Philosophy is an exercise in transmitting something that you could make do with not transmitting
Being and Event was published in French in 1988 – 34 years ago. It was translated into English by the Australian Oliver Feltham – with amiable aid from Justin Clemens - in 2005. It is probably accurate to say that the English translation instigated a bit of a rush on Badiou with the subsequent publishing of many extant texts and on the basis of this rush the writing by Badiou of a lot more texts still including, of course, parts 2 and 3 of Being and Event. The initial Being and Event now being named, retroactively, part 1 of what has become a trilogy, which it was never intended to be.
Being and Event is not – as everyone came to know – Badiou’s first book nor even really his first big book – that being that reworked collection of seminars, Theory of the Subject. However, as has been argued, and as is being suggested here, Being and Event is truly the book which launches Badiou as the Badiou he has become. It’s no doubt a foundational text and this not only for what comes after but, retroactively, for that which came before. So it founds Badiou as Badiou, we can say.
But what matters more is what the text announces in philosophy and for philosophy and thereby, and much more broadly, for thought. For philosophy, simply, it announces that philosophy has not, as so often posited, even celebrated, at the time, come to its end. Philosophy, he argues, is what recommences. Taken in terms of what it announces in thought, Being and Event is an event. It introduces an entirely other orientation to what can be thought and thus to what is philosophy itself. But as with any event its ‘eventality’ is down to the interventions and fidelities to which it gives rise – or at least opens up as possible in the situation in and for which it is an ‘event’. That’s to say, not so much in terms of the knowledge brought to bear on the text but in terms of the enquiries undertaken relative to the terms and statements it brings to bear – sets, elements, axioms, conditions, fidelity, deduction, being, truth, subject and so on.
What can these familiar terms mean once the conceptual arrangement that Being and Event brings to the situation of philosophy is realised as true or at least, veridical. Being and Event ushers in, for those who take it up, the possibility of the new in thought, in philosophy – a renewed philosophy; of what can be thought anew. And hence the situation of philosophy and its conditions changes the situation irrevocably. And a change in what can be thought as thought is not to interpret the world anew but to change what of the world and what for the world can be thought. The world, like Rimbaud’s ‘I’, is an other.
This course reads Being and Event as this change and it proceeds meditation by meditation to articulate the terms and conditions of this change – of how it can be thought, how thought shows itself as change and how the consequences of this change are thought in philosophy. We will simply work through the text to realise what is there, registering and exploring how being, truth and subject – the staples of philosophy since Plato (even in their negation!) are re-founded in Being and Event and thus re-found for a world that speaks endlessly of change but has ceased to change at all and is indeed a world seeking to make change impossible.
Being and Event is a big book: It is written as a series of 37 Meditations and divided into eight parts. Although in the introduction Badiou supposes various ways to read the book, each option gives rise to its own impasse. This can only be avoided by reading the whole thing, beginning to end from go, to literally, woe. Accordingly, the course will work through the meditations in chronological order: if not line by line, then following closely the order of the parts. In essence this is a course in reading the 37 Mediations of BE. We will, roughly, work through and on three to four meditations per session – exegesis, explanation, context, consequence.
This course presupposes no knowledge of Badiou. It will be both a wild ride and a useful introduction to this work and the work of a thinker whose philosophy will have become, despite concerted contemporary reaction, truly foundational.
The schedule will be something like the following:
- Intro to Badiou/Intro to the course/Intro to BE
- L2/3. Being: Multiple and Void. Plato/Cantor
- Being: Excess, State of the Situation, One/Multiple, Whole/Parts…
- Being: Nature and Infinity. Heidegger/Galileo
- Event: History and Ultra-One
- Event: Intervention and Fidelity. Pascal/Choice; Hölderlin/Deduction
- Quantity and Knowledge. The discernible (or constructible): Leibniz/Gödel
- L9/10. Truth. The Generic: indiscernible and truth. The event – P.J.Cohen
- Forcing: Truth and the Subject. Beyond Lacan
- Overflow & Questions
- Being and Event. (Alain Badiou)
Further Reading and or reference
- Live Theory (Feltham)
- Badiou: Key Concepts (Bartlett & Clemens)
- Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Peter Hallward)
- Badiou’s Being and Event: A Readers Guide (Christopher Norris)