Metaphysical nonsense

September 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm (History, Oh the humanities!)

Mao Zedong – “Idealism and metaphysics require the least effort, as they allow people to say whatever they want to say. They are not based on objective reality, and objective reality cannot falsify them.” (1955)

Alain Badiou, philosopher and Maoist – “Our epoch is most certainly the epoch of rupture, in light of all that Lacoue–Labarthe has shown to depend on the motive of mimesis. One of the forms of this motive which explicitly attaches truth to imitation is to conceive of truth as a relation, a relation of appropriateness between the intellect and the thing intellected. A relation of adequation which always supposes, as Heidegger very well understood, the truth to be localizable in the form of a proposition. Modern philosophy is a criticism of truth as adequation. Truth is not limited to the form of judgment. Heidegger suggests that it is a historic destiny. I will start from the following idea: Truth is first of all something new. What transmits, what repeats, we shall call knowledge. Distinguishing truth from knowledge is essential. It is a distinction already made in the work of Kant, between reason and understanding, and it is as you know a capital distinction for Heidegger, who distinguishes truth as aletheia, and understanding as cognition, science, techne. Aletheia is always properly a beginning. Techne is always a continuation, an application, a repetition. It is the reason why Heidegger says that the poet of truth is always the poet of a sort of morning of the world. I quote Heidegger: ‘The poet always speaks as if the being was expressed for the first time.’ If all truth is something new, what is the essential philosophic problem pertaining to truth? It is the problem of its appearance and its becoming. Truth must be submitted to thought not as judgment or proposition but as a process in the real. This schema represents the becoming of a truth. The aim of my talk is only to explain the schema. For the process of truth to begin, something must happen. Knowledge as such only gives us repetition, it is concerned only with what already is. For truth to affirm its newness, there must be a supplement. This supplement is committed to chance—it is unpredictable, incalculable, it is beyond what it is. I call it an event. A truth appears in its newness because an eventful supplement interrupts repetition. Examples: The appearance, with Aeschylus, of theatrical tragedy. The eruption, with Galileo, of mathematical physics. An amorous encounter which changes a whole life. Or the French revolution of 1792. An event is linked to the notion of the undecidable. Take the sentence ‘This event belongs to the situation.’ If you can, using the rules of established knowledge, decide that this sentence is true or false, the event will not be an event. It will be calculable within the situation. Nothing permits us to say ‘Here begins the truth.’ A wager will have to be made. This is why the truth begins with an axiom of truth. It begins with a decision, a decision to say that the event has taken place. The fact that the event is undecidable imposes the constraint that the subject of the event must appear. Such a subject is constituted by a sentence in the form of a wager: this sentence is as follows. ‘This has taken place, which I can neither calculate nor demonstrate, but to which I shall be faithful.’ A subject begins with what fixes an undecidable event because it takes a chance of deciding it. This begins the infinite procedure of…
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