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Never heard of Badiou before. As little as I understood of this, I enjoyed reading. In particular this notion of "truth events" and love being a paradigm shift in our experience.


Matt: yeah, I worried that this would read incomprehensibly... Badiou's ideas need a lot of space to be properly expounded. I hope to return to his work in future pieces, though.

It would be interesting to hear what some of your better read players think of it. I'm more inclined to think I just don't have the background for a lot of the more interesting arguments. I guess it comes down to.. who do you really want to be able to read this?


Matt: I always aim to be readable even by people without a background in philosophy, but some of the more abstruse philosophies can be difficult to put in more accessible terms. I think the problem here is that I just introduce all of Badiou's terms in passing (and anyway, Badiou is not known as an accessible philosopher!)

I'd be interested to know what others make of this 'brief introduction'...


To me, your account of Badiou sounds like " Platonism meets constructivism" ;-)). I find Badiou's attempt to build yet another ontology quite courageous for a scholar (teaching at France 's Elite University ENS, apparently!). To understand in which war he seems to believe he is fighting one would have to dive deeply into French atheist postmodernism which is certainly tangential to your intended introduction- so to me your piece is quite inspiring as I was also not familiar with his unconventional use of set theory. Best!.

translucy: thanks for sharing your perspective here! I'm not sure if Badiou is constructivist but he is *certainly* coming down a Platonic line - in fact, he seems to revel in his debt to Plato. It makes me a little suspicious, but I'm able to find value in his "ethic of truths" without having to believe in a world of Platonic truths.

Badiou is definitely worth a look... he's doing some interesting work, and a lot of what he's doing on the ethical side is of great value to me.

All the best!

Featured in the Philosopher's Carnival #123.

Badiou's atheism is very different from someone like Christopher Hitchens, for example. My sense regarding Badiou's atheism is that if he were born 2000 years ago he might not have been so. A belief in a God seems to be a conditioned truth just like any other, and one which today can't create the same break away from established knowledge as it could before set theory was established. I think its only because of set theory that Badiou considers himself to be an atheist, because Badiou sees set theory as dismantling the idea of the One. Central to Badiou's theory is that the One is not, and only in this sense is he atheist.

Tim: I think you're absolutely right - certainly, the chain of inference which leads Badiou to his atheism passes through set theory, and absolutely - Badiou is not an anti-theist like Hitchens and chums. I rather suspect his conclusion is conditioned by his life as a Frenchman, though, and in this respect he was predisposed to reach this conclusion. ;)

Personally, because of my agnosticism about mathematics I'd be very reluctant to derive ontological or metaphysical conclusions using maths as a starting point. (See also my interview with Stephen Yablo). I feel great sympathy with the later Wittgenstein who clearly regretted his earlier "faith" in mathematics as expressed in the Tractatus.

Badiou, not entirely unlike the early Wittgenstein, sees mathematics as the locus of ontology, while I see mathematics as a logically validated fiction. But then, I also see ontology as primarily involving fictions - so in this respect, the confluence of ontology and mathematics appeals to me, but the meaning of this for me is very different to what it means to Badiou. :)

Many thanks for your comment!

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