Clarification/Contestation

18Feb10

In response to Graham:

It is not that I don’t think Badiou, Lacan, and Zizek are not idealist, or have idealist tendencies at the least, but simply that throwing them into the same lot as self-admitting idealists misses something. SR and TM will pass each other like ships in the night if Hegelianism is thrown into the same pot as Kantianism or Fichteanism. This does not mean that the distinction between idealism and realism is false, I do not think it is false, but simply that work has to be done to show how transcendental materialism is an idealism or Hegelian objective idealism. You have to deal with not only Hegel, Marx and Althusser to name a few. Materialism, in terms of historical materialism, is about activities (and it falls into anthrocentrism here but its relation to idealism is more complex) and involve processes over time.

Iain Grant uses the term materialism as well and I believe the following quote is apt:

“To take the materialist route cannot therefore be a metaphysical error, but can only be a practical one, an error which Schelling calls the “exalt[ation] of the basis over the cause” (1989: 41). But the price of maintaining what, for ease of exposition if too swiftly to be remotely accurate, we may call the Idealist route, is the perpetuation of the unresolvably antimonic chiasmus between nature and mind in unconsciousness. Schellingian idealism, then, does not entail the annihilation of materialism (on which the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason insists), but the regionalisation of mind with respect to matter, and the simultaneous explanation of the former in terms of the latter. For Schelling, mind does not represent nature, it confronts it as a product that antinomically cuts mind off from its own production” (Schellingianism & Postmodernity: Towards a Materialist Naturphilosophie).

This seconds the call for a return to Plato which I am all for. My only point is that materialism is a mess that needs to be dissected. Sweeping it under the rug of idealism is going to cause more problems than it is going to solve. This doesn’t mean materialisms are not idealist only that they are opposed to realism in ways self anointed idealisms are not.

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4 Responses to “Clarification/Contestation”

  1. “A Return to Plato which I am all for” – how so? I’m curious. With the precedents that underlie your work and their often militant disavowal of Plato, this could be very very interesting – not to mention the anthropocentricism (and monoculturalism) of Platonic formalism, and the fact that I take his damnation of poets far too personally…..

    • 2 Ben Woodard

      A return to Plato in Grant’s sense – this is a Plato of the Timaeus – the Plato who discusses dark matter.
      Plato is particularly useful in attempting to grasp ideas given an all encompassing nature – as a form of becoming so that ideas are ‘out there’ but not as timeless forms but very slow moving processes – (see chapter 6 of Grant’s Philosophies of Nature after Schelling.)

      If you are interested in Plato’s treatment of poets you should take a look at Judith Balso’s work…


  1. 1 Actants, Ontology, and Epistemology « Larval Subjects .

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