Alain Badiou: Toward a Supreme Fiction

The problem of young people in poor neighbourhoods or cités is the problem of the absence of a fiction. It has nothing to do with a social problem. The problem is the lack of a great fiction as support for a great belief.

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants

Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.

– Wallace Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Alain Badiou encourages us, welcomes us to join him in seeking the, as Stevens once said, “the final belief” a supreme fiction that can sustain us through these troubling times. And not only sustain us but give us hope and truth, for truth is itself – as we have known since Lacan, truth itself is in a structure of fiction. The process of truth is also the process of a new fiction.(77)1

The difficulty lies in the fact that we must find a great fiction without possessing a proper name for it.(78) Or as Stevens so eloquently put it in poetry:

Without a name and nothing to be desired
If only imagined but imagined well….

Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Badiou would move us to be unafraid even as atheists to resume the long dialogue between mathematics and religion:

On this point modern mathematics rejoins classical theology. You probably know the famous text of Saint Paul in Romans 7. The direct correlation between law and desire appears here under the name of sin: ‘If it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said you shall not covet.’ Sin is that dimension of desire that finds its object beyond and after the prescription by the law. Finally, this means finding the object that is without name.(70)

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Alain Badiou: The Soldier as Metaphor

Today, this configuration is in a state of total crisis. One of the symptoms of this crisis is the return of the old traditions and the seeming resurrection of old dead gods.

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants

Is this it? Is this our problem: a return of the old sacrificial gods that bespeak a disjunction between the human and the inhuman?  And not an integration of the inhuman into a new sequence of the historical existence of humanity. “Within our own humanity, we must come to terms with the obscure, violent, and – at the same time – luminous and peaceful element of inhumanity within the human element itself” (41).1 Are the rights of humans also as Badiou suggests the ‘rights of the infinite’ (Lyotard)? He reminds us that humans are irreducible to ‘animality’, that the inhuman is a creative potential, the element which does not yet exist but must become. “Humanity as a natural totality does not exist, since humanity is identical to the local victories that it obtains over its immanent element of inhumanity.”(42)

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Alain Badiou: The Politics of Hope

I am perfectly in agreement with the statement that philosophy depends on certain nonphilosophical domains, which I have proposed to call the ‘conditions’ of philosophy.

 –  Alain Badiou,  Philosophy for Militants

The nonphilosophical domains upon which philosophy depends for Badiou are science, art, politics and love. In science his work depends on a new “concept of the infinite”; in politics on new forms of “revolutionary politics”; in art, the poetry of Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Pessoa, Mandelstam or Wallace Stevens, on the prose of Samuel Beckett; and, finally, on love the context of psychoanalysis and the questions of sexuation and gender that have emerged in our time. (3) 1 And, he offers, we must accept that philosophy always comes in the aftermath of such nonphilosophical domains, is a second rate affair at best.(3)

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