History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Badiou and category theory

June 30th, 2014 · No Comments



I know very little about Badiou, save his relation to Zizek. But the post at the OWS site, which I thought an attempt to bypass my perspective, drove me to investigate. It took me exactly one mouseclick to find the sawdust at the foundations of Badiou’s philosophical endeavors.

The philosophy of Category theory? That’s alarming. Homological algebra (basically Category Theory?) is unlikely to have any philosophical implications (I am not very knowledgeable here, but did briefly study the early homological algebra in 1968). It is an elegant way to organize various issues in ‘abstract algebra’. This is worse than alarming. It is strong evidence for complete idiocy. Everything else Badiou talks about is going to leave me suspicious. Doing philosophy with homological algebra is a really bad idea.

Sure enough: scroll down the Wikipedia page, I am not alone in being suspicious:

Several critics have questioned Badiou’s use of mathematics. Mathematician Alan Sokal and physicist Jean Bricmont write that Badiou proposes, with seemingly “utter seriousness,” a blending of psychoanalysis, politics and set theory that they contend is preposterous.[13] Similarly, philosopher Roger Scruton has questioned Badiou’s grasp of the foundation of mathematics, writing in 2012:

There is no evidence that I can find in Being and Event that the author really understands what he is talking about when he invokes (as he constantly does) Georg Cantor’s theory of transfinite cardinals, the axioms of set theory, Gödel’s incompleteness proof or Paul Cohen’s proof of the independence of the continuum hypothesis. When these things appear in Badiou’s texts it is always allusively, with fragments of symbolism detached from the context that endows them with sense, and often with free variables and bound variables colliding randomly. No proof is clearly stated or examined, and the jargon of set theory is waved like a magician’s wand, to give authority to bursts of all but unintelligible metaphysics.

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