JBS 6 – 2018 Interrogating the Idea
In recent works the concept of the ‘Idea’ has shifted from a peripheral concern to a much more crucial, decisive and prominent term within Badiou’s philosophical project – but one which has yet to find an appropriate place within Badiou’s typology. Aside from the generic, non-technical, layperson’s usage, Badiou deploys a wide range of uses across his oeuvre.
In Being and Event, for instance, we find an intriguing interplay between a revisionary but historically sensitive use of the Idea vis-à-vis Plato – and to a lesser extent, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel – and a particularly Badiouian sense of the Idea as a term interchangeable – or at least inextricably linked – with mathematical axioms. In the latter sense, Badiou’s recognition of mathematics as the pure ontological discourse par excellence rests upon it being the ‘locus of the Idea,’ as the ‘place-holder of the Idea as Idea,’ where axioms, as such, are ‘the grand Ideas of the multiple.’ Given Badiou’s latter meta-ontological development of the term, though, the status of the former usage remains unresolved, and, as such, presents us with a rich and untapped field for research.
In Logics of Worlds, however, the treatment of the term takes up a much more central position within Badiou’s theoretical project, a position which since has been reaffirmed in many of his most popular and accessibly-written works, such as: The Communist Hypothesis, Philosophy and the Event, Philosophy for Militants, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings and The True Life. It is in Logics of Worlds, especially, where we begin to glimpse a sense that the Idea is central to a meaningful life: where ‘“to live’ and “to live for an Idea” are one and the same.’ This dramatic and provocative sense of the Idea draws upon much of the ontological foundations Badiou has laid across his oeuvre and arguably restores some of the conceptual insights of the Idea expounded in the Theory of the Subject. ‘Excess summons lack’ at an evental-site, writes Badiou, ‘so as to bring forth the idea’ – i.e. the intermediary of existence and non-existence – from which a new regime of truth may follow: ‘an Idea presents the truth as if it were a fact.’
It is this concept of the Idea, as an essential component, or even the crux, of the evental process, and prerequisite of a meaningful life, which appears to play a decisive role in foreshadowing the third ‘tome’ of Being and Event: The Immanence of Truths. As Badiou explains in Philosophy and the Event, ‘subjectivity is signalled by the possibility of an Idea, of a new Idea – to use the terminology of the third volume of Being and Event … which doesn’t yet exist!’ It seems, then, that in its articulation of how an event ‘occurs for a given individual when she or he is incorporated within a procedure of truth, when she or he is seized by an Idea,’ Being and Event: The Immanence of Truths may seek to clear up how the Idea arises as well as the conceptual issues of Being and Event which persisted, if not intensified, within Logics of Worlds. Badiou’s mature treatment of the Idea, then, represents a possible concept which can bind together, not just Badiou’s three systematic theoretical works, but also the manifold applications of Badiou’s thought to arenas such as politics, etc.
The Idea has an uncertain, yet pivotal, role in Badiou’s philosophical system. As it stands, the function of the Idea, in its role as consolidating the whole of Badiou’s mature philosophy, lies in bridging the gap between the finitude of the individual and the infinitude of a truth, or truth procedure, viz., the Idea appears to be the concept which binds Being and Event, Logics of Worlds and – possibly – The Immanence of Truths together. With the increasing importance of the Idea in Badiou’s work, and with a new major theoretical text on the horizon that promises to continue to focus on the Idea, now is a fruitful time to reflect on the role of the Idea in Badiou’s work as a whole, from his engagement with the concept of the Idea in the history of philosophy, including Plato, Kant, Hegel etc. to its increasingly important role at the heart of his own system. With this objective, JBS 6: Interrogating the Idea focuses on the relation between the Idea and Badiou’s philosophical and political projects.
JBS 5 – 2017, Architheater
The fifth volume of the Journal of Badiou Studies, energized by the publication of Badiou’s Rhapsodie pour le théâtre (2014), seeks to knit together distinguished approaches to artistic production engaging with the work of Alain Badiou: ‘Engaging’ would mean for us articulated positions that include, imply or criticize the Badiouiesque corpus. We would not therefore seek to implement Badiou΄s philosophical insights in interpretations of art or of aesthetics, but rather to take Badiou’s philosophy as a center of convergence-nexus of a plethora of philosophical positions that include artistic production as a central element of their structure. Thematically, the volume limits its discussion to “a two” of architecture and theater, thinking their overlapping, juxtaposition and respective generative capacities.
JBS 5 suggests superimposing these two “media” and posing them at the center of the volume for several reasons: Politically, both theater and architecture actively engage in the life of the Polis, they effectually and factually demand the participation of collective and material actors. Poieticaly, both media manifest a comprehensive form of artistic production, that is to say they both include elements and organs (actors, designers, lighting-specialists, engineers, planners, executives, actors, dancers, etc.) that are required as collaborators in the realization of the piece. The Architect, on the one hand, and the Theater maker, on the other, both produce what could be defined as a world, or, in Badiou’s terms, a formation of a subject.
Moreover, JBS 5 explores the political aspect of the relationship between Badiou’s concept of “state” (l’état) and the architheatrical activity. Indeed in Thèses sur le théâtre (1995), Badiou writes: “La difficulté générale du théâtre, à toutes les époques, est son rapport à l’Etat” (Petit manuel d’inesthétique, 118). If one considers this paradigm with Badiou’s L’être et l’événement in mind, one could analyze the manner in which the arts work with and/or against ontology, as well as carry an ethical tenor, with their responsibility towards a Truth. Badiou, an active playwright himself, integrated into his thought from early-on dramatic and theatrical topoi. Already in Théorie du sujet, one finds the Greek theater as an active player in his architecture of the subject. The activities of construction, conditions, subtraction, installation, generation, modelling all being prominent terms in the philosophy of Badiou, should be conceived within an architheatrical framework. Present-day artistic manifestations: The art-fair, video art, installation art, site-specific arts, performance etc., could be viewed as re-generating an art “form,” the architheater in which ontology, that is to say space, is configured by reality (that is to say duration or history). Finally, the “Il y a de deux” of theater and architecture invites to rethink the role of the receptor (otherwise known as the “spectator” the “public” or the “inhabitant”) of art, an issue having to do with the Badiou-Rancière debate. Naturally, the volume tries to take advantage of Badiou’s philosophy in order to think beside rather than within the Aesthetic-regime to the best possible extent, adopting instead a generative, that is to say a poietical, productive approach to art.
To purchase a print copy and/or download the full-volume pdf of JBS 5 click here for the website of our publisher, Punctum Books.
The fourth volume of the Journal of Badiou Studies considers the potential that Badiou’s thinking harbors for both feminist and queer theories. Despite the fact that there has been very little feminist engagement with Badiou’s philosophy, and even less queer work on him, it is arguable that the lineaments of a queer Badiouian feminism can be discovered both in the work itself and its take-up by feminist and queer critics. Badiou’s own writings have a complicated relationship with and to queer feminism given that, as many feminist critics have pointed out, Badiou seems to lapse into positions, wittingly or not, which could be construed as heteronormative, phallocentric, transphobic or heterosexist. Yet, on the other hand, we have Badiou’s theories of the subject and his appeal in Being and Event to the female symbol (♀) as figuring a new world, ♀ figuring the situation that will have been, from the perspective of S, after the truth of ♀ has been forced. As well as this work on the generic, there are the essays on the scene of love, sexuality and the couple, which refer not only to heterosexual love. In terms of anti-identitarian queer theories, Badiou’s understanding of love suggests that there are a number of acts that any person can perform or positions that they can take up which do not solidify into identities.
JBS 4 seeks to address the potentials and pitfalls of Badiou’s work for feminist and queer theories. In staging such a mutually enriching encounter we suggest that feminist and queer political thought stands to gain something from this set of rapprochements with Badiou; feminist and queer thinking may be reoriented by the latter so as to escape the menace of reactionary identity politics and refuse any continuity with democratic materialism, without simply lapsing into the sort of false universalism that queer and feminist thought has done so much to dismantle. To paraphrase Badiou from Theory of the Subject, ‘Marxism is the discourse with which the proletarian sustains itself as subject. We must never let go of this idea’. The premise of this issue is that ‘it is by putting Badiou to work in this way that we can conceive feminism as the discourse with which woman sustains herself as subject. We must never let go of this idea’.
“Rather than link the word [‘ethics’] to abstract categories, it should be referred back to particular situations. Rather than reduce it to an aspect of pity for the victims, it should become the enduring maxim of singular processes. Rather than make it merely the province of conservatism with a good conscience, it should concern the destiny of truths, in the plural.” – Alain Badiou
The focus of the third issue of the Journal of Badiou Studies is Badiou’s ethics. Ethics is paramount to Badiou’s political theory and his materialist dialectics, and is evident throughout his philosophy. Moreover, Badiou’s small book on ethics remains one of the most important points of entry into Badiou’s thought since it is not only widely read across disciplines but is also one of the most widely translated of all of his works.
Badiou’s theory of ethics and his book on the subject are easily approachable. Yet, under this beguiling transparency, there lies an explosive and radical affront to popular ethics of mainstream society, media, academia and politics in the capitalist world. The articles of JBS 3 explore this complicated, confrontational and foundational aspect of Badiou’s thinking.
You could almost say my entire enterprise is one giant confrontation [démêlé] with the dialectic. – Alain Badiou
JBS 2 is dedicated to the dialectic. The contributors address a number of issues and problems including exploring, primarily, the consequences of the dialectic for Badiou’s thought and the consequences of Badiou’s thought on dialectics. The essays interrogate the dialectic in Badiou’s thought and the implications of this thinking to disciplines across the humanities and the sciences.
The inaugural issue of the JBS revolves around the idea of ‘Badiou Now!’ Why? Because Badiou’s philosophical interest is fundamentally contemporary and political. The notion of Badiou Now! captures the urgency that Badiou sees in combating the ‘Thermidorian’ spirit, reactive and obscurantist subjects that deny the necessity of rupture, events, acts, new truths, who replace action with political apathy, and radical democracy with a return to ‘pure’ transcendental notions. In contrast to the Evental-negating/-denying subject, Badiou is concerned with the question of how to maintain fidelity to the event, while remaining aware of competing subjective forces and of the materialist dialectical need for endless events, for perpetual breaks and splits, which promote the present as future. The first issue, then, addresses the role of Badiou’s thought in building a twenty-first century conception of human organization.