Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2021

The Everywhere and the Nowhere of Phenomenological Ethics

Kimberly Matheson
Pages 180-204

Points, Plasticity, and the Logic of Contraction in Alain Badiou and Catherine Malabou

This article presents Catherine Malabou and Alain Badiou as theorists of contraction (a kind of reduction or tightening that accompanies every process of transformation) and its related operations of self-reflexivity and infinite iteration. Trading on these commonalities, the article hopes to draw out Malabou’s and Badiou’s respective formalist commitments. On Badiou’s side, it sharpens the question of what is at stake in something as regulated as a “procedure”; on Malabou’s, it recognizes formal stakes to plasticity that often go unrecognized because of her penchant for biology. The article then concludes with a broad comparison of these two thinkers in terms of their accounts of potential and imagines the critiques each might leverage against the other. Where Malabou might well regard Badiou to be too tightly constraining the shape of the future, Badiou is likely to find in Malabou one more instance of a naïve democratic materialism.