Badiou’s Paradox

Heideggerian Mathematics: Badiou’s Being and Event as Spiritual Pedagogy

by Ian Hunter

The essay begins:

This paper is an experiment in redescription and reinterpretation. It seeks to take a text that enunciates a Heideggerian metaphysics of the “event”—understood as an encounter in which a subject meets itself emerging from the “void”—and to treat this text itself as an event in a quite other sense: as an ordinary historical occurrence. I will thus be approaching Alain Badiou’s Being and Event historically, in terms of the publication of a written work, but of a highly particular kind. This is a work whose discursive structure programs a refined spiritual pedagogy, and whose composition and reception only make sense within the historical context of the elite academic-intellectual subculture in which this pedagogy operates.

If we consider that Badiou regards his text as a “metaontology” that enunciates the emergence of events and indeed of historical time itself from the domain of nonbeing, then to treat this work as a kind of writing that occurs wholly within a particular historical subculture will imbue our redescription with an indelibly polemical complexion. It should be noted at the outset, however, that this complexion arises from the choice of a particular intellectual-historical method, rather than from any normative contestation of the content of Badiou’s work. This method or stance treats even the most abstract objects of reflection as products of an open-ended array of historical intellectual arts: rhetorics of argument, formal and informal languages, mathematical calculi, “spiritual exercises,” pedagogical practices. As a result, even a mode of reflection that claims to apprehend its objects at their point of emergence from the “void” and the “unthought” will be described in terms of the contingent historical use of a particular array of such arts. These will be those arts through which a philosophical elite learns to fashion an illuminated self whom it imagines keeping watch at the threshold of the void for the emergence of things newly minted from nonbeing through their naming. It is the task of a certain kind of philosopher to fashion such a self. The task of the intellectual historian, however, is to describe the intellectual arts used in this “work of the self on the self,” and the historical circumstances and purposes governing their transmission and use. Continue reading …

This essay provides a historical redescription and reinterpretation of Alain Badiou’s major work, Being and Event. The work is approached historically, as a text that uses Heideggerian metaphysics to perform an allegorical exegesis of mathematical set theory and does so as a means of fashioning a supremacist spiritual pedagogy for a philosophical elite in the context of a national intellectual subculture.

IAN HUNTER is an emeritus professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland, Australia. He has published a number of studies on early modern philosophical, political, and juridical thought, most notably Rival Enlightenments: Civil and Metaphysical Philosophy in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge, 2001). Professor Hunter has also published a series of papers on the history of “theory” in the humanities academy, including “The History of Theory,” Critical Inquiry 33 (2006), and, most recently, “Hayden White’s Philosophical History,” New Literary History 45 (2014).

Philosopher Catherine Malabou at Berkeley

Una’s Lecture
Photo of Catherine Malabou.

Monday, April 14, 2014 | 6:00 pm
Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley

French Philosopher Catherine Malabou teaches at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University in London. She is the author of The Future of Hegel (2005), What Should We Do with Our Brain? (2008), Plasticity at the Eve of Writing (2009) and Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience (2013)Her work has created the foundation for a wide range of current research focusing on the intersections between neuro- and biological science and the humanities. Her Una’s lecture, “Odysseus’ Changed Soul,” will offer a contemporary reading of Plato’s myth of Er (Republic, Book 10).

Professor Malabou’s short essay “The King’s Two (Biopolitical) Bodies” will appear in Representations 127, available in July 2014. In residence at Berkeley through the month of April, she will be a featured speaker in the interdisciplinary conference  “Animation/Reanimation” April 18, 2014 and participate (along with Representations editorial board member David Bates) in a two-day workshop April 11-12, entitled “Plasticity and Pathology: The History and Theory of Neural Subjects.”

Cartesian Robotics

In “Cartesian Robotics,” now available in Representations 124, David Bates looks at Descartes’s physiological theory, and especially his theorization of the nerves and the brain as an information-processing system, in order to offer a new interpretation of cognition within his philosophy. Rather than opposing mind and body, Descartes showed how the operations of the soul interrupted the automatic cognitive processes of the body to provide adaptive flexibility for the human organism as a whole. Bates is Professor in the Department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley, where he teaches intellectual history.

http://www.cra.org/ccc/visioning/visioning-activities/robotics
http://www.cra.org/ccc/visioning/visioning-activities/robotics