Today young people, at least in the West, are on the brink of a new world. With the decline of old traditions, they now face more choices than ever before. Yet powerful forces are pushing them in dangerous directions, into the vortex of consumerism or into reactive forms of traditionalism. This is a time when young people must be particularly attentive to the signs of the new and have the courage to venture forth and find out what they're capable of, without being constrained by the old prejudices and hierarchical ideas of the past. And if the aim of philosophy is to corrupt youth, as Socrates was accused of doing, this can mean only one thing: to help young people see that they don't have to go down the paths already mapped out for them, that they are not just condemned to obey social customs, that they can create something new and propose a different direction as regards the true life.
That is precisely the issue at stake in this dialogue, which serves as a very accessible introduction to what mathematics is and an exploration of the crucial influence it has always exerted on the greatest philosophers. Far from the thankless, pointless exercises they are often thought to be, mathematics and logic are indispensable guides to ridding ourselves of dominant opinions and making possible an access to truths, or to a human experience of the utmost value. That is why mathematics may well be the shortest path to the true life, which, when it exists, is characterized by an incomparable happiness.
Now, in the course of this wide-ranging conversation with Peter Engelmann, Alain Badiou explains why he continues to value the idea of communism against the background of current social crises and despite negative historical experiences. From the anticipation of a communism without a state to the problem of the concept of democracy and an analysis of capitalism as a system, the two thinkers discuss the key political issues of our time. Whilst explaining his political philosophy, Badiou also reflects on current socio-political developments such as the turmoil in the Middle East and the situation in China.
This compelling dialogue is both a highly topical contribution to the question of how we might organize our societies differently and an accessible introduction to Badiou's philosophical thinking.