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Subjectivity before and after Badiou

Peter Schulz, University of Lugano

Introduction

The title of my paper indicates already that I will try to avoid speaking about details of Badiou’s work. Instead, I will put his Ethics in the tradition of other thinkers on subjectivity, asking how he takes up important issues which stem from this tradition. In this light, Badiou’s Ethics is a fascinating book and, at the same time I would call it a courageous book, in particular because it aims to reconsider the question of the human as subject. ‘Subject’ and ‘subjectivity’, taken in its modern sense as an autonomous, free agent has been, of course, challenged by postmodernism. We have all heard about the death of the subject. In what follows I shall attempt to interrogate the draft of Badiou’s concept of the subject. I shall try to make clear how, according to Badiou, the subject in its root meaning of ‘some-one who is subjected to an enduring event’, is a subject of ‘becoming’.

Badiou’s critique of the ethic of human rights

It comes as little surprise that Badiou’s concept of subject and subjectivity is deeply rooted in his own concept of ethics. Not only modern concepts of subjectivity have been developed against the background of an ethical framework (for instance, Kant - to this point I will come back later on). [Read more].