Praying to the Evil Demon

This is a short thought, but it struck me when reading a post on the Event (a la Badiou) over at Fractal Ontology. As I have mentioned before, I find Badiou’s conception of the Event to be somewhat troubling, precisely insofar as it suspends the principle of sufficient reason, and appeals to the ever present possibility of some occurrence which comes without reason, changing the given state of affairs. It seems that a lot of the appeal of this kind of position is political. This is because it holds out the promise of something, anything, that could change the current political state of affairs of which we are currently sick. Moreover, because this change will come in a way which is unthinkable from within the present situation, we are thereby excused the burden of trying to think how such a change could come about.

As I have stated before (here), this kind of position, in which an Event irrupts literally ex nihilo, i.e., out of ‘the Void’, to be a negative theology. Badiou’s conception of the Void seems to push Levinas’ Absolute Other even further than he was willing, stripping it of all possible predicates, be they divine (e.g., perfection, benevolence, etc.) or otherwise (e.g., hardness, warmth, etc), until we are left with pure nothingness. But nonetheless, we find ourselves hoping, praying to this Nothingness that it will deliver unto us some change, because even though there is no reason for it to do so, there is no reason for it not to.

This negative theology is not really something other than onto-theology, as much as it is the limit-point, or ‘degree zero’ (a popular phrase these days) of onto-theology, wherein everything is grounded in an un-ground, an abyss, but nonetheless something, even if it is distinctly other than beings. This otherness has two dimensions: the denial of any of the determinations of beings to the ground (as indicated above), but also the separation of the ground from beings.

However, what struck me just now is how much this harks back to Descartes. It is as if we have abandoned all hope of proving that whatever it is that has power over the apparent (or presented) world is really benevolent, and yet in our desperation we are praying to the evil demon to bring us change, to overturn the apparent world, because we are so thoroughly sick of it.

Of course, there is some virtue to the Event for Badiou, insofar as it is the irruption of Truth, rather than a mere rejigging of appearances for its own sake. Still, even this just gives the Void a minimum of ‘benevolence’ and it still strikes me as theological, and the corresponding language of fidelity as precisely eschatological.

Maybe I am being too harsh, but I cannot but help see this in appeals to the power of Events to bring us change.

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