Ray Brassier: Quote of the Day!

“Is not part of the philosopher’s unease concerning scientific ‘reduction’ directly attributable to the unavowed wish that, as far as man is concerrned, there always be ‘something’ left over besides the material: some ineffable, unquantifiable metaphysical-residue, some irreducible transcendental remainder?”(AT, 15)

“If anyone is guilty of imperialistic reductionism as far as the extraordinary richness and complexity of the universe is concerned, it is the phenomenological idealist rather than the scientific materialist. Husserl’s idealism is as punitive as it is unmistakable: ‘The existence of Nature cannot be the condition for the existence of consciousness since Nature itself turns out to be a correlate of consciousness: Nature is only as being constituted in regular concatenations of consciousness.’” (AT, 17)

“The choice with which we are confronted is as clear as it is unavoidable: either Darwin or Husserl. To continue to persist on the course initiated by the latter is to plunge headlong into intellectual disaster and the ruin of philosophy as a credible theoretical enterprise. The future vouchsafed to philosophy by phenomenology is too dismal to contemplate: a terminally infantile, pathologically narcissistic anthropocentrism. The situation is too grave, the stakes too high to allow for equivocation or compromise.” (AT, 17)

– Ray Brassier, Alien Theory

7 thoughts on “Ray Brassier: Quote of the Day!

  1. One must not forget that Darwin preceded Husserl, and that there is no “hegemony” of phenomenology that Darwin allows us to resist and replace. Rather Husserl wanted to resist the scientistic trends that were trying to define the shape and the significance of Darwin’s work and create “Darwinism”. Can one have both Darwin and Husserl? Yes, and Deleuze’s use of Husserl to define a transcendental field of virtualities is not incompatible with an acceptance of Darwinian evolution, and even provides a useful complement to it. What it is incompatible with is Darwinism elevated to the status of an uncontested metaphysical research programme within the greater programme of scientism.
    Brassier is being too monist here. “Husserl” evolves, and Merleau-Ponty is very different from Husserl, and Deleuze very different from both. Can philosophy remain “credible” if it does not subsume itself under the banner of scientism is not a valid intellectual question, despite Brassier’s rhetoric. This credibility, and I would add desirability, is rather a sociological question concerning the diffusion and imposition of intellectual party lines, and also an ethico-political one. Can processes of desire and of individuation continue to exist in a society where control is attaining ever finer and deeper elements of our being?


    • Agreed. Yes, Brassier in this early doctoral thesis was without doubt drawing up an ideological line that could guide his own project at the time. Obviously he has moved on beyond this early preoccupation, yet his guiding principles remain unchanged. In his recent interview with Nikola Andonovski he states that while he remains committed to the idea that philosophical theorizing cannot afford to ignore the findings of the best contemporary science, he no longer believes “philosophy is merely the handmaid of empirical science either.” He is reinvesting himself in both Wilfred Sellers inferentialism and Robert Brandom’s Hegelian take on that inferentialist diagnosis. Brassier seems to be followin Brandom’s return to Hegel as rationlist in the sense of a commitment to “making explicit” (Brandom) what is left unalysed in awareness. As Brassier says in his interview the “analysis of conceptual structure remains the prerequisite for constructing a bridging theory of the divide between conceptualization and reality.”

      I thought this comment was interesting in that interview when regrets a the conspicuous absence of his theoretical account of the “generative status of the negative that would not lapse back into some sort of dubious emanationism. The problem consists in articulating the relation between the dialectical structure of conceptual discourse and the non-dialectical status of the real, in such way as to explain how real negativity fuels dialectics even as it prevents dialectics from incorporating its own negativity. Real negativity splits the logos from within, while from without it splits signification from reality. The goal is to understand how non-conceptual negativity determines dialectical negation, while preventing negation in the concept from fusing with real negativity.”

      In other words how can we bridge the gap between thinking and being conceptually through dialectics without subverting the one into the other? He wants to build that bridge without collapsing thinking into being, or being into thinking. To do this he uses Sellers “two-tiered account of the relation between mind and world. What prevents Sellars’ rejection of the given from lapsing into conceptual idealism is his difficult account of the interplay between the normative, rule-goverened domain of linguistic signification and the causal/neurophysiological dimension of what Brandom calls ‘reliable differential responsive dispositions’.” He takes from Sellars movement to reconcile truth as both coherence and correspondence, thereby despensing “with any invocation of the empirically given while preserving the representational link between linguistic assertion and empirical reality.” And, I must add, he sees this as a simplification and caricature of Sellers’s complexity.

      Either way, and whether one agrees or disagrees, this is an interesting program to keep one’s eye on. I try to keep an open mind toward these differing projects of materialism. We seem to be in a very conflictual age regarding our views of reality. I think it is exciting to watch all these battles played out both within the academic peer reviewed system, as well as the shadow play of our own detritus here on the internet. Not to disparage the internet.


      • Good post. It’s easier to see the differences between, say, Brassier and Meillassoux or Grant or Harman, yes, but I would love to get him in a room with RS Bakker. Bakker’s no slouch, and neither is he unaware of continental thought, and I think Brassier and he share enough common ground to make their disagreements even more subtle and interesting. Just a wish…

        Again, and as usual, excellent post. I make sure to visit your blog at least once a week. There’s always something fascinating here.


      • Yes, I have to admit, Bakker’s early fantasy stuff was tough going and never really finished the first trilogy. I have enjoyed his two endevors within the thriller and crime novel genre. He doesn’t pull in any punches, but goes for the juggler! His conceptions are unique and lasting.

        Again, thanks for dropping by!


  2. Also, I wish Brassier would put a bit more out there. Apart from his book, these few short interviews, and a recent talk, trying to trace his positions feels like examining the fossil record, especially since there is obviously significant evolution in the interval. I feel I am missing large chunks of it…

    His “Objects and Concepts” essay was good, too, but more tantalizing than anything.


    • Yea, it would be nice to see more of his latest philosophical papers!

      It’s always interesting in following a philosopher’s growth over time, how their basic concepts either grow stronger or suddenly diverge in unexpected ways. His thoughts have steadily been with nihilism and have sought support for its purchase within Sellars and Brandom of late. I’d like more on this…

      I know from other things I’ve read that he doesn’t like the blogging world as far as publishing his own philosophical thoughts, but it sure would be nice to get his personal tidbits once in a while… 🙂 I guess we’ll have to wait till his new book comes out, mentioned in one of his recent interviews!

      Thanks for the comments, Joseph!


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