This infinite, unanimous dissonance: A Study in Mathematical Existentialism,Through the Work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Alain Badiou

Por • 13 ene, 2020 • Sección: Educacion

Olivia Lucca Fraser

The wager of this thesis is that this question bears more fruit than might be expected, and that, if pursued, it offers valuable insight into the structure and trajectory of Badiou’s thought,illuminating the inner workings of Sartre’s ontology in the same stroke. One effect of this pursuit is that the rubric ‘mathematical existentialism’ comes to suggest itself quite strongly as a description of Badiou’s project, as undertaken in his landmark text, Being and Event . The value of this label, though, lies more in forcing a question than in promising an adequate description. It is for this reason I chose it as a title, as the first words of this project rather than the last. It nevertheless threatens to cause some confusion, which I will try to dispel straightaway. To begin with, the title suggests that we might fruitfully place both Sartre and Badiou under this rubric.We cannot. Sartre’s ontology and existentialist philosophy radically resist mathematisation, invirtue of the very structure of their concepts. This resistance, however, is as minimal as it is radical. Sartre’s concepts—particularly the notions of the for-itself, consciousness and nihilation —resist mathematisation insofar as they elude identity. As Sartre formulates it, the theory of intentionality itself, which is the bedrock of his ontology, implicates an irreducible clinamen of non-self-identity in the very event of consciousness, which making it a priori recalcitrant to theself-identical literality of anything that can be thought within the formal productions ofmathematics. In this respect, the non-mathematicity of Sartrean ontology is radical. Yet, as I will show, Sartre formulates the concept of consciousness in such a way that it comes into startling proximity with the mathematical theory of sets, a proximity that allows the manifold kinships between Being and Nothingness and Being and Event to come closer into view.

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