affectivity and the human animal in Logics of Worlds

In Logics of Worlds Badiou identifies four affects which signal the incorporation of a human animal into a subjective truth-process. These affects are terror, anxiety, courage, and justice.

The first, terror, “testifies to the desire for a great point” [86]. This point serves as the decisive discontinuity which brings about the new in an instantaneous fashion, and completes the subject in the process. The initial point is the break in a previous situation, or world, which inaugurates the opening of the path into the new one.

The second, anxiety, “testifies to the fear of points” [ibid], in which the human animal fears the choice between two hypotheses which comes with no guarantee. Thus, anxiety, in the Kierkegaardian-Sartrean sense, comes about when the individual (or, human animal) is confronted with the realization of free and contingent choice.

The third, courage, “affirms the acceptance of the plurality of points” [ibid]. Thus, one has the courage to navigate the consequences of an event in the form of points. To once again use Kierkegaard/Sartre as the example, courage is the affect which grips the individual who has overcome the anxiety of contingency and freely willed a decision.

The final affect is justice, which “affirms the equivalence of what is continuous and negotiated, one the one hand, and of what is discontinuous and violent, on the other.” [ibid] To justice, all categories of action are thus subordinated to the absolute contingency of worlds. Justice is thus the affective sign of the egalitarian maxim.

On page 87 of LW he goes on to note that “all affects are necessary in order for the incorporation of a human animal to unfold in a subjective process, so that the grace of being immortal may be accorded to this animal.” Thus, the human animal must go through each affect to enter into the process of ‘becoming-subject’.

While I am excited and intrigued to see Badiou relying so much on language of affect (which was a major lack of Being and Event, see Gillespie, The Mathematics of Novelty, for the best critique of BEin regards to affectivity) in Logics, I am also left wondering what is actually feeling these affects? And along these same lines, how does a/the subject ‘feel’ an affect? Because the subject is non-individual and non-human (as theorized by Badiou), what is it that feels itself feelingthese affects? Is it only a collective subject-body whom is able to feel enthusiasm in regards to an emanciptory political movement? Or can the individual be equally affected by novelty in this respect?

It seems as if theorizing the pre-subjective individual as the ‘human animal’ is problematic in these regards, and it would be more constructive to theorize the existence of the non/pre-subjective ‘human animal’ as the ‘individual self’. By providing a more detailed theorization of this individual self, we can have a self whom is self relational and capable of ‘feeling itself feeling’ theseaffects which subsequently lead it into the subjective process. As anthropocentric as Badiou’s philosphy of the subject is (no matter how much he argues otherwise), it seems as if it’d be more constructive for his whole project if he would just concede to the existence of this originary individual self, which theorized properly is situated in such as a way as to be cable of feeling affects and subsequently enter the process of becoming-subject.

I’m still working my way through (the english edition of) Logics of Worlds, so more thoughts on this to come for sure. Would be interested in hearing what others are making of this language of affect in LW…

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2 thoughts on “affectivity and the human animal in Logics of Worlds

  1. Alex says:

    But wouldn’t that lead to all the problems associated with ‘the individual’ as such highlighted in so much of 20th century philosophy? How is some kind of liberalism avoided? I guess one response is that the universality of an event always summons forth a community of sorts because of its very universality, more than one human animal must enter into the process of becoming subject. And I know he has some account of a form of collective body.

    Be gentle with me, I don’t know Badiou well.

  2. michaeloneillburns says:

    Alex,
    Yes, you are absolutely right. I guess what I’m getting at, is does the pre-subjective individual have to be a ‘human animal’ and nothing more, and, what is it about the ‘human animal’ that allows it to experience and respond to affects. The point of this is to think a bit more into the place of the individual on the ‘pre’ side of the event. So I would in no way be trying to argue that there is an individual self that stands on its own, not at all, I think the subjective process is absolutely necessary; but I think the reduction of any form of life to the human animal makes giving a positive account of subjective affectivity much harder. It seems as if there needs to be some account of the ‘self’ which is able to relate to an event, be gripped by the affect produced therin, and enter into the process of becoming-subject. Maybe all we need is an account of the human animal to allow for this, but I’m not quite convinced.

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