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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Worlds and ontology being my primary concern

larvalsubjects Says: May 21st, 2007 at 1:29 pm I don’t see that this is what Badiou says. Badiou never speaks of orders of level, temperature, pressure, tension, and potential. Moreover, Deleuze and Badiou use the term “intensity” in entirely different ways. For Badiou intensity signifies the degree to which something is present in a situation. For instance, Christianity has a high degree of intensity in the United States insofar as the majority of the population here is Christian, while socialism has a very low degree of intensity here. In a number of respects, Badiou’s concept of intensity is a “population” concept. It is also a descriptive, not causal, concept.
By contrast, for Deleuze these intensive differences are the genetic conditions presiding over the actualization of a phenomenon. That is, a Deleuzian intensity would be prior to and a condition of something like what Badiou thinks of as an intensity. For instance, temperature producing the boiling of water. This is exactly what’s lacking in Badiou’s account of situations. His logic, in Logiques des mondes, is merely descriptive, and, in my view, remains too tied to linguistic constructivisms.
larvalsubjects Says: May 21st, 2007 at 3:36 pm Does Badiou even have any causal concepts? I guess an ontology or a logic of appearance doesn’t need them, or would even be hampered by them…
No, he doesn’t, and I feel this is a significant problem with his ontology. I don’t take it that an ontology is much of an ontology if it doesn’t include such categories. After all, ontology is the discourse of being. In this regard, I have serious reservations about Badiou’s mathematical ontology. At most, I feel it can demonstrate formal possibilities and for this reason is always doomed to be haunted by a gap between really existing concrete situations and formal articulations.
A world, I think, comprises the “nothing new” on which the sun, having no alternative, is compelled to shine. Causal processes might work away within it, but the production of true novelty requires a break which is not only causal but logical, a disturbance in the order of things.
Perhaps, although I’ve come to feel fairly skeptical about Badiou’s understanding of such breaks. This is certainly how Badiou characterizes situations, the question is whether it’s true.
for there to be differences, there must first be an order of appearance within which such differences can be registered, and the available “lines of flight” are merely tracings of particular relational circuits within this order.
Yes, this is the way Badiou would characterize matters, though I would disagree that actualization “merely” traces the relational circuits within an order. In the first place, I think this grants far too much fixity to structure, and is reminiscent of a now discredited version of structuralism. If we were to situate the Deleuze/Badiou debate in terms of evolutionary theory– why not? –Deleuze could be characterized as a gradualist where evolutionary change is concerned, whereas Badiou could be characterized as a proponent of “punctuated equilibrium”, where there are sudden eruptions that introduce new species. My inclination is that the loud clamor of events we see and hear are products of gradualist processes. If this is the case, then it makes sense to look at these various gradualist processes to strategize ways of producing change within situations. A good deal of what I’ve discussed here about the materiality of rhetoric has been geared towards these sorts of strategic questions… Strategies which I have actually found to produce real concrete results in practice with my own engagements.
It’s worth emphasizing that these questions or disputes aren’t simply matters of how Badiou is “interpreted”. Sometimes I think discussions in continental philosophy get bogged down in questions of interpretation because so much of continental philosophy has been a practice of interpretation, of interpreting the texts of others, for the last one hundred years rather than actually engaging in arguments and disputes. One says “you’re misreading x!” and speaks as if a correct interpretation would resolve all disagreements. The question isn’t one of how Badiou is being interpreted, but of how adequate his thought is to what he’s seeking to describe.
Ontologically I find his system tremendously insufficient, and politically, while there might indeed be something like truth-procedures (the verdict is still out for me), I find his proposals far too restrictive, not allowing for other mechanisms by which change takes place. I suspect that a good deal of the allure of Badiou’s thought is that it provides a way of remaining engaged and committed in an age where engagement has come to seem increasingly futile due to the form that late capital has taken. I applaud this move, though I see it as a precursor to the development of more elaborate and adequate theoretical formations in the future. I think the previous post I referenced does a fair job outlining the problems I have with Badiou’s ontology:
It’s noteworthy that my issue here has to do with Badiou’s ontology– worlds and ontology being my primary concern –and is not directed so much at his theory of the event which I don’t find particularly interesting.

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