Brassier and Grant

03Jan10

From the recent interview which has been making the rounds:

“The first problem is that the word ‘speculative’ actually means something quite specific in the context of post-Kantian Idealism: it refers to a type of philosophy (of which Hegel is perhaps the supreme exemplar) that proceeds on the basis of the ‘speculative’ identification of thinking and being, or mind and reality, thereby repudiating both empiricist naturalism and Kant’s Critical philosophy. My naturalist proclivities make me quite uncomfortable with these associations, unlike Meillassoux or Grant, both of whom explicitly avow this post-Kantian speculative paradigm, even if only to lend it a singular ‘materialist’ twist. Harman’s stance is not strictly speaking ‘speculative’ either in this regard, fusing as it does the influences of phenomenology and Bruno Latour. Yet nor is it in any sense ‘materialist’, a tendency he abjures on the grounds that it entails privileging one allegedly fundamental stratum of reality over all others.”

In particular relation to Grant Brassier continues:

“Grant and Meillassoux retain versions of the appearance-reality distinction, but in very different philosophical contexts. For Grant it could be construed in terms of the difference between natura naturans and natura naturata, while for Meillassoux it is indexed by the difference between phenomenal and mathematical properties. I think it safe to say that neither Grant, nor Harman, nor Meillassoux shares my commitment to epistemological naturalism, or my sympathy for ‘reductionist’ accounts of subjective experience. I think they would view it as a mistake to begin philosophizing from the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and ‘scientific’ images of reality as I do, and as result their realism tends to be more catholic and ecumenical than mine, especially where subjective experience is concerned. By way of contrast, my sceptical stance towards phenomenology leads me to endorse a more austere, revisionary brand of realism that tends to undermine the reality of subjective experience, at least as ordinarily construed. Thus, given that we don’t agree that philosophy must be ‘speculative’ or about what ‘realism’ entails, the expression ‘speculative realism’ has become singularly unhelpful.”

On the one hand I agree with Brassier in that Grant’s philosophy flirts with materialism in regards to the equivocation of thinking and being. In regards to epistemology Brassier is critical of Grant’s statement that ‘nature thinks’ but this is not an equivocation as Grant points out but merely a complication of idealism – the assertion that idealism is a realism about the idea. While Brassier argues that there is no agreement about the term realism – it seems that realism is opposed to materialism simply (and in relation to correlationism) in that materialism is fundamentally about the here (the interior) where realism is ‘out there.

This tension remains ‘in the subject – that which thinks the out there and the here – the problem becomes that of accounting for thinking with a strong material history as well as thinking’s ideal history.

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