Zizek on Speculative Realism: Thinking the Real

“The problem is not to think the Real outside of transcendental correlation, independently of the subject; the problem is to think the Real inside the subject, the hard core of the Real in the very heart of the subject, its ex-timate center.”

 – Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing

Mapping the four players of the original SR movement onto the board game of squares, Greimasian semiotic square at that, Zizek manipulates the elements to test out his own interpretive strategies. A grid that aligns Quentin Meillassoux’s “speculative materialism,” Graham Harman’s “object-oriented philosophy,”  Iain Hamilton Grant’s neo-vitalism, and Ray Brassier’s radical nihilism along a divine/secular and scientific/metaphysical four-score transposition and permutation of elements that serves his commentary. As he tells us:

Although both Meillassoux and Brassier advocate a scientific view of reality as radically contingent and apprehensible through formalized science, Brassier also endorses scientific reductionism, while Meillassoux leaves the space open for a non-existent divinity which will redress all past injustices. On the other side, both Harman and Grant advocate a non-scientific metaphysical approach, with Harman opting for a directly religious (or spiritualist, at least) panpsychism, outlining a program of investigating the “cosmic layers of psyche” and “ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone,” while Grant, in Deleuzian fashion, locates the meta-physical dimension in nature itself, conceiving the world of objects as the products of a more primordial process of becoming (will, drive, etc.).1*

Continue reading

Gilles Deleuze: Transcendental Empiricism as Idealism?

“All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for ever apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight… The reason is that this, most of all the sense, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.”

– Aristotle, Metaphysics

“The west’s eye-intense pagan line begins in Egypt as does the hard persona of art and politics. Egypt created the distance between eye and object which is a hallmark of western philosophy and aesthetics. The distance is a charged force field, a dangerous temenos.”

– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

“As long as we stick to things and words we can believe that we are speaking of what we see, that we see what we are speaking of, and that the two are linked.”

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

The problems of representationalism are with us still. Deleuze’s philosophy might well be caught up in this fatal flaw, enmeshed within a tributary Idealism, an Idealism that investigates the central problem-idea that has plagued philosophy since Plato: how to overcome this linkage between things and words, mind and world, subject and object. This link or gap between, the dualism or duel between things and their generative forces, powers, and intensities.

Is sight the disease of all Idealisms?  In their new work Dunham, Grant, and Watson tell us that if “we put together our view that idealism is realist in respect to Ideas with the argument that the philosophy of nature forms a crucial component of it, we arrive at a conception not of the two-worlds idealism beloved of interpretations of Plato, but of a one-world inflationary idealism.”1  Between the abstract universal and the concrete universal, between Plato and Hegel, the rift that is history of Idealism plays itself out:

“The concrete universal, or the whole determined by the particulars it generates and that differentiate it in turn, is the Idea exactly as Platonism conceived it: as the cause of the approximations of becomings to particular forms, and as the ‘setting into order of the universe’ (Ti, 53a) from disorder (ataxia), as organization. When idealism is presented as realism concerning the Idea, this means: first, that the Idea is causal in terms of organization; second, that this is an organization that is not formal or abstract in the separable sense, but rather concretely relates part to whole as the whole; and third, therefore that such an idealism is a one-world idealism that must, accordingly, take nature seriously” (8).

Continue reading

The Abyss of Freedom

“”This is the sadness which adheres to all finite life…From it comes the veil of sadness which is spread over the whole of nature, the deep indestructible melancholy of all life.”
F.W.J. Schelling

“Schelling is one of the first philosophers seriously to begin the destruction of the model of metaphysics based on the idea of true representation, a destruction which can be seen as one of the key aspects of modern philosophy from Heidegger to the later Wittgenstein and beyond. He is, at the same time, unlike some of his successors, committed to an account of human reason which does not assume that reason’s incapacity to ground itself should lead to an abandonment of rationality.”
– Andrew Bowie, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling

What is this sadness that adheres to all finite life, and what must this indestructible melancholy be to have forced Schelling into so dark a turn in his philosophical thinking?

Andrew Bowie, speaking of Schelling, tells us that “we cannot, he maintains, make sense of the manifest world by beginning with reason, but must instead begin with the contingency of being and try to make sense of it with the reason which is only one aspect of it and which cannot be explained in terms of its being a representation of the true nature of being.”[1] He goes on to say that Schelling contends that the identity of thought and being cannot be articulated within thought, because thought must presuppose that they are identical in a way which thought, as one side of a relation, cannot comprehend.(ibid.) Schelling tells us:

“Activated selfhood is necessary for life’s intensity; without there would be complete death, goodness slumbering; for where there is no battle there is no life. The will of the depths is therefore only the awakening of life, not evil immediately and for itself….Whoever has no material or force for evil in himself is also impotent for good…..The time of merely historical faith is past, as soon as the possibility of immediate knowledge is given.” [2]

Continue reading

Schelling’s Naturephilosophy for Contemporaries

                “…it is an argument of this book, as it was of Schelling’s, that metaphysics cannot be pursued in isolation from physics.”     – Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling

I’m enjoying my late night readings of Schelling’s original works on naturephilosophy, which was instigated recently by the enlightening, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling, by Iain Hamilton Grant, which with its lucid, engaged, and… shall I say it – engrossing style continues to amaze me by the simplicity and power of its argument regarding the need for a contemporary revival of Schelling’s naturephilosophy as both a goad and a project. These are just a few notations from my careful perusal of Grant’s work. It’s more of a notebook of his ideas rather than a commentary on them, and will hopefully consolidate certain motifs within my current understanding of his unique philosophical  reconstruction of Schelling’s naturephilosophy in the light of postkantian philosophies.

Grant abrogates the whole post-Cartesian philosophical heritage that has not only eliminated the concept of ‘nature’ from its horizon, but from its veritable ‘existence’, too. [1] He tells us that at the heart of our contemporary philosophical debate between speculative realism and anti-realism (or correlationism) “are two models of metaphysics: a one-world physics capable of the Idea, and an eliminativist practicism. The contrast could be neither more overt nor more pressing: ethicism is purchased at the cost of the elimination of nature” (ix).

Continue reading

Iain Hamilton Grant: Movements of the World

“No deduction of grounds can achieve what reason demands, but reason cannot cease demanding it.”

              – Iain Hamilton Grant: Movements of the World: The Sources of Transcendental Philosophy

In No 3 (2011) Transcendence and Immanence of the Analecta Hermeneutica Iain Hamilton Grant tells us that the “transcendental is the in itself formless form of all forms that is always posterior to the unconditioned that generates it and is its ground, and that augments being in turn.” Grant separates out all empirically conditioned aspects of being from the unconditioned which gives rise to it, thereby revealing a transcendental logic that “divides the unconditioned from the conditioned, into what can and what cannot be synthesized into spatiotemporal objects”. The unconditioned is closed off to experience which “means in particular that the role of the unconditioned ground of all determination cannot be schematized as prior or posterior to the series of conditions within which alone time has purchase”.

Because of this what has come to be known as the transcendental turn “in philosophy has been considered a subjectivist supplanting of the ‘dogmatic’ concept of ground, a metaphysics capable of abandoning the temporal and causal depth from which objects emerge”. Instead of the need to look beyond the horizon point of spatiotemporal existence this transcendental philosophy toward a “systematic inquiry into causes that leads, ultimately, from metaphysics back to physics”.

Continue reading