I read through Markus Gabriel’s essay, “The Mythological Being of Reflection” and was reminded of something I quickly posted a few months ago, “Should Philosophers just wear Labcoats?” I was avoiding grading a stack of papers and found myself quickly purusing Rorty’s Objectivity, Relativism and Truth:
…any academic discipline which wants a place at the trough, but is unable to offer the predictions and the technology provided by the natural sciences, must either pretend to imitate science or find some way of obtaining “cognitive” status without the necessity of discovering facts (35).
Now, I have no idea if this actually represents Rorty’s own stance on the use of science in its relations to other non-scientific fields, but it gestures to a rather interesting phenomenon. That is, if one wants to achieve at best some prestige, or at worst, acceptance of those in the academy,then one has to become “scientific.” This seems especially evident in those who would like to teach Intelligent Design alongside evolution in the science classroom. In this case, religion or religious discourse is “dressed up” and parades around as science. I’m sure there are other examples. This got me thinking about some of Tom Sorell’s criticisms directed towards various attempts to cook up a scientific philosophy under the guise of “naturalism” in his book Scientism. That book isn’t fresh enough in my head to make any substantive connections here, but I think I recall his solution was some sort of version of Kant. Gabriel’s solution is a bit different, but he makes some excellent observations about Meillassoux’s concepts of ancestrality and correlationism along the lines of Rorty’s comment above:
Perhaps one should engage in the realism-antirealism debate instead of tying the weaknesses of correlationism to ancestral statements alone. Perhaps one would better consider the most sophisticated arguments against metaphysical realism presented by Putnam or the systematic elaboration of a theory of objectivity in terms of a plurality of truth predicates propounded by Crispin Wright in his Truth and Objectivity which presents a sophisticated account of anti-realism. Instead of this, Meillassoux commits himself to a naive sort of objectivism, even if it is for the just cause of fighting creationism and its ilk (86).
A little further down:
…it should be the cause of extreme astonishment if the philospohers referred to as correlationists by Meillassoux, such as Kant, Husserl, and Heidegger were not capable of understanding that the sun has existed before man. Neither idealism nor phenomenology is an ontic theory according to which the existence of human beings is the efficient cause of the existence of particular objects such as the sun, the Milky Way, or Niagra Falls. That there are epistemological conditions of possibility of experience or even ontological conditins of possibility of determinancy uberhaupt is a second-order claim of reflection…Meillassoux’s critque of correlationism simply misses the distinction between ontic (first-order) and ontological (reflective) theorizing.
Markus turns the tables on Meillasoux:
In order to repudiate correlationism, he would have to show that the ontological claim according to which the in-itself is only in-itself for us entails ontic non-sense. Yet, he does not even distinquish the various layers of reflection and theorizing, a shortcoming very common in the debate about idealism, constructivism etc. (87)
While the tone is a bit snarky, I actually think Gabriel offers some interesting critiques of so-called correlationism here. I’ll have to think more about the other half of the critique, regarding necessity/contingency, but my knee jerk reaction is to agree with Gabriel here.