Monday, April 15, 2013

Alain Badiou: Manifesto of Philosophy.

Alain Badiou (1937-  ) is a French philosopher who has engaged readers for several decades. Many say he is one of the most provocative and most important thinkers living today. Reading Badiou is like opening a window after living years in a small cell. The fresh air can provoke many to close the window in order to keep everything as it is. Others may feel the refreshing air he represents as an invitation to find the door and take a walk. Two of his most famous books are nothing less than manifestos, and that’s what he has called them. Manifesto for Philosophy was published in 1992 and the Second Manifesto for Philosophy in 2011. Many relate the concept of manifesto with the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel and published in 1848. I also relate manifesto with Søren Kierkegaards Works of Love, published in 1847. Kierkegaard doesn’t use the word manifesto, but I have no doubt that Works of Love is just as revolutionary (if not more) than the Communist Manifesto. 

Why does Badiou call his books manifestos? Because he her is making a statement. He is reminding us all that life is more than survival, radically more. His first Manifesto was written in a time when philosophy was of little interest for individuals and society. Philosophy was considered by many as dead. His Second Manifesto was written in a completely different atmosphere. Now everything is philosophy and we find it everywhere. Philosophy sells very good and everyone can be his or her own philosopher. His first book was written to revitalize philosophy while is second book was written to take philosophy back again. Philosophy, says Badiou, has become its own greatest enemy, conservative ethics. He has written in his Second Manifesto a wounderful book where he demoralizes philosophy and separates from servile and ubiquitous thinking. He brings back certain eternal truths in order to cast light on action. Let me give an example:

“When all this is said and done, this second Manifesto is the result of our confused and detestable present time forcing us to declare that there are eternal truths in politics, art, science and love. And that if we understand that to participate, point by point, in the process of creation of subjectivizable bodies is what renders life more powerful than survival, we will possess what Rimbaud, at the end of A Season in Hell, desired above all alse: “Truth, in a soul and a body”. Then shall we be stronger than Time” (p. 129-130 in the second Manifesto).

Thankyou Alain Badiou!
Kaare T. Pettersen

Badiou, Alain. 1992. Manifesto for Philosophy. New York: State University of New York Press
Badiou, Alain. 2011. Second Manifesto for Philosophy. Cambridge: Polity Press.   

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