Stellar Summaries


Since I’m too lazy to post anything really interesting and pertaining to philosophy, I’ve been taking comments out of their threads since the stupid “Reply” button seems to stop working after about 2o or so comments and then everything goes crazy.

Here’s a comment by someone awesomely labeled “Stellar Cartographies” addressed to “us”:

There is a somewhat strange argument that is circulating here by most of you that seems to function like this:

(1) Speculative Realism is boring, so lets just ignore its criticisms.

(2) OK, speculative realism is not boring, but it is ridiculous, so lets ignore its criticism.

(3) Alright…speculative realism is neither boring nor ridiculous, but its criticism are old hat, so lets just ignore them.

This does not seem to be a great model for philosophical exercise. Graham and Levi have reacted childishly to criticisms and perceived slights against their arguments. Furthermore, their fascinations with trolls, vampires, pixies, and other members of some strange mythological zoo is tiresome and, more importantly, useless. But none of that forgives the childish and pathological response from many who are commenting here. Ignore the persons of Levi and Graham. Ignore their childish personality quirks. What is the problem of SR? I will give you a hint: Its not that Graham and Levi sometimes respond childishly…Its not that it has a presence on the web…It is not that it is some sort of secret capitalist conspiracy to distract us from radical potential of the space-time schema.

Abandon the sour grapes and the hurt feelings. Do some philosophy. Offer real critiques of the positions taken by the SR theorists. Stop the psychologizing!

Anyone care to respond? Here’s my take:

Question: What is the problem of S[peculative] R[ealism]?

Answer: It’s not a real philosophical movement because it lacks a clearly defined program or a set of concerns. What is the difference between “speculative realism” and “object-oriented ontology” and “object-oriented philosophy”? If you give me a good description of what SR is and how such people as Harman, Meillassoux, Brassier and Grant pursue it, I will be very happy.

Take your wikipedia article:

Speculative Realism is an emerging movement in contemporary philosophy which defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy or what it terms correlationism.

[…]

While often in disagreement over basic philosophical issues, the speculative realist thinkers have a shared resistance to philosophies of human finitude inspired by the tradition of Immanuel Kant.

What unites the four core members of the movement is an attempt to overcome both “correlationism” as well as “philosophies of access.” In After Finitude, Meillassoux defines correlationism as “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.”[1] Philosophies of access are any of those philosophies which privilege the human being over other entities. Both ideas represent forms of anthropocentrism.

All four of the core thinkers within Speculative Realism work to overturn these forms of philosophy which privilege the human being, favouring distinct forms of realism against the dominant forms of idealism in much of contemporary philosophy.

Notice my favorite part – “while often in disagreement over basic philosophical issues” – and how this very description is all about reacting to already exiting philosophical movements, yet when I dared to call SR a “reactionary/reactive movement” I was told I was wrong. Read this description again – all you have is a bunch of people who dislike the same philosophical approaches. You can’t define a new and exciting philosophical movement (emerging as it is) by stating that they all dislike Kant or what have you. I mean, of course, no one after Kant ever disliked him, he was reigning supreme for centuries until SR came along, but still – what is “speculative realism”?

I mean give me a break here, I’ve written before about a number of issues, for example, on how the language of “privileging human over other entities” is idiotic and so forth. It’s not like like we just jumped on the bandwagon a week ago and all we do is heckle. Did you miss the whole debate about realism (Realism Wars™)? All these things were discussed ad nauseam already, it’s no use…

25 thoughts on “Stellar Summaries

  1. Would I be a turncoat if I actually agreed with Stellar Cartographies?

    Now I know that you Mikhail, Kvond, and Bryan — even me — have all written in the past about why we think SR/Objectology is flawed (mostly, the idea seems to be that ‘speculative’ means nothing more than a priori, and that the gesture of objectology is self-defeating), and I know that no one has ever really been able to offer a coherent/plausible definition of the ‘movement’. But if one were to take a step back from all of this and simply look at the comment thread from which this response was culled, we might all come accross as less than ‘philosophical.’

    Maybe it’s just me, but once the criticisms have been articulated, and there’s no more productive discussion to be had, I tend to think it’s time to let the matter drop. No? I mean, I have yet to see anyone really respond to the criticism that there’s nothing speculative about speculative realism. Nor have I seen anyone respond to the criticism that privileging objects still involves privilege (and hence by proxy an agent to privilege them), etc. So until I actually see a response, I’m done with the whole ball of yarn. There’s nothing left to say. let everyone play with their tinker toys and lego.

    • Alexei, I have to say that I am jealous of your ability to function as a consistent barometer of reason in all of this. You’re probably my favorite of Mikhail’s various egos/superegos/ids.

      • Thanks Bryan. It’s easy to be reasonable when you’re a fictional character. Easier still when the fictional character no longer cares about the debate. The trick is to attain a fictional solipsism in which nothing exists besides the voices in someone else’s head….

        Wait, does that even make sense? Mikhail?

  2. I think one of the ways in which speculative realism, somewhat like a viral meme, has managed propagate itself—almost solely through the Internet, mind you—is thanks not only to the Internet’s tendency towards group-think and “guildedness” (both in the sense of forming guilds, and in being somewhat vacuous), but also due to the way in which it combines quick-fire, rapid-paced dialogue with near-immediate anterograde amnesia, like in the film *Memento*. It’s as if arguments that took place weeks ago on the Internet seem like they happened years ago, which allows the SRists and the OOPistas to think they’re charting new territory every time they get to rehash the difference between, say, epistemology and ontology or what have you. They hold onto arguments only be rehearsing them ad auseum, replaying them over and over in their minds—”John G. raped and killed your wife…Remember Sammy Jankins… Teddie is not your friend”—and the rest of what goes on basically involves chasing ones own shadow.

  3. Just take the name:

    It is a realism, in that it presumes something exists in absolute independence of being known or given to thought.

    Of course, few sane people would argue otherwise, but many sane philosophers would refrain from attempting to claim knowledge of anything not given to thought (and some would claim the incoherence of even thinking something as so independent; weak vs strong correlationism). Obviously, that’s an epistemological limitation placed upon ontological discourse.

    Personally, I’d follow Meillassoux (and possibly Grant and Brassier as well, although they are less explicit) in going further than such a claim about independence, and instead advocate speculative materialism; matter here meaning that non-assimilable remainder resisting conceptualization. Not only is there something independent of thought, it is something that is unintelligible, something that evades every way of thinking it. For Meillassoux, this is ‘hyper-chaos’, for Brassier, ‘being-nothing’, and for Grant, ‘Nature’ or ‘the All’. (Harman’s real objects also basically fit this mold, although he denies their obvious proximity to the concept of matter.

    Moreover, in one way or another, this absolutely independent and unintelligible Real is the condition of possibility for any thought in each case, although in different ways. This is despite the fact that it cannot itself be given in thought or exhausted in conceptualization.

    It is also speculative (in Meillassoux’s sense of capable of accessing the Absolute), however, because despite this impossibility, all four claim that this Absolute can be thought, or even known in some sense, even though this seems to contradict the above. Brassier provides the paradigmatic reasoning here, in claiming that the non-conceptual and unconceivable difference between an object and its concept, however minimal, can nonetheless be thought without being converted into a conceptual difference, a difference internal to the concept (as in Hegel). He claims, following Laruelle, that this can be converted into a thought of non-conceptual identity in the object, an identity that conditions the concept without being given in the concept, or that is not ‘of the concept’ even while the concept is ‘of it’.

    In other words, we can think and have a concept of the non-conceptual that does not reduce the difference between conceptual and non-conceptual to a conceptual difference, but that instead affirms the non-conceptual as a condition for conception (and here we come full circle with materialism, specifically in a Marxist sense).

    Each speculative realist figures this non-conceptual identity differently. For Brassier, it is an identity of the Real that holds every thought that attempts to identify it in suspense, refusing every claim to conceptual sufficiency, always subtracting itself from every concept of what it is (ultimately an ontologization of a certain version of scientific falsifiability). For Meillassoux, it is through a deducible principle whose necessity must be affirmed insofar as we can think at all. For Grant, it is a thought of Nature as a priori production that is the condition of thought itself as a product. For Harman, it is the withdrawn real object that recedes behind every relation, giving those relations without being given in them (except as concealed).

    So in short, the commonality shared by all four of the speculative realists is simple to understand. It is not just a convenient term for ultimately incommensurable projects. It is not merely an anti-Kantian alliance (indeed, all four owe clear, though divergent, debts to Kant, and seem more interested in radicalizing him in different ways than denying or breaking with him). One could perhaps say they are more anti-Hegelian than anti-Kantian, being principally opposed to the Hegelian operation of making non-conceptual difference internal to the concept; but even this opposition only comes out of an intimate proximity between what are ultimately two variants of a similar speculative gesture.

    The definitive commonality of speculative realism is threefold:

    1) the affirmation of philosophy’s ability to think an absolutely thought-independent reality;

    2) the claim that we can know something non-trivial about this absolute;

    3) the conviction that such knowledge does not thereby posit the non-conceptual as internal to the concept, and that, on the contrary, the non-conceptual is in some sense a non-reciprocal condition for conception.

    They may all differ on significant philosophical points (significantly, on the nature of the non-reciprocity mentioned in point 3, and the type of epistemology it therefore demands), but they all affirm the structure outlined above. I think that’s enough to characterize a consistent ‘movement’.

    • I applaud your effort here Reid and I find your distinctions between the “four-fold” of Meillaisoux-Brassier-Grant-Harman informative.

      Here is where my problem arises: you define “speculative realism” as in some ways anti-Kantian and in other ways anti-Hegelian, but I can’t help but think that your description of all this is basically a repetition of the argument between Kant and the German Idealists. I mean, let me just you read you back to yourself:

      It is also speculative (in Meillassoux’s sense of capable of accessing the Absolute), however, because despite this impossibility, all four claim that this Absolute can be thought, or even known in some sense

      Wasn’t this the very goal of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, against what they took to be Kant’s skepticism and inability to ground the subject-object distinction in a more fundamental Absolute entity? Hence, all of their various philosophies were so many attempts at overcoming the “thing-in-itself” and its inherent contradiction. In fact, you then go on to write:

      Personally, I’d follow Meillassoux (and possibly Grant and Brassier as well, although they are less explicit) in going further than such a claim about independence, and instead advocate speculative materialism; matter here meaning that non-assimilable remainder resisting conceptualization.

      That last line is basically a party-platform for German Idealism. Take Fichte’s Anstoß, or Schelling’s Urgrund, or Hegel’s reflexive negativity. In their attempts to abolish the Kantian thing-in-itself and to determine a more primordial basis for the subject-object division, what they instead arrive at is the ontological incommensurability of “reality” as such, marked by the occurrence of some non-assimilable remainder. You see this sort of thing with Meillaisoux’s notion of the arche-fossil, too, although I have my reservation’s about it as a concept (reservations also voiced by Peter Hallward in his review of *After Finitide*).

      So, this points to my problem with speculative realism: they paint themselves as something radically new, but instead their whole narrative of Derridean deconstruction as a kind of neo-Kantian obsession with language games and never being able to say what the Absolute is, basically mirrors the past attempts to undo the Kantian prohibition on ontology or metaphysics concerned with the absolute nature of reality. This affinity with German Idealism for me wouldn’t be a problem… except that they then go on to reject, or more specifically, to negate in the Freudian sense, German Idealism. So we get a negation and, of course, a repetition.

      If I considered myself anything, it would just be as a far more orthodox “speculative materialist” (I reject the label “realist,” however), because they just don’t go the extra step of identifying what lies within them is that which they seem to most abhor.

      • Clarification:

        My remark on Meillaisoux was deliberately meant to be a kind of dialectical twist, but perhaps I didn’t tone the punchline quite right. Meillaisoux, from what I understand, wants to demonstrate how the arche-fossil functions as a kind of aporia within correlationist thought, that it belongs to a field of Absolute Time beyond the temporal realm of the Kantian transcendental aesthetic… but… what if we turn Meillaisoux’s argument inside out, like a sock? We get… Kantianism! In other words, the arche-fossil, far from undermining the thing-in-itself, seems to instead affirm at the most profound logical level: if correlationism is considered “thought,” then the arche-fossil itself functions as its “unthought,” as the thing which remains unassimilable and unintuitable to correlationism. In that sense, we basically get a rehearsal of Kant’s critique of metaphysics (the thing-in-itself as the barrier to speculative thought).

      • I appreciate your concern here, but I just don’t think German Idealism is so outright rejected. Grant, for instance, is a hardline Schellingian, whereas both Brassier and Meillassoux can be understood as basically offering corrective repetitions of the Hegelian move. Pardon me if I don’t elaborate any further on this point, but I don’t feel capable of it at the moment…but suffice it to say that Meillassoux’s speculative materialism is directly contrasted with the otherwise close position of speculative idealism in AF, and that Brassier’s non-dialectical negativity is derived from Laruelle, for whom Hegel might be understood paradigmatic (although I think uncited as such) of the structure of philosophy, and far from being wrong, requires the relatively slight corrective of a non-conceptual immanence that unilaterally determines conceptuality without being reducible to the self-externalizing movement of the concept itself. I’m not really sure where Harman would fit here, however.

  4. Thanks, Reid. Take the comments below as a sincere attempt to understand “speculative realism” – I will try to be simple and therefore somewhat direct:

    Not only is there something independent of thought, it is something that is unintelligible, something that evades every way of thinking it.

    Realism = there is something independent of thought + there is something that is never known to thought, “evades” it. This is nothing new at all. Why do we need a fancy position like SR when all of this is discussed in Kant, a figure they are all against?

    Moreover, in one way or another, this absolutely independent and unintelligible Real is the condition of possibility for any thought in each case, although in different ways. This is despite the fact that it cannot itself be given in thought or exhausted in conceptualization.

    Again – Kant! There’s no appearance without something appearing, something absolutely independent and never fully experienced (in-itself), i.e. “never exhausted in conceptualization”!

    Speculative = that which has an access to the Absolute (I’m not sure what this means, to be honest), or that despite the inaccessible nature of the unthought, it can be thought. Does this mean “to speculate” is “to believe”? How is this against Kant? For example, to act morally we are to assume that we are free but we can never know whether we are, therefore we are to act without ever being able to “access” the true determination of our will, the true motivation – is Kant doing something “speculative” then? It sounds to me like “speculative” here means “imaginative” which is an interesting position, but not very philosophical.

    The definitive commonality of speculative realism is threefold:

    1) the affirmation of philosophy’s ability to think an absolutely thought-independent reality;

    2) the claim that we can know something non-trivial about this absolute;

    3) the conviction that such knowledge does not thereby posit the non-conceptual as internal to the concept, and that, on the contrary, the non-conceptual is in some sense a non-reciprocal condition for conception.

    1) How does this affirmation function? Is it a simple proposition – “I think we can think that which is independent of thought” or is there an argument? For thought to be thought it must posit the non-thought, otherwise everything is thought, this is not only not new, but also very trivial.

    2) I’m not sure what this one means, but again how is this claim made?

    3) If non-conceptual is a (non-reciprocal) condition for conception, then why do we designate it negatively as “non-conceptual”? If there’s thought and non-thought, then we may posit this difference from within thought, but never from some independent position of neither thought nor non-thought, right? I don’t see how it gets us anywhere.

    Again, when I write “this is not new” I’m not using it as as argument, simply as an observation that it’s all been done before, that the bicycle has been invented. I would like to see something that justify this creation of a new philosophical movement which Harman proclaimed into existence.

    I would like to see maybe an extended version of your arguments, if you post on it, I promise I will write a response.

  5. As I said, I don’t think it’s true that they are all against Kant. Brassier openly allies himself with Kant’s critical epistemology; Meillassoux accepts Kantianism and attempts to think the absolute from within the limitations it places upon thought; Harman obviously wants to ontologize the epistemological distinction between in-itself and for-another. Grant is the most openly hostile to Kant, but even he is only so out of a Schellingian naturalization of the Kantian transcendental.

    Speculative = that which has an access to the Absolute (I’m not sure what this means, to be honest), or that despite the inaccessible nature of the unthought, it can be thought. Does this mean “to speculate” is “to believe”? How is this against Kant? For example, to act morally we are to assume that we are free but we can never know whether we are, therefore we are to act without ever being able to “access” the true determination of our will, the true motivation – is Kant doing something “speculative” then? It sounds to me like “speculative” here means “imaginative” which is an interesting position, but again nothing new.

    Access to the Absolute = relation to the non-relational or thought of the unthought. This is typically taken to be a performative contradiction, but the principle claim of SR is that it is not. Speculation is not belief, it is a use of reason that goes beyond the self-imposed limitations of Kantian epistemology by, in one way or another, claiming the noumenon is not simply an epistemological postulate or concept, but is a non-conceptual identity. Hegel does roughly the same thing, but ultimately assimilates this identity into the concept itself.

    I don’t really see what is so hard about that…as you imply, its not very new, it is essentially very close to Hegel, but a modification that breaks with the idealist determination of Hegel’s speculation. In that regard, it has a certain proximity to Marx and Schelling, and to Adorno and Deleuze, although there is also distance established with all of these figures within the various SR texts. It may not be radically new, but it is, as far as I can tell, an important critical corrective to both Hegel and anti-Hegelianism (although the precise nature of this corrective is divergent between the various SR philosophers, falling primarily on the relation between materialism and realism).

    For thought to be thought it must posit the non-thought, otherwise everything is thought, this is not only not new, but also very trivial.

    You miss the point. It is not a matter of thinking a concept of conceptual independence – of course this is crucial, and even implied in the structure of conception itself. The point is that we can think of such concept-independence without reducing it to a postulate of conception, or that thought can think the non-thought as more than a mere product of its positing, as more than a mere concept of the non-thought. It would be a matter of thinking the in-itself not merely as for-us, but as for-itself as well. To my knowledge, Kant does not go so far.

    To claim that we can know something non-trivial about the absolute means that we can say something about the absolute other than that it is ‘without relation’, ‘unthinkable’, ‘unknowable’, and so on, in other words, that we can say something non-negative about it. Again, the gesture here is not unlike Hegel: it is to make the negative determination of the Absolute in thought into a positive determination of the Absolute itself, or in other words, it is to say that the limitation forced upon thought by the Absolute is a limitation in the thing itself (although in Hegel, this obviously culminates in the Absolute Idea’s limiting externalization as internal to itself). In some sense (and this differs in each SR philosopher), this limitation is conceived as a positive ontological condition: facticality or necessity of contingency in Meillassoux, the positive negativity of being-nothing in Brassier, etc. If you want to know more about this, I recommend you consult the texts themselves, as they each do a better job of explaining this than I can.

    3) If non-conceptual is a (non-reciprocal) condition for conception, then why do we designate it negatively as “non-conceptual”? If there’s thought and non-thought, then we may posit this difference from within thought, but never from some independent position of neither thought nor non-thought, right? I don’t see how it gets us anywhere.

    You can designate it however you want, but it is marked as non-conceptual to indicate that it is not conceptual, that it cannot be reduced to an internal condition imposed upon thought by itself. You do not, however, need to be ‘outside thought’ to conceive of something outside thought, or more precisely, to conceive of the outside of thought as more than the ‘thought of what is outside of thought’. One can conceive of the outside of thought as an identity which thought attempts to identify, and which thereby conditions thought, without being given by thought in turn. This identity is not simply transcendent to conceptualization, but is immanent in it even while not given by way of it. (Think of Hegel’s sense of the presuppositions immanent in any philosophical system which nonetheless cannot be explicated in that system without contradicting it.) I would refer you to Brassier, especially chapter 5 of Nihil Unbound if this is still unclear, because I don’t know how much more clearly I can say it.

    Again, when I write “this is not new” I’m not using it as as argument, simply as an observation that it’s all been done before, that the bicycle has been invented. I would like to see something that justify this creation of a new philosophical movement which Harman proclaimed into existence.

    Of course it is familiar, it is essentially taking up the same problems that have haunted philosophy at least since Kant, and in fact treats them in ways that owe a lot to Kant, Hegel, Schelling, and many others. But I think the distinction is quite clear, and if you don’t think so then I don’t know what to say, the case seems quite plain to me and many others… I’d again refer you to the primary sources if you want to take the time, but if not then perhaps the problems with Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy SR addresses are not problems for you. If so, then I’d suggest you stop worrying about it.

    • “But I think the distinction is quite clear, and if you don’t think so then I don’t know what to say, the case seems quite plain to me and many others…”

      I disagree with this. I don’t think we’ve really come to fully appreciate the complexities of the German Idealist critiques of Kant, and the assumption that we have, that we can so easily draw a line between what they did, how they went wrong, and where speculative materialism parts ways, only makes sense if we give up on returning to their texts and searching within them for new meanings. This is what I am in favor of, and part of its benefit is that we (1) don’t have to reinvent the wheel and (2) can hopefully avoid many of the contradictions that have manifested themselves in the new SR systems that we’re seeing (contradictions stemming from Harmanian panpsychism and causality; Meillaisoux’s contradictions stemming from the arche-fossil as elaborated by Peter Hallward; and contradictions stemming from Brassier’s commitment to eliminativism; don’t know enough about Grant to say much…).

      • I fully agree that a return to German Idealism is warranted! Grant certainly seems to think so. If there is one thing I don’t like in SR rhetoric, it is the hostility toward recognizing the importance of the canon (although this hostility seems to be contradicted in practice…). But as I say above, I don’t think this is an effort to reinvent the wheel, so much as to offer a corrective, and I certainly hope you wouldn’t argue that German Idealism is flawless. I don’t know enough about Hallward on the arche-fossil, so I’ll have to look into it, but I don’t really see how it is essential to Meillassoux’s argument; it seems more like a convenient entry point. As for Brassier, I don’t know what you mean by the contradiction stemming from his commitment to eliminativism…maybe you could say more about this?

    • Just a quick comment on the fly about this:

      Access to the Absolute = relation to the non-relational or thought of the unthought. This is typically taken to be a performative contradiction, but the principle claim of SR is that it is not

      I don’t think anyone would take this to be a perfomative contradiction. I have no problem saying that Adamatium claws can cut through everything, but that nothing can cut through adamantium claws. The point here, is really about intrinsic vs extrinsic properties, which is basically the same distinction as primary and secondary properties — you need secondary, relational properties to access primary non relational ones. No contradiction here.

      But that’s a minor problem. What’s really problematic is that speculation remains undefined and totally without shape. at it’s most vague, speculation has something to do with “totalities” or what amounts to the same, ‘absolutes’. They’re the same thing at the end of the day. To the extent that Sr’s speculation has to do with grasping a bit of the absolute, or non-trivial cognition of some relevant element of the absolute, we’re all trapped in a contradiction in adjecto. You can’t have a little bit of the absolute, without transforming that bit into something quite the opposite of ‘absolute’ — namely finite, non-total, etc.

      Whether there’s a substantive sense of noumenon in Kant or any of the idealists (other than say Schopenhauer), is another matter. I actually think that it’s a huge misreading of Kant to understand the thing in itself as ontologically motivated. But you don’t have to take my word for it, look at Henry Allison or Paul Franks.

      Anyway, maybe we need to think more about the whole ‘speculative’ label. Cuz really, at the moment, the whole idea of access to the absolute strikes me as conceptually malformed. gotta go

      • It may be relatively underdetermined here, but the sense of speculation is pretty clearly demonstrated in both Meillassoux and Brassier. If you have some criticism of the ‘shape’ it takes in their employ then let’s here it…but I don’t think its fair to say its shapeless. In Brassier, for example, the absolute is simply the zero-degree of non-conceptual identity, which simultaneously gives and suspends the adequacy of conceptual determinations. In Meillassoux, it is the principle of facticality, or of the necessity of contingency, which he argues must be presupposed in every argument about the finitude of cognition. It seems like your critique is more shapeless then its target, although given your admitted deficit of time that’s obviously understandable.

      • Ok, but the principle of factiality is just a confused articulation of a posteriori necessity (as opposed to the standard Kantian, a priori necessity). there’s nothing particularly speculative about that. IN point of fact, Kripke has a pretty straightforward account of it from 1972.

        In any case, I’m not sure what is shapeless about my previous comment. If you treat totality as something accessed, then you put yourself outside of totality. To the extent that that’s true, the totality is not total, since there’s the totality, and the thing accessing it. (this is really just Hegel’s criticism of meta-critical analysis at the beginning of the phenomenology’s intro). Hence if speculation and its cognates involves some notion of ‘totality,’ then it precludes concepts like ‘access,’ etc, since access ‘finitizes’ stuff.

        But maybe I’m wrong.

        Brassier I don’t know very well at all, so I’ll simply concede the point. Maybe you could explain what he means by ‘speculative’

  6. Great stuff, everyone. I’ll try to think about it in more detail tomorrow, but for now I’m stuck with elementary problems:

    The point is that we can think of such concept-independence without reducing it to a postulate of conception, or that thought can think the non-thought as more than a mere product of its positing, as more than a mere concept of the non-thought

    How? It’s not enough to say we can, we must show how – that was and is my point all along.

    • Mikhail,

      The answer to your pressing question Levi has already answered.

      Step 1: Let objects speak.

      Step 2: Let objects surprise you.

      Step 3: Repeat step one.

    • I’ll try to answer you and Alexei together, because you seem to have the same question. First, let me say that while the common project of speculative realism is to prove that knowledge of ‘the absolute’ is possible, and to begin to explicate such a knowledge, the four thinkers split precisely on whether the methods employed in each case are successful. Each has some critical point regarding the others’ approach. Brassier, for instance, ultimately rejects Meillassoux’s ‘intellectual intuition’ of the absolute.

      I think that the way I have presented this has unfortunately been a bit deceptive, specifically when it comes to Brassier. Following Laruelle, I think he would acknowledge precisely the dilemma Alexei outlines above: that any relation to the Absolute ‘finitizes’ it, and has does not grasp it in itself, etc. His approach, however, is to reject conceiving the Real as absolute, as a totality, as totally non-relational, etc.

      This is where Laruelle is crucial, and the rejection of Laruelle by the other three SR theorists endangers their projects. Conceiving the Real as absolute in this way is, in a sense, already playing the correlationist game they seek to circumvent. For Brassier and Laruelle, the Real can only be thought as the radically immanent identity according to which conception is determined, but which cannot be reciprocally determined in thought (neither as thinkable nor unthinkable, relative or absolute). The operation of thinking this identity is then a matter of inscribing this unilateral determination within thought as a symbol through which thought transcendentally enacts its real determination. In this manner, thought suspends its pretension determine the Real, even in the Kantian sense as thinkable but not knowable, and instead recognizes itself as determined by the Real and hence the vehicle by which the non-conceptual immanence gives conception, even without being given in conception.

      This may be making things less clear… And if you are really still curious, I would urge you to read Brassier himself, specifically the fifth chapter of Nihil Unbound, as well as his earlier writings on Laruelle. I don’t think I can do any more but do an injustice to his presentation.

      • Thanks Reid,

        I’ll take a look at Brassier when I have a chance. In the meantime, maybe you could elaborate a little more on this sentence:

        His approach [i.e. Brassier’s], however, is to reject conceiving the Real as absolute, as a totality, as totally non-relational, etc.

        First, a grammatical question: does Brassier treat the real as a non-relational something, or does he reject this idea alongside approaches that treat it as absolute? If the answer is ‘yes,’ wouldn’t treating the real as a non-relational entity mean that its absolutely singular and hence open to intuition? If ‘no,’ how does ‘the real’ differ from Locke’s ‘I know not what,’ and Kant’s ‘transcnedental object = x’? I’m not trying to be pushy, I just don’t understand what is being claimed, or what it’s appeal is.

      • The point is that placing the Real under any concept, even something like non-relationality, is to betray its non-conceptual status (I realize that even non-conceputality is a also concept; Brassier, following Laruelle, goes through some interesting arguments regarding unilaterality to circumvent this, but I hope I can refrain from reproducing them here as I don’t really have the time, nor am I confident enough. I can point you to specific sections in his book if you are interested).

        The Real is, for us, nothing but this symbol which stands in for the non-conceptual and forces thought to enact its own unilateralization. It’s an axiom. But, in transforming thought by suspending its sufficiency, it thereby makes thought itself the ‘agent’ of the Real, insofar as it is determined by the Real.

        It is, in any case, very close to Kant’s x, as you are right to point out. Brassier goes so far as to call Laruelle a ‘renegade Kantian’, and as I said, he basically endorses Kantian epistemology. I unfortunately don’t feel qualified to explicate the divergence between their position and Kant…maybe you’re getting a sense of it? In any case, I’d recommend you check out Brassier, of Laruelle himself, if you’re interested, as I’d probably only confuse the issue further!

  7. Again, I’d like to thank Reid for his willingness to step up and give us something to work with here. I’d like for us to return to the discussion of issues, even if it is still considered to be some kind of personal heckling. I hope to dedicate more time to this tomorrow, since it’s a beginning of my Thanksgiving break.

  8. Pingback: For Reid « Perverse Egalitarianism

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