Reid of Planomenology has just started up a new blog called The Luxemburgist that focuses on political theory. Luckily for us all, Reid will keep posting metaphysics related stuff at Planomenology, but his aim appears to be to use the new blog to work out an explicitly non-metaphysical interpretation of Marxism. To this end, he’s drawing on some of the ideas I’ve been developing here over the last year (that’s right, Deontologistics is now over a year old!). Needless to say, I think he’s doing some very interesting work, and can’t wait to see where it leads. Maybe he’ll even coax me into posting some more stuff on social theory at some point. Till then, go read his last two posts on Marx at Planomenology (here and here), and the inaugural post at new blog (here).
For those of you who haven’t seen the announcement, myself, Nick Srnicek (Speculative Heresy / The Accursed Share) and Reid Kotlas (Planomenology), have organised a blog event similar to the Spec Heresy / Critical Animal event on ethics at the end of last year (here). The official announcement is here.
The basic idea is the same: we’re asking for short contributions (1,000-2,500 words) from people on the topic of the relation between science and metaphysics, to be submitted by the 17th of September, which will then be posted up one at a time on Speculative Heresy in the following week.
The submissions are intended to be slightly more formal than your average blog post, but less formal than a journal article. The purpose of the event is to motivate some discussion about an issue which rears its head regularly in this end of the blogosphere, without perhaps being addressed head on: the relationship between science and metaphysics. The problematisation of this relation was one of the core features that motivated interest in speculative realism, and many of the debates arising out of this have touched upon it to some degree (arche-fossil, anyone?). Now it’s time for this issue to take centre stage, however. I suspect that as much as anything else, asking the question properly will force us to think long and hard about just what we think science and metaphysics are.
As a final note, it’s my birthday tomorrow, so this is my last post from this side of 25. See you all in the second quarter of my century.
Skholiast over at Speculum Criticum Traditionis has been kind enough to write up his thoughts about my take on transcendental realism. I’m very grateful to him for taking the time to read the essay in detail, and so it’s only right that I link to it (here). He seems to have got me mostly right too.
I would like to clarify one little thing though, just as a matter of emphasis. A big part of my paper is defining a position which I call deflationary realism, which I take to be exemplified in different ways by Quine, McDowell, and David Lewis, and to be explicitly articulated by Brandom. The key point of this position is that it takes the notion of ‘real’ used in classical metaphysical debates to not be doing any useful work, and thus deflates this notion from a ‘thick’ to a ‘thin’ one, whereby metaphysical questions about the world become questions about how we think and talk about the world. Brandom’s way of cashing out this position shows how it can do this without collapsing into idealism, by taking there to be two different kinds of dependence relations that there can be between the structure of the world and the structure of thought: sense-dependence and reference-dependence. Jon Cogburn has talked about this before on his blog (here).
In essence, if P is sense-dependent upon Q, then one cannot understand P without understanding Q, and if P is reference-dependent upon Q, then there cannot be P without Q. The former is a kind of epistemological dependence, whereas the latter is a kind of ontological dependence. Brandom’s insight is that one can have sense-dependence without reference-dependence, and this means that he can claim that the structure of the world and the structure of thought are reciprocally sense-dependent without holding that they are in any way reference-dependent. Deflationary realism can hold that the structure of the world and the structure of thought are isomorphic, and yet that there could be a world without thought, thus avoiding classical idealism.
Transcendental realism, as I see it, modifies this deflationary position by breaking the reciprocity of sense-dependence. Skholiast has me totally right here. The only thing I want to add is that the way the reciprocity is broken can look counter-intuitive, but it is really unproblematic. Instead of claiming that one cannot understand the structure of the world and the structure of thought in isolation from one another, the transcendental realist takes it that we cannot understand the structure of the world without understanding the structure of thought, but that we can understand thought without the world. This means that the world is sense-dependent on thought but not vice-versa. This is fine, because what it means is that there is more to the structure of the world than the structure of thought, i.e., that there are real metaphysical questions that are more than simply logical or semantic questions. This is a proper realism. However, if one were simply to look at the direction of the dependence relation, one might conclude it had more in common with idealism.
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.