Tag Archives: speculative realism

Sectarian Realism

This is in response to the news regarding Speculations and is taken from an email I sent to Paul last night when asked about my thoughts going forward with the journal.

I’m not sure what I think the plan should be going forward. I think an SR journal would be appreciated and useful. One thing that worries me is the prospect of (for lack of a better term) “crowding the market.” SR is young. I’m not sure I understand the benefit of every “club” within it having its own journal. That’s how orthodoxies are formed and dialogue avoided. I work in psychoanalytic theory and you see the same thing there; they all begin with the basic assumption that there is something called an unconscious but other than that Freudians, Kleinians, Jungians and Lacanians have nothing to do with each other. They don’t even want to talk to each other. They certainly don’t learn from one another. There is no room for conversation or disagreement or debate but only for exegesis of the master or adherence to their principles. I don’t like the idea of Collapse devolving into a love of neuroscience (and I’m not saying it is necessarily, though that’s clearly how Graham sees it and I’m sure he’s not alone; I haven’t read the last volume but am anticipating the next one), with the vitalists setting up their own little clubhouse before certain people decide we’re all politically naive (or dangerous!) and start their own journal for contemporary Marxism, etc, etc. Pretty soon each of us end up in isolation running our own little journal and we might as well have just started blogs (which we all already have anyway).

I guess I had always hoped that there would be a general journal for SR all along. The important thing is to be excited about the work being done. I don’t like the unnecessary emotion brought in to intellectual work, with one group sneering at another. Frankly it seems stupid and arrogant. I’m not going to go to Anthony or Reid and tell them Laruelle isn’t worthwhile just because I happen to disagree with his understanding of science or his treatment of Deleuze or whatever, just as I wouldn’t tell Nick he’s wasting his time with politics or Ben that there’s no point in grappling with the concept of slime or the work of Lovecraft. Just because we disagree with each other about things (and I’m not saying I disagree with the aforementioned examples at all!) doesn’t mean I am not genuinely excited about their work or the future of philosophy. I disagree with Graham for example on things related to causality, possibility, and will, which is exactly what I was writing about for the journal, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or his work. It’s invigorating to read someone you disagree with on things and understand why and talk it out. I don’t see any merit in walling ourselves off from each other anymore than I see the merit in imagining some grand break in the history of thought. We’re always in dialogue, we might as well be honest about it and open to it.

To put it simply, I’d rather be park of a big tent full of excitement and conversation than a little tent where nothing happens.

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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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Systems of Thought and the Issue of Names

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.

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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.

Descartes

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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Failing the Rorschach

Rorschach Inkblot

The New York Times reports on the debate involving the posting of the ten plates of the Rorschach test to Wikipedia. There are two fundamental issues here and I find myself torn between the opposing sides. On the one hand, I largely share the information-libertarian view of the Wikipedians, information should be free to distribute and use, and of course the fact that the copyright has expired on the inkblots doesn’t hurt their case. On the other hand, it could theoretically hinder the effectiveness of the test, because not only have the inkblots themselves been posted, but included are the most common answers according to psychological research. Again, I find myself torn between the politics and the ethics of this situation.

It reminds me of a story that Zizek tells of his time in Paris, when he was undergoing analysis with Jacques-Alain Miller. Zizek knew, as I’m sure Lacan and Miller did as well, that with the knowledge of Lacanian psychoanalysis, it is nearly impossible for a true analysis. He also tells the story of one of his analyst friends who had a patient who would self-analyse, saying that things must relate to their relationship to their mother, etc, etc. I suppose what I’m really wondering about is the relationship here between knowledge and health. We seem to naturally assume that with knowledge, health will increase. I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food recently (that was my email that Graham posted a while back about Pollan and OOP), and one of his central arguments is essentially that science, while trying to find out what it is that makes food healthy, makes it much less healthy. This combined with the Lacanian anecdotes and this more recent developments leads me to ask, can we only be healthy through ignorance? For all of its relations to science, how do the “speculative realists” (if the term can even still be used) compare on this issue? Coming from my background in Schelling and Hermeticism, health is explained as the sought-after balance, as an unstable yet desired equilibrium, but this balance is only truly achievable through knowledge (and incredibly difficult to maintain!). Is this even an issue that contemporary philosophy wants to deal with or is even able to deal with? Or are we left with the medical sciences, biology, and chemistry? Is a new philosophy of health possible?

[ADDENSUM: Courtesy of Ian Bogost’s twitter, a piece in the New York Times on the definition of health. Lots to chew over.]

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Meillassoux’ Spectral Dilemma

I’m introducing Meillassoux’ “Spectral Dilemma” (from Collapse IV) and leading the discussion at tomorrow’s Jockey Club. This means I also have to introduce his work more generally. I know basically what I want to say, but was wondering what you all think I should highlight about this essay in particular and his work more generally. I’ve read After Finitude and this essay, but that’s about it, so if people can reference important points from other works, that would be especially interesting and helpful. Basically, I’m planning on introducing his critique of correlationism, and his turn through his own speculative materialism to absolute contingency (Chaos), which is really the ground for this essay in particular. Anything else that should be covered?

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