Having a hard, but pleasant time writing a review of Alain Badiou’s Second Manifesto. While reading I was increasingly struck by the fact that Badiou (‘dares to’) call(s) it a Manifesto at all; it is really a provocative excerpt of Logics of Worlds, too dense and complex to count as a slogan or proclamation. But – and this thought kept on creeping in the back of my head – perhaps this is exactly what he’s after; writing a manifesto that claims to separate philosophy from opinion, thereby deeming its unfaithful opponents to be part of the latter.
And, then again; can Badiou propose anything else when he accuses the whole of 20th century philosophy for being anti-Platonic and contemporary philosophy for being not more than conservative, liberal-capitalist Yankee moralism? This, perhaps, is exactly the beauty of his thought; to grant philosophy a status apart from all of its ‘sutures’ – i.e. to let it operate by means of the empty category (!) ‘Truth’ – but at the same time conditioning it by arts, politics, science and love so as to safeguard it from any possible obscurity or extremism.
That is to say; Badiou has such a high degree of ‘magnetic’ force that it is possible to be both totally convinced and experience a sense of antipathy. This is, ofcourse, his polemical tactic; to degrade his opponents to the level of ‘democratic materialism’, i.e. as part of the status quo of thought, so as to arouse the feeling that it is, indeed, the only option to revive Plato, to think of everyday life as characterized by ‘human animality’, to live up to the Idea and strive towards Immortality. This is, ofcourse, an exaggeration; his mathematics (Being and Event) and logics (Logics of Worlds) do make it possible to move beyond correlationism, to conceptualize the in-human, the ‘Great Outdoors’ without the One or God. In other words; it is remarkable to see how a philosopher in our times manages to talk about infinity, the void, immortality, evental ruptures and Truth in radically academic rigour.
All of this, nevertheless, doesn’t make it any easier to come to grips with my own take – my own ‘sophistry’ – on Badiou’s thought. One very short, but fascinating text of Badiou that I came across just this week – called ‘Philosophy as Creative Repetition’ – inclined me to try to present him as the insurmountable ‘philosophical event’ of our times (yes, just as Zizek does); as an event to which one can be either faithful or indifferent. This does – by accident perhaps – provide a safe ground for writing a review, since it is exactly this question (of fidelity or ‘obscuration’ (let alone ‘terrorization’)) one should ask oneself when reading Badiou’s Second Manifesto.