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Alain Badiou’s magnum opus Being and Event opens with the claim that ‘mathematics is ontology’. Much of his philosophical work from the 1980’s until today consists of a profound reexamination of the conceptual field of classical philosophical ontology with the aid of contemporary mathematics. This conference is prompted by the perception that the first generation of thinkers reacting to Badiou too often did not adequately come to terms with the mathematical substance of this work. If on the one hand, contemporary mathematicians only rarely intervene in the field of continental philosophy, philosophers, on the other hand, often lack the advanced mathematical education that would enable them to grasp the full scope of Badiou’s thought. This conference, organized together with Alain Badiou himself, intends to fill this gap in the reception of Badiou’s philosophy.

If Spinoza already claimed that mathematics is what permits the human being to think beyond the final causes of Aristotle and if Jacques Lacan spoke about the matheme as capturing the “impasse of the real”, Badiou set out to restore the very relationship of philosophy and mathematics itself. In Being and Event, he based his understanding of Being on the premises of set theory, the inexistence of the One, and the existence of the generic set. In Number and Numbers, Badiou defied the dominance of a reductive numerical convention in contemporary capitalism by claiming that “numbers are a form of Being”. And in Logics of Worlds, Badiou based his understanding of what there is on contemporary logic(s). Finally, the soon-to-be-published Immanence of Truths will address the contemporary mathematics of the higher infinite. Clearly, contemporary mathematics has been a constant companion to Badiou, and it would be difficult if not impossible to understand the core of his thought without understanding the dialogue that he has established with mathematics.

The conference Alain Badiou: Thinking the Infinite intends to unite mathematicians and philosophers eager to engage with Badiou’s ontological and mathematical postulates. The conference will include a keynote lecture by Alain Badiou, in which he will demonstrate the logical necessity of grasping Being through mathematics. It will also include a series of roundtables, whose goal will be to create a dialogue between mathematicians and philosophers. Is the identification of ontology with mathematics more than a simple philosophical extravagance? Why has physics been sutured of necessity to mathematics? And how can we define the relationship between mathematics and philosophy today? 

The proceedings of the conference will be published in the collection “La pensée des mathématiques” directed by Alain Badiou and Charles Alunni at the French publishing house Hermann.

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