I’m a bit behind the curve on this, but unbeknownst to me a number of recent posts have been written jumping in on the critiques of Badiou’s ontology by Graham and me. Over at Complete Lies, Michael develops a critique of Badiou on the grounds of onto-ontology. Stellar Cartographies weighs in making its own points. Reid over at Planomenology has two excellent posts developing a critique of Badiou’s account of the event.
It seems to me that it is important to point out that any discussion of Badiou, correlationism, and whether or not Badiou’s ontology is a variant of idealism should unfold at the level of Badiou’s ontology, not his theory of the event. When Graham writes,
if I were to start saying: “I’m a Badiouian, but I think that rocks and earthworms are also capable of invoking the generic through art, politics, science and love,” what do you honestly think Badiouians would say in this case? Would they say: “Cool. Badiou never specifies that it has to be a human”? You know full well that they would dismiss such a position as vitalist crap. The whole spirit of Badiou’s philosophy is of a militant human subject disrupting given states-of-situations in truth events.
I think this misses the target. Too much attention has been paid to Badiou’s theory of the event, yet the theory of the event, truth-procedures, and subjects is, as Badiou quite clearly states, what is other or outside of being qua being or the domain of ontology. As Badiou likes to put it, events are subtracted from ontology. In this respect, there is nothing wrong, from the standpoint of realist ontologies, with Badiou’s insistence that events belong to the domain of the subject and are restricted to the human. That’s exactly what we would expect. The theory of change Badiou develops pertains to change at the level of human formations: art, science (as a body of knowledge), politics, and love.
Any discussion of whether Badiou falls into correlationism should, therefore, completely set aside any discussion of the event, truth-procedures, or subjects, treating these aspects of Badiou’s thought as an entirely distinct issue. The ontological questions instead unfold at the level of something far more mundane and much less sexy: Badiou’s account of the count-as-one, structured situations, members and parts of sets, and worlds. This is where questions of whether or not Badiou is a realist emerge and this domain is entirely distinct from Badiou’s theory of the event. Interestingly, these aspects of Badiou’s thought have received almost no significant and prolonged discussion. No doubt this is because the primary reception of Badiou’s thought has been among Continental circles that treat questions of politics as the sine qua non of philosophy as such. The question of political implications should be set aside in raising these questions as normative considerations are independent of questions of what is and how things are.