Getting up yourself: how not to write a preface

I couldn’t help being struck by two different prefaces, one written by Alain Badiou for the English translation of his Being and Event:

Soon it will have been twenty years since I published this book in France. At that moment I was quite aware of having written a ‘great’ book of philosophy … I thought that I had inscribed my name in the history of philosophy …

And Ernst Bloch in his Traces, who notes in slight contrast:

Just as a detour in life so often turns out not to have been one at all, just as a little offshoot can provide the revitalizing contribution, so does the plan resign and overgrow itself at the same time in many first (and many late) masterpieces. Various examples, various ‘small beginnings’ appear here …. Cervantes only wanted to mock chivalric romances in Don Quixote; the mockery became a parody of humanity as such, and even more to its glory … Hegel wished only to write a sort of textbook, the progression of normal consciousness to the philosophical standpoint, and the Phenomenology resulted.

But what about a grand system of life, history and the universe, which philosophers seem prone to pursue. Bloch gives the example of

someone who wrote a philosophy of the postal system in three volumes, which was certainly an epochal idea at the time.


2 thoughts on “Getting up yourself: how not to write a preface

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