Monday, April 11, 2011

Badiou: "Mathematics is the only discipline capable of explaining the Ȇtre [to be]"

Badiou : "Les mathématiques sont la seule discipline capable d'expliquer l'Ȇtre"

Le - Publié le 04/04/2011 à 10:13

Rencontre avec la figure la plus controversée de la philosophie française.

Badiou : "Les mathématiques sont la seule discipline capable d'expliquer l'Ȇtre"

Alain Badiou © Baltel / Sipa

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French to English translation

You titled one of your classes: "For today, Plato!" Why?

Plato defined his time in a clear opposition between opinion and truth. Philosophy, for him, begins where common views are challenged in favor of truth. Today's world values ​​rather diversity and expression of opinions. This is the case in the media, where we invite everyone to say what he thinks, and politics, where polls are crucial. We find a similar trend in philosophy: Ludwig Wittgenstein and those who, after him, claim the philosophy of ordinary language, do not believe in the existence of absolute truths, just want the best views. I totally disagree with them. I believe, like Plato, that there are eternal truths. I would say it's always going beyond the established views that humanity is something new and interesting in its destiny. So I told myself that our master Plato, who in his time had also been involved in the democratic rule of opinion and its masters, the Sophists, could serve as an emblem of our society.

That's why you write the Truth or the Idea with uppercase, then we no longer does in philosophy for a century?

This is also a technical reason. I use the lowercase to speak the truths of the time, whether scientific, political or artistic, and are always plural. Add capitalized when I talk about the concept of truth, which must match the whole truth. If I say, for example, that every truth must have a universal dimension, I mean Truth with a capital letter. If I speak of a scientific truth, the speed of light, for example, I speak a truth among others.

Abstract philosophy, however, was far from your first love ...

It is true that in 1964 when I published Almagest. Reverse path I had to resolve to be a writer. I took the time to figure in Sartre. Sartre came forward in 1938 by Nausea, a novel, not his philosophy book, The Ȇtre and Nothingness (1943), but little read. It was then a French position quite natural legacy of Voltaire and Rousseau, where philosophy and the novel is more or less confused. But I abandoned that idea when I wrote Philosophy: I'm pretty Cartesian philosophy and my point is to first put things in order to transmit clearly. When writing a novel, the part of the unconscious is greater. We are sometimes surprised ourselves by what we write. This is not really the case in philosophy.

In your first major book, The Ȇtre and the event, published in 1988, your use of mathematics to explain the Ȇtre surprised many a reader ...

I believe that mathematics is the only discipline capable of explaining the Ȇtre and to achieve scientific respectability. Seen in physics: it is only when we can explain the phenomena by mathematics that really understands. The science of Ȇtre in general, the ontology that I propose, also uses math, but at a more abstract level. Set theory allows me to explain that Ȇtre is multiplicity, and that everything is multiple. Mathematics, and they alone can understand what is ˗ ˗ without appealing to God ˗ ˗, and completely understandable once discovered mathematical structures adequate.

But you also grant an important historical events, and therefore random. Is this not contradictory?

I make a distinction between what I call the state of affairs, which falls into Ȇtre and is mathematically, and events, which, themselves, are not. These are new, unpredictable and sudden appearances, which are not reducible to the state of things. They introduce a cut, creation of new carrier. That event I call this cut, and no mathematics can not explain it.

More concretely?

An event, such as the emergence in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a new physics of Galileo and Newton, in a world previously dominated by Aristotle and Christianity. Nothing can explain the reasons for this change extremely fast. However, the consequences of hazardous event are universal and relate to us. This passage between a particular event, dating back five centuries, and the universal that follows is what I call truth. Another example? The French Revolution. There has been, since 1789, many attempts to identify the causes, but none is satisfactory. It is an inexplicable change, which stunned its authors, and whose truth determines us still today.

You quickly go from Ȇtre and mathematics to politics ...

I think, in fact, there are events and universal political truths. This is another idea of ​​Plato, who was the first to propose a policy of universal value. Under what conditions can we imagine such a policy? Well, I think the universal political truths must think at school special events policies. Let the French Revolution is due to the free determination of the community's apparent power. Power ceases with it to have a transcendent value and be endorsed by God. That is its universality. Sure, some had thought about this before, Rousseau, for example, but by the Revolution as an event, we are entering a universal political truth, which is that of freedom.

Your voice to the revolutionary ideals?

Of course! However, the principles of the Revolution define universality in a precise sequence of the story, not a full and final. Today we see that these principles of free discussion are compatible with new forms of subjugation, domination and inequality that are produced by capitalism. It coexists well with the democratic principles of the Revolution. But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a different proposal was made to rethink the universality in politics. It is this suggestion that I call communism.

Communism, not Marxism?

Marxism in the nineteenth century, seeks to give a rational form of communism. He defines it as part of a philosophy of historical progress as a movement that seeks the emancipation of mankind from that of the proletarians of all countries. In the twentieth century, a second form of communism developed in Russia and China for example. It is from the power from the State and Party, which was then thought communism. It has very naturally taken a centralized form, and even militarized. This was the price paid to a revolutionary victory achieved by armed violence.

Who was also in the twentieth century a gigantic machine massacres ...

I do not deny that the common name is linked to fatal experience, the Stalinist terror, for example. The experiences of State Communism of the twentieth century were closed on a dismal failure. They failed to accomplish any task required by universality, namely to account for universal truths earlier. The Stalinist state terrorism has not absorbed the figures of the universality Republican legacy of the French Revolution. But communism is for me the name of a new policy can be equal to the height of freedom.

What is wrong with those who attack you on behalf of republican democracy?

We can not content ourselves with motionless figures in politics. Staying with the Republican figure is not convincing. The republic is thought in the nation-state, but politics must go beyond the national dimension. I can not bring myself to believe that the existing regimes of inequality is a simple price to pay for freedom.

You really think, as you wrote that capitalism reduces man to an animal?

The human animal, I am domesticated by human capital, who are reminded every day that its interests coincide with those of the great global finance. I believe that man is tamed, but not completely. I often quote the words of Samuel Beckett: "Badlands, but not completely." We are told everywhere that man is destined to satisfy its interest in the search for little pleasures. That man is homo economicus, and nothing else. If true, then philosophy is not worth an hour of pain.

Do not you pour in the angelic?

I do not mean it should not end with a number of vital interests of humanity. Without them, the policy can not work. But that humanity can be excited by ideas universal and completely selfless is a fact. The meaning of sacrifice, heroism are proof.

Do you worry that fans would read that too fast did you take to the streets, and do any jumping, shouting for today, Stalin! ?

Is there a somewhat radical proposition, as to redefine and rehabilitate the word communism, that is safe? I myself was quite surprised at our last conference held in East Berlin with the philosopher Slavoj Zizek on the Idea of ​​Communism, to see the scene of the Volksbühne large banner on which was written Kommunismus. Such ostentation was perhaps unnecessary. There is no need to cause controversy absurd! But it is an experiment in progress that I assume.

You call him "holy Badiou. You're also the founder of St. Paul's universalism, and theologians are quick to cite you as a reference. What do you think of this recovery, that you are a materialist and atheist?

Paul is a brilliant writer of the event, which has invented an activist conception of the idea. It is the first to offer a vision as clear that the universality arises under the conditions of his time. His key point is to say that something has happened for all mankind. I do not believe in the resurrection of Christ. But the material that forms the basis for a universal idea is always special. So the case with Paul, as it is in Bach's cantatas in the performances of the Virgin, or in the slave revolt of Spartacus, which moves us still. I admire Paul, but it does not make me a believer. Religion has been a great thing, but as Hegel said, all that is born deserves to die. But I must confess that my discussions with theologians are often less tense than the communists of the old guard. This however does not make me an angel!

How would you rate your commitment today Maoist?

Back to my design philosophy: it is mathematical, but still subject to conditions. In my research, I identified four: physics, politics, art and love. The question is how far these conditions must hold the philosopher. Should we keep the greatest distance or jump in the heat of the action? Plato is a philosopher in the city, who was also working in physics and mathematics. Again I am Platonist. In the sixties, under the influence of Sartre, and hostile to the colonial wars, I became an activist. May 68 and its aftermath radicalized this commitment. I do not regret at all. That said, my report to the political philosophy of near variable, and is now on the ground rather than ideology, the absolute need to feed the political practice organized in a simple overview and new .

In recent years, you publish pamphlets, What is Sarkozy's name?, Litters of the name "Jew," The communist hypothesis. What importance do you give these pieces of circumstance?

These are texts of intervention, made necessary to me by the contemporary situation. Staves for the name "Jew", the intervention came from the fact that the word "Jew" ˗ ˗ which for me is a sacred name in the history ˗ ˗ was used for obvious reactionary, totally alien to its historical significance . Then, jugglers me an anti-Semite, which shocked me deeply. As for the book about Sarkozy, he is due to a micro-intellectual climate that preceded his election. In my seminar at the Ecole Normale Superieure, I noticed a distinct feeling of dejection at the thought that Sarkozy was elected. I then tried to clarify this feeling, which for me is a symptom of the end of the binomial Gaullist / communist. Chirac was virtually the Gaullist Brezhnev, who does nothing. And on the other hand, what was it? Old communist political disaster survivors and state. It is within this context that I made "the communist hypothesis. Then, with Zizek, we had the idea to organize a conference in London on the Idea of ​​Communism, which was attended by Toni Negri, Jacques Rancière and many others. That made a lot of noise, as you know.

In your Second Manifesto for philosophy, you decry the ubiquity of philosophy, philosophy cafes with TV trays, through consumer magazines. Why then do you take part?

Cafés philo philosophy have made an overused word, making it the most general form opinions. And since with Pierre Hadot and others, the idea that philosophy could make him happy became popular magazines juxtaposed tips for keeping fit and philosophical essays. It is on the brink of an abyss, we must say. We try to make philosophy a neighbor of the most misguided of Eastern wisdom. If the question of happiness is certainly legitimate, we can not let her take command of philosophical inquiry. As for my own participation media, am I wrong or right? I wonder. We try to make me the extremist service, and I may appear as a mere bearer of opinions. At the same time, if I write is to be read ...

But happiness also occupies more space in your work ...

Happiness is to live for an idea to the universal. Like Plato, again, I think the fair is happier than the tyrant sensualist. I do not mean a sacrificial vision of existence, waiting for repair in another life. No, it is to live a happy intrinsic intensity. It starts with love, which is the first proof of the universal, as was seen in Plato's Symposium, because it requires to accept all of the other, to swallow the other, somehow, without rest, with his mind, his body, his qualities and defects, everything. This is very different from the friendship is no longer a mere individual, and you begin to think with the other as being two, but in difference and openness also implies that " two ". I'm working on a book where I explain what a life "full" open forms of the universal as love, politics, science and art, and enables experiences of enjoyment expanded. But it is also necessary that the political conditions allow all this openness, which brings us back to the Idea of ​​Communism.

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