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The Three Events of Philosophy by Slavoj Žižek

In history, humanities, philosophy, politics on April 8, 2013 at 17:49

From: The Three Events of Philosophy by Slavoj Zizek, International Journal of Žižek Studies, http://zizekstudies.org/

So why a return to Plato? Why do we need a repetition of Plato’s founding gesture? In his Logiques des mondes, Badiou provides a succinct definition of “democratic materialism” and its opposite, “materialist dialectics”: the axiom which condenses the first one is “There is nothing but bodies and languages …,” to which materialist dialectics adds “… with the exception of truths.”4 One should bear in mind the Platonic, properly meta-physical, thrust of this distinction: prima facie, it cannot but appear as a proto-idealist gesture to assert that material reality is not all that there is, that there is also another level of incorporeal truths. Badiou performs here the paradoxical philosophical gesture of defending, AS A MATERIALIST, the autonomy of the “immaterial“ order of Truth. As a materialist, and in order to be thoroughly materialist, Badiou focuses on the IDEALIST topos par excellence: how can a human animal forsake its animality and put its life in the service of a transcendent Truth? How can the “transubstantiation“ from the pleasure-oriented life of an individual to the life of a subject dedicated to a Cause occur? In other words, how is a free act possible? How can one break (out of) the network of the causal connections of positive reality and conceive an act that begins by and in itself? Again, Badiou repeats within the materialist frame the elementary gesture of idealist anti-reductionism: human Reason cannot be reduced to the result of evolutionary adaptation; art is not just a heightened procedure of providing sensual pleasures, but a medium of Truth; and so on.

This, then, is our basic philosophico-political choice (decision) today: either repeat in a materialist vein Plato’s assertion of the meta-physical dimension of “eternal Ideas,” or continue to dwell in the postmodern universe of “democratic-materialist” historicist relativism, caught in the vicious cycle of the eternal struggle with “premodern” fundamentalisms. How is this gesture possible, thinkable even? Let us begin with the surprising fact that Badiou does not identify as the “principal contradiction,” the predominant antagonism, of today’s ideological situation the struggle between idealism and materialism, but the struggle between two forms of materialism (democratic and dialectical).

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Zizek studies

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