Thinking Education through Alain Badiou
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In Being and Event , he based his understanding of Being on the premises of set theory, the inexistence of the One, and the existence of the generic set. And in Logics of Worlds , Badiou based his understanding of what there is on contemporary logic s. Finally, the soon-to-be-published Immanence of Truths will address the contemporary mathematics of the higher infinite. Clearly, contemporary mathematics has been a constant companion to Badiou, and it would be difficult if not impossible to understand the core of his thought without understanding the dialogue that he has established with mathematics.
The conference will include a keynote lecture by Alain Badiou, in which he will demonstrate the logical necessity of grasping Being through mathematics. Although a controversial argument for Arendt to make at the time, she refused to ascribe genocidal evil to religious or a priori grounds. The Danes, in particular, revealed the power of civil disobedience to authority, even one as ruthless as the Nazi regime, as most Danish Jews escaped the Holocaust.
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As with Arendt, Badiou refused to simplify evil as a demonic force or an a priori fact. Differences are simply the state of affairs: self-evident and more in the realm of trivia than of thought.
These sites of socialization range from family to State to economic relations wherein we learn to act, desire, and dream appropriately or identify ourselves as belonging to one but not another grouping. Truth procedures defy and traverse these given spaces of learned difference. This potential for truth, however, requires us to see evil as secular and as either a failure to uphold, or a perversion of, a truth procedure.
In short, there is no One. As becoming subjects seek to articulate via their truth procedures what the event will have meant, they produce residue e. In this way, something new, or beginnings, emerge from within the very status quo situation that leaders deny can produce anything new.
There is always only one question in the ethic of truths: how will I, as some-one, continue to exceed my own being? How will I link the things I know, in a consistent fashion, via the effects of being seized by the not-known? Badiou explored what constitutes a simulacrum of an event through reference to the German Nazis of — However, the Nazis tapped into the same sort of petty nationalism ubiquitous in Euro-American history since the s.
Nothing new was created; there was no real break with what had previously been conceptualized or actualized. Betrayal is the second type of evil according to Badiou. Betrayal, in a sense, is the opposite of simulacrum. While simulacrum involves adherence to the promise of what is to come through any means necessary, betrayal is the absence of fidelity to a truth procedure instigated by an event, avoiding fidelity with its inherent risk to endure a truth procedure instigated by an event.
The reasons for betrayal can be for such ordinary reasons as corruption, exhaustion, or social discouragement to continue.
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Following a new path can be frightening to a becoming subject and the effort required to maintain a new way of thinking is no easy task. Adding to the difficulty can be opposition from the community who might disapprove of thinking in new ways and would rather hold fast to the existing norms of socialization. Returning to the example of love, betrayal can be simply ignoring the event due to emotional fatigue or family-societal opinions as to who is and is not an appropriate partner: a plot familiar from Romeo and Juliet.
This evil consists of the imposition of a truth out of arrogance: the attempt to make this truth objective and absolute for everyone. Like the victims of the mythological figure of Procrustes, who forced his houseguests to fit the guest bed through the tortures of stretching or amputation, populations can be seriously harmed through the imposition of the One-Truth that fits all. Charlemagne provides another example as he forced people to convert to Christianity or die by the sword.
Such a failure too often births desire and actions for either the correction of the offending or their annihilation. Maintaining fidelity to a truth procedure despite hardships and with a mind alert to the dangers of simulacra and hubris works against the creation or continuation of evil. Thus, evil is not an entity in itself, nor is good the human response to evil; rather, evil exists only as a perversion of the always present human capacity to engage in the good of articulating truths. Such insight allows us to engage with groups often neglected, those who are positioned as abject to those who proclaim themselves the norm.
Vichy France passed a law that regulated the status of Jews based on their supposed threat to society. This mirrors the questions that the Nazis asked: What is a German person? While powerful interests run their presses to support such noxious opining, the opinions and actions of ordinary people perpetuate these situations through a failure to think about what is in the interest of all.
Of course, distinct socio-political processes play out in every given historical situation. We avoid critically examining such processes when we attribute the characteristics of a Kantian a priori evil to others, coupled with the simulacrum of the We-The-One. Teachers who wish to foster a sense of political efficacy here in Canada require examples that implicate us as Canadians, such as the still on-going political processes we refer to as the Indian Residential Schools.
Rather than simply labeling residential schools and then dismissing past, present, and future concerns of those directly affected, thought about evil in the sense of Arendt and Badiou requires an examination of the more banal types of non-thinking that made those operations seem sensible to both those in the past and those who excuse the effects of this system in the present.
Banal processes account for the evil of residential schools and thus the healing must similarly be in the realm of ordinary, average Canadians.
Badiou Studies 3: On Ethics
Such a call is clear in the TRC report:. The Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth of our country have told the Commission that they want to know the truth about the history and legacy of residential schools. TRC, , p. Moving into the future with the knowledge that all Canadians are Treaty people and the understanding of residential schools as terror and disaster instead of a force of otherworldly evil implicates us all in the quest for reconciliation to think well. The educational goal of subjectification and becoming subjects comes into play because concepts like evil and agency offer the actual content, rather than mere abstractions, to implicate students in their own thinking about their role as citizens.
Particular forms of non-thought e. Thus, the study of evil as citizenship education entails fostering citizens who are willing both to think and to take action independently and with the public good in mind. In this existential vein, a necessarily secularized engagement with evil requires a set of questions that potentially extend our educational conversations beyond what might constitute good inquiry practices into the past or what qualities constitute the good citizen. For example, while it is imperative to learn about Indian Residential Schools and their continuing effects, we also need to ask about the extent to which we are influenced by a still-present worldview that made these schools and their practices appear reasonable den Heyer, Here, several questions might be considered: What beliefs and logic from both the various treaty First Nations and the Canadian government made Indian Residential Schools desirable?
This leads then to another question: To what extent does the logic expressed by the Canadian government and those charged with delivering education in Indian Residential Schools still continue today? In what ways might we take up our responses to this question to guide our thinking about a better future for Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations? An understanding based upon a radical or otherworldly evil can foreclose an exploration of our implications in terror and disaster.
Arendt argues that this was the case with Eichmann. If, however, we engage with a more mundane and secularized sense of evil, students might see the ways in which past horrors and those possibly in the future could have been and can be prevented through a kind of thinking which proceeds in relation to the void.
Thinking Education Through Alain Badiou
History is wrought by violent events, including wars and genocides. We would benefit from asking how teaching history can both face up to these difficult pasts while maintaining a sense of present-future efficacy Osborne, Biesta saw good education as promoting active participation in a deliberative democracy. By engaging with the philosophies of Arendt and Badiou regarding evil in the context of history and citizenship education, we can examine historical and contemporary events such as the Holocaust and Residential Schools in a way that fosters both agency in our everyday situations and our potential for becoming subject to what is in the interest of all.
Arendt, H. The human condition 2nd ed. Original work published in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil. New York, NY: Penguin. Badiou, A. Ethics: An essay on the understanding of evil.
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Hallward, Trans. London, United Kingdom: Verso. Saint Paul: The foundation of universalism.
Brassier, Trans. Bartlett, A. Badiou and Plato: An education by truths. Biesta, G. Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.
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