Quentin Meillassoux: Peut-être – The Number and the Siren


As I was reading Tom Sparrow’s new work on Speculative Realism, End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism, I enjoyed his chapter on Quentin Meillassoux. I want go back over the full gamut of Meillassoux’s conceptions of correlationism and the principle of facticity which are central to his argument in After Finitude. Tom does a superb job of summarizing this aspect of the anti-realist tradition and Meillassoux’s proposed way of overcoming it. What I did do was reread a couple of essays that Meillassoux wrote after the Goldsmith event in which he clarified the reasoning behind his philosophical concepts and approach within After Finitude.

One of the statements in these essays struck me. He wrote a work on Stéphane Mallarmé Un Coup de Dés: The Number and the Siren. I kept wondering why he was so interested in this work in particular. I discovered my answer in the essays compiled in Time without Becoming, where he tells us that

…ultimately the matter of philosophy is not being or becoming, representation or reality, but a very special possibility, which is not a formal possible, but a real and dense possible, which I call the “peut-être”, the “may-be”. In French, I would say: “l’affaire de la philosophie n’est pas l’être, mais le peut-être”. Philosophy’s main concern is not with being but with the may-be. This peut-être, I believe, but it would be too complex to demonstrate this here, is very close to the final peut-être of Mallarmé’s Un Coup de dés.1

This notion of “may-be” is something I had not come across before in his work. This intrigued me. So I’ve begun reading his The Number and the Siren and will follow up on just exactly what this special possibility that is so real and dense might entail.

(see my intro to Tom Sparrow’s work: here)

1. Meillassoux, Quentin (2014-12-10). Time without Becoming (Kindle Locations 314-319). Mimesis International. Kindle Edition.

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