Over at AUFS Kotsko has a post up discussing his favorable impression of Meillassoux. I’m glad to see he’s reading him. I did, however, want to draw attention to one passage in Adam’s post. Adam writes:
What’s ironic to me is that this programmatic rhetoric has enabled people who are so “refreshed” by the way Meillassoux opens up new paths for us to get beyond commentary on figures and discourse directly about subject matter (for instance, Levi) to get stuck on the history of philosophy issues — we need to get rid of Kant, because Kant is bad, etc. No, it seems to me that for Meillassoux, Kant really did open up a radically new stage in philosophy by rendering metaphysics impossible, and we now need to push further. People who get stuck on the critique of correlationism — including the extremely simplistic methodological claims that referring to humanity or to anything human-relevant is a symptom of correlationism, and the obviously wrong claim that the way out of correlationism is simply to ignore the correlate rather than to work through it as Meillassoux himself effectively does (and again, yes, I’m talking about Levi here) — are in danger of getting stuck in yet another cul de sac, are in fact in danger of simply slipping back into pre-critical metaphysics.
For the record, I’m not a “Meillassouxian”. I have a great admiration for Meillassoux’s thought and have been influenced by him in a variety of ways, but I don’t share Meillassoux’s ontology, nor his particular critique of correlationism. Additionally, I just don’t think I, Graham, Bogost, or Morton are particularly obsessed with critiquing correlationism. The critique of correlationism is only a very small moment or element of what any of the speculative realists are up to. All the critique of correlationism is about– in its OOO variant, again they’re not all the same –is saying “hey, let’s not focus so obsessively on the relation between humans and everything else, on how humans project meaning, content, etc., onto nonhuman objects.” Having articulated that sentiment, most of us are busy working out our ontologies. I think most of us would be delighted to cease talking about correlationism. The problem is that we keep having arguments based on correlationist premises thrown our way and thereby find ourselves, once again, having to go through the rather dreary labor of articulating the problems with this orientation of thought and how it’s possible to get out of it. Believe me, endlessly responding to the same rejoinders again and again and again and again gets old really quick. I enjoy it far more when I’m writing and thinking about assemblages, mereologies, local manifestations, virtual proper being, exo-relations, systems, information, regimes of attraction, attractors, and all those sorts of neat things. In this regard, I think Scu has the right idea in just remaining agnostic about the issue altogether and just doing what he does. Alas, a lot of us weren’t that wise. The upside is that now everyone seems to want to be a realist. That’s some progress, I guess.
Likewise, I think it’s absurd to suggest that any of us are calling for a return to pre-critical metaphysics. What is the core of pre-critical metaphysics? It’s the idea that we can deduce, through pure thought, the existence of entities like God or the immortality of the soul, as well as the properties of entities like God and the universe as a whole. I can’t say that I’ve seen any of the speculative realists make claims even remotely approaching this. This was the key target of Kant’s first critique. You know, all that stuff about the soul, world, and God. That’s what Kant banished from philosophy. As far as I can tell, none of us are making metaphysical claims of this sort.
Adam suggests that Meillassoux is pretty much in line with Hegel. While Meillassoux certainly expresses deep admiration for Hegel, I’m not sure he can be characterized as a Hegelian. I think whether or not he is a Hegelian will only become clear as future publications become available. However, given that Hegel purports to demonstrate the identity of substance and subject, it would come as a surprise to discover that the philosopher who writes the following turns out to be a Hegelian:
… our question becomes: how is mathematical discourse able to describe a world where humanity is absent; a world crammed with things and events that are not the correlates of any manifestation; a world that is not the correlate of a relation to the world? This is the enigma which we must confront: mathematics’ ability to discourse about the great outdoors; to discourse about a past where both humanity and life are absent. (26)
This sounds like the exact opposite of an identity of substance and subject. Moreover, in the penultimate chapter 3, Meillassoux sides with the Kantian (the correlationist) against the subjective idealist (sic.) which presumably refers to Hegel (pgs. 54 – 59).
Adam seems to doubt that Graham and I are not particularly familiar with Meillassoux’s text or that we haven’t read it closely. He’s welcome to use the search function in the right-hand sidebar and read the numerous commentaries I wrote over After Finitude and judge for himself. The fact that I don’t talk often about hyper-chaos, the principle of factiality, etc., is simply because I don’t find Meillassoux’s argument particularly convincing (though I do believe it’s a heroic effort) and because I don’t share his ontology. As for Graham, I guess Adam doesn’t keep up with the news, but Harman is pretty tight with Meillassoux, is currently completing a book on his thought that will include translations from L’inexistence divine, and is an advance reader of that text as well. I suspect that Meillassoux would be pretty reluctant to put such work in Harman’s hands if he felt that he had an incompetent grasp of his thought.
Adam also expresses frustration as to how we use the word “correlationism”, suggesting that we don’t understand it and are generating needless confusing. This, I think, is a curious argument that’s a bit akin to lambasting Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Heidegger for each developing their own particular concept of “phenomena”, each marking deviations from Husserl’s concept. Meillassoux indeed coined the term “correlationism”, but having brought it into being he doesn’t ultimately own it. I’m surprised that Adam, who so vehemently defends Derrida, fails to apply the elementary principle of iterability to a term like “correlation”. I think that Meillassoux hits something fundamental at the heart of contemporary continental philosophy in coining the term correlationism, but recognizing that and taking up the term for oneself does not entail that one need embrace Meillassoux’s way out of correlationism or his ontology.
At any rate, lots of folks seem to be under the impression that OOO and SR are identical. Graham has a nice write up on the differences between these beasts here.