the Good and the True


Alain Badiou is the latest in the line of French philosophy professors who have had global greatness thrust upon them: 25 of his books have appeared in English since 1999, along with dozens of works of eulogy and exposition. Badiou, now in his seventies, still hankers for “the truth of May ’68,” and refers to himself, in a rare flash of humour, as “the last communist.” But in one respect at least, he defies the stereotype: he is a Mr Valiant-for-Truth, a believer in invariant eternal verities, and a born-again Platonist, committed to philosophy as “the discipline of the concept,” and mathematics as the revelation of reality. He is thus an implacable opponent of all the language-obsessed relativisms which, in his opinion, have sapped the vigour of the west from the pre-Socratics to the present. If all this has passed you by, you may be tempted by the latest outing for Badiou in English: a collection of essays and reviews from the past 40 years, surveying French philosophy since the salad days of Sartre (The Adventure of French Philosophy, Verso). But Badiou’s reverence for philosophy as a “universal aim of reason” may keep getting in your way. Back in the 1970s he denounced the whole spectrum of French philosophers—from “anarcho-desirers” at one end to renegade left-opportunists at the other—as “charlatans” and “bourgeois impostors,” and age has not cooled his vehemence: throughout this book he is to be observed dissing his colleagues from a very great height.

more from Jonathan Rée at Prospect Magazine here.