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Margus Vihalem “What is ‘the subject’ the name for?”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Vihalem, Margus 2011. What is ’the subject’ the name for? The conceptual structure of Alain Badiou’s theory of the subject. – Sign Systems Studies 39(1): 60-80

[…] truth is not the prerogative of philosophy; rather it is the turning-point giving birth to philosophical reflection, to conceptual framing wherein these conditions may get elucidated but not resumed altogether. In addition, truth in Badiou’s conception is not a matter of knowledge (savoir, see 1988: 9). Knowledge simply gives us access to what is – being, it is unable to explain what happens – the unknown, the unexpected, the Event. (66)

Truth, being […] immanently related to (the course of) history, is by its very nature eminently revolutionary: it enables an advent of something more or less new, it concerns a radical change in the course of being qua being. (69)

[…] excess of ontology […] is discovered and embodied in the concept called the event. (70)

[…] philosophy is concerned with what escapes being as totality (counted as one) and turns to a concrete situation, or as Badiou puts it, to a singular multiplicity, in order to track down the real circumstances of the event. (70)

[…] there is a singular multiplicity of living entities, and there is a void (or even voids), a vague being identified simply as brute matter, previously called being as being. (71)

This theory [of ‘subjectivation’] […] has nothing to do with neither the transcendental nor the substantial subject. Quite the contrary, its consistency is organized in time, it is entirely submitted to the temporal modifications. (73)

[…] there is no objective way for truths to be approached in their so-called eternity, truth is strictly a matter of appearing and especially of revealing – subjective affirmation alone enables to confirm that there are truths. […] This is what the subjectivation in its broadest sense is about: organizing an exception which fails to follow the rule. (74)

[…] the subject has no essence, no substance, no foundation, no transcendental structure, no knowledge of his own, which means that it is completely unsubstantiated and has no ontological meaning whatsoever before coming into contact with the event. This subject, determined first and foremost as completely formal, is unfounded and founds itself only on the fragments of a consistency that Badiou, using his peculiar terminology, defines as that of fidelity. (74)

[…] the subject subsists only as a productive and determining form that results in the very category of truth. […] It has meaning only insofar as it belongs to the faithful continuity of the event. (75)

[…] the subject signifies precisely “a system of forms and operations” (Badiou 2006: 55), and there is no ultimate operation to be accomplished, no ultimate form to be fixed. (76)

[…] in addition to the faithful subject Badiou discovers, there are two other forms of subject that he calls respectively ‘the reactive subject’ and ‘the obscure subject’ which are to be discerned as essentially unproductive forms (they are merely passive bodies rather than subjects) because they deny the power of the event for the present and either fail to recognize it or project it into some idealized transcendence. (76-77)

This is why Badiou may be justified to declare himself as both post-Cartesian and post-Lacanian thinker: he introduces a radical dividing-line between the fundamental categories of being and truth which permits him to identify the subject not as a support or an origin, but as a fragment of the processes of truth (Badiou 1988: 22). (77)

Indeed, the subject is to be understood as a militant, subjectivating and organizational form of artistic, scientific, political and affectionate activity and of the determination of the indiscernible character of an event that confers meaning to this activity. (77)