Badiou is known for his theorisation of the Event, for example in his book Being and Event; it's clear though that it's not an event in these term:

smiles, walks, dances, weddings, explosions, hiccups, hand-waves, arrivals, departures, births and deaths, thunder and lightening: the variety of the world seems not only to lie in its ordinary citizens - animals, and physical objects, and perhaps minds, sets and abstract particulars but also in the things that happen to, or are performed by them


Material objects, such as stones and tables are said to exist; events are said to occur

It seems, somehow, closer to how Vaclav Havel, in his collection of essays, Living in Truth, wrote:

That the same holds for non-specific knowledge is shown by many historic instances of an unprecedented cultural, political and moral upsurge throughout society, where the original nucleus of crystallisation or catalyst was an act of social self-awareness carried out, and indeed directly and 'physically' percieved, only by a quite a small and exclusive circle. Even subsequently, that act may have remained outside the apperception of society at large, yet it was still an indispensable condition of its upsurge.

Is this a useful characterisation of how Badiou thinks through the notion of event? And is it a notion with earlier antecedents?

  • Most of this material really reads like an answer to the headline question -- possibly consider refining the question and moving some of it down into an answer?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Aug 18, 2016 at 21:55
  • @JosephWeissman: its flattering to think that this looks more like an answer than a question, but to be honest it was more of a guess - I mean how I might answer it if it the question was posed to me; I was looking for an answer that was textually based; and also, though I didn't suggest it in the text whether 'Event' is a concept that Badiou has picked from elsewhere - I'm always keen to draw lines of dialogue between philosphers; I find it usually enlightening. Aug 20, 2016 at 8:26
  • Maybe the question should be simplified then, reflecting some of that?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Nov 30, 2016 at 0:42

1 Answer 1


The precise definition given for the Event evolves from Being & Event up to Logic of Worlds. So depending on what period one is reading of him, the presentation of this concept may be more or less complex.

The most complete definition, given in Logic of Worlds presupposes different levels of "happenings" (my term not his) in a World (at a site):

  • The most primary level: modifications
  • Next level : facts
  • Next level : weak singularity
  • Final level: events (strong singularity)

Each of these things represent on occurence at a "site", where a site is defined in the following manner :

Take an object (A, Id) in a world m. It is a site once it comes to be affected by the ontological relation A ∈ A (self-belonging) and, consequently, by a transcendental evaluation of existence* of the type Id(A, A), that is EA = p.

So what distinguishes these types occurrences are both degree of existence (think intensities of existence) of the site and the appearance of something previously inexistent at the site.

He defines degree as ‘measures’ of identities, differences or existences relative to a determinate world.

  • If the degree of intensity remains lesser than the maximum, it is a fact.

  • If it is equal to the maximum, it is either a weak singularity or an event.

Maximums are defined in the following manner:

Given an order-relation* over a set T, we say that it admits of a maximum, or of a maximal element, if there exists an element of T which is greater than or equal to every element of T. This element is written M, if it exists. We can then write that, for x ∈ T, we always have x ≤ M.

What distinguishes a weak singularity from an event are consequences.

An event makes the inexistent* proper to the object* in question pass from the minimal* transcendental value to the maximal* value. A weak singularity is incapable of doing this. We will say that an event absolutizes the proper inexistent of its place. The trace* of the event, often written ε, is the prior inexistent maximized (or absolutized, relative to the world* in question).

Think of May 1967 and May 1968. The brewing of turmoil in 1967 was not yet real transcendentally. It only became absolutized when the inexistent proper to the the brewing passed to a maximal value such that consequences (traces of the event) are forever left behind.

By "transcendentally" I'm using his terminology, which designates the constitutive capacity of every world to assign to what abides there, in that world, variable intensities of identity vis-à-vis what also abides there.

  • I just realized there was another aspect to the question: is it a notion with earlier antecedents? I would say that the closest philosophical precedents would be in Heidegger's notion of being as being-on-the-way, Ereignis and Deleuze's concept of the Event. Heidegger is the one he would explicitly make the connection with but it's fairly certain that the Deleuzian concept is an equal if not greater influence but because of politics (his 1970's antagonism of Deleuze starting at the University of Vincennes) he doesn't mention anything positive he gained from him until 10 years after his death. Mar 3, 2017 at 1:06
  • Just a final comment.. in Logic of Worlds Badiou discusses what he learned from Deleuze's critique of Being & Event, which is very helpful for historiographic purposes since his tone is overtly hostile in his book "Deleuze", and clarifies what he felt the need to do in Logic of Worlds to account for what he feels is unarticulated in Deleuze's conception of the Event and his critique of the older Badiouan concept in Being & Event, which is the ability to account for discontinuity. In fact he explicitly states that he is reversing Deleuze's axioms to come up with his own on pgs 381-7. Mar 4, 2017 at 18:03
  • what about 'object' and 'place'? how does he define these?
    – user57343
    Jan 26 at 11:13

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