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Being and Event [Paperback]

Alain Badiou
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

6 Feb 2011
Being and Event is the centrepiece of Alain Badiou's oeuvre; it is the work that grounds his reputation as one of France's most original philosophers. Long-awaited in translation, Being and Event makes available to an English-speaking readership Badiou's groundbreaking work on set theory - the cornerstone of his whole philosophy. This book makes the scope and aim of Badiou's whole philosophical project clear, enabling full comprehension of Badiou's significance for contemporary philosophy. In Being and Event, Badiou anchors this project by recasting the European philosophical tradition from Plato onwards, via a series of analyses of such key figures as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Rousseau, and Lacan. He thus develops the basis for a history of philosophy rivalling those of Heidegger and Deleuze in its depth. This wide-ranging book is organised in a precise and novel manner, reflecting the philosophical rigour of Badiou's thought. Unlike many contemporary Continental philosophers, Badiou - who is also a novelist and dramatist - writes lucidly and cogently, making his work accessible and engaging. This English language edition includes a new preface, written especially for this translation. Being and Event is essential reading for Badiou's considerable following and anyone interested in contemporary Continental philosophy.

Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; New Ed edition (6 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082649529X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826495297
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 343,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"'A significant book, one which one cannot fail to find staggering.' - Jean Francois-Lyotard 'One of the most important philosophers writing today.' - Joan Copjec 'A book of exceptional scope and rare courage of thought that tackles the whole of Philosophy, from Parmenides to Heidegger.' - Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe"

About the Author

Alain Badiou is one of France's most important contemporary philosophers. He teaches at the Ecole Normale Superieure and the College International de Philosophie in Paris.

Oliver Feltham, the translator, teaches literature and theatre at Ecole Massillon, Paris.

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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Philosophical Renaissance? 15 Aug 2008
By Mr. Nadim Bakhshov VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Badiou, quite late in the day, in the wake of the fading giants of poststructuralism, has drawn from them and tried to revivify the philosophical enterprise.

I'm not entirely convinced that ontology is inscribed by mathematics and, set theory in particular - but it is a fascinating theoretical concept: that mathematical thought is the thought of being. Interestingly Badiou manages to link Parmenides to Being through Set Theory. Personally, I like the idea but think the mathematics Badious wants has yet to be created - still it is a bold step.

The idea that aside from Being there are Events which irrupt out of the void of Being, the uncounted, the glossed over, This again has tremendous intellectual force but Badiou, I think, succeeds in introducing the conception but I don't think his limited materialistic position does full justice and it will wait for a future philosopher to take this idea further and truly bring out its revolutionary forice.

All of this sounds negative but it isn't. Badiou is a much needed French counterpoint to the excesses of postmodernism and his return to Plato - again rather distorted and muddled - is worthy of thought.

Thoroughly recommended.

In all honest you should read Heidegger's Being and Time and sidestep the deconstructionist tradition that has stolen him. Badiou is a good follow on from Heidegger in that respect.
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189 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A watershed in the history of philosophy 9 Feb 2006
By MK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had been hoping for some time that someone would write a review for this long-awaited translation. Unfortunately none has appeared and until a more comprehensive and useful review is written, I hope these brief comments will help.

(A brief disclaimer. This review does not summarize or critique the arguments in this book--it would be unjust to attempt to do so in the space of a few paragraphs. I hope only to give some indication of the relevance of this work for those who are interested in Badiou's work and/or those who have heard the name "Badiou" and are trying to find a way in to what his work is all about. If my comments are elliptic or obscure because I use Badiou's terms without providing explication, this is only because I hope that I give enough indication of the direction of his ideas to promote the reading of the actual text.)

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the quality of the translation, since I have not seen the French text. Feltham's familiarity with Badiou's work is unquestionable, however. He was, for example, one of the editors of the collection "Infinite Thought" (also published by Continuum). He has also contributed to a recent issue of `Polygraph' devoted to a discussion of Badiou's work (#17, 2005).

Until this translation, American readers were denied significant access to Badiou's philosophical method and concepts. The key sources were commentaries by people like Peter Hallward, Keith Ansell-Pearson, and Eric Alliez (and, of course, Slavoj Zizek). The closest one got to Badiou himself was the collection called "Theoretical Writings" (also published by Continuum). With the exception of "Deleuze: The Clamor of Being", it was difficult to know what Badiou's work was all about since just about all of his other translated works presuppose knowledge of the concepts and terms developed in "Being and Event".

Those who have read Badiou's "Deleuze" will have some idea of what occupies "Being and Event". The title recalls, of course, Heidegger's "Being and Time", and Badiou explicitly agrees with Heidegger that philosophy can only be done on the basis of the ontological question. In "Deleuze", Badiou argues that that great thinker was at bottom a thinker of the One and, as Keith Ansell-Pearson points out, the real quarrel between Badiou and Deleuze is over who can speak of being as pure multiplicity. For Deleuze, the concepts are those found in Bergson and the differential calculus; for Badiou one must look to post-Cantorian set theory. In both cases, one cannot approach ontology without a firm understanding of mathematics (anyone who does not have a working grasp of set theory will not be prepared for "Being and Event").

The ontological question cuts a diagonal through various trajectories. Although Badiou accepts the gauntlet Heidegger threw down to philosophy, like Deleuze he thinks that ontology has to be done post-phenomenologically. Badiou even rejects the later Heidegger's notion of "forgetting". Badiou's answer to the ontological question involves a second project in "Being and Event": the articulation of a post-Cartesian (and even a post-Lacanian) subject. If, Badiou says, mathematics is ontology (that is, only mathematics can write being as it is, even if there is no intra-mathematical sense to this writing), the question is no longer the Kantian "how is mathematics possible?" but, rather, if mathematics is the science of being, how is a *subject* possible? In accord with his notion that there are four (and only four) "truth procedures", there are only artistic, scientific, political, and amorous subjects. It is on this idea that Badiou's other works on ethics, politics, art ("inaesthetic"), and so forth, are predicated. In a sense, none of Badiou's other translated works make much sense without the doctrine of the subject laid out in "Being and Event".

(This project of a post-Cartesian subject is announced by the book itself in that it is written as a series of "meditations" that could not be more dissimilar in method to the meditations of either Descartes or Husserl. My own hunch is that any successful engagement and/or refutation of Badiou's work will have to be done on the question of method--viz., Badiou's axiomatic procedure.)

These theses on ontology and subjectivity cross the so-called analytic-continential divide in philosophy. Badiou offers readings of major thinkers throughout the history of philosophy and his readers are asked to have a similarly encyclopedic knowledge of both the post-Kantian analytic and continental traditions. This book is most certainly neither for laypersons, amateurs, or beginning students of philosophy. Throughout the introduction Badiou expresses consternation over the fact that his readers must not only be professional philosophers, but also well-trained in mathematics. One is usually well-trained in one or the other. Analytic philosophy tends to do better at this than Continental (indeed, one of Badiou's goals is to provide a way out of the aporias of the Vienna Circle), but Badiou equally draws from the continental tradition (by way of figures like Hegel, Heidegger, and Lacan) and continental readings of the history of philosophy. (And, until "Being and Event", one couldn't really find much after Quine on the philosophy of set theory except something like Mary Tiles' work from 1989.)

The ontological argument, premised on what Badiou has to say about the One and the presentation of multiplicity (i.e., the question that preoccupied the presocratics) hinges on this: "maintain the position that nothing is delivered by the law of the Ideas, but make this nothing be through the assumption of a proper name. In other words: verify, via the excedentary choice of a proper name, the unpresentable alone as existent; on its basis the Ideas will subsequently cause all admissible forms of presentation to proceed. ... It is because the one is not that the void is unique ... [which is equivalent] to saying that its mark is a proper name". This is how Badiou interprets the axiom of the null (or void) set and distills the question of the One and Many from Being and change (see, e.g., the history and development of the concepts of the calculus). The question is not simply "how does one think non-being?" but also (and Parmenides also recognized this) "how does one name non-being?" The proper name, as Badiou points out in a passage immediately following the above, is not the transcendent God or the promise of the One or presence but the "un-presentation and the un-being of the one" (cf. Derrida's comments on the possibility of a negative theology).

The payoff for working through Badiou's text is nothing less than a revitalization of philosophy (particularly for anyone who thinks philosophy in America has been boring since the waning of Rortyian pragmatism). The ontological debates surrounding Deleuze/Badiou have tended to be conducted in the margins of philosophical discourse in the US (with both thinkers more popular in circles of theory than philosophy and in the pages of journals on culture and politics than Nous or Mind), but the publication of "Being and Event" itself is precisely what Badiou means when he writes of an "event": something that disrupts the current situation. ("Event" and "situation" are, of course, technical terms for Badiou. The most succinct statement of these terms is probably "The Event as Trans-Being" in the Theoretical Writings.) Like his compatriot Ranciere (who too found his own voice after breaking with a youthful Marxism), Badiou is concerned with how it is possible that something new can be seen. "Being and Event" is compulsory for anyone who thinks ontology has been boring since Heidegger (even Millan-Puelles' ambitious "Theory of the Pure Object" fails to satisfy); and for those who weren't convinced by Deleuze that alternative ways to do ontology (viz. Bergson) were dead-ends, "Being and Event" the place to turn. (Whether one ultimately agrees with Deleuze or Badiou, however, is an open question. The basic difference is this: for Badiou, multiplicities are rigorously determined; Deleuze, obviously, denies this. In both cases being is pure multiplicity, nondenumerable, etc)

And for those who may be interested by Deleuze but are wedded to more traditionally analytic ways of writing: Badiou's writing is often praised for its clarity and in many ways it mimes the economy of analytic philosophy, avoiding the obscurity (while preserving the density) of many of his French contemporaries. Badiou has often been compared to Sartre (both being novelists and playwrights in addition to philosophers), but not only does Badiou in many ways stand apart from the French traditions of Sartre and Hyppolite, "Being and Event" is eminently more readable than "Being and Nothingness". Even if Badiou's writing lacks the brilliance of Derrida or Deleuze, this may be because he explicitly tells us that the poetic is subordinate; indeed, Badiou's writing itself is probably best described as "mathematical". While he is not immune to some amount of obscurity in some others of his writings, "Being and Event" certainly cannot be so faulted. At worst one might fault the author for demanding too much of his reader; but if this be a fault it is an admirable one to have, since it is a rare author indeed who can make such a demand.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new epoch in philosophy 7 Jun 2009
By Christopher Kingman - Published on Amazon.com
Let us imagine the plight of a naive reader who comes to us (because we, for the sake of argument, are people who appear to "know something of philosophy") and says, "I am interested in reading some philosophy because I know philosophers are people who try to grapple with the things of the world in thought, and it seems useful to be acquainted with that sort of thing, but I find it just so difficult! Philosophers are always referring in cryptic ways to other philosophers and using specialized language and I am never sure that they are even discussing things that are relevant to my life at all! It makes my head spin! For example, I hear that to understand Hegel, one must first understand Kant, and to understand Kant one should be acquainted with Hume, which necessitates a knowledge of Descartes, and to know what any of them are talking about requires familiarity with Plato and Aristotle! I don't have the time or the discipline to study the entire history of philosophy, and I can't read everything all at once, so what do I do?"

We could perhaps be helpful by responding thus, "I understand what you mean! Becoming acquainted with a philosophical vocabulary is a time consuming and often thankless process. Nonetheless, it is helpful to realize that philosophical thought is always grappling with the world in a particular context and from a certain historical juncture. It is usually easier to read and understand things that are closer to our own context, more in tune with our own zeitgeist, if you will. Therefore I recommend that you find the one serious philosophical treatise that is most contemporaneous and work your way through it as a starting point. Not only will such a procedure more likely convince you of philosophy's applicability and relevance to contemporary life, but it will also show you what remains useful and relevant in the philosophical tradition, which remains available should you want to pursue it further."

Being and Event is the major philosophical treatise of our time. If Heidegger was the philosopher of the twentieth century (and Hegel of the nineteenth, Kant of the eighteenth, and so forth) then Alain Badiou is the philosopher for the early twenty-first century, and Being and Event his magnum opus, the foundation of his philosophical system. Any exploration of Badiou's thought (which is to say, that which philosophy has to offer for the twenty-first century) should begin with this book, which works out in systematic terms Badiou's fundamental ontology (hint: it's mathematics), and offers a retrieve and reinterpretation of the previous philosophical tradition as ambitious as Heidegger's.

Everyone even vaguely interested in contemporary philosophy owes it to themselves to get acquainted with this book, even though it may be a little difficult, especially if your grasp of mathematics is weak (though anybody who made it through geometry and advanced algebra in high school should be just fine). It is a work that requires a little persistence and patience, though such efforts will be more than amply rewarded in the end.

Or as Slavoj Zizek (one who, if anything else, could at least be said to be someone who knows something of philosophy) has said: "Read [Badiou] with the proper tremor, aware that you are reading a classic, that a figure like Plato or Hegel walks here among us!"
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Question about the binding 12 Feb 2011
By Jake F - Published on Amazon.com
This isn't a review of the book's content, but rather one of the book itself: I'm particularly irritated by the manner in which the paperback text was bound. Although I'm reluctant to actually go ahead and do so to see, I don't think it's possible to fully read each page all the way to the margin without breaking the spine of the text. Was Continuum just trying to save money on paper by condensing the margins, or what? Particularly as one nears the middle of the book, it becomes exceedingly difficult to read the entirety of the verso sheet.

Quite frustrating. Not to suggest that Verso's publications are any better, nor any less expensive for the poor quality - the publishing market for leftist theory seems to have a major form / content problem going on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BADIOU'S MASTERPIECE FROM 2005 10 Mar 2013
By barryb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Now I understand why Zizek holds Badiou in such high regard. It is because of this book from 2005; most assuredly. I have read approximately "8" postmodern thinkers from France and Italy thus far; and all of them begin with a fundamental presupposition: the announce that they will presume "set-theory". This preface does qualify any writer at least in the realms of externality and the unconscious. Only during re-construction do we see the differences emerge. Now I realize that Badiou Is the foundational source of all neo-left postmodern philosophy. This book is already being hailed as a Masterpiece; and a turning-point in European philosophy. I can see why. I've studied Badiou before, but this manuscript has much more logical and in-depth presentation. This manuscript presents Badiou's "set-theory", from alpha to omega. It takes set-theory to its eventual conclusions in every area of subjectivity and objectivity. Nothing is excluded. He uses triads for a few of the more difficult areas, which is helpful . You will finally understand the finer points of postmodern thought that others only touched on. This is the adventure - actually "seeing", for the first time, the thought behind the postmodern movement in France. I don't think I really need to recommend a masterpiece; but 5 stars of course.

AN IMPORTANT POSTSCRIPT: after "7" years , a philosopher is allowed to modify his position. Badiou published "the adventure of french philosophy" in 2012. In it, he offers an ethics which would have been impossible within the context of this 2005 manuscript. An "ethics of restoration" (restoring finitude to finitude), does not open the possibility of novelty. A real problem for someone who emphasizes the necessity of differentiation in positing. That is why in 2012 in introduces the concept of "hidden names", within the sub-multiple set. His thought is easier to embrace with this qualification. I recommend reading both books if you get the chance.
5.0 out of 5 stars Badiou's Being and Event 4 Aug 2013
By Ralph Rivera - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My purchase arrived very quickly, as promised. It is an excellent if very difficult work. For those who are interested in reading this rewarding, but difficult text, I recommend that you also order Christopher Norris' reader guide which is also published by Continuum. It is very helpful.
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