During your talk in Avignon’s ‘Theatre of Ideas’ series you evoked the tensions at work within the 2,500 year-old couple of philosophy and theatre. In your view are these fruitful tensions, or, on the contrary, destructive ones? Nietzsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ offers evidence enough of this difficult relationship, while Socrates (helped by Euripides) wanted to sound the death knell of tragedy and herald the triumph of reason…
Alain Badiou: There have been two fundamental currents in philosophy ever since its origins, and not just one. What Nietzsche called philosophy is a Platonism that he had largely fabricated. So you could make a lot of objections to Nietzsche even based on Plato himself. Nietzsche counterposes a certain construct of philosophy to the original fundamental power of Tragedy, the Appollonian and Dionysian, but this is still only one definition of philosophy among many others, which he uses as a sort of war machine. It ought not be forgotten that Nietzsche went so far as to say that ‘the philosopher is the criminal of criminals’ – he did not qualify his assertions.
I think that in reality the relationship between philosophy and theatre is an ambiguous one, from its very origins.
A debate has long been raging between France’s public intellectuals regarding Israel/Palestine and the question of anti-Semitism. From Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 Anti-Semite and Jew to Jacques Derrida’s “Interpretations at War” to Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, France—the country with the largest population of Jews and Arabs in Europe—has been fertile ground for these public debates. Even amongst philosophical allies positions have been fragmented; Deleuze expressed his support for the Palestinian cause, while Foucault held a strong pro-Israel stance.
Today, however, the debate has turned personal as well as ideological as attacks have been levelled against Alain Badiou, whose outspoken pro-Palestinian position and advocacy of a single state, along with his thoughts on anti-Semitism, have aroused much debate. Leading the charge is Éric Marty, a professor of contemporary literature at the University of Paris-7 and the author of Une querelle avec Alain Badiou, philosophe (2007). Marty had begun his querelle with Badiou as early as 2000 when he criticized Badiou for his enthusiasm for the ideas of the Cultural Revolution in China. By 2006 Marty published a full on attack with an article titled ‘Alain Badiou: the Future of a Negation’ in Les temps modernes. The ‘querelle’ continued with Badiou’s response to Marty titled ‘The Word “Jew” and the Sycophant’, in his book POLEMICS. Reflections on Anti-Semitism, a book co-authored with Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré, set out to definitively dispel all accusations of anti-Semitism against Badiou.
Still, in July, the debate heated up once more with the publication of Gérard Bensussan’s article in Libération titled, ‘The far Left has done what the far Right only dreamed of.’ There Bensussan, a professor of philosophy at the Université Marc Bloch in Strasbourg, charges Badiou and the far left critics of Israel with helping to restore anti-Semitic sentiments in France.
Below are several responses to Bensussan’s article. The first is Badiou’s retort followed by a response by Cécile Winter, the author of the essay 'The Master-Signifier of the New Aryans', which is published in Polemics. The final response comes from Ivan Segré, a Talmudic scholar and co-author with Badiou of Reflections on Anti-Semitism.
At the beginning of the year we published another twelve titles in our seventh edition of The Radical Thinkers series including works by Alain Badiou, Willhelm Reich, Max Horkheimer, Simon Critchley and Ludwig Feuerbach. A fortnightly series of events introducing this latest set was held at the ICA in London, with the help of Peter Hallward, Stella Sandford, Esther Leslie, Federico Campagna and Nina Power. Through passionate discussions which took theory to a public forum outside of the academy, the events aimed to make clear why these writers should be read today. Verso believe that the writers in this series are just as accessible as most of those who are presented to us as 'public intellectuals' or 'popular philosophers' - yet they are far more pertinent and thought provoking.
To launch Set 7 in our Radical Thinkers series, we ran a competition last week to win a copy of every available book published in the series so far.
After a week of frenzied-question posting and a website crash in the face of Radical Thinkers popularity, I’m delighted to announce the winners and runners-up!
Thank you to everyone who entered, and a huge congratulations to the following:
Winner: Owen Cantrell (also winner of our favourite tweet re: the website crash)
2nd place: Corey Nelson
Runners-up: Tim O'Neil, Alan Ra and Thomas L Ruan
Special Prize for Effort: Matt Kavanagh
Rest of World:
Winner: Daniel Bristow
2nd place: Dominic Teflise
Runners-up: Nikos Overheul, Evangelos Sakkas and Miša Krenčeyová
To remind you of the prizes: the winners will receive all available titles in the seven series published so far, those in second place will win a full Set 7, and the runners-up will win a book of their choice from Set 7. All have now been notified by email.
Now for the answers to those all-important questions….
1. Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism
The second chapter in The Sprit of Terrorism began as a contribution to a debate on the events of September 11th organized jointly by the New York University and France Culture in Washington Square, Manhattan. In an interview with the New York Times regarding French theory in American universities, Baudrillard remarked:
“The French gave Americans a language they did not need. It was like the Statue of Liberty. Nobody needs French theory.” Which other widely known French theorist spoke at this event?
ANSWER: Jacques Rancière
2. Max Horkheimer, Critique of Instrumental Reason
“At the end of the Nazi period (I thought at the time) a new day, the beginning of an authentically human history, would dawn in the developed countries as the result of reforms or revolution. Along with the other founders of Scientific Socialism, I thought that the cultural gains of the bourgeois era – the free development of human powers, a spiritual productivity – but stripped now of all elements of force and exploitation, would surely become widespread throughout the world.”
In a groundbreaking book written by Horkheimer and his life long colleague and collaborator the first chapter states that the Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from what?
3. Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy
One of the most famous works produced by the European revolutionary movement, Marxism and Philosophy is the first attempt by a Marxist to apply Marx’s critical and materialist method to the history of Marxism itself.
Towards the end of the Second World War, which student of Karl Korsch enthusiastically put to verse The Communist Manifesto?
ANSWER: Bertolt Brecht
4. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings
A great amount of the young Marx must remain unintelligible without reference to certain basic Feuerbachian texts. These selections, most of them previously translated, establish the thought of Feuerbach in an independent role.
Which essay by Feuerbach, part of which is included in this collection, influenced Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and caused Engels to remark, “One must himself have experienced the liberating effect of this book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians”?
ANSWER: The Essence of Christianity
5. Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity
A major interpretation of the concepts of modernism and modernity.
In his introduction to this book Jameson refers to a postmodern philosopher and his comments on two other well-known philosopher’s facial hair. Name these three men and their preference or not for beards.
ANSWER: Jean-François Lyotard (clean-shaven) OR Deluze (clean-shaven). Marx (bearded), Hegel (clean-shaven)
The full quote is: "For Lyotard, as for Deleuze, the philosophers of the past were to be reinvented and rewritten in the post contemporary idiom […] the operative slogan being the famous evocation of 'a bearded Hegel and a clean-shaven Marx.' " As the question asks for three philosophers we can accept either Deluze or Lyotard
6. Maurice Godelier, Rationality and Irrationality in Economics
An analysis of social and economic systems and why they appear and disappear throughout history. As of 2001 Maurice Godelier owns what object, which was also possessed by Pierre Bourdieu and Claude Levi-Strauss?
ANSWER: CNRS Gold Medal or Médaille d'or
7. Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of commitment, Politics of Resistance
"Philosophy begins in disappointment.” Simon Critchley writes in the introduction to this work. “Nihilism is the breakdown of the order of meaning, where all that we previously imagined as a divine, transcendent basis for moral valuation has become meaningless. […]For some, this is the defining experience of youth – witness the deaths of numerous young romantics, whether Keats, Shelley, Sid Vicious or Kurt Cobain.”
Which of four these dead romantics died youngest?
ANSWER: Sid Vicious
8. Wilhelm Reich, Sex-Pol: Essays, 1929-1934
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst who made significant contributions to psychoanalytic theory. His controversial views on sexual and class oppression resulted in his expulsion from the International Communist Party of Germany in 1933 and from the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1934.
Reich was subject to libricide by both the United States and the Nazi Party. Name another physician also interested in sexual repression who was subject to same fate under the Nazis.
ANSWER: Magnus Hirschfeld or Freud
9. Alain Badiou Ethics: An Essay On The Understanding of Evil
In this book Alain Badiou shows how our prevailing ethical principles serve ultimately to reinforce an ideology of the status quo and fail to provide a framework for an effective understanding of the concept of evil.
Name a major influence on Badiou’s Ethics who famously said “Ne pas céder sur son désir.”
ANSWER: Jacques Lacan
10. Slavoj Žižek Welcome to the Desert of the Real
“The fact that September 11 attacks were the stuff of popular fantasies long before they actually took place provides yet another case of the twisted logic of dreams: it is easy to account for the fact that poor people around the world dream about becoming Americans – so what do the well-to-do Americans, immobilized in their well-being dream about? About a global catastrophe that would shatter their lives – why?”
Prior to this quote Žižek mentions a film in the top fifty highest grossing films of all time staring an actor also known as ‘The Fresh Prince’. Name this film.
ANSWER: Independence Day
11. André Gorz Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology
Against the background of recent technological developments, Gorz's major new book explores the political agendas facing both right and left in the midst of the transformations of the nature of work and the structure of the workforce.
What is the connection between Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times and André Gorz’s journalistic career?
ANSWER: Gorz wrote for Les Temps Moderne
12. V.N. Voloshinov Freudianism: A Marxist Critique
An early critique of Freud from a Marxist and linguistic perspective.
Voloshninov was a member of a group of philosophers whose thought on language and art addressed the social and cultural issues posed by the Russian Revolution and its degeneration into the Stalin dictatorship.
The hugely popular Radical Thinkers series publishes beautifully designed and affordable editions of important works of theory and philosophy. Covering a full spectrum of critical thought, the series includes work from radical thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Georg Lukács, Gillian Rose, Jean-Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno and many more.
Set 7 will be launched in a series of fortnightly events at the ICA, starting on the 9th April. More details here.
Corrections: Due to a typo the answer to question 5 had read Marx (clean shaven) and Hegel (bearded). This was changed for the correct Marx (bearded) and Hegel (clean shaven). Winning entries were taken for the correct answer although no entries were submitted to any other effect.