Alain Bidiou is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking philosophers alive today. He ranks with other living philosophers such as Slavoj Zizek and Simon Critchley. While Bidiou and his colleagues are living, contemporary philosophers, and because of this quality write with flourish, in a lively, sometimes flamboyant, other times exaggerated style, and concern themselves in contemporary issues, many times focusing on politics, the issues which principally concern them are as old as the dawn of Western Philosophy.
So is it with the topic of this book. Bidiou takes aim at the most quintessential of all Twentieth Century philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, exposes the essential features of his philosophy, and brings the tension between Wittgenstein's linguistic analysis and Bidiou's own philosophy squarely in the same league with Plato vs. the Sophists.
The essential characteristic of Wittgenstein's philosophy is not philosophy at all, but Anti-Philosophy. According to Bidiou, the characteristics of anti-philosophy are the following:
1. Any inquiry of truth, the absolute, is rejected and is reduced to a linguistic, logical and/or genealogical analysis of language and/or statements of philosophy;
2. All philosophical values are purged.
3. The antiphilosopher lives life as an "existential singularity," isolated, either personally or by society, frequently misogynistic and/or anti-social
4. The wholesale rejection of traditional philosophical pursuits in logic and mathematics (Nietzsche once famously said that logic is a course of study having no relation to the world as we know it).
These characteristics were manifested in the core of Wittgenstein's thought, primarily from the Tractatus:
1. That most if not all of philosophical discourse was "nonsensical."
2. That philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.
3. The personal struggles Wittgenstein during his life to accept his sexual identity.
4. Wittgenstein too rejected logic and mathematics, as he did to philosophic discourse, stating that |"mathematics is logical method" but "logic was not a body of doctrine."
Bidiou describes how Wittgenstein began as a fully fledged anti-philosopher, but once he arrived at the Philosophical Investigations stage, he states that Wittgenstein simply became a sophist. What could be a more familiar struggle? (Read: Plato and Socrates vs the Sophists).
Anti-philosophy is not a new concept, and not an inconsequential one. Bidiou remarks that Heraclitus could have been the first anti-philosopher. And it appears unique enough that there is not an article about it in Wikipedia. The tensions between Anti-philosophy and traditional inquiries of philosophy cannot be more acute, and is as old as when humans first began to make sense of their world. Bidiou offers glimpses of his own interpretation of the pursuit, or rather, the duty to pursue the truth, which Bidiou discusses in the contexts of Wittgenstein's own examination of the Subject, which for him was unknowable. This too revisits familiar ground; but while in the past philosophers and mystics would accept the Unknowable as Transcendent Existence, Wittgenstein just leaves it alone and examines it no further.
On the whole this is lively reading, fairly clearly presented, on an interesting subject. This book should be read in conjunction with another book by Boris Groys, Introduction to Anti-Philosophy, where the lives of prominent modern anti-philosophers, such Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and others are discussed.