Today I read Zizek’s chapter on Meillassoux in Less Than Nothing, “Correlationism and Its Discontents.” Given the hugeness of the book, I assume that very few people have gotten this far, so I thought I would report on Zizek’s critique, with representative blockquotes. Basically, he claims that the realism/correlationism dyad is still stuck within the framework of the transcendental subject — realism simply negates the transcendental subject without actually changing the underlying structure of the relation between subject and object. He thinks this binary misses the really crucial question: Continue reading “Zizek on Meillassoux”
I’ve developed quite a reputation as being “against” Speculative Realism/Object-Oriented Ontology, but that’s not entirely true. I think Meillassoux’s thought is brilliant and fascinating — I’ve enjoyed and been challenged by everything of his that I’ve read. Given how much I’ve been influenced by German Idealism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, I’m probably doomed to be a dyed-in-the-wool “correlationist,” but I do sympathize with the use of OOO by artists, video game scholars, etc., insofar as I see the appeal of bracketing the intention of the creator and viewing the artifact as an independent object with its own internal logic and necessity. Brassier and Latour seem very interesting to me, though they’re pretty far afield from anything I’m likely to work on in the near term. I will likely check out Harman’s work on Heidegger before teaching Being and Time, but I’m most likely not going to be delving into his or Levi’s “systems” any time soon (again, because they don’t link up with anything I’m working on).
So on the conceptual level, I’d say if anything I’m basically sympathetic, though I’m not signing up for a school or movement anytime soon. Why the negativity, then? It’s basically a reflection of my “method” for blogging: I try to keep everything precisely at the level of blogging. Continue reading “The psychopathology of everyday blogging”
I woke up to the strange experience of one of Graham Harman’s famous passive aggressive posts, though instead of aimed at young graduate students, this time it was directed towards me and an abstract for an upcoming lecture I’ll be giving in Dublin. It starts with the great line “I’m not trying to pick a fight with Anthony Paul here” and then goes on to try and pick a fight with me by writing, “Smith has wagered his whole career on being “the Laruelle guy,” and I guess he has a vested interested in airbrushing any nuance out of the picture [of the relationship between Laruelle and Speculative Realism]”. Alright, so those of us who haven’t been hoodwinked by Latour litanies or a form of Husserlian phenomenology presented in a pedantic form are kind of used to these occasional passive aggressive bullying outbursts from Harman. The bullying rhetoric from OOOers of various stripes functions in the same way each time, beginning with some proclamation of good intention followed incredibly insulting remarks before then putting the onus of the bullying on the one subjected to the bullying by claiming that it is in fact they who scream at them. It used to bother me when I read this kind of stuff and not just from Harman, but at this point I find it more tiring than anything else and so I frankly don’t want to follow in Brian Leiter’s bullying footsteps either (“John, if it’s war you want, you’ve got it!“). So, let’s see if I can just explain what’s going on with this lecture and maybe respond to a few of the more insulting remarks because, well, they were insulting and I tire of Harman’s unchecked bullying.
I just finished page 34 where Meillassoux has concluded his demolition of the ontological proof, but where he still wants to find an “absolute that is not an absolute entity” which can be the condition of possibility of what he calls ancestrality (a world logically prior to the intentional structure of consciousness, logically prior to the for us). I’m obsessed with the importance of the Kantian pre-critical text On the One possible demonstration of the existence of God. Kant there looks for exactly this absolute, and it turns out not be an entity, but sheer self-positing will.
Michael Naas’s Miracle and Machine is a book worthy of Derrida, combining rigor and playfulness, near-obsessive scholarliness with bold experimentation. It is a literary reading of the most literary of the philosophers, and is itself a beautifully written book, exhibiting Naas’s resolutely “American” style—and connecting it to the American context via the unexpected comparison with Don DeLillo’s Underworld. One hopes that it marks a new direction in Derrida studies, with its focus on working through one text (“Faith and Knowledge”) and learning from that text how to read Derrida.
In this post, I’d like to limit myself to some observations on the way the book intervenes indirectly in three fields: the debate over Derrida’s relationship to religion, contemporary continental philosophy of religion, and the reading of Derrida as such. These remarks are not meant to be authoritative or exhaustive, but to open up some avenues of conversation.
“RIEN N’AURA EU LIEU QUE LE LIEU EXCEPTÉ PEUT-ÊTRE UNE CONSTELLATION/NOTHING WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE BUT THE PLACE EXCEPT PERHAPS A CONSTELLATION” – Stéphane Mallarmé
Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarmé’s Coup de dés is a complex work of literary criticism undertaken by a philosopher that often verges on the fantastic. In this review, which I am circumventing the grinding processes of an academic journal and posting to the blogs in the spirit of supporting the work of Urbanomic/Sequence Press, I want to reflect mainly on the the experience of strangeness reading the book and what potentially this project of philosophically-attuned literary criticism may have to offer to continuing discussions in philosophy of religion and political theology. Now, many readers will already be familiar with Adam’s review of the book and so I will do my best not to replicate what he has already written, but find that my own consideration of the text somewhat differ from Adam’s tongue-in-cheek theory that Meillassoux’s project constitutes an ‘independent discovery of Christianity’. Setting this relatively minor disagreement until later, as it is a disagreement in part regarding the value of this project (if one can really call it a disagreement as such), I will only say now that in addition to an independent discovery of Christianity Meillassoux’s reading of Mallarmé also independently discovers the post-Christian secularism of civil religion and the twin failures of both Christianity and Western secularism. But out of this failure, this shipwreck, perhaps Meillassoux and others may perhaps find points, perhaps forming a constellation, about what sort of things philosophy, poetry, and humanity may build after the death of God.
First let me say that, while this post will likely come across as confrontational, I do have a respect for Harman, particularly for his intellectual energy and literary output. I’ve never met him and can’t count him a friend, but I have corresponded with him on a few occasions. I must admit that his philosophy and politics (or lack thereof) leave me cold. A bit of context: my dissertation of 2001, which became my first book in 2004, is an analysis of networks as political systems, so I feel I have a lot to say about the topic of objects and networks. I’m also a computer programmer and, similar to someone like Ian Bogost, have actually coded the kind of object-oriented systems that OOO describes. (To his credit Harman rejects this association, claiming that “his” OO has nothing to do with computer science’s OO. But that’s a flimsy argument in my view, particularly when the congruencies are so clear. As Zizek might say, channeling Groucho Marx: if it’s called a duck, and quacks like a duck, don’t let that fool you — it really is a duck!) Continue reading “A response to Graham Harman’s “Marginalia on Radical Thinking””