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Neither philosophy nor literature: the poetic truth condition

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Doug Purvis
Publication date2020
Number of pages280
Awarding Institution
Award date6/03/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This work is conceived as an antiphilosophical riposte to Alain Badiou’s ‘return of philosophy itself’ thesis, taking as its inspiration Wittgenstein’s gnomic notebook entry of the 1930s to the effect that philosophy ‘ought now to be written only as one would write poetry’. Badiou wants philosophy to be as pure as mathematics, but this only sees it distilled down to an essence whereby nothing of itself remains. In ‘fleshing out’ its ideas as living, breathing metaphors, on the other hand, transcending its habitual tautologies and pseudo-problems, it supersedes itself; it becomes figurative, which is to say poetic, and no longer contained by discursive limits.

My argument unfolds through considerations of a series of key metaphors, considering the inherent Narcissism that leads Badiou to read his philosophy of the event into the works of Mallarmé and Celan. I counter his forensic, flattened, monosemic explications with ambisemic re-readings. Poetic motifs are re-interpreted in a context of synaesthetic re-awakenings rather than ‘truths,’ emphasizing a hermeneutic of the ‘perhaps,’ and contingent encounters in which communication precedes and supersedes rational understanding.