Tag Archives: metaphysics

Correlationism and the Political

I really don’t get this political debate. I thought I did, but I guess I don’t. Either you are a realist or you aren’t, you can’t have it both ways. If you claim that there is anything that correlates with Being then you are a correlationist and an anti-realist. Of course, I disagree with certain people being implicated in Meillassoux’ formulation of correlationism because I disagree with his binary of Being/Non-Being, meaning I think “process” philosophers (Schelling and Schopenhauer for example) allow us to break with correlationism as well as the metaphysics of presence. This means that when Schelling says Freedom/Spirit or when Schopenhauer says Will, they are not correlationists because those are simply other names for Being (or rather, Becoming). They exist whether or not there are humans or thinking because their systems allow for unconscious entities (which is why so many Schellingians became scientists and why he was himself concerned with the natural sciences).

This is not the case for the political however. “Politics” is not another name for Being; politics are dependent on human beings. Certainly without humans there would be complex relations among entities, certain organisms would form politic-like organizations. We could say then that politics “image” other systems of relations, in the same way that Schelling speaks of “imaging freedom.” What he means is not that one is real and the other a copy, but that one is conscious and the other not, meaning one is reflexive. Politics are relations become conscious. Human beings, unlike ants or bees or wolves, are able to consider and change their grounding systems, able to weigh and decide the differences between varying systems and enact these decisions.

Nick has asked the questions: “(1) Are two galaxies colliding in the vast emptiness of space, political? (2) If yes, how?”

I think the answer is obviously no. Galaxies are unable to reflect on their relations, actions, etc, and are therefore not political. My decisions regarding my own systems of relations are political however insofar as they are conscious decisions. Certainly there is nothing inherently political about the fact that my body requires sleep (all animals do), but where I choose to sleep could be a political decision, as could a number of other factors involving this simple process. In this same way, a tree is not inherently political until I make it so.

We could perhaps question whether or not this means that speculation is in itself a political activity. This seems to be the main argument thrusts upon those of us who deny the ontological is political. Again, I follow the thinkers of the unconscious here and maintain that an unbiased view of things is possible. It follows that this view is not only not correlationist, but is devoid of politics until I inject them into it or thrust them upon it.

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Death Drive, Wanting to Die, Inorganic Nature, and Ghostly Relations

I want to again stress that my use of the term “death drive” is not that of Freud’s. Nor is it a claim that things “Want to die” or something so foolish. Even Freud’s talk of the death instinct is not a “wanting to die” per se, but the unconscious desire to return to the inorganic processes of nature. Tracing this back to it’s metaphysical root in the early Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, we can see it is rather the tendency for the products of Nature to prove temporary, forming for a short while only to return to the processes which birthed them. It can be seen then not as a wanting or wishing for death, but a return to the Infinite, which for the early Schelling is the infinity of Nature. The problem is that for Freud, Nature is nothing more than inorganic mechanism, and his claims that organic life wishes to return to the inorganic, in the light of his metaphysical forerunners, only grasps half of the truth since for these thinkers, there is no such thing as the inorganic. Rather, the death drive should be seen as an indication not of some unconscious fantasy, but a valid metaphysical claim of finitude.

For me, and for spectral realism, the death drive is not a wish, but a tendency in things to fade out. All things are in the process of fading, of either exerting their presence by expanding their relations and influence, or contracting their power, cutting themselves off, and “dying.” Again, recall that the whole point in doing a hauntology rather than an ontology is the understanding that nothing is ever alive or dead in the usual sense, but everything is always a combination of presence and absence, with no absolute presence or absence being possible. By undergoing such a reduction, the death drive is really just the tendency of things to keep to themselves, to cut themselves off and fade away. It is not a strictly human tendency either, but is visible in the fact that things alter their relations, that non-human entities are defined by their shifting relations. The rocks and trees outside are not simply disembodied entities existing outside of space and time, but are what they are in large part due to their relations with other ghostly entities. When these change, that relation, although it no longer exists, has still exerted itself on the identity of the entity, affecting it in some way. All entities have a history, a history that is at least in some way defined by by its relations, past, present, and future. This means that while an entity is not “nothing more than its relations” (Whitehead, Latour), but a thing is defined in some way by its drive to existence, which is exerted on all of its relations some of which are cut off completely, while others leave a relational residue, a memory, a remainder.

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