Alain Badiou: Where should I start?
January 26, 2011 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Alain Badiou: Where should I start?

I want to read Alain Badiou after reading his "15 theses on Contemporary Art." I am familiar with critical theory and cultural studies and feel comfortable in those fields - not so much in pure philosophy. I am just trying to decide which of his books I should read first.

Bonus: other contemporary authors I might appreciate.

posted by TheGoodBlood to Religion & Philosophy (2 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't mind second-hand recommendations, on another forum I frequent he came up and the recommendation was to read Ethics as a starter, with Being and Event his key text. Peter Hallward's A Subject to Truth was recommended as a secondary work. I, of course, have yet to get round to starting any of these, but your question reminded me of reading the discussion.
posted by Abiezer at 8:13 PM on January 26, 2011

Best answer: What about the 15 Theses did you like? What do you want to learn more of?

I say this because Badiou has quite a bit of breadth. For example, Being and Event is a 560 page book almost solely about meta-ontology and set theory. It's heavy on mathematical formalism and 18th and 19th century philosophy. It's by no means unreadable, but it's also nothing close to an introduction.

For that, I would definately recommend his Theoretical Writings, which has selections from his various works. It more or less functions as an overview of his philosophical project, introducing his thoughts on mathematics and truth, and covering his concepts like "subtraction" and "event."

Conditions might also be good intro. It's a collection of essays published shortly after Being and Event. It's got some nice work on poetry and psychoanalysis, as well as mathematics. Plus, it has an essay on love, which is one of the "conditions" of philosophy, though Badiou rarely talks about it explicitly.

Hallward's book is quite good and excellently written, but it's also fairly long, so it's not something to breeze through to take a crack at Badiou. I didn't really like Oliver Feltham's intro book that much (I think it's just called Badiou or Badiou: An Introduction), but it is short, and functions as a more or less reliable introduction. If I recall correctly, it focuses much more on Badiou's earlier work on Althusser and Mao than Hallward's book.

Personally, I wouldn't start with Ethics, but there are worse places to start (Don't bother with The Century, it's pretty much shit). I wouldn't start with Metapolitics either (although that's what I did). If you like his thoughts on art, you should definitely read the Handbook of Inaesthetics and his book on Beckett.

tl;dr - Read Theoretical Writings and Conditions, and then Handbook of Inaesthetics.

Other authors: though it's strictly a work of philosophy, I would highly recommend Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude. It's short, exciting and an actual argument. Three things which are sorely lacking from contemporary continental philosophy. (He was also a student of Badiou.)
posted by fryman at 10:52 PM on January 26, 2011

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