolutely crucial that love. we have to assume the Lacanian hypotheses concerning love.. It's interesting to consider that first of all. AI. I was just saying that. and woman who knots the four truth-processes together.

a singular connection between artistic creation and political thought also. it's an old story because. It's a very interesting field. forthcoming from Editions du Seuil. Ralph Humphries. Participants 111 the interview included aside from Badiou himself . Andrew Lewis. Aside from minor grammatical emendations. For instance. whose current title stands as Logiques des mondes (Logics of worlds). between love and science. there is some connection between politics and love. Alain Badiou. 3. their initials appear in the body of the text. very interesting. I am working on this point. the unnameable. numericity and the unnameable and so on. 2.rsit y o~ Melbourne. the indiscernible. Oliver Fcltham. fell' the other conditions.Infinite Thought knots all of these . we find some connection. The crucial concepts are the concept of the numericity of the procedure and the concepts of the connection of the procedure with the event. and also a connection between love and science because love and science are the two procedures which don't know that they are procedures. This interview took place on 8 September 1999. There are some texts in Conditions. a perfect example. the transcript of the interview has been reproduced here in its entirety. As you remark. The discussion was in English. and I demonstrate this with technical concepts. Geoff Boucher. It is not the same. Corneille. in the work of Deleuze. It is not the same with artistic creation. all the French tragedies. and the nature of the stopping point of the procedure. at the C ni~'e. it is possible once you have categories for the different steps of the procedures. Racine. Insofar as the questioners could be identified from the tape-recording. The link between politics and artistic creation is vcrI' elaborate.is one not in love when one is faithful to a political event? AB: The problem is the problem of the connection between the different procedures. . 192 193 . Ontology and politics Notes I. It is necessary to elaborate a general theory of the connections of the knots between different procedures but the difficult point is to have criteria for such an evaluation: however. Louis fvfagee and Dan Ross. for example.~ Isabelle Vodoz. in fact. for example. for example. Editor's note: Badiou was referring to the companion volume to 1/ Eire et l' eomement. the undecidable. It is a problem which is very interesting and complex. With all of these categories it is possible and necessary to have a thinking of the different connections between differen t proced urcs of tru ths. naturally. speak about the link between love and politics. In Lacan. L'Etre et l'evinernent (Paris: Seuil. 1988). We know perfectly that it is a procedure of truth in rivalry with science.2589. J ustin Clemens. there are some similarities between politics and love.

92 Deleuze. A. 96 Hoxha. T. 103. 121 Muller. liS Bergson. 8 Index of Names Aeschylus 62-3. 175 Murnau.181 Heraclitus 92. 188 Levy. 56 Leibniz. 115 Deguy. 42. 1. 56. P. 112-Ui Einstein. 83. 145. G. 149 50. 945. 10. H.15. 103. 45 Cavell. 97 Holderlin. 158. 148 Cantor. S. V.166 194 195 . 185 Lenin. 93 Lazarus. 79. 163 Corneille. S. 156-7 Lucretius 105-7 Lukas. 180. M. passIm Balmes. 136 Bush. 101. 28. F. 138 nA. 35 nA. 184 Kiarostami. 3. M. 31. 136 Hussein. 62-5. 173. 77.61. 108 n. 158. 77. !0O.8 Foucault. M. 91. 13.74. 77 Botelho. J. W.131. J. 154 Godard. 154 :\Ionk. B. W. 91 2. 97-9 Malraux. 115. K. L. 68 Corcoran. A. 10~). 178. T.36 n. 180 Miller.6 Barker. 92 Cohen. 42.W. ]. 45. 34 n. W. 105.83. 121 Malebranche. F. P. 139 n. 91. C. ]. 12. 21.!O8 n. 100.8:1-9. 110.3. 118 Levy. 143 Allen. H.85-6.91. J. 145-6.I-2 Beckett. 26 Brezhnev. 34 n. II. P. 192 Craven. 66 Guattari. 120 Al th usser. 18. 77.-G. G. G. P. 31 Canto. K. G. Bradman. F. X 103 Mallarme. 85. 68. 121 Badiou. H. Bonaparte. 83 Epicurus 107 Fassbinder.14.-F. J. 16. 115 Musset. 39. 4. G. 5 Freud. 77. 184 Bin Laden. 179--80. . 129 Juillarcl. 109. 145. 79. J.Index ~f Names Eastwood. ]. 4. H. 38 n. 29. D. 190-2 Lacoue-Labarthe. 42. 144 Mao Tse-Tung 71-2. F. 1. R. 121 Finley. S.41. A. 83 Nietzsche. B-H. 99 Chaplin.3. G. 116 Fcrncvhough.23. 119 Celan. 116 Boulez. 158. E. 56. S. 42 Galileo. 35 nA Mitterancl.')2 ]aruzclski. 3. 118 Char. de. 13. C. 35 nA. 173. 183 Carnap. 17 Mahler. 77. 91. G. 100. 50. 129 Lacan. 12 Descartes. 184 Armstrong. 119 Nasser. 80. 103. 191 Frege.58-61. 37 n. G. 173.96-8. 172 Lyotarcl. S. 19:1 Derrida. P. J. R. 138 n. 116 Godel. 36 n. A. VV. 19. L. 181 Gaulle. 157. 174. 112. 9. S. P. D. R. F.85.-A. F.22 Gadamer. 136 Marivaux. C. 159 Blair. 142. P. W.45. 181 Heidegger. 156-7 Kant. 35 n. 7. 3 Guevara. 126 7. 29-32. 159 Cage. 10. 85-6 Antonioni. 151 Newton. 140 n. 139 n.65. 79. A.J.I-2 Hegel. 85. K. 72 Benazeraf. S. M. 1.48. 12. G.79. M. L. 60. 92. C.-L. 180. O. 112 Archimedes 181 Aristotle to. 79 Hallward. 119 Marx. C. G. M. 116 Kohl. 110 13.

-D. de 71-2. de. A. B. R. 144 Schmitt. 137 Straub. 9. A. ISO Wendcrs. E. 77.23 Saint-Just. A. P. 129 196 . J. L. 79. 155 Rimbaud . 103.l22 110.42.96-7 Persc. B. G. 123 Tito 136 Trakl.50. A. 120. A.13 Rachmaninov. 124 Pollet. V.infinite Thought Oliveira. 1 J 2. 113 Yeltsin. 70. M. J-M. V. P. 1]() Wittgcnstcin. 36 n. 78 n. 117. B. 184.97. 173 Stalin. 135. 110 Plato 23. B. J. J. A. 92 4. T. S. 122 Strauss. 166. 87. 110.7 Wagner. 97 Trotsky. 115 Parmenides.l 7 Solzhenitsyn. 178. R. C. 36 n. 121 Palma. O.177. 14·} Rohmer. R. 121 Tcchine. M. 147 Spinoza. 1'\11. 154 Quine. 191 Putin. 93 5.69. O. 32. 21. W. D. III Robespierre. 192 Reagan. 100-1. 105-6. W. 128. 172 Schoenberg. 137 Sophocles 63 Sowley.-J.45. 28.S. 121 Racine. L. J. 37 n. 119-20 Rumsfeld. W 116 Sharon. 185 Woo. 159 Russell. 121 Tchaikovsky. 145 Picasso.l Spartacus 131 Spengler. 139 n. 131 Petain. 180 Vitez. 14:) Smith. 39. de. Ilfi. 145. A. Schroerer.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful