Badiou‘s decision

Giving up leadership, then taking it back

Every truly contemporary philosophy must set out from the singular theses according to which Althusser identifies philosophy.1 Alain Badiou, Metapolitics [1998]

In the 1970s Alain Badiou issued furious Maoist polemics against his former teacher. Only decades later did he come to concede the lasting significance of Althusser‘s philosophical project for his own – or at least the corrective theses of Lenin and Philosophy.2 In part this softening of stance could be put down to an inevitable mellowing which comes with age and achievement: the angry and scarcely read Maoist militant of the 1970s and early 1980s transformed into a world renowned philosopher, overshadowing his mentor and becoming possibly the continental tradition‘s most respected living thinker. But the world had also changed in the interim. Where in the 1970s targeting the limitations of Althusser‘s quietist programme could be seen as effecting a maximal scission in theoretical practice, the postcommunist world of the 1990s and beyond would render such antagonism anachronistic. The predominance of discourses of human rights, global governance, and perhaps more than anything else the elevation of the master signifier of ‗democracy‘ to a position of unimpeachable authority – with, conversely, the assignment of communism, militancy, revolution and the will to truth to describe all that went awry in the 20th century – has inestimably reconfigured the terrain. Addressing the prerogatives of Althusserian theoreticism in a 2007 interview, Badiou conceded the role of changing historical conditions in its reappraisal.

Evidently the question of theoreticism does not have the same importance today, but I would say that the relation between philosophy and politics today, or the question (of the role) of theory has once again become very important because the concrete situation has become very difficult and mixed. In those years [‘69-] we had great hope, truly massive, in the situation.3


From this vantage point of the present we can more easily recognise Badiou‘s underlying proximity to his teacher. I preface with these remarks because there is another reason why Badiou‘s philosophy is infrequently considered in even qualified continuity with Althusser‘s. The translation of Badiou‘s books into English proceeding from his 1992 Manifesto for Philosophy, the 1997 critique of Deleuze, The Clamour of Being4, and his 1988 magnum opus, Being and Event, and only recently working backwards to encompass the works of the 60s, 70s, and early 1980s, has certainly prejudiced interpretations in terms of an orientation towards comparisons with more overly metaphysical rivals like Deleuze and Heidegger. Although the rectification of this situation is underway thanks to the efforts of Bruno Bosteels and others in translating earlier works such as Theory of the Subject, and in bringing to attention the renegotiation of Althusserianism across Badiou‘s philosophical trajectory, it remains an underappreciated angle. To what extent Althusser‘s ‗vanishing cause‘ of structural causality persists in Badiou‘s idea of the event, and how formative can be considered Althusser‘s tendency to privilege mathematics as the prototypical scientific practice in influencing Badiou‘s turn towards mathematical ontology, is often clouded by the sharp distinction wherein Althusser maintains history as being a ―process without a subject‖ against Badiou‘s position which could be put oppositely: there is history only insofar as there are events and subjects. In isolating just this inversion, however, it is possible to lose sight of their overall conceptual affinity, and moreover the political determinations contextualising their separation. The matter at hand therefore demands a reconstruction of the implosion of the Althusserian movement after 1968, up to which time two of Althusser‘s prodigious students – Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou – remained constructive partners in the structuralist endeavour. By tracing the genesis of Badiou‘s ideas to their Althusserian origin it is then possible to follow how ideas found in Badiou‘s early works re-emerge in the mid to late 1980s after a thoroughgoing purification from Althusserian doctrines. But precisely in regard to uncertainty over the persistent question of intellectual authority in Badiou‘s philosophy (whether construed as scientific or ontological) will this purification be put into question. Although the large and ever-growing secondary literature on Badiou‘s philosophy has traced his theoretical debts to Althusser, curiously little attention has been given to the Badiou‘s rearticulation of the role for intellectual guidance of the masses. Not unsurprisingly readings have fixated on the implication of politics occurring through sequences of unexpected events as opposed to a piecemeal or teleological emergence across drawn out timescales. Is political change a creeping process achieved through the steady building up of

resources, or does it occur through spontaneous flashes that no amount of organization could hope to engineer? Such is the binary to which Adrian Johnston has devoted a book-length study of Badiou‘s conception of political transformation. Johnston examines in detail debates surrounding Badiou‘s conception of the event: noting a dichotomy between those, like Peter Hallward, who see Badiou‘s conception as lending itself to ―flash politics‖, and those, like Bosteels, who place emphasis on the laborious, disciplined work of affirmation after the event.5 Yet whichever way one looks at it neither perspective interrogates the question of intellectual authority in Badiou‘s theory of the event in much depth. This, I suspect, is because of the presumption that the event‘s aleatory being automatically undermines the role for mass guidance. Leninist readings of Badiou‘s philosophy such as Daniel Bensaïd‘s have understandably taken objection to the apparent anti-organizational conclusions that follow from viewing the event as a political miracle bestowed upon militants.6 Badiou‘s post-Maoist formation of the L‘Organisation Politique in the 1980s – with its aim to practice politics without a party organization – of course only serves to reinforce to that impression. But the source of contention only obliquely broached by this emphasis on the temporality of politics is the part played by the intellectual. Or to put it as plainly as possible: just because the militant sequence occurs after an event does this ipso facto imply a diminution of the role for conceptually astute philosophers? If events are necessary for subject and if to some extent the notion of the subject in Badiou‘s mature philosophy is transitive with that of the event, who then is the subject? Who gets to decide an event really is an event? Whose enunciation of what counts as an event is privileged? Given Badiou‘s repeated insistence that the purpose of Being and Event (henceforth, B&E) is to establish a new conception of the subject, and bearing in mind the highly complex formal discourse of subjectivity he establishes in the first and second of his grand philosophy books, why not take Badiou on his word and think the implications of his idea of the event through the question of the subject? If the hallmark of Althusser‘s conception of history as a ‗process without a subject‘ could be more accurately appended with ‗except the masses and their representative institution, the PCF‘ what determination is suitable for Badiou‘s conception of the subject? To approach Badiou‘s philosophy from the right angle to address the above questions, I will demonstrate the theoretical purpose played by the event in establishing a pre-reflective, egalitarian political condition wherein vanguardist ambitions are immediately disqualified from any role in deciding the right time, the right subjects, or the right issues for revolt or revolution. By the same token, we will then see how the supernumerary, unpredictable event is beholden to the subject‘s affirmation to seal its existence. The event‘s duality as a both an

undecideable happening and a result of a discourse of fidelity nonetheless maintains an awkward relationship between the intellectual and mass politics. For Badiou claims the subject of an event is not required to be one who actually took part in it: that is, the subject can be perfectly exterior to the facts on the ground – as the French Maoists were to the actual Chinese Cultural Revolution, and as many of the Maoists were to initial events of Paris ‘68. More problematically still, in the mathematical artifice of B&E the delimitation of the philosopher‘s metaontological discourse to think the ‗presentation of presentation‘, whilst being circumscribed by an inability to produce any truths itself, is an ideal to which the philosophical system will aspire but ultimately fail to maintain. The line between the metaontologists impotent if omnipotent view from outside and the subject‘s active if restricted view from the inside will hit the rocks by the crowning meditations on Paul Cohen‘s theory of forcing. Because from within the mathematical demonstration pursued in a ‗ground model‘ of set theory the excess necessary for the ‗objective‘ event is repressed by the constructive, transitive nature of the model. Thus, there is no irreducible fact of event to be affirmed by an inhabitant inside this model. There is no impetus for an inhabitant subject of a situation to force new truths out of a situation. The egalitarian event is lost. Either a uniquely visionary subject within a situation can just see the possibility for forcing a new truth, or the impetus for the initiation of the truth procedure needs to come from outside: from the philosophical Subject who can prompt those with only their limited vision within any nonontological situation. To clarify, none of the above is said to smite Badiou. I have no intention here to add to the burgeoning genre of anti-Badiou literature, with its accusations of Stalinism, or comparisons between his politics and fascism because of their shared rejection of democracy.7 Quite the opposite, in your present author‘s opinion some kind of intellectual guidance is unavoidable in all forms of politics. The argument rather serves as a genealogical angle to make sense of Badiou‘s political break from Althusser and how he attempted to theoretically resolve this without lapsing into exaltations of democratic revolt. Addressing all of the above points will involve, firstly, a discussion of Badiou‘s early work under the aegis of Althusserianism. Secondly, how the events of 1968 led to the implosion of this project; and particularly the singularity of Badiou‘s break from Althusser in comparison to Rancière‘s and also the political persuasion of the momentarily fashionable Maoist group, Gauche Prolétarienne. Thirdly, how Badiou‘s idea of the event departs from the ‗vanishing cause‘ of Althusser‘s epistemic break by posing the imperative of the subject to actualise its consequences. Fourth, and finally, how B&E strives towards resolving the issue of the

authority of philosophers, but ultimately runs aground within the mathematical universe deployed in Paul Cohen‘s forcing technique. We begin with those consensual years directly preceding ‘68, where Badiou seemed poised to take the mantle of arch Althusserian with his sophisticated text, The Concept of Model. For many of the same concerns will continue to surface in the metaontological edifice of B&E two decades later.

§2.1 Early Work Like other influential offspring of Althusser‘s student cadre (such as Nicos Poulantzas) in 1966 Badiou wrote an extensive review of the high watermark texts of the period – For Marx and Reading Capital – appraising them positively. The review essay, titled ‗(Re)commencement of dialectical materialism‘, isolates the question of change within structural causality as the lynchin upon which ―the ulterior progress of dialectical materialism depends.‖8 Remembering that for Althusser an epistemological break manifests itself effectively in the complex, social whole through the rupture between science and ideology, tracing a route from ideology to scientific disruption was for this milieu considered dialectical materialism‘s highest calling.9 Alongside a number of other privileged Althusserians Badiou was also invited to take part in the 1967/68 ‗Philosophy Course for Scientists‘. His distinctive contribution was to find the resources for distinguishing science and ideology with respect to breakthroughs in 20th century mathematical model theory. In this early work, Badiou‘s trademark identification with set theory is evident and there are also hints towards category theory10 that will only re-emerge within the elaborate the post-B&E system almost 40 years later in Logics of Worlds. This approach structures what could be considered the arch-Althusserian text of the period, unrivalled in pushing Althusserian formalism to its limits. In more ways than one Badiou‘s contribution to the ‗Philosophy Course‘ lecture series – his first fully-fledged theoretical text, The Concept of Model – rests in almost total agreement with the Bachelardian-Althusserian protocols. For not only does it pursue the problematic through mathematics in a way shot through by the spirit of French scientific rationalism (see §1.1), it also operates along the double semantic register of ‗model‘ — incidentally, already flagged up by Althusser in a footnote in Reading Capital11 — a word signifying both a descriptive (ideological) notion of scientific activity, and a concept (scientific) of mathematical logic.12 Badiou‘s thesis rests on the wager that through the use of mathematical logic philosophy can perform the partisan role for the recovery of science that

in the same lecture course Althusser insisted was philosophy‘s duty; and it does this by turning the mathematical, logical model against the ideological, empiricist conception. Politically, this can be considered a contribution to class struggle in theory because of the ideological influence of bourgeois technical, economic models in fostering a revisionist Marxist deviation.13 Following Bachelard, however, Badiou does not wish to simply write off modelling as a form of representation alien to science. Bachelard‘s example of Bohr‘s model of the atom portrayed as planetary orbits giving way to a more abstract statistical model demonstrates the conservation of forms of models passing through the rupture from ideology to science.14 So the easy option – rejecting models entirely – is off the table. The recovery of science rather entails operating within modelling‘s ideological terrain of representation, drawing a line of demarcation within philosophy between the formal model (progressive) and the vulgar epistemological model (reactionary). Singling out Levi-Strauss‘ conception for particular criticism, Badiou condemns epistemological models for introducing a ―regulatory myth‖ into epistemology. Presenting epistemological models as a technical artifice that corresponds with an empirical given by measure of their predictive success in experimentation permits the creation of models of models, systems of systems, all conspiring to efface the ―reality of science being a production of knowledge‖ developing ―demonstrations and proofs internal to an historically specified materiality.‖15 In other words, this conception obscures the development of science through epistemological breaks. Logical models16 are superior for Badiou inasmuch as what appears to be an analogous binary between empiricism‘s artifice-empirical couple in logic‘s syntactical-semantic dyad in fact reverses the relation. In logic semantics are the artifice, whereas syntax is the given. Nonetheless, Carnapian logical positivism goes astray when it represents mathematics‘ formal syntax as the corresponding formal compartment of science, and semantics as the application of this formalisation to a limited domain of empirical objects, which it models. In Badiou‘s demonstration logical positivism is exposed as an illegitimate, ideologically determined concept of model because it fails to recognize how the formal syntax (drawing on recursive algebra) and the semantic model (based in set theory) adjoin one another in an experimental dialectic wherein models take part in generating the syntactical systems of logic. As a consequence there is no ―‗pure‘, ‗formal‘, or ‗a priori‘ knowledge‖.17 Ray Brassier rightly notes that in a single stroke Badiou thereby rejects the reduction of mathematics to both intuitionist a priori logic, and Quinean empirical ‗relativism,‘ by suggesting that ―logic itself be conceived as doubly articulated between syntactic system and semantic structure.‖18 The rejection of the transcendental priority of

logic, results in the position that the ―double articulation cannot be transplanted outside of mathematics or duplicated in the relation between a supposedly formal theory and its putatively material instantiation.‖19 New conceptual models come first, and their new formalisations are retroactively cast: the formalisation procedure working on ideology to affect a scientific rupture. In this way the lag between models and the revision of axioms provides access to the historical origins of epistemological breaks. New mathematical models cannot be derived from any one set of axioms, indicating a reciprocal dialectic. The reconfiguration of both ‗levels‘ allows the dialectical materialist a view into the creative genesis of new knowledge. Far from being simply an ideological notion, then, the model ―delivers a fertile epistemological category‖; the model is ―the ordinance that, in the historical process of a science, retrospectively assigns to the science‘s previous practical instances their experimental transformation by a definite formal apparatus.‖ In sum, ―The category of model thus designates the retroactive causality of formalism on its own scientific history‖.20 Badiou‘s approach illuminates one approach for resolving historical epistemology‘s unexplained procedure of how experimentation on ideology from within ideology can cause an incommensurable scientific break. Because of the consistency theorem (every consistent set of axioms admits a model), the theory of models necessitates a rupture within formalization. An easily graspable example is Poincaré‘s attempt to construct a model of Riemannian plane geometry out of a model based on the axioms of Euclidian geometry. If the famous Euclidean axiom ‗through two points passes one and only one straight line‘ is constructed in an inner model of a Euclidean sphere so that it becomes ‗through two different, non-diametrically opposed points in the sphere, there passes only one great circle‘ one can then deduce the ‗non-existence of parallels‘ axiom of Riemannian geometry. Reimannian geometry is then assured by the Euclidean model. This model, though, proving the possibility of both the retention and the negation of Euclid‘s straight-line axiom, demonstrates the independence of the axiom, resulting in a defeat for Euclidean geometry which ―was necessary, and not a matter of circumstance... a matter of impossibility, and not impotence.‖21 Science breaks from ideology by releasing a truth, where the previous conception is proven inconsistent. Without a doubt Badiou‘s text represents the most sophisticated, technical application, and nuancing of Althusserian dialectical materialism in its heyday. Where Althusser had only talked about what must be done to identify the science/ideology rupture, Badiou located within mathematical practice the resources proving a revisable, experimental site of rupture

between logical syntax and semantic models. Within the realm of logic‘s formal inscriptions he isolated a place free from ideology, yet around which ideology could cohere. Ideology is not mere deception or foolishness; it has a rational basis and only experimentation on ideology from within ideology can result in a dismembering of these axioms through the scientific break. If The Concept of Model appears to present a fertile ground for further research with curiously few traces of succession, that is because, as Althusser observes in the Forward to the book, the lecture series in which it was delivered was interrupted by the events of May 1968. December that year, Althusser wrote that the ―somewhat ‗theoreticist‘ accents of this text hearken back to a bygone conjuncture ... a project that was happily interrupted.‖22 Recalling Althusser‘s remarks in Elements of Self-Criticism regarding the attempt to deduce a ‗speculative rationalist‘ truth/error distinction between science and ideology where ―the class struggle was almost entirely absent‖, the same problem could equally, if not more greatly, be seen to haunt The Concept of Model, which despite perfunctory political incantations of ‗bourgeois epistemology‘, ‗proletarian theory‘, and such like, is an entirely rationalist treatise on the historical epistemology of scientific breaks within the mathematical sciences. This is not to say that these insights could not be put to political labour in the form of critiques of the supposed timeless axioms of neo-classical economics, and in other similar cases, but the conception of the underlabouring role of politics to scientific truth is what ‘68 put into question (even if it will remerge two decades later in Being and Event in the desutured guise of politics as handmaiden to an event‘s political truth). It is not the events of ‘68 per se, nor just Badiou‘s turn against Althusser which is so important for understanding subsequent developments in Badiou‘s philosophy. Rather, it is Badiou‘s particular reaction to ‘68 and his particular turn against Althusserianism. For unlike other rebel Althusserians Badiou always maintained a commitment to truth and a highly formalistic philosophical approach. Despite the searing political disagreements of the 1970s, these loyalties, I argue, keep him closer to the original Althusserian project – of which The Concept of Model is a tour de force exhibit. This violence in proximity is best put into context historically, in contrast to the pathways of other dissident Maoists who formed the Gauche Prolétarienne (GP), and particularly in contrast to Rancière‘s post-68 valorisation of democratic revolt. An examination of the causes and consequences of the political maelstrom that was May ‘68 is in order. §2.2 Implosions of 68’

Despite many commentators tiring celebration of ‘68 as a defeat of the idea of Marxist revolution in favour of a world of single-issue NGO campaigning and resistance, they are nonetheless right to isolate in ‘68 an historical fork in the road of continuing pertinence today.23 The legacy of ‘68 persists in defining the contours of contemporary politics: whether that is within the pedestrian discourse of parliamentary campaigns (Nicholas Sarkozy‘s promising its erasure in the 2007 presidential campaign)24, or in the ideological and strategic repetitions within contemporary protest movements.25 What makes the French May events of ‘68 so significant? To answer this question in the broadest theoretical light, one needs to set the scene of the historical particularites of France under de Gaulle‘s leadership, and the Communist Party‘s integration with the status quo. Formerly taking advantage of its role in the French resistance movement to cement its revolutionary credentials, by 1968 the PCF‘s reputation was tarnished by their support for France‘s ruthless suppression of the Algerian independence struggle earlier in the decade. Stalinist economism dominated the mindset of the PCF; at home their increasing reformism had led to seamless assimilation within the democratic, parliamentary machine. In combination with the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) they focused their energies on limited pay and condition demands above revolutionary agitation. The state of the PCF arguably provides a micropolitical exhibit of a more general macrosocio-political ossification of French politics under de Gaulle, when the country‘s bureaucratic and educational structures were equally staid. In addition to the growing outrage accompanying the American prosecution of the Vietnam War reaching a barbaric zenith in ‘68, all these factors helped contribute to the considerable allure of Third Worldism and anticolonialism above that of orthodox Soviet Marxism for young militants in the student movement. Significant student and radical groups in the run up to ‘68 were the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF), who had earned their radical credentials with steadfast opposition to the Algerian war. The student group L'Union des Jeunesses Communistes Marxistes-Léninistes (UJCML), counted Rancière, Victor Hugo, and Robert Linhart amongst its number.26 There were also the Situationists and Socialisme ou Barbarie who positioned themselves outside of the Marxist box. Then there were those who stayed within the PCF like Althusser, Balibar, and Dominique LeCourt (the hardcore of the ‗structural‘ Marxist movement). Badiou, for his part, was before 1968 a member of the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU), which had also opposed the Algerian war. Excepting the avant garde and anarchist factions, the Maoist affinity cutting across these groups represented the main Marxist alternative to Soviet communism. Even as he was

repeatedly forced to deny these leanings to retain his PCF membership, Althusser‘s theoretical intimations held out a seductive fusion of structural Marxism‘s aesthetic of scientific certainty with the more voluntarist disposition associated with Maoism. So up until ‘68 Althusser‘s programme was considered at least theoretically compatible with the swelling discontent. At the same time, Althusser‘s directly political writings on ‗Student Problems‘, dating back to 1963, jarred with the student movement‘s concerns insofar as he advised their further theoretical reflection on the science/ideology distinction, issuing a call for the subordination of ‗petit bourgeois‘ student desires to the properly working class revolutionary task. The position would soon backfire on Althusser‘s prestige amongst the May radicals. With voluntarist momentum behind their actions, the student groups‘ initiation of the May events upset traditional schemas whereby it should be the working class and their representative institutions performing the leading role. It took a week after May ‘68 erupted in street protests and barricades for the PCF and CGT to show any solidarity with the university insurrections by calling a general strike, therewith bringing the Maoist groups tardily in tow now they recognised working class struggle in the events. In tandem with the escalation of strikes throughout factories across France pushing their demands much deeper and also with a greater militancy than the PCF-CGT leadership, it left the traditional working class institutions trailing behind on all fronts. Althusser‘s strategy of patient reform on the theoretical fringes of the PCF in preparation for it to regain a revolutionary disposition was short-circuited by events on the ground. His quietism during this period was integral to the implosion of Althusserianism. The disillusionment was not only personal; for the Maoists it signalled the maladroit structuralist refounding of dialectical materialism, now associated with order, losing its revolutionary kudos. Jacques Rancière‘s desertion from the Althusserian fold is emblematic of its implosion. Part of the UJC-ML, which gave up on prising Althusser away from the PCF after ‘68 – one faction went on to form the GP after its dissolution in ‘69 – in Althusser’s Lesson (1974) Rancière indicts the entire programme as an attempt to ―preserve philosophy – ‗Marxist philosophy‘ in particular – as the exclusive business of academically trained specialists‖, implying that ―production is the business of the workers, whereas history is too complex and affair for them, one they must entrust to the care of specialists from the Party and from Theory.‖27 Put into question by ‘68 was precisely the knowledge/power nexus; the events marked ―the appearance of politics in a new form – in the question of knowledge, its power and its relationship to political power.‖28 As a sign of Althusserian complicity on the side of knowledge/power against the creative self-determination of the masses, Rancière

notes that in the aftermath of the student revolts ―those university students who were cardcarrying members of the PCF were brandishing ‗theoreticist‘ texts as they called for the reestablishment of order at the university.‖29 These insights serve to put into question the ―politics of philosophers: its condition of possibility [...being] that it not put into question the despotic figure of scientific power.‖ Althusserianism‘s legacy is far worse than mere quietism; rather, it bears ―the revisionist sign on the forehead of authoritarian leftism‖, which is ―precisely the kinship between repression-by-science and repression-by-the proletariat‖.30 In this way, Rancière links Althusser‘s revolutionary scientism back to Zhadanovian/Lsyenokian ‗proletarian science‘. In the UJC Rancière still detected traces of the Althusserian imprint, but in the standpoint of the GP he perceived a positive new model where intellectuals renounce their role in a division of labour and simply fight alongside the masses against repressive state apparatuses.31 Those who stayed within the Althusserian paradigm, whilst pushing a militant platform he disparages as ―ultra-left Platonists‖. All this culminates in the lesson of ‘68 bearing a remarkably postmodernist overture. It is worth quoting at length. 1968

was no doubt the birth of a new figure of subversion, but it was also quite clearly the end of leftism‘s grand and totalizing discourse. The end, we might say, of the opposition of small communist worlds to the big one… In 1969, it was still possible for leftists to encompass the anti-authoritarian uprising of France‘s youth and the proletarian struggles with their unifying discourse […but] It is not just that these struggles which attack power in its varied and sometimes contradictory manifestations, present us with a multiplicity that makes achieving a synthesis more complicated. It is, more importantly, that they are themselves a multiplication of the discourses of struggle… Marxism itself will continue to serve the ambiguous role it serves nowadays – that of a system of multiple identifications, of the place where discourses of revolt meet and where the discourse of subversion is perennially being transformed into the discourse of order.32 ‘68 was a moment of dissimulation where the fracturing of the subjects of revolt into their own self-presentation transforms Marxism into the role of an ideological police force, attempting to re-present these disparate causes under subordination to the need for proletarian revolution led by a vanguard party. No matter how far Althusser later withdrew from many

of his positions, he would obviously never go this far. But interestingly, Althusser received the publication of Rancière‘s book not unfavourably and echoed some of its themes later in the decade, denouncing extreme vanguard practice as reduplicating the bourgeois separation of knowledge and power.33 In line with the GP‘s abrogation of this role, in the early 1970s their members headed out to provincial factories in large numbers in order to agitate from within the working class. At the same time as their corporeal political engagements required a renunciation of aloof intellectualism, their theoretical work became curiously detached from reality – they believed revolution to be just around the corner. After the GP wound up in 1974, their anti-authoritarian disposition quickly led to détournement of Marxist militancy in general. Leading lights of the GP forged what became known as the ‗new philosophy‘: a melange of recycled cold war memes about the brutality of authoritarian ideology and of the opposite need for a free world – a turnaround earning them media praise from the likes of Time magazine, which featured their thought on a cover story announcing ‗Marx is Dead‘. Badiou later referred to the ‗new philosophers‘ as enacting a Thermidorian reaction against the subjective sequence of ‘68. His remarks are important because they shed light on his alternative pathway from the event, which sought to reconcile the lessons of May with an ongoing commitment to the revolutionary cause in which these energies were situated – avoiding its dissolution within the ex-post libertarian narrative. ―The Thermidorian renegades‖, Badiou writes, ―separated activism from every principle and every situation, and pretended that this activism was only ever connected with the Chinese or Soviet States.‖ Their disloyalty to the singular novelty of the forms and principles of activism from 19681975 was based on making an irrational connection between these events and the worst atrocities of state crimes in the socialist states. ―What is the relation between the Stalinist camps of the 1930s and the blind and magnificent path that led thousands of young students to the factories of France? Or between Stalinism and the multiform invention of new practices of declaration, demonstration and organisation?‖34 Recalling the era Badiou observes that amongst the fashionable milieu of the French ultra left‘s leadership in the 1970s – in particular, Serge July, Jacques-Alain Miller, Jean-Claude Milner and André Glucksman – their abandonment of the revolutionary project and turn to the right was conditioned by their questionable motivation for involvement in revolutionary politics in the first place. Badiou cites the response to his inquiries as to why they all so suddenly quit: ―Because we understood we were not going to take power.‖ He sees this as the reason for their sudden withdrawal the activities of the left: ―a blocked ambition … the realization that it was going to take a great deal of trouble and hard work in a situation that was not all that promising.‖35

Badiou also blames the culture of the GP describing how ―there were a lot of young grand bourgeois in the GP, which made it reminiscent of the Russian anarchist movement … Theirs was an adventurist and fallacious style of action, but one that was exciting at the same time, a politics that was also a fashion, its personal roots in actual fact not very deep.‖36 These observations help contextualise the difference between the GP and the Maoist organization Badiou joined in 1970, L'Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCF-ML). The UCF-ML set itself in opposition to both the PCF and GP by arguing for the need for a Leninist party organisation that would engage and build upon the spontaneity of the masses. Opposing the communitarianism of the GP, it also argued for a strictly universalist line in its engagement with immigrant workers.37 So when Badiou described ‘68 as ―a genuine road-to-Damascus experience‖38 severing his connection with Althusserianism, it by no means implied a swing to the kind of Maoism exemplified by the GP. Instead, the theoretical paradox thenceforth required navigation between ―a scientific position that fetishized concepts, and a praxical position that fetishized action and the immediate ideas of its agents.‖39 Althusserianism on the one hand; the GP‘s anarcho-syndicalist sponteneism on the other. In the Maoism of the UCF-ML Badiou and his comrades ―called for the organization of the masses, but the organization of the masses dialectically implied the power of disorganization. It was this original process of disorganization that unleashed, in an incredible newness, the possibility of this organization.‖40 Let us see how these concerns were reflected in his works of the 1970s and early 1980s.

§2.3 Subject of the Break Badiou‘s publications of the 1970s can be considered tributary to his first grand treatise of 1982, Theory of the Subject. Accordingly, in Theory of Contradiction (1975) the emphasis on Maoist dialectics – One splits into Two41 – is pursued in order to redress the structuralist foreclosure of the subject: that is, how can dialectical antagonisms in a situation be thought without sliding into structural determinism?42 In Mao‘s maxim ‗it is right to be rebel against the reactionaries‘, Badiou writes, ―we find expressed the fact that Marxism, prior to being the full-fledged science of social formation, is the distillate of what rebellion demands: that one consider it right, that reason be rendered to it. The existence of a science of social formations bears no interest for the masses unless it reflects and concentrates their real revolutionary movement.‖43 The aim is thus to theoretically reflect a communist alternative to both the PCF‘s economism on the right and to also counter the temptation of anarchism on the left – the latter remaining stuck at the level of the glorious revolt against the repressive state, failing

to create a lasting displacement of the social order. By following through Badiou‘s use of formalism against deviations on both sides in order to think militant, subjectively induced change, the break from Althusser can be put in better perspective. A measure of the persistence of Althusserianism can then be registered against the more egregious ontological anarchism indicative of the dominant Deleuzian inspired alternatives. Or, as Badiou puts it in 1982, ―we must quickly ground all this in the ordered soil of structures, unless we let ourselves evaporate into the metaphysics of desire, that is, the substantial and nomadic assumption of the outplace‖.44 For working through the paradoxes of order and change, Theory of the Subject promulgates the provocatively anti-Althusserian gesture of Theory of Contradiction by locating conceptual resources within Hegelian dialectics. In keeping with the Maoist splitting of the dialectic Badiou bifurcates his structural (note, not structuralist) dialectic into two dialectically conjoined, yet split, operations: one taking the place of the objective, the other the force of the subjective. His investigation thereby aims at conceiving how a militant, subjective intervention can apply sufficient force to reconfigure its previously objective place (the strategy of the UCF-ML figured in ontology). And equally, lest two compact to one again in the Stalinist party-state, ―how can the logic of places and the logic of forces be articulated – without fusion?‖45 If in this approach one can perceive something like Badiou‘s analysis of how experimentation on model semantics can dismember their logical syntax (see §2.1) – indeed, Badiou pre-emptively counters the claim that ―this is a [dialectical] syntax of little interest from the moment that the semantics of it [are] forced‖46 – it points to continuities with the Althusserian epistemic break. Because as much as the analysis of structuralist objectivity is inverted by Badiou to the place of the subjective, this is only accomplished through their (structured) dialectic, touching upon the enduring rational kernel between Althusser‘s vanishing cause of structural causality and Badiou‘s later explicit formalisations in B&E. Like Althusser, Badiou‘s structural dialectic differentiates the One and whole (analogously to the structuralist dialectical replacement of totality with whole). But unlike Althusser, Badiou seeks to find the subjective channel for the absent cause of novel breaks. ―Thus, the absent cause is always reintroduced into the whole of its effect. This is a major theorem of the structural dialectic: in order for the causality of lack to exert itself, all terms must be split.‖47 The difference, let us emphasize once more, therefore rests in Badiou‘s inversion to a theory of the subject where political change is disentangled from its dependence upon scientific analysis of objective conditions in order to act politically, in favour of a formal


discourse of subjective intervention. Bosteels seizes the crux of Theory of the Subject‘s dialectic of the subjective and the objective:

Between Althusser and Badiou, in fact, we might say that a decisive reversal of perspective takes place whereby the absent cause, instead of providing us with the master key to unlock the structural causality of overdetermination, becomes synonymous with the transformative potential of an event. The economical instance, which for Althusser serves as the principle example of a cause that vanishes into the totality of its effects, thus continues to be present as it were virtually in Badiou‘s doctrine of the event, except that the emphasis now shifts away from the structural dimension towards the rarity of a subjective intervention.48 Even as political economy is displaced by Badiou‘s emphasis on the application of subjective force, his use of abstraction to think the correct line on the subjective level marks a form of succession with the scientific Marxist and Althusserian traditions. Likewise, Badiou‘s dialectics are configured so not to fall into the parlous teleological circularities to which Althusser‘s epistemology took exception. Hegel‘s Logic is materialist for Badiou only insofar as it posits no simple contradiction in alienation so that the end would be contained in the beginning, or vice versa.49 He locates the dialectical split (scission) in a fundamental operation repeated throughout the Logic, which is ―glossed over‖ and ―hidden‖ by virtue of its sheer ubiquity. This is how Badiou rescues a materialist dialectic from Hegel; the materialist dialectic ―periodizes, while the other one makes circles.‖50 Infinitely recursive, hence properly periodizing dialectics (permitting no teleology), follow from the positing of the something and the something-other. The two terms represent not the simple contradiction/union of opposites but rather a gap between being and being-placed similar to Heidegger‘s demarcation of the ontological and the ontic.51 The syntax and semantics are laid out with deceptive simplicity: A – pure being Ap – being-placed A = (AAp) – operation of scission From this hidden Hegelian operation where One splits into Two according to the placement of pure being, Badiou demonstrates the possibility of deriving an unexpectedly complex differentiation of the pathways for change and its impediments. Novelty is forged when placed-being acts to determine being itself Ap(A). Badiou puts this in contrast to the

dialectical relapse (Ap(Ap) = P) of PCF revisionism, in which the communist project of abolishing the space in which a proletariat can exist is replaced by a static opposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat, each sustaining one another. This too ―is the principle of structuralism in all its forms‖.52 But yet again the parallel with Althusser asserts itself: for where in high Althusserianism the epistemic break of science from ideology was thought with respect to science‘s release of new truths against ideology as repetition, the same wager – which will continue to underwrite the ontology of B&E – mandates that ―every rightness and every justice are, in principle, novelties; and that everything that repeats itself is invariably unjust and inexact.‖53 The event issues from the qualitative concentration of subjective force to reconfigure the status quo in a genuinely new formation. With the concentration of force necessary for destroying the existing structures of the old order and discharging novelty ―criteria for periodization [...are] required in terms of divergence, between the opposition place/force and the opposition objective/subjective, for the clear arrangement of the paths of the subject.‖54 What is this if it is not a reinvention of structural formalism with its attention fixed on the subjective side of the equation? The previous section argued that Badiou‘s idea of the event in many regards stays more loyal to the original programme of Althusserian structural Marxism than Althusser himself did in his aleatory materialist writings of the 1980s. There is no better demonstration of this than their respective reflections on Epicurus and the privileged term in the schema of void, atom and clinamen. For whereas Althusser in ‗Underground Current‘ attempts to push his aleatory paradigm to its limit by locating the source of all change in the void – conjoint to his own ambitions to empty out (void) philosophy – Badiou stays much closer to early Althusserian project by isolating the necessity of contingency in the structural dialectic between the terms. Badiou singularly stresses that the void cannot be constitutive of the chance ordering of a world since it is in absolute difference to atoms. The difference is so strong between void and atoms that nothing happens. Rather, both the void enabling the atomic rain, and the clinamen which provides a deviation necessary for anything to assemble into a world, represent vanishing terms. The clinamen is the absent cause whose ―effect is the retroactive effacement of the cause‖ because after the collision of the atoms ―the clinamen no longer has anything to do with what happens and it is in vain that you would search the world for an atom marked by the stigmata of deviation. All atoms are identical, the one affected by the clinamen no longer bears any trace of it‖.55 Hence, ―Chance is a key concept in any structural dialectic... For us, it is true that history is the fortune of the event, never to be

confused with politics, which is forced subjective rationality. It is fully in keeping with Marxism to say that history is the chance of political necessity.‖ 56 In contrast, by laying the stress on chance without his corresponding earlier criteria for differentiating events from nonevents Althusser‘s later writings abdicate thinking the rationality necessary to realise lasting change by instead placing responsibility at the feet of the void‘s self sufficient production of the new. Although writing before Althusser, and long before Althusser‘s aleatory materialist writings would be published, Badiou could be directly rejoining Althusser when he writes ―In the structural dialectic, the qualitative difference in which force emerges is not a nothingness. It is a disappearance whose effect is the Whole from which it has disappeared.‖57 Neither the void nor the clinamen are productive of change, because identifying them as subject seeks to do away with the force needed to act upon chance events. In a remark that is crucially important to cite for redressing misreadings of Badiou‘s later theory of the event as a miracle summoned out of an omnipotent ontological void, Badiou derides the fixation on the clinamen as the source of change (rather than a mere pre-condition) in consideration of the implication that ―this requires an outplace that verges on the miraculous, in opposition both to the monotonous fall of atoms, of which the void is the cause, and to the laws that will govern, subsequent to the clinamen, the composition of the Whole.‖58 No more need be said regarding the persistence of the Althusserian idea of the absent cause of change in Badiou‘s theory of the subject. A few more words are nevertheless still necessary on Badiou‘s references to mathematics in the text, which prefigure the ontologisation of mathematics in B&E to think a new conception of the subject. Badiou‘s attempted reconciliation of the ontological predominance of the Two with the materialist, monist thesis that only matter exists is the site of the theoretical encounter where the anticipation of the function mathematics will be asked to perform in his later works can be found. Like Althusser, Badiou presents materialism as an ontological quarrel exceeding the 19th century lineage of Marx, Engels and Darwin in turning the world ‗on its feet‘ after the idealism of Hegel and Berkeley. In his reckoning, materialism is an axiomatic position stretching back to Lucretius: ‗‗There is the One‘ is the monist thesis about being, for which ‗matter‘ in reality is only the signifier. Every materialism posits the primitive unicity of being, with the implication that its intimate constitution requires only one name. Matter is this name.‖59 Drawing upon the Marxist inversion of Hegelian idealism to materialism as a demonstration of the inadequacy of the reductionist materialist procedure — insofar as it denies thought‘s role in renouncing its distinction from matter — Badiou seeks to show the

limits of what he calls the ―soothing vulgarity of yester-year‘s materialisms.‖60 As Salanskis also frames the materialist paradox: ―what the materialist calls ‗matter‘ must mean something more determinate than being, in order for its ‗annexation‘ of the beings that ideality lays claim to make sense.‖61 Thus implied is the question of the status of mathematical ‗objects‘ in the doctrine of materialism.

We posit that materialism exists in the recognition of two theses, one of which names being and the other its order – an order whose being lies in a vanishing nominal overhaul: The thesis of identity: being is exclusively matter The thesis of primacy: matter precedes thought, and not the other way around.62 These theses are, of course, precisely Althusser‘s from Lenin and Philosophy. The key point that ‗matter precedes thought‘ does not, however, mean according ontological pre-eminence to matter: ‗Primacy‘ here does not mean ontological hierarchy, or pre-eminence, since there exists only matter. It is nothing like the Platonist superiority of the intelligible, subject to inversion. ‗Primacy‘ means that, in the process of knowledge that founds the thesis of identity, the eclipse of thought stands under the law of being, and not under that of thought itself. The two theses of materialism give structure to the metaphorical division of the process of knowledge. Therein lies the real efficacy of their opposition.63

The materialist Two is metaphorical. Thus he can say, whilst maintaining the monism of materialism, ―that materialism is dialectical is an understatement. It is entirely traversed by the dialecticity of the dialectic, its double occurrence as structure and as history.‖ 64 Badiou continues to draw an ‗analogy‘ between the dialectic of asymptote and reflection and algebra and topology. The fact that despite the best efforts of 20th century mathematicians algebra and set theory have proved irreducible to one another is considered metaphorically equivalent to the procedure of materialism in attempting to assert that only matter exists, thereby occluding the paradoxical role of thought in the statement. The Two — matter, thought;

asymptote, reflection; algebra and topology — are more than the sum of their parts, they operate to form an enigmatic excess over one another. It is here that in Theory of the Subject Badiou moves closest to his ontology in B&E, pivoting on the power-set‘s excess of inclusion over belonging. Also anticipating another crucial idea for the later text within the same problematic: ―It is well known that the notion of the set of all sets is inconsistent. Similarly, the concept of an integral material totality is only a porous fantasy of materialism, its dejection turned back into idealism.‖65 Badiou uses the formal irresolution of algebra and set theory to demonstrate the necessity of a subject – a demand B&E will answer to exacting mathematical standards. In order not overstate the role mathematics plays in Theory of the Subject it is worth observing that unlike in B&E it is accorded no privileged ontological role; drawing on Lacan it remains simply a precise tool of political formalisation. In its most provocative and memorable formulation: ―Precision put into the razor of the Marxist barber, mathematics is that unalterable blade with which one ends up bleeding the pigs to death.‖ 66 The next section will examine the consequences of the ontologisation of mathematics for Badiou‘s politics in the context of his changing conceptions of the temporality and relevant forms of political organization. Approaching the crux of this chapter, both the decision to equate ontology with the forbidding formal discipline of mathematics, and the complex philosophical demarcation of ontological and non-ontological situations will sharpen the question of the subject and to what extent the existence of a subject requires a theorist of subjectivity (a Subject of subjects) to provide impetus for change?

§2.4 On the Subject of Being and Event Badiou‘s 1988 magnum opus takes to newly baroque heights his formalisms of the subjective procedures of order and change. But let us begin by reflecting upon the conjoined political and philosophical shifts separating the text from its predecessor. Significant in this respect is the fact that Badiou justifies his mathematical turn in a way departing from the politically determined discourse of Theory of the Subject. On the corresponding level of his personal political commitments this move coincided with the formation of the post-Leninist and postMaoist L‘Organisation Politique – a group established with former UCF-ML comrades in 1985 to pursue politics without a party. In no unclear terms the gap between philosophy and politics – formerly fused to at least some degree by intellectuals operating within political parties, including even the more experimental UCF-ML – was widened both at the theoretical and praxical level. So whereas in Theory of the Subject every subject was considered political

(including, it is safe to assume, the philosophical), now discrete practices – in the new lingo, the four truth procedures: scientific, artistic, political, and amorous – significantly exclude philosophy as a truth bearing discourse.67 The ascription of philosophy qua philosophy as a discourse subservient to the demands of these truth procedures should thus be seen to reflect a subtly changing sense of the political role of philosophers. For by circumscribing philosophy to a metaontological station in thinking the subjective procedures of truth creating practices – themselves dependent upon, and constitutive of, truths released by events – Badiou at once appears to limit philosophy‘s scope but at the same time grants it an ability to make global judgements on the conditions and forms of change. Whilst this gesture appears to mark an even sharper discontinuity within the Althusserian tradition than the Maoist formalisms of subjectivity from the 1970s and early 80s, many commentators on Badiou‘s early period that it in fact argue continues to resonate with Althusserian themes. Luke Zachary Fraser, for one, identifies the way non-philosophical truth procedures create splits in the regime of knowledge as the Badiouian successor to the Althusserian epistemological break. And also as a mark of continuity from the 1970s period, Bosteels describes how ―the dialectical rapport between truth and knowledge is precisely the place of inscription of most of Badiou‘s debts to Maoism.‖68 But to gauge a more accurate register of the continuity and discontinuity of this turn viz. Althusserianism, it is informative to compare Badiou‘s mid-1980s change of direction to both the pre and post corrections of ‗theoreticism‘, which split Althusser‘s corpus at 1967. Relevant for our present discussion is how Althusser‘s post-67 swing towards conceiving philosophy as ‗class struggle in theory‘ compacted philosophy‘s reflections on different practices to a singularly political register; but by so doing continued to stress the political necessity of theoretical work. In this sense Badiou‘s new conception of the subjects of different practices marks a return to the pre-67 high Althusserian programme of thinking finite, discrete practices conditioning one another‘s development through epistemological breaks. Yet in another sense, inasmuch as Badiou‘s deliberately excludes philosophy as a truth procedure, he also affirms Althusser‘s post-67 correction of ‗theoreticism‘ from Lenin and Philosophy onwards, whereby philosophy was posited as having no object of its own. If there is no strict homology with any one period of Althusserianism, then, it nevertheless establishes Badiou‘s continuing negotiation of different tendencies within the overall problematic. Accordingly, even if the prioritization of the subjective in Theory of the Subject is further radicalised by Being and Event‘s total subtraction from any objective ground – history, economics, etc. – in favour of a metaontological theory of subjectivity (the faithful forcing of truths out inconsistencies

manifest at particular sites) it will still have a hard time defending the claim that this conceptualisation of subjectivity does not in fact continue to endow the philosopher with some sort of conceptual knowledge to judge, and indeed, effect, political truth procedures. The take home point from this comparison with Althusser is that Badiou‘s 1988 desuturing of philosophy from politics is intimately tied to rethinking of the role of philosophers with respect to actual political practice. As such, one should turn to the reconception of the subject to understand the philosophical-political reciprocity at work here. Within the justificatory preamble to B&E the fact that Badiou lists no overt political conditions should not be taken to naively imply that this is a lack without symptomatic significance. Two of these conditions are: 1. A third epoch of science. Not demonstrative mathematics, nor the mathematization of physics, but ―a split, through which the very nature of the base of mathematical rationality reveals itself, as does the character of the decision of thought which establishes it.‖69 2. A second epoch of the subject. A subject not as a founding centre of thought as in the Cartesian tradition; one which can only be thought in terms of its role in processes with rigorous conditions. Or, in short, conditions which combined pose the question: given ―pure mathematics being the science of the being, how is a subject possible?‖ A question asked in order to correct Theory of the Subject‘s








subjectivization‖. The subject will thenceforth be proved through an ontological decision to affirm mathematical rigour against Heideggerian romanticism – a gesture appearing to mark an extension of the Althusserian project by promulgating the spirit of French scientific rationalism.71 However, in order that conceiving the subject through this intellectually aristocratic practice not lend itself to elevated notions of Platonic philosopher kings – whose mathematical abilities endow them with unique qualifications for understanding existence, order and the subjects for change – the concept of the event, as a fully extra-ontological, subjectively-named happening, works to disqualify any mathematical premonitions within concrete situations, restricting its gaze only to the most abstract ontological reflections. As Badiou would put it explicitly a decade after the book was published: ―While philosophy is all about identifying what ontology is in an endlessly reviewed process, it is also the general theory of the event—and it is no doubt a special theory too... Philosophy is the theory of what is strictly impossible for mathematics.‖72 The event serves, within Badiou‘s subtractive ontology, precisely to philosophically sever the claim of philosophers to predict, organise, and

delimit the right revolutionary moment within non-ontological situations, as the former structuralists of the PCF were alleged to foolhardily wished during ‘68. The event is perfectly egalitarian with respect to intellectual authority insofar as when it breaks out it provides a happening that comes seemingly from nowhere – it is a ―pure chance supplement to the manifold situation for which it is an event.‖73 No vanguard party or small cadre or professional activists, nor the state, NGOS or thinktanks, could predict its explosion within a situation. Political discipline is rather shifted to the procedures taking place after the fact of the emergence of aleatory inconsistencies in the regime of presentation. Only once the event disrupts the seeming stability and completeness of an order of knowledge lies the possibility for a subject. But as we will see, the net result retains a disavowed role for the philosopher as what could be described as the Subject of subjects in making judgements on what counts as a true event – an imperative that troubled Badiou enough to claim one of the loose ends of B&E was philosophically ―distinguish[ing] [an] event from an important fact or from a becoming‖. 74 By the later meditations, too, the intellectual intrusions of the philosopher metaontologist into non-philosophical truth procedures will deepen when Cohen‘s forcing technique is used to prove the freedom of subjective intervention to extend the situation. This is because within Cohen‘s constructible ‗ground model‘ of set theory, the excess of inclusion over belonging is reduced to a minimum by the model‘s cardinal transitivity. The structural conditions to provide the possibility of an event are lost; and therewith the egalitarian, pre-reflective happening providing an impetus for change within any non-ontological situation for nonphilosophical subjects. The upshot, I hope to demonstrate, is that true change requires the philosophical metaontologist to suggest the possibility of transformation. Rather than launch straight into the complex and technical architecture of Badiou‘s treatise to deduce the above points, let us, however, start by paying attention to the Introduction in order to sharpen our appreciation of why the category of the event determines the choice to identify mathematics with ontology and, in particular, privileging of set theory.

§2.5 Mathematics = ontology Badiou emphasizes that establishing the philosophical decision identifying mathematics with ontology is in no way the book‘s goal; instead ―this book founds a doctrine [...that] institutes the subject, not as support or origin, but as a fragment of the process of a truth.‖ 75 Yet curiously few readings of the book seemed to have paid much attention to Badiou‘s professed intention to establish a new theory of the subject. In an edited collection of essays by all the

leading lights of continental philosophy, none address Badiou‘s theory of the subject per se. Adrian Johnston, one of the most prolific commentators on Badiou‘s work, places the treatise‘s lex causae in legislation over the Parmenedian injunction to decide between the One or the Many. Regardless of Badiou‘s intentions, Ray Brassier, sees Badiou‘s accomplishment almost entirely in terms of the way the opening meditations establish equality between mathematics and ontology.76 Brassier even goes so far to airbrush out Badiou‘s reconceptualisation of the subject, isolating only the way that ―the identification of axiomatic set theory with the long sought for ‗science of being qua being‘... affirms a fidelity to the Cantor-event.‖77 Apart from Peter Hallward‘s appropriately titled Badiou: A Subject to Truth, most readers understate the centrality of rethinking the subject for the choice to identify the discourse of Being with the elaboration of set theory across the 20th century – in turn often downplaying the freedom of philosophical metaontology to determine its own conditions and its choice of an appropriate ontology. A few words therefore appear necessary on the compulsions lying behind Badiou‘s equation of ontology with mathematics in light our emphasis on how the decision marshals philosophy towards a new theory of the subject. This involves situating the fidelity of Badiou to Albert Lautman‘s conception of how mathematics serves ontological questions. And this, in turn, for the purpose of understanding Being and Event‘s use of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory to establish: (1) a new theory of the subject, and (2) the philosophical metaontologists‘ separation from the truth procedures arising from nonontological situations. Badiou‘s ontological Platonism asserts that Being is inconsistent multiplicity. In the phenomenal world of particular things this multiplicity cannot be perceived or intuited: not empirically, nor through any mystical apprehension. Philosophical questions are best approached through the formal thought of mathematics, free from linguistic contamination or empiricist temptations. The world we inhabit is a world of specific things, and if we want to think Being in its multiplicity we have to subtract from all these to think presentation as such: that is, the presentational form of any-thing; and conversely, what presentation excludes as a necessity – i.e. Being, the inconsistent multiple which is not. With its very abstract rigour mathematical discourse thinks presentation, and nothing more. Badiou‘s philosophical metaontology78 (thinking the ‗presentation of presentation‘) is thus ―not a thesis about the world but about discourse.‖79 From where could Badiou have drawn inspiration for this idea? There are few references provided by the text, but amongst the thin smattering Albert Lautman‘s (c. 1908–1944) name recurs. ―Lautman‘s writings are nothing less than admirable and what I owe

to them‖, Badiou admits, ―even in the very foundational intuitions for this book, is immeasurable.‖80 Lautman was a French philosopher of mathematics with a working relationship with the mathematician Jean Cavaillès (c. 1903-1944), both killed in the same year by the Nazis because of their involvement in the French resistance movement. Lautman can be considered part of the movement of the French rationalist philosophy of science; he cited Bachelard and emphasized the creative development of mathematics against Russell‘s logicism. In The Concept of Model one can already note an affinity with Lautman in Badiou‘s model theoretic critique of logical positivism. By placing logic on the same level as other forms of mathematics in the order of genesis of new structures within mathematics, Zamalea observes how Lautman ―prefigures ... our conception of logic as it arises from model theory, in which a ‗logic‘ is not only determined, but even defined (à la Lindström) by an adequate collection of structures.‖81 With respect to the idea prevalent within logicism that a rich enough logical or axiomatic ‗essence‘ could account for the entire ‗existence‘ of structures of mathematics, Lautman counters that ―we always see a mode of structuration of a basic domain interpretable in terms of existence for certain new entities, functions, transformations, numbers, that the structure of a domain thus appears to perform.‖82 Yet as Badiou recalls in an interview with Tzuchien Tho, at the time of writing the Concept of the Model Lautman‘s works were largely unavailable; only with their publication in the 1970s did he gain any contact with the texts.83 There should be no surprise, then, that Lautman‘s speculative contribution on the nature of mathematics can more evidently be seen to inform Badiou‘s identification of mathematics as ontology in the 1980s. Taking inspiration from a curiously unanthropomorphic reading of Heidegger, Lautman‘s participatory Platonism conceives mathematics in relation to philosophical metaphysics within a tripartite scheme. Dialectical questions – whole/part, continuity/discontinuity, etc. – give rise to questions of the ‗why‘, to which Ideas serve to form connections to attempt to answer them. Mathematics then fills in these ideas with more concrete, particular and precise ideas. The anteriority of dialectical questions to mathematical development permits the posterior recovery of ideas from their mathematical exploration.

While the mathematical relations describe the connections that in fact exist between distinct mathematical entities, the Ideas of dialectical relations are not assertive of any connection whatsoever that in fact exists between notions. Insofar as ‗posed questions‘, they only constitute a problematic relative to the possible situations of entities... the Ideas that constitute this

problematic are characterized by an essential insufficiency, and it is yet once again in this effort to complete understanding of the Idea, that more concrete notions are seen to appear relative to the entity, that is, true mathematical theories.84 Easily discernable are the similarities to Badiou‘s conception of mathematical Platonism where all ―that we can know, and can ever know of being qua being, is set out, through the meditation of a theory of pure multiplicity by the historical discursively of mathematics.‖85 This goes to explain why the Parmenedian dialectic of the One inaugurates the meditational procession of B&E. In another way, too, it clarifies the relationship of Badiou‘s philosophy to the work of pure mathematicians, who he positions as working ontologists. In Badiou‘s view there is no spontaneous philosophy of the mathematicians worth guarding in the same way that Althusser insisted scientists need to be protected against the incursions of idealism. As he would later carefully delineate the point: although ―mathematicians‘ spontaneous philosophy is Platonism‖, unlike his own Platonism it is an erroneous conception based on Aristotelian tenets, whereby the ―ideal spectacle of its results‖ follow from ―fictive activiation.‖86 Platonism of this Gödelian kind he believes is ―a bit too dogmatic‖, and especially so when contrasted against Lautmanian Platonism: that is, ―a Platonism of participation‖ of the sensible in the ideal, centred on ―the dialectic of ideas in the history of mathematics.‖ 87 If mathematicians‘ philosophy of their practice is not to be trusted, neither should their spontaneous practice be credited with immediately releasing philosophical insight. On the contrary, the trust working mathematicians place in solving specific problems ―is in principle unproductive when it comes to any rigorous description of the generic essence of their operations‖88 – that is, to extracting the metaontological consequences of the ideas mathematics works on with great exactitude. In this regard, a mathematician like Paul Cohen would likely assume heroic stature for Badiou insofar as he renounced any philosophic pretensions and gained his advances in the field of independence proofs by desuturing the inhibitions of Gödelian Platonism from set theory to see how, in Cohen‘s words, ―ideas which at first seemed merely philosophical could actually be made into precise mathematics.‖89 Similarly, Cohen‘s scathing comments on those rare moments in history where philosophers seek to insert themselves within mathematical practice to intra-mathematically clarify philosophical questions would probably also gain Badiou‘s approval. In this vein, Cohen describes Russell and Whitehead‘s Principia Mathematica as ―totally unreadable, and in my opinion of very little interest.‖90 Mutatis mutandis, ideas and techniques that seem only

mathematical (without any attempt to imbue them with ontological significance) can then be transcribed backwards, à la Lautman, to inform philosophical questions. It follows that Badiou‘s focus on set theory as an ontological discourse is not reducible to simply following the cutting edge practice or the philosophy of the unconscious ontologists; it is rather a site for the extra-mathematical composition of the multiple conditions of an era. Badiou readily admits that by the time of writing in 1988 set theory was no longer considered the most fundamental or exciting field of mathematical development. His choice of set theoretic ontology is instead a philosophical attempt to weld the post-Cantorian era of science with a new idea of the subject.91 Although the imperative is for philosophy to stay broadly up to date with the mathematical resources it draws upon, there is certainly room to manoeuvre depending upon the philosophical questions at hand, which philosophers are free to determine themselves. This observation provides an important corrective to the common beginners‘ misreading of Badiou which believes that just because set theory was considered foundational for large parts of the 20th century, ergo Badiou‘s specification of it as the ontological discourse must be transitive with its status within the mathematics community. Following this misattribution, the existence of, and arguably superior rival for, the foundational prize within contemporary mathematics – category theory – is then taken to expose the bad faith of the irreducibly philosophical identification with set theory. But these objections are already anticipated by Badiou‘s careful justifications for adopting set theory. Admittedly, Badiou‘s own shift away from ontological theorising of the subject in later years – exemplified by the section on the typology of subjects in the Logics of Worlds, disjoint from the topological heart of the Greater Logic – has served to lend the impression that foundational (intramathematical) considerations lie behind his allegiance to set theory‘s articulation of being qua being. Occasionally, he has even seemed to slide towards this position when, for example, he admits that ―I had to come to terms with Set Theory‘s rival theory regarding mathematical foundations: category theory.‖92 But at least on the terrain of B&E‘s justification of its use of mathematics, following how developments in set theory lead towards a metaontology of the subject is quite unambiguous: from the opening remarks of the Introduction to the way the Meditations culminate in an interpretation of Paul Cohen‘s forcing technique. That said, let our own judgement on Badiou‘s success stand or fall with whether this new idea of the subject maintains or undermines the understudy role Badiou claims to allot the philosopher in merely drawing out the metaontological conclusions of extra-philosophical practices. So that no prior knowledge of the text is assumed, this will involve a rather arduous, if unavoidable,


exposition of the main sections of the book, before arriving at the crux of the argument with the section dealing with Cohen‘s forcing technique.

*** The axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel (ZF) set theory provide the tripartite specifications of Being, Event and Subjective Intervention for Badiou‘s mathematical ontology. These moments are chronologically synchronous with the development of set theory‘s axioms and techniques across the 20th century, from Zermelo to Paul Cohen. The axioms of Being are referenced to the less contentious early 20th century axioms, in contrast to the more controversial additions later on such as to the axiom of choice (forming ZFC), Gödel‘s proof of the consistency of constructability, and leading up to Cohen‘s early 1960s method of forcing. Given the limited space to present Being and Event‘s dense metaontological reading of the development of set theory, ahead of the exposition the table below summarises the three main movements of the text and their relation to set theory‘s axioms, the mathematical ideas they embody, and their philosophical interpretations – divided in this way to reflect how Badiou‘s take on mathematics reflects Lautman‘s. In the paragraphs which follow I rapidly abridge the main moments of the book‘s mathematical ontology in order to take us as quickly as possible to the theory of the event and the subject, where the greatest attention will be fixed. Which is to say, to take us rapidly to two crucial sections: the partitive excess of inclusion over belonging in any structured presentation (the vanishing structural cause of the event thought through the Cantor-Easton theorem), and the subject‘s role in forcing truth out of the situation (Cohen‘s theory of forcing).


Architectural map of Being and Event – Main movements and their ZF-C axioms, mathematical and philosophical Ideas


Mathematical Idea

Philosophical Idea



Sets‘ existence is given. No sets‘ relations.






The language separates Determines sets‘ ontic existence.


The power-set p(a) of Theorem of excess: there is at least any set (a) has more one element included in the ‗state‘ ‗parts‘; its cardinality is that does not belong to any greater. situation.



Sets cannot belong to The event is non-ontolologial: its themselves: ~(a a). self-belonging is prohibited by set theory.

Intervention (Subject)


All of set theory can be Axiom of foundation redundant; rendered in a axiom of choice more a theorem of well ordering. All excess banished. Constructability is the form of knowledge.

Infinity Choice

constructible universe.

There exist infinite sets.

The actual infinite is decided. Infinite sets necessary for axiom of choice, for unnameable multiples.




an Form of intervention. Arbitrary

element of any set can choice of an unnameable element. be decided to represent it. (N/A) Forcing to construct the Form of the generic ♀. Theory of generic set: G. Creating the Subject to truth. a generic extension of the ‗ground model‘,

where theorems about the indiscernable can be made verifiable or not.

a. Being The absence of a definition of a set within the ZF axioms is the crucial starting point for understanding Badiou‘s ontology since it immediately rules out any primordial definien of

Being.93 Axiomatic set theory is rather structured presentation which prohibits the presentation of Being so to not fall to pieces under the weight of its own inconsistencies (‗large‘ paradoxical sets, such as those exposed by Russell‘s paradox). There is therefore a double move involved in Badiou‘s interpretation of Being within axiomatic set theory. On the one hand, the axiom of separation, whereby all sets are constructed out of other sets, prescribes a mathematical language foreclosing any direct access to Being, because every existent is already assumed. Sets are simply given; the language of presentation (set theory) merely separates out existents and structures their relations. On the other hand, in any situation other than ontology the inconsistent multiple (the paradoxes the axiomatic is designed to suppress) are equated with Being, because it is ruled out from presentation within any structure. In a Heideggerian turn of phrase: the ontic givenness of consistent sets is taken to imply an ontology of inconsistent Being. However, the operation by which structure renders inconsistent Being invisible is retrospectively graspable by ontology; its outlawed inconsistency may be a nothing within any situation, but for ontology it is not a non-being94 (Badiou opposes this distinction to structuralism, which conflates the two). The inability within any structured situation to pre-emptively identity this nothing within the structure is one of the primitive conditions for the event. The imperceptible, inconsistent nothing within any situation Badiou terms the void, and following set theorists‘ inscription of the empty set he represents it with the symbol Ø to reinforce that this nothing is strictly unpresentable except as a lack. Ontology is only a theory of the void, because if ontology presented the other terms in its ‗presentation of presentation‘ it would put the void on the same level of structured presentation alongside every other inscription; ontology would collapse to mere presentation of structure rather than delving deeper into the unstructured Being of structure.95 The axiom of the powerset opens up a distinction for ontology to grasp this non-presentable existence of the void. The axiom prescribes the absolute excess of inclusion over belonging . Belonging is the count

forming the structure of the presentation of a situation, whereas inclusion operates as the meta-structure, or the ‗state‘ of the situation – the count of the multiples of the multiples (or, sets of sets) forming a re-presentation greater than the ‗initial‘ multiples. In a play on words designed to establish affinity with the Marxist revolutionary tradition, the power-set is described as a ‗representational state‘. ―Marxist thought relates the State directly to submultiples rather than to terms of the situation… By consequence, as a political programme, the Marxist proposes the revolutionary suppression of the State; thus the end of representation and the universality of simple presentation‖.96

The excess of representational inclusion over presentational belonging – a ―dialectic which is knotted together‖97 – lays the road to Badiou‘s new theory of the subject. It is a significant point to reflect upon because it undermines some critical readings of Badiou‘s theory in terms of a quasi-Kantian division between noumenon and phenomenon98 (notwithstanding the fact that there is not a trace of phenomenology here). Albeit true that Badiou maintains two ‗levels‘ in his inconsistent-Being/consistent-presentation ontology, with only the latter perceptible for ‗inhabitants‘ of a situation, because the void is universally included99 within meta-structure/re-presentation (the power-set) its presence as an empty set (as a nothing {Ø}) is implicated in the gap between sets belonging and included in a situation. What could have been a potentially static juxtaposition of ontological inconsistent multiplicity with structured, consistent presentation possesses a dialectical inflection from the initial axioms of ZF onwards. Badiou‘s distinction between nature and historical events clarifies the above point in the assertion – and this seems to be nothing more than an assumption based on a very classical philosophical Idea of Nature100 – that ‗natural‘ multiples are ordinals.101 These sets‘ transitivity from one to the other is premised on the maximal coincidence of belonging and inclusion: there is no ordinal included which also does not also belong to another ordinal. With the atomism implicated by the transitivity of ordinals – a halting point for the properties of ordinals beneath which there is no more fundamental substratum – the void is universally included but has no dynamic to leave a mark in the gap between the meta-structure of inclusion (the power-set) and the structure of belonging (presentational set). Nature is in static equilibrium because of its ordinal numerary structure, hence leaves no room for events and subjects. Badiou concludes that it is ―thus true that ‗nature‘ and ‗number‘ are substitutable‖.102 Naturalisation should not, however, be regarded as solely referring to the stability of the nonhuman order; Badiou also sees the re-statification following an event as a process of normalisation/naturalisation. Historical events are not demarked by the human as opposed to the non-human; ‗natural‘ stability is the norm of human history too – only the singular interruption of events (historicity proper) breaks the equilibrium. Solely by historical events can the natural order be unsettled. These happen at evental sites where a multiple asserts itself: a multiple in which none of the elements are presented in a situation. When the evental site is counted within a situation it has the void as its minimal point of singularity, which is why Badiou speaks of it as on the edge of the void. How this conception does not end up reduplicating the inert atomism of natural ordinals will lead all the way to Badiou‘s crowning theory of the subject. But for a subject, first an event.

b. Event Critical for proper comprehension of Badiou‘s theory of the event is the coimplication of evental-sites (singularities produced by the structure) and events themselves. The evental site produces the conditions for an event, yet does not necessitate an event.103 In what appears to be a rather redundant prohibition given that the theory of natural multiples as transitive ordinals blocks the excess of inclusion necessary for an evental site, Badiou confirms ―once and for all that there are no natural events, nor are there neutral events. In natural or neutral situations, there are solely facts.‖104 Badiou does not waver in insisting that the existence of the event through subjective force is predicated on the thinking being making it so. Significant for enabling the subjective procedures which will maintain the event, the event is the first non-ontological concept introduced in the text. It is prohibited by the ZF axiom of foundation, one of the main consequences of which is that no set can belong to itself. Thus, the event‘s non-ontological matheme of self-belonging means that the event both belongs as a nomination of itself (ex) and of its site within a situation (X):

ex = {x

X, ex]

―[T]he event is a one-multiple made up of, on the one hand, all the multiples which belong to its site, and on the other hand, the event itself.‖105. If this appears to establish the event as a transcendent eruption, supernumerary to the situation, the meditations of B&E devoted to the event (16-18) do little to establish any contrary impression. Nonetheless, the event, even if an inexplicable eruption from the standpoint of an inhabitant of a non-ontological historical situation, still demands subjective intervention because of undecideability regarding whether it belongs to the situation. It is not enough to say ‗there has been an event‘, rather the wager of the event is to affirm that it belongs to a situation, when nothing of the event is presented in the situation. At this point in Badiou‘s exposition the event‘s nomination obeys no law; the event‘s indeterminacy founds its non-founding. The split within the ‗matheme‘ of the event between the event and its site hearkens back to Theory of the Subject‘s notion of scission: if one only affirms the site, ―nothing will have taken place but place‖106, or in other words, you end with ‗rightist relapse‘ as the Hegelian Badiou of 1982 would have put it. At the same time, if one removes the event from its situation indexed to a sequence of preceding events (‗evental recurrence‘) then the ―speculative leftist‖ deviation degenerates into proposing ―a primal event‖, ―a radical beginning‖, or an ―absolute commencement‖.107 The Two of the event – the event and its site

– are both equally important to affirm or else begins the inevitable slide into static Manicheism. Affirming both is a procedure of fidelity to the consequences of the event by securing its lasting impact through a disciplined labour of fidelity. Although the event is rooted in an ontological disjunction in structure, the emphasis nevertheless clearly lays expost on the side of the subject through the naming of the event and its declaration as part of the situation. Again, it might appear that with the entirely subjective procedure of faithful evental nomination the schema has settled into another comfortable binary: a taut mathematics of structure, versus a romantically inexplicable, subjectively induced belief system entirely disjoint from ontology. Yet this is far from the case, as the return to the ZF axiomatics‘ most controversial supplement – the axiom of choice – will show. c. Intervention The Idea of subjective intervention is inscribed in structure by the addition of the axiom of choice to ZF. A source of controversy for mathematicians in the early twentieth century, the axiom pertains to the application of functions within infinite sets. Given that from here on in the rest of Badiou‘s theory will be equally dependent upon the transfinite, a few preliminary words on the axiom of infinity are required. In the previous chapter (§2.4) we already discussed Cantor‘s derivation of the transfinite and his continuum hypothesis. For Badiou the decision to affirm the transfinite – which the axiom of infinity combined with the power-set necessitates – is crucial for the mathematics (axiom of choice, forcing) he will draw upon to prove the possibility of subjective intervention. It is a pivotal axiomatic for the inscription of subjective decision within set theoretic ontology. But why accept infinity? The actual infinite‘s existence remains an open question, dividing mathematicians, physicists and philosophers alike.108 Philosophical speculation, scientific process, or mathematical foundationalism cannot adequately legislate upon the question. The lack of criteria for making a decision on the actual infinite is thus central for placing a decisionistic theory of the subject at the heart of Badiou‘s metaphysics. Additionally, in a supplementary argument against finitary or denumerable, transfinite mathematical paradigms – beyond simply the circularity of making an affirmative decision on infinity that will allow an ontology of decision to be developed – Badiou rejects intuitionism and contrasts the richness of the mathematical domain permitted by properly transfinite set theory against their barren, denumerable twin towns.109 He also cites the general acceptance of infinite sets by mathematicians as necessary for their practice – drawing upon something like an intra-mathematical pragmatism akin to Quine‘s ‗indispensability argument‘ for mathematics within the philosophy of science. 110 In any case, the wager on the infinite is cast by ZF‘s axioms and Badiou keenly follows.

Infinite sets demand an axiom of choice. This is because in finite sets finding a representative element of all a set‘s multiples poses few problems, because there is a minimal (non void) element to perform the role. The function of choice needs no axiomatic legitimation owing to the fact that the element can be procedurally derived. In an infinite set, on the other hand, defining a function faces the problem that a single element has to represent an infinite number of elements: an operation with no definable rules given the excess of the immeasurable infinite over the finite, with no halting point of minimality other than the universal inclusion of the void.111 It follows that the axiom of choice is required to permit the arbitrary assignment of a representative element within an infinite set. For mathematicians, the axiom maintains the existence of a selection set on the force of assertion. None of this should be taken to imply that the axiom of choice should just be considered like any other ZF axiom however. The fact that after being included within the ZF axioms set theory is abbreviated as ZFC is sufficient to demonstrate the supplementary character of choice. The axiom‘s difference lies in that if supposing the existence of a set, the function (the set of choice) has no explicit link to it: the function‘s existence is not prescribed by the set, its uniqueness to perform the function is not assured, and it is impossible to know which element the representative set is supposed to be representing. Mapping this within Badiou‘s philosophical interpretation, insofar as the choice permitted by the axiom ―is subtracted from the count‖ (that is, the operation of choosing cannot be presented in the language of set theory) it is ―an Idea which is fundamentally different from all those in which we have recognized the laws of presentation‖, and thus ―within ontology, the axiom of choice formalizes the predicates of intervention. It is a question of thinking intervention in its being; that is, without the event‖.112 Or put differently, its unpresentable operation (only the result is presented) affirms the ontological existence of the subjective form of intervention also carried across in the non-ontological idea of an event. By splitting early twentieth mathematicians apart in a similar way to Cantor‘s transfinite, Zermelo‘s axiomatic intervention was in essence ―a political conflict, because its stakes were those of admitting a being of intervention; something that no known procedure or intuition justified.‖113 It was an event within the situation of ontology – but note, only for the situation of ontology, for in all other situations events are non-ontological. The philosophical denouement is that since the axiom of choice is only of relevance with regard to infinite sets, and only in an infinite situation is the form of intervention possible, Badiou is obliged to make a ―fundamental ontological decision‖ that ―in the last resort, every situation is infinite.‖114 Henceforth, all truths are infinite.


At this point (Part VIII, Meditations 31 onwards) a disjunction in the book‘s approach occurs which is crucial to flag up for our argument regarding the relationship of philosophical metaontology to non-ontological historical situations, ergo to the question of the intellectual authority of the philosopher viz. political truth procedures. So it is worth recapitulating some of the above points.  That ontology is a situation means it presents presentation; it is the study of the void based underbelly of presentation only possible from the vantage point of mathematics. Both ontological and non-ontological situations are founded by the ZF set theory axioms: a universe of transfinite immeasurability. In ontological situations ontology can view its situation from the outside; in non-ontological situations this is impossible.  Hence, although the ontologist can see the incompleteness of presentation and the omnipresent possibility for change, for an inhabitant of a non-ontological situation (and we can also include the metaphor of ‗real world‘ politics under this designation) a supernumerary event taking place at an evental site is needed in order for it to be named as part of a situation by a subject. An event happens when a multiple included, but not belonging within a situation presents itself, creating an evental site on the edge of the void.  The event is necessary for change for an inhabitant of a non-ontological, historical situation inside the ZFC universe because of the ontological/non-ontological distinction prohibiting an inhabitant from intuiting what could be changed in lieu of an event. I stress these points again, for they demonstrate how subtly interwoven the idea of the event is with the ontological/non-ontological distinction (hence, also, the philosopher/subject-to-truth distinction). The event is the cornerstone idea preventing the collapse of the two situations into one another, therewith preserving the creative, truth bearing role for non-philosophical subjects. The event is what makes philosophy ultimately subservient to non-philosophical truths, but it is also what allows philosophy to think the procedures of an event and subjective affirmation without creating truths itself. Positing events circumscribe the philosopher to the level of abstract thought about processes of change. The above points are necessary in order to appreciate the discrepancy between Badiou‘s theory of the event in the middling meditations of the book in contrast with how Badiou completes the arc of the text with his theory of subjective intervention within a situation that creates (by forcing) a generic extension of it. Because when proving via Cohen the possibility of subjective decision to remake the situation

within a transitive model of set theory in the later meditations he undermines the structural basis of the evental site (excess of inclusion over belonging) for an inhabitant of the situation. This leaves, I will argue, only the ontologist Subject to suppose an event for the inhabitant from the outside – that is, to provide the impetus for the inhabitant subject to force change. Cognizance of this point requires us to continue to follow Badiou‘s text by passing through both the constructible universe of set theory and how, from within a similarly delimited model, Paul Cohen‘s method of forcing generic extensions completes Badiou‘s theory of the subject. Gödel‘s proof of the consistency of a constructible inner model of set theory within ZF established the legitimacy of a model in which Cantor‘s continuum hypothesis could be proven. The constructible model is created through an iterative process wherein only the parts of a set which can be assigned properties through formulas are permitted: no indeterminate or unnameable parts are allowed entry. The process of hierarchically ascending up levels of construction along a denumerable ordinal index retains only those parts which formulas can assign properties to. Consequently, there is a provable equivalence between the ‗class‘ of constructible sets (L) and the universal ‗class‘ (V), or V=L. 115 Within this model of ZF its quasi-completeness – quasi, because Gödel‘s incompleteness theorem establishes the impossibility of the completion of a denumerable model – means that it is impossible to demonstrate that any sets are not constructible. The immeasurability of cardinality in a nonconstructed universe is reduced to an ordered succession of constructible cardinals leaping over the non-constructible, immeasurable sets effaced by the delimitations of the constructible universe. Therefore, in the constructible model the axiom of choice is provable, but also curtailed to the level of a theorem constructible from the other axioms, since the excessive cardinality demanding axiomatic prescription of a choice function for infinite sets is rendered unnecessary by the ordered hierarchy of cardinal construction. In Badiou‘s estimation this is a ―flattened and correct universe in which excess is reduced to the strictest of measures, and in which situations persevere indefinitely in their regulated being.‖116 It is also a universe prohibiting both the structural possibility of an evental site and the interventional form of a subject‘s nomination of an event (since the operation of the axiom of choice is unnecessary). But it is precisely from within Cohen‘s similarly transitive, denumerable universe (the ‗ground model‘) that Badiou will seek to prove the possibility of forcing truths through subjective intervention. The move into such a restricted model will spectacularly demonstrate the possibility of intervention under conditions of vacuum sealed rigidity – where the numeration does not exceed . Yet, as we will see, this coup de grace to structural

determinism comes as the price of foreclosing the evental sites necessary to maintain the demarcation between philosophers and truth bearing subjects. Positioned at the end of B&E Cohen‘s method of forcing provides a distillation of Badiou‘s entire ontological project, for which it could be argued the preceding Meditations serve as a mere propaedeutic. Understanding Cohen‘s already highly complex mathematical demonstration is, however, further exacerbated by its inscription within the philosophical vocabulary developed in the book, resulting in most readers receiving these Meditations somewhat uncritically. Again, it seems to further confirm the generally neglectful attitude to Badiou‘s theory of the subject that nowhere in the literature has anyone questioned exactly why Badiou chooses to follow Cohen‘s demonstration of forcing when more intuitive variations have subsequently been developed. Although former Althusserian, Jean-Touissant Desanati, teases the reader with a promise to ask ―how is it that Badiou seems to have no other option other than to accept completely the ‗procedure‘ of forcing, and more specifically, the version of it put forward by Cohen himself?‖117 he frustratingly neglects to answer his own question. Another motivation for questioning why Badiou makes use of Cohen‘s approach, when he would almost certainly have been familiar with the more intuitive approaches developed subsequently, is provided by a problem confronting readers seeking secondary literature on forcing: the use of the Boolean valued model variant by the few existing ‗beginner‘s guides‘.118 This procedure differs from Cohen‘s in that it creates a Boolean algebraic model 𝔹 within the standard model M of ZF, and then uses an ultra-filter mapping to verify or disprove independence results. Curiously, and for reasons unknown, Badiou describes the Boolean approach as a ―realist‖119 interpretation of forcing – this despite the fact that the development of syntactic and Boolean approaches arguably contributed to Cohen‘s own decision in favour of a formalist philosophy of mathematics. Kanamori, for one, suggests that there ―is a quiet resonance here between Cohen‘s coming down on the Formalist side and his syntactic approach to formal relative consistency‖.120 My own suspicion here is that Badiou sticks with Cohen‘s original model-theoretical, semantic approach because it maintains a more clearly demarked sense of the internal/external, and hence something more like the ontological/non-ontological philosophical distinction upheld throughout Being and Event. But to understand the aforesaid decision‘s involvement in the suppression of the evental site in Cohen‘s ‗ground model‘, requires us to wade into the technicalities of forcing. From the perspective of Badiou‘s philosophical metaontology, the final section of B&E concerned with forcing is boundaried to the ontological situation. Problematically, although these meditations are restricted in this way, something very much like the

ontological/historical situation distinction is revived through an implicit demarcation between the ontologist ‗outside‘ the model and the inhabitant ‗internal‘ to the model. Nowhere, it must be said, is this stated explicitly, but when Tho posed this point to Badiou in an interview – ―you seem to treat non-ontological situations as if they can legitimately be understood as ‗models‘ of the ontological situation (for instance, in order for Cohen‘s methods to be of any use in understanding truth procedures, our situation must be understood as being analogous to a denumerable, transitive model‖121 – his reply certainly said nothing to correct the impression. Now, even though this flatly contradicts the distinction between nature as transitive and historical situations as non-transitive in the earlier mediations of B&E, it would seem safe to assume that the non-ontological, historical situation is transposed internally to Cohen‘s model in the later meditations. Therefore the event, since it is prohibited by ontology by the axiom of foundation (which Badiou mentions) and impossible within a transitive model (which he does not), receives a surrogate in the meditations on Cohen in the form of the symbol ♀ to denote the generic, indiscernible set which will be forcibly constructed (in the mathematical literature: G). The indiscernable in any situation transcribes the idea of the event from non-ontological situations to ontology; it is ―an event-without-event‖.122 But notwithstanding the way this generic set will be constructed retroactively, thereby matching the affirmational procedure of an event, the insinuated symmetry between the two notions lacks its most crucial component. Only the affirmational part of an event is reflected in the indiscernible, because in the transitive ‗ground model‘ the excess of inclusion over belonging necessary for an evental site is prohibited. Badiou himself draws attention to the fact that the power-set axiom is not absolute within the model. Pay close attention to the way the axiom is ‗seen‘ according to position external or internal to the model: ―from the outside, the ontologist can quite clearly distinguish a part of a which, not existing in S [the situation] (because it does not belong to S), makes up part of p(a) [the powerset of a] in the sense of general ontology without making up part of p(a) in the sense given to it by an inhabitant of S.‖123 Or to put it another way, the inhabitant of the model – insofar as we assume this situation would be a nonontological, historical situation for him or her – could never witness a rupture of undecideable excess; only the ontologist (or philosopher metaontologist) can see its potential from a position of exteriority to the model. Here, I argue, lies the elision between the ontological and non-ontological levels prepared by the suppression of cardinal immeasurability in Cohen‘s ‗ground model‘ prior to a forcing procedure – a hiccup in the reasoning of B&E which is all the more perplexing considering the rapid development of alternative techniques permitting forcing from the starting point of a non-denumerable universe by Cohen, Robert Soloway and

others in the years following Cohen‘s first results. In Cohen‘s semantic ‗ground model‘, however, where V L only after a forcing procedure, from the ontological ‗outside‘ the event is impossible because of its relation of self-belonging, but from the non-ontological ‗inside‘ the event is equally impossible because of the transitivity preventing an evental site from forming. This will have consequences for how we think the extra-philosophical autonomy of the subject in the four truth procedures, and particularly in politics. In this regard it is worth noting that Badiou particularly emphasises the way forcing procedures reflect political procedures.

Ontology will explore how, from a given situation, one can construct another situation by means of the addition of an ‗indiscernable‘ multiple of the initial situation. This formalization is clearly that of politics, which, naming an unpresented of the site on the basis of the event, reworks the situation through its tenacious fidelity to that nomination. But here is a case of politics without future anterior, a being of politics.124 We return to this point shortly. But first some technical exegesis125 is required to give a brief explanation of forcing. For simplification, we work primarily from Cohen‘s presentation and his use of terminology. As a point of entry, in his book Cohen insightfully contrasts forcing with the standard mathematical notion of implication. Whereas implication demands that any single statement implies another to be true (e.g., a ⇒ P, or, if a then P), forcing differs from this classical logic in that when constructing a generic set consistent with the infinity of sets within a model, one needs to construct statements (A) which can be decided true or false for this generic set. Because statements about the generic set cannot contradict the semantics of the ‗ground model‘, this means that by compiling consistent statements about the supposed set it is possible to create a finite set of such statements (P), or what Cohen calls a ‗forcing condition‘. Thus, a finite procedure of compiling compatible statements regarding the as-yet-unknown generic set permits this set‘s compatibility with the model. Forcing therefore differs from implication owing to the fact that not just any set a satisfying the set of statements P will also satisfy the requirement of P to impute truth or falsity to a statement A about a. Only a generic set a will fulfil this demand. The difference between implication and forcing rests entirely on the procedure‘s necessity to operate only on generic sets.


Generic sets are thus the lynchpin of the whole procedure. The aim of constructing them is to show how by only using sets already present within the model, one can still construct an extension of the model which forces certain statements to be true or false (this was Cohen‘s aim when creating forcing, to show how an extension of the model can be created which refutes the continuum hypothesis – henceforth CH). In Cohen‘s words, the ―chief point is that we do not wish a to contain ―special‖ information about M, which can only be seen from the outside, such as the countability of , and will imply that the model containing a must contain more ordinals than those in M.‖126 [my emphasis] The point is instead to derive information out of M from the inside, by creating an extension of the model (N) containing the generic set, yet preserving the consistency of all the existing axioms and theorems of the initial model. The stipulation against measuring the highest ordinal is required because simply adding ordinals to the model from the ‗outside‘ (as measuring the highest ordinal necessitates) would result in a collapse of the model. No gain would therefore be made viz. Gödel‘s proof of the consistency of the CH in a transitive, denumerable model where V=L, because Cohen‘s new model arising from forcing, aiming to prove V≠L (hence refuting CH), would not be a model at all if ordinals were simply added at will without passing through the generic procedure of ensuring their consistency with the constructive, ground model. Near the end of his Appendix entry on forcing, Peter Hallward describes the approach as drawing out the tacitly included non-constructible sets in M to force their belonging in N.127 The point is to ‗seed‘ the ‗ground model‘ with a non-constuctible generic set containing the requisite information to create a one-to-one correspondence between the ordinals and the desired cardinality of the continuum. It follows that what is required is a process, which by using no more than the internal possibilities of the ‗ground model‘, one can prove the falsity of the CH by adding generic integers, ergo demonstrating that CH cannot be proved one way or the other within ZF set theory – i.e. the hypothesis is independent. In Kanamori‘s judgement Cohen‘s constructions obtained their crucial operational clarity with this requirement in mind: ―to start with a (transitive) standard model of ZF and extend it without altering the ordinals.‖128 Or in Cohen‘s own reflections on the subject: ―Just as Gödel did not remove any ordinals from the constructible universe, a kind of converse decision is made not to add any ordinals.‖129 The generic set is so important for this task because it is constructed out of the fixation of sequences of compatible conditions permitting veridical statements consistent with everything else in the model. If an infinite number of generic integers can be paired with the natural numbers by these forcing conditions then CH is refuted. Because choice between these conditions lies at the heart of the forcing procedure, in

applying the method one is only ever ‗reading off‘ a limited, finite part of the generic set; thus the set itself cannot be represented as a theorem, which is necessarily finite in length. However, given that the ordinal index is denumerable we can nonetheless still be sure that a complete set exists. Cohen recalls his concerns prior to fully fleshing out the technique that ―It seemed too much to ask to hope that a finite number of conditions might be enough to decide everything.‖130 And in Badiou‘s metaontological interpretation, the significance of forcing runs along similar lines when he adduces from Cohen‘s discovery that the infinity of truths is mediated by the finite procedures of a subject. To cover much of the same ground again but this time including more of the method‘s technical nuances, forcing involves a retroactive approach beginning with a supposed extended model N to ascertain all possible statements about N and deciding whether they are to be true or false. To this end ‗labels‘ are assigned to all the elements of N with the aim to complete an enumeration of all possible formulas by creating a function label space which can put the

into one-to-one correspondence with the set of all such formulas. The to be defined as the set of all

procedure of transfinite induction permits the label space formulas in which every quantifier (e.g. or

) has a rank in the ordinal index. The ranking

process is necessary for establishing the ordering of statements so that the construction of a finite set of such statements (a forcing condition: P) can proceed in a way so to discern the enrichment and sequential compatibility of statements. In Badiou‘s express emphasis: the ―concept of order is central here, because it permits us to distinguish multiples which are ‗richer‘ in sense than others; even if, in terms of belonging, they are all elements of the supposed indiscernible, ♀ [the generic set: G].‖131 For the purposes of refuting CH, order is established by assigning a rank to each statement A composed of (α,i,r): α being the least ordinal, r the number of symbols in A, and i is either 1 or 0 depending upon whether α is a successor ordinal. Thus, the rank of any statement can be written in suchlike form: (α+1,1,3). As a point of clarification between forcing in general, and the form of forcing used by Cohen in his independence proofs, it is worth noting that many such ranking systems could be used depending on the purposes to which forcing is undertaken. Ordering is critical for forcing, but the form of the ordering is dependent on the purposes of the generic set being constructed. Here Cohen‘s ordering process is engineered towards forcing a truth or falsity result for a oneto-one correspondence between and a cardinality of any size – e.g. . To do this Cohen (often written

creates sets of ordered pairs that match the elements of the natural numbers

) with elements of the cardinality of the continuum desired in N. If they can be made to

match by establishing a complete forcing condition – the generic set in question, forging the extension of the model: N – then CH is refuted by proving its independence from the axioms of ZF set theory. In terms of how ranking conditions serve the forcing procedure, Badiou provides an easily graspable example of the concept by way of a simplified scenario in which conditions are composed of only finite sequences of 0‘s and 1‘s. As the conditions are enriched their compatibility is assured by their accumulation. So condition 1 (o,1,0) is enriched by a further condition 2 (o,1,0,0) without contradiction, since C2 contains C1. The centrality of order also pertains directly to the definition of forcing given that a forcing condition is the set of compatible statements. A statement becomes a condition as it is enriched by other compatible statements, with the effect that they force the lower-ranked statement. The crux of the matter requires a suspension of the implication P ⇒ A because of the possibility that a stronger condition Q might force the opposite, i.e. the negation of a statement rather than its verification. P condition Q forces the negation of A (Q A therefore means P forces A unless a stronger ~A). Yet the permanent suspension of forcing

implication is prevented once, by transfinite induction, a complete sequence of forcing conditions Pn has been established, which is possible in a denumerable model. In this case, where Pn Pn+1 for all n and A, Pn either forces A or forces its negation. Pn is the resulting set

on which the extension of M is based and a model for ZF set theory fully consistent with the initial model. So although the set of all P is a set in the original model M, the complete sequence Pn accounts for the novelty of the new, extended model. N is formed out of an ordered, compatible sequence of forcing conditions, of which all its elements are already contained in M. Once a complete sequence of forcing conditions Pn has been established, N is established – an extension of M and a model for ZF set theory fully consistent with the model it was derived from. So although the set of all P is a set in the original model M, the complete sequence Pn forms the new, extended model. N is formed out of an ordered, compatible sequence of forcing conditions, of which all its elements are already contained in M. In Cohen‘s forcing procedure, where ‗militant investigations‘ construct the generic set, Badiou ascertains his new conception of the subject, bringing B&E full circle back to the theory of the subject lodged in the connection between being and place132, or in the Hegelian inspired syntax used 6 years earlier A=(AAp). This subject is no longer presumed as ubiquitous; now it rather supports ―a hypothesis of the rarity of the subject, which suspends its occurrence from the event, from the intervention, and from the generic paths of fidelity‖.133 Giving birth to truths through forcing compatible connections redefines a notion


of truth as an ―indiscernible multiple whose finite approximation is supported by the subject, such that its ideality-to-come, nameless correlate of the naming of the event‖.134 And thus, Badiou particularly stresses, the cause of the subject is ‗in the final instance‘ the event – the subject is ―under the condition of an indiscernible, thus of a generic procedure, a fidelity, an intervention, and, ultimately, of an event.‖135 Tied together in the new notion of a subject is the proposition of both its ex-post formation as the detritus of a structural effect, but also one with the capacity to draw upon the vanishing cause to pro-actively force an indiscernible truth out of a situation. In any historical situation, ―The ‗there is‘ of a subject is the coming-to-be of the event, via the ideal occurrence of truth, in its finite modalities.‖136

§2.6 The philosophical Subject of subjects Yet as already intimated in the paragraphs preceding the technical exegesis on forcing, by pursuing the demonstration of this subjective procedure of forcing from within the denumerable ‗ground model‘ of set theory utilised by Cohen for his independence proofs, Badiou‘s event, as a disjunction in the schema between presentation and representation, is foreclosed any possibility of actualisation. If one presumes that an ‗inhabitant‘ of the model can be said to be living in a model approximating, or at least analogous to a historical situation, then one is left only to conclude that forcing follows either from a procedure sparked by an inexplicably illuminated subject for change (structural cause unknown), or else the interior/exterior distinction at work in Cohen‘s manipulation of the model reserves a role for the (meta)ontologist to propose an event for subjects to which they should remain faithful and then force out truths from the situation. Now, whilst it might appear that too much is possibly being read into a rather arcane technical point related to B&E‘s final switch to a constructible set theory universe to demonstrate a proof of subjective intervention, let us note how some of his political positions directly reflect the same ambiguity. For one thing, in regards to ‘68 Badiou has been unrelenting in his defence of its evental status; and notwithstanding his own political participation in the immediate events and in trying to draw out the consequences of the new forms of organization the event made possible through the UCF-ML and OP organizations, his own meta-ontological project certainly lends credence to its status as an event as opposed to, say, an orthodox Marxist, or rightwing conservative position that would point to the failure of protest groups to take power and effect tangible change. Another example: during the 2010/11 ‗Arab Spring‘ Badiou‘s former student, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, was outraged at Badiou‘s description of the Tunisian protests as ‗riots‘.137 Kacem linked this to both Badiou‘s

exteriority to the realities of oppression in Tunisia as a comfortably secure French intellectual and also to Badiou‘s persistent loyalties to Marxist-Leninist judgement on the necessary conditions for political change, charging him with Stalinism and a latent indifference to cruelty. Furthermore, in a meta-theoretical reflection on the relationship between Badiou‘s philosophy and actual politics, Adrian Johnston has questioned the credibility of Badiou‘s demarcation of his own philosophical and metapolitical writings from having any influence on the political reality on the ground. He argues that if ―Badiou succeeds in gaining an audience among practitioners of politics, then, contrary to his insistence that political practices condition philosophical theories and not vice versa, it‘s reasonable to anticipate that there will be extra-philosophical repercussions generated by a reciprocal counterconditioning of politics by (Badiouian) metapolitics.‖138 Much the same ambiguity is exemplified by Badiou‘s description of himself, alongside Slavoj Žižek, as forming a philosophic ‗politburo‘, to which many on the left look up to for their analysis of events. Certainly, the sell-out conferences in London and New York on the ‗Idea of Communism‘ spearheaded by the Badiou and Žižek seem to belie any supposed ringfencing between the intellectual projects of these philosophers and the activist political communities who comprise their audience. So despite Badiou‘s idea of the event appearing on one level to undermine the intellectualist vanguard position, on another it reinstates it within the discourse of judging an event from a philosophical standpoint – an ambiguity, I have heretofore argued, which is inscribed right at heart of his ontology of the subject. The dialectical materialist ‗Science of science‘ (thinking the epistemological break) that Althusser once believed party intellectuals were required to wield is in some sense replaced in Badiou‘s theory of the event by a the tacitly included necessity of a philosopher ‗Subject of subjects‘. To conclude this chapter, it would not be untoward to mention the modification of some of these conceptions in the second part of the treatise, Logics of Worlds (henceforth, LoW). For example, in this text more labour is invested in thinking the immanence of worlds and unlike the singular subject of different practices in B&E, now a typology of subjects is presented – faithful, reactive and obscure139 – alongside a formal exposition of their objective transformation of one into the other. Even more interesting are the increasingly prescriptive political interventions interspersed throughout the text; so much so that in an adjusted register it is not hard to read the preface to the book as something of a return to more openly Althusserian inflections on the relationship between theory and practice, albeit one still maintaining the anti-Althusserian insistence on the irrelevance of socio-economic determinations in the subjective sequences of politics. Motivating the entire work is

opposition to an ideology of ―democratic materialism‖, today dominating, in Badiou‘s view, the horizon of political imagination. Not quite the same as the humanism of the existential subject for freedom Althusser devoted his career to opposing; nonetheless the ―humanist protection of all living bodies‖140 comprises the norm of the ideology of contemporary materialism he seeks to quash. Through a ‗materialist dialectic‘ Badiou wishes to counter this tendency through the mathematical conceptualisation of the body of a subject bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the anthropological, humanist body revered by practitioners of human rights and relativists of all varieties. Therewith he positions his work against the sumtotal ideology of most of the activist left today, who are drawn in ―by the doxa of the body, desire, affect, networks, the multitude, nomadism and enjoyment into which a whole contemporary ‗politics‘ sinks, as if into a poor man‘s Spinozism.‖141 In regard to the aforementioned typology of subjects Badiou readily concedes the uniquely philosophical status of their formalisation.142 The Greater Logic of objects will then endow these subjects with bodies situated in world by way of topos theory. Remaining with this specifically philosophical typology, however, Badiou notably refuses to concede anything to the ‗left wing‘ tradition as embodied within any subjective sequence whatsoever. We thereby eliminate the whole ‗left-wing‘ tradition which believes that a progressive politics ‗fights against oppression‘. But we also eliminate, for example, a certain modernist tradition which believes that the criterion for art is the ‗subversion‘ of established forms, to say nothing of those who wish to articulate amorous truth onto the fantasy of a sexual emancipation (against ‗taboos‘, patriarchy, etc.)143 These observations combined with Badiou‘s stress on political truths being carried by organized political bodies like the Bolshevik party give the impression of a return to a more hard-line political persuasion somewhat at odds with the enforced modesty of the demarcation of philosophical meta-ontological reflection from actual historical, subjective sequences maintained throughout B&E. Unfortunately, there is not the space here to devote any analysis to Badiou‘s Greater Logic of objectivity and the nuanced imbrications between theory and politics they might tacitly exhibit. I have put into print a rather descriptive reading of Badiou‘s theory of the object elsewhere144, but the depth of analysis which would be required to extend the discussion across LoW goes beyond my present capacities. Indeed, it would be no small feat considering the only sketchily contoured bridges unfurled between the

two works. Badiou himself admits that ―Problems of connection and continuity do remain, namely between a ‗generic procedure‘ and ‗intra-worldly consequences of the existence of an inexistent‘‖ to which he adds ―I leave them for another time, or for others to solve.‖145 Solving (or critiquing) the mathematico-ontological discrepancies between the books is a beguiling prospect, but one that will, for the time being, have to wait. The next chapter sees how Badiou‘s student, Quentin Meillassoux, seeks to use the event in a way quite opposite to the humbling role spurring its inclusion in Badiou‘s B&E. For here, although the event plays a similar role in allowing anything unpredictable to happen – this time with no caveats of ‗metaphorical‘ relevance in historical situations – it is also marshalled to undermine religion of the intellectual level, and furthermore propose an errant political dream quite unlike anything seen before.


Alain Badiou, Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker (London and New York: Verso, 2006), 63.

Amongst the multiplicity of philosophical reference points one finds in Badiou‘s later work, Althusser‘s name can also be found bookending the beginning and end of his recent ‗sequel‘ to Being and Event, Logics of Worlds, where Badiou acknowledges him as an important influence, repeating the generous remarks of Metapolitics.

Alain Badiou and Tzuchien Tho, ―Interview with Alain Badiou‖ In: Alain Badiou, The Concept of Model, trans. and eds. Zachary Luke Fraser and Tzuchien Tho (Melbourne: Re.Press, 2007), 80.
3 4

Alain Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamour of Being, trans. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000 [1997])

Johnston, Badiou, Zizek and Political Transformations, 15. Daniel Bensaid,



See the French works by a former student of Badiou, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, Après badiou (Paris: Grasset & Fasquelle, 2011) and Francoise Laruelle, Anti-Badiou : Sur l'introduction du maoïsme dans la philosophie (Paris: Editions Kimé, 2011) Alain Badiou cited in Bruno Bosteels, ―Alain Badiou‘s Theory of the Subject: Part I. The Recommencement of Dialectical Materialism?‖, Pli 12 (2001), 200-229 (213).

Bruno Bosteels affirms that is indispensible ―to traverse the very problematic nature of the difference between science and ideology if we want to understand not only Althusser‘s enterprise but also the systematic foundation of Badiou‘s philosophy‖. Bosteels, ―Alain Badiou‘s Theory of the Subject: Part I‖, 207.
9 10

Alain Badiou, The Concept of Model, eds. and trans. Zachary Luke Fraser and Tzuchien Tho (Melbourne: Re.Press, 2007),

Althusser, ―From Capital to Marx‘s Philosophy‖, fn. [page?].



Badiou, The Concept of Model, 9. Badiou, The Concept of Model, 12. Badiou, The Concept of Model, 13. Badiou, The Concept of Model, 17.





For an accessible introduction to model theory see Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman, Gödel's Proof (New York: NYU Press, 2001).

Badiou, The Concept of Model, 48. Brassier (2005, p. 143) ibid Badiou, The Concept of Model, 54. Badiou, The Concept of Model, 53. Louis Althusser ―Foreward‖ In: Badiou, The Concept of Model, 3.






For the most gregarious example of this evaluation of 68‘ see Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution and the Legacy of the 1960s (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010)
23 24

See Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy, trans. (London and New York: Verso, 20xx). Richard Wolin also cites this example in the Introduction to Winds from the East.

For example, one can see in the Laurie Penny-Alex Callinicos tiff over the 2010 student protests as a rerun of 68‘ schisms. See

Elliott, Althusser: The Detour of Theory, 193. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 11, 10. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 39. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 23. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 52, 53. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 72. Rancière, Althusser’s Lesson, 122-123. Elliott, Althusser: The Detour of Theory, 315. Alain Badiou, Metapolitics, 135. Alain Badiou, ‗Roads to Renegacy‘, New Left Review 53, Sept/Oct 2008, p. 126 Ibid., pp. 132-133 46











―Les Maoists et Leir Histoire: Histoire de l'U.C.F.M.L: quelques points de repère‖, Le MarxisteLeniniste, No. 50-51 (1981). Available online: http://www.infosedipro.org/Dochml/presse/sommaires/lemarxisteleniniste/ml50-51/p2a6.htm [Accessed 20 July 2011]
37 38

Alain Badiou cited in Peter Hallward, Alain Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis, MA: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 33. Luke Zachary Fraser also writes ―These events [of ‘68] can accurately be said to mark the end of Badiou‘s Althusserian period.‖ ―Introduction‖ In: Badiou, The Concept of Model, xv. Alain Badiou, ―The Lessons of Jacques Rancière: Knowledge and Power after the Storm‖ In: Jacques Rancière: History, Politics, Aesthetics, eds. G. Rockhill and P. Watts (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 30-54 (31).
39 40

Badiou, ―The Lessons of Jacques Rancière‖, 50.


See Mao Zedong, On Practice and Contradiction, introduced by Slavoj Zizek (London and New York: Verso, 2008)

Commenting on the actuality of Chinese Maoism, that is, beyond its theoretical interest and deployment within the subjective sequence of 1968 in France, Badiou claims to find in Maoist China the culmination of a 20th century revolutionary sequence tied to the party-state nexus: ―the Maoist current, [is] the only true political creation of the sixties and seventies‖, because ―the Cultural Revolution is the last significant sequence that is still internal to the party-state.‖ More wistifully, in the final accounting ―the strategic meaning (or the universal range) of these inventions was a negative one. Because what they themselves carried forth, and what they vitally impressed on the militant minds of the entire world, was nothing but the end of the party-state as the central production of revolutionary political activity.‖ (Alain Badiou, ―The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?‖, 481-482, 488).

Alain Badiou, Theory of Contradiction, excerpts translated by Alberto Toscano. Available at: http://versuslaboratory.janvaneyck.nl/app/webroot/uploads/badiou%20theory%20of%20ccont.pdf [Accessed 19 July 2011]

Alain Badiou, Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels (London and New York, Continuum, 2009), 37.

Bruno Bosteels, ―Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics‖, 600. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 15. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 71.



Bruno Bosteels, ―Translator‘s Introduction‖ In: Alain Badiou, Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels (London and New York, Continuum, 2009), xxi.
48 49

Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 4. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 44. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 7. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 11. 47





Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 39. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 49. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 63, 62. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 60. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 62. Badiou, Theory of the Subject, 59. Badiou (2009b, p. 190) ibid, p. 188 Salankis (2001, p. 5) Badiou (2009b, pp. 192-193). Ibid, p. 193. Ibid, p. 197. Ibid, p. 217 Badiou (2009b, p. 210)














For more on Badiou‘s considerations of the conditions effected philosophy see Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. 68 Bruno Bosteels, ―Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics,‖ 581
67 69

Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London and New York: Continuum, 2006),


Badiou, Being and Event, 6, 3.

Indeed, in an endnote to the work Badiou writes that ―of the great Bachelardian tradition, fortunately my master G. Canguihem survives.‖Badiou, Being and Event, 483, en. to pg. 15.
71 72

Alain Badiou, Briefings on Existence: A Short Treatise on Mathematical Ontology, trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany, NY: New York State University Press, 2006 [1998]), 60.

Badiou, Briefings on Existence, 61. Badiou, Briefings on Existence, x. Badiou, Being and Event, 15.



In Brassier's judgement ―the veritable worth of Badiou‘s work lies not in his theory of the event but rather in the subtractive ontology which was merely intended as its propaedeutic‖. Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007), Chapter 4.


Ray Brassier, ―Nihil Unbound: Remarks on Subtractive Ontology and Thinking Capitalism‖ In: Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy, ed. Peter Hallward (London and New York: Continuum), 51.
77 78

Badiou, Being and Event, 13. Badiou, Being and Event, 8. Badiou, Being and Event, 483, en. to pg. 12 and 13.



Fernando Zamalea, ―Albert Lautman and the Creative Dialectic of Modern Mathematics‖ In: Albert Lautman, Mathematics, Ideas and the Physical Real, trans. Simon Duffy (London and New York: Continuum, 2011), xxxii.
81 82

Lautman, Mathematics, Ideas and the Physical Real, 29.

Alain Badiou and Tzuchien Tho, ―Interview with Alain Badiou‖ In: Alain Badiou, The Concept of Model, trans. and eds. Zachary Luke Fraser and Tzuchien Tho (Melbourne: Re.Press, 2007), 82.
83 84

Lautman, Mathematics, Ideas and the Physical Real, 204. Badiou, Being and Event, 8. Badiou, Briefings on Existence, 48-49. Badiou and Tho, ―Interview‖, 93. Badiou, Being and Event, 11.





Paul Cohen cited in Akihiro Kanamori, ―Cohen and Set Theory‖, The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 14, No. 5 (Sept 2008), p. 360.

Paul Cohen, ―The Discovery of Forcing‖, Rocky Mountain Journal of Mathematics, Vol. 32, No. 4, (Winter 2002), 1080.

The impetus should be understood as something of a continuation of Jean-Paul Sartre‘s project of establishing the subjective conditions of freedom. Just as for Sartre the infinite extensionality of consciousness delivers the conditions for human freedom, so for Badiou the existence of undecideable propositions provides an ontological inconsistency which a subject can act upon – the key undecideable being Cantor‘s affirmation of the existence of actual infinity in mathematics. For an excellent exposition of the theoretical proximity of Jean-Paul Sartre‘s extensional theory of consciousness and the set theory used by Badiou see Luke Zachary Fraser, The Infinite, (unpublished Masters thesis).
91 92

Badiou, Briefings on Existence, x. Badiou, Being and Event, 42-44. Badiou, Being and Event, 53. Badiou, Being and Event, 57.







Badiou, Being and Event, 84.

Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View (MIT Press, 2004) argues that there seems to be a Kantian division between phenomena and noumena in Badiou‘s philosophy.
98 99

Badiou, Being and Event, 87.

In a personal discussion with one of the most astute readers of the use of mathematics in Badiou‘s philosophy, Luke Zachary Fraser agreed with my estimation of the arbitrariness of this assumption, and he also questioned the insight gained by equating nature with ordinals.
100 101

Badiou, Being and Event, 131. Badiou, Being and Event, 140. Badiou, Being and Event, 202. Badiou, Being and Event, 178. Badiou, Being and Event, 179 Badiou, Being and Event, 205. Badiou, Being and Event, 210.







Since Anaximander‘s idea of apeiron as the infinitely divisible substance of the world, the infinite has been a limit concept in many systems of thought. As Graham and Kantor elucidate in their recent book, Naming Infinity (2009), for mystics and the religious the infinite has often played the role of sublating the rational within the spiritual—providing something like a rational concept which cannot be grasped by the rational mind itself. In science, whereas at the same time as the infinite universe has generally been thought to have been discredited through deep cosmological observations, the postulate of the multiverse re-establishes its possibility; or conversely, no sooner does the infinite appear in experimental quantum data than the imperative to reconsider the theory arises—as demonstrated by Lee Smolin‘s (1998) break from string theory. And finally, in mathematics, Georg Cantor‘s infinite totalities and the transfinite continuum proves divisive to today, with mathematicians divided between finitary and infinite paradigms (see Bremer, 2007).
108 109

Badiou makes this argument with reference to the constructible universe of set theory in which the cardinals (powers of infinity) succeed one another like ordinals and thus banish the excess of immeasurable transfinite cardinality from set theory: ―the constructive universe appears to be one of astonishing poverty, in that it reduces the function of excess to nothing, and only manages to stage it by means of fictive cardinals.‖ Being and Event, 314. Quine‘s ‗indispensability argument‘ can be put as follows: the present indispensability of mathematics in natural science requires acknowledgement that is possesses a truth exceeding its portrayal as a system of syntactic tautologies. See Quine (1969; 1983). Badiou is a long way from such concerns, it must be admitted, but there are similarities in his estimation of mathematicians as working ontologists, and the entailing commitment that what mathematicians use in their practice is of ontological worth should count is a certain kind of indispensability argument. For example, he makes this argument with regards to the axiom of choice. See Being and Event, 225.
110 111

For an accessible presentation of the problem of the minimality of shared elements in an infinite set see Michael D. Potter, Set theory and its philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), Chapter 14, 238-260. 50


Badiou, Being and Event, 227,226,227. Badiou, Being and Event, 228. Badiou, Being and Event, 235.




See Paul Cohen, Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis (New York: Dover Publications, 2008), 88.

Badiou, Being and Event, 304.

Jean-Toussaint Desanti, ―Some Remarks on the Intrinsic Ontology of Alain Badiou‖ In: Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy (London and New York: Continuum), 63.

See Timothy Y. Chow, ―A beginner‘s guide to forcing‖. Available at: http://wwwmath.mit.edu/~tchow/forcing.pdf [Accessed 19 August 2011]
118 119

Akihiro Kanamori, ―Cohen and Set Theory‖, The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 14, No. 5 (Sept 2008), 369.
120 121

Tho and Badiou, ―Interview‖, 95. Badiou, Being and Event, 356. Badiou, Being and Event, 361. Badiou, Being and Event, 357-358.





Many thanks to Luke Fraser for his patient and generous help with my reading of forcing, and the many drafts he corrected and provided feedback on. A better tour guide into the deep mathematical waters of forcing one could not hope to find.

Cohen, Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis, 111. Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth, 347. Kanamori, ―Cohen and Set Theory‖, 360. Cohen, ―The Discovery of Forcing‖, 1091. Cohen, ―The Discovery of Forcing‖, 1093. Badiou, Being and Event, 362. Badiou, Being and Event, 431. Badiou, Being and Event, 432. Badiou, Being and Event, 433.










Badiou, Being and Event, 434. 51


Badiou, Being and Event, 434.

I have discussed Badiou and Kacem‘s dispute over how to term events in the Middle East and North Africa in the following essay: Nathan Coombs, ―Political Semantics of the Arab Revolts/Uprisings/Riots/Insurrections/Revolutions‖, Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, Issue 5 (2011). Available at: http://www.criticalglobalisation.com/Issue4/138_146_POLITICAL_SEMANTICS_JCGS4.pdf [Accessed 7 Sept 201]
137 138

Johnston, Badiou, Zizek and Political Transformations, 38. See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, Book I, Formal Theory of the Subject (Meta-Physics). Badiou, Logics of Worlds, 2. Badiou, Logics of Worlds, 35. Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, 47. Badiou, Logics of Worlds, 62.






Nathan Coombs, ―Nomological Disputation: Alain Badiou and Graham Harman on Objects‖, Speculations I (2010), 135-144. Available online: http://www.publicpraxis.com/speculations/wpcontent/uploads/2010/07/Nomological-Disputation.pdf See also Graham Harman‘s response, ―Response to Nathan Coombs‖, Speculations I (2010), 145-152. Available online: http://www.publicpraxis.com/speculations/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Response-to-NathanCoombs.pdf
144 145

Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, 39.


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