Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Misery Pivot

Jane Fairfax: "I was only going to observe, that though such unfortunate circumstances do sometimes occur both to men and women, I cannot imagine them to be very frequent. A hasty and imprudent attachment may arise - but there is generally time to recover from it afterwords. I would be understood to mean, that it can only be weak, irresolute characters (whose happiness must be always at the mercy of chance), who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression forever." - Jane Austen, Emma

The Decision; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 6

Lacan's constipation in trying to understand the real
; 6:10 - 7:15

In the last post we ended off by saying "..we can make a good guess at where Brassier is headed; a non-correlation between between being and thought." We will understand this non-correlative thought more concretely through his elaboration of Francois Laruelle. We need to understand Brassier's theoretical acquaintance with Laruelle to fully understand the salient point of Laruelle's "non-philosophy," which will guide us to non-correlationism. There is much to gain from Laurelle's "non-philosophy" that comes across as a giant step for philosophy once fully understood. Laruelle identifies an essence of philosophy that leads him to analyze how philosophers think. Instead of coming up with a philosophical system in distinction and reference to previous philosophers, he instead analyzes how philosophers think. This analysis is a great step forward because of its originality and power. Laruelle does not rely on psychological concepts to define the philosophical thinker that tend to be turgid in description and lacking in precise rigor nor concepts of logic that would presume all the possibilities for philosophical thought. Instead, he finds one basic premise that every philosophers starts off at. What he finds is something he calls "the decision." As philosophers trying to understand something called "the real," this decision implicitly made by philosophers needs to be understood and open to bright lighting. Brassier explains Laruelle's position as such: "Every decision divides immanence between an empirical datum which it supposes as given through the a priori factum, and a transcendental immanence which it has to invoke as already given in order to guarantee the unity of a presupposed factum and a posited datum." First, lets understand the concept of "immanence." We understand immanence as a state of being within. The "real" of what is happening within is trying to be understood by philosophers. Now, a decision is made to how this immanence is to be understood. The implicit decision is a division between an outside and an inside. "The real" happens by a dialectical logic for the philosopher. This stems most notably from German idealism but find it's way into the neo-Kantianism and Phenomenology in the early 20th century. We first have an empirical datum which we only first come to know through a priori categories elaborated systematically in Kant's first Critique. We come to know this empirical datum through transcendental categories of the mind that synthesize this "hyletic data" into human conception. The unity of what is presupposed as already having to happen and what is posited by the human being naturally is a theoretical structure decided on by the philosopher. What is happening is an attempt by a philosopher at an explanation of pure causation between outside and inside. This correlation says very simply that "I can think and talk about something because something outside of myself happened to me that gave me the impulse to talk about this very thing that I'm positing, but I only know this thing to be outside of myself as I'm talking about it because I'm first able to think about it." What's privileged in this pseudo-steam of conscious statement is a synthetic causation between outside and inside; that I'm able to think only because something happened to me from outside of myself. Laruelle identifies three "distinct structural moments" which constitute this decision. First, there's an inventory of a priori's established by philosophers. These a priori conditions of experience are understood in Kant's first Critique as "transcendental categories." The most obvious one is the transcendental aesthetic that places space and time as the experiential grounds for the causal movement into concept (The Idea). Secondly, there is the "gathering-together" (synthesis) of a prioris by a single transcendental category. This synthesis is "said to be 'transcendental' then because it is supposed to exceed experience absolutely..." This transcendental synthesis then exists beyond the conditions of experience. This we can call the "correlative mechanism" that moves the conditions of experience happening to something other than itself into conceptualization (the Idea). Laruelle refers to this as the pure phenomenological Ego in Husserl's Phenomenology; "pure," meaning we have no choice that our mind synthesizes everything that is ostensibly happening outside of it. Thirdly, we have a unification of the single transcendental synthesis with the a priori categories of synthesis, meaning we see how the conditions of experience were understood through an extra-empirical mechanism of a single "gathering-together" mechanism. We make the connection (correlation) between the idea that there were things outside of ourselves that first needed to be the case and things inside of ourselves that had to be the case to make sense of what was outside of us. We remember this synthesis of rationalism and empiricism specifically in Kant's Critique when he states, "There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience...But though all our knowledge begins with experience it does not follow that it all arises out of experience." In other words, just because knowledge had a place where it first began for us, doesn't mean that this first place constitutes all of what makes knowledge necessary. For Kant, it arises out of the transcendental faculty unifying the conditions of experience. But lets keep something in mind in this analysis of Kant. Kant was specifically focused on epistemology, i.e. knowledge. So his analysis was always in reference to knowledge for us. Now, just because something happened to us where we happen to gain something called "knowledge," doesn't mean that this exteriority to ourselves is a matter of knowledge in itself. Certainly all experience can't be accounted for as a reference for us. We certainly only see experience for us, but we should also see that seeing experience for us is a relative "function" of something we happen to call "experience." The philosophers "real" is understood not through an empirical or contingent sense but through the sense that makes Ideas possible in the first place (knowledge). For the philosopher, the decision is made that reality conditions ideality without interest into how "the real constitutes itself." "The decisional complex of transcendence, immanence, and the transcendental is ultimately determined by unobjectifiable immanence which Laruelle identifies with 'the real.'"

Now that we have analyzed the decision the philosopher makes when trying to understand "the real," we can bracket out this philosophical decision when trying to understand something called "the real." "By suspending the premise that decision co-constitutes the real, thought comes to realize that it can have a relation to a real instance which is neither empirically presupposed nor transcendentally posited as determining, but defined by thought as already-determined and determining for it - a 'real of the last instance' in accordance with which thought can approach the circle of transcendental synthesis from a place which is 'always-already' outside of it." We can understand what we call "the real" then not in terms of a correlation between an empirical and transcendental decision made by philosophers that always must be in reference to our possibility, but the fact that thought is already determined independent of a theoretical system that would like to account for it. It's the case that we are already thinking. Kant's system isn't needed to understand "the real." In a certain sense this a return to the Cartesian method with a specific injuction not to move into the Kantian decision. We know in the "real of the last instance" that we are thinking beings and what happened "before" this is "always-already" outside of thought's purview. We know at the very least that we are always and already thinking. But what is this "real of the last instance?" It's reality before it hits the fact that we are always-already thinking. More precisely, it's the moment we are thinking at that exact moment we are thinking (without necessarily knowing we are thinking. Again, this "real" is at a distance from epistemology). The last instance of "the real" is already a thought, but it's at a shorter distance than the system built by Kant and Hegel to establish how thought came to be. It's this division from System that allows to find something called a "real in the last instance." Still, what is happening in this "real in the last instance, if anything at all?" At the very least, we know that "the use of the modifiers 'already' and 'without' in describing the 'real of the last-instance' is effectively shorthand for 'non-decisional.'" In other words, when we understand the "the real" in terms of having no choice in what happens, we understand that we make no decision in what happens to us, nor does "the real" assume some mystical/spiritual position that already makes decisions specifically for us. Neither what we call "the real," nor what we understand as Kantian synthesizing acts of the mind make decisions. "The real" happens independent of a decision. It happens in it's own way independent of what we would philosophically understand to be a "teleological presupposition." Lets let Laruelle speak for himself here. "To the extent that philosophy exploits 'transcendence' or 'being' in a privileged and dominant manner [...] the essence of transcendence or being according to their philosophical usage is the 'auto,' that is to say, the idea of philosophy's absolute autonomy in the form of a circle, of a self-reference such as becomes apparent in the dimensions of auto-donation and auto-position." From this, we understand that Laruelle sees the decision of the philosopher as privileging concepts of "being" and "transcendence" which is the essence of philosophy. What these concepts entail is a use of the concept "auto," meaning that the concept of being for example means that something automatically happens without decision. But this is what we understood above as Laruelle's non-philosophy. We understood it as non-decisional. We must distinguish between "auto-position" and "non-auto-decision." When Laruelle understands the decision made by Kantian and post Kantian philosophy, it's in the circularity between what's given (donated) and the position taken from the donation. Heidegger for example puts us in the position of the being of Being who thinks its own finitude by the modality of temporality. We are automatically in a position in other words with Heidegger's privileged-subjectivity . The idea conveyed by Laruelle in the form of a non-decisional non-philosophy is different from being put into an automatic position of being. The idea of non-decisionality obviates the correlation between subjectivity and objectivity as a duality (dialectical logic) in the first place. While Phenomenology would lay out what automatically happens to us without us having any knowledge of it, this non-decisional non-philosophy has no idea of "something happening to us automatically." This makes sense in the context of a "real in the last instance" because we are not yet at something we can identify as "being us." As was stated above, we are at a smaller distance with the "real in the last instance" than the system being constructed for the possibility of thought by Kant and Hegel. While "auto-positional" puts us in an automatic position we cant escape ("being"), "non-decisional" doesn't make available the philosophical decision to put us in an automatic place at all.

This analysis of the philosopher's decision relative to understanding "the real" will help us with understanding what Laruelle will specifically refer to as "the real" in the next post. Bracketing out the philosopher's decision of having to see "the real" in terms of a synthesis between ostensible empirical and transcendental conditions is a giant step for thought being able to think something called "the real" without the history of philosophy weighing so heavily on it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Empty-set syllogism

Nothing is better than eternal happiness; a ham sandwich is better than nothing; therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness

Name Calling; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 5

Guy: "I think this flower is called..."
Girl: "Who gives a shit?"

In the last post, we asked a final question regarding the possibility of thinking being without recourse to a linguistic guarantor. We came to this thought as a consequence of seeing a "strong conrrelationist" thought in Meillassoux which wanted to say that mind-independent reality is contingent regardless of this statement being made. This affirmation of being to the non-conceptual space of reality forms a correlation that Brassier shows can't be made regardless of the "good" intentions Meillassoux may have had in destabilizing correlationism's inherent dualism (understanding being in terms of thought). Brassier's next step is to "unbind the void" through the thought of Alain Badiou, specifically his most popular work, Being and Event. It's with Badiou's move away from a linguistic guarantor for the disjunction between being and thinking that Brassier finds important. This is done by treating ontology not as an existential signifier but as discourse. The consequences of de-existentializing being is seeing presentation's internal structure as that of an "anti-phenomenon" which is presence's necessarily empty and insubstantial contrary. In other words, what we conceive of as "presentation" is exactly opposite of being (or presence). When we give ourselves the idea of presentation which we can find conspicuously in the "unfolding" of a musical presentation (work) (given as an example in Husserl's Internal Time Consciousness essays) we can literally describe what we think is the experience of the presence through the presentation of the musical work (presentation). But presentation is not being. What we think of as presentation happening in what we think of as "real time" is our way of thinking being by borrowing a catalog of concepts already in our conceptual lexicon and equating this idea of presentation with an idea of being. In other words, this phenomenological description relies on a historical lexicon of conceptions, or thinking in general and an equality between "presence" and what we figuratively do when we think and say something is being presented. With this being said, it's blatantly inaccurate and unfaithful to something called "being" to ascribe what we think it is to "what it is." Toward the end of the last post, I asked "Why then rely on a concept of ontology (being) in general?" This was assuming we qualified the concept of being as an existential characteristic. With Badiou, ontology becomes a claim about discourse, not about the world. As Brassier states, "Anything that is must be counted-as-one, but unity is not an intrinsic characteristic of being; it is merely the result of an operation which produces consistent multiplicity, from inconsistent multiplicity." Brassier here is explaining Badiou's use of set theory to settle the discourse of ontology a contrario a world of ontology. For example, when we see everything that compiles a tree, we see it as "tree." We see it as one thing called "a tree." This "a" functions to give unity to complexity. But because we call a multiplicity into a unity, this fact doesn't allow a leap into qualifying being. Just because we were presented something in some way doesn't mean that this says anything about being. Our presumptions about presentations don't serve as a harbinger to being. To put it more simply, "all access to being is via presentation, and presentation is always the presentations of something, never being itself" because concepts are always consistent which is incompatible with the claim that being is inconsistent multiplicity (and consequently it never being knowable and thinkable). With all this being said, the question still stands why the concept of being is still something that philosophers ponder over and something that a speculative realism should ponder over regardless of Badiou's demarcation of it into discourse, for discourse is still an attempt at explanation, or is it (we shall understand this further in the post)? While this operates at a sure distance from an existential analytic of ontology (set-theory mathematics rather than Heideggerian mythologization of finitude) it still asks of something called "being." This distance we will explain in this post through the concept of the empty set ({}). At the end though, we will find that Badiou's finding of an "event" from ontological discourse doesn't serve his own method of subtractive ontology(through empty-set theory), and that ultimately and again, the concept of being is one that is more than precarious for philsophical usage and something that can or even ought to be understood.

"Set-theory begins by declaring that non-belonging exists, a non-belonging which authorizes all subsequent belonging, but the theory neither asserts nor presupposes the existence of belonging." This is somewhat of a tricky statement to find our way around. First lets understand the concept of the empty set ({}). An empty set is a set that contains no elements but nonetheless we can see the mathematical syntax (symbolization). For Badiou, it's important to understand that the empty set represents a discourse of syntax, not of existence. According to Brassier, "It does not predicate existence of any concept, whether it be that of 'non-belonging' or 'inexistence.'...Its import is that, even in order to deny belonging, it is at least necessary to affirm the existence of a mark of belonging." So for Badiou, while using set-theory for a discourse of ontology that's at a distance from existential ontology, we are still required to use a mark to mark out this non-belonging. In other words, we affirm "the existence of a mark of non-belonging." The syntax then is in existence since it was marked. The empty set while operating mathematically instead of poetically and figuratively through Heideggerian post-religious secularized mysticism affirms its existence through non-belonging. Through non-belonging, (negation of belonging) which is presupposed by a set in general, (a set that is a multiplicity that we "count-as-one"), belonging is authorized to exist, "but the theory neither asserts nor presupposes the existence of belonging." Instead, we are in a discourse where we use a mark showing no set belonging to the empty set, which nonetheless requires a mark to show pure non-belonging. The key here is in not saying "Instead, we are in a discourse where we use a mark showing no set belonging to the empty set, which nonetheless requires the existence of a mark to show pure non-belonging." Again, existence need not be relative to the operation of set theory. To be more specific, the logic of empty-set theory is an operation, not a predication about existence. With this being said, we understand how theory here "neither asserts nor presupposes the existence of belonging" or being. Empty-set theory shows us nothing about existence, it shows us how marks are made from something that contains nothing. "The axiom of the empty-set asserts that the name of unpresentable is presented; or that there exists a name of inexistence. This nuance is crucial: asserting the existence of a name in discourse is quite different from asserting the existence of an extra-discursive concept. For it is through this nomination that presentation is able to suture itself to the unpresentable without presenting it. Thus Badious writes, 'the inaugural advent' of the unpresentable consists in 'a pure act of nomination' which 'since it is a-specific [...] consumes itself, thereby indicating nothing but the unpresentable as such.' This nomination neither marks the return of the One, since it does not make anything consist, nor does it index a multiplicity, since what it presents is strictly nothing." The key here is that empty-set theory has shown how the mark is sutured (tied) to the unpresentable without presenting it. In other words, we see a mark that happens when triggering what's unpresentable, but this mark that comes to represent what's unpresentable shows nothing about something called "presence" or "being." Instead, an operation happens where the empty-set is marked. The mark of the empty-set presents nothing nor does it make anything "exist." It indicates the unpresentable as nothing, and nothing else. This unpresentable doesn't gain a "wholly unknown other" from it's nomination. It's completely unknown and that's it. The mark indicates nothing and that's it. (It's worth noting that we (along with Badiou and Brassier) use the verb "indicate" rather than "symbolize" in this operational process.) A name is asserted, not an "extra-discursive concept." This is important to understanding subtractive ontology. Alternatively, we can say that a "mark is made, not an extra-discursive concept." From the mark of the empty-set, we then have no reason to attribute any of what happened to us (being). In this example of the empty-set, that a mark was first made and counted-as-one to first establish the empty-set that is never counted (but nevertheless presupposes a count-of-multiplicity as one) doesn't show anything about something called "existence." Nor does it show anything about "presence." It shows a process that Badiou calls "subtractive ontology," and that's it. It's the jump into an existential ontology that Brassier wants to eliminate; this desire to existentialize the mathematics of set theory. It's this existentializing of scientific concepts that creates the mysticism that creates nebulous notions of scientific disciplines. While we understand the concept of Folk Psychology, we can also understand a concept of Folk Science. The differences in what is called "ontology" is not just one example either. The callous way in which the science of Quantum Physics is used to explain things as embarrassing as "changing the way you live" is another conspicuous example.

What empty-set theory shows here for Brassier is that there is no "experience of being." While something is consistently presented (the mark which indicates the set with no elements), this doesn't account for the inconsistency of its own reality or being (the being of the empty-set). There's no understanding of what is the "presencing" within the logical operation of the nomination manifested from nothing. Instead we have an idea of this nothing that is exactly that, nothing and nothing else, and we have a mark that comes to indicate this nothing and nothing else. In other words, there's an operation that we happen to understand. What this operation was, is something that we understood. The understanding is always after an operation, and an operation is always on going on its own terms independent of thought. In this sense we can clarify the nebulous concept of being simply as "something that is just not for understanding." Whether this proves to be the case as we continue on in Enlightenment and Extinction remains to be seen. While Brassier appreciates the subtractive ontology that we just went into with empty-set theory above, he finds the "evental" conclusions drawn by Badiou to be problematic where Badiou inflates thinking to be the event and only event of being, meaning for example that "the Big Bang, the Cambrian explosion, and the death of the sun remain mere hiccups in the way of the world" because they operate at a large distance from the thinking being that Badiou privileges following the "change-the-world" syndrome experienced by many "thinkers" and naive idealists in general. "Thinking is sufficient to change the world: such is the ultimate import of Badiou's idealism." It's interesting to see how an ultimate import of "thought changing the world" can create useful objective thoughts on philosophical questions while having a possible initial import that's this embarrassing. But these aren't questions for philosophy, let alone anyone really. "Either Badiou denies that ontology is a situation, in which case he is obliged to choose between mysticism, Phenomenology, or metaphysics, or he accepts that the subtractive nature of presentation is such as to undermine all the non-ontological consequences he wishes to draw from it, specifically his theory of event." From this, we can make a good guess at where Brassier is headed; a non-correlation between being and consequence, and ultimately between being and thought. Still, how can the concept of being still be used?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Purchased Suffering

"Some of my friends claim that they suffer from the angst of post-industrial man under late capitalism. Now I don't suffer from that. If I did, I would run out and buy a beer." - John Searle

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thinking and Being; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 4

Thinking about being....and botox. (Picture has nothing to do with the post)

In the last post, we finished by saying that Brassier would establish the thought of anti-correlationism by understanding the nuanced logic given by Quentin Meillassoux in regards to the principle of absolute contingency. This is established through Mellisassoux's "figures of factuality." Brassier will establish Meillassoux's "figures of factuality" in order to further establish the logic of anti-correlationist thought then. In this post we will go into the third figure under the name of the "inconstancy of nature." We will go into this because this is where the idea of anti-correlationism finds difficulty in establishing the anti-correlationist "perspective" it wishes to achieve. Firstly though, Brassier sites Meillasoux's nuanced argument in regards to the impossibility of contradiction which breaks the "law of contradiction" from giving certain and definite outcomes to phenomena in general (providing the first principle for contingency). The argument goes like this: "If something is at once what it is and what it is not, then it cannot undergo transformation for it is already what's not...a contradictory element always exists as what it's not. It remains self-identical in being-other than itself". In other words, contradiction exists so it's not a contradiction since it has an identity. There is no contradiction if it already exists. Even if we think of something right now, and can think of its contradiction, this contradiction already exists. At the very most, one can say that 'two specific things exist at a difference from one another' but even in this statement the subject is already defined as 'two specific things' and being predicated in difference from one another. In regards to Hegel's original perspective on this, "absolute identity is capable of sustaining contradiction, since only the absolute can be identity of sameness and alterity." What is "wholly other" is already identified as just that, "otherness." Its nature is solidified in the identity of what's not, which already exists in being what's not. With that being said, the absolute envelopes the possibility of any contradiction by understanding that everything is always identified. What is contrary to what is happening is identified as a contrary nature, so this contrary nature simple exists as what is already not happening right now for instance. This argument for the non-possibility of contradiction is in order to establish the next point in Meillassoux's principles of factiality which is the necessary existence of contingency. This principle will make the correlationist's attempts at understanding being through thinking difficult. This argument goes something like this: 1. the weak interpretation,"if and only if something exists, then it exists contingently" and 2. the strong interpretation, "that it is absolutely necessary that contingent entities exist." Brassier explains the infinite regress involved in the weak interpretation of the necessity of contingency which always relies on the idea of "existence," making contingency relative to something called "existence." When trying to prove existential contingency though, one will have to put the idea of "existence" in the contingency bracket itself. This will ultimately lead to the strong interpretation where regardless of something called "existence," contingency still exists (relative to whatever "entities" mean. "Entities" and "existence" need to be explained further.) The regress that manifests from the "if and only if something exists" in the weak argument is nullified when the contingency no longer is concomitant with the idea of "existence." So far then we have a non-contradictory contingency of phenomena that is being established by Meillassoux. In this sense, contingency is absolutely necessary. But is this statement included in a realism of non-contradictory contingency? If not, is this where the "speculative" in "speculative realism" finds its place? If it is, then "speculative realism," like phenomenology, is still a descriptive science. These problems we will move onto in this post with the third figure of factiality nominated as the "inconstancy of nature." Here we will run into problems with the anti-correlationist's hopes of absolute dissociation.

The idea of the "inconstancy of nature" is to further dissociate our experience from "what's really happening" thereby fulfilling the realist interpretation. There's no better place to start understanding this anti-correlationist perspective than in Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, specifically with his billiard ball example. Brassier explains it as such; "We cannot assume that any particular occurrence of AB - where A and B are bound together by contiguity, priority, and conjunction - instantiates a universal principle of causation...Hume's response is that our belief in causality and inductive inference more generally is merely a function of the association of ideas, and hence a psychological habit, nothing more. But habit does not provide a rational warrant for the inductive inference that the instance AB instantiates a universal law whereby it must follow A." To make this example more clear, lets establish the actual thought experiment that Hume made regarding billiard balls. When we see a billiard ball being hit into another billiard ball, we presume that the second billiard ball (B) reacted from it being hit by the first one (A) (This principle of causality is obviously established as "Law of Motion" for Newton). Hume assumes this much of the billiard balls in his thought experiment; 1. that they are in a position of contiguity (proximity), 2. that they are in a position of priority meaning that one ball is before another ball, and 3. that they are in a position of conjunction meaning that they are being perceived as being together. What's important to understand in these axiomatic relationships between billiard balls with this thought experiment is the fact that relationships first have to be perceived. But this is a problem for anti-correlationism that wants to firmly establish the dissociation between perception and reality. But if they follow Hume closely, they see that no matter how much it may be the case (high frequency) that "B follows from A", it isn't the case that this will always be the case, hence making this law of causality not a law because it can't be established universally. But who's establishing laws universally? We are establishing laws universally; The same "we" who perceive reality and are not reality. Maybe the contention put forward by anti-correlationism ought to be more in line with the desire to create laws in general. Newtons Laws of Motion are based on our never-ending perception of what always happens in experience. Newton took that much for granted in that there are beings that have to have perceptive phenomena in order to establish something like a universal law. The anti-correlationist has to think to themselves that this taking for granted of perceptual beings is a natural argument in favor of idealism. In other words, being never has to think that it's perceiving in order to perceive and ultimately come up with ideas. When Brassier states that the perception of billiard balls ostensibly showing a universal law is a "psychological habit, nothing more," what is the impetus behind seeing psychological habits as simply as "nothing more." Mental habits exists. That the association of ideas becomes a habit is something that exists. That this is then taken and nominated as a transcendental category is something else. Even if we eliminate this Kantian impulse to put habit into a transcendental category, the habit of perception still exists. Even if we nullify the universal laws understood by Newton, it's still the case that being will see things in high or low probabilities and instinctively react to these probabilities. But for Brassier and Meillassoux, these are all our presumptions, and that is the salient point in this thought experiment of dissociation. The unstated inference by correlationism is the one whereby the correlationist infers from the claim that "science's representation of reality requires the uniformity of nature the quite distinct claim that this uniformity - and hence the laws of nature- is necessary." In other words, because we (being) happen to represent nature in a uniform manner, doesn't mean that we can then make the leap to say that our representation is necessary and always the case. The difference here is between uniformity and necessity. For example, because phenomena happen all the time in high probabilities doesn't mean that it's necessarily the case that this high probability will always happen (necessarily). But this subtle distinction assumes a sort of quasi-metaphysical space for "necessity." If this is the case, then the concept of "necessity" will need to transcend its own conceptual limitations into the sphere of the arche-fossil for example. It will have to presume that what happened in the dispossessed time of the arche-fossil was necessarily contingent. While we can't assume uniformity to this arche-time, we also can't assume non-uniformity (contingency) to this time. In other words, the idea of the "necessity of contingency" has to allow for the possibility for uniformity in a time before the nervous system. This needs to be emphasized. The necessity of contingency ought not to entail a conception of a chaotic universe, but simply a conception of the universe that is completely unknowable, whose contingency could be uniform or chaotic or anything else that comes to the imagination of the thinker who can never know the contingency. For our representation though, we can't assume that uniformity is always necessary, solely because the concept of necessity "transcends" representative being. That everything can always be the case denies the possibility of uniformity, regardless of how much uniformity may always happen to us. In this sense, there's no problem with Kant's (correlationism's) transcendentalism as long as it knows that representable knowledge is always in reference to us. But this fact ought to be a harbinger for not being so interested in everything in reference to us (This is a simple question to put forward: "Why are we so interested in everything in reference to ourselves?"). By this principle of contingency, we (being) are not necessary, so why are we so interested with what happens to us? Brassier asks "Is uniformity a real feature of things-in-themselves or merely a phenomenal illusion generated by our relation to things?" The salient point for Brassier is establishing us (being) as "merely" contingent. The "merely" speaks for itself and instinctively guides the desire to wedge being from the arch-fossil.

Now the problem appears. Brassier establishes the fact that Meillassoux has established the diachronicity between thinking and being by destabilizing the necessity of uniformity that being and correlationism establishes for itself. What is left? There is a speculative opportunity that has not been reached yet for Meillassoux: "Thus, as Meillassoux sees it, the outstanding task yet to be accomplished by modern philosophy is a speculative explicitation of the dimension of diachronicity which subtends the Galilean hypothesis. It is philosophy's failure to recognize the speculative implications of science's Copernicanism which has resulted in the Ptolemaism of correlationism. In ratifying the diachronicity of thinking and being, modern science exposes thought's contingency for being: although thought needs being, being does not need thought." So then, what is the speculative opportunity for being independent of thought that Meillassoux wants to overturn in his perception of philosophy's Ptolemaism? To be more poignant, what is being without thought? If we refer to an arche-time, that's fine, but why then rely on a concept of ontology (being) in general? While we can understand the desire for a Ptolemaic counter-revolution in philosophy, what's more difficult to understand is maintaining a concept of being independent of the concept of thinking which is to be understood as concept-creation at an absolute distance from reality. But this separation of thought from being can't happen without a separation from the concept being. Being is thought because it's a concept. Brassier sees this in Meillassoux's thought. "Mellassoux's problem consists in identifying a speculative guarantor for this disjunction between reality and ideality which would be entirely independent of the evidence provided by mathematical idealization of the ancestral phenomenon in the ancestral statement." The problem is in the idea of "identifying" some sort of speculative guarantor ("guarantor": a word which we should be enormously suspicious of relative to an argument for a principle of absolute and necessary contingency) for the arche-fossil independent of being (thinking being). "If everything is necessarily contingent regardless of the truth of the thought 'everything is necessarily contingent,' then everything could be necessarily contingent even if we had no way of thinking the truth of that thought coherently." In other words, we have strong correlationism because we give ourselves the luxury of being able to say at the very least that "everything is necessarily contingent regardless of the fact of this statement being made." We are saying something about something before the evolution of the nervous system knowing that what we are saying has nothing to do with that time. If the speculative guarantor is the "ancestral statement" of absolute disjunction between thinking and "being," then the guarantor is simply a thought linguistically expressed, like every other philosophy that would like to establish a reality for a mind-independent reality. At the end of Part 1 in Enlightenment and Extinction, Brassier asks, "can we think the diachronic disjunction between real and ideal while obviating any recourse to a transcendental divide between thinking and being?" This is the question. And if it can be thought, can it be thought without being linguistically expressed, without it having to be expressed always to someone else, through a published book for example?

(At the very least, the concept of being shouldn't pertain to an arche-time. This arche-time wasn't "being.")

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Publishing Fever

"We've reached a peculiar situation in academic life where the requirement that you publish has produced a lot more books then anybody ever needs to read." - John Searle