I am starting a Badiou class this semester with John Protevi. The first book we are reading is Badiou’s “Manifesto for Philosophy”. From what I have read, I really dig his conception of philosophy proper (that is, if I understand it); this post is merely a preliminary attempt to briefly paraphrase what I interpret to be central to his conception of what philosophy qua philosophy is.
What is philosophy?
Philosophy is a reflection on the conceptual “breakthroughs” which arose from the interaction between developing edifices of human culture (science, politics, art, love) and the individual humans for whom such culture was self-constituting. The very nature of the “philosopher” qua philosopher is then reciprocally co-determined by his agentive activities and the cultural frameworks which provided him a lived world in which to act as an free agent (a new occurrence in human history). The a priori workspace of philosophy is then an anthropological invention which occurred at a definite time in our human history. The conceptual landscape of philosophy then can be said to have partially arisen from an intra-action between individual human beings and the “generic” procedures of human culture which sought to establish various forms of “correctness” relations between themselves and the world at large. Human agency qua subjective agency then co-developed reciprocally in relation to human civilization and should not be seen as a purely a priori structure that is transcendent to all historical contingencies. However, this dependency relation should not be seen as a limiting factor akin to postmodernist critiques of rationality, but rather, as a stepping-point into the “logical space of reasons” which provides philosophers with their conceptually reflective vantage point. The acknowledgment of philosophical contingency is only a starting place given we embrace the agentive freedom granted to us from our cultural-linguistic heritage. As Alan Watts put it, “Man has freewill to the extent he knows who he is.”