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Badiou, Set Theory, Anti-pomo - Reviews, Quotes, Bibliographies from Jerry Monaco [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Badiou, Set Theory, Anti-pomo [Mar. 15th, 2009|04:37 pm]
Reviews, Quotes, Bibliographies from Jerry Monaco



Badiou is one of several French philosophers pilloried by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (1998). Sokal, of course, authored the sham 1996 Social Text article, concocted as a meaningless essay in high lit-crit-theoretic style, and buttressed by facile, often bogus or inconsistent, appeals to quantum physics or relativity, all undetected by the editors. The hoax was widely reported in the popular press and Sokal has since continued his manic crusade, though with much less panache and success. One of Sokal's "tests" for intellectual value is whether one can detect a difference in meaning if key words are interchanged, say "being" and "other," or "mediation" and "reification," or whatever -- sort of a Turing test for intellectual quality. For Badiou in Fashionable Nonsense, Sokal and Bricmont, as they so often do, just selectively quote him, rhetorically ask the reader if it makes sense (of course not, devoid of context), and then go on. The second trick could be applied to Number and Numbers, perhaps with some honesty, but I think ultimately unfairly, as explained below. Badiou's ontological narrative is allusive, poetic, and deeply metaphorically inspired by his understanding of modern set theory. And Sokal's "reversal" test also fails. Badiou's vision is a wholly consistent one, built indeed from a stimulating historical account of the treatment of number by Gottlob Frege, Guiseppe Peano, Richard Dedekind, and Georg Cantor.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2008-10-02 : View this Review Online : View Other NDPR Reviews

Alain Badiou, Number and Numbers, Robin Mackay (tr.), Polity, 2008, 240pp., $24.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780745638799.

Reviewed by John Kadvany, Policy & Decision Science/johnkadvany.com