Hallward on Logics of Worlds

In case you haven’t seen this yet, Peter Hallward has a piece in this months New Left Review entitled ‘Order and Event’. It’s an extremely well thought out piece that gives us the first glimpse of the critical reactions we can expect to Logics of Worlds after its forthcoming (english) publication. Of particular note is the way in which Hallward critiques Badiou’s lack of a coherent account of the actual material that mediates between pure ontology and existing subjects. This is a continuing problem with the work of Badiou (and more recently Meillassoux), and I for one can’t seem to establish how these thinkers propose that we get from pure number to existing material. The only thing I’ve read that provides a potential bridge between number and matter is Iain Grant’s piece ‘Being and Slime’ from Collapse IV which gave an account of Oken’s naturephilosophie and the role of ‘slime’ as the mediating substance between number and matter.

Here is an excerpt of Hallward’s piece:

“However, Badiou assumes but does not account for the status of the middle and mediating term—the status of beings (étants). Neither Badiou’s ontology nor his logic seem to provide any clear place for ordinary ontic reality. What appears in our various Parisian worlds, clearly, are not instances of pure being or multiplicity, but people. Depending on the transcendental configuration of their world, these people can then appear or exist as tranquil workers, patriotic heroes or rebellious insurgents, but in each case the transcendental appears to take the elementary ontic status of its inhabitants for granted. Between the being of a pure multiplicity and an appearing as docile or insurgent lies an abyss without mediation. The space that in other philosophies might be filled by an account of material actualization or emergent self-realization (or any number of alternatives) is one that Badiou, so far, prefers to consign to contingency. If the transcendental of a world determines the ways in which its objects may appear, Badiou seems to presume a meta-transcendental register which simply gives a world the ontic raw material of its objects (such that objects can be defined as ‘the being-there of the being of a being [l’être-là de l’être d’un étant]’)”


3 thoughts on “Hallward on Logics of Worlds

  1. Alex says:

    This is weirdly similar to Milbank’s reading of The Logics of Worlds in Angelaki entitled ‘The Return of Mediation, or The Ambivalence of Alain Badiou’, except for Milbank, its a good thing, because it shows how Badiou is tacitly Christian – ie the Trinitarian God does the tricky work of mediation.

    It’s a hell of an article, that led me to be so absent minded that I actually lost my wallet when I was trying to work out its contours, and is by his own admitance, an esoteric reading of Badiou. But here is, I think, the relevant bit:

    If one reads Badiou’s philosophy from the vantage point of the event rather than from the vantage point of the void, then the void appears to be only the negative shadow that the event works with, like God working with nothing in order to create. Similarly, appearances become the deposits of the event, laid down in the past from a future anterior, as natura naturata. For we know that Badiou does not ascribe the latter to the workings of a Spinozistic virtual natura naturans. But if phenomena are the deposits of the event before they are the manifestations of the mathematical noumena (reduced to the raw material that is pure potentiality), and if the event is what produces the human rather than being commanded by the human, then how can there not be a “divine shaping” or a kind of “world soul” at work here?[…] However, in the second place, we have also seen that, read in a particular direction, Badiou appears to reinstate relation and even participation. If we take the event as dominant over the void, then, since the event is a category of (non-Hegelian) mediation between being and appearance, he appears to more than flirt with a Christian metaphysics of primary actuality, real relation and participatory sharing in the eternal.

    For bonus fun, here is an interesting argument that Melliasoux is wrong about correlationism and the arche-fossil, tossed out, in classic Milbank style, as an aside.

    It is hard here to see why Meillassoux is so convinced that the pre-human past is more of a problem for this model than is physical space without a human presence: surely in either case, on the “modern,” non-realist paradigm-which I am not assenting to-one is simply speaking of a projected reality that we are forced to describe “as if” human beings were there. The pre-human past is neither affirmed nor denied, because we simply cannot know whether, outside our human perspective, temporal perspectives in our sense have any meaning.

  2. Grant says:

    It’s official – I’ve lost it. That or I’ve just lost my patience for trying to make sense of what Hallward is saying. Oh well… Back to Anglo-American jurisprudence for me.

  3. Das says:

    Getting from ontology to matter … ? Matter has being – a language of ontology (mathematics) would therefore be as descriptive of matter as mind, were the distinction any more than a metaphysical red herring in the 1st place. Physics whether relativistic or quantum has no issues representing matter mathematically. It seems Hallward is being at least somewhat intentionally obtuse in order to massage his materialist religion. i.e. Hallward is the one with the belief based prejudice not Badiou.

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