The Inner Life of Objects: Immanent Realism and Speculative Philosophy

Analecta Hermeneutica 3:1-12 (2011)
Often a division of concepts can help us better understand unknown or seldom charted philosophical terrain: historically, the distinctions and differences between idealism and materialism have proven helpful, but with Quentin Meillassoux‟s concept of correlationism, the divisions between realism and anti realismwhich once seemed clean-cut are now harder to understand. Graham Harman has gone a step further than Meillassoux‟s initial definition of correlationism, by which “we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other,”2claiming in lectures that those who have pledged fidelity to the realism banner after Meillassoux aren‟t realist enough.Instead, says Harman, we should demand that any philosophy which claims to be realist must grant that no entity is more real than any other, whether they be atoms, quarks, institutions, regimes, human beings, bonobos, dreams or distant galaxies. A robust realism must maintain therefore that the universe is composed of objects of all shapes, sizes and types. It is here that I wish to stage something of an intervention; it seems to me that we could rather create a new division to help us understand the contemporary situation facing philosophy based on how various philosophies view objects. I propose that we contrast those philosophies which see objects only working through exterior means with those which grant some level of autonomy to objects; in other words, we should compare those philosophies which grant only an outer life to objects withthose which also grant them an inner life. A robust realism must not only count objects as means of our causal ends , or billiard balls in an extended chain of causation . Rather, a full-blown realism must look to the inner lives of objectsto understand the cosmos and not simply satisfy itself with studying their effects.By making this distinction, we can see more clearly the relevance of a number offigures who have yet to be regarded with any seriousness by the emerging speculative realism movement, creating another metaphysical option besidesweak and strong correlationism, eliminative materialism or idealism, speculative materialism and object-oriented philosophy, as well as better understand thefuture of speculative metaphysics
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