Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 2, No 1-2 (2006)

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Giving Form to Its Own Existence: Anxiety and the Subject of Truth

Sam Gillespie


For anyone willing to accept the two primary theses of Alain Badiou#39;s emBeing and Event/emmdash;that mathematics is ontology, and that there is an inconsistency that cannot be exhausted by presentationmdash;a number of questions immediately follow. To accept that mathematics is ontology may prove useful for one particular set of problems (for example, finding the most adequate means of understanding multiplicity), but this only opens the door to a whole series of other problems. To give only the most general and obvious example, there is an uncertainty surrounding the particular relation between mathematical being (inconsistent multiplicity) and its manifestation in particular situations. Badiou maintains that the relations between a situation and its latent being are purely subtractive insofar as presentation is an operation that presents particular beings as multiples and not multiplicity as such. What we are left with, then, is not so much a relation that follows from the inherent limitations of either presentation or language (however limited they may in fact be), but rather an axiomatic presupposition that the nothingness that escapes presentation is an inaugural existence. Being, in other words, is not inferred from presentation, but axiomatized. And as Deleuze has shown in his reading of Spinoza, axioms can just as readily generate positive manifestations (or expressions) of being. This creates problems if Badiou wishes to create an effective connection between axiomatized being and its manifestation in situations (through presentation or forcing).

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