Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Bid You Badiou - Chapter 5; A Paul Divided

Badiou's Saint Paul Chapter 1
Badiou's Saint Paul Chapter 2
Badiou's Saint Paul - Chapters 3-4; Earthen Vessels \ Carrying Death

Badiou begins chapter 5 by stating that the subjectivity expressed by Paul is a divided subjectivity which is between flesh and spirit. Badiou emphasizes that this is a subjective division and not a platonic division between soul and body but of a division within thought. This division allows for a new object of discourse.

For the Greek the object of discourse is finite cosmic totality. This is a discourse of place, of knowing belonging. Christian discourse attests to the vanity of places. Badiou cites Paul's acknowledgment of being the 'refuse' of the world.
For the Jew the object is elective belonging. The mark of this belonging is manifest in the observance of the law. In Christian discourse the Christ-event comes as pure excess, "grace without concept or appropriate rite."
This is leads to the abolition of the local, undivided subject who is defined by race, origin, locality, ritual, etc. In order to maintain this understanding Paul must advocate a true antiphilosophy unlike that of Wittgenstein, Nietzsche and Pascal who continued to concern with "knowledge." Paul's work does not attempt to heal wisdom and it does not attempt to critique it. It is for Paul obsolete in so far as wisdom falls under the "formula of mastery." Paul rejects both the modes of sign (Jew) and wisdom (Greek) as both enforces modes of mastery. Paul is not interested in overcoming these discourses he simply does not enter into them.
Badiou addresses Paul's understanding of Jesus as 'son' as further indication of how the subject is founded apart from the discourses of mastery. We are able to identify ourselves as offspring but we are never able to identify with the singular Father. This a universal egalitarian perspective (We are all God's coworkers 1 Cor 3:9).
In order to maintain this perspective Paul strips Jesus of any significance historically. In this way Jesus is "neither a master nor an example. He is the name for what happens to us universally." Here Badiou offers an interesting comparison between Nietzsche and Paul. Nietzsche is of course highly critical of Paul but Badiou argues that this intense response to Paul is because "he is his rival far more than his opponent." Both figures desire for substantial shift in the individual's subjectivity. Badiou argues that Nietzsche relies on three themes of which Paul is the founder. 1) the self-legitimating subjective declaration; 2) the breaking of history in two; 3) the new man as the end of guilty slavery and affirmation of life. The problem with Nietzsche is that he attempted to maintain that Paul's motif was death when it was just the opposite. In Paul "life takes revenge on death." What Nietzsche was genuinely and correctly opposed to was Paul's universal. Paul offered an absolute and unrelenting all which abolished the status and privilege attained by the strong.
Paul advocates a subjectivity founded on grace. This subjectivity is a becoming and not a state. It must always function in relationship to the "not - but," for you are not under law, but under grace. The not always functions to shut down and dismantle the discourses of mastery and the but seeks to open paths of faithful work towards a universal communion.

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