File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 152

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 22:50:56 -0600
Subject: Why Badiou?


Before we get into the details here, I think it appropriate to ask the
question - Why should a Lyotard group study Badiou?

You say: "The 'attack' on Lyotard and others was entertaining but not
very serious..."

I remain unconvinced by this.  Regardless of how entertaining it may be,
I think it is also very serious.  

Badiou writes: "It is never really modest to declare an 'end', a
completion, a radical impasse. The announcement of the 'End of Grand
Narratives' is as immodest as the Grand Narrative itself, the certainty
of the 'end of metaphysics' proceeds within the metaphysical element of
certainty, the deconstruction of the concept of subject requires a
central category - being, for example - the historical prescription of
which is even more decisive etc."

It is certainly possible to respond to this charge in various ways, but
I certainly don't think it was merely meant as a joke.

What I find even more interesting, however, (and this is why I think it
is important to discuss Badiou) is that I also see a number of points in
common between Lyotard and Badiou.  For one thing, Badiou makes a big
point about never sharing a meal or a drink with Deleuze, but then
describes a long conversation he had in a car ride with Lyotard in which
Lyotard invited Badiou to review his book "The Differend". Badiou was
critical, of course, but this doesn't really seem to matter.  It is
obvious there was a relationship between the two of them and it seems
important to understand what impact they may have had on one another.

I am also intrigued by the fact that the concept of event is central to
both their philosophies, regardless of how differently they may have
each interpreted this concept.  

You write: "the definition of an event, which is related to the
conflictual struggle based understanding of 'truth', is inevitably
problematic.  Given that a truth is supposed to derive from an event, a
situation it's not clear how the truth is derived."

I am getting ahead of myself here and not willing to discuss this in
detail yet, but I have a sense that this derivation of the ethical as a
truth by way of subtraction from a situation in response to an event may
also be related to Lyotard in some way. 

What I am suggesting is that the exercise of comparing what Lyotard and
Badiou have in common and where they differ may help to illuminate both
philosophies and this is finally why it is appropriate for this group to
have this discussion.

My initial hunch, for what it is worth is this.  (We can return to it
later after I have read and absorbed Badiou's Ethics.)

Lyotard seems to approach ethics from the standpoint of Kant's Third
Critique. There Kant develops the idea of the sublime (not as Burke
thought of it as a phenomenon of nature), but rather as a conflict of
the faculties. 

The sublime emerges to the extent the imagination or the understanding
strive in vain to present something which is in truth an Idea of reason.
Kant claims that by this very act, reason comes to realize itself in its
true vocation as the supersensible.  Kant also claims that the sublime,
by virtue of this fact, is not merely an aesthetic category, but an
ethical one as well.  As Kant puts it, through the dynamic sublime,
reason realizes that despite the terrors of nature, it has its own
supersensible vocation which transcends nature. It therefore has another
end which is precisely the ethical.

We can discuss later the way Lyotard utilizes this in developing his own
approach to ethics.

What I want to suggest here for now is that Badiou is perhaps using a
similar approach in order to derive the truth from the event.  In other
words, Badiou and Lyotard are linked not only by the concept of the
event, they are also linked by the concept of the sublime.  

Even so, Badiou does not appear to use this term directly.  He calls it
the void.  My point is that functionally this may be very close to the
sublime, if not in fact merely calling the same process by another name.
This may also help to resolve the difficulty you raised.

Both Lyotard and Badiou are interested is how the ethical emerges and
how it is maintained.  Both bear witness to the fact that the ethical is
sublime because it cannot be represented by the situation through which
it emerges as the event.  



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