I read many books this year. Almost all concerned a subject in science and philosophy. My favorite work of philosophy was, surprisingly, by the french philosopher Alain Badiou. Surprisingly because I had stopped reading the thinker of events, sets, and fidelity three years ago, and turned my attention to the books by the young and emerging philosophers of speculative realism—Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassou, Ray Brassier. This year, I stopped reading the speculative realists and focused on Spinoza, David Harvey, and the Italian Marxists—Negri, Virno, Marazzi, and Berardi. Indeed, I was set to name Berardi's The Soul at Work my book of the year when, for reasons related to a project in my head called Poetics of Sociality, I read last week Badiou's Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism, a work translated from French by one of the members of the speculative realist school, Ray Brassier.
Saint Paul is deeply original and offers an excellent introduction to Badiou's mode of thinking and the leading themes of his philosophical system—particularly his theory of the event, which has four possible expressions:scientific, artistic, erotic, and political. Paul's importance to Badiou is that he transformed Jesus's resurrection into a political event, an event that establishes a "truth procedure," which must always be universal: a true God for all, a god beyond Jewish law and Greek wisdom, a God whose strength is in human weakness. Badiou also repairs the damage Paul suffered in the hands of Nietzsche, who accused the priest of focusing on Jesus's death on the cross and not his life and works.
Anyway, one of my favorite passages in the book concerns Paul's cosmopolitanism. Paul was not only a Roman citizen, but also an urbanite, a citizen of the city. He was more us (city people) than Jesus (a hick). Badiou writes: "Paul resides in Antioch, a very large city, the third city of the empire after Rome and Alexandria. ...[H]e is a man of the city rather than a man of the country. This is more than a detail. His style owes nothing to those rural images and metaphors that, on the contrary, abound in the parables of Christ." This reading of Paul provided me with a new way of thinking about Christianity, a religion that is much like jazz. Both have humble origins in the country, but it is in the city that they develop into something global and higher—a higher art and a higher religion.