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Contra-Axiomatics: A Non-Dogmatic And Non-Idealist Practice Of Resistance

Henry, Chris (2016) Contra-Axiomatics: A Non-Dogmatic And Non-Idealist Practice Of Resistance. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:59747)

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What and how should individuals resist in political situations? While this question, or versions of it, recurs regularly within Western political philosophy, answers to it have often relied on dyads founded upon dogmatically held ideals. In particular, there is a strain of idealist political philosophy, inaugurated by Plato and finding contemporary expression in the work of Alain Badiou, that employs dyads (such as the distinction between truth and doxa or the privilege of thought over sense) that tend to reduce the complexities of practices of resistance to concepts of commitment. Although these dyads have been challenged by, amongst others, poststructuralist theorists, this has often been at the cost of losing their structuralist heritage. This thesis develops an ontology proper to structuralism that engenders non-idealist and non-dogmatic, yet ethical, practices of resistance against commitment orientated accounts of resistance and the return of classical ontological dyads.

The thesis begins with an examination of the extent to which a dogmatic use of idealism grounds the work of a prominent contemporary theorist, Alain Badiou. In developing his neo-Maoist metapolitics, Badiou follows both Platonic ontology and the Marxist tradition of dialectics by claiming that political practice can only be carried out in truth by paying fidelity to an event that ruptures the presented order of things. Chapter one opens with an exploration of Badiou's mathematic meta-ontology to draw out its three foundational dyads (truth/doxa; sense/intelligibility; is/is not). It is argued that although Badiou makes important criticisms of the preponderant trends of political philosophy, he is unable to support his own account of politics due to his dogmatic reliance on idealist principles. Chapter two begins by developing two accounts: first, of the relations between Badiou's work and that of his former teacher Louis Althusser and, secondly, the relations between Althusser's thought and that of Gilles Deleuze, in particular his reading of David Hume. Discussion centres around the importance of the role that time plays within the works of all three authors, particularly in regard to the idea of the void. The chapter concludes with the argument that Hume's temporal idea of human nature is the key to a symptomatic reading of Althusser that accounts for the persistence of ideas in the latter's social theory. In chapter three, Deleuze's reading of Hume's idea of relations is developed to take into account Bergson's theory of time. Read in contrast to Quentin Meillassoux's speculative realism, the chapter argues that Deleuze's account of temporal relations informs Althusser's social theory to create the ontological grounds for non-dogmatic and non-idealist practices of resistance.

These practices are developed in chapter four with an unlikely turn to John Stuart Mill's idea of genius, the metaphysical property of the individual that signifies the discovery of new truth. The chapter begins with an argument that there is an under-developed account of ethics in Deleuze's work. Distinguishing the idea of genius from both Mill's moral philosophy, as well as from utilitarian thought more generally, the idea of genius is sutured onto Deleuze's ontological account of individuation. Read alongside Althusser's social theory, which accounts for the non-idealist conceptualisation of situations, this suture creates an ethically oriented structuralist ontology. The thesis concludes with the argument that the idea of genius is the ethical imperative that motivates practices of resistance. When individuals are understood as embodied within situations, practices of resistance are conceptualised not against other components of a situation, but contra them, taking them into account in order to amplify, multiply and transform the individual's potential within a situation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: MacKenzie, Iain
Thesis advisor: Devellennes, Charles
Uncontrolled keywords: resistance philosophy politics ontology ethics mathematics Deleuze Badiou Mill Hume Althusser Meillassoux
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2016 10:00 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 07:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Henry, Chris.

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