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Alain Badiou's Interlocutors (Part 1)

Lecturer: A.J. Bartlett

Originally Taught: Evening Sem 2 2014

12 Tuesdays: Aug 12, Aug 19, Aug 26, Sept 2, Sept 9, Sept 16 (cancelled), Sept 23, Sept 30, Oct 7, Oct 14, Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4 (Note: The last class only is in room 221)

This course is the first of a three-part examination of Alain Badiou’s interlocutors. Since the late 1980’s Badiou has spoken of philosophy as being under condition. As a discourse – an act and a discipline – philosophy is the composition of the truths produced in and by four irreducible procedures of thought: politics, science, love and art.

In order to elucidate these conditions in their singularity – ‘conditions’ that were operable in his philosophy prior to 1988’s Being and Event but not conceived as such – Badiou has recourse to a range of thinkers relevant to each of these conditions. For example, Cantor, Godel, Cohen, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Hölderlin, Stevens, Beckett, Malevich, Lacan, Heloise and Abelard, Hubert Robert, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Lenin, Stalin Marx, Spartacus, Mao and Saint Paul.

Added to these conditional thinkers Badiou engages with a series of philosophical figures. ‘Essentially’: Plato, Descartes and Hegel. Critically: Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Heidegger, Althusser and Deleuze (to name only a vital few). Badiou’s engagements are of many types – critical, didactic, faithful, polemical, close, distant, idiosyncratic. But they follow a similar form: they address a thinker at their strongest point and demonstrate the limit of this thought relevant to the question at hand. However, the goal is not critical per se. Rather, under a re-newed orientation to this question, made possible by the new conditional truths of our time, Badiou intervenes at this limit to push further the directions opened up and pursued by these thinkers.

Without doubt Badiou addresses these thinkers, conditional and philosophical, in terms of how they matter for philosophy, which is to say, what philosophy is under conditions. In this course we will explore Badiou’s interlocutors in these terms: in themselves insofar as they are for philosophy. Specifically, the philosophy of Alain Badiou.

The course is a companion course to ‘Alain Badiou’s Big Books’ and as such the interlocutors examined will map the books examined in that course. Thus Part 1 will examine those interlocutors relevant to Theory of the Subject: for example, Hegel, Mallarme, Holderlin, Greek tragedy, Lacan, politics (Marx, Lenin, Mao), Mathematics (algebra, topology, logic, set-theory). Each interlocutor will be divided in two: in terms of how they feature to the oeuvre of Badiou, generally and then specifically in Theory of the Subject. The course will over time build a full picture of Badiou’s interlocutors and as such the groundwork of his philosophy.

Despite it being designed to map onto the Big Books this course can be taken on its own and presupposes no detailed knowledge of Badiou’s philosophy; simply an interest in working through what is constitutive of it.