The concept of happiness is a rather tainted and off-putting one for philosophers. It has, in contemporary society, been reduced to the simple answers of the self-help industry, consumerist trends and the polluted rhetoric of the politician. In this major intervention into both contemporary philosophy and how we live now, Alain Badiou attempts to rehabilitate the notion of 'being happy'. He claims, 'the category of happiness, such as it is promoted today, has largely been reduced to what I would call satisfaction' and satisfaction for Badiou simply isn't good enough. Risk, adventure, peril are what true happiness is all about. Putting oneself in the position to feel and experience things that go beyond simply feeling calm and at peace, deliberating disturbing our equilibrium and asking questions of ourselves is where true happiness lies.
Badiou is also asking a serious political question in his interrogation of happiness: what does it mean, socially and politically, to simply accept one's place in the world? It's each individual's political responsibility to disrupt our allotted places in the universe, up-end the social order, bring about something new.
This is a crucially important piece of lively, life-giving philosophy from one of the world's greatest living philosophers.
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Alain Badiou teaches at the École Normale Supérieure and at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, France. In addition to several novels, plays and political essays, he has published a number of major philosophical works.
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