Difficult Atheism

Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux

Christopher Watkin
Series: Crosscurrents
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Difficult Atheism
    Book Description:

    Difficult Atheism shows how contemporary French philosophy is rethinking the legacy of the death of God in ways that take the debate beyond the narrow confines of atheism into the much broader domain of post-theological thinking. Christopher Watkin argues that Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux each elaborate a distinctive approach to the post-theological, but that each approach still struggles to do justice to the death of God.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4630-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-xi)
  5. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    Christopher Watkin
  6. Introduction: Atheisms Today
    (pp. 1-21)

    There is a new move in French philosophy today to come to terms with the death of God more rigorously than ever, and it cannot be understood under the banner of ‘atheism’. No longer can we think in terms of a monolytic atheism or of a single agenda of thinking ‘without God’, for what we see developing is a plurality of perhaps incommensurable approaches to thinking after God. We must not mistake this for a return to God after God, or for the growth of a new postsecular or postreligious philosophy; it is a thinking that tries more fully than...

  7. 1. The God of Metaphysics
    (pp. 22-57)

    ‘Je prends au pied de la lettre la formule « Dieu est mort ». [. . .] Dieu, c’est fini. Et la religion aussi, c’est fini’ (CT 12).³ This striking intervention in the prologue of Badiou’s Court Traité d’ontologie transitoire is not merely a claim that the moral God is dead, much less that the death of God is one move in a wider Christian dialectic. By claiming that God is dead Badiou is doing more therefore than echoing Nietzsche’s madman. For Badiou as for Heidegger, Nietzsche’s claim that God is dead is not yet without God, for the theistic...

  8. 2. The God of the Poets
    (pp. 58-94)

    The God of metaphysics is not the final, nor the most tenacious, of the gods Badiou seeks to despatch in his assault on the latent theology of finite thinking. Haunting the thought even of those who claim to have deconstructed the God of metaphysics is the third of Badiou’s three ‘chief deities’: the God of the poets. For a finite thinking the God of the poets remains perfectly intact after the God of metaphysics is ‘finished’ (CT 18–19/BOE 28), for the motif of finitude is ‘comme la trace d’une survivance, dans le mouvement qui confie la relève du Dieu...

  9. 3. Difficult Atheism
    (pp. 95-131)

    So far we have charted and critiqued the very different ways in which Badiou and Nancy seek to respond to the death of God, Badiou in terms of the threefold affirmation that ‘God is dead’ and Nancy with a deconstruction of Christianity. They seek to avoid both the parasitism of imitative atheism (seeking to be rid of God in ways that assume or require God) and the asceticism of residual atheism (renouncing or retrenching, along with God, the notions of truth, goodness and beauty and so on that he underwrites) by searching for an post-theological integration that is neither parasitic...

  10. 4. Beyond A/theism? Quentin Meillassoux
    (pp. 132-167)

    In the previous chapter we saw that, while Badiou maintains the dichotomy of theism and atheism in his axiomatic approach, Nancy moves beyond the dichotomy, exploring how the two positions share a common structure and how, to be ‘without God’, it is this structure that must be rejected, though we concluded that neither Nancy nor Badiou succeed in rejecting it. In this chapter we explore what such an atheological move might look like in an idiom closer to, but by no means identical with, Badiou’s own, by turning to the thought of Quentin Meillassoux. Meillassoux’s Après la finitude (2006) is...

  11. 5. The Politics of the Post-Theological I: Justifying the Political
    (pp. 168-205)

    We now turn to consider the ethical and political implications of the three different approaches to post-theological thinking under discussion,² namely Nancy’s ‘atheology’, Badiou’s ‘atheism’ and Meillassoux’s ‘philosophy’. In pursuing its aims, this chapter and the next will be asking two broad questions. In the present chapter, we shall seek the criteriology of any possible relation between atheism/atheology/philosophy and any ethics or politics whatsoever, opening the question of justice. In the final chapter we shall return to the question of justice in order to investigate how each position seeks to secure a notion of universal justice. The question of justice...

  12. 6. The Politics of the Post-Theological II: Justice
    (pp. 206-238)

    Having considered in general terms how Badiou, Nancy and Meillassoux understand the relation of their post-theological ontologies to matters ethical and political, in this final chapter we take one political idea, namely justice, to serve as a case study of post-theological integration. In interrogating how our three thinkers understand and deploy the notion of justice we shall be asking whether their respective treatments succeed in avoiding both parasitism (seeking to be rid of God in ways that assume or require God) and asceticism (renouncing or retrenching, along with God, the scope of the theological notion of justice). Furthermore, can post-theological...

  13. General Conclusion: How to Follow an ‘Atheism’ That Never Was
    (pp. 239-243)

    We began this investigation by arguing that both imitative and residual atheisms are new moves in an old game and that their failure rigorously to think ‘after God’ is indicated by their systematic colonisation by ‘postsecular’ theologians. The implicit complicity of imitative atheism with the theological notions it explicitly rejects has been exposed (by Blanchot and others), and the asceticism of residual atheism, its ceding to theology of truth and goodness along with its Romantic inability to consummate the death of God, is lamented by Badiou and Meillassoux. As a recognition of and reaction to the inadequacy of both imitative...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 244-276)
  15. Index
    (pp. 277-282)