Search Results for 'correlationism'


The problem with correlationism is not that it drew attention to the relationship between thought and being, humans and the world, but that in doing so it had a tendency to reduce other beings to what they are for us.  Correlationism’s question always seems to be “what are things for us?”, “how do the beings of the world reflect us?”  Thus, in Kant, you get the analysis of how beings are structured by our categories and forms of intuition (time/space).  Things are transformed into “phenomena”, where “phenomenon” signifies being as it is structured by us.  The phenomenologists draw attention to how beings are organized around our meanings and projects and how they are given in and through these meanings and projects.  Again, beings are transformed into phenomena.  The semioticians and partisans of the linguistic turn perpetually show how things signify and express our meanings.  For example, when Zizek analyzes German, French, and English toilets, he shows how each embodies and represents the dominant ideology of these peoples.

Within correlationism, the beings of the world are treated as screens upon which we project ourselves.  These are strange projections because we don’t experience them as issuing from us, but as being properties of the entity itself.  The critical and philosophical task thus becomes one of recovering these meanings, of showing how they structure our relationships to entities, of showing how they issue from us, of showing how they are constructed by us.  I hasten to add that these are valuable projects that should not be abandoned.  The point is not to abandon these modes of analysis, but to broaden the modes of analysis open to us.

If realism has any critical significance, then perhaps it lies in asking what entities contribute as the entities that they are independent of any meanings we might attribute to them.  What do entities do– not what do they mean –and above all, how do they affect us and our social relations?  How do they modify, by virtue of what they are, our ways of doing, acting, and relating to one another in the world?  Zizek wants to ask how toilets express a particular ideology, but we can also ask the question of how toilets and waste management change the lives of a people.  What is the difference between a society that has toilets and a society that uses outhouses, latrines, etc.  What problems emerge as a result of this way of handling waste?  How does our relationship to diseases such as cholera change?  What is the significance, for social relations, of not having periodic epidemics of cholera?  We are looking here at what the things contribute and do and how they change our lives.  What is discerned here is a different form of power; one that isn’t based on belief or ideology, but on built features of environments.  As a consequence, different strategies of politics emerge through thinking how these powers might be engaged with to render other forms of life possible.  Correlationism renders this invisible.

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When Speculative Realism appeared it quickly generated a firestorm of controversy.  There was something about defending realism and critiquing correlationism that generated excitement in some and anger in others.  To this day, I’m still not sure why these things generated so much heat and enthusiasm.  It was as if the word “realism” violated some taboo, and like the violation of all taboos, some exalted in the violation while others seemed to feel that something sacred had been violated.

However, as I reflect, I wonder if the critique of correlationism might have a rather different message than that of realism?  I wonder if the lesson of correlationism might not be the possibility of a renewed perspectivism.  Sadly, at least in popular culture, perspectivism (let’s call it “vulgar perspectivism”) has become a worn concept that does more to support a certain reactionary ideology than to challenge it.  Where perspectivism ought to be an encounter with otherness or difference, the lesson of perspectivism in popular culture seems to be something like the thesis that “everything has their own perspective and everyone is entitled to their own perspective, therefore I shouldn’t have to attend to the perspectives of others.”  No, that’s quite not right.  The vulgar perspectivist argues something like the following:  “Because everything is a matter of perspective, I can only have my own perspectives on others.  Therefore I can never really encounter others but am only ever really encountering myself.  Therefore I shouldn’t even bother trying.”

The vulgar perspectivist is a sort of hyper-correlationist.  Since everything, for them, is a matter of perspective and since each of us is forever trapped in our perspective, there shouldn’t even be an attempt to understand others.  In this connection, the critique of correlationism would not so much bring about an encounter with a perspectiveless real, as open the possibility of an encounter with alterity.  A lot of ink has been spilled talking about the anthropocentrism of correlationist thought.  When the correlationist asserts the impossibility of ever thinking world and thought apart from one another, he isn’t simply talking about any thought, but rather the thought of a particular species:  humans.  Just consider, for example, phenomenology.  Heidegger’s abbreviated analyses of animal umwelts aside, phenomenology subordinates all other beings to human thought.  Nor is it just a species subordination that takes place, but a conception of normal human thinking that is being assumed (here Canguillhem as well as early Foucault are deeply relevant to the critique of correlationism; as well as Deleuze and Guattari’s writings on animal worlds, the worlds of people with different psychiatric “disorders”, the worlds of different artists and sexes and…”).

Correlationism isn’t just the thesis that we can never think being and thought apart, but is also a species specific conception of the world that makes deep assumptions about what a normal human being is.  Now generally when this is pointed out, one of two objections are made:  Often one denounces the critic of correlationism as somehow hating human beings.  This is a rather peculiar charge.  Pointing out that a position is incomplete or overlooks something doesn’t amount to hating human beings.  Such a criticism also assumes a unicity to the term “human” that there is good reason to doubt.  On the other hand, one concedes the importance of trying to think such alterity, while also arguing that it is impossible to think alterity because it is always us thinking the different and thereby reducing it to the same.  This is always the core argument of correlationism:  even as you’re trying to think that which is other than thought, you are still the one thinking it and therefore you can only think thought and never that which is other than thought.

However, we really should question this argument.  In interpersonal relations there is a profound difference between the solipsistic narcissist that only ever hears their own meanings in the words of others and a person that marginally begins to understand the world of another person.  We readily seem to grant that it is possible to understand something of another person’s world, to grasp them in their difference, and that there is a difference between only ever hearing yourself in another and in hearing another.  To be sure, we never fully grasp another person, but isn’t there a difference between the man who only ever interprets women in masculine terms, in terms of his own experience, and the man that has some glimmer of understanding of what it’s like to be a woman in this particular world, and vice versa?  If we grant this, then why is it such a leap to suppose that we might be capable of understanding something– not everything –of the world of other beings?  Isn’t there a difference between thinking of cats in terms of what would motivate us if we were a cat and attempting to think about what might motivate a cat qua cat?

One way of understanding the critique of correlationism then might be as a pluralization of correlation and as a radical perspectivism.  What we would get here is something like a non-reductive realism of perspectives.  This would entail a posthuman phenomenology that both challenges the unicity of the term “human”, recognizing a variety of different phenomenological structures for different human beings, but also an exploration of the worlds of other species.  It would be a world without Model, but that recognized an infinite variety of models in the plural.  More to come.

LionMirror4Truth be told, as my thought has evolved the issue of correlationism had fallen off the radar for me.  Somehow the debate had come to seem too “philosophical” to me, too “scholastic”, too remote from what interests me:  understanding why social assemblages are organized as they are, how power functions in social assemblages, and what we might do to address that power and change things.  Somehow the question of whether or not we can get out of the correlation between thinking and being just came to seem remote from these sorts of issues.  Somehow it seemed too epistemological.

ASIDE:  Numerous discussions over the years have led me to believe that the debate over correlationism is poorly understood (or maybe I just don’t understand it).  On countless occasions I’ve heard people say “of course we must relate to things in order to know them.”  Well yeah, of course!  I don’t think this is what the critic of correlationism is getting at.  It seems to me that correlationism is something more robust than the theses that we must relate to something to know it.  Correlationism instead seems to require the thesis that thought and being are indiscernible.  Put more concretely, the correlationist is someone who argues that we either a) can never tell whether being is merely a construction of our thought (weak correlationism), or b) who argues that thought actually constructs being (strong correlationism).  In other words, correlationism is another name for idealism.  One can hold that we must relate to something in order to know it without being a correlationist.  As an aside I should also add that I am a correlationist about some things.  For example, I think money is something constructed by society and am therefore a strong correlationist when it comes to money.

At any rate, for a long time I’d become rather indifferent to debates about correlationism and philosophies of access.  I had learned the lessons of speculative realism– which I could have also learned, I think, from Deleuze and Guattari, the new materialist feminists, actor-network theorists such as Latour –and had moved on.  However, occasionally you come across a tone of phrase that pitches something in a different light.  In The Cut of the Real, Katerina Kolozova writes,

…the political problem of contemporary philosophy identified by the ‘new realists’ is, in fact, the product of a more fundamental epistemic problem.  In his book After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux calls this problem ‘correlationism’ and identifies it as an essentially post-Kantian legacy, which continues to dominate and limit philosophy.  As a matter of fact, correlationism lies at the heart of postmodern theory and consists in the premise that thought can only ‘think itself,’ that the real is inaccessible to knowledge and human subjectivity, and that there is nothing but discursive constructs that fully determine thinking and that are meth0dologically accounted for all the way down. (1 – 2)

Thought thinking only itself.  Thought only encountering itself.  In the jargon of postmodern and poststructuralist lingo, this would be the thesis of infinite semiosis, where signs (“thoughts”) only ever relate to other signs.  Within ths framework, discursivity comes to be the hegemonic framework defining all of being.  At the level of politics and social theory more generally, if the correlationist thesis is true the consequences are clear:  all social phenomena are discursive and all solutions to social and political problems will be discursive.  The sole sphere of the political will be the discursive and all questions of politics will be questions of speech-acts and interpretation.

The problem here is not that many theorists recognize that the discursive and semiotic plays an important role in the social and the political.  It does and I’ve repeated this tirelessly.  The problem is with what happens when thought or the semiotic becomes a hegemon, an “all”, foreclosing our ability to recognize other forms of power.  What I’ve wanted to say is that not all power functions discursively.  In my last post and elsewhere I spoke of some other forms of politics:

Thermopolitics:  The politics surrounding energy in the form of calories and fuels such as gasoline and coal, and how our life and our very bodies are structured by energy dependencies and by being trapped in particular distributive networks that render these forms of energy available.  I’m being quite literal when I speak of energy, talking about the effects, for example, of the absence of food in certain educational environments on cognition, for example; and am generally hostile to metaphorical extensions of the concept of energy which I see as erasing the dimension of real materiality.

Geopolitics:  The role that features of natural and built geography such as mountain ranges, rivers, oceans, soil conditions, roads, housing design, etc., play in the form that social relations take and how they impact individual bodies.

Chronopolitics:  The way in which the structuration of time organize what is possible for us.  For example, the structuration of the working day, how much we can say and comprehend at any given time, the impact of things like the invention of the clock, etc.

Oikopolitics:  This would be the domain of political economy described so well by Marxists.

So five different types of politics:  Semiopolitics (or what currently dominates critical theory), thermopolitics, geopolitics, chronopolitics, and oikopolitics.  No doubt there are other sites of the political or political struggle that we could speak of, but this is a good start.  Also, it should be obvious that these aren’t exclusive domains, but are entangled in all sorts of important ways.  For example, something might take place at the level of semiopolitics (speech, law, rhetoric, norms, communication) that has all sorts of impact at the level of thermopolitics.  Congress might decide to cut programs that fund school meal programs.  This, in turn, will have a thermodynamic impact on those students that go without the calories they need developmentally and cognitively to function in a particular way.  There is an entanglement here of semiopolitical and thermopolitical domains.  The young student here has been constrained both at the level of semiotic phenomena and thermodynamic structures.

The point is that if true, semiotic intervention (speech-acts, protests, interpretations, deconstructions, etc) will not be an appropriate response to all political problems because social formations are not entirely structured by the semiotic.  The child in that school does not suffer from a lack of the right signs, but from a lack of calories needed to run the engine of his thought and body.  Certainly semiotic interventions might be needed to render that energy available, but it is the energy itself that is at issue and the absence of that energy that forms the spider web entangling him in his position.  A correlationist perspective tends to erase this as even being a site of the political.

My mind is more or less fried this evening from editing articles for The Speculative Turn, but I wanted to draw attention to this post by Jon Cogburn on Brandom, Hegel, and idealism. Because my background in Anglo-American thought is pretty rusty these days, I’ve had to reread Cogburn’s post a few times now to understand what he’s getting at with the distinction between sense and reference dependency. I don’t feel ready to address his questions about pantheism, but I do think the criticisms of anti-realism he draws from Brandom get to the heart of the matter.

In this connection, I think that while Meillassoux has done an important service in naming a pervasive phenomenon in Continental thought with his term “correlationism”, there’s an important sense in which his explanation of this term does more to obscure than illuminate what is at issue. Setting forth the concept of correlation he writes:

By ‘correlation’ we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never either term considered apart from the other. (After Finitude, 5)

Meillassoux goes on to remark that,

Correlationism consists in disqualifying the claim that it is possible to consider the realms of subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another. Not only does it become necessary to insist that we never grasp an object ‘in itself’, in isolation from its relation to the subject, but it also becomes necessary to maintain that we can never grasp a subject that would not always-already be related to an object. (ibid.)

Whenever I read Meillassoux’s definitions of correlationism, both in After Finitude and his Collapse talks, I get the sense that he’s circling around the issue without quite putting his finger on it. When Meillassoux expresses the issue in terms of a subject relating to an object, he is constructing a concept– to employ Deleuze’s famous description –that is too baggy for what it tries to put its finger on. Additionally, as he’s formulated the issue it becomes clear that the realist can give nothing but an incoherent response to the correlationist; for if it is true that the problem is the mere relation of a subject to an object, then it is clear that the realist can give no coherent rejoinder to the correlationist because it is both clear and obvious that in any claim we make about objects, in any knowledge of objects, we must relate to objects to know them.

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In response to a terrific post by Nick over at Speculative Heresy, the debate surrounding correlationism has continued to swirl. I tried to post a long comment responding to criticisms by Mikhail and Alexei over there, but for some reason it wouldn’t post, so I’ll post it here. I also worry that Nick might be getting upset by the “thread jack” of his own post, as the issues have diverged markedly from the claims he was there making.

Quoting me, Mikhail responds:

Within a Kantian framework we cannot make sense of the idea of a time belonging to things in themselves, but this is precisely what is required by knowledge statements about times that precede the existence of humans or life.

Actually, as I mentioned several times, this is not a “Kantian framework” – Leibniz already had issues with Newtonian absolute time (and so did, if I understand it, Einstein, but don’t quote me here) – let me ask you this simple non-scientifically phrased question: was there time before the Big Bang?

It is difficult to have this discussion if we do not define our terms. Up to this point I have been assuming that by “absolute time” Mikhail referring to time pertaining to things-in-themselves. He now evokes Newton, yet, subsequent science has refuted Newton’s particular account of time and space. From here on out, I will use the term “absolute time” to refer to time belonging to things-in-themselves rather than time imposed on things by mind. It will be understood that this time is broadly construed and in need of a detailed definition. I take it that it is the responsibility of science to define this time, not philosophers.

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jesus_dinosaurI promise this series of diaries will come to an end soon, but for the moment I soldier on.

One of the most striking moments in the first chapter of Meillassoux’s After Finitude occurs when he equates correlationism with the philosophical equivalent of young earth creationism. Given that it is very likely that the vast majority of philosophers take a very dim view of young earth creationism, this comparison cannot but seem like a rhetorical low blow. Yet is there something to it? Is there validity in this comparison.

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02turtleubirrAs I sit here regarding the eighty student essays I have to grade over the course of the next few days– essays that I’ve already had in hand for too long –I naturally cast about for ways to procrastinate. Having completed my posts on Meillassoux’s argument against correlationism (here, here, and here), and having, over the last few days, had an intense, though very productive, discussion with Mikhail surrounding these and related issues (here, here, here, and here), I find myself wondering just how damaging Meillassoux’s argument is. Does Meillassoux’s argument really land a fatal blow to correlationism? I think that depends.

If we are to understand Meillassoux’s argument from ancestrality and against correlationism, it is necessary to understand why he focuses on time. To do this, we need to recall a bit about Kant and how Kant solved the problems of space and time in the Critique of Pure Reason. That is, we have to look at what Kant actually says about the nature of time. If Meillassoux chooses to stake his claim for realism on the issue of time, then this is because primary qualities, qualities that are said to be “in the thing itself” and not dependent on us, are generally understood to be mathematical properties. All that I can know of mathematical properties, the story goes, are those aspects of these properties that can be mathematized. Thus, as Descartes said, “this class of things [primary qualities] appears to include corporeal nature in general, together with its extension; the shape of extended things; their quantity, that is, their size and number; as well as the place where they exist, the time through which they endure, and the like” (Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, Hackett, Fourth Edition, 61). What are we speaking of when we speak of the mathematical properties of an object if not the spatio-temporal properties of the object? Meillassoux, of course, wants a much broader domain of primary qualities than shape, size, mass, duration, etc., so as to make room for new properties discovered in science. The point is that when he speaks of primary qualities he is basically speaking of spatial and temporal properties that are subject to mathematical representation. The claim isn’t that the property is a number, but rather that it has a mathematizable structure discoverable through measurement, experiment, observation, etc.

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big-bang1In my last post I outlined Meillassoux’s call to retrieve the distinction between primary and secondary properties. Primary qualities, it will be recalled, are non-relational properties that are in the object itself, whereas secondary properties are properties that only exist relationally between subject and object, and, while perhaps caused by objects, nonetheless exist only in subjects. In calling for a retrieval of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities Meillassoux’s aim is to think the absolute or reality as it exists independent of human beings. In that post I argued that every variant of realism maintains some fidelity to this distinction between primary and secondary qualities and that if Meillassoux is correct the key question of realist ontology becomes that of how it is possible to think being without givenness.

Correlationism, by contrast, was seen to be the thesis that it is impossible to think being independent of the relation between thought and being. For the correlationist, thought always is in relation to being and being always is in its relation to thought. As such, it is both impossible and incoherent to think either of these terms independent or apart from one another. Consequently, for the correlationist, the concept of primary qualities is contradictory because it is the concept of properties independent of their correlation to thought. Where for pre-critical, realist philosophers the question was “what is the true nature of substance?”, for critical philosophers the question becomes “what is the most originary correlation?” Is it the relation between subject and object? The relation between language and world? The relation between history and world? The relation between noesis and noema? The relation between power and discourses and world? Or something else besides? Correlationism, in short, is not identical to Kantianism. Kantianism is only one variant of correlationism (held probably, by almost no one today), but nonetheless holds a privileged place in having first explicitly formulated the correlationist argument.

In addition to sharing the common thesis that we can never think the terms of the correlation between thought and being independent of one another, correlationists are also united in rejecting the concept of truth as adequation. If truth can no longer be thought as adequation between an ideal entity like a proposition and an independent referent, then this is because the concept of an independent referent is, according to the correlationist, an incoherent concept. The correlationist has extremely strong and compelling arguments for this thesis. However, in rejecting the notion of truth as adequation, the correlationist does not reject the notion of truth as such. Rather, truth now becomes thematized as universality or intersubjective consensus. For example, in Kantianism, because the correlational structure is the same for all subject, all subjects necessarily arrive at the same conclusion in experimental settings (this is intended only as a very crude summary of Kant’s thesis, please have mercy on me!). Consequently, while we cannot know whether or not our scientific understanding of the world reflects the world as it is in-itself independent of us, we are nonetheless able to establish the universality of phenomena for all subjects structured in terms of our particular correlational structure. Likewise, under one reading of Levi-Strauss, Levi-Strauss, in his ethnographic work, is able to discern identical structures of thought at work in diverse cultures that have no contact with one another because there is a deep structure of mind organized in a particular way that replicates itself in a variety of ways in entirely different cultures, i.e., there is a universality underlying the particular.

In this post my aim is to outline Meillassoux’s critique of correlationism which is, I believe, based on an ingenious and delightfully devious argument. As I proceed, I ask readers sympathetic to the correlationist orientations of thought to be patient and suspend criticisms of Meillassoux’s argument until my next post. As I outline Meillassoux’s argument a number of obvious correlationist rejoinders or counter-arguments will emerge or occur to the reader. My aim in this post is just to get a clear fix on Meillassoux’s argument. Meillassoux is cognizant of the likely rejoinders to his argument (arguments that have appeared often on this blog during the “Kant wars” between Mikhail, Alexei and me) and addresses them after formulating his argument from ancestrality. My next post will be devoted to the examination of these counter-arguments and how Meillassoux addresses them. By forestalling criticisms of Meillassoux’s argument from ancestrality until the next post, defenders of correlationism will have a better fix on what Meillassoux does and does not understand about correlationism and needless repetition will be avoided.

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crosscapslicedopenIn addition to the parade of philosophies that populate the history of philosophy, it could perhaps be said that the history of Western philosophy, since its inception, is populated by a series of transformative arguments that impact all that follows. It is, of course, true that every philosopher more or less makes arguments for his or her claims. However, it is not these sorts of run of the mill arguments that I have in mind. Rather, what I have in mind are a literal handful of argument, no doubt collectable between the covers of a slender volume, that seem to reverberate throughout the entire history of philosophy. These sorts of arguments are like remarkable points or singularities on a mathematical curve, functioning like points of density that subsequent thought must respond to. Examples of these types of arguments– and I have no intention of being exhaustive here –might be Plato’s argument for the existence of the forms in the Phaedo or his account of learning as recollection in the Meno, Parmenides arguments surrounding the being of being, Descartes argument for the certainty of the cogito, Kant’s transcendental argument, and so on. The point is not that all subsequent philosophers agree with these arguments, but rather that these arguments function like force fields akin to the bending of time and space by massive objects, calling for responses, pro or con, by subsequent philosophy. These arguments either get repeated with infinite variations, or they become sites of contest. Thus, for example, Heidegger repeats a version of Kant’s transcendental argument in Being and Time, while Husserl repeats a variation of Descartes’ argument in the founding of his phenomenology. Aristotle, in turn, is compelled to respond to Plato’s theory of learning in the Nichomachean Ethics and to overturn his argument for the forms throughout his work. In short, these singular arguments function as profound generative mechanisms. Deleuze declared that the philosopher is an inventor, a constructor, of concepts. However, perhaps the highest athleticism of philosophy is not to be found in the invention of concepts so much as in the invention of entirely new styles of argument.

Although it is still early to tell, Meillassoux’s argument against correlationism in After Finitude has the flavor of such an argument. The first thing one notes upon opening the pages of After Finitude is the clarity and preciseness of his exposition, so unusual for a Continental philosopher, and the manner in which he crafts his arguments like a jeweler carving a fine gem. Regardless of whether or not Meillassoux’s arguments ultimately attain the status of “singular arguments” in the history of philosophy, it is difficult not to delight in the ingeniousness of his arguments, their athleticism, their vigor, even if one does not ultimately agree or know where these arguments will lead. Over the next few posts I would like to outline Meillassoux’s critique of correlationism as it is, for me, the most convincing critique I’ve yet encountered. Given that there has been so much debate surrounding correlationism here and on other blogs, it would be valuable to have a more precise and readily available framework for these discussions. This first post will relate Meillassoux’s call to renew the distinction between primary and secondary qualities and outline what he means by correlationism. Following this post, I will write a subsequent post on Meillassoux’s “argument from ancestrality” or the “arche-fossil” against correlationism. Finally, the third post will discuss his rejoinder to counter-arguments against the argument from ancestrality. My intention here isn’t to take up a position with respect to Meillassoux’s analysis but to simply relate the framework of his argument in the clearest terms of which I’m capable.

Meillassoux opens the first chapter of After Finitude with an astonishing call to retrieve the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. I confess that when I first read Meillassoux’s remarkable little book it almost fell from my hands upon reading this first paragraph. What could be more retrograde, I wondered, than the retrieval of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities? With this first paragraph I felt as if I was being transported back into my Introduction to Philosophy course, entertaining the epistemologies of Descartes, Locke, and Hume, all of whom struck me as irretrievably banished following Kant’s Copernican revolution. The distinction between primary and secondary qualities can roughly be characterized as the distinction between relational properties and non-relational properties. As Meillassoux remarks, “[w]hen I burn myself on a candle, I spontaneously take the sensation of burning to be in my finger, not in the candle” (1). The sensation of being burnt is thus a secondary quality insofar as it only emerges in the relation between my finger and the candle and does not reside in the candle itself. All of those qualities that pertain to the sensible and, by extension, to secondary qualities are thus relational in nature. They are for-us, not in-themselves.

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432411_fpxtifJerry the Anthropologist kindly responds to my recent post on Brassier and Correlationism:

Let me see if I can come back to two or three things.

First, I’m a good deal less convinced that string theory is a well formed scientific theory than apparently you are. Einstein’s work has been experiementally vindicated, so too has much of quantum mechanics. Huxley was able to make powerful arguments in favor of Darwin’s theories within 4 years (more or less) of the publication of On the Origin of Species, see his Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature published in 1863, on the basis of comparative anatomy alone; nor should we forget the fabulous intuitions (reimaginings) of Alfred Russel-Wallace. But as I understand matters, its been twenty years more or less for string theory and nada. So I do not have to accept the if-then nature of the argument; I really should leave aside the ethnographic fact that not all forms of human reason and human language allow if-then statements as grammatically well formed or linguistically fluent, but I can’t resist. So maybe you are right and I’ve over read an argument.

Nonetheless on this basis I do not have to accept the premises of what follows from Brassier’s invocation of string theory (perhaps better the string hypothesis). Nor do I am right about mathematics, do I have to accept the reading of moving beyond the image of the world.

I take mathematical objects to be extant in thought and not in the proportions of (especially) living things. Indeed mathematical objects seem to me an extremely good example of myth, understood in anthropological sense and not a colloquial one; I said as much in an earlier comment.

I simply do not agree with you about Copernicus or Darwin. We ask questions for reasons at particular times, but we ask them given oddities in what we perceive; this is not ethnographically insignificant as can be understood if we think about why mayans did not use wheels on carts or the classical Mediterrean folks did not use steam engines to power looms. This is why I think your dismissal of the question of the calculation of Easter is a bit premature. It is also why I think we need to come back to the movement of the planets. These motions has been known of for a very long time and by a variety of sciences not all of which are western. The point however for Copernicus is not just that the planets move forward against the apparent background of stars, they also move backwards, and in the case of Venus move from evening to morning and back to evening with periods of being unobservable between. If we do not attend to these sorts of movements, so be it, why should we. Hence the sense many have of the moving of the sun, moon and the so-called fixed stars, which if I understand you you equate with some sort of common sense (forgive me, but as you know any idea of common sense just gets anthropologists’ juices going–what is common about this or that sense?). But the backwards movements are still there in the heavens and in the image of the world (I suppose this is an example of what you mean by correlationism??). These movements are precisely the sort of detail which leads to a reimagining of the image of the world in the sense I’ve spoken of, and not the other way round as some sort of suspension. Indeed, if I’m right about mathematics (and yes in English of our era if-then statements are grammatically well formed) then then mathematics is not such a suspension but rather a way or means of reimagining the world.

What disturbs me about the cultural constructionists in anthropology (I won’t speak of other disciplines) is that they often seem to forget that there is a world out there being thought by someone, individually and collectively. What I find disturbing in the sort of materialism Brassier puts forth in those few pages is what I take to be a forgetting of the conditions of and for thought or maybe even a contempt for those who seek to explore these matters, of certain types of psychology and anthropology; he says of those forms of knowing that they are repugnant, and in that sense misunderstands how Darwin’s thought has entered into neurology, psychology and anthropology in ways that makes these three disciplines potentially unitary. What I’m also saying here is that he is ethnographically mistaken or put another way that his choice between Darwin and Husserl (or at least phenomenology as it has come to influence certain strands of psychology and anthropology) is a false choice. Its because I see this as a false choice (my notes refer to the top of his page 18 but without going back and rereading I can’t reconstruct this further) that I see Basskar as dreaming of a transparent language, shall we say mathematics??, without seeing this, apparently, as a reimagining of the image of the world.

I’ll grant that we can describe that we can describe human beings as “a carbon based information processing system” but that description also applies to marmosets, earthworms, my cats and the trees outside in that all of these living entities respond to events around them; this is what I mean, at least in part, when I speak about form the way that I do. The difference that makes a difference would be, I think, that we tell stories about the world as a part of thinking the world whereas my cats tell less complicated stories, if you will; I take mathematics to be a profound example of such a story, and in Husserl’s version as articulated in the quote, Nature is also a profound example.

I would agree that on its face Husserl’s quote is nonsense, that is until we take Husserl (my variable or term for phenomenology as it enters psychology and anthropology where I assure you it has been helpful because knowledge, even false knowledge, has conditions as well) to be talking about the conditions of knowing and Nature as myth; I’ve not read alot of Husserl and I’m not a philosopher, so nothing in my argument depends upon extensive exegesis of Husserl as such or in the problems facing western (continental?)philosophy as such.

I’m not claiming that there isn’t more in heaven and earth than is encompassed in my philosophy (if I even engage in philosophy), but in my discipline and those related to it we have had to try to take the circumstances of the thinker (human or otherwise, individually and collective) rather more seriously that Bashkar appears to me to do. Indeed I seem to think (ah, Bali and the distinction between niskala and sekal which I mentioned in an earlier comment) that any time a thinker arises so will correlationsism as a phenom,enological event, if I understand you correctly.

As to the last point you make (1) all thinkers find themselves at the center in that they have points of view from which they look out even if they are not at some mystical center, but please unless one wants to enter into lengthy attempts to understand centuries of Asian capitalism spare me getting over this myth of subjective interiority as Brassier puts it as a way of getting over capitalism (2) any trauma depends, it seems to me, upon some notion of special creation (and yes you and I live at the buckle of the Bible Belt where such notions are prevalent) but this (special creation) is not a universally human form of common sense, so (3) any comment about a policing mechanism refers to a provincial event, meaning of a time and place and not of the human condition (whatever the fullness of that may be) or the structure of ordinary lived experience (whatever the fullness of that may be) more generally.

I don’t think the soundness of my argument depends on whether or not superstring theory is confirmed as the issue revolves around whether or not the objects science can talk about are constrained to the structure of experience. Consequently, if one likes, you can just substitute subatomic physics for superstring theory. In either case we’re talking about entities that are wildly different than the mid-range objects of phenomenological experience that, were we to treat this structure of our experience as the measure, would render these objects of subatomic physics completely incoherent.

read on!
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