The Immanence of Truths – Alain Badiou


THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS is Alain Badiou‘s forthcoming sequel to Being and Event, and Logics of Worlds… Here is Terence Blake’s translation of the book’s contents page shared by François Nicolas

  1. General Introduction
  1. Speculative Strategy
  2. Immanence, finitude, infinity
  3. The absolute ontological referent
  4. The two possible readings of this book
  1. Prologue. Formal Presentation of the absolute location
  2. Section I. The classical forms of finitude

C1. Destinies of finitude

S1. Modern finitude on trial: René Char

C2. The four types of finitude

S2. The localisation of the infinite in Victor Hugo

C3. The operators of finitude: 1. Identity

S3. Impersonality according to Emily Dickinson

C4. The operators of finitude: 2. Repetition

S4. Paul Celan: the work and the ordeal of masked repetitions

C5. The operators of finitude: 3. Evil

S5. Mandelstam in Voronezh: Make no concession to Evil. Neither plaint nor fear

C6. The operators of finitude: 4. Necessity and God

S6. The poems of Alberto Caiero. Bare being. Neither God, nor interpretation, nor necessity

C7. The operators of finitude. 5.Death

S7. A poem by Brecht. The unknown: death and identity, or life and universality

  1. Section II. Modernity of finitude: covering

C8. Phenomenology of covering

S8. Uncovering of the covering of an infinite

C9: Ontology of covering

S9. Formal presentation of the constructible universe

C10. A crucial choice: constructible or generic

S10. Gödel or Cohen

  1. Section III. Sovereignty of the infinite

C11. The four modes of access to the infinite

C12.Inaccessible infinites

S12.The matheme of the inaccessible

C13.Infinites of resistance to division

S13.Matheme of partitions: compact and Ramsey infinites

C14. The infinite by immanent magnitude of its parts

  1. SECTION IV: Adjacent to the absolute

C15. On what conditions can classes express the absolute location?

S15. Technical conditions for classes to resemble V

[Note: “V” or the von Neumann universe is the class of hereditary well-founded sets]

C16. Closer and closer to the absolute?

S16. Elementary embedding, critical point, complete cardinal

C17. Explicit relation between the absolute location and one of its immanent attributes

S17. Construction of an internal model of V by ultrapower

  1. Section V. Conditions for a defeat of covering

C18. Limits of modern finitude under the condition of an infinite. Scott’s Theorem.

S18. Infinites in the finite, infinites outside any finite. Demonstration of Scott’s theorem.

C19. Ontological conditions of any creative initiative. Jensen’s Theorem.

S19. Jensen’s Theorem. Apparent simplicity and real confusion of finitude

  1. Section VI. Parmenides’ Revenge

C20. The hierarchy of infinites

S20. Differences, orders and limits in the realm of infinites

C21. End without end

S21. Kunen’s Theorem, and beyond

  1. Section VII. Works according to the object: science, art

C22. General theory of works-in-truth

S22.Plato, Descartes, Hegel

C23. Power of the form: the arts

S23. Can the arts be classified?: Hegel and the cinema

C24.Power of the letter: the sciences

S24. Husserl: “our mother the Earth is immobile”

  1. Section VIII. Works according to becoming: love, politics

C25. The scene of the Two

S25.Kierkegaard, Auguste Comte, Régine, and Clotilde de Vaux

C26. The two ways, the two classes, and the two lines

S26. For a cultural revolution of politics

  1. General Conclusion: Immanent infinity of true life

Badiou’s “THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS”: Introduction (sketch)

Posted on January 19, 2017 by Terence Blake

We have enough material available to anticipate the general outlines of many sections of Badiou’s forthcoming book. I will try to give some sense and content to the chapter titles

1) Speculative strategy (source: seminar IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, December 12, 2012)

Badiou’s strategy involves beginning with a critique of the dominant ideology of modern society, which is no longer based on a finitude of stability and repetition but on a new form of finitude, one of movement and innovation. The critique of the dogma of human finitude will lead him to elaborate a new theory of the infinite.

Badiou criticises the postmodern as an attempt to make one’s peace with the finitude of capitalist circulation, to inhabit it playfully and cynically, i.e. to accept it as a given albeit without being duped by it.

He accuses Lyotard’s post-modernism of being a form of pessimism and resignation, of accepting that there is no exit from the finitude of the modern world. According to Badiou, Lyotard is right to give up the notion of waiting for a better world tomorrow, but he is wrong to conflate the grand narrative with messianism and prophetic expectations.

Against this postmodern “pessimism over finitude” Badiou insists that we need a grand narrative without the messianic wait. We can have a grand narrative based on openness rather than on waiting. We need to find elements of the infinite inside the finite world we live in and “release” them:

To release the infinite is to live in the world in such a way that the present is so intense that there is no need to wait for tomorrow; in reality tomorrow must be there.

There must be points of infinite intensity already there, points of infinity immanent to the world of mediocre intensities:

2) Immanence, finitude, infinite (source: Argument Seminar 2012-2013)

For Badiou in LOGICS OF WORLDS a truth is, in a given particular world, an immanent exception. In THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS Badiou returns to the notion of immanence, and by a reversal of perspective examines

“not only what a truth is from the point of view of the world where it arises, but what the world becomes when it it is perceived and thought from the point of view of the truth”.

To pursue this thought of immanence Badiou will have to destroy the dominant thesis of the obligatory  finitude of existential or cognitive experiences.

“The affirmation that the finite, strictly speaking, does not exist, and that the dogma of “human finitude” is an imposture, is the beginning of all liberation”.

Thus Badiou’s “reversal of perspective” involves thinking finitude as illusory appearance on the basis of the infinite real.

3) The absolute ontological referent (source: Toward A New Thinking of the Absolute)

According to Badiou any contemporary materialism must assume an “absolute ontology”, i.e. it presupposes the existence of a universe of reference, a place of the thinking of being qua being, with four characteristics, or principles:

  1. Immobility: while making the thinking of movement, and indeed all rational thought possible, it remains absolutely foreign to that category.
  2. Non-composition, or intelligibility on the basis of nothing. It is not composed of other entities. It is non-atomic.
  3. Non-empiricity or axiomatic prescription: it can only be described or thought formally, by means of axioms, or principles. There can be no experience of it or any construction of it that depends on an experience. It is radically non-empirical.
  4. Maximality: any intellectual entity whose existence can be inferred without contradiction from the axioms prescribing its existence exists also by that very fact.

For Badiou V, the universe corresponding to the axioms of set theory, obeys the four principles and thus is the absolute ontological referent.

4) The two possible readings of this book

We can only speculate here. However, Badiou has often stated that his philosophy can be approached ontologically (in terms of its conceptual systematicity and demonstrativity) or phenomenologically (in terms of its examples drawn from the four truth procedures: art, science, politics, and love, these being the conditions of philosophy. As the table of contents shows there is an alternation between systematic chapters (marked with the prefix “C”) and sequels (“S”) to many (but not all) of these chapters, containing examples drawn from one of the four truth procedures.

Badiou’s THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: Prologue (against Deleuze)

Posted on January 21, 2017 by Terence Blake

Badiou’s Prologue is entitled: Formal Presentation of the Absolute Place (or Location).

Note: I am continuing my commentary on the Table of Contents to Badiou’s forthcoming book THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, trying to anticipate some part of its content based on his prior published works and on his unpublished seminars.

This is an intriguing title as in his previous work Badiou has always ruled out the existence of such an “absolute place”. In his SECOND MANIFESTO FOR PHILOSOPHY he argues that the idea of a total multiplicity, or multiplicity of all multiplicities, is incoherent and thus is devoid of being.

There is not the localizing being of worlds and the localized being of objects. Nor is there the Universe as the absolute place of all there is (SECOND MANIFESTO, 30-31).

This non-existence of an absolute place is also a crucial part of his presentation of his difference with Deleuze. In his seminar on Politics Badiou contrasts his own thinking of the Void with Deleuze and Guattari’s thought of Chaos:

In any case, if the key concept is chaos then I stipulate philosophically that chaos does not exist, for beneath this unthinkable “there is”, outside of sense, unattainable, hides the figure of presence. Deleuze and Guattari try to maintain such a figure simply unbound to any allegiance to sense.

Let us examine their definition of chaos: “Chaos is defined not so much by its disorder
as by the infinite speed with which every form taking shape in it vanishes. It is a void that is not a nothingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and drawing out all possible forms, which spring up only to disappear immediately, without consistency or reference, without consequence” (page 118, with a note citing Prigogine and Stengers 
Entre le temps et l’éternité).

Infinite speed of births and disappearances, which define chaos as a place of the virtual, i.e. as “a void that is not a nothingness”, chaos is presented as the absolute reservoir of possibles in an incessant movement of births and disappearances. Constant infinitesimal upsurge of all possibilities, chaos refers to an absolute place of all possibles, i.e. to a pure natural “there is” as absolute system of all virtualities deprived of any being. In contrast, although it is called a void by Deleuze and Guattari, I oppose to their definition of chaos, the residue, in my opinion non-existent, of a figure of presence, my own definition of the sutured being of the void. It is a questiion here of a fundamental philosophical choice, marked by a very sharp distinction between chaos and the void (from the seminar Politics, academic year 1991-1992, course three entitled Deleuze 2).

The problem with Deleuze and Guattari’s plane of immanence, according to Badiou, is that it re-institutes a transcendence, in the form of a transcendent presence or absolute place, a totality of all possibles.

However, this thesis of the non-existence of an absolute place can be seen to be in tension with another thesis that Badiou develops in the Introduction to THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, that of the “absolute ontological referent”, which he explains in the short text Toward A New Thinking of the Absolute.

Badiou’s objection to the concept of an absolute place is that it implicitly re-institutes a form of onto-theology. It posits as coherent the idea of a totality of all beings, which it treats as a presence, and so is yet another figure of transcendence. In the article “Toward a New Thinking of the Absolute” Badiou’s own version of the absolute ontological referent frees it from these residues of transcendence.

This absolute ontological referent is “V” the Universe of sets.

We shall conventionally call V, the letter V, which can be said to formalize the Vacuum, the great void, the place (truly inconsistent since non-multiple) of everything that can be constructed by means of axioms. What is metaphorically “in V” is what can respond to the axiomatic injunction of set theory. This means that V is in reality only the set of propositions that can be proved from the axioms of the theory. It is a being of language exclusively. It is customary to call such beings of language “classes.” We shall therefore say that V is the class of sets, but bear in mind that this is a theoretical entity that is unrepresentable, or without a referent, since it is precisely the place of the absolute referent.

V, the Universe of sets, a place that is inconsistent, a being exclusively of language (and so not a presence). It is the “place of the absolute referent”. The universe V is not thinkable as a coherent idea, but is only definable axiomatically. It is a “rational fiction in which all sets are thinkable”, but is not itself thinkable.

In conclusion, I do not endorse Badiou’s solution without seeing further arguments. For me it is even more onto-theological. But I do think he is on to something. In WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari write:

“Concepts are events, but the plane is the horizon of events, the reservoir or reserve of purely conceptual events: not the relative horizon that functions as a limit, which changes with an observer and encloses observable states of affairs, but the absolute horizon, independent of any observer, which makes the event as concept independent of a visible state of affairs in which it is brought about” (page 36).



Badiou’s “THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS”: Introduction (sketch)

REVIEW OF BADIOU’S “METAPHYSICS OF REAL HAPPINESS”: individuation vs incorporation

← Badiou’s “THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS”: Introduction (sketch)

BADIOU CRITIC OF DELEUZE: absolute place →

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