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When the phone rang restlessly, whatever this means, Dr. Lawgiverz was sipping his dry red wine and smoking his hand rolled Havana cigar as if everything in the world was absolutely normal and nothing extraordinary was in progress concerning the workings of the universe. It wasn’t his wife calling out of love to propose reunification, it wasn’t the Japanese scientist calling out of friendship to share his latest invention in the field of astrophysics which might have led to a ground breaking new discovery of an uncharted territory, a new dimension of being even, it wasn’t Genesis calling out of urgency to lay the foundation of their new pattern of action, their new strategy against the forces of evil, it was, rather, a subject we have hitherto neglected to mention due to unncessity, a subject who was capable of radically changing the course of events and open new fields in and through which our uncanny narrative could unfold. “Hello?” said Dr. Lawgiverz with an inquisitive tone of voice, and received an equally inquisitive “hello?” from the other end of the line. It all seemed as though something quite surprising, if not altogether shattering, was about to happen to say the least. Now, we may or may not opt for delaying the soon to be made public conversation between Dr. Lawgiverz and the mysterious character who has just been introduced into our narrative, but as we are aware of the demanding readers, who, even god doesn’t know in which circumstances are reading this book, we will not even consider choosing the negative option, which is that of opting for delaying the truth. Quite the contrary, we shall reveal all in no more than a few sentences. Accordingly, “I’m the president of the United States of the World Platform, and I hope it is Dr. Lawgiverz with whom I’m speaking,” will say and has already done so, the mystery man who has lost all his mysteriousness with these words. “It is indeed,” said Dr. Lawgiverz with a sarcastic and/but somehow even more inquisitive tone, this time reflecting a worry as well on behalf of the speaker. “The reason I’m calling you, doctor, is that we have gathered information which we think might be of interest to you regarding the recent developments in world history, and especially the history of science and philosophy.” “Don’t you consider philosophy to be a science in-itself? Or do you consider it an inferior science, a thing of the past, which should rather be left to extinction in the long forgotten pages of history?” asked Dr. Lawgiverz as if this had any relevance at all to the issue at stake here. “Whether philosophy is a science or not is of no interest to us, sir,” said the voice at the other end of the line and continued, “what’s of interest to us is your relationship, or correlation, as you and the likes of you would put it, to the newly emerging philosophical movement called Speculative Realism, which, no doubt goes beyond a mere interest in new possibilities of philosophizing and touches upon a fundamental and highly sensitive issue concerning the relationship between the meaning of life and the state of world politics today. Now, it would be understandable if you only touched upon this issue, but you go much further than that and recklessly intervene in world economics, manifesting itself in the form of capitalism, the most developed form of economics known to man up until now. As is clear to us, your intentions are much more sinister than they appear to be, to cut a long story short, doctor, we are convinced that your primary objective is to shake the foundations of humanity’s very own mode of being itself. Am I right or am I right?” “No need to get uptight with me mister president. I understand that you have done your homework extremely well, but I wonder if you really have any proof at all to sustain your unjustified accusations.” “I assume you are forgetting with whom you are talking mister doctor. If I had no proof to justify my accusations, as you put it, with what authority do you think I would have the courage, or to put it more bluntly, the guts, to call and accuse you of being the mastermind behind these conspiracies?” “I don’t know about that, sir,” said Dr. Lawgiverz and added, “but if there’s one thing I surely know, it’s that I don’t even know whether you really are the person you say you are, calling me in the middle of the night and speculating endlessly about my intellectual life and the conspiracies behind which I’m the mastermind. Correct me if I’m wrong, but how am I supposed to know that you are not a psychotic reader who has not only just happened to read one or more of my books, but who also happens to think he has solved the riddle just like that?” “Well, you obviously cannot know that, what’s more, you are not supposed to know that anyway. So why don’t you just stop presenting yourself as someone who is supposed to know everything.” “I must admit, I’m having difficulty relating to you.” “Perhaps that’s because you are an anti-correlationist, as you would put it.” “I think there is a grand misunderstanding here. Anti-correlationism has nothing to do with two individuals having difficulty communicating with one another. As a matter of fact, what’s at stake in anti- correlationism is much more profound than that. I don’t know if it’s necessary to get into details, but let me at least say just this: anti-correlationism is not a state of mind, or a state of situation, as Badiou would put it, rather, it is a mode of being and thinking, which is driven by a will to think non-reflectively and non-determinatively, that is, to think objects as they are in themselves, rather than they are for mortal humans. Anti-correlationism proposes that it is possible and necessary to think and speculate on a world independent of human thought and/but engagingly indifferent to the symbolic reality. In short, it is an attempt to traverse the fantasy and touch the Real, as Lacan would have put it if only he was alive, which he did when he was.” “How would a human do that, if I may ask?” “You surely may ask, and the answer you get would be that natural sciences and mathematics have already been doing that for centuries. It is only a matter of finding, or rather, creating a new language that would do(express) the same in and through words, rather than the symbols of mathematics, chemistry and physics.” “I didn’t call you to engage in philosophical and scientific discourse doctor. You are a suspect and my duty is to warn you that if you continue your sinister acts, you will regret being alive and capable of thought. Good bye!” “Good bye, sir.”

Aristotle's idea of perception

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Aristotle’s weirdness is not a mark against him, but rather an indication of his greatness as a philosopher. However, things do not start out being weird. Every science investigates a specific object distinguished by the properties unique to that object. Thus, for example, economics investigates exchange and exchange is distinguished from all other phenomena by a specific set of qualities or properties. However, when we abstract from all differen … Read More

via Larval Subjects .

"Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this saying it’s me?" (Beckett - 2)

Expulsion of the Negative and Affirmation of Life are Mutually Exclusive

Purgatory, purification, extraction of the positive, expulsion of the negative, projection, introjection… Throughout his discursive life Deleuze conceived of purification of the self as the goal of literature. He believed that through an exposition of the evil within one was healing the society. But this theory can only produce otherness as negativity and that is almost exactly the opposite of what affirmative critique ought to be. Nietzsche’s project of “the expulsion of the negative” is a recurrent theme in Deleuze’s writings. Like Nietzsche he thought that it is only through regression that one could be purified and get outside the confines of the Cartesian cogito. Deleuze’s attempts at escaping from the Cartesian dualism, however, can only cause an interruption of the splitting process and slides towards overcoming the split to attain oneness. Giving a voice to the other creates the conditions of impossibility for the other’s finding his/her own voice.

With Deleuze it is always one dies rather than I die, or as the Cynic saying goes, “when there is death I am not, when I am there is no death.” Instead of accepting the state of being wounded as a perpetually renewed actuality, instead of affirming death within life, the other within the self, Deleuze climbs over the walls of his wound, and looking down on the others, he loses the ground beneath his feet, and eventually falls into the split he was trying to get rid of.

Affirming the mutual inclusiveness of introversion and intersubjectivity means preferring an a-sociality, what Blanchot calls “being in a non-relation,” to the symbolic order. Blanchot’s attitude is exactly the opposite of the symbolic market society that dissolves the most fundamental questions of being human in a pot of common sense. The subject of the market society is continually in pursuit of increased strength and self-confidence. And for that reason governed by what Nietzsche called the herd instinct, the will to nothingness, this subject becomes a reactive and adaptive subject. The symbolic order loses the ground beneath itself when and if the majority starts to see living with the thought of death not only as a natural necessity, but also as something to be affirmed.

 Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.[16] 

We continually have to work on turning everything that happens to us in this life into “for the good.” For everything good or bad to become for the good we have to affirm that which has happened to us. But how are we going to affirm something so terrible that nails us to a painful existence indefinitely? First of all, we have to accept that, that which has happened is not changeable, it has already taken place and we cannot go back there to unlive it.  But at the same time the meaning, value, and significance of what has happened is never fully established. Only death accomplishes the event’s significance, only through death is established the truth of what has happened to us.

For the Stoics one has to have a perfect understanding of the workings of cosmos and nature to be able to live in harmony with the world surrounding one. It is such that everything is a cause and an effect at the same time and everything is linked to one another. Everything that happens causes other things to happen. To a certain extent what happens to us is not in our control but at the same time if we know what the consequence of a certain action would be we could choose what to do, and so what happens to us, to a certain extent, becomes our own doing. We have to figure out how to act, which words to use in the way of affecting the external world so as to maintain ourselves as an active agent in any circumstance.[17]

Let us imagine an example. If we have done something so terribly wrong that it is causing us great distress, before drowning in our sadness we have to find a way of reading it in such a way as to turn it into something that was necessary for our present and future happiness. If we let ourselves go after a disappointing incident, if we let things happen to us and not do something to change the course of events we might as well find ourselves in an irresolvable situation at the end, which would lead to madness and death.

At every moment throughout our lives we are confronted with obstacles that keep us from accomplishing certain desired ends. And yet there is also always a certain potential of accomplishing something even better because of the very obstacle that caused the desired end to become unattainable. The Stoic solution to this problem is simple and yet sophisticated.

What we have here is not a total negation of desire but a rejection of certain objects of desire that one must know from past experience are bad for us to desire. If we want something to happen to us, something that would satisfy a certain desire, and if the desired event cannot be accomplished through our actions then there is no point in striving for the attainment of an unattainable object of desire. Instead one should make the best of what is at hand and accomplish other events that render possible the attainment of objects of desire that are within reach. If we don’t know what and how to work for, we get nothing out of life, find ourselves locked in a room on the door of which death continually knocks.

Paintings by Andy DenzlerTitle: Bertolt Brecht People remain what they are even if their faces fall apart - but does it float

Painting by Andy Denzler
Title: Bertolt Brecht

Epictetus’ philosophy is a very practical one. In it we find ways of coping with the difficulties of life. And it is adaptable to the present state of the human condition in which we find ourselves face to face with the exploitation of the life drive and the death drive through a manipulation of the mutual dependence of these two based on the ambiguous, because a-symetrical, conflict inherent in the relationship between them.

If we know not how to choose what to desire, if we allow the objects of our desire to be shaped by the capable hands of the big Other represented by the global capitalists, we also let the ways in which we desire be determined by a source other than ourselves, hence become puppets trying to satisfy an external force rather than ourselves and our lovers. We have to know what to desire and how to make it happen, otherwise nothing happens and where there is nothing happening there can be neither creativity nor communication; for what is one to create or communicate if there is nothing to create and communicate.

Once it is realized that there is nothing other than nothing to be struggled against, it becomes clearer how it would be possible to detach oneself from external circumstances and act in the way of maintaining an impersonal vision of what happens around us. One dissociates not the events themselves, but dissociates oneself from the events surrounding one. The Stoic indifference requires a subject in the form of an impersonal consciousness who maintains its dissociating function at all times. For this dissociation to take place, however, the subject has to know how to associate events that have led to the present, that is, one has to immerse oneself in the plurality of the past events, and extract from this multiplicity a combination of events so as to enable oneself to constitute oneself as an autonomous, free agent. This attitude emphasizes the importance of each instant. At every instant we have to act in such a way as to make the future better than the past. And this brings us to Nietzsche’s eternal return. According to Nietzsche, we have to act at every present moment in such a way that we will regret nothing in the future. Every present is an eternal moment in-itself and it is at times in our control to turn the present into for-itself, and at times it is not.

So, at every present we have to consider the possibilities from different angles and decide which way to go and which way not to go as if we were immortal. What Epictetus seems to be suggesting is that once a choice is made the only way to make it work for us is to push it to its limit where it either turns against us or against itself and creates another possibility of choice. Epictetus is not in favour of an individuality that would be constituted through moderation, but in a subject that would be indifferent to lack or excess. In Epictetus’ world there is no lack or excess; what there is lacks nothing and nothing in what there is is excessive. If one is satisfied by what there is with its lacks and excesses one needs no moderation of one’s actions, for there is nothing lacking or excessive to be moderated in one’s actions. Lack or excess can only be determined by a whole external to the already existing. But there is only that which is, which never lacks anything in relation to something outside itself. The concepts of lack and excess belong to the world of metaphysics which exists only in imagination.

So I eventually arrive where I could possibly have arrived; the end of this voyage, which is at the same time the beginning of another one. And here I find out that the more affirmative one’s attitude towards life gets the more fragile the contact with the other becomes. But as the contact becomes more fragile and affirmation more difficult, maintaining the conditions for the possibility of a perpetually recreated affirmative cont(r)act becomes more essential to the continuation of healthy life of self in touch not only with its own death but also with the death of the other.

Sometimes the only way to keep affirming is to affirm the fragility of the affirmative cont(r)act itself. It is only by affirming a broken and irregularly beating heart in its broken irregularity that one can relate to it. But to affirm this heart one must detach oneself from it, not identify with it, not become broken and irregularly beating itself, so that one can find in oneself the strength to undertake repairing the broken heart. Affirmation of life as it is, I think, is only the beginning of a fragile and yet beautiful friendship… Read More

 via senselogic

la mort - death

The Pre-Socratics: A Case Study

The fate of the pre-Socratics has often taken two routes, that of either complete dismissal due to inescapable primitivism or as purveyors of deep esoteric truths completely lost to our time. As is often the case however the truth lies somewhere in tension between the two. For examination of these founders of philosophy can provide two illuminating roles. Firstly we can conceive the ideas of these pioneers in the context of their ultimate evolution… Read More via An Excavation of Ideas

Related Articles

• Philosophy as Biography •
• Alain Badiou •

“Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. Maybe a biography of the philosopher by the philosopher himself is a piece of philosophy. So I shall tell you nine stories taken of my private life, with their philosophical morality… The first story is the story of the father and the mother.
My father was an alumnus of the École Normale Superieure and agrégé of mathematics: my mother an alumna of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégée of French literature. I am an alumnus of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégé, but agrege of what, of philosophy, that is to say, probably, the only possible way to assume the double filiation and circulate freely between the literary maternity and the mathematical paternity. This is a lesson for philosophy itself : the language of philosophy always constructs its own space between the matheme and the poem, between the mother and the father, after all.” Read More

• VIDEO Version •


Postfelsefe nasıl hadım eder, ya da neden XI. tez tersine çevrilmeli üzerine

Postfelsefe nasıl hadım eder ya da neden XI. tez tersine çevirilmeli üzerine Benim felsefeye ilgim materyalizm ve onun eleştirel işlevi sayesindedir: bilimsel bilgiyi onun mistifiye edilmiş tüm ideolojik bilgiselliğinin karşısına almaktır. Ahlaki temelde bir mit ya da yalan karşıtlığından değil, onların akılcıl ve sistematik eleştirisinden bahsediyorum. – Louis Althusser [kaynak]

Burada bır zamandır okumaya çalıştığım bir felsefi metinden kısaca sözetmek istiyorum. Zira şu ana dek metnin sadece 2 bölümünü yani 50 sayfasını okuyabildim. Bu da kitabın sadece 3′te 1′ine tekabül ediyor. Şunu itiraf etmek zorundayım: Bu 50 sayfayı okumak bana 500 sayfa okumak gibi geldi. Bunun nedenlerinin başlıcaları arasında benim “felsefeci” olmadığım gerçeği yatıyorsa da, bundan öte metnin Kant sonrası felsefeye, modernist felsefeye olan özgün eleştirisinin ince noktaları ve ziyadesiyle yoğunluğu okunuşunu zorlaştırdığını eklemek gerekiyor. Halbuki metnin son yılların felsefi metinleri içerisinde en yalın, en tutarlı, en takip edilebilir bir dille yazıldığını düşünmeme rağmen, bu böyle oldu. Yazar: Quentin Meillassoux, Kitap: After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity on Contingency (Sonluluk Sonrası : Vukuu Belli Olmamanın Gerekliği Üzerine Bir Deneme)… Read More

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Cover of "After Finitude: An Essay on the...

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…A remark on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude (after Colletti)

This paper seeks to explore a very stark and simple question elicited by Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: are materialism and speculation compatible? In order to outline a response I will take what might initially seem a somewhat arbitrary detour through a seemingly disparate line of thought, namely that of the Italian anti-Hegelian Marxist Lucio Colletti, focussing in particular on his 1969 Marxism and Hegel – a book which in its time had a remarkable impact on the discussion of historical and dialectical materialism. By means of this theoretical contrast, I will try to elucidate what appear to me as some of the stakes of Meillassoux’s powerful book. In this regard my guiding question will open onto some subsidiary ones, two of them being of particular significance: ‘Is non-metaphysical speculation possible?’ and ‘What is the difference between realism and materialism (and indeed between these two and naturalism)?’ In the background of these questions lies the issue of demarcation – especially the three-way demarcation between science, philosophy and ideology. The contrast with a line of inquiry within twentieth-century Marxism which bears a number of affinities with Meillassoux’s proposal is also significant, to my mind, because it allows us to address one of the strong rhetorical gestures that lends this short book its polemical, and one might even say political character, to the extent that can speak of a politics immanent to philosophy as a Kampfplatz, a battlefield, a Kantian image dear to Althusser. This gesture involves enlisting a speculative materialism against the pernicious extra-philosophical effects of correlationism, encapsulated by the notion of fideism. When it comes to these arguments, principally rehearsed in Chapter 2 of After Finitude, I think it is fair to say, in terms of the aforementioned issue of demarcation, that Meillassoux is engaging in an ideological struggle founded on the specific demarcation between philosophy and science, as the two relate to the questions of necessity and belief. Speculative materialism is here also an ideological operation, aimed at terminating correlationism’s collusion with irrationalism (‘Dialectical Materialism and Irrationalism’, incidentally, was the subtitle of Colletti’s book).

Meillassoux brings his investigation into explicitly contact with the issue of ideology when he characterizes speculative materialism as an approach that does away with any ‘dogmatic metaphysics’, as a rejection of real necessity and sufficient reason grounded in the following operation: ‘to reject dogmatic metaphysics means to reject all real necessity, and a fortiori to reject the principle of sufficient reason, as well as the ontological argument, which is the keystone that allows the system of real necessity to close in upon itself’. He goes on to declare that ‘such a refusal of dogmatism furnishes the minimal condition for every critique of ideology, insofar as an ideology cannot be identified with just any variety of deceptive representation, but is rather any form of pseudo-rationality whose aim is to establish that what exists as a matter of fact exists necessarily’ (33-4). At bottom, Meillassoux wishes to combine and revitalise two aspects of the Enlightenment critique of metaphysics and religion. On the one hand, a speculative materialism is aimed at undermining the dogmatism of necessary entities, the dogmatism of classical metaphysics, rationalism included. On the other, speculative materialism is targeted against the way in which correlationism makes any belief equally legitimate by rejecting the absoluteness of reality (i.e. by making the archi-fossil unthinkable). But this entails that the critique of metaphysics not be a deflationary, relativist or conventionalist critique, in other words that it not be a correlationist critique. The brilliance (but as I will suggest also the problematic character) of Meillassoux’s enterprise stems from the manner in which he articulates the two seemingly antinomic requirements of anti-dogmatism and speculation. Accordingly, as he writes ‘we must uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstate any form of absolute necessary entity’, thus demarcating absolutising from absolutist thought, and speculation from metaphysics. This requires resisting what Meillassoux calls the ‘de-absolutizing implication’, which posits that ‘if metaphysics is obsolete, so is the absolute’ (34). Kantianism, or, in Meillassoux’s vocabulary ‘weak correlationism’, is partially responsible for this, though the fact that it maintains an uncorrelated non-contradictory real as thinkable entails that it does not harbour the same irrationalist consequences as strong correlationism, especially in the latter’s Heideggerian or Wittgensteinian varieties. It is in discussing strong correlationism that Meillassoux attempt to infuse speculative materialism with the polemical spirit of the radical Enlightenment is particularly in evidence, leading to the formulation of what we could call an absolute Enlightenment. Meillassoux’s indictment of strong correlationism as a new obscurantism, as a kind of carte blanche for any and all superstitions centres on the category of facticity. The latter designates those structural invariants or transcendental parameters which govern a given world or domain of correlation without themselves being open to rational explanation, deduction or derivation. In this respect, facticity is a form of reflexive ignorance. In Meillassoux’s words, it ‘consists in not knowing why the correlational structure has to be thus’ (39). Facticity is here synonymous with finitude and with a form of anti-foundationalism whose converse, as Meillassoux writes, ‘is that nothing can be said to be absolutely impossible, not even the unthinkable’. Strong correlationism generates a form of philosophically-vouchsafed permissiveness, which makes it impossible to establish the very criteria that might make it possible to ‘disqualify’ irrational discourses. As he notes, while weak correlationism had done away with naïve realism, strong correlationism further undoes a notion of the absolute by pitting the facticity of the correlation against any speculative idealism.

It is the complicity of strong correlationism with a return of religiosity that lends Meillassoux’s speculative denunciation its ideological urgency. Its ‘contemporary predominance’, he writes, is ‘intimately connected to the immunity from the constraints of conceptual rationality which religious belief currently seems to enjoy’ (43). According to After Finitude, we live in a time where the ideological hegemony of strong correlationist philosophies, with their assertion of a facticity beyond explanation, their dumb wonderment at things as they are, has revoked any of the rational instruments available for refuting or dismissing irrational beliefs. Intriguingly, and I’ll return to this when I move to Colletti, for Meillassoux correlationist irrationalism is founded on its termination of the Parmenidean identity of being and thought, the consequence that it draws from facticity that ‘being and thinking must be thought as capable of being wholly other’ (44). From such a vantage point, is impossible to rule out the radical incommensurability between the in-itself and thought. What is the consequence of this? That thought’s claim to think the absolute is drastically withdrawn but irrational absolutes remain, indeed proliferate. Hence the basically unchallenged contemporary sway of a sceptically permissive and pluralistic ‘fideism of any belief whatsoever’. It is not clear whether Meillassoux actually thinks that correlationism has played a causal part in abetting the current return of the religious, but he does draw out very neatly the manner in which it implies it. In his own words:

The end of metaphysics, understood as the ‘de-absolutization of thought’, is thereby seen to consist in the rational legitimation of any and every variety of religious (or ‘poetico-religious’) belief in the absolute, so long as the latter invokes no authority beside itself. To put it in other words: by forbidding reason any claim to the absolute, the end of metaphysics has taken the form of an exacerbated return to the religious. (45)

On the basis of this argument, Meillassoux frames his own project in the classical terms of the French lumières, especially of Voltaire, as a struggle against fanaticism (characteristically, Meillassoux does not use the Kantian definition of fanaticism, or Schwärmerei, which for Kant involves the hyper-rationalist delusion of ‘seeing the infinite’, against which the critical philosophy erects its iconoclastic proscriptions). The relation between fideism and fanaticism is somewhat fuzzy, but it is intriguing, and one might argue somewhat worrying, that Meillassoux flirts with the conservative thesis that a relativistic proliferation of beliefs, beyond any horizon of legitimacy, is a form of de-Christianization, the obverse of his equally questionable conviction that critical Western rationality is a ‘progressive rationalization of Judeo-Christianity under the influence of Greek philosophy’ (47). In pure Enlightenment style, Meillassoux wants to argue that strong correlationism, in colluding with the religionization of reason, has left us powerless to argue rationally – rather than on ad hoc moral grounds – against all varieties of fanaticism, including, in an odd allusion, those which may deal out ‘the worst forms of violence’, whose claim to access an irrational absolute correlationist fideism cannot allow itself to disqualify. At the end of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, Meillassoux even goes so far as to claim that contemporary ‘fanaticism’ is the effect of critical rationality, a by-product of the latter’s effectively emancipatory attack on dogmatism, which has in removed any fetter on the claims of ‘blind faith’. Without dwelling on the under-determined and exceedingly allusive references to contemporary fanaticism which lend Meillassoux’s claims their charge of urgency, as well as on the rather dubious claims made about the relation between Christianity and Western reason, in the rest of this presentation I want to challenge the plausibility of Meillassoux’s Enlightenment reloaded, as I mentioned by a detour through Colletti’s Marxism and Hegel. I want to put forward two inter-related arguments. First, that attending to the distinction between Kant and Hegel as formulated by Colletti, allows us to cast doubt on the very possibility of a speculative materialism, and provides a qualified Marxian defence for weak Kantian correlationism as a component of a genuine materialist thinking. Second, and much more briefly, that Colletti’s related discussion of hypostasis and ‘real abstraction’ demonstrates the weakness of Meillassoux’s attempt to revitalise the Enlightenment attack on fanaticism. Behind these two claims lies the conviction that, despite its undeniable subtlety, Meillassoux’s attack on the idealist parameters of correlationism is ultimately idealist in form, a problem which also affects it attempt to ideologically intervene, through a recasting of the Enlightenment fight against fanaticism, in the contemporary ‘return to the religious’.

The reasons that govern the contrast I will propose with Colletti are several. To begin with, I want to use this disjunctive exercise to begin to think through the relationship between Meillassoux’s speculative materialism and the kinds of materialisms of practice or history that refer back to Marx. The choice of Colletti is dictated by the very nature of his intervention in Marxism and Hegel and related pieces: it was designed to counter the obfuscatory idealism and rejection of science which he saw as the Hegelian legacy within Western Marxism. In this respect its spirit, if not its specific targets, is not so distant from Meillassoux. What’s more, Colletti bears a more specific affinity with Meillassoux (1). Both regard scientific thought as inextricable from an affirmation of the principle of non-contradiction. Meillassoux argues, towards the end of chapter 3 of After Finitude that: ‘Dialectics and paraconsistent logics would be shown to be studies of the ways in which the contradictions of thought produce effects in thought, rather than studies of the supposedly ontological contradictions which thought discovers in the surrounding world’ (79). The distinction between contradictions in thought and in reality is so central to Colletti’s work that it eventually led to his abandonment of Marxism, guilty in his eyes of maintaining the possibility of contradictions in the real. But the different ways of arguing against contradictions in reality in Colletti and Meillassoux are already indicative of the broader differences in their philosophical defences of science against idealism. Colletti turns to Kant’s 1763 essay on negative magnitudes to argue that:

The fundamental principle of materialism and of science … is the principle of non-contradiction. Reality cannot contain dialectical contradictions but only real oppositions, conflicts between forces, relations of contrariety. The latter are ohne Widerspruch, i.e. non-contradictory oppositions, and not dialectical contradictions. These assertions must be sustained, because they constitute the principle of science itself. Now science is the only means of apprehending reality, the only means of gaining knowledge of the world. There cannot be two (qualitatively different) forms of knowledge. A philosophy which claims a status for itself superior to that of science, is an edifying philosophy – that is, a scarcely disguised religion. (‘Marxism and the Dialectic’, 28–9).

Rather than relying on a notion of material reality for the argument against dialectical contradiction, Meillassoux’s argument regarding non-contradiction is wholly intra-speculative. Non-contradiction must be respected to ward off the metaphysical spectre of an absolutely necessary entity that forfeiting this principle would involve. Thus, contrary to the customary link between dialectical contradiction and an ontology of flux or process, for Meillassoux a contradictory entity ‘could never become other than it is because there would be no alterity for it in which to become’ (69). In other words, and I’ll try to develop this point, while Colletti takes a materialist critique of the dialectic to imply the extra-logical character of reality, the fact that deriving the dynamics of the real from the logical is illegitimate and idealist, for Meillassoux the denial of real contradiction takes place on intra-logical grounds. But to develop this point further, it is worth looking further at the rationale behind Colletti’s anti-Hegelian revision of Marxism.

Let’s begin where the contrast appears greatest: Colletti’s plea for a pro-scientific materialism takes the form of a defence of the finite. At the very start of his book, he isolates the crux of idealism in Hegel’s statement from the Science of Logic according to which: ‘The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in recognizing that the finite has no veritable being’ (7). Consequently, ‘the finite is ideal’, in two senses: it is a mere abstraction, a fleeting isolation from the concrete universality of the Whole, and, conversely, it is only granted its true being when comprised as a moment of the ideal. In Hegel’s formulation, from the Encyclopaedia: ‘The truth of the finite is … its ideality. … This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy’ (14). The labour of speculative reason (Vernunft), as opposed to the intellect or understanding (Verstand), is to traverse the various configurations of the finite and to undo its separateness. Colletti will diagnose this contempt towards the isolated thing and the thought which thinks it (mere intellect as opposed to reason) as a constant within idealist philosophy, including that of dialectical materialism – the polemical object of his book. For Colletti, sympathy towards the Hegelian critique of the intellect and of the Kantian restrictions placed on reason – which he encounters in a motley host of thinkers, from Rickert to Marcuse, from Bergson to Lukacs – is a sign of an abdication of materialism and of a position towards science which, in according philosophy the sovereign right to legislate about reality, turns the former it into a ‘scarcely disguised religion’. What’s more, to the extent that science is seen to isolate entities and treat them as both finite and external to the mind it is paradigmatically a product of the intellect, and is consequently viewed as a merely abstract and incomplete form of thinking – a feature most evident in Bergsonism, but present, as Colletti demonstrates, in a broad range of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy. For Colletti, speculation, conceived as the pretension of philosophical thought to logically encompass being, is fundamentally incompatible with materialism. Indeed, he insists on Hegel’s conviction that he was returning to rationalism, but stripping it of its reliance on a materialist, or scientific form of argument. In passing, we could note that Meillassoux’s return to rationalism, and to Descartes in particular, takes the inverse approach: maintaining the materialist form of rationalism, and stripping it of its idealist or theological content.

Thus, it is the repudiation of the finite as separate and self-standing, and the attempt to overcome finitude, understood as the inability for thought or logic to determine being, which for Colletti marks idealism’s hostility to scientific materialism. In other words, it is because of a denial of finitude, and not because of its assertion, that for idealism ‘an independent material world no longer exists’ (19). The idea of real opposition, Kant’s Realrepugnanz, is significant because it is only by upholding the principle of non-contradiction and the idea of real exteriority in the material world that materialism can avert being enveloped by an idealism for which the material world is merely an incarnation of a fundamentally inclusive and unlimited reason. As Colletti remarks, ‘since Hegel transforms the logical inclusion of opposites that is reason into the very principle of idealism (reason is the sole reality, there is nothing outside it), he excludes precisely that exclusion of opposites (the externality of being in relation to thought) that is the very principle of materialism)’ (34).

In Marxism and Hegel, idealism qua speculation is identified with ‘the negation of any extralogical existence’ (49). This is also why materialism is always to some extent an Unphilosophie, an anti-philosophy, based on the idea of an externality of thought to being, and on a related irreducibility of scientific epistemology to speculative logic. While, in Colletti’s formulation, ‘Kant constantly remarks that if one wants to have knowledge, one must refer thought back to that which is other than itself’ (202), Meillassoux’s attempt to break out of a correlationist circle of Kantian provenance into what he calls ‘the great outdoors’ involves generating a new figure, under the aegis of a necessary and radical contingency, of thought’s Parmenidean identity with being, or, as he very lucidly outlines, inventing a novel type of non-metaphysical speculation.

Let’s sum up the results of this contrast. In Meillassoux’s work, a speculative materialism counters correlationism by undermining the thesis of finitude (or rather, via the passage from facticity to factuality, by turning correlationist finitude against itself), and by engaging in a non-metaphysical deployment of a ‘logos of contingency’ relying on the intra-logical principle of non-contradiction and the ultimate identity of being and thought. In Colletti, on the contrary, a critical materialism depends on asserting the extra-logical character of reality, and the related and irreducible distinction between logical contradiction and real opposition. What’s more, for Colletti it is precisely by turning the finite into an ideality, which is in turn encompassed by logical thinking, that speculation – which form him can only be idealist – transforms the world into an ‘ephemeral’ entity, something which Meillassoux’s logos of contingency would seem to do as well. It is worth quoting here at length from Colletti’s exposition of his critical materialism:

Dogmatism is metaphysics; critical thought is materialism. The antithesis, with respect to Hegel, could not be more pronounced. Metaphysics is the identity of thought and being; its contents are ‘already’ within thought, they are independent of experience, i.e. supersensible. Ergo, form and content are forever united, knowledge is already formed, and it is impossible to pose the problem of the origin of the knowledge that we possess. Critical thought, contrariwise, identifies itself with the position that presupposes the heterogeneity, i.e. a real and not formal (or purely ‘logical’) difference, between being and thought. Thereby one can pose the ‘critical’ problem of the origin of our knowledge, inasmuch as knowledge itself is not already given. Which in turn presupposes, in a word, that the sources of knowledge are two: the spontaneity of the mind and whatever data are given to the receptivity of our senses. (91)

In Colletti, the scientific content of Kantian finitude – severed from its moral dimension – is to prohibit the self-sufficient of thought, i.e. speculation. In his words: ‘If one denies that there exist premises in reality for thought, then one is forced to take up knowledge itself as a presupposed and given reality’ (89). Accordingly, it is imperative that epistemology, understood as the study of thought’s relation to being as relates to the scientific enterprise, not be reduced to logic, the theory of thought’s coherent relation to itself.

Among the issues at stake in this contrast is the standing of the absolute. Colletti and Meillassoux seem to converge on the notion of the absolute as something which is separate from what the latter would refer to as a correlationist circle. As is stated at the beginning of Chapter 2 of After Finitude, the task of speculative materialism ‘consists in trying to understand how thought is able to access the uncorrelated, which is to say, a world capable of subsisting without being given. But to say this is just to day that we must grasp how thought is able to access an absolute, i.e. a being whose severance (the original meaning of absolutus) and whose separateness from thought is such that it presents itself to us as non-relative to us, and hence as capable of existing whether we exist or not’ (28). In Colletti’s account it is precisely this absoluteness of extra-logical reality which is the nemesis of idealism. As he notes: ‘For Hegel, the ‘“intellect” is dogmatic because it makes the finite absolute. The meaning of this term is the same as its etymology: solutus ab…, freed from limitations, existing on its own, and therefore unrestricted and independent’ (82). But, and this is the important point, Meillassoux does not limit himself to the severance of extra-logical reality, precisely because his refutation of correlationism is a logical, or speculative one.

Looking through the prism of Colletti’s critique of Hegelianism, we can recognise two sense of the absolute in After Finitude: on the one hand, the absoluteness of the archi-fossil, an absoluteness that fits quite well with Colletti’s defence of the finite against its idealist sublations; on the other, the absoluteness of a reason or logic which is assumed to be congruent with being, and which can legislate about modality and change with no reference to anything extrinsic to it, be it experience or matter. The uniqueness of Meillassoux’s account lies of course in the dextrous and fascinating manner in which he seems to need the second absolute, the absolute of speculation (or what we might call the absolute absolute) to shore up the second (the relative or negative absolute, the absolute from thought) and defeat correlationism. Viewed from the vantage point of Colletti’s argument, Meillassoux poses the ontological presuppositions of correlationist epistemology, but resolves it by logical means, thus obviating his own materialist aims, and creating something like a detotalised and contingent ‘logical mysticism’, to employ Marx’s characterisation of Hegel’s system. We could thus articulate this contrast in terms of the distinction between a materialism of the intellect and a materialism of reason, or a realism of the intellect and a realism of reason. From the vantage point of Colletti’s defence of intellect against reason, After Finitude’s attempt at defending the expansive and speculative uses of a ‘totally a-subjective’ reason by getting rid of fideism throw out with it the criticism, revision and scientificity that marks the extra-logical character of reality in a Kant-inspired materialist epistemology.

But is a restatement of Kantian epistemology as a materialist precursor all that there is to Colletti’s position? No. Crucial to Marxism and Hegel is the highlighting of Marx’s theory of real abstraction, to wit the idea that the excesses of speculation and the hypostases of idealism are not merely cognitive problems, but are deeply entangled with abstractions that have a real existence in what, following Hegel, Marx was wont to call an upside-down world. Thus the State, and its philosophical expression in Hegel, and Capital, and its theoretical capture in the political economy of Smith and Ricardo, are not simply thought-forms that could be dispelled by some enlightened emendation of the intellect, or a valiant combat against superstitions. As Colletti writes: ‘For Marx, in fact, metaphysics is the realism of universals; it is a logical totality which posits itself as self-subsisting, transforms itself into the subject, and which (since it must be self-subsisting) identifies and confuses itself acritically with the particular, turning the latter – i.e. the actual subject of reality – into its own predicate or manifestation’ (198). Again, this is not a merely logical but a real process. To return to the earlier remarks on Meillassoux’s attempt to revive the Enlightenment war on fanaticism within his broader critique of correlationist fideism, what Marx’s notion of real abstraction permits us to think – and the reason why it is an important advance with respect to the idea of ideology as a merely cognitive matter – is that ideologies, including those of correlationism, fideism and fanaticism, are social facts.

In trying to maintain the speculative sovereignty of philosophical reason, albeit advocating a principle of unreason and breaking correlationist self-sufficiency, Meillassoux can be seen to reintroduce idealism at the level of form at the same time as he valiantly seeks to defeat it at the level of content. In two senses. First, by presuming the possibility of drawing ontological conclusions from logical intuitions – something which can be registered in the inconsistent use of the notion of the absolute: as the absolute absolute of the logos of contingency, and as the relative absolute of the entity severed from correlation. The former, logical absolute leads to a variant of Hegel’s transubstantiation of material or effective causality into a moment within ideal causality – though of course in Meillassoux this is explicitly an acausality, stripped of teleology. Second, by presuming that a speculative philosophy in conjunction with a mathematised science can struggle against abstractions that are perceived as mere errors of the intellect, and not as abstractions that have any basis in a social, material and extra-logical reality. Logical form undermines materialist content, the struggle against finitude reproduces the ideality of the finite, the intellectualist defence of the Enlightenment conceals the reality of abstractions. The antidote to a post-Kantian catastrophe threatens to be a neo-Hegelian reverie.

1. There is a further convergence in these two attempts to recast materialism. As their discussions of non-contradictions suggest, both rely on a preliminary ‘atomization’ of things, objects and laws. In the case of Meillassoux one could perhaps critically refer to Anton Pannekoek’s critique of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in Lenin as Philosopher: ‘for Lenin “nature” consists not only in matter but also in natural laws directing its behaviour, floating somehow in the world as commanders who must be obeyed by the things.’ In order for Meillassoux’s reasoning to operate, is there not a need to pre-emptively reduce the real to a domain of entities rather than relations, such that arguments based on the principle of non-contradiction can have their purchase? And is there not a parallel weakness in Colletti’s refusal to consider the point that a materialist ontology may be concerned with processes, not things?

Alberto Toscano

via Nina Power’s infinite thought

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