Network Ecologies

Badiou’s critique of virtual becoming

Alain Badiou similarly criticizes Gilles Deleuze’s affirmation of the virtual in the actual’s becoming, which in turn leads Deleuze to define “event” as a continuous conjunction of past and present, of all that will befall a living body. [52] For Badiou, all that can become within a world is prescribed by that world’s transcendental logic, or the degrees of appearance (i.e. existence) for the existents and relations which constitute the world. In lieu of a virtual as deterritorialization, and in lieu of the vagueness of underdetermined or less-than-qualified assemblages, we have an actuality that is overdetermined in accordance with a complex of qualifying determinations. Badiou’s non-virtual “system” or “machine” echoes Simondon’s own “network” of values, so we can apply the former’s language of the event to the latter’s “inventions of structures.” [53] To seek the meaning of a general mode of being-there (existence, appearance) in the act of its invention or genetic foundation amounts, in Badiou’s parlance, to a theory of truth as “exception.” In the transition from one reticulated world-relation to another (Simondon), or from one world’s transcendental to another (Badiou), something will have happened that goes beyond the previous reticulation of existence. There is no single formula for such an achievement, nor for even identifying that one has occurred, since its realization depends on singular historical conditions. Badiou’s emphasis on a retroactive fidelity to the event also has an antecedent in Simondon’s thought: “Every act, every thing, every moment has in itself a capacity to become remarkable points of a new reticulation of the universe. Each culture selects those acts and those situations which are apt to become such remarkable points.” [54] Invention then has its origin in both an irreducible present event and an uncontrollable openness to its future uptake by the world. By framing the dynamics of a reality’s reticulation in terms of invention and technicity, we can avoid confining ourselves to Badiou’s neo-Platonic attention to specific discourses of Truth-events.

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