Subjects of Creation. On Materialist Abstraction and the Enactment of Ideas

Töpfner, Christian. 2015. Subjects of Creation. On Materialist Abstraction and the Enactment of Ideas. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

How are we to think creation today when such an act is understood as the making of something out of nothing? Insisting that genuine creation happens ex nihilo brings us into direct confrontation with much of contemporary philosophical thought, be it critical or analytic, since the latter predominantly rules out the possibility of making reasonable statements about nothingness, or, indeed, about any kind of radical outside to what exists. This thesis attempts to formulate a speculative, rudimentary model of creation that proceeds from the consequences of affirming the possibility to not only think a radical outside, but to also instantiate ‘some’ of the latter in the form of genuine novelty. The terms for this model are developed from, and via a close examination of, Alain Badiou’s Being and Event and Logics of Worlds. Ultimately, however, it becomes necessary to take a critical distance to Badiou’s system on the basis of some foundational inconsistencies that arise from his unrelenting Platonism. In its place, this thesis proposes an alternative generic conception of creation, which, although following Badiou’s idea of subjective formalisms, transposes the latter onto a materialist foundation with the help of Quentin Meillassoux’s work in After Finitude and the late work of Michel Foucault. It is then demonstrated how this new model can itself be materially effective, or, more specifically, how its enactment in any particular world can be thought to work. The argument is also made, contra Badiou, that the event – that which establishes the possibility for radical difference – is something we can intentionally induce or work towards. In summary, the aim of this thesis is to reinvigorate the notion of radical novelty and the process of its instantiation through the act of creation. In doing so it proposes a rational basis for the belief that genuinely different worlds are indeed possible – and how such possibilities can be thought, occasioned and enacted.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Creation, novelty, abstraction, subjectivity, Badiou

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 March 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Apr 2015 13:54

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:09


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