‘Manifesto for Philosophy’ by Alain Badiou

Published in France in 1989 and published in Norman Madarsz’s translation to English by State University of New York Press in 1999.
Completely new scan added and download link updated on 18. July 2021.

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Manifesto for Philosophy evokes many possible directions that may be signaling one of the most important transitions in modern thought, with great implications and a rich source of inspiration. It begins by questioning if philosophy is dead. Contra those proclaiming the end of philosophy, Badiou aims to restore philosophical thought.

The Death of Philosophy is claimed by many of a philosopher for several reasons: since Nietzsche, God has died, together with the idea of One it stood for, the category of the subject has been deconstructed, and any notion of Truth has been disqualified.

Becoming burdened to the point of annihilation by the trauma of encountering the unexplainable horrors of WWII through Heidegger and his Nazi involvement, the attempt of explaining the world after the Holocaust and the role that philosophy may have played in generating ideas that made it possible has forced philosophers to resign. Why philosophers? Neither scientists, nor the military, nor even politicians have considered that the massacres of the 20th century affected them specifically. On the other hand, philosophers, by taking on the burden of the century, have decided to plead guilty. The underlying problem being in the idea that “everything is the concern of philosophy”, through which it faces a dilemma: either operate under this megalomaniac vision that results in its own annihilation, or adopt a more modest position that enables possibility.

Returning through Plato’s writings, Badiou finds a framework for conceptualizing developments of philosophy through four different conditions of truth: scientific-mathematical, artistic-poetic, political inventions, and love. Philosophy began and remains organized around such truth procedures.

Why love? To the notion of subject, love presents a unique route for truth due to its subjective structure. Descartes determined that any truth begins with the self, and reestablishing philosophy at the site of the Cartesian inquiry is suggested. At this crucial point there is a turn to psychoanalysis of Lacan, of whom Badiou has an admiration second only to Plato, claiming that a renaissance of philosophy is possible only if it is compossible with Lacan’s work.

Badiou’s greatest significance may be his insistence that we reinstate the notion of truth. Truth underlies the very constitution of the human condition and is by its very definition impossibility itself, a gap, something unconscious, and the determination that the notion of truth is necessary for philosophy is a great difficulty and task for thought.

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