I just noticed that some posts are going to spam. For that I apologize. Right now I have very limited computer access, so I’m trying to remedy this as best I can. Weighing in on the Derrida discussion (and I really have no dog in this fight one way or another), Alphonso writes:

I tend to agree with Matthew on Derrida re the position of the human in the same/other. What troubles me, and may leave me open to the charge of ‘ perspectivist’, and where I disagree with Derrida, is how can we be sure that perceptions are anything more than that. You are aware that Derrida, in an interview with Richard Kearney, has said ‘to distance oneself…from the structure of reference[…]does not amount to saying that there is nothing beyond language’.

I draw attention to this post because I’ve seen this sort of rejoinder come up on a few occasions. Here Alphonso implicitly charges the speculative realists with claiming that anti-realists believe that there is nothing beyond language (or mind, or concepts, or power, etc.). Yet this is not what the new realists are objecting to. As I have pointed out on a number of occasions (for example here), the new realists are not charging anti-realists with rejecting independent reality. Very few philosophers have ever advocated such a position. Berkeley’s subjective idealism, in claiming that esse est percipi, would be one example of a position that claims such a thing. Yet even there matters are complicated by virtue of the role God plays in his thought. Likewise, Hegel, in his absolute idealism that establishes the identity of substance and subject would be another example. By and large, however, most philosophers affirm the existence of extra-linguistic realities.

What the various speculative realists object to is not the thesis that there is no extra-linguistic reality (who claims such a thing?), but that we can only speak of being as it is for humans such that we can never know whether reality as it is apart from humans is like it is for us. This thesis is properly the correlationist thesis. The correlationist thesis leads to two conclusions, one skeptical, the other methodological. The skeptical conclusion is that we can never know whether independent reality is like what appears to us. This is what drives Meillassoux’s argument from the arche-fossil in the first chapter of After Finitude. He’s merely pointing out that if we take anti-realism seriously then we have to reject claims about the being of the world prior to the human precisely because we can only ever speak of being as it is for humans.

Methodologically, however, anti-realism generates a particular form of analysis in concrete philosophical work. If one endorses the anti-realist thesis, then philosophy can no longer be an analysis of the world, but must rather become a reflexive analysis of how we encounter the world. To draw an analogy, rather than discussing what you see through a window– say, the Delaware River –the philosopher must instead analyze the window frame and how the frame produces the phenomenon. Philosophy becomes transcendental psychology, transcendental linguistics, transcendental anthropology, transcendental economics, transcendental politics, etc. That is to say, any talk of extra-human realities carries, as Meillassoux puts it, the codicil of “for-us”.

Matters are complicated here, however. As I’ve argued repeatedly, OOO, at least, does not endorse a realist epistemology. OOO is able to straddle both the findings of the anti-realists and a realist ontology that refuses to reduce beings to our constructions. What it refuses, however, is the complete subordination of philosophical thought and ontology to this humanist, reflexive turn. At any rate, if these discussions are to take place it’s important to note what is actually being objected to. Speculative realists are not arguing that anti-realists do not believe in a reality independent of the human.