Category Archives: writing

Badiou, Forcing, and Politics

First of all, I know, a philosophy post? On this blog? In between the insanity of the past 6 months or so I’ve been doing little more on here than posting conference info and sharing the occasional link, but hopefully I can change that a bit.

I’m currently working on a paper I’ll be presenting at DePaul’s graduate conference next week. The title is ‘From Life to Liberation: Thinking Capital in Alain Badiou’, and while in a sense it builds on some previous work (including a paper I gave at Queen Mary last summer, and an article forthcoming in Political Theology), I am trying to do a few new things as well. A few of these ‘new things’ I hope to at least bring up are, in no particular order: Badiou’s relationship to Marx (primarily through a reading of Theory of the Subject), the lack of an axiomatic for capital is his work, and the place of the political in his ontology.

The issue I’m working on/writing on today is the problematic place of the political in his thought. I find this to be problematic not because of his inadequate theorization of the political and its relationship to the philosophical, but rather because there seems to be a fundamental politicization in Badiou’s ontology that he fails to acknowledge. While he offers four conditions of philosophy, and often notes the risk of suturing philosophy to any condition in particular, I find it fairly obvious that for Badiou philosophy, in practice, is clearly sutured to either the mathematical or the political. On a shallow level, one can see this by simply reading his books and noting how over and over all of his primary examples are political. On a deeper level, one can interrogate the mathematical terms used, and ask whether he’s more faithful to the axioms themselves, or instead to the political exemplifications they engender. One of the examples that I may explore in this paper is the case of forcing.

While my knowledge of set-theory is still pretty piss poor, here is what I find to be important. For Badiou, forcing serves as a sort of infinite subjective process, something that is tied to both temporality and the creation of a new present. This is not what forcing is in set-theory. It’s an instant mathematical process, completely formal, and not tied to any notion of temporality or process. So, in simple terms, it seems like Badiou stays faithful to set-theory up until a certain point, but then his true political fidelity seems to take over. Now, I could be reading too much into one example, but it seems clear that for Badiou the political has priority over the mathematical. But that said, I would love if someone with a more refined knowledge of set-theory could tell me that I’m wrong or push me in the right direction here.

And while I won’t go into it, if this is true then I think it brings up another important problem in Badiou’s thought (one that I’ve brought up before), and that is the issue of humanity and/or anthropology. If politics is primarily a human endeavor, and at the end of the day politics and philosophy are sutured, then I think this warrants a fuller discussion of the human in Badiou. (Supposedly this is coming in his next ‘big book’, The Immanence of Truths). If this line of thought is followed, then I think its inevitable that a return to a (certain reading of) Marx take place in the work of Badiou. The important distinction, however, would be between the Marx of Althusser and the Marx of Sartre. This is something that came up quite a bit at the conference last weekend (especially in conversation with Johnston and Hallward), and I think they key to furthering a critical evaluation of the usefulness of Badiou’s philosophy must take the role of Sartre in shaping his thought much more seriously.

Sorry if this comes of as incoherent rambling, but I’ve always utilized philosophy blogging for random ideas rather than well worked out treatises. Any thoughts on this appreciated…

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‘kierkegaard, metaphysics, and political theory’

my review of Alison Assiter’s recent book on Kierkegaard is now up on the Philosophers Magazine website. You can read it here.

it’s maybe a bit harsh, but at least honest.

summer activities

Following the lead of others I’ve decided to add a post regarding my summer ‘to do’ list. Hopefully publicly posting this will help provide some sort of motivation…

Writing

  • Chapters on ‘Kierkegaard and Badiou’ and ‘Kierkegaard and Sartre’ for the collection Kierkegaard’s Influence on Social-Political Thought.
  • Essay on Meillassoux and philosophy of religion for the volume Anthony Paul Smith/Daniel Whistler are editing.
  • A paper (or, papers) on the concept of life in Badiou and Henry. One version with a more political bent for a conference on immanence/materialism in London, the other with a more ‘continental philosophy of religion’ approach for a conference in Liverpool.
  • Editing half of my first chapter to submit for publication

Reading

  • Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason Vol. 1 and 2
  • Hegel’s Science of Logic
  • The more ‘category theory’ oriented sections of Logics of Worlds, as well as some secondary literature on category theory.
  • Random secondary texts on Sartre/Hegel/Marxism

Teaching

  • Still haven’t found out what I’m teaching in the fall (it’ll be either the first or second year philosophy tutoring) but when I do, I’ll hopefully spend a bit of time familiarizing myself the material.

that’s all.  hopefully I’ll be able to provide updates when I actually do these things, and luckily, there are deadlines attached to most of these tasks which will hopefully keep me from straying too bad. although I wonder…how pissed do editors get if you get your chapter in a week or two late?

brilliant advice…

from Graham:

Anything that helps you be productive should be treated as holy. What that may be differs for each of us. For me, it’s long multi-volume history books, as well as certain public sites that have been “lucky” places for me for thinking and working– the now-closed Café Trevi on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, a specific cybercafe near Russell Square in London that still exists, etc. I do recommend treating these sorts of lucky rituals and places with a near-religious awe, because humans are all constantly within inches of turning into sulky, embittered procrastinators and aggressive resenters of the productive and the fulfilled. But you have to find your own holy places and holy relics. (OOP)

This is both brilliant advice, as well as utterly painful for me to read. While living in Nottingham for my MA I did most of my ‘good’ work at one of the many mellow pubs or cafes in the city. On moving to Dundee to start my PhD I figured I’d be able to do the same and find a few places possessing that certain ‘energy’ allowing me to work. Sadly, there is not even a shred of ‘cafe culture’ in this city, and the pubs are not the type of pubs that are used to people coming in mid-day with a stack of books under their arm. (A stack of alcoholism, maybe…)

Thus, I’ve been doing most of my outlining/writing in the small library cafe, and taking advantage of St. Andrews, which is right across the river, and being filled with mostly American and English students it has great cafes where you can buy one cup of coffee and sit for a couple hours comfortably working away. Although at times pretentious, at least St. Andrews ‘feels’ academic, and it’s not hard to walk into a pub and find an awkard looking academic with a pint of ale and a book.

Regardless, great advice.

Journal Advice.

A bit of advice is needed from anyone who would be willing to share…

I’m currently writing up a draft of the first chapter of my PhD, which will be called something like ‘Kierkegaard and the Politics of Outwardness’, and I’m hoping to submit it to a journal within the next month. Partly because it’s about time I start submitting things, and partly because we’re having an essay contest in my department where the best submitted essay wins 300 pounds.

In basic terms, the essay deals with two periods of Kierkegaard’s writings, first considering CUP and Two Ages, and then moving to a consideration of Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity. In the first section I critique the implicit existential ontology of the Postscript, basically arguing that Kierkegaard doesn’t need a transcendent ontology to accomplish what he hopes in regards to subjectivity and undecidability; in the second I reinforce Merold Westphal’s argue that Kierkegaard’s later writings move from the inwardness of ‘Religiousness B’ to a properly relational and outward ‘Religiousness C’, arguing that here we find not a break, but a consummation, of Kierkegaard’s earlier work, and one that provides a paradigm for radical socio-political thought and critique. Towards the end of the work I also re-think the notion of the religious in Kierkegaard in terms of a mode of relation, and also respond to Levinas’ critiques of Kierkegaard for being a-social and a-political.

All that said, I’m wondering where a good place to submit this piece would be? I’m hoping to find a ‘mid range’ journal, and something that wouldn’t be turned off by a piece that basically attempts to situate Kierkegaard as a precursor to contemporary materialism. Thus far I’ve thought about ‘Philosophy Today’ and the ‘Southern Journal for Philosophy’, but may have better chances with a philosophy of religion/theology journal with a Kierkegaard piece… but at this point, ANY advice would he helpful.

Thanks.

request for advice.

I’m spending the next month writing a draft of the first chapter of my PhD, which broadly construed, is going to deal with issues of politics, ontology, subjectivity, and relationality within four of Kierkegaard’s works I find to be fundamental to my understanding of his work. Along with Kierkegaard, there will likely also be short sub-sections dealing with Marx, Hegel, and Zizek within this chapter.

One of the conceptual issues I’ve moved towards is relationality, and in the context of Kierkegaard, the relationship between internal self-relation, and external socio-political relation between self-relational subjects. I feel like I’m moving towards a steady argument within Kierkegaard’s texts, but would like to at least consider some recent work in European philosophy that deals with relationality, and am not so sure where to look. One figure who has been recommended is Nancy, but even there I’m not quite sure where to start, as I don’t have time to read his corpus anytime soon.

So, I come to you, whoever you are, to ask for recommendations on philosophers with interesting theories of relationality. All recommendations are highly appreciated.

an introduction, and more…

I would like to introduce the new blog of a good friend, named Dan. His blog is called Vacuous Savor, and he already has some interesting post up that seem to be coming out of a recent period of Zizek reading. Surely worth checking out for those interested in the relationship between philosophy-theology-politics.

Right now I’m working on a paper, to be presented later this week, on the place of the subject in philosophies of life and concept in the recent french tradition. I’m framing the debate between the work of Badiou and Henry, and trying to ‘get at’ a concept of the subject that is founded through a relationship to the absolute life of Henry, while retaining the political axiomatics of Badiou. To bring things to the ground, I’m attempting to evaluate these accounts of the subject in relation to their efficacy in providing sites of novelty under capitalism. At this point I’m still wrestling with how to read the role of both life and capitalin Badiou’s work, and specifically in Logics of Worlds.  I’m also finding his quick dismissal of Negri/Deleuze to be problematic in regards to questions of Life; I say this as being someone who agrees with Badiou over these figures 9 out of 10 times, but still can’t help but finding Badiou’s attempt to bring the world life back to the centre of philosophical thinking a bit silly/pretentious.

But I’ll digress…at this point my mind is still a bit cluttered. I’m going through some (hopefully) final edits of the paper before leaving for the states on wednesday, so will potentially post it here before then, but if not, I will surely post the paper after the conference. Which, just now, I noticed is going to be attended by an entire class from Canada as a sort of philosophical field trip. This should be, if nothing else, interesting.

the writing process

I have attempted to spend a majority of my time writing over the past few days. While the whole ‘writing’ thing has not panned out very well, I have managed to spend a good amount of time drinking tea, sleeping, watching tv, cooking delicious mexican meals, reading, and cleaning my flat. At this point I have a few hours this evening and all day tomorrow to finish the paper I am presenting on Tuesday. I am a bit stressed, but have learned that these things always, although sometimes painfully, work themselves out.

The thing I’ve realized through all of this is that while I’ve recently developed a good set of habits in regards to reading, I have yet to develop a habitual system for writing. The only writing habit I have at this point is always hand writing my first draft, but that’s more of a technique than a habit.

So out of curiosity, does anyone have a certain system they find helpful for writing?  I’d be willing to take any and all advice on this topic, as my current system makes it possible to rush through 4,000 or so words, but will be nothing short of hellish if I attempt to use this system to produce over 15,000 words this summer. Also, while I’m fishing for advice, does anyone have anything different they do when preparing a paper for presentation as opposed to an assignment or publication? and does anyone have any ‘tricks’ for presenting? I find myself getting very tense during my presentations and usually have small panic attacks during the question and answer period…