Brandom and Ethics

Jon Cogburn has just put up a post about the ethical implications of Brandom’s thought (here). As much as I respect Jon, I’m afraid I almost entirely disagree with the post. I think he’s being really unfair to Brandom. I mean no offence to him, but his claim that some of Brandom’s remarks (to the effect that pain has no intrinsic moral significance) are evil strikes me as hyperbole. I haven’t yet fully gone through Reason in Philosophy, but I’ve been thinking about the ethical implications of Brandom’s work (see my speculative heresy piece on ethics) and have come to very much the same position expressed in these remarks, yet without any of the more horrific implications Jon seems to see in them. To warn you, this is another fairly long post (coming up 7,000 words).

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Meillassoux on Signs and Contingency

Fabio over at Hypertiling has put up a translation of part of one Meillassoux’s papers (here), and it is most interesting. The aim of the section Fabio has translated is to sketch out a strategy for demonstrating that mathematical thought can grasp absolute contingency, which for Meillassoux is the Real itself. The way he goes about this is fascinating, but, I think, potentially flawed. I won’t go over the piece in too much detail, but explain just enough to show where I think it goes wrong.

Meillassoux’s basic idea is that the condition under which anything like mathematical thought functions is the ability to grasp and deploy empty signs (such as the letters (P, Q, R, etc.) traditionally used to denote propositions in propositional calculus, or the letters (a, b, c, etc.)  traditionally used to denote sets in set theory), and that our grasp of such empty signs consists in nothing but our grasp of them qua sign, as opposed to our grasp of ordinary signs, in which our grasp of what the sign stands for obscures this pure signifying character. Now, he thinks that he can show that mathematical thought grasps absolute contingency insofar as this grasp of a sign qua sign upon which it is founded itself consists in a grasp of pure contingency. This is an interesting argument, and I can certainly see where he is going.

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Laruelle (non-)Event

This is being advertised a bit later than intended, but the philosophy society at Warwick (a top notch student run organisation) has organised a visit by Francois Laruelle, who will be presenting a paper (in French, accompanied by a written English translation courtesy of Anthony Paul Smith of An Und Fur Sich) on his more recent thinking. This will take place on the 3rd of March (less than a month away!), on Warwick Campus (further details in the announcement below).

For all of you budding non-philosophers out there, I here that the paper reworks a number of the core ideas of his earlier work. And for everyone familiar with our little section of the blogosphere, Laruelle’s talk will be preceded by a series of presentation on non-philosophy by none other than Nick Srnicek (Speculative Heresy / Accursed Share), Anthony Paul Smith, and Reid Kotlas (Planomenology). It promises to be lots of fun all round.

There is also another event that we’re organising at Warwick, a small workshop on Transcendental Realism, headlined by Ray Brassier. I will post more about this when all the details have been worked out. Anyway, here is the announcement about the Laruelle event that just went out on Philos-L, which provides more of the logistical details.

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Heidegger, Realism, and all that jazz…

Paul Ennis (here), Jon Cogburn (here) and Gary Williams (here), have been having a conversation about whether Heidegger is a realist or not on their respective blogs. Since I’ve been trying to come up with a coherent interpretation of Heidegger for the past 2 years, causing much woe and confusion, I thought I’d chip in. What appears below was meant to be a comment on Jon’s blog, but turned out to be too big (surprise surprise). Some of what I say here might differ from my previous posts on Heidegger, as my interpretation has evolve a bit. Hopefully I’ll post a synthesis of all this stuff at some point which gives an updated version of my position, but for now, you’ll have to make do with this. Anyway, enjoy…

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