The following quotations are taken from:
Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Trans. Peter Hallward. Verso 2001. Pp. 40-57.
“If there is no ethics ‘in general’, that is because there is no abstract Subject, who would adopt it as his shield. There is only a particular kind of animal, convoked by certain circumstances to become a subject—or rather, to enter into the composing of a subject. This is to say that at a given moment, everything he is—his body, his abilities—is called upon to enable the passing of a truth along its path. This is when the human animal is convoked [requis] to be the immortal that he was not yet.
What are these ‘circumstances’? They are the circumstances of a truth. But what are we to understand by that? It is clear that what there is [ ce qu’il y a] (multiples, infinite differences, ‘objective’ situations – for example, the ordinary state of relation to the other, before a loving encounter) cannot define such a circumstance. In this kind of objectivity, every animal gets by as best it can. We must suppose, then , that whatever convokes someone to the composition of a subject is something extra, something that happens in situations as something that they and the usual way of behaving in them cannot account for. Let us say that a subject, which goes beyond the animal (although the animal remains its sole foundation [support] needs something to have happened, something that cannot be reduced to its ordinary inscription in ‘what there is’. Let us call this supplement an event, and let us distinguish multiple-being, where it is not a matter of truth (but only of opinions), from the event, which compels us to decide a new way of being. Such events are well and truly attested: the French Revolution of 1792, the meeting of Héloïse and Abelard, Galileo’s creation of physics, Haydn’s invention of the classical musical style… But also: the Cultural Revolution in China (1965-67), a personal amorous passion, the creation of Topos theory by the mathematician Grothendieck, the invention of the twelve-tone scale by Schoenberg…
From which ‘decision’, then, stems the process of a truth? From the decision to relate henceforth to the situation from the perspective of its evental [événemential] supplement. Let s call this a fidelity. To be faithful to an event is to move within the situation that this event has supplemented, by thinking (although all thought is a practice, a putting to the test) the situation ‘according to’ the event. And this, of course—since the event was excluded by all the regular laws of the situation—compels the subject to invent a new way of being and acting in the situation.
It is clear that under the effect of a loving encounter, if I want to be really faithful to it, I must completely rework my ordinary way of ‘living’ my situation. If I want to be faithful to the event of the ‘Cultural Revolution’, then I must at least practice politics (in particular the relation with the workers) in an entirely different manner from that proposed by the socialist and trade-unionist traditions. And again, Berg and Webern, faithful to the musical event known by the name of ‘Schoenberg’, cannot continue with fin-de-siécle neo-Romanticism as if nothing had happened. After Einstein’s texts of 1905, if I am faithful to their radical novelty, I cannot continue to practice physics within its classical framework, and so on. An evental fidelity is a real break (both thought and practised) in the specific order within which the event took place (be it political, loving, artistic or scientific…)
I shall call ‘truth’ (a truth) the real process of a fidelity to an event: that which this fidelity produces in the situation. For example, the politics of the French Maoists between 1966 and 1976, which tried to think and practice a fidelity to two entangled events: the Cultural Revolution in China, and May ’68 in France. Or so-called ‘contemporary’ music (a name as ubiquitous as it is strange), which is fidelity to the great Viennese composers of the early twentieth century. Or the algebraic geometry of the 1950s and 1960s, faithful to the concept of a Universe (in Grothendieck’s sense of the term), and so forth. Essentially, a truth is the material course traced, within the situation, by the evental supplementation. It is thus an immanent break. ‘Immanent’ because a truth proceeds in the situation, and nowhere else—there is no heaven of truths. ‘Break’ because what enables the truth-process—the event—meant nothing according to the prevailing language and established knowledge of the situation.
We might say, then, that a truth-process is heterogeneous to the instituted knowledges of the situation. Or—to use an expression of Lacan’s—that it punches a ‘hole [trouée]’ in these knowledges.
I call ‘subject’ the bearer [le support] of a fidelity, the one who bears a process of truth. The subject, therefore, in no way pre-exists the process He is absolutely nonexistent I the situation ‘before’ the event. We might say that the process of truth induces a subject.
It is important to understand that the ‘subject’, thus conceived, does not overlap with the psychological subject, nor even with the reflexive subject (in Descartes’s sense) or the transcendental subject (in Kant’s sense). For example, the subject induced by fidelity to an amorous encounter, the subject of love, is not the ‘loving’ subject described by the classical moralists. For this kind of psychological subject falls within the province of human nature, within the logic of passion, whereas what I am talking about has no ‘natural’ pre-existence. The lovers as such enter into the composition of one loving subJect, who exceeds them both.
In the same way, the subject of a revolutionary politics is not the individual militant—any more, by the way, than it is the chimera of a class-subject. It is a singular production, which has taken different names (sometimes ‘Party’, sometimes not). To be sure, the militant enters into the composition of this subject, but once again it exceeds him (it is precisely this excess that makes it come to pass as immortal).
Or again, the subject of an artistic process is not the artist (the ‘genius’, etc.) In fact, the subject-points of art are works of art. And the artist enters into the composition of these subjects (the works are ‘his’), without our being able in any sense to reduce them to ‘him’ (and besides, which ‘him’ would this be?).
Events are irreducible singularities, the ‘beyond-the-law’ of situations. Each faithful trht-process is an entirely invented immanent break with the situation. Subjects, which are the local occurrences of the truth-process (‘points’ of truth), are particular and incomparable inductions.
It is with respect to subjects of this kind that it is—perhaps—legitimate to speak of an ‘ethic of truths’.” 40-44
“The ordinary behaviour of the human animal is a matter of what Spinoza calls ‘perseverance in being’, which is nothing other tha the pursuit of interest, or the conservation of self. This perseverance is the law that governs some-one in so far as he knows himself. But the test of truth does not fall under this law. To belong to the situation is everyone’s natural destiny, but to belong to the composition of a subject of truth concerns a particular route, a sustained break, and it is very difficult to know how this composition is to be superimposed upon or combined with the simple perseverance-of-self.
I shall call ‘consistency’ (or ‘subjective consistency’) the principle of this superimposition, or this combination.” 46
“It is now an easy matter to spell out the ethic of a truth: ‘Do all that you can to persevere in that which exceeds your perseverance. Persevere in the interruption. Seize in your being that which has seized and broken you.’” 47
“…the ethic of a truth is the complete opposite of an ‘ethics of communication’. It is an ethic of the Real, if it is true that—as Lacan suggests—all consistency, which is the content of the ethical maxim ‘Keep going!’ [Continuer!], keeps going only by following the thread of this Real.
We might put it like this: ‘Never forget what you have encountered.’” 52