I recently attended Alain Badiou’s mini-course on The Relationship Between Art and Philosophy in the Philosophy Department at The University of Essex.
I did something I wouldn’t normally do afterwards; making my notes publicly available. They’re available on academia.edu and I publicised this fact with Facebook and Twitter. So far I’m getting 2-3 hits a day on them and they’re ranking high on Google.
When I was a graduate student, we weren’t encouraged to share materials in this way. Philosophers in general are uncomfortable with sharing their ideas through unofficial channels, though there are some exceptions. This is beccause a philosopher’s ideas are pretty much the only intellectual property that they have: there’s no data as such to ensure the validity of philosophical research. The entire culture of research dissemination in philosophy has developed around this.
We were always told to publish only the best material and only in the best journals. That’s certainly the only way to get tenure in a philosophy department, but I’m disinclined to think that it’s the best way to ferment ideas and exchange viewpoints. I’m pretty confident that more people will ultimately see my online notes than would have seen any journal paper I might have written. (Caveat: it is highly unlikely that I will ever write a research paper about Badiou!)
I feel like I have added some value to the event by acting as scribe and making my account of what happened public. It’s also heartening to see that someone else has made their own notes available in a similar way, though we seem to have arrived at quite different interpretations of what was being said.
I don’t believe Badiou’s thesis – in brief; that the role of art is to interrupt the (abstract form of the) law and so interrupt the repetitious nature of the general order of things – was ultimately successful. I haven’t read a great deal of Badiou’s work, so perhaps that would help… but I’m not optimistic. Then again, the greater part of the learning experience in philosophy is often (i) working out what’s actually being said (this is often much harder than it sounds!) (ii) working out why it’s wrong and how it could be improved.