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decorHigh-school Students in Saint-Denis Study the Concept of Love


by Cynthia Fleury


Cynthia Fleury’s Philosophy Chronicle

Translated Sunday 17 January 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

With the new year, good resolutions and existential hopes pile up: health, wealth, or better still, fortuna, as Machiavelli called it, and love of course. To fall in love or remain in love, to meet the loved being or keep enough inspiration and courage to go on loving her or him. Love that comes out of the blue, and love that lives on.
Love that lasts is one of the themes in Alain Badiou’s recent conversation with Nicolas Truon In Praise of Love (Flammarion, 2009)

Love that lasts is one of the themes in Alain Badiou’s last conversation with Nicolas Truon In Praise of Love (Flammarion, 2009): “In love, faithfulness designates that continuous victory whereby chance - in the unforeseen meeting - is defeated day after day in the invention of a duration that is the cradle for a new world.” Love or chance held fast, the discovery of eternity. “Yes, the lover’s happiness is proof that time can make room for eternity.” The enigma in all reflection on love, “is the question of the duration that accomplishes it.”

So the best wishes to exchange for the new year should be for a pas de deux. Not the exclusive possession of anything but the beginning of a journey in a vis-à-vis. [1] A scene set for two as the place where a certain experience of reality can build up. “A truth-finding process”, very much like a honeymoon. For love is the alchemy that turns chance into truth, a fulcrum on which to lean. And so “I love you” is a veritable “fiat lux”.

It is the real beginning of things if love is not reduced to its common security-first version. Now we moderns like to be reassured. Love is all-right as long as it carries no risk. Love without suffering or without its peripateia. Love without the other, in short. Love as a decent synonym for exclusive enjoyment of oneself.

Some will think that this conversation has nothing to do with Badiou’s political views. And yet there is a subtle link between politics, a truth-finding process concerned with the collective experience, and love, the truth-finding process in a vis-à-vis. What is the collective experience capable of? Just as the reproduction of the species is not the aim of love, so power is not the aim of the collective experience. Thus, the creation of equality is the loving gesture of a collective endeavour. In politics as in love, something is given in excess. The new year can be dedicated to the quest for this excess.

In that sense love might well be communist. But does love generate exceptional, unique singularity rather than equality? Does love imply a gift or reciprocity? Moreover Badiou once more asserts the necessity of the “communist hypothesis” as it holds the “seeds of the future politics of emancipation”. We all see what he aspires after. But can we call hypothesis what history has so tragically discredited?

What is interesting about Badiou’s ethics is that it proves moral sceptics wrong. Pessimism makes short theory, and as a gesture, has short currency. Love is not cunning, politics is not deception. Even though in love and in politics there are trials and enemies. We shall always have to defeat the enemy within or without, namely our preference for identity over difference. For love and politics are the trustful acceptance of difference and chance. They leave no room for suspicion or nostalgia. Just as it is necessary to make a declaration of love over and over again, the pact will have to be signed over and over again. Come, “tell me again that you love me”, like a Tennis Court Oath. [2]

[1A carriage that seats two passengers face to face. See for instance A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768) by Laurence Sterne, in which the fictitious author (who strongly resembles the author) invites the reader to sit oposite him. A parson himself, who has left his dear Eliza behind, he is keenly sensitive to the pleasure of giving alms, sometimes as a means to invite and evade chance Temptation, the title for several of the chapters, like the following:



When I alighted at the hotel, the porter told me a young woman with a bandbox had been that moment inquiring for me. I do not know, said the porter, whether she is gone away or no..."

[2The Tennis Court Oath (French: serment du jeu de paume) was a pivotal event during the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 out of the 577 members from the Third Estate and a few members of the First Estate during a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789 in a tennis court building near the Palace of Versailles.
On 17 June 1789 this group, led by Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, began to call themselves the National Assembly.[1] On the morning of 20 June the deputies were shocked to discover that the doors to their chamber were locked and guarded by soldiers. Immediately fearing the worst and anxious that a royal coup by King Louis XVI was imminent, the deputies congregated in a nearby indoor real tennis court where they took a solemn collective oath "never to separate, and to meet wherever circumstances demand, until the constitution of the kingdom is established and affirmed on solid foundations."
The deputies pledged to continue to meet until a constitution had been written, despite the royal prohibition. The oath was both a revolutionary act, and an assertion that political authority derived from the people and their representatives rather than from the monarch himself. Their solidarity forced Louis XVI to order the clergy and the nobility to join with the Third Estate in the National Assembly. Source: Wikipedia

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