Growing (and) Factions

28Jan09

Perhaps it’s the Lacanian in me that wishes to analyse the other-than-philosophical issues around  Speculative Realism particularly in response to Mikhail’s discussion here.  There is quite a bit said in the comments which I agree with being someone raised on Butler, Derrida and Foucault.  But then, as someone who has come face to face with hard nosed Kantians there is also quite a few comments that fill me with disgust.  Nick’s post here is also very informative.

As several recent discussions have shown factions seem to be forming within Speculative Realism which questions the very nature of the term.  As Graham and Ray have pointed out repeatedly – SR is an umbrella term and not a school and the common theme centers on shared enemies more then shared interests.  The question becomes one of SR’s bounds – are the rising factions within it bound together by anti-Kantian threads or do they escape SR altogether?

Maybe it is too earlier to tell but it seems that there are at least three groups coming to the surface:

Object-Oriented Philosopher’s: Levi and Graham are the obvious examples here.  Clearly they are not in full agreement but there’s a common shared world that is ontologically flat.

Positive Non-Empirical Realists: This is a shoddy term but I think it describes what Nick is working on.  The key term is relationality and one’s adherence to scientific realism which, it seems, has a somewhat  problematic relationshi with object oriented philosophy particularly in terms of physical bodies and the non-empirical bounds of the object.  PNER is Brassierian but not nihilistic – conforming to a particularly typology of nihilism.

Negative Non-Empirical Realists: This one is more imaginary but I believe speaks to the work at Splintering Bone Ashes.  This is no doubt premature but SR’s relation to nihilism and what that nihilism is is what is at question.  Alex’s take on politics seems to clearly articulate this difference.

The ramifications of the Laruellian Real – as the fractured One – is the most tenuous point between these last two posistions.  The degree to which this Real can be said to a what intead of merely a that – rests most awkwardly on the issue of emergence.  It is here that Iain Hamilton Grant’s work seems curiously neglected.  The trouble here is that of ideality and whether Grant’s major touchstone Schelling escapes the bounds of the concept.

The most exciting aspect of SR is that it is widely opposed to current philosophy without limiting itself to being strictly contrarian as often seems to happen with deconstruction.  To borrow from Latour – it seems SR manages to avoid being a meal of salt.

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12 Responses to “Growing (and) Factions”

  1. I think it is precisely this “wide opposition to current philosophy” that causes confusion, for the most part, since there’s really no such thing as “current philosophy” so it does come across as a famous: What are you rebelling against, son? – What do you got? sort of exchange. Basically, you’re saying that SR is a reactionary movement, right?

  2. Positive non-empirical realist – I like it! I think there are some distinctions between my very tentative thoughts on these issues and what I’ve read of Alex’s work, but I completely agree that we’re in very close proximity. My own practical actions certainly show I don’t think a realist ontology is the death of politics; I’m just not sure how to reconcile my actions with my thoughts yet. Seems to be a problem for most people, though.

    I should say (and I think I mentioned this to you the other day) that I think emergence is a really important question, and I’m very intrigued to see where it might lead, beyond the nihilistic conclusions of Brassier’s work. It would be great to see your own thoughts on Schelling and Grant as well, once you’ve got them composed in a presentable form!

  3. 3 naughtthought

    Mikhail – I think you answer your own question in a sense when you say there is no such thing as current philosophy.
    In the states in particular it seems as if philosophy is a river which has been damed up and choked to the point where to do philosophy is to remember philosophy proper (via its history) or to critique in current applicability.

    I don’t see SR as reactionary in that it is attempting to gleefully destroy philosophy as we know it for kicks but as trying to open up new ways of thought. So Much pomo ends texts with opening up new ways of thought whereas I feel like SR is actually building something.

  4. 4 doctorzamalek

    “I think it is precisely this “wide opposition to current philosophy” that causes confusion, for the most part, since there’s really no such thing as “current philosophy” so it does come across as a famous: What are you rebelling against, son? – What do you got? sort of exchange. Basically, you’re saying that SR is a reactionary movement, right?”

    “Mikhail – I think you answer your own question in a sense when you say there is no such thing as current philosophy.”

    ZING! I laughed to tears.

    Come on, Mikhail, do you really want to become the snarky contrarian of this scene? There are higher callings for a critic than that.

  5. Graham, you’re a bit late to “this scene” – it’s been a long time since I’ve secured this official position of a “snarky contrarian” – I am glad you had a laugh, though, this is blogging after all, no reason to be too serious, is there?

    Ben, despite the “zing,” I really don’t think I answered my own question, a movement can be reactionary even if what it claims it is reacting again doesn’t exits as such – that is, you first create an image of horrible oppressive “current philosophy” and then you courageously fight against it – there seems to be a lot of creative dismissal going in with SR, that is, “current philosophy” is such and such, we hate it so much, let’s break away – yet when I, for example, raise a question here and there, just out of genuine curiosity, not some sort of spite, I get either a “you’re old oppressive traditionalist” or “I laughed to tears” – am I answering my own question again here?

    What if you simply project your own fears, insecurities and uncertainties unto the larger philosophical field and since you (not personally, metaphorically) and some of the others are dissatisfied, then everyone else must be as well? Are you the vanguard of the new philosophical revolution out to teach us all that what we are doing is really lifeless and boring and useless, and if only we could open our eyes and see, we would immediately join the movement?

    (I hope this comment does not “fill you with disgust” – it’s just talking, you know?)

  6. 6 doctorzamalek

    You’re happy with mainstream philosophy the way it is?

    Hey, enjoy.

  7. 7 naughtthought

    Again, I don’t see SR as dismissive or as reactionary and I really dont think you can say you’ve just be raising questions here or there – you are purposely trying to get a rise out of people. Obviously everyone pursues the philosophy they do for some pathological or irrational reason – desire functions there but so what?

    I think SR is more about trying something new and less about just being grumpy about the current state of philosophy.

  8. Well, thank you, Graham, so gracious of you to allow me to enjoy the so-called “mainstream philosophy” – seriously, what is with the self-righteous and condescending tone? There’s no reason for us both not to enjoy whatever it is that we’re doing, stop acting as if you are “on the edge” and super-cool and the rest of us are just plain idiots, that’s really all I’m saying.

    Ben, I did raise questions, no, not to get a rise out of people, out of interest and philosophical curiosity, therefore I really can say that. “Reactionary” does not mean dismissive and mean, it means that it primarily defines itself as a reaction to the supposedly oppressive status-quo of “current” or “mainstream” philosophy. Lots of things sound “reactionary” to me – on the blogs, let me make this clear – because the tone is mainly negative: we are oppressed, oh will anyone come and save us! hard-nosed Kantian bastards everywhere!

    “Desire function there but so what?” – you missed my point about possible projection of your desires and frustrations on the whole field of “contemporary philosophy” – it’s fine if you feel oppressed and need to be liberated, but it isn’t when you assume that others should as well. But really, if all of this provokes you or you think I’m just being intentionally disagreeable, then I’m sure me telling you that I really am not might not be very helpful.

    I’m sure there is a way for you to do your philosophy without necessarily poopooing what others are doing, even if you are openly disagreeing with them, isn’t there? The image of the dissatisfied geniuses yearning to break out of the crusty traditional mold is just so old and traditional, it’s ironic how you fail to realize it.

  9. 9 doctorzamalek

    “Well, thank you, Graham, so gracious of you to allow me to enjoy the so-called ‘mainstream philosophy’ – seriously, what is with the self-righteous and condescending tone? There’s no reason for us both not to enjoy whatever it is that we’re doing, stop acting as if you are ‘on the edge’ and super-cool and the rest of us are just plain idiots, that’s really all I’m saying.”

    A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Don’t forget how this thread started:

    Mikhail: “I think it is precisely this ‘wide opposition to current philosophy’ that causes confusion, for the most part, since there’s really no such thing as ‘current philosophy’ so it does come across as a famous: What are you rebelling against, son? – What do you got? sort of exchange. Basically, you’re saying that SR is a reactionary movement, right?”

    Now THAT’S condescension!

    But we love you anyway, Mikhail.

  10. There’s a fellow outside of my window who looks like a graduate student (elbow patches and all) trying to light a classical looking pipe, he looks like he’s about 23-25 and honestly he looks ridiculous – nothing against pipes and all, but would it truly be condescending if I walked out, tapped him on the shoulder and told me that he looks ridiculous? Probably, who am I to judge his peculiar attempt at looking more academic? My problem with your tone, and thanks for taking it lightly, is that sometimes you sound as though you would only argue with those who already agree with you or only dispute a specific point of the “system,” while all general pronouncements are dismissed despite the fact that you are very prone to such general pronouncement yourself.

    I have explained that by asking about SR as a reactionary movement I meant whether it really wants to be an “anti-” movement against imaginary “contemporary philosophy” – imaginary, Graham, because you yourself are a part of “contemporary” philosophy, a part of “current” philosophy since you are doing it currently and I am assuming in contemporary times. It’s not as though you created your philosophy out of nothing – you disagree with certain tendencies in “contemporary philosophy” – fine, but simply disagreeing with certain tendencies, or all of it, does not make it irrelevant or wrong. That’s my main beef with Levi’s arguments and it causes me much anxiety that I am unable to explain it – is it just me? – saying that one disagrees with position or a whole philosophical movement, saying, for example, that phenomenology is wrong, does not really constitute a sensible engagement with a position or an argument against it. Similarly, saying that a philosophical position carries certain implications one does not like does not make it wrong, does it?

    What I am hearing most often from Levi is stuff like “Correlationism prevents us from doing A and B” – well, being short prevents me from dunking the basketball, but that does not mean that somehow it is an argument against basketball or very tall people. Are we doing philosophy or are we simply writing philosophical science fiction? Is there a common philosophical ground for all of us or is it up to each to create his/her own method, his/her own problems, and his/her own solution?

  11. I have no comment on the debate going on in this thread. All I wanted to say is that–Ben, I’ve hung out with your girlfriend before, and I think we might have met at some point! (I used to come to parties at her place on Taaffe St.) What a weird, small world.

  12. 12 naughtthought

    That is crazy – I asked her and she remembers you – I actually lived at taaffe for a few months.


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