Badiou and Frege: A Continental Critique of Logical Form

Joseph M. Spencer 1
  • 1 Brigham Young University,, Provo, USA

Abstract

Various critiques of important (early) analytic thinkers made by Alain Badiou in the late 1960s have been largely overlooked by continental philosophers and entirely overlooked by analytic philosophers. This paper looks in detail at Badiou’s 1969 essay ‟Mark and Lack,” providing an exposition and clarification of his direct and sustained critique of Gottlob Frege’s supposed ideological (rather than scientific) philosophical commitments. Badiou’s intellectual context is analyzed in some detail, not only explaining his theoretical debt to his then-master Louis Althusser, but also clarifying his understandings of the notions of ‟the scientific” and ‟the ideological” in light of the projects of Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem. A philosophical exposition of Badiou’s point-by-point critique of Frege’s conception of logic follows. Finally, the paper concludes with an analysis of the more general relevance of Badiou’s half-century-old critiques in light of developments in contemporary analytic metaphysics, especially those indebted to W. V. O. Quine and Donald Davidson. In essence, Davidson’s Fregean reconfiguration of Tarski’s work on truth (more explicit than, but not unrelated to, Quine’s work) places contemporary analytic metaphysics within the scope of what Badiou directly criticizes. It is suggested that Badiou’s critique find a place in discussions of analytic metaphysics.

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