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‘Fault lines’: in discussion on Alain Badiou

Simon Critchley, University of Essex and New School University, New York


This discussion took place following the presentation of Simon Critchley’s paper ‘Ethics as subjectivation’ at a conference held on Alain Badiou’s ethics, politics, and notion of subjectivity at the London Metropolitan University, December 2003. The fault line in the title might be considered as the line dividing a whole series of oppositions in Badiou: between, for instance, the subjective/objective; truth/knowledge; an ethic of the same/an ethic of the other; subjectivity/individuality; immortal/man; the Real/the symbolic; and, crucially for Critchley, between the exceptional and the everyday. Critchley suggests there is a risk in Badiou subtracting the realm of the everyday, whereas for Nina Power, for instance, this subtractive element is precisely the virtue of Badiou’s philosophy. Finally, Badiou’s critical stance in relation to Levinas comes under scrutiny. Since Critchley has often been associated with a Levinasian/Derridean approach, the debate with Badiou and his critical supporters is an important and necessary confrontation.

The dialogue takes us through key notions in Badiou’s thought such as the event; subjectivation; the transformation of knowledge by truth and universality. There is also debate concerning the status of the political event; the rarity of the event; the religious event; the difference between an affirmation of an event (Badiou) and the possible demand that the event makes on us (Critchley); the issue of norms; an ethics of the other; Pascal’s wager; pathos; the exceptional and the everyday; Levinas and Kant. During the discussion, frequently voiced objections to Badiou are refuted by interjections from Peter Hallward, Ray Brassier, Alberto Toscano, and Nina Power. Further background to the debate may be found in Critchley (2000) and Hallward (2000).
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