Alain Badiou. What is Philosophy? (Part I). 2010.

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http://www.egs.edu/ Alain Badiou, French philosopher and author, lectures on the nature and essence of philosophy. In this lecture, Alain Badiou asks the question: 'what is philosophy'. He begins with three concrete problems, namely: philosophy and language, philosophy and duty, and dialectical versus analytic philosophy. In Part I, of 'What is Philosophy', Badiou focuses on the problem of language, the difference between philosophical, reactive and conservative dispositions, duty, desire, subjective transformation, reflexivity, knowledge, closure and openness, and the difference between dialectic and analytic philosophy. Public lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe 2010 Alain Badiou. Alain Badiou (b. 1937, Rabat, Morocco) holds the Rene Descartes Chair at the European Graduate School. He studied at the École Normale Supérieure, to which he later returned, to become the Chair of the Philosophy Department. Alain Badiou has also taught at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint Denis), and continues to do so at the Collège International de Philosophie. Badiou was one of the founding members of the Unified Socialist Party, which was particularly active in the struggle for the decolonization of Algeria. To this day, Badiou remains both a member of the Union des jeunesses communistes de France (marxistes-léninistes), and at the center of L'Organisation Politique, a 'post-party organization' concerned with direct popular intervention in social and political issues. For Badiou, May 1968 only reinforced the commitment to the truth that is communism. Alain Badiou is the author of several novels and plays, and of a few of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. Badiou is a mathematician. He is also an author. And his name stands tall in that great lineage of politically conscious French intellectuals. To this, he has been pronounced -- by those 'in the know' - one of the giants of 20th century philosophy. A rather odd combination, no? Mathematics and poetry, and then to boot, political consciousness? And all this, connected by some philosophy -- almost as if there really is, just a little bit, of biography in the very conditions of philosophy? Certainly, politics are never farther than between a line in a Badiou book, and they touch the body like reading brail; but mathematics and poetry are no less scarce, or impassioned. Even a mindlessly quick glance at any of 'three great works' cannot miss the grace of his mathematical precision, and concision, his 'philosophical' depth and breadth, or the elegant ease of his pen, and all this while he can be called the 'pit-bull of Maoism'. As proper philosophy should, Badiou has a rather untimely relation to the academic world. In the post-68 years, it pronounced truth relative, universality empty, and philosophy dead; Badiou cried: truth exists, universality is what there is, and without it it's the world that is empty, and, philosophy's life and death, are but the 'pacemaker' of history, and humanity. He was right. Two decades later as 'philosophies' spread like viruses into a vacuous omnipresence Badiou warns us of the dangers hidden in the easiness and comfort of this democratic materialism. But will we listen? Badiou's thought, as the definition of philosophy demands, refuses to be reduced to its time, to its limits, to whatever the intellectual fad is today -- Badiou's thought refuses to stay in 'its place'. Oh the irony, for all those careerists following like dogs their master's leash, prostituting for the crumbs of fame and position, it is precisely Badiou's untimeliness that will save him a place in history, or, as he would prefer it, humanity. Badiou's work is often divided into three stages, call them the Althusser Years, the Mao Years, and then those of Set-Theory Ontology. Others, of course, disagree with these three stages, and claim that Badiou never strayed from his masterpiece -- 'Theory of the Subject'. No dispute, however, exists on what the heart of his work is: the labour to understand, so as to teach, how nothing can come to be something, perhaps, even, as in the Internationale, how 'nothing' can come to be 'everything' -- how 'there is nothing to lose, but a world to win.' Others still, reach even further back into his past, back before he ever created a 'philosophical work', back to his two novels, the third of which is lacking, and claim that it is precisely his philosophy that arrived in its stead.

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