Oliver Feltham – Alain Badiou: Live Theory

CoverThis is a clear introduction to Badiou, one that is as much as one could hope for with the length and diversity of such a career. It usefully contextualizes Badiou’s previous (Marxist, Maoist) political orientation with regard to his philosophy as both thought and practice. That said, even with (or because of) this, I feel that when it comes to “mature” Badiou as is outlined here, I understand his concept of the event rather more than I do being as he conceives of it within his notorious set-theory ontology. Perhaps it is not a part of the motivating logic of this “Live Theory” series, but a programmatic engagement with some of the texts through which people encounter Badiou (Being and Event, The Logic of Worlds) might be of more help for those (such as myself) who would turn to such a book as this out of a sense of helplessness in being confronted by such monoliths. I turned to the essays (Infinite Thought, Theoretical Writings) when I trudged a hundred pages into Badiou after reading of him in ŽižekThe Ticklesh Subject, only to be brought to an ego-crushing halt. Nevertheless, this book is an achievement on the route to writing such an ideal introductory text as this review is predicated on.

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Five types of change in philosophy

In any discussion of emergence, it is often difficult to separate this concept from its semantic cousins who all live in the same philosophical neighbourhood. Sure, they’re related, but they don’t really talk much. There’ll be a polite nod, and maybe a few minutes of chit-chat about how Uncle Dynamis is these days, but they don’t have a huge amount to say to each other beyond that. Conversation will slow, headphones will pop in, and each will return to their own little world.

Change is central to philosophy either for reasons of counting it as the defining principle (as Heraclitus does), or for reasons of escaping it and its counter-intuitive implications (Parmenides, Plato, Hegel, whoever else). Continue reading

Visual representation of philosophical thought

The best known recent (!) critique of the metaphors we use in our thought is probably Rorty‘s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, after which we are rightly wary of the implications of our various figures of speech. This has been a big part of what Ricoeur calls the hermeneutics of suspicion, all the the various structuralists and post-structuralists and the we-haven’t-even-heard-of-structuralism-so-don’t-you-dare-lump-us-in-with-those-guys-ists. We know that style in philosophy is never neutral, that what we say is influenced by how we say it. There was a hope that some other metaphors might set the tone for a departure from old ways of saying and thus give us new ways of thinking.

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