By the end of Chapter Three of Meillassoux’s After Finitude we are left with a rendering of the world reminiscent of Monadology, expect with some rather big differences. Meillassoux has described a world of chaos wherein each entity is at once self-contained, completely contingent and not connected to any one thing or another vis a vis a principle of reason etc. Naturally, this leads to a chapter long consideration of Hume, but Meillassoux insists “one unavoidable consequence of the principle of factiality is that it asserts the actual contingency of the laws of nature” (83). In the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume writes:
We have said that all arguments concerning existence are founded on the relation of cause and effect; that our knowledge of that relation is derived entirely from experience; and that all our experimental conclusions proceed upon the supposition that the future will be conformable to the past. To endeavour, therefore, the proof of this last supposition by probable arguments, or arguments regarding existence, must be evidently going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point in question.
…It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance…Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not that, for the future, it will continue so. Continue reading →
And now another alliteration, anyhow, to continue with my (monotonous) reading of Meillassoux’s After Finitude, I’ve just now reached the end of Chapter 3, “The Priniciple of Factiality” and have read through Ch 4 “Hume’s Problem,” but I will focus on the former for the most part. There was a section that really caught my attention towards the end of Ch. 3, in which Meillassoux writes:
Philosophy is the invention of strange forms of argumentation, necessarily bordering on sophistry. To philosophize is always to develop an idea whose elaboration and defense require a novel kind of argumentation, the model for which lies neither in positive science–not even in logic–not in some supposedly innate faculty for proper reasoning. Thus it is essential that a philosophy produce internal mechanisms for regulating its own inferences (77)…
There is a strange little section in The Star of Redemption where Rosenzweig talks a bit about the fanatic and the pagan. Here’s Rosenzweig:
The fanatic, the sectarian, in short all the tyrants of the kingdom of heaven, far from hastening the advent of the kingdom, only delay it…The ground prematurely cultivated by the fanatic yields no fruit. It does that only when its time has come. And its time too, will come. But then all the work of cultivation will have to be undertaken afresh. The first seeding has by then rotted, and to assert that these rotten remnants are “already” or “in reality” the same as that which later ripens into fruit is but the willful foolishness of pedants. Time and the hour are the mightier the less man knows them (Star of Redemption, 272)
In the closing section of the second chapter of After Finitude, “Metaphysics, Fideism, Speculation,” Meillassoux comments:
We are trying to grasp the sense of the following paradox: the more thought arms itself against dogmatism, the more defenseless it becomes before fanaticism. Even as it forces metaphysical dogmatism to retreat, sceptico-fideism reinforces religious obscurantism (48-emphasis mine-SO).
This is quite a statement, and I do like reading the Rosenzweig and Meillassoux quotes side by side, but as well shall see, Meillassoux has a good deal to say about the rotted out seeds of metaphysics. Continue reading →
I picked up Quentin Meillassoux’s newly translated book, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, a while back and have finally gotten around to cracking open the cover. I’ve only read the first chapter, but I was struck by the direct and succinct presentation of his quarrel with Kant and post-Kantian critical philosophy. Even the title is somewhat striking. For someone like myself, who has read and invested in a great deal of the usual 20th century phenomenological suspects: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida etc., human being/human finitude is the passageway from which all serious philosophical work emerges. This is what Graham Harman has described as the philosophy of access and it has been a bit of a rallying cry up until this point in such circles. An objective world in itself? Hmmm—–impossibly un-graspable since Kant’s critique. The title suggests (promises) a whole other story. On the final page of the first chapter, Meillassoux writes:
The virtue of transcendentalism does not lie in rendering realism illusory, but in rendering it astonishing, i.e. apparently unthinkable, yet true, and hence eminently problematic (27).
It’s hard, given my phenomenological background, not to find this passage more than a bit jolting. Continue reading →