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Being by numbers - interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou - ...


Alain Badiou is an anomaly. What he has attempted has all the allure of the obviously impossible. That's the fascination of the thing. Judge it retrograde or eminently contemporary, aberrant or a stroke of genius, but take it squarely for what it is: the painstaking effort on the part of an Althusserian Marxist, longtime Maoist, and unanalyzed disciple of Lacan to quit the confines that several generations of "limit-makers" have erected around philosophical practice. Wittgenstein's fragmentary sophistics is merely a symptom. Revolutionary political theorizing, the various positivisms, and the vast textualization of the world all share the same restrictive modus operandi of suturing philosophy to some other, seemingly stronger, extrinsic body of thought. What's more, Jacques Derrida's interminable perambulations inside Western metaphysics involve a swap of one kind of system for another: the compelling demonstrative logic of systematic philosophy for the latent tissue of relations embedded in language. With the revelation of writing as the long-repressed factor--and its ultimate fetishization--the issue of demonstrability has curiously vanished from the horizon. Odd, wouldn't you say, in a century thoroughly dominated by mathematization? Badiou emerges right here, with a singular question: how do we advance, proceed, reinsert ourselves into a pattern of succession, the "plus-one" established by taking "one step more"? In a word, Badiou has founded a philosophy. Take "founded" in the full philosophical sense. And that philosophy is rigorously systematic. Take "systematic" in the full philosophical sense. What does it require to reanimate a dead tradition? A single consolidating intuition permitting the kind of strategic move, in its elegance and simplicity, most often associated with a game of chess. It goes like this: ontology is mathematics. DON'T RECOIL. NOT YET. Some people don't know what ontology is, and even those who do, don't. (For confirmation, read the opening pages of Heidegger's Being and Time.) The word "Being" has always resonated with a mysterious attribution of some extra added value to "what simply is," and its science has remained philosophy's foremost red herring. By slipping mathematics into that eerie slot, Badiou snaps the file shut with assurance of ontology's thorough rationality. "What is" is pure multiplicity. As for what can be said about it, the mathematicians are still at work. In his massive L'Etre et l'evenement (Being and the event), Badiou makes mathematical set theory the reader's guide to some 2,500 years of problems raised by ontology. From the axioms of set theory he not only recapitulates the history of philosophy but derives all the concepts of his system. DON'T RECOIL. NOT EVEN NOW: his prose is so tight and lucid that even in your relative mathematical illiteracy you'll be surprised to discover, like Plato's Meno, that you already knew how to draw the inferences. And in those inferences the stakes are revealed. What were the devastating criticisms forever leveled against systematic philosophy? That the system was invented
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Being by numbers - interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou - ...

and arbitrary, its propositions unverifiable. In Badiou's reformulation of philosophy as a contemporary systematics, only mathematics, the unassailable archetype of demonstrability, intelligibility, and transmissibility, can offer sufficient authority, sufficient legitimacy--not as a model but as the very armature of the system itself. Badiou's philosophy, however, is not a philosophy of mathematics. For him there is no such thing. Nor is it about the world or consciousness or knowledge. He calls it a philosophy of time. Forget teleologies and historical determinisms, the Kantian a priori, Husserl's time consciousness, Bergson's duration. Think of it rather, to risk a neologism, as a neology. Set theory's closing chapter, the generic set, the set with no ascertainable identifying characteristic, the "set without qualities," provides Badiou with a unique and provocative prototype for theorizing the emergence of the new. The event is no more than an extraneous, evanescent incident--but it may make waves. When it does, it involves the active participation of subjectivities in a process whose contours and destiny elude and exceed them. To grossly reduce the subtleties of Badiou's argument, call the sum total of activity in that formative stage a generic set. The time traced there is the discrete time of random, heterogeneous advances, indiscernible quantum leaps that jolt science, politics, art, and love, the four Platonic conditions on which Badiou's system reposes. Yes, Platonic--Badiou is an unabashed Platonist, as may be surmised from the mathematical premise. What's happened to his Marxism? This, I think: change is precisely the issue. Badiou fixes his attention on disruptions of the status quo, the kind that have the power to activate human agency. The essence of history's movement, we now know, boils down to these unpredictable, disparate, indeterminate countercurrents that circumscribe times of truths in the making, truths that lose their truth value once fully acknowledged and fully accepted. Times, truths, heterogeneity, pure multiplicity. No totalizing here. No forcing of the venture, no specific investments. Philosophy, in Badiou's terms, stands outside these temporal ramifications. It guarantees only its aptitude to seize what's happening and provide an aftermath for calculating what it will have been worth--in a future perfect tense that underscores endurance.

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My project makes claims on the strictly philosophical. and according to what principles. if not impossible. that philosophy never takes the form of a singular body of knowledge but. within a general logic of delimitation. exists conditionally with respect to a complex set of truths. philosophy doesn't take the form of knowledge about the world. it's one and the same question to ask whether philosophy can be systematic and whether philosophy can exist at all. first.. But if by "system" you mean. it's a militant thesis.. if by "system" you mean an architecture necessarily endowed with a keystone or a center. to employ Heidegger's vocabulary. LS: The striking equation "ontology = mathematics" has the immense merit of eradicating the mystification that clings to the word "being. Here I remain faithful to Louis Althusser. "a thesis about discourse. How do you explain your conviction not only that the systematic thinking that runs through the history of philosophy from Plato to Heidegger is still possible. like Lacan.Being by numbers . However tautological. that it's a matter of an ontotheological systematicity. has no object. What's more. our time.. and not at all accepted. To my mind. 0 Comments LAUREN SEDOFSKY: The return to systematic philosophy today might seem archaic. that this time. that philosophy is conceived as an argumentative discipline with a requirement of coherence. or scientific discourse. but also that this architecture serves some purpose? ALAIN BADIOU: Philosophy is always systematic. 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:45 PM . not about the world. Philosophy is irreducible to other forms of thought. What's astonishing is that the thesis "philosophy is philosophy" seems original today. in itself.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou ." AB: Absolutely. and therefore no longer valid. for example political. For that the systematic dimension is necessary. to use my own vocabulary. http://findarticles. or esthetic. The threat that has loomed throughout its history is a confusion between what philosophy is in itself and what it is not. Naturally. The issue is whether we can say. It isn't and mustn't become a body of knowledge. The distinctive service that philosophy renders thought is the evaluation of time. We are in a period when philosophy is marked by doubt.. I'm inclined to think that the idea of the world is itself in the final analysis a phantasy. then you can say. And it should maintain this criterion of delimitation as one of its most precious possessions. and Strictly speaking. It should be understood that philosophy. then it is the very essence of philosophy to be systematic. who was the first to have pointed this out with perfect clarity." You've identified this choice as an exit from romanticism and a program for the death of God. or even by a conviction that it is extinct. LS: Your project is strictly philosophical. has value.

The philosophical destiny of atheism.Being by numbers . 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:45 PM .. lies in the interplay between the question of being and the question of That's why I think the only really contemporary requirement for philosophy since Nietzsche is the secularization of infinity.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou .. The idea that an apprehension of the human condition occurs primordially in the understanding of its finitude maintains infinity at a distance that's both evanescent and sacred. The real romantic heritage--which is still with us today--is the theme of finitude.. in a radical sense. and holds it in the vicinity of a vision of being that's still theological... http://findarticles. AB: We're far from having exhausted the consequences of the question of the death of God.

the infinite profusion of Being in Numbers. http://findarticles. based on the implicit supposition that being is reducible to pure multiplicity. 1988). As a thought procedure. you write. we realize that this is in fact a theoretical deployment of the old question of identity and difference. It will be scanned by events.. most complete framework of axioms of the multiple today is set theory. What led you to this improbable wager? AB: [laughs] To a degree. that apprehends the configurations of multiplicity independently of any characteristic other than their multiplicity. What there is is the multiple. you manage. That's why it represents a powerful break. If we begin with the thesis that being is fundamentally pure multiplicity. axiom by axiom? What do those axioms say about being qua being? The mathematician doesn't need to ask himself this kind of question. The moment it occurs to you that mathematics is ontology. LS: In your magnum opus. the axiom of extensionality. including infinite chains of multiplicities. nor an operational fiction.. in an astounding way. LS: In Le Nombre et les nombres (Number and numbers. and if we consider that the most formalized. If the philosopher examines set-theory axioms with the idea that they are statements about being qua being. that is. 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM . nor a constitutive or transcendental category. being qua being is nothing but the multiple as such. literally or etymologically. "A number is neither a characteristic of a concept. by formalizing it. He can be an ontologist without knowing it." What is mathematics. mathematics will be subject to general laws. 0 Comments If we take "ontology. The thesis that mathematics is ontology has the double-negative virtue of disconnecting philosophy from the questioning of being and freeing it from the theme of finitude. same and other.. Let's take the simplest possible example. nor an empirical given.. I was astonished myself. that idea itself has a considerable capacity to clarify mathematics.. 1990). to elaborate all the concepts of your system inside a presentation of the axioms of set theory.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou And it's the same for the entire set of axioms. then? AB: Ultimately. They constitute a coherent body of propositions about being qua being. L'Etre et l'evenement (Being and the event. Mathematics secularizes infinity in the clearest way. It's very straightforward. as what can be said about being qua being. Mathematics is the kind of thought. this performance is easy--once you've thought of it.Being by numbers ." as we must. he sees an unexpected pertinence emerge. But if we look at it closely. then we ought to say that it's mathematics. nor even an abstraction of our idea of order. which says that two sets are equivalent when they have the same elements. then why not examine set theory. nor a syntax or a language game. and consequently the kind of discourse.. A number is a form of Being . that any thinking about being qua being must inevitably address.

and interruptions.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . that is. From the moment that what is being taken into account is being qua being. is the discipline through which thought appropriates the form of the pure multiple. http://findarticles. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM . this transformation of the mother tongue into a tongue that no longer offers any natural reception for the speaker.) radical innovations.. this way of tearing language away from its status of mother tongue... pure multiplicity.. (There we are with Lacan. breaks. it is indispensable that language rid itself of its equivocalness.Being by numbers .

The death of God. entrusting it to the category of truth. a mathematical theorem as a mathematical theorem. A work of art appears as a work of art. the truths that indicate what our time is really made of. with the Supreme Being as an ultimate guarantor. It is philosophy's seizing of these truths that designates them as truths. paradoxically. these are truths in my own special sense: they are truth procedures." I mean evaluating how far this particular time has gotten in its capacity to generate truths. principally the truths of its time. The second source is the vast contemporary movement to anthropologize philosophy--the idea that philosophy deals with more or less heterogeneous linguistic or cultural organizations of thought.. the nonphilosophical is precisely what provides for the existence of philosophy. compossible. As a category specific to philosophy. For philosophy." Mathematics dismantles the perilous theological connection Truth-Being-One. philosophy suspended the question of truth on the protocol of the question of being.. even truths about being qua being when they're mathematical. what could be called "a pragmatics of exactitude. and is itself the result or production of one such organization. For a long time. then. truths in progress. but the philosophical act displays them together. amounts to a checkmate of truth. A truth is what within time exceeds 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM . Truths are compossible because philosophy's seizing of them simultaneously designates them as truths. a political revolution as a political revolution. Philosophy's task is to show why and under what conditions these absolutely heterogeneous truths are..Being by numbers . By "evaluating time.. a true philosophical creation. a great love as a great love. they don't appear as such in themselves. Philosophy is active. I'm deeply convinced that procedures of a universal kind do exist. at the heart of its discursive organization is an act. can't be understood simply as empirical collection. At the same time. incipient truths. For me. That's why I've undertaken to reorganize philosophy in its entirety. the particular act of seizing truths. LS: What does "compossible" mean? AB: Compossibility. Truths are multiple and heterogeneous..interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . truths are the nonphilosophical. In doing so. http://findarticles. AB: The relative discredit of the category of truth today has two sources. it evaluates its It's a matter of measuring our time according to an idea of what that time contains that exceeds it. as Nietzsche saw. And quite apart from anthropological thought. This movement obviously entails a relativism. at least. truth is what I call an operator for seizing truths. 0 Comments LS: You make another rather audacious wager on the possibility of resurrecting a philosophical concept of truth. at the price of a radical reformulation of the notion. truths in the process of constituting themselves.

LS: These truths emerge inside "the situation....." How do you put a mathematical construction on such a simple word? 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM .Being by numbers .interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . http://findarticles. And the philosophical act is its active witness..

things that are incorrect. however. but its subsets. or to go against the current-LS: Coquetry? And I've been taking you seriously! AB: [laughs] And you were right to--I mean. their qualities. the situation is organically without truth. which I am. a capacity to name that situation's elements. their properties. 0 Comments AB: The situation is an ordinary multiple. profoundly. So there's an element of coquetry in calling yourself a Platonist. The situation's language aims at showing how an element belongs to such and such a subset. The set of a situation's various bodies of knowledge I call "the encyclopedia" of the situation. the state of the situation a form of representation. LS: So how do you bring truth into the situation? AB: My system's second major thesis. political. not the situation's elements..interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou .. there has to be something other than the situation. So the encyclopedia is the anarchy of our knowledge. being the way we organize the situation's elements linguistically.. I also posit that every situation is accompanied by a language. and to capture that openness I say it's a multiplicity. or mathematical situation. And knowledge. http://findarticles. From this point of view the situation is a form of presentation. I take the situation in an exceptionally open sense." is: in order for there to be truth. lively opinions and sterile ones. after "ontology = mathematics. In any case. is always a certain relation between presentation and representation. it's in the situation--but I am 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM . But this is all still without truth. It can be a historical. their relations. as a Platonist I don't make a clear distinction between knowledge and Insofar as it refers only to itself. Considering the privilege I give to Plato--out of coquetry. a multiple that is obviously infinite because all situations in reality are infinite. You'll find things in it that are correct. interesting classifications. it can even be a subjective situation. Knowledge is most simply defined as the linguistic determination of the general system of connections between presentation and representation. reactive ideas and active ones. The situation is what presents the elements that constitute it.. the state of the situation is what presents. out of serious coquetry! Our century is fundamentally anti-Platonist.. Now I am absolutely an immanentist--I am convinced that if there is truth. it isn't something transcendent.Being by numbers . artistic. And in every situation there is also what I call "the state of the situation"--the order of its subsets.

Being by numbers . incalculable. disconnected supplement to the situation. I have recourse to the logic of the term "the evanescent"--something whose very being is to disappear.. and will supplement the situation with next to nothing." which pushes the system in another It will be recorded in its very disappearance only in the form of a linguistic trace. I think of the event as a totally chance.. is without truth. This antinomy must be resolved. even transtemporal. this possibility of the new that emerges in the situation and gives it a temporal.. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:46 PM . which I call the "name" of the event. nevertheless led to the conclusion that the situation. Here. and still does.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . You might say my thinking on this point is a minimalism of the new. LS: Everything hinges on the event. http://findarticles. How should we understand the event? AB: The event has posed formidable problems for me.. That's where I turn to the category of "the event. as such.. following both Mallarme and Lacan. dimension.

That doctrine provided me with the concept of a subset whose particularity is precisely to have no particularity. Those dichotomies are subverted by this conception of truth and of its subject. or thought as experience." the procedure that renders the truth of that totally particular situation. little by little over time--because the extraordinarily ramified activities of love necessarily circumscribe a particular time. LS: A set with no apparent shared property among its elements must necessarily remain invisible or. In 1964. We have to explore the situation with respect to this new entity in such a way as to find out what is related or unrelated or difficult to relate to this primordial event. 0 Comments LS: Still. art. 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:47 PM . politics. of the event of love... and then there's the encounter. the American mathematician Paul Cohen elaborated a doctrine concerning the generic subsets of a given set. The subset is generic and. The encounter does not constitute the situation. Next comes the truth procedure of love itself. indiscernible. This was truly a moment of discovery for me. In so doing. We were getting to the thesis that a truth is not in a simple regime of opposition to knowledge. All the possible elements of human activity--sensitivity. Faced with the indiscernible. the declaration of love is strictly what constitutes the name. http://findarticles. not simply a truth about this or that. It constitutes the void specific to this encyclopedia. therefore. concepts. theory and practice. we will trace a subset of the situation.Being by numbers . AB: Through a kind of miraculous convergence--but that's how philosophy works--I found what I needed in mathematics. sexuation.. practice. it's really a gap or break in the encyclopedic organization of knowledge. This means that the lovers cannot discern the subset that they themselves constitute. The doctrine of truth I propose has the merit of ending the confrontation between thought and experience. LS: In entering into the truth procedures that activate the four Platonic conditions of philosophy-mathematics. it supplements it: there is what there was before.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . what do you do? AB: Take a simple event like the encounter of love.. Its name is marked by the various forms that the declaration of love can take. The event itself is the encounter. a moment of real illumination. the enduring trace. The encounter is the event's specific mode in the truth procedure called "love. the evanescent has to fit the system's mathematical base. All of this clarified the fact that a truth is a truth about the whole to use your key word. as a generic subset. indiscernible. violence--can be mobilized by the deployment of a truth. emotion.. It's in this sense that I'd say they are its subject. and love--are we exclusively in the realm of thought? AB: A truth procedure is the experience of thought.

. they trace the path by which this subset emerges as a truth.Being by numbers . 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:47 PM .. They are factors of the indiscernible. in this singular moment. and that constitute the generic subset--that with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . The subject of a truth is certainly not in a position of mastery over a truth. it is only because there is this process of indiscernibility that the subject. The subject of a truth is the term or terms (here. The only subject is the subject of truth... What is not the subject of truth is only an inhabitant of the situation. the lovers) of the situation that are seized or engaged by a truth procedure. finds itself constituted. http://findarticles. LS: What kind of subject is this exactly? AB: Truth induces the notion of a subject in a totally singular manner. At the same time.

I'm not at all a historicist. to capture the eternity contained within time. anything existed that might deserve to be called a "truth. is only engaged in finite operations... in that I don't think events are linked in a global system. He was never really interested in the question of knowing whether. LS: What about the event's historical dimension? AB: The fact that events belong to history signifies only that they can be located in arrangements of before and after. Consequently. though. On the other hand. philosophy doesn't constitute time. exceeds the singularity of its time. every truth also involves the constitution of a time. without proposing a thesis about the jolting of what you call the situation. Because what within time is constituted as truth both marks a new time and. What is specific to truth. Philosophy has a relation to the different heterogeneous times of truths. the Historicism consists in referring the singularity of a procession of events to a historical meaning that penetrates it and goes beyond it." With his usual corrosiveness. He wasn't interested in the protocol of either the appearance or the disappearance of a given epistemic 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:47 PM .. So there are times. within situations. That would deny their essentially random character. The subject is always the differential or finite dimension of the truth procedure. Philosophy tries to seize truth's endurance. Because a single generic set of the situation.Being by numbers . It exposes these times to precisely the aspect of time that is not temporal. Might you be the philosopher that many take Foucault to be? AB: Foucault is a theoretician of encyclopedias. That's why I was led to reintroduce the old word "eternity." How do you situate the time you're theorizing within the history of philosophy? AB: That's an immense question.. he would say that he didn't have to deal with this kind of thing. strictly speaking.. I sought it out to designate the singularity of philosophy's relationship to time. after all. 0 Comments LS: The procedure has more being than the subject? AB: Inevitably. the nonlinear aspect of history." which was even less used than "truth" was. even if it's always incomplete.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . Every event constitutes its own time. since those are what it seizes. is in its being essentially infinite. LS: You characterize your system as a "philosophy of time of this time. Those arrangements offer no reason to argue that they constitute a history. is that it endures. which I absolutely maintain. http://findarticles. not one time. LS: Michel Foucault drew our attention to the breaks. The subject.

organization.. As long as you don't have an immanent doctrine of what in the situation exceeds the situation.Being by numbers . the "obscure incidents" of the period 1968-80. and. Paul Celan's poems.. http://findarticles. you can't be concerned about answering the question of how we pass from one system to another.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . In the framework of a "philosophy of time of this you propose the following program of compossibilization: mathematics from Cantor to Cohen." are these events really on the breach? 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:47 PM . LS: In your Manifeste (1989)... love under the sign of Lacan.. in politics.

The impression that I privilege mathematics comes from my announcement that mathematics is the science of being qua being.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . Isn't your philosophy sutured to mathematics? AB: It's an obvious objection. Anything empirical is always only indicative. But for the moment I still don't feel sufficiently experienced or intimately acquainted with what's in question there to talk about it.. I also wanted to assure myself that the theory of truth I was proposing was mathematically consistent. not of suture at all. I'd like to say something a bit more elaborate about it. interests me. Gilles Deleuze wasn't wrong to consider film philosophically important. It's a protocol of distinction. I would certainly rework this mapping of events. 0 Comments AB: Today. I couldn't do that without making abundant use of mathematics. and in no way clarified the new. You can't do everything! LS: Forgetting for the moment the military/industrial establishment. which was meant only as an indication. it also separates philosophy radically from mathematics.Being by numbers .. There. we would have to examine how arts other than poetry function as conditions for philosophy. which has led me to further systematic developments that I hope one day to write as a sequel to L'Etre et l'evenement. Politically the '80s were strongly reactionary. You have remained silent on this point. from a questioning of being. But you mustn't think that mathematics occupies such a privileged place in the whole of my philosophical program. The mathematical thread was absolutely necessary in L'Etre et l'evenement. In mathematics. and particularly of contemporary physics. yet it constitutes the concepts and structure of your system. In the arts. but not in everything I've written. and rapidly contestable.. But just as the declaration separates philosophy from ontology. Supplementary deployments also need to be made in relation to the "obscure incidents" of politics. AB: My silence about science is entirely temporary and contingent. I had launched into arid studies of quantum mechanics years ago. A whole series of aspects of the sciences. And music. And then of course there would be the visual arts. There's absolutely no principle involved. are of great philosophical interest. written in the same formal mathematical language and possessing an oblique. that would be the theory of categories. LS: I would have thought that the strategic move of putting mathematics in the place of ontology would at last open the way to a philosophical seizing of the theoretical sciences. if not to say blind. LS: Mathematics is only one of the four conditions of philosophy. in its complexity and relative uncertainty. something else would be needed to be on the breach. I wanted to convince my reader that mathematics is the science of being qua being.. relation to phenomena. is there a better example of 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:48 PM .

not its closure. But the scientific community sometimes designates something more institutional: efforts to impose State control--which falls into the order of subsets that I refer to as the state of the situation--on the truth procedure. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:48 PM . On the state side. it's a community of the faithful. you're quite right..interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou .com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_n2_v33/ai_16315394/pg_8. This makes for an ambivalence in the scientific community.. Scientists are a body of the faithful. it will always involve an attempt to sell its fidelity to the State. since the truth procedure disrupts the state of the situation.. The relation between the state of the situation and the truth procedure is always complex. http://findarticles.. feeding on that situation's void.. On the truth side.Being by numbers . the truth procedure than the scientific community? AB: If the scientific community designates the system of protocols for evaluating scientific innovations.

precisely. LS: We're very far behind. there was something used up. Although they remain undecided for the moment. LS: What was the last namable event? AB: In politics. I really don't know. inoperative.S. when we're going to be able to find names for a whole series of events that have disappeared into the past.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . a calling into question of the previous protocols of political nomination. Undecidability is an intrinsic attribute of an event. 0 Comments LS: Concerning politics. Nomination takes place in an aftermath. (That's why they're obscure. LS: You must know..Being by numbers . But these words were inadequate for what was happening.) A lot of young activists in this period spontaneously tried to name what was happening through the Marxist vocabulary of class.. http://findarticles. or you wouldn't have designated that obscure time for examination. LS: It's possible there was no event at all? AB: It's entirely possible that there was no event at AB: We're very far behind. These subcommunities have spawned sectarian modes of thought. What events showed was exactly the opposite: even and especially in revolutionary politics.. the revolution of October 1917. It can be left in abeyance for a long time. I really don't know. the left is splintered into communities organizing to promote the rights of those who are denied them. right now. or used the signifier "revolution. But that's the situation of politics. I have the feeling that what happened in the '60s received a series of false names. AB: No. because it wasn't clearly perceived that what was at stake in these happenings was. LS: In the U." etc. because it's possible that we're in a time. and outdated in this protocol of nomination. Some day it will be necessary to review this 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:48 PM .. itself uncertain. How do you see this situation? AB: As one of the most catastrophic imaginable.. why have you seized on the "obscure incidents" of the period 1968-80 rather than a namable event? AB: I call these happenings obscure because I'm not convinced they have received their name yet. or to inscribe it in the logic of a new party. they may become fixed as events.

. If emancipatory politics claims to proceed in the name of any predicative characteristic.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . we have a profound submission to the figure of the state of the situation. the community must not be named as such.Being by numbers . and others having the same fights as anyone else. To every generic procedure I attach a limit. I am tempted to think that in emancipatory politics the community in a racial or biological sense is strictly an unnamable point.. only if it finds its arguments in a space open to everyone. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:48 PM . The theme of equal rights is really progressive and really political... If not. it denies itself the possibility of being generic. it's absolutely indispensable to support that on other grounds than the existence of a community of African-Americans or women. http://findarticles. In order for there to be emancipatory politics. women. a term I call its "unnamable point. that is. emancipatory. a space of communitarian venture and the considerable damage it entails for thought itself. When you're for African-Americans. despite all the apparent radicalism a community puts into its system of demands." More and more. it is absolutely necessary that the substantiality of the community remain unnamable. In order for politics to remain emancipatory.

. Maoist for a long time. Lacan tried to grant a quasi-ontological significance to the encounter of love. it's because Lacan represents psychoanalysis' contemporary time.Being by numbers . He inscribed love in its real terrain. has returned to the scene of thought as a real theoretical issue. a point that had been partially forgotten since Plato. it's hardly an insult to say that feminine jouissance is 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:49 PM . LS: Sexuation enters your system as a radical disjunction between the fundamental Two. None of these distinctions function in the system I propose. I would submit that my system is the most rigorously materialist in ambition that we've seen since Lucretius. AB: Until now. 0 Comments LS: Marxist from the outset. he made invaluable contributions to restoring love to its function as a truth procedure.. the high and the low. http://findarticles. Expelling all AB: Given my relationship to the axiom. I was led to say a number of things about the situation of the analytic cure. transcendence and immanence.. you equate feminine jouissance with the structure of an axiom. The determination of the analytic situation's exact point of autonomy requires research on my part that is not yet complete. And he also tried to disentangle the extraordinarily complex web that ties and unties love and desire. after all. Transference. my interest in Lacan and psychoanalysis has been confined to showing that what I was saying in philosophy was compatible with Lacanian thought. In doing this. pure thought and empirical thought. the immanent event is the encounter of love. Lacan himself was unable to clarify transference except by referring to the great philosophical works on love.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . would you accept the accusation of having yielded to a philosophical idealism? AB: Not at all.. in a modern form. To be an idealist you have to distinguish between thought and matter. and a woman with the generic function. LS: Concerning the condition of love. But I've never resolved the issue of whether the analytic cure represents an independent. is the event situated in the encounter of love or in Lacan's renovation of Freud? AB: In the truth procedure that is love. the formula of sexuation. The difficulty is that there's something in the analytic situation that's analogous to the love situation. LS: You've found a generic set and truth inside the analytic situation. Actually. For all these reasons. when the question of love. autonomous truth procedure. If I mention Lacan as a theoretical event. is an encounter that is supposed to take the form of knowledge.

then later serial music. I don't see how the irreducibility of this jouissance could be a source of any pathos whatever. the uncertain progressive protocol of nomination. a test of infinity. This sequence has all the attributes of a truth procedure. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:49 PM .Being by numbers .interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . Alban Berg. Because of the encyclopedia.. LS: How do you identify the unity of an pertinent for philosophy. inaugurated by an event and tracing a singular trajectory. however.. What interests me in feminine sexuality is its singular link to infinity. or even of several artists. what you call a "configuration"? AB: In music there is a sequence that starts with Arnold Schonberg and renders the truth of the tonal system retroactively by proposing an essentially different figure of musical composition." It's not the work of an artist. The protocol of the break is grouped around certain works by Schonberg. and the labor of fidelity to that event. but a sequential constellation of works. It's a quasiontological process.. In the investigation of art. that seems subtracted from the finite regime prescribed by phallic logic. dodecaphonic. http://findarticles. I would call this set a "configuration. axiomatic. That's the price of a deromanticization of infinity. we should completely abandon the notion of the auteur.. and Anton von Webern. the auteur continues to paralyze our

Where phenomenology is concerned. that it isn't really the issue. that obviously means rendering the generic truth of painting's singular situation. . I've never been very satisfied by the attempts of my predecessors to place themselves under the condition of painting. it isn't badly deployed." by asking "where is the indiscernible in this affair. I don't know if I'm capable of including it. Kasimir Malevich. but a feeling that the mode in which intellectuality proceeds irreducibly into complex and powerful sensory forms . LS: In the Manifeste. or Foucault on Velazquez. which is incomplete. and now perhaps outmoded. Rimbaud. not as an induced or secondary effect. Or it's a lack of inventiveness on my part. you propose an approach to painting: "exhibit what in painting is the gesture of all painting or.. it's the one that intimidates me the most. In front of great painting..Being by numbers . really. . Even if we take Lacan's brilliant analyses. It's not a feeling of ignorance at all." AB: I think I see it in what I know about painting. and Schonberg. even in texts of great quality like Maurice Merleau-Ponty's on Cezanne. What's more.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . That gesture is indiscernible in the sense that it will not allow itself to be captured by any of the encyclopedia's previously constituted predicates for the recognition of forms. among others. LS: As reference points in the arts you take Mallarme. When I propose exhibiting pictorially the act of painting itself. Nor have I ever found a regime of prose adequate to talk about painting. but it hasn't brought anything really decisive to the problem. Osip Mandelstam. contemporary as well as past. but as the central volition. Fernando Pessoa. The movement to disengage painting from mimetic space consisted in producing the pictorial configuration's genericity. I like painting too much. what is the nonspecifiable in painting as such. How is it that a philosophy of time of this time remains faithful to the high Modernism of the early century? AB: I don't in any way think the high Modernism of the early century has gone without breaks up to 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:49 PM . painting intimidates me. That's why I never talk about it. Is that why you're kept a distance from visual art? AB: Of all the arts. Where my program is concerned.. I'm often seized with emotion. precisely. http://findarticles. however. fragmentary. 0 Comments LS: You've explicitly rejected the kind of suture of philosophy to the visual arts that we find in the works of Deleuze and Jean-Francois Lyotard. perhaps. we see that painting is missing So turning to visual art philosophically has always been rather difficult for me.. Its intellectual charge is the greatest.. and showing its specific intellectuality in the work's visible form.

rather vast subsets. 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:49 PM . the present--that we can still refer to it as a notion of the more contemporary ones..interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . that what philosophy designates as susceptible of being seized in truth procedures are generic truths. I take these examples as testimony or metonymy of the configuration. however. vaster generally than is imagined within the interior movements of these arts. But in terms of configurations. http://findarticles. that there are no new works. It must be remembered..Being by numbers . is there an essential break? Of that I'm not completely convinced. I don't at all maintain that nothing is happening. I could take other...

its protocols of fidelity. I don't think I can go any further. which is under the merciless rule of immanence. the substantial community. It's what I call "time-two" of the Moreover. exists. the idea of a general ethics overhanging ordinary situations would take me out of my general philosophical organization. In this way. lovers. it must be attached to what is not the ordinary regime of the situation's pure and simple living multiplicity.. I maintain that the only immanent universality is found in the truth procedure. 0 Comments In the last twenty or thirty years. Anyone can be seized by a political event. LS: Since the truth of each condition of philosophy is both immanent and singular. in the real sense of the term. can we speak of political art? AB: Yes. because there are different ways of singularizing the types of generic procedures. if ethics. LS: And if I were to ask you for the matheme of art? AB: Right now.Being by numbers . ethical actions or determinations as there are singular truths. it can happen to anyone.. There is a matheme of politics. and artists? Is the ordinary person. to situate ethics inside the generic procedures... We are seized by the really ethical dimension only inside a truth procedure. the great majority of us live outside ethics. etc. http://findarticles. but it's much harder in terms of configurations. in its events. political activists. its slogans. what intrigues me is: what is emerging? I can see this a bit in terms of works. But there is also the singularity of the unnamable term that remains the limit point of a generic procedure--for politics. There will be as many ethical forms as there are truth procedures.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . Why? AB: Obviously. Does this mean that the encounter of ethical situations or propositions is restricted to the actors of a truth procedure? I understand that this point is debatable. as many singular. Providing the matheme of each of the procedures--which I haven't done in any of my published works--is a very important task. Of course. LS: But can one seriously confide and confine ethics to mathematicians. ethics must be connected to truth procedures. its names... LS: You've made the choice. Most of the time. every singular political sequence is irreducible to any other. excluded from the ethical field? AB: Why should we think that ethics convokes us all? The idea of ethics' universal convocation supposes the assignment of universality. We live in the living 1 of 2 8/18/2009 11:50 PM . by definition. not without grave consequences. we can. anyone can be seized by love.

.Being by numbers . evil takes the form of the idea that a truth can be total. we are seized by it and follow the maxim of fidelity to it. Only a fidelity offers the possibility of what I call "betrayal. or territorial conception." 2 of 2 8/18/2009 11:50 PM . That's what I call "disaster. ignoring the points that must remain unnamable. It's a pseudoevent that has a substance as its agenda. http://findarticles.. biological. Any closed community always approaches this kind of racial. what I call a "simulacrum." "Continue in your fidelity!" LS: If we find ethics inside the truth procedure. There is no ethical imperative other than "Continue!. AB: That's the problem with which the trajectory ends. even criminal. that a truth is not just a subset of the situation but can englobe the entire situation. evil must inhabit the same space. When we are engaged in a truth procedure... In connection with fidelity.. the consequences are necessarily ruinous. It's necessary to understand how evil is connected to the existence of truth procedures: there can be an imitation. convoking not the void but the plenum. multiplicity of the situation.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou ." of the truth event. evil presents itself in the choice of fidelity. When a truth is forced beyond its unnamable point." In connection with the unnamable.

it exposes us to disaster. AB: In seizing truths. COPYRIGHT 1994 Artforum International Magazine.Being by numbers . 0 Comments LS: As your ultimate wager. synthetic source of all possible truth. Once it dominates. directs. you acknowledge that philosophy itself can expose us to disaster. smashing their unnamable points. When philosophy articulates its seizing of truths in the form of identity or fusion.interview with artists and philosopher Alain Badiou . Inc.. http://findarticles. or subsumes. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group 1 of 1 8/18/2009 11:50 PM . breaking their limits... it can constrain truths to make claims to totality.. philosophy may come to consider itself the