Badiou’s Materialist Reinvention of the Kantian Subject

Andrew Ryder


Abstract: Quentin Meillassoux has argued against Immanuel Kant’s turn to the capacities of a knowing subject, describing this “correlationism” as out of step with science and logic. In contrast, Meillassoux’s teacher, Alain Badiou, maintains a deep ambivalence regarding Kant; despite his criticisms of Kant’s legacy, Badiou maintains an insistence on subjectivity comparable to Kant’s. Through close attention to Badiou’s article of 1998, “Kant’s Subtractive Ontology,” I argue that this troubled inheritance from Kant is necessary for Badiou in order to maintain a logical coherence of appearance following from his mathematical ontology. In particular, Badiou draws our attention to Kant’s insistence on relationality in the presentation of objects, and argues for a transformation of the role of logic in this combination. By collapsing the distinction between general and transcendental logic, Badiou obtains a direct engagement between thought and reality. However, this ontology nonetheless retains the necessity of an impersonal subject in order to uphold consistency of relationality and to provide for the possibility of change. I compare Badiou’s reading of Kant, partly inflected by Martin Heidegger’s, to Georg Lukács prior attempt to reconcile Kant with dialectical materialism. Avoiding Heidegger’s aesthetic reconciliation, both Lukács and Badiou insist on the active capacities of the subject. We might conclude that Kant is necessary to establish Badiou’s particular conception of materiality and truth.


Alain Badiou; Kant; Heidegger; Lukács; Subjectivity

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