How do things come to stand for something other than themselves? An understanding of the ontology of relations allows for a compelling account of the action of signs. The Primacy of Semiosis is concerned with the ontology of relations and semiosis, the action of signs. Drawing upon the work of Gilles Deleuze, John Deely, and John Poinsot, Paul Bains focuses on the claim that relations are 'external' to their terms, and seeks to give an ontological account of this purported externality (...) of relations. Bains develops the proposition, first made in 1632 by John Poinsot (John of St. Thomas), that, ontologically, signs are relations whose whole being is in esse ad ('being-toward'). Furthermore, relations are found to be univocal in their being as relations. This univocity of being is antecedent to the division between 'ens rationis' and 'ens reale'. The ontology of relations Bains presents is thus neither mind-dependent nor mind-independent insofar as the rationale of the relation is concerned. The book includes chapters on Deleuze and Deely on relations, Jacob von Uexkull and Heidegger on Umwelten (self-worlds), Maturana and Varela on Autopoiesis. It provides a form of vicarious causality, by way of the scholastic doctrine of the 'species', that complements the emerging school of 'object oriented ontology'. The Primacy of Semiosis provides a semiotic that subverts the opposition between realism and idealism; one in which what have been called 'nature' and 'culture' interpenetrate in an expanding collective of human and non-human. Bains' work promises to be a touchstone for semiotic discussion for years to come. (shrink)
Where much contemporary philosophy seeks to stave off the "threat" of nihilism by safeguarding the experience of meaning--characterized as the defining feature of human existence--from the Enlightenment logic of disenchantment, this book attempts to push nihilism to its ultimate conclusion by forging a link between revisionary naturalism in Anglo-American philosophy and anti-phenomenological realism in recent French philosophy. Contrary to an emerging "post-analytic" consensus which would bridge the analytic-continental divide by uniting Heidegger and Wittgenstein against the twin perils of scientism and (...) skepticism, this book short-circuits both traditions by plugging eliminative materialism directly into speculative realism. (shrink)
In his magnum opus Being and Event, Alain Badiou identifies ontology with mathematics and uses a mathematical formalization of ontological discourse to generate an account of extra-ontological 'truth-events'. Informed by deconstructive critiques of the metaphysical ontologies of presence, Badiou establishes an anti-phenomenological conception of ontological presentation. Presentation's internal structure is that of an anti-phenomenon: presence's necessarily empty and insubstantial contrary. But the result is that Being and Event is riven by a fundamental methodological idealism. Badiou cannot secure the connection he (...) wishes to establish between the formal discursive structure of mathematical ontology and extra-discursive reality. The decisive link between being and event, i.e. between Badiou's purely formal conception of ontological presentation and the extra-ontological reality of the event, is precluded by the very structure of the concept of presentation which is central to Badiou's argument. (shrink)
One establishes oneself within science from the start. One does not reconstitute it from scratch. One does not found it. Alain Badiou, Le Concept de modèle1 [T]here are no crises within science, nor can there be, for science is the pure affirmation of difference. Alain Badiou, "Marque et manque" 2.
The thesis tries to define and explain the rudiments of a 'nonphilosophical' or 'non-decisional' theory of materialism on the basis of a theoretical framework provided by the 'non-philosophy' of Francois Laruelle. Neither anti-philosophical nor anti-materialist in character, non-materialism tries to construct a rigorously transcendental theory of matter by using certain instances of philosophical materialism as its source material. The materialist decision to identify the real with matter is seen to retain a structural isomorphy with the phenomenological decision to identify the (...) real with the phenomenon. Both decisions are shown to operate on the basis of a methodological idealism; materialism on account of its confusion of matter and concept; phenomenology by virtue of its confusion of phenomenon and logos. By dissolving the respectively 'materiological' and 'phenomenological' amlphibolies which are the result of the failure to effect a rigorously transcendental separation between matter and concept on the one hand; and between phenomenon and logos on the other, non-materialist theory proposes to mobilise the non-hybrid or non-decisional concepts of a 'matter-without-concept' and of a 'phenomenon-without-logos' in order to effect a unified but non-unitary theory of phenomenology and materialism. The result is a materialisation of thinking that operates according to matter's foreclosure to decision. That is to say, a transcendental theory of the phenomenon that licenses limitless phenomenological plasticity, unconstrained by the apparatus of eidetic intuition or any horizon of apophantic disclosure; yet one which is simultaneously a transcendental theory of matter, uncontaminated by the bounds of empirical perception and free of all phenomenological circumscription. (shrink)
This paper explains the nature and origin of what I am calling Transgressive Realism, a middle path between realism and anti-realism which tries to combine their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. Kierkegaard created the position by merging Hegel’s insistence that we must have some kind of contact with anything we can call real (thus rejecting noumena), with Kant’s belief that reality fundamentally exceeds our understanding; human reason should not be the criterion of the real. The result is the idea that (...) our most vivid encounters with reality come in experiences that shatter our categories, the way God’s commandment to kill Isaac irreconcilably clashes with the best understanding of ethics we are capable of. I explain the genesis of this idea, and then show it at work in Heidegger and Levinas’ thought. Understanding this position illuminates important aspects of the history of continental philosophy and offers a new perspective on realism. (shrink)
Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the leaders of the established generation, this new focus takes numerous forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the (...) writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Žižek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the centre of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come. (shrink)
This review essay attempts to present a coherent and reasonably unitary picture of the contemporary ‘speculative turn’ in continental philosophy as charted in Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, eds, The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism (2011). Avoiding a more objective yet more anodyne chapter by chapter summary, I paint an intentionally synoptic view by selecting some common concerns of the authors involved, and group them under five ‘core themes’. Throughout, I try to keep open the comparative channel (...) with the realist tenets of critical realism, and conclude vouching for the necessity for more bridge-building works to appear in the future. (shrink)
Preface to paperback edition -- Why Schelling? why naturephilosophy? -- The powers due to becoming: the reemergence of platonic physics in the genetic philosophy -- Antiphysics and neo-Fichteanism -- The natural history of the unthinged -- "What thinks in me is what is outside me". phenomenality, physics and the idea -- Dynamic philosophy, transcendental physics -- Conclusion: transcendental geology.
This article mobilizes the troublesome and unrigorous concept of love to open an oblique entry into the equally troublesome concepts of object-oriented ontology and speculative realism. Issues of object fetishism, species companionship, bestiality, and assemblages of desire are traced in the theories of Graham Harman, Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett, Mario Perniola, and other posthumanist thinkers. Both romantic and Christian love are identified in the discursive practices of speculative realists as a way of outlining recurrent tropes in posthumanist thinking. From here, (...) a vector is traced back to the romantic literary tradition, thus linking the posthumanist tendencies of William Blake, for example, to the romanticism of Jane Bennett and Ian Bogost. Pulling against the chains of language, these thinkers challenge the finitude of human being by developing discursive strategies that focus attention sideways, away from human subjectivity and toward the world of organic and inorganic things. The essay concludes with a description of ?applied media theory,? a method developed by the Critical Media Lab to generate objects-to-think-with for the sake of posthumanist speculation. (shrink)
The emergence of a philosophical movement amidst the precarious situation of 'continental philosophy' is today notable. Whilst welcoming a turn to speculation, and to questions of totality, this article will contend that speculative realism has misplaced the concept of speculation. Its naturalistic sense of totality and of realism prevents it from relating ‘necessary contingency' to any (future-oriented) task. What, then, is the future of speculative realism? I will examine the extent to which the phenomenon may prompt historical materialism to examine (...) its speculative standpoint, amidst the ongoing problem historical totalisation. My case study is Iain Hamilton Grant's Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (2006), for the reason that it allows for a clear comparison between ‘Schellingian naturephilosophy' and its competing, Hegelian alternative. Hegel's speculative philosophy of history faces a set of problems of its own. In contrast to Grant's reading of Schelling, an examination of the relationship between Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and the middle Schelling can address some of these problems. An alternative future to research on speculation will be outlined. (shrink)
I distinguish the ethics of transhumanism from a related metaphysical position which I refer to as “speculative posthumanism.” Speculative posthumanism holds that posthumans might be radically non-human and thus unintelligible in human terms. I claim that this transcendence can be viewed as analogous to that of the thing-in-itself in Kantian and post-Kantian European philosophy. This schema implies an impasse for transhumanism because, while the radically non-human or posthuman would elude evaluation according to transhumanist principles such as personal autonomy or liberal (...) freedom, it is morally unacceptable for transhumanists to discount the possible outcomes of their favoured policies. I then consider whether the insights of critical posthumanists, who employ a cyborg perspective on human-technology couplings, can dissolve this impasse by “deconstructing” the opposition between the human and its prospective posthuman successors. By exhibiting its logical basis in the postructuralist philosophies of Derrida and Deleuze, I show that the cyborg perspective is consistent with both cyborg humanism and a modified speculative posthumanism. This modified account treats the alterity of the posthuman as a historically emergent feature of human and posthuman multiplicities that must be understood through their technical or imaginative synthesis, not in relation to a transcendental conception of the human. (shrink)