Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Bid You Badiou - Chapter 6; The Site of Death / The Event of Life

Chapter 6 is for me one of the more difficult chapters to understand in this book. I think this difficulty in understanding comes from the conceptual content being both foreign and also heretical (from the perspective of historical orthodoxy). I was constantly trying to negotiate within myself whether or not I was actually understanding the content and if I was understanding it whether or not I could accept it. I found this in itself an interesting exercise in learning and reading.

This chapter deals with the role of death as it relates to the resurrection of Christ. Badiou begins by framing the chapter with the question of whether Paul is morbid as Nietzsche has characterized him; or in the more Hegelian framework whether death functions in dialectic of truth (I am woefully ignorant of Hegel to articulate this any further). Badiou maintains that if resurrection is caught up in this dialectic then the possibility of grace "is dissolved into an auto-foundational and necessarily deployed rational protocol." Grace rather is an "affirmation without preliminary negation." I can pick up Badiou's strand of thinking later in the chapter but here I lose him. He continues,

This de-dialectization of the Christ-event allows us to extract a formal, wholly secularized conception of grace from the mythological core. Everything hinges on knowing whether an ordinary existence, breaking with time's cruel routine, encounters the material chance of serving a truth, thereby becoming, through subjective devision and beyond animal's survival imperatives, an immortal.

What Badiou seems to be developing, and perhaps this is where my orthodoxy gets in the way of understanding, is the radical possibility of living truth apart from the apparatus of religious law or intellectual foundation. Badiou,

Let us posit that that it is incumbent upon us to found a materialism of grace through the strong, simple idea that every existence can one be seized by what happens to it and subsequently devote itself to that which is valid for all, or as Paul magnificently puts it, "become all things to all men."
Yes, we are the beneficiaries of certain graces, ones for which there is no need to invoke an All-Powerful.

I will set that final statement aside for now. From here Badiou articulates the non-dialectical nature of resurrection and how then death functions in relationship to it. Paul is not viewed as having a theology of suffering as such. Suffering is certainly to be expected but that is only because of living apart from the dominant discourses of wisdom and law. This changes how we understand the cross. For Paul then there is no "path of the Cross. There is Calvary, but no ascent to Calvary." This appears to be entering into another discourse that allows the play of competition and mastery. Elevation and status through suffering.
This leads us finally to Badiou's statement on death. In Paul death is placed on the side of flesh and law (subjectively conceived and not biologically or platonically) and therefore can have no sacred or spiritual function. Whereas death was the invention of man (Adam) Christ (the second Adam) comes to reveal the human possibility of life. Badiou makes a very important move here. With the death of the fully human Jesus God enters into complete filiation with humanity.

Such is the unique necessity of Christ's death: it is the means to an equality with God himself. Through this thought of the flesh, whose real is death, is dispensed to us in grace the fact of being in the same element as God himself. Death here names the renunciation of transcendence. Let us say that Christ's death sets up an immenentization of the spirit. [emphasis his]

The transcendent space between God and humanity exists only so long as the law occupies the mediating gulf. With death the gulf is collapses and establishes the site of the resurrection. This is the event of reconciliation though not of salvation. Resurrection (salvation) is that which emerges from the site. However Badiou again makes it clear,

Resurrection is neither a sublation, nor an overcoming of death. They are two distinct functions, whose articulation contains no necessity. For the event's sudden emergence never follows from the existence of an evental site. Although it requires conditions of immanence, that sudden emergence nevertheless remains of the order of grace.

Resurrection and life must not be contingent on the discourses of mastery which is the subjective of law and of death even though life emerges from the site of death. The language is not always clear to me in this area for we are not to speak of an 'overcoming' of death though on the same page Badiou speaks of a 'killing' of death. What is important is the universal 'yes' be maintained.
Here Badiou again brings this thinking into relationship with Nietzsche as sibling not opponent. Both are interested in introducing a 'new' man unfettered from law.

The truth is that both brought antiphilosophy to the point where it no longer consists in a 'critique,' however radical, of the whims and pettiness of the metaphysician or sage. A much more serious matter is at issue: that of bringing about through the event an unqualified affirmation of life against the reign of death and the negative. Of being he who, Paul or Zarathustra, anticipates with flinching the moment when 'death is engulfed in victory.' (1 Cor 15:24)

Christ comes out of death and does not remain contingent to it. There remains then not the dialectic of death and life but the subjective choice of death and life.
Badiou concludes the chapter by confusing (offending?) me in even further. In trying to understand why this event offer as universal ability to suspend differences Badiou instructs us that, "it is essential to remember that for Paul, Christ is not identical with God, that no Trinitarian or substantialist theology upholds his preaching." This conceptual framework must be divorced from the metaphor of "the sending of the son." In this way the infinite does not die on the cross. It is important for Badiou that "terminating the abyss of transcendence, be immanent to the path of the flesh, of death, to all the dimensions of the human subject." That Christ must be entirely and solely human. And so Badiou arrives at the statement, "Paul's thought dissolves incarnation in resurrection."
I cannot for the life of me follow all his thinking here. It appears important that it not be the 'infinite' that dies but that it is a fully human expression. That it is the human who invents death and also that it is the human that experiences and expresses the possibility of the infinite through the immanentization of the spirit. This should of course be obvious for Badiou from the outset appropriates this as the secular reality/possibility of the event. Does this disqualify it outright for the orthodox believer? We'll keep plugging along for now.

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