The one, the true, the good… or not: Badiou, Agamben, and atheistic transcendentality

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This article offers a reading of the “transcendental” character of Alain Badiou’s and Giorgio Agamben’s ontologies. While neither Badiou nor Agamben are “transcendental” philosophers in the Kantian sense, this article argues that their respective projects of ontology both recover aspects of the “classical” conception of the transcendentals. Not unlike how pre-modern philosophers conceived of oneness, truth and goodness as transcendental properties of all things, both Badiou’s and Agamben’s ontologies present various structures which can be universally predicated of all being. However, as opposed to the essentialist or even theological tendencies of traditional metaphysics, Badiou’s and Agamben’s ontologies are committedly “inessential” and atheistic at their very core. By replacing the divine perfections of the one, the true and the good in traditional metaphysics with a new yet quasi-classical transcendental notion of “the void” as a universal predicate of all beings, Badiou’s and Agamben’s works may be regarded as projects that go beyond both the pre-Kantian “theological” and the post-Kantian “subjective” conceptions of transcendental philosophy, thereby marking a new development in the history of western metaphysics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-97
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Badiou
  • Agamben
  • Transcendental
  • Ontology
  • Metaphysics
  • Atheism


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