Questions in a World of Blue pt.1

Bat020 asked:

In answering this question, I want to contextualise the political aesthetics of blue, so to speak. This won’t even touch anything like a fully-considered genealogy of the aesthetic usage of blue, but constitutes what I would consider to be a paradigmatic ‘sampling’.

Nu bleu, Souvenir de Biskra, Henri Matisse, 1907 The early years of the Twentieth Century saw the rise of die Brücke and the Fauves, movements in Germany and France which have been labelled ‘Expressionist’ by art historians. Although distinct they both made strong use of colour and primitivist forms in a painterly and flattened style, rejecting classical realist representation as well as the tendency of Impressionists to continue modelling realist representations in a merely pointillized or diffuse form, adapting the techniques of divisionism. In 1907 the Fauvist leader Henri Matisse painted his controversial Blue Nude which served as a valediction to the intense but short-lived era of Fauvism before turning to Protocubism and the shattered forms of four-dimensional perspective.

In Germany, however, on the heels of these developments rode der Blauer Reiter, a group of artists who, like die Brücke, are classed as Expressionist. In 1909 in Munich a society called the New Artists’ Alliance (Neue Künstlervereinigung) was formed by a number of artists including Kandinsky, Jawlensky, Münter, Kubin and Marc. These were to be the principle contributors to the Blauer Reiter exhibitions. Initially Kandinsky had sought to lead the New Artist Alliance in a spiritual direction emphasising the expression of inner realities and desires, but meeting with resistance from other members, Kandinsky and Marc splintered from the alliance to form a new group explicitly committed to the shared vision of art as spiritual thoroughfare. Der Turm der blauen Pferde, Franz Marc, 1913The ‘rider’ motif in the name ‘Blue Rider’ had much to do with Kandinsky’s attraction to the figure of the medieval knight. One might imagine such a knight thundering forth across Marc’s ‘bridge to the spiritual world’; however it is the hue of the rider which intrigues us here, and Marc’s own 1913 work The Tower of Blue Horses holds the same intrigue.

From a purely formalist perspective one may say that the creation of a blue figure–especially any figure not usually so coloured when found in nature–in painting is already (somewhat) of a departure from the conventions of classical figural painting in that blue is considered to be a ground colour, in contrast to red which is clearly a figure colour. The naturalistic convention of reserving blue for backgrounds derives both from the evolved processes of depth perception in the human ocular system itself, which account for and reads the bluer, ‘cooler’ and more ‘faded’ visual scenery as being further away, and the real atmospheric effects of an Earth-bound environment, in which Rayleigh scattering tends to cause the naked daytime sky to be blue in colour. Objects within the naturalistic conventions of depicting pictorial depth (or illusory space) which are intended to be seen as closer to the picture plane are therefore typically not only sharper in definition and delineation but markedly less blue. Any accumulation of blue tends to recede from the picture plane, seeking the hindmost location to appear as a background, be it as a line of hills, a daytime sky or its reflection, the sea. For a figure to be a blue figure was, and to some extent still is, against this context of convention, immediately an invocation of the uncanny (the umheimliche, the ‘not-at-home’ or other-worldy), since the proximity of its form in the composition of pictorial depth is in a relationship of tension with its colour. The sensitive, aesthetic eye is confronted with a paradoxical torsion or ‘short-circuit’ in the very figure-ground opposition (which normally distributes depth and proximity to the elements of a composition). Image of a blue rose downloaded from a wallpaper siteJust as the diminution of angels and fairies in the classical pictorial arts functioned to short-circuit the process of perspective and foreshortening to create a distanciation of proximate forms in an uncanny effect (and thereby allegorising the presence of ‘the spiritual’), so too does the ‘enblueing’ of foreground figures, which can be found in expressionism, surrealism and avant-garde movements of the early 20th century function to de-familiarise their forms, and within the space, hiatus or pause of this distanciation, signify transcendence and unnaturalness.

In the period between the inception and the demise of German Romanticism, the colour blue held also special significance for German artists, poets and writers. The Blue Flower, for example (Blaue Blume) represented both inspiration and sehnsucht, a deep yearning for the transcendent and inaccessible. The paradigmatic case of this use of the blue flower imagery occurs in Henry of Ofterdingen by Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg) (1772-1801)1.

Towards the end of his short life, Novalis […] turned towards the novel, which the early German Romantics conceived as the poetic genre that could encompass all the other genres. He wrote two ‘prose romances’, Die Lehrlinge zu Sais (The Disciples at Sais) and Heinrich von Ofterdingen, both of which remained unfinished at his death. Like Ludwig Tieck’s Franz Sternbald’s Wanderings, Heinrich von Ofterdingen is the story of an artist, in this case the historical ‘minnesinger’ or courtly poet who was active in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Novalis imagines the Middle Ages as a period of unity prior to the divisions inaugurated by the ‘age of reason’. The story of Heinrich’s quest for artistic and personal fulfilment is also an allegory of Novalis’ own spiritual life. Heinrich von Ofterdingen has been described as the representative novel of early German Romanticism, and in the image of the ‘blue flower’ it provided this movement with one of its enduring motifs. Heinrich’s quest to locate the blue flower which he sees in a dream typifies the Romantic condition of yearning (Sehnsucht) for an unobtainable ideal. The idea of a secret symbolism of flowers is also to be found in the work of Philipp Otto Runge […]. The unfinished novel, which was largely composed in 1799, was first published by Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck in the first volume of their edition of Novalis’ Schriften (Berlin, 1802). The following excerpt, which forms the opening section of the book, is taken from the anonymous translation, Henry of Ofterdingen: A Romance, Cambridge: John Owen, 1842, pp. 23-6.

The parents had already retired to rest; the old clock ticked monotonously from the wall; the windows rattled with the whistling wind, and the chamber was dimly lighted by the flickering glimmer of the moon. The young man lay restless on his bed, thinking of the stranger and his talcs. ‘It is not the treasures,’ said he to himself, ‘that have awakened in me such unutterable longings. Far from me is all avarice; but I long to behold the blue flower. It is constantly in my mind, and I can think and compose of nothing else. I have never been in such a mood. It seems as if I had hitherto been dreaming, or slumbering into another world; for in the world, in which hitherto I have lived, who would trouble himself about a flower? I never have heard of such a strange passion for a flower here. I wonder, too, whence the stranger comes? None of our people have ever seen his like; still I know not why I should be so fascinated by his conversation. Others have listened to it, but none are moved by it as I am. Would that I could explain my feelings in words! I am often full of rapture, and it is only when the blue flower is out of my mind, that this deep, heart-felt longing overwhelms me. But no one can comprehend this but myself. I might think myself mad, were not my perception and reasonings so clear; and this state of mind appears to have brought with it superior knowledge on all subjects. I have heard, that in ancient times beasts, and trees, and rocks conversed with men. As I gaze upon them, they appear every moment about to speak to me; and I can almost tell by their looks what they would say. There must yet be many words unknown to me. If I knew more, I could comprehend better. Formerly I loved to dance, now I think rather to the music.’

The young man gradually lost himself in his sweet fancies, and fell asleep. Then he dreamed of regions far distant, and unknown to him. He crossed the sea with wonderful case; saw many strange monsters; lived with all sorts of men, now in war, now in wild tumult, and now in peaceful cottages. Then he fell into captivity and degrading want. His feelings had never been so excited. His life was an unending tissue of the brightest colors. Then came death, a return again to life; he loved, loved intensely, and was separated from the object of his passion. At length towards the break of day his soul became calmer, and the images his fancy formed grew clearer, and more lasting. He dreamed that he was walking alone in a dark forest, where the light broke only at intervals through the green net-work of the trees. He soon came to a passage through some rocks, which led to the top of a neighboring hill, and to ascend which he was obliged to scramble over the mossy stones, which some stream in former times had torn down. The higher he climbed, the more was the forest lit up, until at last he came to a small meadow situated on the declivity of the mountain. Behind the meadow rose a lofty cliff, at whose foot an opening was visible, which seemed to be the beginning of a path hewn in the rock. The path guided him gently along, and ended in a wide expanse, from which at a distance a clear light shone towards him. On entering this expanse, he beheld a mighty beam of light, which, like the stream from a fountain, rose to the overhanging clouds, and spread out into innumerable sparks, which gathered themselves below into a great basin. The beam shone like burnished gold; not the least noise was audible; a holy silence reigned around the splendid spectacle. He approached the basin, which trembled and undulated with ever-varying colors. The sides of the cave were coated with the golden liquid, which was cool to the touch, and which cast from the walls a weak, blue light. He dipped his hand in the basin and bedewed his lips. He felt as if a spiritual breath had pierced through him, and he was sensibly strengthened and refreshed. A resistless desire to bathe himself made him undress and step into the basin. Then a cloud tinged with the glow of evening appeared to surround him; feelings as from Heaven flowed into his soul; thoughts innumerable and full of rapture strove to mingle together within him; new imaginings, such as never before had struck his fancy, arose before him, which, flowing into each other, became visible beings about him. Each wave of the lovely element pressed to him like a soft bosom. The flood seemed like a solution of the elements of beauty, which constantly became embodied in the forms of charming maidens around him. Intoxicated with rapture, yet conscious of every impression, he swam gently down the glittering stream. A sweeter slumber now overcame him. He dreamed of many strange events, and a new vision appeared to him. He dreamed that he was sitting on the soft turf by the margin of a fountain, whose waters flowed into the air, and seemed to vanish in it. Dark blue rocks with various colored veins rose in the distance. The daylight around him was milder and clearer than usual; the sky was of a sombre blue, and free from clouds. But what most attracted his notice, was a tall, light-blue flower, which stood nearest the fountain, and touched it with its broad, glossy leaves. Around it grew numberless flowers of varied hue, filling the air with the richest perfume. But he saw the blue flower alone, and gazed long upon it with inexpressible tenderness. He at length was about to approach it, when it began to move, and change its form. The leaves increased their beauty, adorning the growing stem. The flower bended towards him, and revealed among its leaves a blue, outspread collar, within which hovered a tender face. His delightful astonishment was increasing with this singular change, when suddenly his mother’s voice awoke him, and he found himself in his parents’ room, already gilded by the morning sun. He was too happy to be angry at the sudden disturbance of his sleep. He bade his mother a kind good morning, and returned her hearty embrace.

From here to some of its appearances today there has clearly a fascinating journey in the appearance of the blue flower. Consider some of the most recent uses:

  • the blue flower used in Batman Begins as a token of Wayne’s resolve and commitment–and later as the source of a panic-inducing hallucinogen in Ra’s al Ghul’s plot to purge Gotham;
  • the substance ‘D’ in the 2006 adaptation of Phillip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly;
  • the blue rose as the one element of FBI Agent Chester ‘Chet’ Desmond’s surrealistically ‘coded’ briefing which he refused to speak about in David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me and as that element the search for which resulted in his disappearance;

Today, no longer does the blue flower stand simply for that pining for ‘full’ or integrated presence or a metaphysical fusion with a beatific ‘nature’ which author and theologian C.S.Lewis wrote about. Between its Romantic use as a literary and artistic trope and today’s use perhaps it endured only as the blue rosette, in largely ceremonial and completely disregarded contexts. No doubt there has been some cross-fertilisation in the modern usage with the Ancient Greek mythology of the lotus-eaters, and we should recall that a particularly iconic species of the lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, produces some intensely blue specimens that were perhaps well known to the Greeks in antiquity. Such a knowledge might have cemented in Western history an association of blue flowers with that sickness of the human soul known as acedia, in an ambiguous pharmacological relationship wherein the full depth of human sadness contemplating its own alienation is only ever detained, confined, and ultimately magnified by some medicinal Nepenthe, resulting in a state of apathy that yearns for more of itself, for the freedom of a complete arataxia. The desire to arrest all excitations, passions and disturbances (and thus rid oneself of the passivity of the soul) becomes itself a new and distorted all-governing passion, resulting only in an exacerbated passivity alerted to the minutest excitations, condemned to an ever-gnawing sense of its own sensitivity. The psychology of narcotic addiction here finds its moral precedent. Irrespective of this speculative continuity, already by 1934 Hergé would, in one of his characteristic fits of Orientalism, transplant the blue lotus (a North African species) into a Chinese setting for his Tintin story Le Lotus bleu. In this way he melded various orientalist motifs–opium dens, poison-tipped darts, shadowy cabals–to produce what can be regarded as an early but paradigmatic example of the toxicological mystique that characterises the appearance of the Blue Flower in modern literature and cinema.

In its recent cinematic manifestations the Blue Flower has become the symbol of a radical evil, a dark spirituality and sinister shadow-play. When it arises as a thematic in today’s literature and cinema the Romantic vision of the blue flower is a warped, creepy and most likely psychotic vision, the vision of a hyper-reactionary villain, a serial killer morbidly obsessed with the ‘beautiful’ death of high school girls or with the mass extermination of ‘degenerate’ populations in the pursuit of some underlying aesthetic, order or rhythm. What to make of this transformation of the Blue Flower, having gone from being a motif of inspiration and spirituality for the Romantic movement, through the revocation of meaning in mere adornment and dusty regalia, to undergoing today an inverted resurrection of meaning as contaminant and propagator of mass ‘hysteria’, madness and death?

Already in 1925 Walter Benjamin wrote on the intransitive historicity of the theme of the Blaue Blume, its having passed beyond the horizon of any stable significance: “[n]o one really dreams any longer of the Blue Flower. Whoever awakes as Heinrich von Ofterdingen today must have overslept.” Benjamin witnessed here the inaccessibility of the very reference to what had been already inaccessible. Dragging any rigidity of designation along with it, the ‘good’ Blue Flower of the Romantics disappeared into an absolutely external night, an oblivion, beyond the reach even of dreams. The meaning of Novalis’ Blue Flower–an aristocratic yearning for the integration of the human being into the ‘natural world’, in conversation with animals, plants and stone–has been foreclosed. When the Blaue Blume appears now, in an age that is not only beginning to understood its own historicity but is also beginning–through the natural sciences–to witness the very ‘unnaturalness’ of nature itself in its contingency, chaos, under-determination and non-unification, the bloom is a rootless perigone–an empty husk, a pure image–and can stand only for a dangerous falsity, if not a sickening toxicity, of any vision of harmonious integration and order.

There are several interesting discussions to be had about the aesthetic uses of the colour blue, its role within European Romanticism, and the wider place of romantic and aesthetic philosophies in relation to the art, texts and debates between idealism and materialism which were to follow its demise. It is also worth considering the political resurrection of certain romantic themes and aspirations in modern conservatism, which will help in turning to the question which sparked this discussion, which can be adumbrated: can blue be dissociated from its conventional and contextual European aesthetic, and to what extent has the American attempt to do so succeeded? Rather than preserving the radical impetus at the heart of the democratic project, which has lost its way in an ongoing crisis of representation, has the use of blue in the United States not tended to intoxicate the figure of the American Left, condemning it to an over-spiritualised, psychologised evanescence, effectively conceding any claim to historical revolutionary legacy to Republican hands? What can we learn from this, and what can it tell us about supine ‘blue Labour’ and disingenuous ‘red Tory’ parliamentary politics in today’s UK?

In the next instalment: Färbt die blaue Blume rot!–The Politics of Blue and Red in Europe and the US


[1] The following excerpt is taken from Harrison, Wood and Gaiger, Art In Theory 1648-1815, VIB13, pp.976-8

The Spectre of Totality and the Human Opening On It

What I find interesting is that all social movements, from 1968 onwards, tend to confidently assert that they are ‘not a unified social movement’. This even goes for the latest neoreactionary groups like the ‘Dark Enlightenment’. Indeed the fact that a deep unease over asserting any kind of unity, long used as a kind of shibboleth for the new social movements, can so easily be accommodated to the new political Right, is deeply troubling. After this point, whatever was distinctly politically Leftist about the systematic rejection of ‘totalising’ forms of social unity, especially when the rhetoric is uncritically and unthinkingly reproduced by groups on the Left, begins to evaporate. How many accounts of social movements and groups begin by including the disclaimer, ‘of course, _____ is not, and never was, a unified social force’? In this ubiquitous and flippant usage, not even functioning as a token Deleuzean valorisation of ‘difference’ over ‘dialectic’, it risks meaning virtually nothing. It risks shading into continuity with late capitalism, which has itself functioned perfectly ‘through the management and distribution of differences’ (Noys 2010:x)

Is the spectre of ‘totality’ really this haunting? Do we really envisage ourselves becoming ‘totalitarian’ merely because we dared to represent a unison of voices over a nontotalisable multiplicity? How can we ever produce the vox populi, a coherent demand, and how can we live by the basic Left-wing truth that ‘the people think’ (les gens pensent) if we refuse any abstraction or simplification which might mediate the particular and the universal?

It seems to me that Badiou’s foray into axiomatic set theory (as ontology) is precisely an engagement with this dilemma, although I am less confident about how his adventures in category theory (as logical phenomenology) elaborates upon it. While multiplicity is always open to supplementation in the process of adding ‘one more’ voice or factor to an ever-growing diversity and inclusiveness, the idea of the set is that of drawing around this potentially infinite process the brackets of a fully completed history, without having to ever enumerate this process. Sets are, in the sense, the site of a dialectical agency or intervention in a runaway enumeration of difference. And this does indeed appear to be Badiou’s position: just as the Real of an irrational decimal expansion must be ultimately denoted by ellipsis or given a proper name in any symbolic system in order to be communicated, so the bad Deleuzean multiple (a multiple of units), and the late-capitalist ‘multiplicity’ of individuals and their interests, must be recaptured in thought as genuine multiplicity, which is to say, as a set which is amenable to a thought of generality and axiomatically capable of taking (or including) a generic form. Badiou tends to frame this in terms of the Idea, which distinguishes potential subjects from mere human animality, but in this Platonic move I also see something akin to the reasoning underpinning the analytic philosopher Wilfred Sellars’ distinction between sapience and sentience. For Sellars sapient beings (i.e. humans) are marked out by the rule of inference, and so in contrast to the merely sentient, they are able to abstract the idea or concept and arraign it before thought on the same level as other cognitively manipulable objects. So in Sellars’ terms, what Badiou calls the reign of markets, the endless distribution of difference, and the domain of ‘human animality’, merely constitutes a level of sentience and not sapience. To become sapient beings, it is necessary to place this endless flowering and unfolding of difference (which for Deleuze’s problematic vitalism still held some radical potentials), in brackets, which is to say to abstract it and view it from the point of view of an Idea it absolutely cannot think–i.e. itself. In Badiou’s vision, the reign of market difference and competing voices becomes known as Democratic Materialism, and it can be reduced to this rule: there is no Truth; there are only bodies and languages (Badiou 2005).

Here the parallel comes unstuck, however. For Sellars, sentient beings follow rules without knowing that they are following rules, whereas only sapient beings can follow a rule on the basis of it being a rule. Well, it is perfectly possible, if not the norm, that ‘human animals’ know perfectly well what they are doing when they fall in with the endless reproduction and diversification of capital. We endlessly agonise about how we follow the rules. What marks out the critical awareness of becoming-subjects would be something over and above ‘knowing’ versus ‘not knowing what they do’. It would have to be something like–and Sellars himself points in this direction–having a metalanguage or grammar which allows the normalisation of the rule to become a communicable and manipulable object capable of being opposed or negated.

Here we might say that the bracketing of the elements of a set adds to them only the halo of their facticity, their specific haecceity. This is something subtly beyond ‘the inference rule’, or mathematical induction, or symbolisation or anything like that. It is true that the set constitutes what Dupuy analyses as a ‘tangled hierarchy’ in which levels are crossed (Dupuy 2013), and I believe that this is indeed best understood through the mathematical set which is at once both a multiple and an element, and also that Badiou is correct to assert here that ontology is mathematics.

The set adds nothing to that which it is a set of; a set is defined solely by its extension. Yet it is that by which even the nondenumerable can itself be considered an element among others (such as the sequence of alephs or cardinals which Cantorian mathematics uncovered). In a brilliant analysis, this ‘relativising’ capacity of Set Theory has been described by Peter Hallward as the ‘laicization of the infinite’ (Hallward 2003), It constitutes a further step in the unfinished business of the Death of God (beyond, for example, a simplistic rejection of God that would preserve intact all the unifying structural supports, so that some other metaphysical contender–perhaps physics–might occupy the position of ‘the One’) Indeed, this laicization of ‘the’ infinite is a profanation of an absolute, recasting infinity in relation to ‘the space of its inscription’, opening the One-All to its position as merely an infinite collection among untold others, some of which vastly exceed it. In this way ‘the’ infinite slips, as in a tangled hierarchy, from being an overarching all-inclusive and absolutely unique One-All, a ‘bad’ infinity if you like, to being just another element in a greatly expanded infinity (the transfinite). This fall is a fortunate one, a felix culpa; and everything that a unified politico-theological vision of the One-All supported falls with it. As such, a historical situation such as Democratic Materialism is not, and could never attain to be, all that there is. Neither is it the complete field of determination of what can be. This means that inherent to the edifice of Democratic Materialism exists the fissure or crack of what would remain only ‘metapossible’ there, but which within the expanded horizon of the Materialist Dialectic would become a new and ‘real’ possibility.

Mathematical induction and the rule of inference is the ability to extract a rule from repetition. Democratic Materialism is, despite its vitalistic ever-flourishing diversity, essentially repetition. It can be abstracted, projected to the point of completion and set in brackets. Its particular unfolding–its denumeration–can be elided, since for all its emphasis on difference it cannot ever do anything different to what it does, which is to reproduce itself. There are no Truths, only bodies and languages; but around this rule can be seen the glow of this very specification, marking it off from what it lacks. The ‘encyclopaedic’ totality of knowledges which Democratic Materialism produces always lacks that which is capable of puncturing it: the fundamentally qualitative difference of a Truth.

Consequently, against Democratic Materialism can be elaborated a new rule, which Badiou names the Materialist Dialectic, and which is not really ‘new’, but has been at the basis of every genuine social revolution: there are only bodies and languages, except that there are also Truths.

Here Badiou’s elaboration of the becoming subject begins in earnest. Over and above being able to see what it is doing and know that the rules it follows are rules, the escape from ‘human animality’ minimally involves a schematic thought in which the rules it follows say nothing about a Truth-Event. For Badiou it will only be through a process of fidelity to this Truth, which Democratic Materialism cannot account for, that the subject will be a subject. Fidelity here does not mean faith or still less belief, and more a commitment to live with all the consequences of the reality of the Truth. The incorporation of this Truth into the domain of activity and life, in which formerly there was nothing but bodies and languages, is the task of the subject and also the task that makes the subject.

This curious reflexivity, I would say, results from the mathematical/ontological basis, the ‘tangled hierarchy’ of axiomatic set theory in which a set is at once both multiplicity and a multiple (ontologically the same) and not at all owing to a held-over influence from Sartre (who was one of Badiou’s teachers) insisting that the subject must become itself and exists only ‘in becoming’. Like the Subject, the (axiomatic, non-naive) set cannot be represented graphically, without resorting to inventive ways of representing its inherent two-ness, its co-extensiveness with itself in a further, undecidable space of inscription.

The philosophical delineation of this process is also reflexive in that the Materialist Dialectic, as that Other anthropology which differs in its admission of Truths, appears itself to be a Truth–or perhaps a meta-Truth, a Truth which admits the other Truths. I doubt that Badiou would consider it in these terms, but his own determinations still presuppose nonetheless a certain open-ness of the ‘human animal’, perhaps a residual ‘anxiety’, that the regime of Democratic Materialism, the market of bodies and languages, is not all that there is. How could the human animal, without the anxious bridge of this sapience–which allows it to cognitively externalise the rules of capital, move externally with respect to them, abstract them and make of them an object towards which it could open itself in a relation of contingency?

What I am suggesting really is that it is possible to align the threshold between sapience and sentience as outlined by Sellars with a ‘missed step’ or vanishing mediator in Badiou, and furthermore that Badiou’s reticence in elaborating on the anxiety of the human animal in confrontation with the contingency of its situation is entirely coincident with his reluctance to theoretise the death-drive (something already pointed out by Zizek). The ability of the sapient species to subject its own processing to a process of self-differentiation and re-uptake in order to produce contingency is what is at stake here. An inclusion of this consideration would not alter the theoretisation of the subject as a process of fidelity to a Truth; on the contrary it would concern only an opening on Truth that ‘troubles’ the human animal. It raises other issues, such as how ‘animal’ this troubled animal would truly be, and of course, this will cascade into becoming the whole problematic of just what an animal would be in the first place and how we could know anything about its motivation and cognitive mapping, especially from a vantage point which has always already presupposed the animal life but never really defined it, such as was beginning to be explored by Derrida in his last days, and which Agamben has, from an opposing point of view, visited much too briefly and fragmentarily. I’m saying that there is an inadequacy in the analytic philosophy of Sellars which reflects an ancient presupposition or undertheoretisation of animal life in Western metaphysics and that it could be fruitful to interrogate Badiou’s ‘human animal’ on the same basis, since it concerns a threshold where a mysterious resource, an opening on abstraction, conceptuality, totality and finally Truth, appears.

It interests me because I also see here the possibility of a fruitful (re)engagement with Marx’s anthropology on Badiou’s part, in an area in which others (such as Paolo Virno, for one) have dared to tread.


Badiou, A., (2006) [seminar] Bodies, Languages, Truths, originally delivered at the Victoria College of Arts, University of Melbourne, on September 9th 2006, available online at, retrieved 12/03/2014 @ 13:45
Dupuy, J.P. (2013) The Mark of the Sacred, Stanford University Press
Hallward, P. (2003) Badiou: A Subject to Truth, University of Minnesota Press
Noys, B. (2012) The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory, Edinburgh University Press
Sellars, W. (1956) Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, Harvard University Press