Badiou’s Platonism: The Mathematical Ideas of Post-Cantorian Set-Theory

In Sean Bowden & Simon B. Duffy (eds.), Badiou and Philosophy. Edinburgh University Press (2012)
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Plato’s philosophy is important to Badiou for a number of reasons, chief among which is that Badiou considered Plato to have recognised that mathematics provides the only sound or adequate basis for ontology. The mathematical basis of ontology is central to Badiou’s philosophy, and his engagement with Plato is instrumental in determining how he positions his philosophy in relation to those approaches to the philosophy of mathematics that endorse an orthodox Platonic realism, i.e. the independent existence of a realm of mathematical objects. The Platonism that Badiou makes claim to bears little resemblance to this orthodoxy. Like Plato, Badiou insists on the primacy of the eternal and immu- table abstraction of the mathematico-ontological Idea; however, Badiou’s reconstructed Platonism champions the mathematics of post-Cantorian set theory, which itself af rms the irreducible multiplicity of being. Badiou in this way recon gures the Platonic notion of the relation between the one and the multiple in terms of the multiple-without-one as represented in the axiom of the void or empty set. Rather than engage with the Plato that is gured in the ontological realism of the orthodox Platonic approach to the philosophy of mathematics, Badiou is intent on characterising the Plato that responds to the demands of a post-Cantorian set theory, and he considers Plato’s philosophy to provide a response to such a challenge. In effect, Badiou reorients mathematical Platonism from an epistemological to an ontological problematic, a move that relies on the plausibility of rejecting the empiricist ontology underlying orthodox mathematical Platonism. To draw a connec- tion between these two approaches to Platonism and to determine what sets them radically apart, this paper focuses on the use that they each make of model theory to further their respective arguments.
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