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Philosophy in the Present Paperback – December 14, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (December 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745640974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745640976
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The book is an incisive critique of the role of the intellectual within the areas of violence and hunger, love and death. I am sure it will inspire many to go further into the writings of these two very radical philosophers whose intellectual polemics offer a compelling conversation on contemporary visions of resistance to arbitrary state power and violence through a revitalised view of philosophy's place in the world today."

"How can philosophy be restored to its true vocation as a form of ethical and political intervention? In this lively, accessible debate two of Europe's most challenging thinkers present their answers to this question - and discover how much agreement as well as discord there is between them."
Peter Dews, University of Essex


From the Back Cover

Two controversial thinkers discuss a timeless but nonetheless urgent question: should philosophy interfere in the world?

Nothing less than philosophy is at stake because, according to Badiou, philosophy is nothing but interference and commitment and will not be restrained by academic discipline. Philosophy is strange and new, and yet speaks in the name of all - as Badiou shows with his theory of universality.

Similarly, Zizek believes that the philosopher must intervene, contrary to all expectations, in the key issues of the time. He can offer no direction, but this only shows that the question has been posed incorrectly: it is valid to change the terms of the debate and settle on philosophy as abnormality and excess.

At once an invitation to philosophy and an introduction to the thinking of two of the most topical and controversial philosophers writing today, this concise volume will be of great interest to students and general readers alike.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on October 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
A dialogue between two eminent stars of Philosophy: Badiou and Zizek, which took place in Vienna, is largely a throwaway text. With the exception of Badiou's talk, "Thinking the Event," this discussion was largely a reiteration of so many agreements and generalizations. Yet Badiou's paper is truly excellent; he succinctly his 8 theses on philosophy and is able to situate his political commitments in relation to what he calls "the event." Badiou has emerged as a major thinker over the course of the last 20 years, and this brief paper can be read as a fine introduction to his work. Unfortunately, Zizek's talk, "Philosophy is Not a Dialogue," is an embarrassing sequence of tangents and barely half-boiled cultural observations. Moreover, the conversations between the two is lukewarm-they affirm their major agreements, but fail to really ignite any meaningful dialogue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sean Hood on April 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this little book fascinating. It it two very different thinkers clearly agree about how philosophy intervenes in contemporary political situations. For both Badiou and Zizek philosophy does not answer the questions posed in contemporary debates (whom to vote for), rather it radically challenges the questions themselves by posing new questions (Is Democracy itself the real problem?)

Some familiarity with their pointed disagreements on other questions is probably necessary to get the most out of this little book... if only to appreciate how interesting it is that here they so pointedly agree.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Has philosophy become irrelevant in public debate? Was it ever relevant? Who now looks to philosophers for advice in times of trouble? Once upon a time the thoughts of John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, or AJ Ayer would grace newspapers, television shows or films. Especially in America, the appearance of a philosopher in almost any mainstream event is cause for celebration. Even Steven Hawking's latest book boldly claims (though somewhat disingenuously) that "philosophy is dead." So whence philosophy? Does the love of wisdom's ancient whale lay dessicated on the shoreline? Has our age seen the passing of the once deemed grandest of all subjects? Strange that two figures that sometimes loom prominently in the European media would face off to tackle such issues. Slavov Zizek (sometimes called "the Elvis of critical theory") has appeared on television,cable and voluminous YouTube clips (seeing that YouTube has indubitably entered the realm of mass media). To a lesser degree, one can find Alain Badiou's image on talk shows, news shows and YouTube. Not only that, both often seem to field questions about current events. This seems to belie the basic message of this short volume, "Philosophy in the Present." Though neither seems to feel that "philosophy is dead," they nonetheless place limits on philosophy's scope and authority.

The speakers take turns and end with a discussion. Both apologize profusely about their constant agreement on the subject matter. No debate really ensues. Badiou begins and delineates his idea of the role philosophy should play in the present. Using three intriguing examples, Callicles versus Socrates in Plato's "Gorgias," the death of Archimedes and a 1954 Japanese film translated as "the Crucified Lovers.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Oliphant, Ph.D. on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A book of 100 pages, lacking any list of references or index, this is an interesting, readable discussion (Vienna in 2004) between two academics who have not been discouraged by "post-modern" cultural relativism. Alain Badiou is former Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris; and Slavoj Zizek is Professor of Sociology, Ljubjana. They discuss philosophy in the post-modern era. The post-modern era is the era of Kant, who turned the world away from both physical and metaphysical absolutism. Without absolutes, 'post-modern (post-Kantian) thinkers suppose everybody in a position of hopeless cultural relativism, where science is impossible, values are transient, and religion and philosophy are fading away.

In contrast to this discouragement, Badiou says that philosophy, far from fading away, defines universals. We define universals exactly when we confront events that we cannot measure, like the confrontation of freedom and politics that resulted in the death of Socrates. Every universal is an "evental," a decision that originates about an undecidable. An example of such an "evental" is `illegal immigrant.' Every universal is an implication, "univocal," and incomplete or open. For instance, `revolution' became a universal in the French Revolution in the subject-thought of the acts.

Because universals are incomplete or open, they are "infinite generic multiples." Badiou offers a distinction between religion as grounded in the problem of life and philosophy as grounded in the problem of death.
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