Tag Archives: Descartes

Notes on Structuralism


– Structuralism is no longer limited to a linguistic theory or even a general theory of language, as is often supposed. Rather, it has become a general metaphysical system.

– Structuralist linguistics, which is based on the idea of fundamental dichotomies or oppositions, was combined with Kantianism and Neo-Kantianism for form a metaphysics based on two central principles: 1. anthropocentrism, and 2. the centrality of trauma.

– Recent thinkers to consider: Saussure, Natorp, Cassirer, Rickert, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Badiou, Žižek.

– Historical thinkers adopted by this tradition: Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel.

– At its most basic, structuralism is a system which says that reality is inherently antagonistic, and that the human being must shield itself from the trauma of the Real. This is done through the construction of meaning.

– See for instance Cassirer on the construction of symbolic meaning, Lévi-Strauss on culture and Lacan on the Symbolic.

– Structuralism is a philosophy obsessed with order. To psychoanalyze structuralism is to stumble upon theoretical OCD; the structuralist fears any sign or semblance of chaos, of disorder, of the Real. Yet while they consciously desire to keep out the creeping chaos outside of the Symbolic Order, they unconsciously rely on its creativity, productivity and energy. More than this however, such thinkers rely on the opposition of order and chaos, presupposing that the latter has existence-for-itself, while the latter is but a network dependent on the mutual opposition of its myriad members.

– Meaning is only seen then as a human function, serving essentially therapeutic purposes. Both Cassirer and Rickert assert that meaning and value are distanced from things like life and are purely rational. This is in opposition to Dilthey, Nietzsche, Bergson and Uexküll who insist that meaning is deeper than humanity and extends to all life. We should follow Peirce, Deleuze and Serres who go even further than this and insist that meaning is a constitutive part of existence, that all things structure reality in meaningful ways.


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On Vicarious Head-Scratching

I’ve been seeing a lot on Harman and capitalism and his model of causation as “nonsense” and whatnot and thought I’d try my hand at an explanation. For one, I don’t see why Harman’s model of causation is so hard to grasp but maybe its because I have a different background than most of those involved in the theory-corner of the blogosphere. I also want to stress that I’m not an object-oriented philosopher. I have serious misgivings about OOP which will be evident from my paper for Speculations. In fact, my paper will be on the subject of change and causality. That doesn’t mean however that I don’t think highly of the theory or that Harman should be insulted or attacked. Disagreements happen, we’re all adults here.

There are essentially two modes to understanding Vicarious Causation. The first is Aristotelian, the second is Kantian. It should be noted that both of these give us different versions of Occasionalism, that is, a mediated model of causality. I think the main problem people have with Harman’s theory is that they approach it strictly from the perspective of Heidegger’s tool-analysis, which while foundational for Harman’s thought has been overshadowed by a newer model of OOP over the past year. I think this this clear from lectures he’s given recently where the tool-analysis is explained but not foundational. He’s found new, better ways to ground the theory which makes it much more historically relevant and probably much easier to grasp by those without the Heideggerian or even phenomenological baggage.

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Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism

I have decided to make available a short draft version of a larger work, what could probably be called my greater “project” that I am actively working on. As has been pointed out by both Nick and Ben in their recent interviews with Paul Ennis, I am part of a small group of speculative realists (a name I gladly wear) that not only defends, but attempts to expand on the tradition of psychoanalysis, or more specifically, the metaphysics of psychoanalysis.


The piece in question is “Being Without Thought: The Unconscious and the Critique of Correlationism” and could best be described as my immediate reaction to Meillassoux’ After Finitude, written a few months ago. The work is still very much early on, and I hope to expand on it a fair amount, with all of the sections growing. The purpose of the paper was to cap off a reading course I did this past winter on Schelling, Lacan, and Zizek. I had just read Meillassoux’ book and asked my advisor if I could write a short piece attempting to sort out my ideas on how Meillassoux relates to the metaphysics of psychoanalysis. The sections on Badiou, Schelling and Schopenhauer are admittedly rough, but I think there’s a seed of something larger there. I will be expanding on all of these ideas this fall when I will be sitting in on a seminar on Schopenhauer, since it’s been a couple of years since I read The World as Will and Representation. I also hope to add a section on Eduard von Hartmann, but I’m not sure when or if I’ll have time to really deal with his massive The Philosophy of the Unconscious. I would also like to figure out how Zizek fits in with all of this, though I suspect his Hegelianism would not fare well.

Anyway, please read the piece (again, it is only very brief, draft, etc, etc.), and let me know what you think.


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The Ur-Event in Badiou

I had three finals this semester, two of which are done. I wrote the first on Graham Harman and OOP (on the topic of responsibility). The second was for a seminar on political philosophy, specifically focused on political constitutionalism. The prof said we could write on anything that pertains to the course and its material provided we wrote a proposal and she approved it, otherwise she assigned us a list of topics based on the different readings. Ever the maverick, I proposed to write on Badiou’s reading of Rousseau (the latter was covered in the first week of “background” readings along with Kant, prior to the actual material of the course. Anyway, she approved it and so I wrote a rather frantic paper on the subject.

I’m not thrilled with the final product (I’m much happier with the piece on OOP*, and not only because I got an A+ on it). This is mostly due to the fact that I had a spell of insight while writing it and got distracted with something that had bothered me about Badiou for a while but that I couldn’t fully flesh out in the context of the paper. Basically, I started writing on Badiou and Rousseau and realized that I really wanted to be writing on Badiou and the concept of the Ur-Event. This is something that has been bandied about on various blogs, I think Reid wrote something about it and I want to say Nick has as well, though my memory is terrible. The important thing is, the Ur-Event is a problem for Badiou, something which seems necessary but which he refuses when asked about it. What has bothered me about this is that in Meditation 33 he speaks of the “event-without-event” and describes it in such a way as to say it’s more than the “conditions” we’re used to (art, science, politics, love), and actually seems to be the conditions for the possibility of conditions at all.

I finally figured something out though. He really does seem to have an Ur-Event in his philosophy, whether he wants it there or not. Not only does he need one in order to kickstart the whole chain of events, but it’s entirely connected to what I referred to before as his anthro-ontology or what could perhaps be seen as a sort of transcendental ego at work. I have said before that I agreed with those who claimed the count-as-one remains as a vestigial anthro-centrism that cripples Badiou’s philosophy, seemingly leading him back to some mathematical Fichteanism. I think it’s actually much deeper than that however.

I think the necessary Ur-Event must simply be the birth of humanity as we know it. This is connected directly to his readings of both Rousseau as well as Lacan. He ties his wagon to two foundationalists (actually three if you count Descartes, which I think we must) both of whom connect the origin of humanity with the origin of the Symbolic, literally for Lacan, it’s trickier with Rousseau, though I think working through Rousseau for this essay has given me the necessary material to connect the dots.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m hoping to polish this thing up, taking chunks of this paper I’ve written and turn it into a proper piece on the necessity of the Ur-Event and where Badiou gets it, while also considering where to publish such a piece.

* I’m sure this is something that people would like to read since OOP is still forming itself. I sent the piece to Graham upon completion (with a couple of typos that I missed, oops!) and will gladly post it or publish it or whatever once I’ve gotten some feedback from him.

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