Answering the Question, ‘What is an Event?

antiTHESIS 16:12-25 (2006)

Ashley Woodward
Dundee University
This article surveys the notion of the event as it is treated in Lyotard’s works, and examines the implications of this treatment for his method, and for critical theory in general. While the event is of importance to many influential French philosophers, it is arguably Lyotard who has positioned his philosophy most central around the problem of accounting for events. For Lyotard, an event is an occurence which cannot be predicted in advance, and cannot be fully determined in retrospect. An event is "nothing," in so far as it cannot be captured in theoretical representations, but it is of import to theory in so far as it disrupts representations and indicates their limits. Lyotard's work engages with the problem of the event both theoretically and performatively, not only discussing the nature of the event, but letting it govern his methodology. This chapter outlines the way in which Lyotard's engagement with the event demonstrates the implications of this notion across a wide variety of critical concerns, including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics. It also distinguishes Lyotard’s understanding of the event from that of other French philosophers, such as Derrida, Deleuze, and Badiou. While this chapter does not explicitly treat of the book’s main themes, its placement as the first chapter serves a general introductory function, outlining the main phases and concepts of Lyotard’s work which are frequent points of reference in the proceeding chapters.
Keywords Lyotard  event
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