The Transcendental Ordinary

Wittgenstein to Badiou
  • Patrick McGee


In a note published in 1932 under the heading “Tolstoy,” Wittgenstein considered the view that a thing (Gegenstand) is important only if it can be understood by everyone. While inclined to agree with this proposition, he saw one stumbling block to its truth. The problem was not that in order to understand such a significant and important thing it was necessary to master a specialized language or some kind of technical knowledge, but rather that there might be a conflict between understanding certain kinds of propositions and human desire. In other words, it might be difficult to understand something that you don’t want to understand when it conflicts with what you want to believe is true. He concluded that the most obvious thing—I would say, truth—may offer the greatest resistance to understanding. In other words, when truth is communicated, the will may resist more than the intellect.1


Common Sense Ordinary Language Language Game Family Resemblance Psychotic Episode 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 17–17e.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958; originally published by The Macmillan Company, 1953), 47e, remark 109; and Philosophical Grammar, ed. Rush Rhees, trans. Anthony Kenny (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974), 462. Henceforth, for all of Wittgensteins’s texts, references are to numbered remarks (italicized) unless page numbers (not italicized) are indicated.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gilbert Ryle, “Systematically Misleading Expressions,” Collected Papers, vol. 2: Collected Essays, 1929–1968 (London: Hutchinson and Company, 1961), 39–62.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961; originally published in German, 1921), 2.1–2.18.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy, ed. and trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), 37; and Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso, 2001), lvi–lvii.Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2005), 286–94. On the distinction between a situation and its state, see Meditations 7 and 8, 81–101.Google Scholar
  7. 29.
    The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, newly revised ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 617.Google Scholar
  8. 43.
    Jacques Lacan, The Psychoses 1955–1956, book 3 of The Seminar, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 1993), 250.Google Scholar
  9. 45.
    Ibid., 268–69. On points de capiton, see Jacques Lacan, Ècrits (Paris: Èditions du Seuil, 1966), 503; Ècrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 2005), 419; Ècrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977), 154.Google Scholar
  10. 46.
    R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (New York: Pantheon, 1983).Google Scholar
  11. 47.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 43–44.Google Scholar
  12. 51.
    Marjorie Perloff, Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 57.
    Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken Books, 1978), 180.Google Scholar
  14. 63.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, trans. Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 403.Google Scholar
  15. 69.
    Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 79.Google Scholar
  16. 74.
    Alain Badiou, Logiques des mondes, L’être et l’événement 2 (Paris: Seuil, 2006), 212–13.Google Scholar
  17. 79.
    Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings, ed. and trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano (New York: Continuum, 2004), 101.Google Scholar
  18. 82.
    Peter Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 340–48.Google Scholar
  19. 96.
    Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993), 72.Google Scholar
  20. 104.
    Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, book 7 of The Seminar, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter (New York: Norton, 1992), 12.Google Scholar
  21. 107.
    Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, ed. and trans. James Stra-chey (New York: Norton, 1990), 28–37.Google Scholar
  22. 108.
    Jacques Lacan, Encore, book 20 of Le sèminaire, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1975), 84, 90; for the English translation, see On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972–73, book 20, Encore, of The Seminar, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 1998), 90, 98.Google Scholar
  23. 115.
    Jacques Lacan, Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, ed. Joan Copjec (New York: Norton, 1990), 40.Google Scholar
  24. 116.
    Alain Badiou, Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker (London: Verso, 2005), 68–77.Google Scholar
  25. 120.
    Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. Ray Brassier (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 111.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick McGee 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick McGee

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations