As some of you know by now, I’ve taken something of a pet interest in the Speculative realism Wikipedia page. This isn’t because I feel like I’m any sort of authority on the subject, but I’ve read a lot of the material and basically no one else was chomping at the bit about it. Actually, as both Nick and Graham mentioned (though it was Nick who brought it to my attention), the page was basically stillborn, with so little there that people were threatening to delete it.
So I fixed it up a bit and added subsections and publications and mentioned some of the presses that have shown an interest and I think it’s a pretty decent little page now. It certainly fits the criteria of something worthy of being on Wikipedia. So now we’re out of the woods, we’re not in danger if dying of exposure without a wikipage.
Of course, as with any collaborative project, new issues emerge. First, many people have been reporting problems to me about the page, almost all of them being very minor issues with how something is worded. Now I am happy to change them in some cases for instance Graham contacted me with a minor issue about his thought and I changed it since it is frowned upon to write about or edit writings on yourself), but more often than not, people are able to make these changes themselves. I don’t want this thing to be all me by any means and I’m not going to be authoritarian about it. For instance someone on the talk page questioned the designation of Meillassoux’ project as Humean. I said that I thought it was and provided textual support but invited them to respond (they haven’t yet, but I don’t know if they follow the talk page).
On the other hand, some people have gone in and made more significant changes without discussing them on the talk page. For those who don’t edit Wikipedia, minor edits are fine without discussion, as is adding to established sections or information (for example when I add publications to the list, no one needs to really discuss whether or not such and such an essay by Graham and Iain is worthy of being included), but significant alterations to an established page are always (or should be) discussed with the other frequent collaborators. Now, as far as I know, no one else from the blogosphere has really come out and said they are working on the page. It would be good to know who’s behind some of those ip addresses or user names.
The whole point of this was the fact that someone changed the name for Brassier’s philosophy. I originally labeled them as “Speculative Materialism,” “Object-Oriented Philosophy,” “Transcendental Materialism,” and “Eliminative Materialism” for Meillassoux, Harman, Grant, and Brassier respectively. I then added the names “Neo-Vitalism” to Iain’s work and the faction around him (due to the secret project I’m not talking about), and “Transcendental Nihilism” for Ray’s work. I’ve never been comfortable with Iain’s self-designation as doing “transcendental materialism” for two reasons. The first is because that is already what Zizek and his group all claim to be doing. I’m not sure if the Ljubljana Lacanians are all materialists (or if anyone is a materialist the way Zizek is) or if Adrian Johnston or Catherine Malabou are explicitly materialist (or just Hegelians who like Lacan) but it seems that this title is problematic. I understand that others are uncomfortable with “Neo-Vitalism” as a designation because everyone thinks of discredited scientific theories and Mesmerism and whatnot. Hopefully soon “vitalism” will be a legitimate tag for philosophers to wear. I have of course been trying to clean up the word for use not just by Bergson and Deleuze, but also for Schelling and Freud, as well as using it as perhaps a better designator for people like Nietzsche. My hope is that it will replace the old designations of “process philosophy” and “Lebensphilosophie” (and maybe even “Naturphilosophie”).
So that covers the naming problems with Iain’s work, but what about Ray’s? As I said, I added the name “Transcendental Nihilism” which, the more I think of it, is probably the best way to define his work, since his nihilism is not just the rejection of meaning (in his rejection of hermeneutics for example) but a real ontological claim. He maintains that the nihil is the condition of the possibility of all life, and all existents. I really can’t think of a better designation and I’m really glad I went with it now. But there was another name there, “Eliminative Materialism,” what do we do with that? Well, I don’t know how the name emerged for Ray’s work, whether he chose it himself or if it chose him, but I know that people have been using it online (including Graham) for as long as I’ve been aware of the book. But now someone’s gone and changed Ray’s thought to “Transcendental Nihilism / Methodological Naturalism.” What the hell is that? Hasn’t Ray come out explicitly against scientific naturalism? I understand that both he and Laruelle have criticized “materialism in the name of matter” but isn’t he still a Materialist, or maybe a Materialist* with the asterisk leading the reader unknowingly to Laruelle’s critique of Materialism? I don’t know, really, but I also don’t know what “Methodological Naturalism” means.
I know a lot of people do that narcissistic performance where they reject labels, claiming to reject all labels for everyone but secretly thinking that only their work is so singular that no label could apply. I’m with Graham on this one, I like labels. They get a lot across with very little. I mean, the wikipage for SR is a good example. Until a few years ago, there was no SR and none of these factions at all. Now, someone can learn about SR and all these groups in a very compact space, but (I think) with enough information that they get the general point. Maybe one day soon the use of the term “vitalism” won’t require a defense on my part, and it will just be a general system of thought that people basically know what it’s about (the way that there are many idealisms, but that Idealism has enough currency that people know what you mean even without specificity).
Anyway, maybe you guys have the answers. What is Ray doing? Is he doing a Transcendental Nihilism as I think he is? Is it Eliminative Materialism or Methodological Nihilism? What do those of you who have some allegiance to his work think?