What is 'the subject' the name for? The conceptual structure of Alain Badiou’s theory of the subject


  • Margus Vihalem




The present paper outlines some basic concepts of Alain Badiou’s philosophy of the subject, tracking down its inherent and complex philosophical implications. These implications are made explicit in the criticism directed against the philosophical sophistry which denies the pertinence of the concept of truth. Badiou’s philosophical innovation is based on three nodal concepts, namely truth, event and subject, and it must be revealed how the afore-mentioned concepts are organized and interrelated, eventually leading to reformulating the concept of the subject. In its exercise, philosophy is intimately affiliated to the four adjacent procedures of mathematics, art, love and politics that could be understood as overall conditions on the margins of which philosophical thinking takes place. Separating philosophy from ontology and charging philosophy with what exceeds being, Badiou transforms it to the general theory of the event. Consequently the concept of the subject is disconnected from that of the object, the subject being not an instance of knowledge, but always a part of generic procedures and thus definable simply as a finite fragment or an operative configuration of the traces of the event. Therefore, it could be stated that Badiou’s theory of the subject is formal and refuses all essentialist connotations.


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How to Cite

Vihalem, M. (2011). What is ’the subject’ the name for? The conceptual structure of Alain Badiou’s theory of the subject. Sign Systems Studies, 39(1), 60–80. https://doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2011.39.1.02