January 17, — an impassioned and immensely insightful defense of both love as a human faculty and love as a worthwhile philosophical pursuit. It takes us into key areas of the experience of what is difference and, essentially, leads to the idea that you can experience the world from the perspective of difference. But unlike Tolstoy and Gandhi, who advocated for cultivating an expansive platonic love of one another, and unlike Martin Luther King, Jr. Love… is a quest for truth… truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity?

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L ove, says France's greatest living philosopher, "is not a contract between two narcissists. It's more than that. It's a construction that compels the participants to go beyond narcissism. In order that love lasts one has to reinvent oneself. But it's not like that.

It involves work. An old man tells you this! In his new book, Badiou writes about his love life. It was my first love, and then gradually I became so aware this step had been a mistake I tried to recover that initial love, late, very late — the death of the loved one was approaching — but with a unique intensity and feeling of necessity.

But isn't such laborious commitment a pointless fuss in this age of ready pleasures and easily disposable lovers? She giggles, too. Below this sixth-floor apartment, an RER train screeches along the rails out of Denfert-Rochereau station.

I think about the distinction Badiou describes in In Praise of Love. In other words love is, in many respects, the opposite of sex. He puts it philosophically: "The absolute contingency of the encounter takes on the appearance of destiny. The declaration of love marks the transition from chance to destiny and that's why it is so perilous and so burdened with a kind of horrifying stage fright. A loving relationship is similar.

They know sexual pleasure — but we all know what Lacan said about sexual pleasure. Jacques Lacan argued that sexual relationships don't exist. Badiou will shortly publish a book of conversations between Lacan and his biographer, Elisabeth Roudinesco. What is real is narcissistic, Lacan suggested, what binds imaginary.

If you limit yourself to sexual pleasure it's narcissistic. You don't connect with the other, you take what pleasure you want from them. How can he, of all people, hymn bourgeois notions such as commitment and conjugal felicity? I'm not going to speak against the freedom to experiment sexually like some old arse" — "un vieux connard" — "but when you liberate sexuality, you don't solve the problems of love.

That's why I propose a new philosophy of love, wherein you can't avoid problems or working to solve them. But, he argues, avoiding love's problems is just what we do in our risk-averse, commitment-phobic society. They try to suppress the adventure of love. Their idea is you calculate who has the same tastes, the same fantasies, the same holidays, wants the same number of children.

Everybody wants a contract that guarantees them against risk. Love isn't like that. You can't buy a lover. Sex, yes, but not a lover. Badiou's book is, in a sense, its sequel and could have been entitled L'Amour n'est pas une Marchandise non plus Love Isn't a Commodity Either.

Surely that makes him an old romantic? Romanticism exalted love against classical arranged marriages — hence l'amour fou , antisocial love. In that sense I'm neither romantic nor classic. My approach is that love is both an encounter and a construction. These books have led him to be hailed as a great philosopher.

Badiou's philosophy of the subject is an extrapolation of Sartre's existentialist slogan "Existence precedes essence" and incorporates a communist hypothesis that Althusser might have liked. It's also a rebuke to postwar and often postmodern French philosophers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Foucault with whom he argued and all of whom he has outlived. What is a subject for Badiou? How does truth come into all this?

Truth is a construction after the event. The example of love is the clearest. It starts with an encounter that's not calculable but afterwards you realise what it was.

The same with science: you discover something unexpected — mountains on the moon, say — and afterwards there is mathematical work to give it sense. It is a truth procedure because it leads from subjective experience and chance to universal value.

Badiou's very odd, post-existentialist, heretically Marxist and defiantly anti-parliamentary conception of politics has a similar trajectory. Politics is enthusiasm with a collective; with love, two people. He defines his "real politics" in opposition to what he calls "parliamentary cretinism".

His politics starts with subjective experience, involves a truth procedure and ends, fingers crossed, in a communist society. It's not simply to delegate problems to the professionals. Love is like politics in that it's not a professional affair.

Badiou hasn't voted since , a habit he didn't break in France's recent presidential election. The Meaning of Sarkozy , in which he notoriously called the last French president "rat man" for playing on public concerns about crime and immigration. Earlier this month he wrote a marvellously vituperative column for Le Monde that has been trending across the francophone world.

Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen, he maintained, weren't the only politicians responsible for "the rise of rampant fascism" in France. He argued that there was a Socialist party tradition of colluding with right-wing racism — from Mitterrand through Jospin and, no doubt, into Hollande's first term. Ingeniously, Badiou suggested that mainstream politicians were disappointed in the French people for having a racist sensibility for which they, the "parliamentary cretins" aided by some fellow intellectuals whom Badiou excoriated , were actually responsible for creating.

Badiou's far-left politics were burnished in the late 60s. Just as he has been faithful to all but one of his lovers, he has remained true to Maoism. He still holds that the Cultural Revolution was inspirational, as deranging and fertile for him as falling in love — despite the deaths, rapes, tortures, mass displacements and infringements of human rights with which it has been associated.

When I ask him why, Badiou explains that the success of Lenin's disciplined Bolshevik party in the October Revolution spawned a series of other workers' revolutions, notably in China in That's to say they made an attack on the communist state itself to revolutionise communism.

It was a failure but many interesting events are failures. Certainly at the world level there can be more hope than hitherto. We're climbing a very big ladder.

Badiou was born in Rabat, Morocco, in His mother was a professor of philosophy, his father a maths professor and socialist mayor of Toulouse from His philosophical training began in s Paris. He quickly became a Sartrean, devoted to the paradoxical philosophy that, he says, involved "a complicated synthesis between a very determinist Marxist theory of history and an anti-determinist philosophy of conscience". Badiou's great fortune was to be part of that adventure.

There he engaged in fierce intellectual debates with his fellow professors Deleuze and Lyotard, even though he considered them traitors to the communist cause. But why, if he's right, did France have this postwar adventure, this dizzying explosion of intellectual life? That resulted in a philosophy that had a duty to respond to those disgraces, to propose a different way.

What's more, there is a French model of being a philosopher which isn't enclosed in the academy as in England — a philosopher who is an intellectual interested in all the things in their age.

Such were Diderot, Rousseau and above all Pascal. He credits Sartre with revivifying that French model of what a philosopher could be. Me, too. Unlike Sartre, he has appeared in a Jean-Luc Godard film - as a philosopher lecturer on a luxury cruise ship in 's Film Socialisme. His says his overwhelming ambition has been to change the relationship between workers and intellectuals.

Those links helped me reinvent myself as a human subject. Perhaps politics and love are not, if you're a French Maoist, so very different. Badiou chuckles bitterly. There are temporary exceptions that aren't representative of an overwhelmingly reactionary country but are what make it less disgusting than it would be without them. Certainly philosophy from Sartre to Deleuze and me has made France better than it would otherwise have been.

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In Praise Of Love

And that probably means, as the poet Rimbaud said, that it also needs re-inventing. It cannot be a defensive action simply to maintain the status quo. The world is full of new developments and love must also be something that innovates. Risk and adventure must be re-invented against safety and comfort. In his very accessible book, In Praise of Love recently released in English translation , the eminent French philosopher and political radical Alain Badiou begins with an attempt to seduce us. His book promises something new, a re-invention of love as an act of daring and adventure to rescue it from liberals, libertines and the operators of computer dating sites alike. By the end of this short book however which is made up of interviews with journalist Nicolas Truong we feel the lover's abandonment of promises not fulfilled.


In Praise of Love

JavaScript seems to be disabled in your browser. You must have JavaScript enabled in your browser to utilize the functionality of this website. As our warehouse is operating social distancing, no physical website orders are being shipped until further notice. Ebooks, where available, can still be ordered. Sign up to our newsletter for all things bookish. Alain Badiou , Nicolas Truong. A new century, new threats to love.

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