(Speculative) Time Out


I think I’m going to take a time-out here and withdraw from all the discussions of Speculative Realism and particularly its agitated anti-Kantianism. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that no one is going to change their minds about the matter, we’re simply exchanging information/insults at this point. Plus, I think I am not sure I completely understand what “correlationism” or “speculative realism” really is. I think I will go back to my book reports and philosophical trivia for now (and watching/discussing Lost).

P.S. HERE is an interesting review of a conference that mentions Speculative Realism and its apparent alliance with Radical Orthodoxy.

11 thoughts on “(Speculative) Time Out

  1. Now everyone’s going to gang up on me! In any case enjoy your time out — but before you do, could you explain to me what difference you see between ‘epistemic’ and ‘epistemological.’ I tend to use them interchangeably, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure I should be doing that (all of my students are gonna hate me).

  2. I’m sure you’ll be alright, I’m still going to think about these things, I’m just not really in the mood to comment and try to argue. I found some issues that parallel my interests now, but otherwise it’s just taking too much of my time.

    I always thought that “epistemic” deals with issues of knowledge (episteme) while “epistemological” with science of knowledge (epistemology) as in Kant’s discussions of the possibility of knowledge as opposed to the actual knowledge, say, of objects as they appear to us. Sort of like ontic-ontological distinction in Heidegger.

    For example, in the first Critique we have an extended (and, according to Kant’s preface the second edition, very crucial) argument about categories with deduction and all (Analytic of Concepts), but then we have a less read section (Analytic of Principles) which discusses things like persistence of substance, temporal sequence as the law of causality, postulates of empirical thinking etc etc – I was rereading these sections and the ones on three “analogies of experience” yesterday therefore the example – i.e. according to Kant’s view, at least, once the epistemological issues are resolved and the conditions of possibility of knowledge are explained, we can dive right in the issues of reality as it appears to us and therefore discuss actual knowledge we acquire from physics and mathematics (although Kant always make sure to say that it is not his task per se).

    But even without references to Kant, I think the strict terminological distinction could be made between “epistemic” and “epistemological” – think about phrases like “epistemic claims” and “epistemological claims” – it seems that it is only fair to say that in the first case we are talking about “knowledge claims” (about the reality of the outside world, God, relations etc etc) and “essence of knowledge claims” (what is knowledge? how does it come about? what is the difference between knowing and not-knowing) – at least that’s how I always used the words, and of course I might be misguided here…

  3. I think your distinction between knowledge claims and the essence of knowledge claims is absolutely right, Mikhail.

    Now, other than Kant, can you think of anyone who draws this distinction (I’ve sold all my epistemology books ages ago, so I can’t check) or uses it consistently. I thought about Foucault, of course, as he presents the episteme in Les Mots et les Choses, but I’m pretty sure that he would hate to be called an epistemologist — even though that’s precisely what he would be, acording to the distinction we’ve both accepted.

    on the Kant issue, aren’t the principles, analogies, and antincipations contained in the ‘Analytic of Principles’ simply a fleshing out of Kant’s Schematism in relation to the 3fold syntheses of the transcendental unity of perception? That is, aren’t they the weird image-not-quite-intuitions-and-not-quite-concepts that allow for the synthetic acts of judgment to occur. It’s been a while since I’ve thought about this section of Kant, so I might be misremembering. But if I’m right, then I don’t think it’s possible to claim that the analytic of principles is actually epistemic, since it’s still about the configuration of the conditions for the possibility of knowledge of objects. Make sense? what do you think?

  4. You’re right, they are sections dealing with schematism, you are remembering correctly, I suppose one may think of them indeed as fleshing out issues of conditions and therefore they are “epistemological” – my example, I suppose being fresh in my head, was probably not a good one. But that’s what I was trying to illustrate: Transcendental Deduction deals with conditions and the whole exercise depends on whether the Deduction is successful, if it is not, there’s really nothing to flesh out or explain. Assuming that Deduction is successful in its demonstration, we now have a task of “fleshing” out how exactly intuition and understanding produce knowledge (“subsumption of an object under a concept” or “application of the category to appearance”), therefore schematism discussions seems to me to be dealing with “epistemic” issues, or at least with issues that are while still under the general discussion of the possibility of knowledge, also deal with knowledge as such. I might be wrong, however, I think these sections of book II of the transcendental analytic are Kant’s attempt to show how transcendental questions (once articulated) “work” when it comes to actual empirical perception, because without schemata, “categories are only functions of the understanding for concepts, but do not represent any object.” [B187]

    Don’t know if I making any sense, but I think Kant is still of course discussing the conditions of possibility, however, it seems that he does not want to simply provide the explanation of these conditions, but to show how all of this is very useful and can be applied to mathematics/physics, or how it actually works when we, say, count or describe a physical process. I think it’s the danger of separating the transcendental and the empirical that is indirectly discussed: transcendental only makes sense when there is empirical, i.e. to discuss conditions of possibility of something without then being concerned with that something is rather useless. That’s why, I think, the “critique” is only important if there is then the actual “doctrine” or “metaphysics” – my favorite example here is from the preface to the second edition:

    “Criticism is not opposed to the dogmatic procedure of reason in its pure cognition as science (for science must always be dogmatic, i.e. it must prove its conclusions strictly a priori from secure principles); rather, it is opposed only to dogmatism, i.e. to the presumption of getting on solely with pure cognition from (philosophical) concepts according to principles, which reason has been using for a long time without first inquiring in what way and by what right it has obtained them.” [Bxxxv]

    Kant goes on to say that critique is a preparatory activity and so on, and I don’t really think he himself thought that his critique would receive the primary attention as such, since it’s clearly conceived as a means to an end. So certainly when I accused Levi of simply coming out with a principle out of the blue and then using it to demonstrate other principles/ideas, I was somewhat unfair – according to Kant, this is a dogmatic procedure of science (he means, of course, scientia, not what we popularly call science), it involves principles and demonstrations, but since it’s based on the assumption that logic is the natural law of reason, we can’t really infinitely regress to more and more primary axioms. However, what I thought was truly dogmatic was the militant refusal to even accept the value of Kantian critique, i.e. the need to refute Kant point by point, not simply say that what he came up with is restrictive and therefore must be rejected.

    Sorry, I sort of drifted away from the issue. I can’t think of any non-Kantian discussion of “epistemic” – “epistemological” at this point, I’m too emerged in my readings, but I’m sure someone who might be reading this can help us out…

  5. “So, when on one side you hoist in Locke’s head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant’s and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right. ”
    – Melville, Moby-Dick

  6. Although it may be tedious repetition to say so, Mikhail, I agree with what you say about transcendental deductions. The intereseting work comes in filling in the details. Maybe I’ll post something on how i take Transcendental deductions to work, since I’m beginning to think that the major stumbling block with Levi isn’t philosophical as much as it is metaphilosophical. But that’l; be a later post.

    For the moment, I’m not sure I agree with your take on what Kant is up to in the ‘Principles’. For they seem to set up the possibility of the transcendental dialectic in general, and the amphiboly in particular. (I’m think in particular about the analogies of experience and notion of causality therein). So again, maybe these principles aren’t epistemic, since they are decisive at the transcendnetal dialectical level of reflection/Reason.

    I don’t work on Kant, though, haven’t read him in any serious way for a while, and I could be dearly mistaken. So saltus granus.

    Of course, Levi and his brood aren’t the only ones who refuse Kantian Critique: Hegel does too (although again there’s a constructive argument for speculation in bothe the preface and Intro to the Phenomenology. For me, I suppose, the problem is how metaphilosophical is Kantian Critique? my impulse is to say, actually that Hegel offers us the first straw man argument against Kant. And it’s this strawman argument (learning to swim without getting wet, etc) that we’re see again in object oriented philosophy/speculative realism, though perhaps in a slightly modified form.

  7. Pingback: Speculative Realism and Theology «

  8. Alexei, I’m thinking maybe my example wasn’t that good at all, as I think you might be correct to point out the role of the analytic of principles. If you do decide to post on this topic, I’ll be the first to read and react. I think I’ve been paying attention to the discussed section lately because I always thought I didn’t pay much attention to it in the past, the argument sort of went from transcendental deduction/categories to the dialectic, so I would certainly welcome a closer look there…

    In any case, I still think we can distinguish between “epistemic” and “epistemological” – I however withdraw my example from the analytic of principles as demonstrating such distinction, I think it would be nice of course if we did in fact bring in Hegel’s overall reaction to Kant’s critique – I think with all the raging anti-Kantianism I am surprised – not because it isn’t there, but because it doesn’t seem to be discussed (and maybe it’s just my lack of knowledge of such discussions, an epistemic deficiency, if you will) – the conversation seems to be going as if Kant really succeeded in his overall project of persuading everyone that critique is needed, while the very early reactions were negative and very early followers were quick to turn.

  9. Graham Harman isn’t the only one who can come up with his own philosophy. In fact, I’ve also developed my own philosophy, which I will be sharing with the world as soon as I figure out how to “pdf” a Word document. But don’t worry, I aim to inspire no followers or change the path of philosophy — the future is overrated. No, my new philosophy is in fact a “retrophilosophy,” because haven’t we all had enough of “technofuturism” and the belabored attempts to bring philosophy “up-to-date”? Instead, my philosophy belongs to the “philosophers of the future perfect.” This new (but old!) philosophy will be called “data process metaphysics” (DPM). The central problem facing the philosophers of DPM is the mysterious unity of the “peripherals” with the “central processing unit” (CPU). Analogous to the relationship of the five senses with the “common sense” in Aristotle’s psychology, the three peripherals of hard drive, floppy disk, and modem are in an unarticulated unity with the CPU, and as a whole constitute the “mainframe.” What’s more, the mainframe itself is also a peripheral, constituting thereby an “indeterminate dyad” that is both a one and a many, both a “process” and a “processed.” But that’s all I can say, without giving away any secrets! The magnum opus of data process philosophy is tentatively entitled “The Mainframe Has No Windows,” although “The Mainframe and the Master/Slave Dialectic” and “The Myth of the Data Process” were close seconds.

    But don’t worry about keeping up to date with the latest developments in DPP – there’s no need! DPP will never come into fashion or lose its luster — it’s already obsolete. It’s already done, so you can say “it’s over” before it ever started, saving you the hassle of learning what it is, anyway. And for that the “philosophers of the future perfect” will no doubt have been already grateful.

  10. Pingback: The new philosophy « Dead Voles

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