Agamben, Badiou, and Russell

Continental Philosophy Review 42 (3):297-325 (2009)
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Giorgio Agamben and Alain Badiou have both recently made central use of set-theoretic results in their political and ontological projects. As I argue in the paper, one of the most important of these to both thinkers is the paradox of set membership discovered by Russell in 1901. Russell’s paradox demonstrates the fundamentally paradoxical status of the totality of language itself, in its concrete occurrence or taking-place in the world. The paradoxical status of language is essential to Agamben’s discussions of the “coming community,” “whatever being,” sovereignty, law and its force, and the possibility of a reconfiguration of political life, as well as to Badiou’s notions of representation, political intervention, the nature of the subject, and the event. I document these implications of Russell’s paradox in the texts of Agamben and Badiou and suggest that they point the way toward a reconfigured political life, grounded in a radical reflective experience of language.



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