Two rationalist subjectivities

Reason is not the already-accomplished apparatus of rationality, and the space of reasons can never be laid out in its totality under a single gaze. In short, it is not a “full body”, sufficient and all-comprehending.

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Neither can a “rationalist project” be oriented by the thought of one day completing rationality, or take the measure of its accomplishments based on their perceived proximity to such a goal. Rationality is locally perfectible – there exist problems to which there are solutions, and even classes of problems to which there are general solutions – but not globally: there is no universal procedure which will render every circumstance as a problem to which there is a solution.

There is no end of phrases, and no end to the task of linking phrases together.

The obscure subject of a rationalist politics will be that which, in the name of a “full body” of accomplished (or to-be-accomplished) rationality, calls for everything to be restored to order. Society organised according to geometric principles! Its speech purged of fallacies, its politics free of antagonism…

We know that such an obscure subject must devote itself increasingly to destruction, culminating in a frenzy against the real. Only the destruction of error can restore the integrity of the full body; and there is no end of error.

The faithful subject of a rationalist politics will be that which proceeds by proofs, which is to say by logical invention. To trust in reason is to trust in a generic capacity, without any guarantee drawn from the particularity of this or that person or community. It is to trust in the next step of the proof, without the certain knowledge of the world’s approval (reason can still scandalise the world).

The obscure subject has no need of fidelity, since there is literally nothing left for it to prove. All that remains is the identification – and consignment to perdition – of the infidel.

It is by no means the rationalist orientation in politics that has generated the most ferociously indiscriminate instances of this subjective figure.

3 thoughts on “Two rationalist subjectivities”

  1. I think the distinction’s reasonably clear in Badiou between the advertisement and the product. “Be a faithful subject by talking all the time about the ‘faithful subject'” is about as compelling and useful a program as “make yourself a body without organs by talking all the time about the ‘body without organs'”. Or, indeed, “be rational by talking all the time about rationality”.

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