Ben Woodard, student at the EGS and specualtive realist partisan, has scored an interview with Alain Badiou. I’m glad Badiou is feeling better as he was unable to attend the Film-Philosophy conference at Dundee and I’m also pleased to hear that he is is apparently not currently on a mountain in the middle of France as he, allegedly, always is, or at least that’s what the email explaining he had a very violent bladder infection said. Anyway, comedy aside, it is interesting in that it gets one of the great living philosophers to comment on a new, popular philosophical trend. Ben, after Badiou says something about the Real in relation to Meillassoux, asks Badiou about his thoughts on Laruelle.
Ben Woodard: Do you see any use in Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy? Does his concept of the Real (as undecidable) not have some worth?
Alain Badiou: I have difficulty in understanding Laruelle [laughs] especially regarding the question of the Real. The strength of philosophy is its decisions in regards to the Real. In a sense Laruelle is too much like Heidegger, in critiquing a kind great forgetting, of what is lost in the grasp of decision, what Heidegger called thinking. Beyond this, and not to judge a thinker only by his earliest work, his most recent work has a religious dimension. When you say something is purely in the historical existence of philosophy the proposition is a failure. It becomes religious. There is a logical constraint when you say we most go beyond philosophy. This is why, in the end, Heidegger said only a god can save us.
Ultimately, I do not see an opposition between being qua being (as multiplicity) and the Real, not at all. The Real can be decided except for the event which is always in relation to a particular world.
It isn’t surprising that Badiou expresses a lack of understanding, nor that he sees a connection between Laruelle and Heidegger (though that connection isn’t exactly easy). Yet, it is also interesting that what Badiou is saying concerning philosophy’s strengths actually repeats in an affirming way what Laruelle says about philosophy in a critical way. Specifically Badiou affirms philosophy’s ability to make decisions about the Real and even to pontificate on what the Real ultimately is or can be reduced to (being qua being as multiplicity). From a non-philosophical perspective this isn’t surprising and is exactly what you one would expect a philosopher to do while the non-philosopher, perhaps too quickly, carries on with her work.
I was, however, annoyed by the final remarks about religion. First, and I don’t think it is any surprise that Badiou’s English is not great (though one can’t help but be impressed by the fact that it is as strong as it is considering he learned it so late in life), but I do not understand what he means when he writes, “When you say something is purely in the historical existence of philosophy the proposition is a failure.” Secondly, while it is true that Laruelle’s recent work has, amongst a lot of other things (the man is as prolific as his work is difficult), taken an interest in religious ideas (though many of them have been there for a long time and necessarily so when you consider the shared life of philosophy and theology, ), it is not a kind of Heideggerian messianic nihilism, but an ultimatum that man be a Christ-subject. That we overturn the dominance of philosophy when thinking, not the Real, but from the Real about reality. One can, of course, disagree with this, but to collapse it into a kind of naive faith is silly. In actual fact, it is a critique of the religious while, not unlike what Badiou did in his St. Paul book, appropriating religion suspended from its own form of self-sufficiency. A recent part of the translation says this nicely, if a bit obliquely. The religious register is mutated by Non-philosophy as matter of “a theoretical-without-theoreticism, whose essence is practical or unilateral, for liberating a Christ-subject. Axioms and theorems, these are our own methods, us men-without-philosophy, in order that we can appropriate religion and adapt the divine mysteries to our humanity rather than to our understanding (Le Christ futur, p.31).”