I must confess that I feel somewhat unsuited to write the response to this section — I have never read Meillassoux’s After Finitude, for instance, and have no particular desire to do so. Nevertheless, I believe that this critical conclusion does make Gabriel’s intentions in the rest of the essay more clear.
As I understand it, Gabriel is arguing that contingency goes all the way down and that a self-aware mythology can do justice to this all-the-way-down contingency in a way that philosophical discourses — paradigmatically Hegel’s (because Hegel is so close to Gabriel’s position but takes one fatal step) — cannot. Indeed, even Meillassoux’s relatively minimal claim that this all-the-way-down contingency is itself necessary is saying too much, installing a non-self-aware mythology, which is to say an ideology.
The point of contact with Zizek’s ontology is clear, and in fact his final paragraph pushes the idea of the virtuality of reality much harder than anything I’ve read in Zizek:
Reflection could not have taken place. It just so happened that the world became entangled in the web of reason…. Fortunately, contingency is not a lamentable fact about our “nature,” but the proper name for the chance of expression. If it did not exist, there would not even be a world. As soon as there is a world, the simulation of determinacy takes place. It conceals the utter contingency of determinacy which is nevertheless constantly manifested in the fact that everything takes place nowhere. Because the world does not exist, it is always up to us to negotiate our various decisions as to how to overturn nothingness–as long as the evanescent flickering of semantic fields within nothingness endures. (94)
Other than this core insight, I’m only able to offer a few scattered remarks:
- As his use of Bataille might indicate, I can see how Gabriel might enter into productive dialogue with Nancy, for instance with a quotation like this: “If God (that is to say, his representatives on earth) does not dictate politics any more, then we are left alone with the community” (92).
- Gabriel’s way of preempting the charge that in critiquing scientism he is favoring creationism (a common tactic I have seen on display among certain people who are very concerned to get away from “correlationism”) is amusing: “Of course, creationism is a paranoid world-picture. It rests on thoroughly naive assumptions about science and on a hermeneutics of the Holy Scriptures whose stupidity has hardly ever been outmatched” (89).
- His defense of the uniqueness of French philosophy (formerly enriched by its alliance with German philosophy, which in Gabriel’s account has essentially given up) is convincing and gets at why I have never found analytic philosophy to be a priority — it is based in what Bataille calls “uneasiness,” without which “philosophy does not exist” (87).
- In this vein, he says, “Against scientism we should side with philosophers such as Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Bataille, and Cavell who manage to verbalize contingency without disavowing it at the same time” (89), a claim that resonates for me with Agamben’s description of the task of philosophy at the end of The Sacrament of Language: “Philosophy is, in this sense, constitutively a critique of the oath: that is, it puts in question the sacramental bond that links the human being to language, without for that reason simply speaking haphazardly, falling into the vanity of speech” (sec. 29).
Dear readers, I welcome your comments on this section, particularly if there’s anyone who can give a more intelligent assessment of his critique of Meillassoux.