Metaphysics or Ontology: Schelling and Deleuze

03Jul12

Recently I have been thinking about the collapse of metaphysics and ontology. It seems they were once clearly distinct but have become almost interchangeable. One the one hand metaphysics is the broader school of issues historically deemed to be beyond the physical which eventually became (due to the progression of modern science) that which is non-empirical. According to Aristotle, metaphysics was a broader category which included ontology as well as theology and cosmology. In this lecture DeLanda says for Aristotle being and metaphysics are synonymous.

For DeLanda metaphysics/ontology is about naming that which, as a philosopher, one will allow as supposition and will allow to determine one’s commitments.That is if I saw all physical objects are real than I have to admit rabbits are real etc. Yet, as DeLanda does in his comment on Marxism, he collapses materialism and realism in that both allow a world outside the mind (this seems to necessarily be clearly the case in the term materialism especially in the wake of Meillassoux’s critique of correlationism). Part, of the problem (I think) is that the qualifier mind independent can function in a very different way in materialism than in realism particularly in terms of the unthought or the unthinkable. Part of why (pace Zizek’s readings) I think Schelling is a realist (or can made to be one…this is my dissertation so I still have a lot of work to do here) because of the cautious category of the un-prethinkable. That is, in a materialist stance, one can say that the unthinkable is mind independent or functions as if it is, because there is some ineffability ie that thought is making the unthinkable possible but always in thought. Strong correlationism seems to be exactly that kind of materialism which is less about mind independent material things but instead that which materializes what is already given meaning according to a particular way of thinking. [41 of AF]

This of course bypasses epistemology as well as the problem of the a priori…if we want to be realist we cannot disregard logic or conditions for things to be outside of things…this does not mean that modality isn’t pulled from actual experience but the depths of contingency or possibility or necessity can only be speculative. For Schelling (which I think puts him in proximity to Laruelle) this seemingly free form of thinking is always conditioned by the object which gives the dialectic it’s weird form in Schelling…not a dialectic of ideas and ideas but of thinking ideas according to ideas and thinking things according to things across the indifference point of synthesis. That is, there is (in a somewhat Leibnizian sense) two strands (a genetic string of ideas and a genetic string of nature) which are in methodologically dialectical. What this means for Schelling is that to think a thing in a divided sense (a subject thinking an object) is actually to relate the stream of ideas to the stream of nature. Now, in a real sense, ideas come from nature (being precedes thinking in a real sense) but because we (there is no formal subject other than in the last instance) are caught in the processes of thinking. For Schelling we might we are simultaneously thrown ideally and really and our connection of the two is not possible because of a correlation in the mind but because of a unity in nature (in the real, in being itself) ie because thought is a natural product.

Now the issue is how much explanatory power can come from the real whether it is the totality of ontic things buttressed or not with a non-actual metaphysical condition such as virutality or contingency. DeLanda concludes his above talk by arguing the need for thinking beyond the tendencies of things to the possibilities of things is what is necessary to give the actual its due. This seems to be the exact opposite of Harman’s argument that any sense of the virtual detracts from individual things. Yet, having recently read Spinoza’s Ethics, it’s easy to see how one can be suspicious of philosophies of immanence as there does not seem to be any account of the power of selection (if you take away God and don’t assume some all knowing power of the philosopher).

The selection of ontology over metaphysics seems to cover over the artificial nature of talking about being…it seems to allow for a kind of poeticism that smudges the apparatus of epistemological access, it makes all constraint and limit purely negative, purely anti-creative, which is a fanciful and unhelpful stance.

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