Alain Badiou About this sound Pronunciation (help·info) (born 17 January 1937 in Rabat, Morocco) is a French philosopher, professor at European Graduate School, formerly chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS). Along with Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Žižek, Badiou is a prominent figure in an anti-postmodern strand of continental philosophy. Badiou seeks to recover the concepts of being, truth and the subject in a way that, he claims, is neither postmodern nor simply a repetition of modernity. Politically, Badiou is committed to the far left, and to the Marxist tradition.
According to Badiou, philosophy is suspended from four conditions (art, love, politics, and science), each of them fully independent "truth procedures." (For Badiou's notion of truth procedures, see below.) Badiou consistently maintains throughout his work (but most systematically in Manifesto for Philosophy) that philosophy must avoid the temptation to suture itself (that is, to hand over its entire intellectual effort) to any of these independent truth procedures. When philosophy does suture itself to one of its conditions (and Badiou argues that the history of philosophy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is primarily a history of sutures), what results is a philosophical "disaster." Consequently, philosophy is, according to Badiou, a thinking of the compossibility of the several truth procedures, whether this is undertaken through the investigation of the intersections between distinct truth procedures (the intersection of art and love in the novel, for instance), or whether this is undertaken through the more traditionally philosophical work of addressing categories like truth or the subject (concepts that are, as concepts, external to the individual truth procedures, though they are functionally operative in the truth procedures themselves). For Badiou, when philosophy addresses the four truth procedures in a genuinely philosophical manner, rather than through a suturing abandonment of philosophy as such, it speaks of them with a theoretical terminology that marks its philosophical character: inaesthetics rather than art; metapolitics rather than politics; ontology rather than science; etc.).
Truth, for Badiou, is a specifically philosophical category. While philosophy's several conditions are, on their own terms, "truth procedures" (i.e., they produce truths as they are pursued), it is only philosophy that can speak of the several truth procedures as truth procedures. (The lover, for instance, does not think of her love as a question of truth, but simply and rightly as a question of love. Only the philosopher sees in the true lover's love the unfolding of a truth.) Badiou has a very rigorous notion of truth, one that is strongly against the grain of much of contemporary European thought. Badiou at once embraces the traditional modernist notion that truths are genuinely invariant (always and everywhere the case, eternal and unchanging) and the incisively postmodernist notion that truths are constructed through processes. Badiou's theory of truth, exposited throughout his work, accomplishes this strange mixture by uncoupling invariance and self-evidence (such that invariance does not imply self-evidence), as well as by uncoupling constructedness from relativity (such that constructedness does not lead to relativism).
The idea, here, is that a truth's invariance makes it genuinely indiscernible: because a truth is everywhere and always the case, it passes unnoticed unless there is a rupture in the laws of being and appearance, during which the truth in question becomes, but only for a passing moment, discernible. Such a rupture is what Badiou calls an event, according to a theory originally worked out in Being and Event and fleshed out in important ways in Logics of Worlds. The subject who chances to witness such an event, if she is faithful to what she has glimpsed, can then introduce the truth by naming it into worldly situations. According to a process or procedure that subsequently unfolds only if those who subject themselves to the glimpsed truth continue faithful in the work of announcing the truth in question, genuine knowledge is produced (knowledge often appears in Badiou's work under the title of the "veridical"). While such knowledge is produced in the process of being faithful to a truth event, it should be noted that, for Badiou, knowledge, in the figure of the encyclopedia, always remains fragile, subject to what may yet be produced as faithful subjects of the event produce further knowledge. According to Badiou, truth procedures proceed to infinity, such that faith (fidelity) outstrips knowledge. (Badiou, following both Lacan and Heidegger, distances truth from knowledge.)
In Handbook of Inaesthetics Badiou coins the phrase "inaesthetic" to refer to a concept of artistic creation that denies "the reflection/object relation". Reacting against the idea of mimesis, or poetic reflection of "nature", Badiou claims that art is "immanent" and "singular". It is immanent in the sense that its truth is given in its immediacy in a given work of art, and singular in that its truth is found in art and art alone. His view of the link between philosophy and art is tied into the motif of pedagogy, which he claims functions so as to "arrange the forms of knowledge in a way that some truth may come to pierce a hole in them". He develops these ideas with examples from the prose of Samuel Beckett and the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé and Fernando Pessoa (who he argues has developed a body of work that philosophy is currently incapable of incorporating), among others.
 Introduction to Being and Event
Drawing from 8 March 2006 "Art's Imperative" lecture
The major propositions of Badiou's philosophy all find their basis in Being and Event, in which he continues his attempt (which he began in Théorie du sujet) to reconcile a notion of the subject with ontology, and in particular post-structuralist and constructivist ontologies. A frequent criticism of post-structuralist work is that it prohibits, through its fixation on semiotics and language, any notion of a subject. Badiou's work is, by his own admission, an attempt to break out of contemporary philosophy's fixation upon language, which he sees almost as a straitjacket. This effort leads him, in Being and Event, to combine rigorous mathematical formulae with his readings of poets such as Mallarmé and Hölderlin and religious thinkers such as Pascal. His philosophy draws upon both 'analytical' and 'continental' traditions. In Badiou's own opinion, this combination places him awkwardly relative to his contemporaries, meaning that his work had been only slowly taken up. Being and Event offers an example of this slow uptake, in fact: it was translated into English only in 2005, a full seventeen years after its French publication.
As is implied in the title of the book, two elements mark the thesis of Being and Event: the place of ontology, or 'the science of being qua being' (being in itself), and the place of the event — which is seen as a rupture in being — through which the subject finds realization and reconciliation with truth. This situation of being and the rupture which characterizes the event are thought in terms of set theory, and specifically Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory (with the axiom of choice), to which Badiou accords a fundamental role in a manner quite distinct from the majority of either mathematicians or philosophers.
 Mathematics as ontology
Set theory portal
For Badiou the problem which the Greek tradition of philosophy has faced and never satisfactorily dealt with is the problem that while beings themselves are plural, and thought in terms of multiplicity, being itself is thought to be singular; that is, it is thought in terms of the one. He proposes as the solution to this impasse the following declaration: that the one is not. This is why Badiou accords set theory (the axioms of which he refers to as the Ideas of the multiple) such stature, and refers to mathematics as the very place of ontology: Only set theory allows one to conceive a 'pure doctrine of the multiple'. Set theory does not operate in terms of definite individual elements in groupings but only functions insofar as what belongs to a set is of the same relation as that set (that is, another set too). What separates sets out therefore is not an existential positive proposition, but other multiples whose properties validate its presentation; which is to say their structural relation. The structure of being thus secures the regime of the count-as-one. So if one is to think of a set — for instance, the set of people, or humanity — as counting as one the elements which belong to that set, it can then secure the multiple (the multiplicities of humans) as one consistent concept (humanity), but only in terms of what does not belong to that set. What is, in following, crucial for Badiou is that the structural form of the count-as-one, which makes multiplicities thinkable, implies that the proper name of being does not belong to an element as such (an original 'one'), but rather the void set (written Ø), the set to which nothing (not even the void set itself) belongs. It may help to understand the concept 'count-as-one' if it is associated with the concept of 'terming': a multiple is not one, but it is referred to with 'multiple': one word. To count a set as one is to mention that set. How the being of terms such as 'multiple' does not contradict the non-being of the one can be understood by considering the multiple nature of terminology: for there to be a term without there also being a system of terminology, within which the difference between terms gives context and meaning to any one term, does not coincide with what is understood by 'terminology', which is precisely difference (thus multiplicity) conditioning meaning. Since the idea of conceiving of a term without meaning does not compute, the count-as-one is a structural effect or a situational operation and not an event of truth. Multiples which are 'composed' or 'consistent' are count-effects; inconsistent multiplicity is the presentation of presentation.
Badiou's use of set theory in this manner is not just illustrative or heuristic. Badiou uses the axioms of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory to identify the relationship of being to history, Nature, the State, and God. Most significantly this use means that (as with set theory) there is a strict prohibition on self-belonging; a set cannot contain or belong to itself. Russell's paradox famously ruled that possibility out of formal logic. (This paradox can be thought through in terms of a 'list of lists that do not contain themselves': if such a list does not write itself on the list the property is incomplete, as there will be one missing; if it does, it is no longer a list that does not contain itself.) So too does the axiom of foundation — or to give an alternative name the axiom of regularity — enact such a prohibition (cf. p. 190 in Being and Event). (This axiom states that all sets contain an element for which only the void [empty] set names what is common to both the set and its element.) Badiou's philosophy draws two major implications from this prohibition. Firstly, it secures the inexistence of the 'one': there cannot be a grand overarching set, and thus it is fallacious to conceive of a grand cosmos, a whole Nature, or a Being of God. Badiou is therefore — against Cantor, from whom he draws heavily — staunchly atheist. However, secondly, this prohibition prompts him to introduce the event. Because, according to Badiou, the axiom of foundation 'founds' all sets in the void, it ties all being to the historico-social situation of the multiplicities of de-centred sets — thereby effacing the positivity of subjective action, or an entirely 'new' occurrence. And whilst this is acceptable ontologically, it is unacceptable, Badiou holds, philosophically. Set theory mathematics has consequently 'pragmatically abandoned' an area which philosophy cannot. And so, Badiou argues, there is therefore only one possibility remaining: that ontology can say nothing about the event.
 The event and the subject
Drawing from 18 November 2006 "Truth procedure in politics" lecture
The principle of the event is where Badiou diverges from the majority of late twentieth century philosophy and social thought, and in particular the likes of Foucault, Butler, Lacan and Deleuze, among others. In short, it represents that which is outside of ontology. Badiou's problem here is, unsurprisingly, the question of how to 'make use' of that which cannot be discerned. But it is a problem he views as vital, because if one constructs the world only from that which can be discerned and therefore given a name, it results in either the destitution of subjectivity and the removal of the subject from ontology (the criticism continually leveled at Foucault's discursive universe), or the Panglossian solution of Leibniz: that God is language in its supposed completion.
Badiou again turns here to mathematics and set theory — Badiou's language of ontology — to study the possibility of an indiscernible element existing extrinsically to the situation of ontology. He employs the strategy of the mathematician Paul J. Cohen, using what are called the conditions of sets. These conditions are thought of in terms of domination, a domination being that which defines a set. (If one takes, in binary language, the set with the condition 'items marked only with ones', any item marked with zero negates the property of the set. The condition which has only ones is thus dominated by any condition which has zeros in it [cf. p. 367-71 in Being and Event].) Badiou reasons using these conditions that every discernible (nameable or constructible) set is dominated by the conditions which don't possess the property that makes it discernible as a set. (The property 'one' is always dominated by 'not one'.) These sets are, in line with constructible ontology, relative to one's being-in-the-world and one's being in language (where sets and concepts, such as the concept 'humanity', get their names). However, he continues, the dominations themselves are, whilst being relative concepts, not necessarily intrinsic to language and constructible thought; rather one can axiomatically define a domination — in the terms of mathematical ontology — as a set of conditions such that any condition outside the domination is dominated by at least one term inside the domination. One does not necessarily need to refer to constructible language to conceive of a 'set of dominations', which he refers to as the indiscernible set, or the generic set. It is therefore, he continues, possible to think beyond the strictures of the relativistic constructible universe of language, by a process Cohen calls forcing. And he concludes in following that while ontology can mark out a space for an inhabitant of the constructible situation to decide upon the indiscernible, it falls to the subject — about which the ontological situation cannot comment — to nominate this indiscernible, this generic point; and thus nominate, and give name to, the undecidable event. Badiou thereby marks out a philosophy by which to refute the apparent relativism or apoliticism in post-structuralist thought.
Badiou's ultimate ethical maxim is therefore one of: 'decide upon the undecidable'. It is to name the indiscernible, the generic set, and thus name the event that re-casts ontology in a new light. He identifies four domains in which a subject (who, it is important to note, becomes a subject through this process) can potentially witness an event: love, science, politics and art. By enacting fidelity to the event within these four domains one performs a 'generic procedure', which in its undecidability is necessarily experimental, and one potentially recasts the situation in which being takes place. Through this maintenance of fidelity, truth has the potentiality to emerge.
In line with his concept of the event, Badiou maintains, politics is not about politicians, but activism based on the present situation and the evental [sic] (his translators' neologism) rupture. So too does love have this characteristic of becoming anew. Even in science the guesswork that marks the event is prominent. He vigorously rejects the tag of 'decisionist' (the idea that once something is decided it 'becomes true'), but rather argues that the recasting of a truth comes prior to its veracity or verifiability. As he says of Galileo (p. 401):
When Galileo announced the principle of inertia, he was still separated from the truth of the new physics by all the chance encounters that are named in subjects such as Descartes or Newton. How could he, with the names he fabricated and displaced (because they were at hand — ‘movement’, ‘equal proportion’, etc.), have supposed the veracity of his principle for the situation to-come that was the establishment of modern science; that is, the supplementation of his situation with the indiscernible and unfinishable part that one has to name ‘rational physics’?
Badiou, whilst keen to stress the non-equivalence between politics and philosophy, thus finds his political approach — one of activism, militancy, and scepticism of parliamentary-democratic process — backed up by his philosophy based around singular, situated truths, and potential revolutions.
 L'Organisation Politique
Alain Badiou is a founding member (along with Natacha Michel and Sylvain Lazarus) of the militant French political organisation L'Organisation Politique which calls itself a post-party organization concerned with direct popular intervention in a wide range of issues (including immigration, labor, and housing). In addition to numerous writings and interventions since the 1980s, L'Organisation Politique has stressed the importance of developing political prescriptions concerning undocumented migrants (les sans papiers) and stresses that they must be conceived primarily as workers and not immigrants.