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Don't have time to watch-- does this mean critique without alternative? What distinguishes affirmation from critique?

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Badiou to my knowledge doesn't say anything about cannibalism - that's someone else.  Badiou says a series of things about the formulation of ethics and how it relates to truth.  Specifically Badiou thinks ethics is often formulated backwards: we look to the experience of some group and derive ethics from it.  We seek to do something to avoid the results of some bad thing.  Instead we should have something to fight for - a conception of the good.  What is the endpoint?  Formulating ethics this way allows you to take universal truths and then apply them in specific instances.

 

In other words Badiou wants you to have something to fight for, not just have something to fight against.

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One line that impressed me about Alain Badiou's thinking (which I'll extrapolate in my own words below) is the inextricable relation between the negative and affirmative aspects of a critique. If I said, 'It's unjust that we're not all immortal' or 'It's unjust that we can't invent a new primary color', most people would laugh and reply, 'Well, life's unfair', since there's not right now a realistically conceivable future in which those gripes could be satisfied. Badiou points to the revolt of Spartacus as one of the beginning instances of what he calls 'communism', and he says that the moment to highlight there was not that slaves suddenly realized how unfair their lived conditions were; he surmises that most all of them already knew and talked about this. Instead what entered the picture was the possibility that those former slaves could create a working society in which they treated one another as equals, and, by implication, that they were being denied the power to create this society every day of their enslavement. This practical alternative then fueled their opposition to the status quo...

 

'Injustice' is always 'injustice compared to what?'. To say that capitalism is unjust is, in itself, insufficient, because it's only meaningful when juxtaposed with the possibility of life after capitalism. Badiou is saying that not enough work has been done on this affirmative side. In any event, there's really no such thing as 'critiquing without an alternative' anyway. The alternative creates the critique.

Edited by Lazzarone
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One idea that I'm familiar with from the psychological literature on creativity is that oftentimes restrictions help with generating good or new thoughts. That sounds almost like the other side of the same coin as what you're talking about. In order to criticize something you need to at least implicitly be making a comparison to something different, and in order to think of things that are different, it's helpful to use the status quo as a scaffolding for thought. Do you know if Badiou ever talks about this other half of the relationship between affirmation and negation? Do you have any thoughts on this comparison?

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Badiou's work as a philosopher (as most contemporary philosophers) develops in the wake of Kant and Heidegger, both of whom emphasized the theme of human finitude. For Kant, freedom itself can only occur because we're held responsible/accountable for our actions and beliefs; we're free not because we're without restrictions, but precisely because we're compelled to choose - i.e., limited, caught in a community of subjects, made to answer for what counts as a reason. This would also seem to be at least one of the sources of human creativity, if not it's necessary backdrop. I'm not familiar enough with all his books yet to direct you to where Badiou might discuss the affirmation/negation-relationship at greater length, but I know that in his suggestion that Spartacus represented a proto-communist 'pure idea of equality', he notes that what the slave revolt fought against may've been less important than what they fought for.

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