THE ORIGIN OF THE WORK OF DISASTER:
- Ontology, History, Politics -
In his seminal essay The Origin of the Work of Art, Martin Heidegger advances a robust account of what is art, where the latter comes to acquire a distinctive privilege, along with poetry, as a locus for the disclosure of Truth. In this, Heidegger seeks to oppose the tradition’s overburdened conceptions of art cashed out in terms of objectual representation or sensible aesthesis, where the being of the artwork comes into bare presence through the act of an apprehensive subject. Instead, Heidegger proposes that Truth be conceived fundamentally as unconcealment (aletheia), evincing a structure of incompleteness and withdrawal as being co-constitutive for the ‘creative disclosing’ proper to the artwork. Only by unyoking Truth from its objectual framing does one escape the totalizing ambition under which the merely ontic enterprise of modern science, along with its political perversions, attempt a compulsive wresting of being and a thorough domination of Nature. These nefarious results which follow our epoch’s ontological forgetfulness include the devaluation of artworks into mere objects for commerce and curatorial interest, but also the technocratic compulsion which conjointly accounts for concentration camps and the fumigation of fields in agriculture. Prefiguring thus the latter diagnosis from Was Ist Denken? that “science does not think”, Heidegger dislodges the ‘ontic violence’ of objectual representation from Truth, and proceeds to argue that science does not reveal Truths. The task of rehabilitating an originary conception of Truth as unconcealment through an understanding of art becomes then of a piece with the overcoming proper to the technical dominance of modern reason, which thrives in an ever aggravating forgetfulness of Being.
In explicit dissymmetry to this project, Alain Badiou has proposed a radically anti-phenomenological mathematical ontology, where being is thought of as pure multiplicity, and Truth becomes nothing but a post-evental generic process which spreads across four autonomous domains: science, politics, art and love. Against the panthematic theme of an essential forgetfulness nested in our metaphysical origin, Badiou rehabilitates the ontological valence of the matheme, which in his estimation prevents the suture of Truth to any one domain or discursive register. More particularly, it serves to unyoke thought from what he deems a Romantic hang-up, evinced in the suture of Truth to poetics proper to the 20th Century, and which he sees Heidegger as taking part of. Thus, against Heidegger, it is not the ‘technical’ unbecoming of calculating reason and its objectual occlusion which is to be overcome, but the poetic semblance of Being as that which withdraws, which marks the epoch’s still wayward romanticism.
For all their apparent divergences, however, we find at the heart of both theories a common sense of urgency towards conceiving Truth as essentially untotalizable, and anchored on an unconquerable point of resistance. In Heidegger’s thinking, this kernel is the receding dimension of The Earth, as the observe side of positive projection in Worlds, within the unitary phenomenon of unconcealment. In Badiou’s ontology, this kernel of the ‘Real’ which thrives implicit in every situation is the unnamable, marking a punctual impossibility for any Truth procedure. Both thinkers thus see in withholding Truth from a total deliverance to language not just a philosophical rectification of the tradition, but an imperative practical prescription, which cannot but have political consequences in its effect. Yet while Heidegger still sees poetry and the poetic word as possessing the distinctive privilege in placing us before Truth, Badiou will have no truck with the subordination of mathematics and science to poetry and philosophy. This verdict finally separates the two thinkers, in spite of their fundamental agreement in that the structure of Truth must be incomplete and untotalizable as such. Our polemic, in short, attempts to trace the continuity between the ontological and historico-political registers in the work of these two philosophers, through an understanding of how Truth serves in each case as the crucial concept to think and overcome what cannot but appear as the inevitable result of a thought ingrained either by a violent forgetfulness or a pious binding.
I – Heidegger and the Artwork – Things, Thingliness, Truth
”In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing, lighting. Thought of in reference to what is, to beings, this clearing is in a greater degree than are beings.” (Martin Heidegger -The Origin of the Work of Art)
At the outset of The Origin of the Work of Art, Heidegger subscribes to the task of unearthing the origin or ‘essence’ of art, depurating common conceptualizations of the latter as handed down to us by the metaphysically invested tradition. This amounts to asking how art itself comes to acquire precedence in determining the relation between artist and artwork; or as Heidegger puts it: “In themselves and in their interrelations, artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.” (OWA; Pg. 17) If the question about the origin of art as such comes to acquire methodological priority with respect to the subject of art, or the object of art, it is precisely because an understanding proceeding from the dyad of subject-object relations already occludes a more fundamental determination which Heidegger deems as ‘essential’, i.e. which establishes “that by which something is what it is and as it is” (Ibid; Pg. 17). But since the investigation into the origin or ‘Nature’ of art must take the extant reality of artistic works as its beginning, we thereby enter a ‘hermeneutic circle’, where the essence of art is first inferred from the artwork, and yet the latter comes to be seen as determined by the former (Ibid; Pg. 18). This leads Heidegger into a propadeutic assessment of the traditional conceptions of art which obtain from the dominant tradition, in order to signal their limitations.
To do this, Heidegger first raises the question about the ‘thingly’ character inherent in all works of art, understood as a “self-evident element” which is brought to last or endure in a ‘presencing’ (Anwesen) which constitutes its artistic nature and endows it with a structure: “It seems almost as though the thingly element in the art work is like the substructure into and upon which the other, authentic element is built.” (Ibid; Pg. 20) By the same token, the artist himself is not a mere ‘subject’ of representation which stands before the work, endowing it with its ‘thingly’ character. This is so since crucially “a man is not a thing.” (Ibid; Pg. 21) And since the ‘thingly’ element of the work cannot thus be squarely identified with the mere objectual representations of artworks the tradition provides, Heidegger first seeks to point towards the limitations inherent in the three prevalent conceptions of the work’s essence, which circulate around these misconceptions in a dominant manner (Ibid; 23-26):
1) The work as a mere thing/object – Under this conception, the work comes to be understood as a mere object or thing, which amounts to an ‘assemble’ comprised of a bundle of properties. These become then expressed in propositional form, i.e. subject-predicate attributions. Against this view, Heidegger underlies that the visibility of the thing must already precede predicative determinations, whose origin propositions are unable to express. Thus the ‘thing-structure’ reflected in the subject-predicate propositional form is said to derive from ‘a common source’ (Ibid; Pg. 22). This common source remains, however, shrouded in mystery.
2) The work as an aesthetic datum – Under this conception, the work comes to be individuated as a transparent Totality delivered over to our perception or sensibility, given as a distinctive unity synthesizing a ‘manifold of intuition’. Against this view, which is paired to the former in producing a singular thing-concept of the work, Heidegger contests the putative transparency and completeness of the work as given in its presencing, claiming rather that “"In order to hear a bare sound we have to listen away from things, divert our ear from them, i.e. listen abstractly.” (Ibid; Pg. 26) This way, Heidegger invites us to hear in the originary Greek notion of the hupokeimenon a ‘ground’ which is not reducible either to the fully present object of representation, expressed by a conceptual propositional frame, or to the agency of a subject apprehending perceptual unities from subsisting matter.
3) The work as a dual determination of form and matter – Under this conception, the work is understood as a complex articulation between a primal material substratum (hyle) and form set visible before an apprehending subject through aspects (eidos). Against this conception, which already tracks back the first two, Heidegger underlines the irreducibility or dubious subordination of the being of tools (Zeug) with which Dasein engages in purposive practice to a makeshift distribution of form by matter. Rather, ‘usefulness’ can never be an additional property surreptitiously aggregated to the object, understood as a form-matter compendium. Quite the opposite, the ‘usefulness’ of these tool-beings are said to be ontologically prior to such merely ontic dyadic, objectual determinations: “Such usefulness is never assigned or added on afterward to a being of the type of a jug, ax, or pair of shoes. But neither is it something that floats somewhere above it as an end.” (Ibid; Pg. 28)
Significantly, these three conceptions can be also said to tie in with three traditional conceptions of truth: a) as correspondence between proposition and fact, b) as subjective-conscious intentionality towards a unified object, or c) as the Idea which gives form to the bare givenness of matter in producing the being of the object. The issue must be thus that there is in the ‘Truth of the work’ something which resists objectification; and for this the usefulness of tools delivers the first clue (Ibid; Pg. 28). That is, all of these conceptions must already presuppose, Heidegger argues, that beings have already made themselves available to us, taking part amidst in usefulness for the comportments of Dasein, and evincing a structure intractable through the modality of objective representation.
Heidegger paves the way thus to a discussion of tool-beings or equipment (Zeug), extending on the famous ‘tool-analysis’ from Being and Time. What is crucial for us at this stage is simply to underline how for Heidegger the being of equipment challenges the objectual form of representation, construing the latter rather as a derivative function of the ‘breakdown’ or malfunctioning of the former. In other words, whereas the traditional conceptions would have the ‘usefulness’ or serviceability of an entity as one more property, or as a contingent integration of it outside its strict determinations, Heidegger deems the usefulness of tool-beings to be the ‘condition of possibility’ (to use Kant’s language) for objectual representation. This ‘more essential’ understanding pertaining to readiness to hand thus implies thus a kind of ‘mindlessness’ in act.
We should note that although Heidegger’s frequent examples of equipment index man made ‘tools’, such as hammers or nails, the propriety of equipment does not pertain to a class of entities, since this would surreptitiously reintegrate them within the axes of objectual representation described above. The point is rather that present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) objects of representation (Vorstellung) are individuated only as derived from ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit) equipment (Zeug) in engaged practice.
The ‘readiness’ proper to the being of equipment is not simply that of a set of man-made, useful entities, but shatters the individuating objectual frame of objects and properties described in propositional (apophantic) form. Heidegger can thus claim that “Taken strictly, there ‘is’ no such thing as an equipment.”, but only an ‘equipmental-whole’ wherein subject and object are indistinct (BT: Pg. 97). Dasein’s comportments (Verhalten) towards being as integrated and purposive practice thus trumps Husserlian intentionality; the latter remains tethered to the form of the object, however reduced to its logical form through successive reductions (epoche). Consequentially, it makes perfect sense to conceive of ‘natural’ beings as ‘taking part’ within ready-to-hand comportments, as long as we do not formally distinguish them from Dasein in act.
Heidegger’s famous depiction of Dasein as the ‘shepherd of being’ may be useful here, and unpacked: the guiding shepherd follows in unison with the herd of sheep an aim-oriented trajectory, mindlessly integrated and indistinct. Only when a sheep ‘diverts’ from the herd and interrupts the trajectory’s fluid migration, only when the stable functioning of the act breaks down, does the animal appear, as some-thing, as an object to be dealt with. The shepherd correspondingly appears thus as a subject, as an agent which quickly proceeds to reintegrate the sheep onto the undisturbed movement of the herd.
At this juncture, it becomes evident that Heidegger’s understanding of essence diverges from the traditional (Scholastic) conception of the same in terms of ‘whatness’, i.e. the essence of an object is not a matter of ‘defining’ what it is. The latter already pertains to the derivation which sets-before the being qua object; already loses the availability under which the being’s equipmentality comes to work. So if the task is to unearth the ‘essence of art’, this cannot entail the form of categorical determination. Crucial then becomes the disavowal of these merely ontic or objectual determinations of being, in favor of a properly ontological clarification of the same. It is clearly thus a question of the ontological difference between being and beings; between entities conceived as particulars, and being as that which precedes and grounds the being of particulars. We thus obtain a series of distinctions: art’s essence or Truth, which derivatively determines the artist as subject and the artwork object, is 1) not one distributed in the modality of that-being (Wasein); 2) equipment is not localizable as mere presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) but rather as the available, ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit); 3) and the agent is not a ‘subject’ but a who which exists there, locally engrossed in purposeful engagement with being which is practical more than reflexive (Das-sein). If the objectification proper to representation thus occludes the being of the work of art it is thus because what withdraws from such a comprehension is not a being, or an ‘essential’ property which determines the content of the object propositionally. Rather, being qua thing simply dis-appears as a thing, in becoming grounded, ontologically.
The question becomes then how art as such comes to be understood within this complex distribution, having unyoked ‘essence’ and being from the shackles of representation, and by the clue of equipment. Heidegger takes as his lead example an anonymous painting by Van Gogh, which depicts a pair of peasant shoes. Beyond the explicit objectual content which merely gives us over to a pair of worn shoes, for Heidegger, the painting reveals the background of the peasant woman’s context in its holistic network of relations. Her dwelling above the rugged soil and her confrontation in the vast Openness of the fields, struck by the flagellating winds, are all part of the thick background that withdraws from the work’s explicitly objectual ‘content’. In Heidegger’s description becomes revealed the strife or tension between what he will distinguish as the Earth and the World: “This equipment belongs to the earth and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman. From out of this protected belonging the equipment itself rises to its resting within-itself.” (OWA: Pg, 33) In addition to usefulness-serviceability, the shoes in the painting reveal a dimension of reliability in equipment, a grounding in which the dwelling of the peasant woman and her horizon of meaning is firmly placed. This way, Heidegger goes on to identify the World with the projective horizon of possibilities wherein Dasein dwells purposively as equipment becomes serviceable (Ibid). In Van Gogh’s painting, this would correspond to the holistic network of meaningful practices to which the shoes are integrated. The artwork, as a work, correspondingly fulfills this function of ‘delivering us over’ into the peasant woman’s dwelling-space. Thus the artwork transposes us into the World of the woman, while revealing itself in connection to usefulness or serviceability of beings for a given people and historical context.
Correspondingly, the Earth is structurally twofold: first, it designates the primordial dimension of reliability which simultaneously withholds or resists something from Dasein. In the painting, this can be found in the asymmetry between the depicted content of the shoes, and the receding background which illuminates it. Second, the Earth is thus the depth of being which withdraws or ‘self-encloses’ itself, the necessary back-ground upon which creative world-formation operates. The ‘self-enclosure’ of the earth is thus not to be equated with the abstract persistence of beings or objective entities; it rather designates the ‘being of beings’ which resists objectification and which founds it, as well as that from which Truth comes to happen for Dasein. The artwork thus discloses the being of equipment as the destitution of the subject-object dichotomy in the dynamic twofold strife between World and Earth, which Heidegger now calls the Truth in equipment as such: “Van Gogh's painting is the disclosure of what the equipment, the pair of peasant shoes, is in truth. This entity emerges into the unconcealedness of its being. The Greeks called the unconcealedness of beings aletheia…” (Ibid; Pg. 35)
The artwork comes to be understood as a locus to disclose Truth conceived as un-concealment (Unverborgenheit), from the tensional relation of strife between the World and the Earth. Heidegger expounds his analysis expressly through the example of the Greek temple, as a paradigmatic example of this non-representational quality in art, wherein the artist himself disappears and becomes “…almost like a passageway that destroys itself in the creative process for the work to emerge” (Ibid; Pg. 39) The Greek temple comes to be a work precisely insofar as, just like the shoes reveal the peasant woman’s holistic world, it unfolds in its being a historical horizon of possibilities common to a people and an epoch. So that “…to be a work means to set up a world." (Ibid; 43) In it, the Gods’ presencing can be felt: the opening of possibilities for being, and the recession of being’s excess. It is not a ‘full presence’ that comes before Dasein (Vor-handen / Vor-stellung), but an asymptotic deliverance onto being, which can never be fully disclosed. The receding Earth grounds Dasein’s Worldly dwellings by providing thus an asymptotic horizon of possibilities, which remains untotalizable. The Gods are in the temple, before presencing, insofar as they index the recession of being in the Earth, as the precondition for Dasein’s being-in-the-world. The horizon opened by worldhood should be understood then as the possibility of the encounter with beings dwelling on the Earth. As we shall see, this ontological structure will turn out to be a crucial feature for Heidegger’s understanding of history, and Badiou’s departure from the same.
At this point, we should underline, that it is not simply that objectual representation does not pertain to Worldhood, given the former's occluding proclivity, but rather that it is not its primary ontological dimension. It is merely the one which remains most alien to the ‘self-containment’ of being qua Earth, in un-concealment, since it thinks to possess full traction before being in its object. But doing so of course renders invisible the receding background of immersion where serviceability, availability and reliability mark the dynamic strife of Truth in the work. Dasein’s being is then broadly construed as its sheer factical transcendence onto beings in a World: a) its throwness (Geworfenheit) into the Open encounter with beings (Offen) as ‘being-in-the-world’ (In-der-Welt-Sein); second, b) its dwelling in the earth which is ‘self-enclosing’ and which grounds it; and c) a projective (Entwurf) horizon which ‘lights up’ a clearing of possibilities which it creatively wrests from the withdrawing Earth: "World is the ever-nonobjective to which we are subject as long as the paths of birth and death, blessing and curse keep us transported into Being" (Ibid; Pg. 43) Thus all ‘commercial’ or curatorial dislodging of creative works from their historical, worldly specificity, to exhibit them as a mere objects for contemplation, cannot but destroy their essential capacity to disclose Truth, according to Heidegger. By the same token, it is proper to the being of the artful to make Truth resonate as unconcealment, and awaken us from our ontic slumber. This creative dimension which opens up a space for the presencing of Truth as the world-earth strife is the prerogative of Dasein’s activity, and which is presupposed by all externalized objectifications of being as something merely present and not presencing: "But it is not we who presuppose the unconcealedness of beings; rather, the unconcealedness of beings (Being) puts us into such a condition of being that in our representation we always remain installed within and in attendance upon unconcealedness." (Ibid; Pg. 50).
The role of the artist is thus not just to make the work as an object, but to preserve in its being this rift wherein Truth comes into presencing, in the tension of un-concealment. The artistic work thereby serves as a sort of punctual concentration where on the one hand the creative projection of Dasein’s world-formation, and the grounding self-concealment of being as the Earth on the other, become palpable in their co-appropriateness. Thus to ‘set-to-work’ means to stand within the space of Truth opened by the work; realizing the latter is in such a strife, and that "…to create is to cause something to emerge as a thing that has been brought-forth." (Ibid; pg. 58) This dynamic movement of creation and concealment obviously relates back to the link between equipment as incorporated within a nexus of possibilities, discursive or practical; and non-objectual being which withdraws from theorizing. The work in this way produces a ‘framing’ (Ge-stell) for the disclosure of Truth; and not merely a presented form (morphe) for objects. Therefore, if the thing’s ‘thingliness’ is to be found in its ‘earthly’ dimension (in its concealment) as much as in its ‘worldly’ dimension (as disclosed usability or serviceability), then it is because Truth is precisely this unified tension between the two movements. And since the Earth’s recession does not index a set of invisible properties, essences or secret forms, that which conceals itself is precisely the void of being as such; its non-objectual depth: “The thing’s thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that holds.” (PLT; Pg. 167) If artworks have a capacity to disclose the dimension of Truth, then it happens as the works are always articulating a World for a people; in which being’s dyadic strife is felt in all its historico-cultural weight. For Heidegger it becomes thus the prerogative of true art and the poetic word which is wed to let unconcealment resonate in the work’s presencing.
As we shall see in the third and final section of the paper, this will turn out to have a radical bearing on Heidegger’s conception of history, and by extension, of politics. But before we assess these crucial consequences of Heidegger’s account, we shall briefly recapitulate in the work of Alain Badiou an alternative account of Truth which both challenges and expounds the former’s key insights.
II – Unbinding Being: Matheme, Genericity, Truth
"In the midst of being as the pure multiple nowhere occurs. There is an unbinding, a voiding. Thought of in reference to what is, to being, this unbinding is to the same degree that there is nothing" (Alain Badiou, The Origin of the Work of the Matheme)
At the center of Alain Badiou’s project lies a rehabilitation of the powers of the matheme to think of being as such, where in a striking and bold decision, mathematics is identified with ontology and philosophy is disowned from the latter (Badiou 2006: Pg. 3). But although Badiou will agree with Heidegger in that being and Truth are not reducible to the form of the object, he will have no truck with the idea that being ‘withdraws’ in the strife of presencing. The latter, Badiou will argue, can be squarely allotted to a phenomenological nostalgia which surrenders being to the figure of the ‘gift’ as that which ‘gives itself’ inasmuch as it withdraws, indicating what we could call a panthematic conception anchored on experience. This ‘mythos of presence’ thoroughly pervades Heidegger’s conception of Truth as aletheia, and surreptitiously anchors being on an intractable self-concealing depth (the Earth). This gesture, Badiou deems as perniciously pious and theological. Instead, he proposes to radically unbind being from any content whatsoever, deposing it of all semblance of sense or inherent non-latency; so that, strictly speaking, nothing is either given or receding to Dasein, no primordial strife which poetic-artistic Truth captures uniquely and distinctively.
Mathematics is precisely a thinking worthy of this unbinding function, specifically in its set-theoretical guise, since it adventures to think of the generic form of the multiple without the One: a purely extensional and therefore non-qualitative account of individuation sutured to nothing but to a proper name: that of the empty-set, the name of the void, which presents nothing and is nothing. And it is the transient depositions of value which inhere in the movement of modern capital which indexes this movement of unbinding, rather than being a mere index for an essential ‘forgetfulness’ exacerbated by the modern derail. Badiou’s account on these grounds is astonishing and deserves to be quoted in full:
“This is obviously the only thing that can and must be saluted in capital: it exposes the pure multiple as the ground of presentation; it denounces every effect of oneness as a merely precarious configuration; it deposes those symbolic representations in which the bond found a semblance of being. That this deposition operates according to the most complete barbarism should not distract us from its genuinely ontological virtue. To what do we owe our deliverance from the myths of presence, from the guarantee it provided for the substantiality of bonds and the perenniality of essential relations, if not to the errant automation of capital? […]
I propose the following paradox: only since very recently has philosophy become capable of a thinking worthy of capital, because even in its own domain, it had abandoned the terrain to the vain nostalgias for the sacred, to the specter of presence, to the obscure domination of the poem, and to doubts as to its own legitimacy.” (Badiou 1989: 35–9, 1999: 55–8 translation modified − ‘tm’)
As we saw in the previous section, Heidegger had already attacked the conception of works in terms of a transparently given sensible fullness- the aistheton of Kantian intuition- since the latter obviates the concealment proper to being. For Badiou, however, it is not sufficient to unbind being from the perceptual apprehension of the subject or from its ‘ontic’ deposition in the object, in favor of a non-objectual non-latency of un-concealing being. This shouldn’t lead us to believe that the renunciation of the bond attested to above relegates the thought of being to a facile irrationality, made thus intractable even to artistic-poetic means. Rather, it is the rupture of the bond by the force of mathematical thought which enables being to be conceived of as pure multiplicity alone. As the Scottish philosopher Ray Brassier has expressed: “Thus it is not enough to denounce the hypostatization of being in the myth of presence; it is the phenomenological myth of presencing itself which must be deposed.” (Brassier: 2007; Pg. 98)
By depurating being from all semblance of presencing, Badiou resists the thought that objectual representation amounts to an essential forgetting, or an ontological occlusion. While agreeing in unbinding being from the One, the latter is not just taken to be a ‘derived’ form upon the breakdown of equipment; but the very fabric from which specific worlds are woven. Thus while ontology thoroughly unbinds being from the object in a thinking of the pure multiple, phenomenology (in the Hegelian sense) describes the structural features under which being comes to appear in specific situations, or ‘worlds’. This antinomy is crucial: while being as such is essentially subtractive from the form of appearance, the object attests to the consistency which localizes being in every case. The object is not, therefore, an abstract or empty-shell, shedding the vibrant content of being proper. Rather, being qua being is expressed as the form of pure multiplicities sutured to the void as described by ontology. On the other hand, being qua phenomenon is endowed with a mutable transient consistency by virtue of an ‘order-structure’ and is subject for an objectual phenomenology. Between the two, there is utter continuity rather than an alienating rupture: “We are here inside a materialist axiomatic which presupposes that there exists an obligatory point of articulation between the logic of appearing and the ontology of the pure multiple. No world is such that its transcendental power can entirely de-realize the ontology of the multiple. The One (or atomicity) is the point of ontological articulation.” (Badiou 2008: Pg; 196)
Nowhere is there a ‘positive’ content attributed to being qua being since, as pure or ‘inconsistent’ multiplicity, set-theoretical ontology proceeds without any explicit definition of what a set is. But since the form of ‘Oneness’ under which being comes to appear in a world is underwritten by nothing but the pure multiple itself, there is no derived poverty to the object’s localization, any more than there is a revelatory strife in being. Nothing is ‘forgotten’ by the object, and being is void of any flirtatious tendency to recede. Just as significant, is realizing that by unyoking the object from the shackles of presencing, Badiou also dislodges the object from the subject, so that being-there or appearing in a world is no longer the prerogative for Dasein’s world-disclosing capacity: “The concept of the object pertains instead to the analytic of being-there and, like the transcendental, it does not presuppose any subject.” (LOW: Pg. 193) The structuring principle of worlds is subject-less, and the count of ontology presupposes no sapient intellective agency in the form of the subject. The structure of situations or ‘worlds’ comprised by consistent multiplicities in the form of objects are thus, in no sense, to be conceived within the narrative which leads from their barren and derived forms to their integrated serviceability as equipment; requiring man to unravel ‘being’s poem’ in its spiraling modalities. As we shall see, this latter separation of the subject from the object, however, marks also a decisive role Badiou reserves for the former where, in surprising proximity to Heidegger’s own account, the subject comes to embody an agency for how Truths come into being. In order to capture the full weight of this account, however, some preliminaries are in order.
First, it is crucial to unravel the primitive meta-ontological ‘decisions’ which allow the identification of mathematics with ontology to shatter the Heideggerean complicity between poetry and ontology. To begin, we must understand Badiou’s fundamental distinction between consistent and inconsistent multiplicity if one is to understand how ontological presentation differs from presencing (Badiou 2006; Meditation 1). The former distinction is meant to articulate the difference between the discursive intra-situational count of being, and being itself; while the latter distinguishes the operations of ontological counting, as set-theory deploys its axiomatic framework, from experiential givenness, and thus from presence. As we noted above, this ‘counting’ is not one performed by any ‘subjective’ agency, and in no case proceeds on the basis of an ‘experience’, passively subordinate to a given datum. Structure is native to each and every situation, including its regime of counting. In this sense, even ontology is just one situation, and its presentation of the pure multiple as such bears no meta-discursive privilege to being: “The ontological truth is both more restrictive and less prophetic: it is in being foreclosed from presentation that being as such is constrained to the sayable, for humanity, within the imperative effect of a law, the most rigid of all conceivable laws, the law of demonstrative and formalizable inference.” (Ibid; Pg; 27) This is important because Badiou’s eventual formulation of the ‘Oneness of worlds’ and the consistency under which being comes to appear discursively cannot be said to presuppose the ‘inconsistent multiple of being’ as that which withdraws or conceals itself from presentation. If that was the case, then the entire sublation of ‘the myth of presence’ would amount to a sham, and the tragedy of the Earth-World strife would return in the split between consistent and inconsistent multiplicities. Therefore, if as Badiou argues “…presence is the exact contrary to presentation” this must be because the inconsistent multiplicity of being must be thoroughly insubstantial; a mere retroactive projection which remains foreclosed to presentation’s unifying operations. Or, as Brassier puts it, the inconsistent multiple is a kind of “…insubstantial shadow cast by the effect of substantiation.” (Brassier 2007: Pg. 106). Being becomes then “inconceivable for any presence and for any experience”, simply because discursivity founds itself on the fissure of all semblance of positivity or intensional content (Badiou 2006: Pg 27, tm) The void; to which ontology sutures itself as the being of nothingness, is never present or given as a consistent term; only the name of the void grounds the operational bedrock of the pure multiple (Badiou 2006: Meditations 4-5). In the ontological situation thus, being is counted as nothing, i.e. as that which is subtracted from all presentation; or as the foundational lack of presentation. That there is a set to which nothing belongs is thus tantamount to saying that the count of being qua being is the counting of non-presentation: “Ontology, therefore, can only count the void as existent. This announces that ontology deploys the ruled order- the consistency- of what is nothing other than the suture-to-being of any situation, the that which presents itself, insofar as inconsistency assigns it to solely being the unpresentable of any presentative consistency.” (Ibid; Pg; 58)
Having suspended the Leibnizean identification of being and beings, Badiou therefore subtracts being from any guise substantiality; and weds ontology to a void barren of even the ‘voiding’ in presencing appealed to by Heidegger in his description of the Thing. And if ontology must be external to philosophy or poetry it is precisely because only the matheme cleans the slate under no legislative assumption other than the non-presentation of being as such. Brassier is again here illuminating: “Thus the structure of presentation envelops a strictly ‘non-phenomenologizable’ scission which can only be inscribed in the formal ideography of set-theory. Ultimately, only an insignificant letter, Ø, indexes the originary fissure whereby presentation deposes presence and binds itself to the mark of the unpresentable. Ø is the initial incision that marks the hinge between consistency and inconsistency, non-being and being-nothing.” (Brassier 2007; Pg, 107)
If being does not ‘present’ itself it is because there is nothing to present. The ‘self-enclosure’ of the Earth qua index of the Heideggerean concealment of being cannot but therefore be a sign of that “Great Temptation” in which a non-discursive access to being is secured by a castigation of the discursive presentational form. As we saw, this is seen for Heidegger in how the depth of availability/reliability/serviceability of equipment holds behind the spectral cast of the object. For Badiou, on the other hand, ireflexive dealings with equipment could never denote a more originary or ‘essential’ access to being or works, just like scientific hyper-reflexivity doesn’t denote a merely derived or ‘abstract’ straightjacket on being. In set-theoretical ontology, the count counts nothing; the theory of the pure multiple is the presentation of this radical inconsistency which resists qualifying its unifying operator, i.e. to be a set is to belong to a set; there are only multiples of multiples, woven from the void alone. As Badiou puts it: “It comes to exactly the same thing whether one says that the operation of the count is nothing insofar as it is the source of the one, but is not itself counted, or whether one says that what is nothing is the pure multiple which is operated upon by the count, since it is distinct ‘in itself’, which is to say as un-counted, from itself as manifested by the count.” (Badiou 2006: 55 tm) This provides the basis for a radically anti-phenomenological notion of Truth as utterly generic, and in asymmetry to Heidegger, which we will proceed to briefly review next.
If ontology describes, as we have recounted, the fixed extensional domain of indistinct sets; the crucial question for Badiou is then to explain how change may occur at all, i.e. how ontology is not doomed to be static. Furthermore, if the form of the ‘a-subjective object’ as localized phenomenon in a world merely indexes that world’s transient stability, how is it nevertheless that something like a structural transformation of being may occur, whereby new worlds come into existence and others perish? That is, how is change at any point more than mere local change; how do structural revolutions happen? At this juncture Badiou’s philosophy reintroduces three classical terms in a completely reworked fashion: the Event, the subject, and Truth. Whereas the object became the index for the immanent structure of worlds, the subject will now come forth as the transcendental agency of change.
That is because, against prevalent conceptions, Badiou wishes to underline the exceptional character of subjective appearance in relation to a change in the structuring principles of particular situations. Distinct from the individual of the situation, a subject emerges in a rare subtraction from the available registers which regulate objective distributions (re)presented therein, i.e. a subjective act is always in exception to the stable regulations of the languages in a world. Badiou calls these unpredictable changes in the situation events, implying the production of creative novelties he calls Truths: “For a truth to affirm its newness there must be a supplement. This supplement is committed to chance. It is unpredictable, incalculable. It is beyond what is. I call it an event. A truth thus appears, in its newness, because an evental supplement interrupts repetition.” (Badiou 1992, Pg. 62)
A Truth is to be understood then as a process of affirmative creation which, following an evental break with the normal parameters of a given situation, changes the confines of the possible. A subject is the local agency of an (illegal) decision which affirms that something happens in exception to the normal laws of objectivity which represent existing parts in a world (the axiomatic separation of subsets in ontology; the differential indexing of objective intensities in phenomenology). Concretely, the event always marks the appearance of a new existence in the world, in excess to what was previously recognized or represented within it, and whose destiny is only guaranteed by the radical contingency of a decision. The Truth that the subject unfolds locally is implied in this novelty, alienated from the normative registers of the state of a situation, and is “...heterogeneous to the instituted knowledges of the situation” [Badiou, E, Pg. 43]. Just like for Heidegger, Truth is separated from mere causal links between objects in representation. The latter are proper to scientific verification or deductive knowledge. When it comes to Truth, however, both accounts begin to show their broader scale divergences; since in each case the ontological bedrock of being will produce a distinct account of change or becoming.
Against the Heideggerean ‘poetic word’ wed to the artwork, creation and Truth cannot be assigned to any one single domain or register. Badiou’s subtractive ontology distributes the production of Truths uniformly across four domains: politics, art, science and love. That the ontological schema of Truth be generic, in accordance with the non-qualitative distributions of the pure multiple, means that the event of Truth has no ‘nature’ or predilections for particular forms of language or specific practices. We will return to this issue below, in our final discussion. For the moment, let us just grant that the event signals the rare opening of a new framework of possibilities for creative activity: the emergence of an artistic school, a new scientific theory, a new love or, a sequence of emancipatory politics. These four domains where Truths are produced and events happen, are what Badiou calls the ‘conditions’ for philosophy, i.e. the latter never produces or ‘discloses’ Truths as such, but constructs a unified concept of Truth which organizes the manifold epochal processes. Again, in opposition to Heidegger, poetry is then not the caring “sister of philosophy” any more than it is the handmaiden of science, but is rather an external discipline that neither subordinates nor founds the production of Truths (Heidegger, FCM: Pg 5).
All of the ‘breakthroughs’ signaled above share finally the exceptional quality which in Badiou’s eyes testifies to a sort of miraculous experience of the impossible. The subjective intervention which bursts into the situation entails that the normal distributions proper to that world become displaced by a sudden appearance which finds no support in the available languages and names of the situation, i.e. an existence that cannot be represented clearly as a (multiple) part of the situation. In other words, the appearance of new generic being draws from the inconsistency of a central void warded off by the situation’s established languages and names (Badiou 2008, Pg. 274-380).Untying itself from ‘democratic materialism’ which celebrates only the existence of nameable individuals and cultures, Badiou’s subject resists reduction to the names of a language or a culture which would firmly place it; which means that “to the extent that it is the subject of a Truth; a subject subtracts itself from every community and destroys every individuation.” (Ibid) Again, unlike Heidegger, this means that instead of revealing the historical destiny of a people, a Truth opens a new sequence of possibilities and subtracts itself from a time, inaugurating another [Ibid, Pg 9] For example, we can see that in the October Revolution of 1917 the proletariat names the void of capitalist bourgeois society, by way of the revolutionary uprising where the hitherto inapparent worker’s identity appeared apart from Statist laws and social placements. As such, the subject’s act happens without place (to echo Wallace Stevens), addressed to the void alone, and as escapes appropriation from the State as sovereign, outside its predicative power to name and so to re-present the parts of that which is presented in the situation.
We should therefore remember in what follows that the subject is to be paired with truth and a creative act of novelty, while a situation’s objectivity corresponds to verifiable knowledge, and to localized continuity/repetition. This way, we thrive on the inseparability of the theoretical and practical aspects of Badiou’s materialist dialectic which, as Bosteels (2004) has rightly insisted, remains Badiou’s most important contribution to philosophy; that is “…the way in which he enables us to think of the emergence of a new and profoundly transformed multiple as the result of the articulation of a singular truth on to an existing state of things.” [TA: Pg, 150]. The account of Truth and subjectivation advanced by Badiou seems on this account more congenial to Heidegger than what we earlier saw within the strict ontological premises. That is because Badiou, just like Heidegger, seems to make of Truth something rare and quite difficult rather than customary, and also conceives of Truth from the purview of singular dynamic processes which bring forth new worlds. But although Badiou’s radically anti-phenomenological approach disowns presencing and the account of being as concealing, the account of Truth as a generic procedure shares the fundamental conviction that Being is in a sense non-totalizeable. What is interesting is that while for Badiou just as for Heidegger this turns out to have urgent political consequences, the understanding of history and of what would be distinctive epochal political perversions are almost opposite in their respective accounts. As we will see below, this marks the point at which the base ontological divergences end up shaping divergent accounts of History and the role that philosophy comes to play therein.
In order to assess this definitive split, let us first briefly follow Badiou’s account on the incompleteness of Truth. As we noted above, the generic being of a Truth is cashed out in terms of the fundamental indiscernibility that governs its trajectory; since the laws of the situation which provide the predicative resources to name the Truth cannot represent it as a part of the situation corresponding to a property of the same. Its trajectory is thus said to be ‘without a concept’ insofar as it is capable of proceeding to infinity, in an ever elongating series of local decisions/enquiries, without ever attaining closure. The artistic example of Greek tragedy illuminates Badiou’s presentation here:
“Tragedy itself, as an artistic truth, continues to infinity. The work of Sophocles is a finite subject of this infinite truth…The course of verification of the true continues; it invests the situation with successive choices. Little by little the contour of a subset of the situation is outlines, in which the effects of the evental axiom is verified. It is clear that this subset is infinite, that it remains interminable. Yet it is possible to state that, if we suppose its termination then such a subset will ineluctably be one that no predicate can unity- an untotalizable subset, a subset that can neither be constructed not named in the language. Such subsets are called generic subsets. We shall say that a truth, supposed as finished, is generic” [Badiou 2005; Pg. 64]
The trajectory of the construction of this indiscernible multiple remains aleatory and intractable by resources internal to the situation. And precisely insofar as it sheds off any vestige of semblance to the qualified multiples of the situation which can be clearly named, the generic Truth is, in an important sense, truly universal. As Zachary Luke Fraser (2010) argues, the Truth is therefore constituted “…as universal, since the generic outstrips every mark of particularity to the extent that no element of the model [situation] is excluded from entering into a generic subset by reason of the predicates it bears.”
Although the technical details of these meta-ontological concepts and their crucial ontological formalization cannot be properly gauged here; we may clarify two crucial aspects to guide us. First, having accepted that local decisions or ‘enquiries’ form finite works of an infinite generic Truth, the question arises: how is it possible to know in a situation whether a presented multiple belongs to the Truth? That is, how can we verify or form a knowledge out of the terms which are said to belong to the Truth as such? Since obviously this cannot happen by way of a ‘higher order law’ which would subordinate the Truth into the language of the situation, ruining its generic indiscernibility, the verification of the finite work can only occur under the hypothesis of the generic subset’s completion. This operation is what Badiou calls forcing, and implies above all to think how “One can know, within the situation, whether a statement of the subject-language has a chance or not being veridical when the truth will have occurred in its infinity.” [Badiou 2006: Pg. 508] This means that even if the being of the True remains infinite and untotalizable, one may force, in the anticipation of the Truth’s completion, what will have been the verification of given terms for it; that is, the predicable belonging of specific terms to the generic subset. Yet this action remains in an important way fictive, since the being of Truth remains incomplete in itself: “A forcing is the powerful fiction of a completed truth. Starting with such a fiction, I can force new bits of knowledge, without even verifying this knowledge.” (Ibid; Pg. 65) Since it is only in this way that the infinity of Truth comes to acquire potency by the finite localization performed by the operation of forcing; the latter finally organizes the material becoming of a Truth in a world.
The question then rises about whether any term might be forced for a given Truth. At this juncture, Badiou’s ontological account introduces the strange concept of the unnamable, which condenses the idea that in every generic subset of Truth, there is a term which resists its forcing into knowledge. Although the ‘unnamable’ as such makes no formal appearance in Being and Event’s presentation, it receives the very suggestive designation of being a ‘real point’ which inheres in every Truth. Badiou’s subsequent definition is no less suggestive:
The question then rises about whether any term might be forced for a given Truth. At this juncture, Badiou’s ontological account introduces the strange concept of the unnamable, which condenses the idea that in every generic subset of Truth, there is a term which resists its forcing into knowledge. Although the ‘unnamable’ as such makes no formal appearance in Being and Event’s presentation, it receives the very suggestive designation of being a ‘real point’ which inheres in every Truth. Badiou’s subsequent definition is no less suggestive:
“It is what within the situation, never has a name in the eyes of truth. A term that consequently remains unforceable… The unnamable is then the proper of the proper, so singular in its singularity that it does not even tolerate having a proper name. The unnamable is the point where the situation in its most intimate being is submitted to thought; in the pure presence that no knowledge can circumscribe. The unnamable is something like the inexpressible real of everything a truth authorizes to be said.” (Ibid: Pg. 66; emphasis added)
This last formulation is striking, for it marks a surreptitious return at the end, of the term mathematical ontology had sworn to abjure at its beginning. The designation of the unnamable as a ‘pure presence’ which is also the Real of the situation that resists nomination suddenly conjures the Heideggerean drama of being’s strife; and the stubborn resistance of the Earth in its asymptotic self-concealment, against all objectual representing. It is also clear, from Badiou’s examples, that this unnamable does not coincide with the earlier conception of the void which, as we saw, was barren of any positive content. Rather, the notion of the unnamable seems perfectly cogent and singular: it denotes the non-contradictory nature of mathematics inherent to mathematical discursivity described by Gödel, the non-being of sexual-rapport for Love, or the totalizing violence of National Socialism (Ibid; 66-68). In resonance with Heidegger, to attempt to wrest this unnamable point and assign it a clear, fixed space within the situation-world, becomes a recipe for disaster. In Badiou, this disaster delivers us to a peculiar notion of Evil, as the destructive potency inherent in Truth itself: “Evil is the will to name at any price” (Ibid).
Perhaps a way out of this seeming inconsistency in Badiou’s account by its appeal to the unnamable ‘real presence’ can be made if we don’t understand this term as designating presence, in the Heideggerean sense, but a presentation, in the meta-ontological sense ascribed by Badiou to the elemental belonging of sets. Yet it seems difficult to envisage what this disaster-inducing term could be said to be presented to. Badiou finally provides an answer in which he distinguishes the punctuality of the unnamable as a real singularity, as opposed to the expansive-shrinking depth of mythic-poetic presencing. The unnamable becomes identified with the incapacity of generic subsets to even isolate their being by themselves, that is to say, to Totalize themselves: “[The unnamable real point] not something of an expansive nature, certainly. It's just a point. We can isolate the unnamable by a formal procedure, for example it's very remarkable that in mathematics you can demonstrate that it is impossible to name the non–contradiction. It's not at all something ineffable, religious, infinite, indeterminate; no, not all! It's a specific point.”
This would seem to clarify the status of the unnamable as pertaining to the possibility of ‘self-nomination’ of the truth-procedure, therefore making Truth absolutely generic not just for the situation where it immanently inheres, but also for the transcendence of the finite subject itself which unfolds it in fidelity. Truth is therefore infinite in its being, its Genericity bereft of all semblance of specificity, even to itself. This means: a Truth can only recognize itself in the fictional projection of a finite forcing which, by implication, can never force its infinite, discernible inconsistency, from within. Thus, unlike the quasi-mystical fable of ‘veiling being’, the unnamable is absolutely singular and specific, so singular that in fact there is strictly speaking only one per Truth: “…what testifies to the real is a single term or point – one and only one – where the power of the truth is cut short… there cannot be two or more unnamables for a singular truth.” (Badiou 2004: Pg. 130). On any account, if the unnamable designates a limit point to language and to the operation of forcing, then a reasonable ethics of Truth would, Badiou tells us, never to attempt the forcing of the unnamable. And of course, the fiction of a Totalized Truth would be nothing but a precarious re-incidence of the omnipotent and omnipresent One which the post-Cantorian split with theology must continue to denounce, since“…the desire in fictioning to suppress the unnamable frees the destructive capacity contained in all truth.” (Badiou 2005: Pg. 67). In the next and final section we will pursue the broader philosophical implications in Heidegger and Badiou’s accounts.
III – Truth and History – Linear Occlusion, Rupturing Periodicity
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
T.S Eliot – Little Gidding
T.S Eliot – Little Gidding
If both Heidegger and Badiou’s respective accounts finally separate Truth from knowledge, or from representational cognition, it is nevertheless significant that this splitting is motivated for almost opposite reasons. Heidegger’s validation of art as a privileged locus for the disclosure of Truth finds itself sharply at odds with the work of the positive sciences, which he demotes, along representation, to the status of merely objectifying ontic rationality. In fact, he explicitly associates the derogatory ‘curatorial’ or commercial treatment of artworks which dislocate them from their world-context, to “make of the works the objects of a science.” (Heidegger, OWA, Pg. 39). Of course, as we saw, the being of the work remained for Heidegger utterly intractable by scientific means. Thus although he acknowledges that Truth may inhere in different manners, he remains explicitly hostile to the Idea that science could be a domain for the disclosure of Truth. When science broaches the domain of Truth it becomes philosophy: “Science is not an original happening of truth, but always the cultivation of a domain of truth already opened, specifically by apprehending and confirming that which shows itself to be possibly and necessarily correct within that field. When and insofar as a science passes beyond correctness and goes on to a truth, which means that it arrives at the essential disclosure of what is as such, it is philosophy.” (Ibid; Pg. 60)
Clearly prefiguring his (in) famous declaration from Was ist Denken? that “science does not think”, Heidegger has no problem explicitly subordinating science to philosophy since, only as philosophy do scientific ontic enquires ‘awaken’ or attune themselves (Stimmen) to their ontological, fundamental dimension. As fundamental, philosophical comprehension (Begreifen) becomes the condition of possibility for the rest of the sciences or merely ontic enquiries: “…there are only sciences insofar as there is philosophy”, not the other way around.", or even more dramatically “…all science is perhaps only a servant with respect to philosophy.” (Heidegger 1995 Ibid; Pg. 5) The ontological status of individual beings, captured by cognition-representation, is thereby deemed derivative from the transcendental structure of worldhood proper to Dasein, and which it falls to philosophy to clarify. Philosophy, just like poetry, ‘moves away’ and releases being from the emptying cognitive violence of representation as it unyokes it from categorically stratified domains of beings, and towards the transcendental disclosure of being in general: “This turning away of philosophy proper from nature as one particular domain, from any such domain at all, is a going over beyond individual beings over to this other”. (Ibid: Pg, 39)
In this sense we can say that if Truth is conceived of as the persistent strife between the World and the Earth, then for Heidegger Truth is in a certain sense unique; even if it becomes disclosed within different contexts and worlds. It is the primordial tensional movement of veiling-unveiling which is ontologically revelatory. The transcendental horizon of possibilities which make up the holistic framework of worldhood proper is only one half; while Truth captures also the receding strife implied in every movement of disclosure and world-formation. Thus Truth is always localized, but apprehended in the unique movement of being’s concealment from the World and as the Earth. The work is the site of preservation where this tensional split is ‘set-to-work’ in its having appeared there, through the createdness of world-forming Dasein.
Against the Hegelian ‘expansive’ vision whereby the dialectical concept moves towards its sublating completion, and art sees its end, Heidegger’s vision of Truth as requiring an unavoidable recession of being for every world outlines a picture where new worlds may always appear, and Truth may be made to come into presencing ever anew. New historical epochs or worlds appear and coincide with the creation of works of art in which Truth comes to presencing, and is preserved. Apart from the totalizing movement of dialectical reason “The truth of which we have spoken does not coincide with that which is generally recognized under the name and assigned to cognition and science…” (Ibid; Pg. 79) This however, also announces the Historical implications that the denunciation of science, and the privileging of art and philosophy for the disclosure of Truth, must devolve into. For both poetry and art, as we have seen, testify to the holistic framework of relations and possibilities which structures Worlds for a historical people and an epoch. Therefore, when the Hegelian question about the ‘end of history’ arises in tandem with that of the end of art, Heidegger asks “is art still an essential and necessary way in which that truth happens which is decisive for our historical existence, or is art no longer of this character?” (Ibid; Pg 78) That this possibility could only emerge apart from science’s coruscating forgetfulness, and only in the ‘thinking’ of Truth under which art, poetry and philosophy are siblings, is paramount.
For it is clear that Heidegger’s sustained attack on conceiving being from representation’s emptying occlusion of being articulates more generally what he deems to be the ‘destiny’ of the Western historical development, leading down the spiral towards the technical domination of nature’s ‘gift’. For the putative occlusion of Truth in favor of objectual presence cannot but render invisible the primordial strife between the Earth and the World in which art and philosophical thinking stand to presencing in Truth. It is in fact the compulsion to ‘wrest’ beings without limitation that accounts for the modern derail of Man as ‘standing-reserve’ (Ge-Stell); the technological obsession to render or ‘frame’ nature, rendering it available and fixed before man through representation:
“That context is essential, because related to the destiny of Being. Framing, as the nature of modern technology, derives from the Greek way of experiencing letting-lie-forth, logos, from the Greek poiesis and thesis. In setting up the frame, the framework—which now means in commandeering everything into assured availability—there sounds the claim of the ratio redderpda, i.e., of the logon didonai, but in such a way that today this claim that is made in framing takes control of the absolute, and the process of representation—of Vor-stellen or putting forth—takes form, on the basis of the Greek perception, as making secure, fixing in place.” (Ibid Pg; 83)
The ‘triumphalist’ dialectic of the Absolute thus finds a curious inversion in Heidegger’s thinking. Representation’s proliferation only exacerbates the movement of forgetfulness already implied in the derail of the first Greek beginning of metaphysics, where being was equated to the aspect of presence in the Idea. The calamitous aftermath of this forgetting of being devolves thus in the conversion of art into a commercial issue, of philosophy into mere science, and all ontology into ontics. And for Heidegger it is specifically this forgetfulness of being through ‘technical reason’ that accounts for the political disasters of National Socialism where, as in his infamous statements from 1949, concentration camps were equated ‘essentially’ to fumigation fields: “Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same thing as blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same thing as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs." (Heidegger 1949; Pg 64)
Under the oblivious reign of technology, impervious to the call of being, man’s destiny seems apocalyptically sealed, so that in the end “only a God can save us!” For Heidegger thus, the hopeless recipe against the maledictions of technology and science imply a certain passivity, rather than cognitive activity, perhaps leading to three hundred years of silence and an attitude of ‘releasement’ (Gelassenheit) prescribed to undo the damage performed by the tradition. If we understand the presencing of the Gods as the ‘situatedness’ of Dasein before Truth as unconcealment, making up a historical destiny, then we can understand that Heidegger’s call for the Gods return in sight of their ‘flight’ signals the requirement to recuperate the Truth-disclosing and world-inaugurating ambition of art and poiesis, away from science and techne. If poetry is wed essentially to art and Truth, Heidegger argues, it is in the original Greek sense in which poiesis, lets what is present come forth into unconcealment, and thereby articulates a historical world. The predicament is clearly laid for us:
“For now the melting down of the self-consummating essence of the modern age into the self-evident is being accomplished. Only when this is assured through world views will the possibility arise of there being a fertile soil for Being to be in question in an original way – a questionableness of Being that will open ample space for the decision as to whether Being will once again become capable of a god, as to whether the essence of the truth of Being will lay claim more primally to the essence of man. Only there where the consummation of the modern age attains the heedlessness that is its peculiar greatness is future history being prepared.” (QCT; Pg. 153).
In resisting the conception of being as veiling and Truth as unconcealment, Badiou’s mathematical ontology will have no truck with the picture of reason as ‘inaugurating’ a historical ‘forgetting of being’. Breaking with the thesis that the God who could save us lies occluded by being’s historical deflection into technical servitude, and thus that the urgent task is to awaken a hermeneutic attunement into the concealed Truth, Badiou simply deflects the genealogical demand for philosophy: “For my part I shall propose a violent forgetting of the history of philosophy. Thus a historical forgetting of every historical assemblage of the forgetting of being” (Badiou 2008; Pg. 5). Outside the panthematic historicist dialectic with presencing at its core, as we have seen, Badiou chooses to rehabilitate the power of the matheme to disclose a conception of being as purely multiple, away from any ‘ontotheological’ injunction, and in which Truth remains absolutely generic. That which appeared as the symptom of the Great Derail appear before Badiou as the cure for the Great Temptation; the matheme, which indexes the power of scientificity, thinks the unbinding of being required to bring about the definitive secularization of the infinite, and consummate the Death of God. It is not the ‘flight of the Gods’ which threatens thought, but their asymptotic proximity. Thus against Heidegger’s estimation that science is technical domination and that mathematics is emptying; Badiou applauds this emptiness as an ontological virtue, as the mark of being, and bears no nostalgia for a receding being whose unobjectifiable non-latency would be left for poiesis to bring into tensional presencing: “We hold these meditations, reckonings, and diatribes concerning technology, however prevalent they may be, to be uniformly ridiculous.” (Badiou 1999; p.53, tm )
As we saw, for Badiou it is not science, but rather philosophy, which is external to Truth. Thus the subordination of science to philosophy, and the alliance of the latter with poetry against the former, can only be too symptomatic of an illegitimate suture of philosophy and Truth to one of the four generic domains of production: the artistic. In this, Badiou expressly identifies Heidegger with the Romantic heritage which, following Nietzsche, tries to see in artistic creation the locus for all Truth: “Heideggerean hermeneutics remains romantic. By all appearances, it exposes an indiscernible entanglement between the saying of the poet and the thought of the thinker.” (HI, Pg. 6) And as we have seen, insofar as Truth as unconcealment is revealed in the dyadic movement of the World-Earth strife “between philosophy and art it is the same truth that circulates.” (Ibid) Just as significantly, however, the ‘vain nostalgias for the sacred’ and the non-conceptual Otherness indexed by being’s recession marks a curious alliance between the poetic suture and sophism.
For Badiou there can never be a univocal Truth unearthed beneath all works as the meaning or ‘sense’ of being; because there is no sense of being. There is a multiplicity of disconnected and generic Truths; whose general form is schematized by mathematical ontology. But these Truths happen completely independently of philosophical synthesis; each remains singular and productively novel within their proper domains. Thus, even if Badiou agrees in that Truth is world-forming and founds an epoch ‘breaking the history of the world in two’, against the ‘linearity’ of the jeremiads against the fable of forgetting being, history is seen as thoroughly periodical, marked with splits and new beginnings all throughout. Within this movement, art surely is a Truth procedure, but by no means the privileged kind; as others remain relatively autonomous. Truth is at once perfectly immanent to the situation from where it is subtracted as a universal Genericity; and because of it is utterly singular; there is no Truth of all Truths. That philosophy is conditioned by art, as well as the other domains, rather than tethered to them by a common function of disclosure with respect to Truth, radically interrupts the ‘obscure domination of the poem’ which Badiou sees as the real specter haunting the 20th Century.
In this, Badiou sees an affinity between the Nietzschean neo-sophistic dissolution of Truth’s singularity with the romantic heritage to which Heidegger adheres: “The Nietzschean polemic is sophistic. The Nietzschean grandeur is poetic. Such is the price of an exorbitant representational of philosophical act subtracted as such from any operation of truth.” (Badiou 2009: Pg; 24) Heidegger’s preservation of Truth only through assault on representational reason must finally succumb to the Great Temptation which in one stroke denounces the singular immanence of multiple Truths, and then transposes it to the figure of an unfathomable Other by way of the Romantic suture of philosophy to poetics. This is precisely what mathematical ontology defeats: “The victorious mathematical enunciation entails the belief that the poem says a lost presence, a threshold of sense. But this is merely a divisive illusion, a correlate of the following: being is expressible from the unique point of its empty suture to the demonstrative text.” (Badiou 2006: Pg. 126) The Heideggerean legacy is thus the stillborn hybrid of the religious match between sense and Truth, in the form of presencing the strife of unconcealment outside the axiomatic decision; and the sophistic excess of sense against the concept, accessible only by art and poetry (Badiou 2009; Pg 24). Against these views, Badiou’s senseless being as nothingness, indexed by the emptiness of the matheme, deposes in the same stroke the Romantic religiosity of the panthematic poetic suture, wed to the nostalgia for a lost presence; and the pernicious sophism of a reactionary will against the singularity of science. Truth is thereby unyoked from the presencing of primal Nature (phusis); as from the Earth’s vibrant recession. It becomes delivered instead to the barrenness of the void of being through the secularizing power proper to the matheme, and the thinking of Truth as absolutely generic: “The poem entrusts itself nostalgically to nature solely because it was once interrupted by the matheme, and the ‘being’ whose presence it pursues is solely the impossible filling in of the void, such as amidst the arcane of the pure multiple, mathematics indefinitely discerns what can, in truth, be subtractively pronounced of being itself.” (Ibid; pg 127)
And yet, this distinctive conception of Truths as irremediably singular and immanent, shares the Heideggerean condemnation of Totalizability at heart. Only that, for Badiou, it is the localized resilience of the ‘real point’ that is the unnamable which concentrates an impossibility for language, and not the modern reification of representation and objectification which occludes being. Like Heidegger, the Totalization of Truth is assigned finally the fatal destiny of producing a worldly ‘disaster’. But rather than unraveling a destructive potential by way of an occlusion of Truth, the disaster Badiou deems is inherent in Truth itself; actualized when the operation of forcing extends to its own proper unnamable. Under this light, National Socialism becomes the result of a virulent compulsion for naming the All. More than the symptom of a complicity between the veiling untruth of science and technical Totalization in their disastrous proximity, it is rather the distance from the mathematical destitution of the One which unravels the workings of political disaster: “The unnamable is the central motif of the thought that wishes to submit Nazism to thought; as it is of the poet who explores the limits of the force of language…” (Badiou 2005; Pg; 68)
The destructive capacity of Evil is thus not the original sin of any domain of Truth, but proper to the immanent capacity of Truths in general; just like the constructive domains of Truth is not the prerogative of any one field, and certainly not of philosophy. An ethics of Truth is not one of the preservation of a primordial strife, but always that of a singular, local and finite production. It is a question of the finite subjects which compose the works of infinite Truth. The sequence which follows by unyoking philosophy from the poem, being from philosophy, and Truth from presencing, are thus the threefold operations through which philosophy stands as an autonomous discipline, where being becomes a question for the mathematical pure multiplicity without qualification or sense, and Truth becomes generically spread in four domains onto infinity. The historical task is finally to revitalize philosophy in its ambition to think Truth robustly and away from the sophistic dismissal of the same by poetry’s romantic ruse. Only a contemporary thinking, worthy of the destitution of the One and the secularization of the Infinite as potentiated through the unbinding resources of the matheme, defeats once and for all the nostalgic ventures which paralyze thought, and which prescribe the inertia of releasement as the Historical remedy, thriving on a reactionary paranoia against the affirmative purchase of thought.
Appendix – On sites and the localization of events
Badiou explains that events must originate at (paradoxical) points in a world called sites; multiples which appear in abrupt violation to the situation’s logical structures, as points of origin for the latter’s restructuration. Unlike ‘normal’ situations, both named and represented by the State, sites resist their differential indexing within a world’s registers and thus appear as indiscernible anomalies. As such, they have the peculiar property of ‘bringing themselves’ into appearance, carrying out a sort of short-circuit between the onto-logical and onto-logical; between the domain of being-qua-being, which deals with indistinct pure multiplicities, and the placement of objective distributions in the realm of local appearance: [Badiou 2008, Pg. 369].
Badiou names these multiples singularities, i.e. multiples forced into appearance in avoidance of the situation’s organizing principles, in “...exception to the laws of ontology as well as to the regulation of logical consequences.” [LW, Pg. 360]. It is a subsequent subjective fidelity to the site’s sudden ‘self-appearing’, and the series of choices demanded by its recognition, that gradually enacts the event’s reorganization of objective distributions in a world: “A site is therefore the sudden lifting of the logical rules of the world, through which the possibility of the impossible comes to be.” [LW, Pg. 39]
We should always remember that the exceptional advent of the event happens in the locality of the site and whose effects are concrete. As Bruno Bosteels (2004) underlines, the production of a truth is always subtractive from the situation itself, so that the subject’s fidelity will never be in relation to some foreign transcendence, but to a concrete multiple presentation. It is then left to the subject’s intervention to decide locally, choice by choice, how the recognition of the new existent demands the re-placement of given objectivities.
References/Cited Works/ Bibliography
1. Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
2. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 1962.
3. Heidegger, Martin. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, translated by Alfred Hofstadter, Indiana University Press, 1982.
4. Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, translated by William McNeil and Nicholas Walker,
: Indiana University Press, 1995. Bloomington
5. Heidegger, Martin. What is Called Thinking?, translated by J. Glenn Gray, Harper and Row, 1968.
6. Heidegger, Marin. Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper and Row, 2001.
7. Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, translated by William Lovitt, Harper Torchbooks, 1982
8. Badiou, Alain. Being and Event, translated by Oliver Feltham, Continuum Press, 2006.
9. Badiou, Alain. Logics of Worlds, translated by Alberto Toscano, Continuum Press, 2009.
10. Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, translated by Ray Brassier, Verso, 2002.
11. Badiou, Alain. Infinite Thought, translated by Justin Clemens and Oliver Feltham, Continuum, 2005.
12. Badiou, Alain. Theory of the Subject, translated by Bruno Bosteels, Continuum, 2009.
13. Badiou, Alain. Manifesto for Philosophy, translated by Norman Madarasz, SUNY Press 1999.
14. Badiou, Alain. On a Finally Objectless Subject, trans. Bruce Fink, Topoi, no. 7, 1988, pp. 93-8.
15. Badiou, Alain. Theoretical Writings, translation by Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano, Continuum, 2006
16. Badiou, Alain Breaking the History of the World in Two
17. Bosteels, Bruno, Alain Badiou and the Recommencement of Dialectical Materialism, parts I-II, in Pli (issue 12), 2002.
Index of Abbreviations
· BE = Being and Event by Alain Badiou.
· LW = Logics of Worlds by Alain Badiou.
· E = Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil by Alain Badiou.
· OWA = Origin of the Work of Art, by Martin Heidegger
· PLT = Poetry Language, Thought, by Martin Heidegger
· BT: Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
 A possible definition of presencing is given on his essay Science and Reflection: “We think presencing as the enduring of that which, having arrived to un-concealment, remains there.” (QCT; Pg. 161) The connection between this term and Heidegger’s account of Truth as unconcealment is developed below.
 Heidegger seems to have Kant implicitly in mind here.
 As we shall see below, this contestation against the unified ‘thing-concept- will turn out to be a crucial point of contention also for Badiou; who follows Heidegger in denying the objectual totalization of Truth in the way of affirming the latter’s fundamental incompleteness or excessive character with respect to mere objectivity.
 The essential referent left implicit for this conception would be, of course, Aristotle, who in a certain way already prefigured the first two iterations and thus serves as a pivotal moment in the tradition’s understanding of the artwork.
 For reasons of space, we cannot undertake a thorough review of how this process occurs in Heidegger’s account. Let us just note here that the breakdown of ready-at-hand equipment occurs in three successive stages, leading to bare reflexive abstraction from a primary dimension of engaged practice. Usefulness and serviceability withdraw and equipment is reduced to the form of an extant object (Vorhandenheit): conspicuousness, obtrusiveness, and obstinacy. It is this latter ‘objectual’ form which roughly corresponds in Heidegger’s account to the object or representation indexed earlier in three varieties. It is thus, for Heidegger only the most derivative, or abstract stage wherein the indistinction in act between Dasein and tool-beings qua an equipmental-whole is severed. For the details, see Being and Time: Part I; Chapter I.
 The polemic with Husserl is implicit in Being and Time, much like the polemic with Heidegger is (mostly) implicit in Badiou’s Being and Event.
 This complicates certain accounts of Heidegger’s tool-analysis from a pragmatic framework; and specifically some readings which purport to find in the realm of readiness-to-hand a second kind of intentionality, supplementing the traditional vector of consciousness intending its objects. For an example of this approach see Dreyfus (1990)
 Significantly; since the horizon for the disclosure of beings is therefore a feature of worldhood, and since the latter is properly the transcendence proper to Dasein’s being (its being-in-the-world as ekstatico-horizonal transcendence) it follows that animals and plants have no world (OWA; Pg. 43). In this Heidegger retracts his more ambiguous formulation from
1930 in his lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics in which it was expressed rather that the animal was “poor in the world”; which remained, as Ray Brassier has indicated, a ‘desperate sophism’ since at a loss for horizonal transcendence for which beings are no worldhood can obtain either.
 This particular formulation bears as striking resemblance to Alain Badiou’s own conception of the being as sutured to the void, as we shall see.
 The Australian philosopher John Mullarkey has recently described how Badiou’s conception of ontology around the matheme sharply contrasts the post-phenomenological approaches centered on the pantheme, as evidenced in its most radical form in the thought of French philosopher Michel Henry. For the details see Mullarkey’s Post-Continental Philosophy, Continuum, 2007.
 The notion of an extensional ontology is underwritten by the rejection of intensional ontologies, which require an essential determinant to individuate their semantic primitives. As opposed to this, ZF-set-theory individuates its sets, as sets of other sets through the axiom of extensionality: a set A is identical to a set B if and only if every element of A is an element of B, and vice versa. That sets are only ever sets of sets expresses ontologically Badiou’s conviction of the non-being of the One, i.e. the rejection of all intensional determinants, as well as all forms of ‘ontotheological’ transcendence qua unifying operator (God, Mind, Language…)
 The first is the task of pure ontology, or set-theory, and is developed philosophically in the meta-ontological presentation that comprises the first volume of Being and Event. The second, is the task of phenomenology and the greater logic, which is presented through category theory, and comprises the second volume of the work, Logics of Worlds.
 Since ontology proper has no content to unravel, mathematical ontology operates therefore axiomatically, and ‘sets off’ from the minimal existential attribution of the axiom of the void, i.e. there is a set to which nothing belongs / which presents nothing. In Badiou’s own words “Ontology, therefore, can only count the void as existent.” (Badiou 2006; Meditation 4-5).
 For the technical presentation of these crucial concepts, both volumes of Being and Event are obviously prerequisite and are presupposed throughout the following exposition.
 Zachary Luke Frazer (2007) and Ray Brassier (2007) have amply interrogated this crucial germinal moment in Badiou’s ontology.
 For the technical details which explain the suture of ontology to the void the fourth and fifth meditations of Being and Event remain essential.
 It goes without saying that the theory of the event has been amply reworked successively from its first presentation in Being and Event. For reasons of space, we cannot address the minute contrivances motivating these changes, but it is my estimation that in the essentials which support the present essay’s argument, Badiou’s theory remains continuous with earlier formulations.
 The concept of the state or ‘state of the situation’ corresponds to the meta-structure of every situation, which represents what is included in it i.e. the structuring principle which counts the totality of parts of a situation. It should be here understood as intrinsic to all structured situations, and not just political ones. Thus the regulating axioms of a scientific theory, the aesthetic principles of an artistic school, the laws of the State which regulates social life through political principles, or the multiple vows and agreements made by a couple in love, are all examples of the state’s ‘count of the count’. See BE, Meditations 8-9.
 As Badiou indicates, the most decisive advance in Logics of Worlds with respect to Being and Event consists in the reformulation of the event avoiding recourse to the supernumerary nomination of evental-multiplicities which add their own name to the presentation of the elements of their sites (what Badiou called the ‘ultra-one’ of the event) [Ibid. Pg 361]. Instead, the event is concentrated on the site which, belonging to itself, ‘brings itself’ into appearance in a momentary suspension of the logical and ontological rules of the world. The gap between the evental-site and the evental multiplicity is thus closed in the flash of the site. It is by way of the restructuration the (subjective) recognition this paradoxical multiple carries on the transcendental organization of the world which determines whether an event took place or not, i.e. whether we are dealing with a strong singularity [LW, Pg, Pg, 374-375].
 See Appendix III
 Zachary Luke Fraser; Badiou Dictionary, forthcoming by Edinburgh Press (2011).
 Notice that infinity does not by itself imply non-totalizability; indeed one of the crucial merits of Badiou’s set-theoretical ontology is to show how ever since Cantor it has become perfectly possible to totalize infinite sets of variable cardinal order (the ‘sequence of alephs’). Thus the set of natural numbers, for example, provides the first ‘denumerable infinity’; but one may thereby show higher-order infinites that proceed just as easily and may proliferate indefinitely. The ontological schema of non-totalization is rather concentrated in the impossibility of there being an “ordinal of all ordinals” for the finite succession of natural multiples, and a “cardinal of all cardinals” for the infinite succession of infinities. There is no reservoir of Nature or Earth which endows the consistency of the gift of being; just as there is no transcendent God which brings closure to the denumerable pregnancy of the multiple, i.e. the infinity of all infinities is just as much of a fiction as the fable of Nature; theology and empiricism-phenomenology are on the same ‘ontological’ footing which continue thus to mystify-theologize infinity (Badiou 2006; Meditations 13-14, 26).
When Badiou claims that the generic subset is untotalizable it must be thus understood in the stronger sense in which it bears no immanent intensional determinant which would play the part of Nature, or transcendent synthetic operator which would play the part of God.
 Badiou, Alain, “On the Truth Process, An Open Lecture by Alain Badiou”, 2002, http://www.egs.edu/faculty/badiou/badiou-truth-process-2002.html
 Badiou credits on this account the work of the logician Furkhen who, in 1968, showed it is possible to construct a mathematical situation with one and only one unnamable point; meaning that it couldn’t find an expression with the resources of the native language. Thus, Badiou concludes, the concept of the unnamable is shown to be consistent with maintaining that there would be an unnamable for the generic subsets which compose a truth. We might note however, that even though Badiou might have ‘indicated’ how the concept of the unnamable is consistent with the strictures of Truth understood as a generic procedure; it seems as if the argument requires the stronger claim that every Truth will have an unnamable point; that is, that every infinite generic subset of the situation will contain a singular unforceable point. Yet nowhere in Badiou’s argument is this established, or indeed even shown how the generic itself coincides with Furkhen’s systematic development.
 Notably, for Badiou the only pending task for philosophy since Nietzsche has been the secularization of infinity.