Postnihilistic Speculations: The Ontology of Non-Being

For speculation which founded itself on the radical falsity of the Principle of Sufficient Reason would describe an absolute which would not constrain things to being thus rather than otherwise, but which would constrain them to being able not to be how they are.
….Quentin Meillassoux

Is this what we’ve been waiting for all along? The movement beyond the troubled circle of Being and becoming, of Time and its figural and literal tropes of disquieting lapses into finitude? The fragments of this lie all around us in such thinkers as Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, Badiou, Zizek, and so many others within this metamorphic thought of a non-thought, this disquisition of an anathema.

My friend Cengiz Erdem in his essay Postnihilistic Speculations on That Which Is Not: A Thought-World According to an Ontology of Non-Being charts such a history:

A speculative move in the way of mapping the cartography of an ontology of non-being, of that which yet to come, post-nihilism clears or excavates the old ground, thereby suspending the dominant presumptions, therefore rendering the void, non being, or the Real itself as the new ground on and out of which a new subject can emerge and present the paradoxical and contingent natures of ‪Truth and Necessity, as well as the ‎non-correlation of Being and Thought…

(addendum: Cengiz added a new post in concert with this… here.)

As I was reading this post of his I felt a deep underlying, almost religious tone in his voice; the power of the absolute filtering its banal surprise (maybe a non-God, non-All, rather than the mundane gods or God religion or the philosophers). Whatever the absolute may be, it seems to ride the edges, or borderlands of between thought and non-being rather than the metaphysical realms of Being. Though secular through and through the incorporation of the themes of eternity, time, mortality, immortality, etc. like those others who have influenced our thinking: Nietzsche, Badiou, Zizek, Laruelle, Henry, Deleuze, etc. – and, lest we forget, Freud (Lacan: lack?) with his mythology of drives, that endless war of eros and thanatos, life and death, love and war – comes through Erdem’s essay. What struck me above all is the underlying mythos and movement toward transcension, toward elsewhere, immortality, transcendence. Of course as he says, this is nothing new, and it is everywhere in our present transcendental field of speculation, as if between a totalistic closure upon metaphysics had brought with it – not a rational kernel, but rather an irrational kernel of ancient thought. For do we not hear that oldest of songsters, Orpheus, the Greek singer, theologian, poet, philosophical forbear out of whose roots Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle and their ancient antagonists Leucippas, Democritus, and Lucretius down to our day still wage a war over the body of a dead thought (God?).

Shall we follow Badiou or Zizek? Or Both?

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Meillassoux: Fideism and the Rise of Speculative Materialism

god

In some ways Meillassoux’s overarching enemy is religion and fideism rather than correlationism per se, for as he states it (and I quote at length):

It now becomes possible to envisage a speculative critique of correlationism, for it becomes possible to demonstrate that the latter remains complicit with the fideist belief in the wholly-other insofar as it actually continues to remain faithful to the principle of reason. If the strong model of correlationism legitimates religious discourse in general, this is because it has failed to de-legitimate the possibility that there might be a hidden reason, an unfathomable purpose underlying the origin of our world. This reason has become unthinkable, but it has been preserved as unthinkable; sufficiently so to justify the value of its eventual unveiling in a transcendent revelation. This belief in an ultimate Reason reveals the true nature of strong correlationism – far from relinquishing the principle of reason, strong correlationism is in fact the apologia for the now irrational belief in this very principle. By way of contrast, speculation proceeds by accentuating thought’s relinquishment of the principle of reason to the point where this relinquishment is converted into a principle, which alone allows us to grasp the fact that there is absolutely no ultimate Reason, whether thinkable or unthinkable. There is nothing beneath or beyond the manifest gratuitousness of the given – nothing but the limitless and lawless power of its destruction, emergence, or persistence.(AF, KL 932-939)

Of course Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths. As an atheist and speculative materialist Meillassoux seeks to destroy such notions irrefutably. Behind the trope of Reason is the hint that it has always masked the secular face of God. So that philosophy for far too long has kept its roots tied to the onto-theological religiosity of the big Other masked as Reason. This is ultimately why Meillassoux seeks to overthrow the PSR (Principle of Sufficient Reason) because it hides behind its façade the greatest enemy to an atheistic materialism: God and the fideism that supports it. Yet, as he tells us even atheism has to go, for the simple reason that “once the absolute has become unthinkable, even atheism, which also targets God’s inexistence in the manner of an absolute, is reduced to a mere belief, and hence to a religion, albeit of the nihilist kind” (AF KL 686).

Faith is pitched against faith, since what determines our fundamental choices cannot be rationally proved. In other words, the de-absolutization of thought boils down to the mobilization of a fideist argument; but a fideism that is ‘fundamenal’ rather than merely ‘historical’ in nature – that is to say, a fideism that has become thought’s defence of religiosity in general, rather than of a specific religion. (AF KL 686)

When it comes down to it his greatest enemy is both ideological dogmatism and sceptical fanaticism. For as he says:

Against dogmatism, it is important that we uphold the refusal of every metaphysical absolute, but against the reasoned violence of various fanaticisms, it is important that we re-discover in thought a modicum of absoluteness – enough of it, in any case, to counter the pretensions of those who would present themselves as its privileged trustees, solely by virtue of some revelation. (AF KL 737)

1. Meillassoux, Quentin (2014-12-10). Time without Becoming (Kindle Locations 449-451). Mimesis International. Kindle Edition.
2.  After Finitude: An Easy on the Necessity of Contingency (Kindle Locations 787-800). Kindle Edition.

Link to the essay: https://www.academia.edu/9897421/Time_without_becoming

Quentin Meillassoux: Hyper-Chaos and the Real

tao

This morning I was rereading a few of the passages I’d gleaned from Quentin Meillassoux’s essays gathered in Time without Becoming. What struck me is this almost – shall I call it, Chinese quality about his sentences: the simplicity and elegance of statement that brings with it this sense of mastery and logic that is so merciless that it makes one tremble, and yet – at the same time, it awakens in one’s mind this state of meditative awareness that what one is reading is in accord with the truth.

His concept of Hyper-Chaos seems to be one of these facets or figures, a trope that acts as an attractor gathering into itself the causal nexus of ideas from which all things arise.

…the notion of Hyper-Chaos is the idea of a time so completely liberated from metaphysical necessity that nothing constrains it: neither becoming, nor the substratum. This hyper-chaotic time is able to create and destroy even becoming, producing without reason fixity or movement, repetition or creation.1

He explains how he came to such a notion through the logic of time: temporality itself demanded it. In most conceptions time there is both fixity and becoming, synchronic and diachronic, Chronos and Aeon. Kant would internalize time and space as categories in the mind. Meillassoux needed an absolute concept that would treat reality on its own terms, a concept that would transform our understanding of time itself as both underpinning our conceptions of Being and Becoming as well as instigating a conception of time that was not-All; a non-totalistic time before time: an absolute time of pure supercontingency. As he states it chaos as a concept entails disorder, randomness, the eternal becoming of everything. Such a concept could not explain contingency, or even what he now terms “supercontingency”. No, “these properties are not properties of Hyper-Chaos: its contingency is so radical that even becoming, disorder, or randomness can be destroyed by it, and replaced by order, determinism, and fixity” (ibid. KL 288). He came upon this concept in trying to define what he implied by his other concept “facticity”: What is facticity once it is considered as an absolute rather than as a limit? The answer is time. Facticity as absolute must be considered as time, but a very special time: “hyper-chaos”. (ibid. 284)

So hyper-chaos is a special type of time, a time that includes both fixity and change, being and becoming; yet, it does not meld these into some formless soup, instead it allows them to oscillate within a void of pure negativity. As I was thinking about this and trying to visualize such a notion I remembered the Taoist symbol of yin and yang, of the male and female rotation of light folded in darkness, and darkness folded in light. In explaining facticity Meillassoux will tell us:

If the facticity of the correlation can be conceived of, if it is a notion that we can effectively conceive of … then it is a notion that we can think as an absolute: the absolute absence of reason for any reality, in other words, the effective ability for every determined entity, whether it is an event, a thing, or a law, to appear and disappear with no reason for its being or non-being. Unreason becomes the attribute of an absolute time capable of destroying or creating any determinate entity without any reason for its creation or destruction. (ibid. KL 258)

This notion of an absolute Time that is capable of destruction and creation without any grounding or foundation in reason, a groundless ground of unreason almost seems a throwback to certain notions in F.W.J. Schelling. In his 1809 essay on human freedom Schelling will state:

…following the eternal act of self-revelation, the world as we now behold it, is all rule, order and form; but the unruly lies ever in the depths as though it might again break through, and order and form nowhere appear to have been original, but it seems as though what had initially been unruly had been brought to order. This is the incomprehensible basis of reality in things, the irreducible remainder which cannot be resolved into reason by the greatest exertion but always remains in the depths. Out of this which is unreasonable, reason in the true sense is born. Without this preceding gloom, creation would have no reality; darkness is its necessary heritage. (Schelling 1936, 34)

What stood out in this passage was this notion that the most fundamental basis of reality, the “irreducible remainder which cannot be resolved into reason by the greatest exertion but always remains in the depths” is the very figure of Meillassoux’s hyper-chaos, of a special time before time as we know it; or linear, subjective time. And, secondly, the idea that reason arises our of this unreasonable foretime of the abyss: this irreducible remainder. Lao Tzu’s short book would hint at such a notion as well:

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.2

The whole point of this exercise for Meillassoux was to refute the anti-realist tradition of Kant and his progeny up to and including the phenomenologists. What he discovered in this tradition of anti-realism was a “performative contradiction”: the absolutization of facticity. As he states:

Everything can be conceived of as contingent, depending on human tropism, everything except contingency itself. Contingency, and only contingency, is absolutely necessary: facticity, and only facticity, is not factual, but eternal. Facticity is not a fact, it is not one more fact in the world. And this is based upon a precise argument: I can’t be skeptical towards the operator for every skepticism. (ibid. KL 272)

Within all forms of correlationism, weak and strong, he found their reliance on this absolutization of facticity. So that through his principle of factuality (“Factiality is not facticity, but the necessity of facticity, the essence of facticity.”) he thinks it possible to enable a speculative materialism that can clearly and without doubt refute correlationism. At the heart of correlationism is this notion that there are no objects, no events, no laws, no beings which are not always already correlated with a point of view, with a subjective access. This “philosophy of access” (Harman) is what many term the anti-realist tradition. And it is against this that Meillassoux seeks to overcome through his use of mathematics:

Now, my project is to solve a problem that I did not resolve in After Finitude, it is a very difficult problem, one that I can’t rigorously set out here, but that I can sum up in this simple question: would it be possible to derive, to draw from the principle of factiality, the ability of the natural sciences to know, by way of mathematical discourse, reality in itself, by which I mean our world, the factual world as it is actually produced by Hyper-chaos, and which exists independently of our subjectivity? To answer this very difficult problem is a condition for a real resolution of the problem of ancestrality, and this constitutes the theoretical finality of my present work. (ibid. KL 354-359)

The point of this is to think X independent of any thinking, and Meillassoux realized that within the very conceptual tools of his enemy – the anti-realist correlationists, and their fight against the absolute – he found a path forward, a way out of the circle. The principle of factiality unveils the ontological truth hidden beneath the radical skepticism of modern philosophy, to be is not to be a correlate, but to be a fact, to be is to be factual, and this is not a fact. (ibid. KL 278-282) So this strange logic of unreason at the core of reason breaks us out of the circle of correlationism that has bound us to the tradition of finitude and the limits of reason since Kant. His proposal to use mathematics as a tool independent of the observer and the empirical reach of consciousness or intentionality is the quest he undertakes to demonstrate his thesis.  We await his demonstration.

1. Meillassoux, Quentin (2014-12-10). Time without Becoming (Kindle Locations 312-314). Mimesis International. Kindle Edition.
2. Mitchell, Stephen (2009-10-13). Tao Te Ching (Perennial Classics) (p. 3). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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

quentin_meillassoux

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.

Slavoj Zizek: Contingency and Ontological Incompleteness

“Materialism has nothing to do with the assertion of the inert density of matter; it is, on the contrary, a position which accepts the ultimate Void of reality—the consequence of its central thesis on the primordial multiplicity is that there is no ‘substantial reality’, that the only ‘substance’ of the multiplicity is Void.”

– Slavoj Zizek, Speculative Turn

“But, as I have shown,  the world is not formed of solid substance, since there is an admixture of void in things…”

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

I wager that Zizek will more and more come to be known as an Epicurean materialist in the tradition of that great formulator, Lucretius. Zizek’s admixture of atheism and Christianity in dialectical process weans us from the corrosive affects of that religion, while inserting the Void itself – as the central figure, rather than Christ, in a drama that has more to do with the unshackling of human finitude from its roots in false-consciousness than it does of some religious vision of pure transcendence.  Against the substantial formalism of Plato and his progeny, up too and including certain forms of speculative realism, Zizek follows the secret life of both material and immaterial phenomena, and their irreducibility in the natural order of things that is imperfect, contingent, incomplete and open.

His version of the great tradition begins and ends with the logic of quantum physics, but read through the lens of Hegel and Lacan. Disputing with Zizek is like entering a chameleon’s den, not realizing the enemy is oneself rather than the dialectician sitting across from one; one who has already attuned himself to the full panoply of effective argumentation you so carefully brought to the table; having quickly replaced its ill-understood truths with with a jouissance that is both disarming of your uncertain mind, and a partial completion of the very truth of Zizek’s own irreducible thoughts on the Void.

At the center of Zizek’s involvement with quantum physics is a sense that our understanding of reality is incomplete: an ontological incompleteness informs all aspects of our imperfect knowledge (Zizek: “its premise is the ‘non-All’ of reality, its ontological incompleteness”… one can think of this as well within mathematics, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.). This imperfect, incomplete reality is shaped by the necessity of contingency as well as founded on the contingency of necessity.  This irreducible and immaterial materialism sets itself against both idealization of matter (cognitive naturalism) and the materialization of thoughts (material idealism). As Zizek would have it, the opposite of materialism is not – as some would say, idealism, but its vulgarization within the cognitive sciences (i.e., Churchland): the presumption of certain cognitive scientists who presume to make of ‘self-awarness’ of consciousness itself a fundamental force within the natural order of things; its “quintessence”(407).1

In an interview at the tail-end of the first Speculative Turn Zizek plunges ahead making his most radical turn toward a new materialism, telling us that if reality is ontologically incomplete, if the ‘non-All’ of matter is equated with the Void, then “this means that a truly radical materialism is by definition non-reductionist: far from claiming that ‘everything is matter’, it confers upon the ‘immaterial’ phenomena a specific positive non-being” (407). A materialism that is both non-reductive and immaterial would suddenly turn the tables on the history of materialism from Democritus to today, a rejection of ‘objective reality’: the insubstantial reality that undermines the logic of a consistent subjectivity, that brings with it an ontological openness breaks with Kant’s second antinomy of pure reason, and one that Plato in the Parmenides qualified: ‘Then may we not sum up the argument in a word and say truly; If one is not, then nothing is?’ (408). Rather, nothing exists; rejected by Kant, yet accepted in the qualification of a materialism in which “‘material reality is non-all’, as against the saying: ‘material reality is all there is'”(408).

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Meillassoux, Zizek, and the Hermetic Arts

“Through the intuition of the meaningless sign, I leave the physical world, where everything seems to have a cause, to penetrate the pure semiotic world – where nothing has a reason to be, where nothing has meaning – and where everything, in consequence, breathes eternity.”

– Quentin Meillassoux, Berlin Lecture

“Wherever there is number, there is beauty.”

– Proclus Lycaeus, the Successor

“The parallax gap is, on the contrary, the very form of the “reconciliation” of opposites: one simply has to recognize the gap.”

– Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing

“…where the coincidence of opposites triumphs, the principle of identity collapses.”

– Umberto Eco

“The reader can henceforth, with its movement, impregnate herself with the infinitude of the Master; with his ardent hesitation to rethrow the dice of modern poetry; with his possible existence, eclipsed and luminous – diffused in the intelligible and opaque essence of the Number.

– Quentin Meillassoux, The Number and the Siren

Is Quentin Meillassoux the Proclus of our age? His turn toward pure semiosis situates his thought within that Hermetic world of the Neo-platonists. Umberto Eco, another great semiotician, once summarized the main tenets of contemporary hermeticism as the infinite interplay of forces or interconnections of an open-ended universe; that there is no pre-existing meaning in the universe that language can uncover; that the presumption of any philosophy to assert a univocal meaning to the universe is doomed to failure; that the secret of the world is revealed under the sign of  emptiness or void.1

The result of the hermetic outlook is that interpretation is indefinite and arbitrary, contingent, and that we must accept a never-ending drift or sliding of meaning. On the one hand all phenomena become linguistic, while on the other language itself loses its communicative ability. Every revelation yields to yet another secret, ad infinitum. Eco goes on to tell us that hermetic thought leads to the collapse of the philosophical tertium non datur:

Hermetic thought states that our language, the more ambiguous and multivalent it is, and the more it uses symbols and metaphors, the more it is particularly appropriate for naming a Oneness in which the coincidence of opposites occurs. But where the coincidence of opposites triumphs, the principle of identity collapses.

Eco distinguished between two models of interpretation. One stemming from Greek rationalism, has its determining epistemological model in “knowing by means of the cause.” The rationality of this model rests in the construction of linear chains of causes and effects based on the principle of identity, which is expressed in the tertium non datur. “From these principles follows the method of thought characteristic of western rationalism, the modus ponens: if p, then q, there is p, therefore q” (p. 59). This is the basis of Western rationalism. Besides this model, there is, according to Eco, also a second one. Along with the concepts of identity and consistency, Greek thought developed that of constant metamorphosis, whose symbol is Hermes: the rationality of monocausal, irreversible linearity is constantly subject to the vortex of the boundless, the apeiron.

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Meillassoux, Brassier, Laruelle and Gnosticism?

In a previous post on Quentin Meillassoux’s Berlin Lecture David Milliern whose blog milliern is well worth spending some time on brought up a some interesting thoughts which I quote at the bottom of this post. David tells us that his concerns about Meillassoux centered on his use of “kenotype”:

 I have this concern ever since reading Harman’s “Philosophy in the Making,” that Meillassoux is nonchalantly dancing along a precipice with his materialism that seems to threaten collapsing to idealism at any moment.  Much of my concern was assuaged, after reading Bergson’s “Matter and Memory” and Meillassoux’s article on that book, “Subtraction and Contraction,” pushing the notion (for lack of a better term) “givenness” into the same court as Bergson’s notion of image.  My concerns arose again in the Berlin lecture, because I can’t pin down why a “kenotype” is different from a concept.

I’ll begin my post with a brief introduction regarding “kenotype” itself, what place does it have in philosophical speculation and specifically in regards to Meillassoux’s use of that term in his own thought.

“Kenotype” (from ancient Greek, kainow, “new”) differs from archetype in that it offers a figurative, or generalized schematic eidos, of a historically new phenomenon, such as Meillassoux’s God of the Divine Inexistence:

A kenotype may be defined as a cognitive, creative structure, reflecting a new crystallization of some broadly human experience, occuring in concrete historical circumstances, but not reducible to them, and appearing as the first embodiment of a potential or future development. If in the case of the Platonic archetypes, the general precedes the concrete, as a pre-established form precedes materialization, and if in a type the two coexist, then in the case of a kenotype, the general is a final perspective of the concrete, which arises from history only to outgrow it, touching the borders of eternity. So that everything that can come into being has it metaimage in the future, since it prophesies or gives warning about something. This storehouse of metaimages is far richer than the strongbox of first images, where the ancient unconscious is contained (a sort of Pandora’s box). The openness of history is given to humankind as a birthplace for supra-historical content, where the permanent can obtain its “surplus value” and where its image can not only be preserved, but grow in time.1

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Meillassoux’s Problematique: Factial Speculation

Adam Kosko from An und fur sich has an interesting post on Zizek’s reading of Quentin Meillassoux in his new book Less Than Nothing. It’s not the critique by Zizek that I’m interested in as much as the comments by several bloggers in response to Adam’s post. There are so many differing stances regarding the work of Meillassoux one wonders just what it is he is describing in his Factial Speculative Philosophy.

I mean listen to the sentence that Adam quotes from Zizek: “The critical implication with regard to Meillassoux is that the true problem is not to think pre-subjective reality, but to think how something like a subject could have emerged within it; without this (properly Hegelian) gesture…”. One would wonder if Zizek is truly talking about Meillassoux here at all, much rather Zizek is carrying on a monologue with Zizek about his arguments with Hegel rather than with Meillassoux. In other words Zizek does not so much portray Meillassoux’s work as use it as a sounding board for his own internal debate with Hegelian thought.

Even in his Berlin Lecture (read here: pdf!) Meillassoux tries once again to clarify his position. He tells us that for years now his main thrust in philosophy has been speculations about the “capacities of thought”, the discovery of what thought can do rather than what it is. Thought as active happening, as something productive and capable. Capable of even producing something like ‘eternal truths’. His path was toward developing an absolutizing  capacity for thought, and that to do this he needed first to invent its opposite, its critique, a model of anti-absolutizing thought: the correlationist circle – correlationism or correlational facticity.

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Questioning Meillassoux

“…can we think the diachronic disjunction between real and ideal while obviating any recourse to a transcendental divide between thinking and being?”

– Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound

The question Ray Brassier raises comes after a superb reading of Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude. Meillassoux in trying to give life and existence to a logos of contingency, which is to say, a reason emancipated from the principle of reason – a speculative form of the rational that would no longer be a metaphysical reason tells us that “far from seeing in criticism a threat to its consistency, the examination of the determinate conditions for absolute unreason should strive to multiply objections, the better to reinforce the binding texture of its argumentative fabric. It is by exposing the weaknesses in our own arguments that we will uncover, by way of a meticulous, step by step examination of the inadequacies in our reasoning, the idea of a non-metaphysical and non-religious discourse on the absolute” (Kindle Locations 1134-1138).1

Does materialism need a set of regulatory rules, a normativity, to help it distinguish between valid and invalid claims to knowledge or ontological factuality? I want to lay out another passage from Quentin Meillasoux’s After Finitude:

“Philosophy is the invention of strange forms of argumentation, necessarily bordering on sophistry, which remains its dark structural double. To philosophize is always to develop an idea whose elaboration and defence require a novel kind of argumentation, the model for which lies neither in positive science – not even in logic – nor in some supposedly innate faculty for proper reasoning. Thus it is essential that a philosophy produce internal mechanisms for regulating its own inferences – signposts and criticisms through which the newly constituted domain is equipped with a set of constraints that provide internal criteria for distinguishing between licit and illicit claims” (Kindle Locations 1130-1134).

My first question is: Of what do these ‘internal mechanisms’ that philosophy must produce to regulate its own inferences, whether formal or material, consist? Wilfred Sellars in arguing for the system of formal and material rules of inference explains:

“There is nothing to a conceptual apparatus that isn’t determined by its rules, and there is no such thing as choosing these rules to conform with antecedently apprehended universals and connexions, for the “apprehension of universals and connexions ” is already the use of a conceptual frame, and as such presupposes the rules in question. … [Against this dogmatic rationalism of the ‘conceptual frame’ Sellars argued] the system of formal and material rules of inference, we recognize that there are an indefinite number of possible conceptual structures (languages) or systems of formal and material rules, each one of which can be regarded as a candidate for adoption by the animal which recognizes rules, and no one of which has an intuitable hallmark of royalty. They must compete in the market place of practice for employment by language users, and be content to be adopted haltingly and schematically” (337).2

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Meillassoux on Alain Badiou’s Being and Event

“I will thus attempt to explain a nodal and seemingly paradoxical thesis of Badiou’s: that there is only a history of the eternal, because only the eternal proceeds from the event. In other words: there is only a history of truths insofar as all truth is strictly eternal and impossible to reduce to any relativism.”
– Quentin Meillassoux, History and Event in Alain Badiou

Quentin Meillassoux in this essay tells us that Alain Badiou in Being and Event (BE) maintains that there are eternal truths, but that they are not unifiable in a metaphysical system, because they are distributed among four truth procedures: science, art, politics, and love—philosophy itself not having the capacity to produce truths. The idea that the production of truth occurs only within science, art, politics and love, but not in philosophy might seem counter to most philosophical discourse as we’ve come to know it, yet this is exactly what Badiou affirms. Furthermore these truths do not situate themselves in some perfect heavenly world of Ideas (Plato), instead they arise out of an undecidable event and from a fideltiy of subjects that attempt to investigate their world in light of it Meillassoux also relates that Logic of World (LW) reveals to us that all processes lacking truth are not historical in the true sense, but have been reduced to a simple temporal modification without the capacity for truth and the subjects who adhere to it.

He tells us that the three principle terms of BE are history, event, eternity but that to understand them we will need to understand the two “constitutive theses” of Badiouian philosphy:

1. Mathematics is ontology

His ontology is based on set-theory and reveals that any mathematical entity is multiple. To be is to be a set: pure multiplicity.As Meillassoux explicates: “Being is not therefore a multiplicity composed of stable and ultimate unities, but a multiplicity that is in turn composed of multiplicities. Indeed, mathematical sets have for their elements not unities but other sets, and so on indefinitely. When a set is not empty, it is composed of multiple sets.” That he admits to a Platonized world, it is not a unity of the One, but of mulitplicity where being, far from being a stable foundation for a phenomena that would be perishable in relation to it, is “pure dissemination, withdrawn from our immediate experience of reality, where we discover on the contrary, in daily life, consistent multiplicities”.

No longer being concerned with what is the philosopher can now concentrate on “being’s exception” – the event: a “multiple belonging to itself” – something, Meillassoux tells us, is forbidden for set theory and referred to by mathematicians as  extraordinary. This strange multiple emerges from within art, science, politics, and love which for Badiou are “truth procedures” – the “four fields of thought where genuine events can be produced, and as a result—eternal truths”. One of the best explications of Badiou’s term event is described in detail by Meillassoux:

“The political example is, as it often is with Badiou, the most immediately accessible. What exactly do we mean, when we say that “May 68” was an event? In this expression, we are not merely designating the set of facts that have punctuated this collective sequence (student demonstrations, the occupation of the Sorbonne, massive strikes, etc.). Such facts, even when joined together in an exhaustive way, do not allow us to say that something like an event took place, rather than a mere conjunction of facts without any particular significance. If “May 68” was an event, it is precisely because it earned its name: that is to say that May 68, produced not only a number of facts, but also produced May 68. In May 68, a site, in addition to its own elements (demonstrations, strikes, etc.), presented itself.”

The key to the event is “precisely that an event is the taking place of a pure rupture that nothing in the situation allows us to classify under a list of facts.” He formulates it as this: “the event is that multiple which, presenting itself, exhibits the inconsistency underlying all situations, and in a flash throws into a panic, their constituted classifications. The novelty of an event is expressed in the fact that it interrupts the normal regime of the description of knowledge, that always rests on the classification of the well known, and imposes another kind of procedure on whomever admits that, right here in this place, something hitherto unnamed really and truly occurred.” Speaking of the French Revolution he tells us that to call “a Revolution the Revolution, is thus to affirm the sense in which one remains faithful to a hypothesis: the hypothesis, the wager, that something fundamental is being produced in the political field that is worth being faithful to, while trying to draw out that which, at the heart of the situation, upholds an emancipatory truth in the process of elaboration, and which opposes all the forces of the old world”.

2. All truth is post-evental

This is how all truth is post-evental: “we understand in what way a truth, being the patient result of a series of local inquiries under a wagered hypothesis of an undecidable event, cannot exist outside the concrete history of subjects. But how is it that such truths can be at once eternal, and yet the bearers of history, the only genuine history? It is because a truth is the bearer, by right, of an infinite number of consequences: a set of inquiries therefore, by right, inexhaustible, and capable of being extended to historical moments in profoundly different contexts. In other words, a truth is the bearer of theoretical movements that form among themselves a historicity both profound and discontinuous”.

He tells us that truths are eternal and historical, eternal because they are historical: they insist in history, tying together temporal segments across the centuries, always unfolding more profoundly the infinity of their potential consequences, through captivated subjects, separated sometimes by distant epochs, but all equally transfixed by the urgent eventality that illuminates their present. They “give birth to history itself through their reactivation, making their inexhaustible potential for novelty intervene in the monotonous train of daily work, ordinary oppressions, and current opinions”.

1. Quentin Meillassoux. HISTORY AND EVENT IN ALAIN BADIOU, translated by Thomas Nail (PARRHESIA NUMBER 12 • 2011 • 1 – 11) – (warning: pdf)

On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux- Part VII

“What fundamental change did Galileo bring about in our understanding of the link that ties mathematics to the world? … Galileo… conceives of movement itself in mathematical terms, and particularly the movement which appears to be the most changeable of all: the terrestrial bodies. In doing so, he uncovered, beyond the variations of position and speed, the mathematical invariant of movement – that is to say, acceleration.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

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Ptolemy’s Revenge

With Galileo’s discovery of mathematical laws that could describe the motion of heavenly bodies came a unique realization: that the world in which we live is autonomous, a world that is “indifferent to everything in it that corresponds to the concrete, organic connection that we forge with it – it is this glacial world that is revealed to the moderns, a world in which there is no longer any up or down, centre or periphery, nor anything else that might make of it a world designed for humans” (AF: 184-185).

Meillassoux reminds us that what is important is not so much the decentering of the earth from its theological framework within scientific knowledge that makes the Copernican revolution so interesting. Instead it is the disquieting paradox residing in this view, which is the “unveiling of thought’s capacity to think what there is whether thought exists or not” (AF: 186). And, this, and this alone brings us to that “sense of desolation” that Meillassoux speaks of saying: “it consists in the thought of thought’s contingency for the world, and the recognition that thought has become able to think a world that can dispense with thought, a world that is essentially unaffected by whether or not anyone thinks it” (AF: 187).

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On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux – Part VI

“When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. There is required a medium, which may enable the mind to draw such an inference, if indeed it be drawn by reasoning and argument.”
– David Hume, 1737

“…the fact of the stability of the laws of nature seems sufficient to refute the very idea of their possible contingency… But it is precisely this claim about the real contingency of physical laws that we propose to defend in all seriousness.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

*    *    *


Quentin Meillassoux proposes Hume’s problem as follows: is it possible to demonstrate that the same effects will always follow from the same causes ceteris paribus, i.e. all other things being equal? In other words, can one establish that in identical circumstances, future successions of phenomena will always be identical to previous successions? The question raised by Hume concerns our capacity to demonstrate the necessity of the causal connection. (AF: 137) He goes on to up the ante by rooting out the difference between Hume’s deterministic physics and our own conception based as it is on quantum mechanics and the Special Relativity theory of an indeterministic science of probabilities saying that we should not conflate Hume’s problem with his deterministic framework, but define it as a more “general problem concerning all laws of nature, irrespective of their eventual specificity” (AF: 140). Which leads to the problem of whether we can have “any guarantee that physics as such … will continue to be possible in the future” (AF: 140). Instead he reformulates Hume’s question saying: “can we demonstrate that the experimental science which is possible today will still still be possible tomorrow?” (AF: 140).

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On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: – Part V

“…we know by the principle of unreason why non-contradiction is an absolute ontological truth: because it is necessary that what is be determined in such a way as to be capable of becoming, and of being subsequently determined in some other way. …Accordingly, it becomes apparent that the ontological meaning of the principle of noncontradiction, far from designating any sort of fixed essence, is that of the necessity of contingency, or in other words, of the omnipotence of chaos.”
            – Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)


Our knowledge of the principle of unreason has its lineages too. This counter-reason, this philosophical undertow to the power of metaphysical rationality, spawned by the great Leibniz, and his two principles: that of non-contradiction and sufficient reason; and, the spark that brought Hegel to his absolutization of the the principle of sufficient reason requiring the devaluation of the principle of non-contradiction; then by way Wittgenstein and Heidegger a strong correlationism that consisted in adamantly deabsolutizing both principles, we finally come to Meillassoux for whom the principle of unreason “teaches us that it is because the principle of reason is absolutely false that the principle of non-contradiction is absolutely true” (AF: 116).

Next he tackles the Leibnizian question of ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ He tells us that we must discover a way to overcome the correlationist argument of the ‘for-us’ self-world axis and prove that the world would exist even if all life were dissolved in nothing this moment. The world does not need us to exist: even with the annihilation of all life the world in-itself would “subsist despite the abolition of every relation-to-the-world” (AF: 117).  But the proof must be non-metaphysical, there will be no deus-ex-machina called out of the closet of the metaphysicans trickery, no Prime Mover or Supreme Being “which would provide the reason for the fact that there is anything at all” (AF: 117). It must be both non-theological and non-fidiest: for it is not the atheist, but the believer who “insists that Leibniz’s question has no rational meaning, and thereby who falls back on the fideist miracology that “marvels at the fact that there is something rather than nothing because he believes that there is no reason for it, and that being is a pure gift, which might never have occurred” (AF: 117). For Meillassoux it must be a deflationary solution: one that says that the only “proper solution to the problem should be the sobering effect induced in the reader when she understands the solution, and says to herself, ‘so that’s what it was…” (AF: 118).

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On Re-reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux – Part IV (Interlude)

“If we look through the aperture which we have opened up onto the absolute, what we see there is a rather menacing power – something insensible, and capable of destroying both things and worlds, of bringing forth monstrous absurdities, yet also of never doing anything, of realizing every dream, but also every nightmare, of engendering random and frenetic transformations, or conversely, of producing a universe that remains motionless down to its ultimate recesses, like a cloud bearing the fiercest storms, then the eeriest bright spells, if only for an interval of disquieting calm.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

“One other move of Darkness in the grand struggle must be mentioned: the ordaining of heimarmene, the Archon’s diabolic invention. … The Archons collectively rule over the world, and each individually in his sphere is a warder of the cosmic prison. Their tyrannical world rule is called heimarmene, universal Fate, a concept taken over from astrology but now tinged with the gnostic anti-cosmic spirit.”
– Han Jonas

(Interlude: Meillassoux’s ‘power akin to Time’)


Quentin Meillassoux seems to be entering a dangerous realm of the weird with his concept of hyper-Chaos and the principle of unreason. The disturbance of this ‘power’ he sees as he peers, gazes, or looks through the ‘aperture’ (from L. apertura “an opening,” from apertus) he has opened onto the absolute (the principle of unreason, hyper-Chaos) reminds him of “an omnipotence equal to that of the Cartesian God, and capable of anything, even the inconceivable; but an omnipotence that has become autonomous, without norms, blind, devoid of the other divine perfections, a power with neither goodness nor wisdom, ill-disposed to reassure thought about the veracity of its distinct ideas” (AF: 105-106). Then inexplicably he compares this to a ‘power’ akin to Time, “but a Time that is inconceivable for physics, since it is capable of destroying, without cause or reason, every physical law, just as it is inconceivable for metaphysics, since it is capable of destroying every determinate entity, even a god, even God. This is not a Heraclitean time, since it is not the eternal law of becoming, but rather the eternal and lawless possible becoming of every law. It is a Time capable of destroying even becoming itself by bringing forth, perhaps forever, fixity, stasis, and death” (AF: 106).

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On rereading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: Part III

“What we seek then is a non-metaphysical absolute, capable of slipping through the meshes…”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

Etymology of mesh:

1530s, “open space in a net,” perhaps from some dial. survival of O.E. max “net,” or from its cognates, M.Du. maessce, Du. maas, from P.Gmc. *mask- (cf. O.N. möskvi, Dan. maske, Swed. maska, O.H.G. masca, Ger. masche “mesh”), from PIE base *mezg- “to knit, plait, twist” (cf. Lith. mezgu “to knit,” mazgas “knot”). The verb is first recorded 1530s, in the figurative sense of “to entangle.”

The correlational cogito resigned as it is to the facticity or finitude of human experience, devoid of all reference to the absolute is ensnared in the mesh of a knitted, plaited, twisted non-event. Entangled and corrupted by its own delirious self-sufficiency, bound to illusory forms of the unreal, forged in the interstitial margins of a minimalistic purity,  and guided by a religiosity that dismisses the real as a terror and an impossibility; cut off as it is from the outside, the great outdoors, which is for it a feckless dream, a wandering thought amid shadowy fogs of a distempered mind, for whom the fabled dreamland of the absolute has become the graveyard for philosophical dogmatists: atheist and Christian and subjective idealist. Now this correlational cogito seeks only the solace of the linguistic turn that offers within its interminable textuality a salvation in traces, a voidic alchemy of thought and being, self and world correlated in the twisted knot of a communitarian consensus.

But to instigate a counter-offensive against this encircled community of the correlational cogito we must go by the path that absolutizes “the very principle that allows correlationism to disqualify absolutizing thought” (AF: 86). Doing this we follow those first explorers who “acknowledged correlationism’s discovery of a fundamental constraint… that we only have access to the for-us, not the in-itself – but instead of concluding from this that the in-itself is unknowable, they concluded that the correlation is the only veritable in-itself. In so doing, they grasped the ontological truth hidden beneath the sceptical argumentation – they converted radical ignorance into knowledge of a being finally unveiled in its true absoluteness’ (AF: 86-87). But these mighty explorers foundered upon the shoals of “the essential facticity of the correlation” (AF: 87). Instead of denying this facticity we new voyagers in quest of the absolute must “discover an ontological truth hidden beneath the facticity; if we can succeed in grasping why the very source which lends its power to the strategy of de-absolutization through fact also furnishes the means of access to an absolute being; then we will have gained access to a truth that is invulnerable to correlationist scepticism” (AF: 87). Striding across the bleached bones of our compatriots who have fallen by the wayside, each of us must pick up the clues they’ve left behind continuing down that dark path we “must grasp in facticity not the inaccessibility of the absolute but the unveiling of the in-itself and the eternal property of what is…” (AF: 87). For it is “not the correlation but the facticity of the correlation that constitutes the absolute” (AF: 87).

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On rereading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux: Part II

“To think ancestrality is to think a world without thought – a world without the giveness of the world.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)


The radicalization of scientific thought in its quest to discover the “source of its own absoluteness” is the key to Quentin Meillassoux’s second essay in After Finitude. Philosophy must “take up once more the injunction to know the absolute, and break with the transcendental tradition that rules out its possibility” (50). This is not a withdrawal into either metaphysics or dogmatism, instead we must move beyond the inadequacy of  the Cartesian project just as much as we move beyond the Kantian idealism of the correlationists by seeking another “relation to the absolute” (50).

He argues that Descartes proof of God, or the ‘ontological proof’, which infers God’s existence from his perfect nature/being: since he is perfect, and since existence is a perfection, God cannot but exist (50). Meillassoux shows two ways in which a correlationist might refute this ontological argument: a ‘weak’ model, which is that of Kant, and a ‘strong’ model, which seems to be dominant today (50). The weak argument against the ontological proof comes down to the simple basis of the circularity of the correlation that “because absolute necessity is always absolute necessity for us, necessity is never absolute, but only ever for us (53).

Kant chooses another path, he maintains that it is a logical contradiction to assert the non-existence of God as much as it is to assert his existence. Harman tells us this is because for Kant the thing-in-itself is unknowable, yet he “maintains that it is thinkable” (54). Kant asserts that we can know a priori that logical contradiction is absolutely impossible. Graham Harman tells us that “this is why it is imperative for Kant that Descartes’ thesis be refuted – for if it was contradictory for God not to exist, then by Kant’s own premises, it would also be absolutely necessary … that God exist. Consequently, it would become possible to obtain positive knowledge of the thing-in-itself through the use of a logical principle alone (54-55). Ultimately Kant chooses to follow Hume in arguing that there “is no contradiction involved in conceiving of a determinate entity as existing or not existing (55).

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On re-reading Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: Part I

“Empirical science is today capable of producing statements about events anterior to the advent of life as well as consciousness.”
– Quentin Meillassoux

(Note: this series of essays was written back in 2009-2010… and, do not reflect changes in science or philosophy since that time.)

On re-reading Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, the first thing I’m struck by is the lucidity and clarity of his mind: it flows from one argument to the next, taking in the panorama of the dark alien landscape of the great outdoors of thought and being, which is not so much in need of a new mathematical vocabulary of the real – as it is yearning for a mind free of its own self-invested plenitude, hoping against hope that it will step outside itself and its own correlational prison and gaze upon that which is: the in-itself, divested of all human contact and experience, yet  brightened by that inexplicable figuration of pure astonishment. Like an agonist in some ultimate glass-bead game of truth he weaves the myriad threads of philosophical discourse, unravelling the knotted aporia at the center of our black modernity, marshaling from one text to the next thoughts that will explicate a speculative solution to our current philosophical quagmire. Yet, unlike Magister Knecht in Herman Hesse’s classic novel, Magister Ludi, Meillassoux is not just some forlorn aesthete of the final thought, instead he is confronting nothing less than the truth of what is, then asking the oldest of questions: What can I know? What shall I do? What can I hope? .. and, perhaps, What is to be done?

Out of this amalgam comes a formidable and yet brilliant set of new problems, issues and concerns relating to our views of self, society, and the universe. He begins stipulating that the difference between objective and subjective representation is shaped by two types of subjective representation: those that can be universalized, and are thus by right capable of being experienced by everyone, and hence ‘scientific’, and those that cannot be universalized, and hence cannot belong to scientific discourse. [1: 12-13] Then he makes an interesting point:

“From this point on, intersubjectivity, the consensus of a community, supplants the adequation between the representations of a solitary subject and the thing itself as the veritable criterion of objectivity, and of scientific objectivity more particularly. Scientific truth is no longer what conforms to an in itself supposedly indifferent to the way in which it is given to the subject, but rather what is susceptible of being given as shared by a scientific community” (ibid. p. 13).

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Adrian Johnston: On Hume’s Revenge; or, Meillassoux’s Virtual God?

“For Zizek …the true subject is nothing other than this nothingness itself, this void, absence, or “empty spot” remaining after the innerworldly visages of the ego have been stripped away.”
– Adrian Johnston

“Let us say in passing that since (philosophical) remedies are often worse than the malady, our age, in order to be cured of the Plato sickness, has swallowed such doses of a relativist, vaguely skeptical, lightly spiritualist and insipidly moralist medicine, that it is in the process of gently dying, in the small bed of its supposed democratic comfort.”

     – Alain Badiou

Adrian Johnston in his essay Hume’s Revenge: À Dieu, Meillassoux? for the Speculative Turn tells us that a new enemy has appeared in our midst, one that through insipid and devious means is working not from the outside but deep within the inside of the materialist camp where at the intersection of European and Continental theory a monstrous creature has slipped in bringing with it “the enduring validity and indispensability of theological frameworks” (92). [1]

The grotesqueness of this state of affairs leads him to spume: “Marx and Engels must be rolling around in their graves. Despite the virulent theoretical and practical campaigns against religion carried out under the guidance of Marxist historical and dialectical materialisms, Marx’s ostensible heirs in Continental philosophy generally seem to be tolerantly treating the theologically inclined mingling amongst them as non-antagonistic rather than antagonistic others…” (93). Johnston even attacks the later Badiou for his “specious sort of ‘materialism’ suffused with metaphysical realism” and for being hostile to the empirical sciences, while appropriating fragments of Christian traditions into his works “with little to no significant modification” (93).

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The Poem of the Sea: Speculative Materialism and Realism

“Art makes things. There are… no objects in nature, only the grueling erosion of natural force, flecking, dilapidating, grinding down, reducing all matter to fluid, the thick primal soup from which new forms, bob, gasping for life.”
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

“The rupture with the idealist tradition in the field of philosophic study is of great necessity today.”
Alain Badiou

“And this brings me to the great underlying problem: the status of the subject. Meillassoux’s claim is to achieve the breakthrough into independent ‘objective’ reality. For me as a Hegelian, there is a third option: the true problem that arises after we perform the basic speculative gesture of Meillassoux… is not so much what more can we say about reality-in-itself, but how does our subjective standpoint, and subjectivity itself, fit into reality. … we need a theory of subject which is neither that of transcendental subjectivity nor that of reducing the subject to a part of objective reality. This theory is, as far as I can see, still lacking in speculative realism.”
– Slavoj Zizek 

Timothy Morton on his blog Ecology without Nature mentioned the music of Sun0))) and Boris, which was weird because I was listening to their album Altar at the moment I saw his article on them… a Jungian synchronicity? – or, just another speculative event among like minded connoisseurs of the transcendent real. Anyway Alter is a performative music in which one enters an arena of the erotics of the technological subject, a subject that is no longer bound by our concepts of the human: or, as Slavoj Zizek has so eloquently put it – the “subject as the Void, the Nothingness of self-relating negativity”. [1]

As we enter the Age of the Real when the Dionysian fluidity of the chthonian, a radical contingency in which – as Quentin Meillasoux brilliantly states it: “…not only are there no laws which hold with necessity, every law is in itself contingent, it can be overturned at any moment” (ibid. 215), vies with the Apollonian formalism of science, we discover the terminal phase of postmodern culture in an electrical gaze between masks that forms a new object: an erotic, molten dance of sensual objects and thought out of which emerges the “notion of virtuality, supported by the rationality of the Cantorian decision of intotalising the thinkable, makes of irruption ex nihilo the central concept of an immanent, non-metaphysical rationality.” [2]

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Quentin Meillassoux: Benefit and Alterity – Dark Materialism

“One could not better describe the movement underway: this benefit (bien) from a thirst for otherness [altérité] and the decentering which metaphysics begins again in the plural, requiring us to think this profusion in preserving it, as much as we can, from ancient wanderings.”
     – Quentin Meillassoux 

Is there a need to return to metaphysics? Instead of the grand systems of the past we are seeing a pluralistic metaphysics that encompasses its “great adversaries—instructed by its reversals (Nietzsche), by its destruction (Heidegger), therapeutic dissolution (Wittgenstein), or deconstruction (Derrida)—sets out both an extraordinary heritage, a treasure of unique thought towards which we are yet able to return—and at the same time imposes on us a totally new and exciting task: that is, how to produce a contemporary metaphysics, able to give a meaning, even a fragile one, to our lives by the sole force of thought, and one which may be likely to “pass across” [passer au travers] those tremendous undertakings of “demolition” which together ran through [traversé] the 20th century.” [1]

It seems Quentin Meillassoux has decided we should begin by “returning to the surface of those either forgotten or neglected for a long time…”, which offer an alternative to the great classical systems of Aristotle, Descartes or Hegel: “a metaphysics no longer of substance, of the subject, or of the closed system, but of the Open (Bergson), of the event (Whitehead), of singularity-in-becoming (Simondon), of possession (Tarde), of the work to be created [l’oeuvre à faire] (Souriau). Many more undertakings which demonstrate that metaphysics [“la” métaphysique] is not reducible to a determined collection of concepts which, once disqualified, take with them the whole of speculative thought.” (ibid.)

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Meillassoux and Neo-Materialism: Berlin Lecture

In Meillassoux’s Berlin lecture he returns us to his formative early work After Finitude, marking a turn toward materialism and its reactivation in contemporary philosophy, turning toward an redoubling his stance on thought and its capabilities, its ability to attain the ‘absolute’ – even going so far as to engender something like ‘eternal truths’. His original project was a thought experiment, a way of modeling an argument that would produce the most stringent form of anti-absolutism possible.

The model centered on his use of the term ‘correlationsism’, and he reduced it down to two arguments: 1) the correlational circle, and 2) correlational facticity. From Berkeley onward metaphysical materialism has been seen to fall into a trap concerning its access to reality, since supposedly we can never apprehend reality outside our access to it which is the circular loop of Being for-us of the correlational circle of the given. As he tells it correlationism posits that contrary to all materialism’s “thought cannot escape from itself“, it cannot access a world independent of thought itself. Our access to the world is bound to our thinking the given.

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