guattari, Meillassoux, Politics, speculation, utopia

Speculative Materialisms: Thinking the Absolute with Meillassoux and Guattari

          Quentin Meillassoux’s recent work After Finitude comes as a breath of fresh air for those who have been languishing under the dominant regimes of philosophy today.  Meillassoux claims to be able to resuscitate the “great outdoors” of pre-Critical Cartesian philosophy, one that would both forgo the correlationist impulses of the Kantian tradition as well as the necessity of an all-knowing, veracious God to legitimize the representational content of consciousness.  To access this “great outdoors,” Meillassoux forces us to activate a speculative materialism that would break with the necessitarian impulses of metaphysics. He calls his own path speculative because it claims to access an absolute (though not an absolute entity), and materialism because it claims that absolute reality is indifferent to thought, is an “entity without thought,” and can exist without thought, rendering the latter ontologically unnecessary (36). The paths of this new outlook are various, and Meillassoux does not claim to have formulated all the domains that are now opened.  It is for this reason that we feel a need to supplement Meillassoux’s emphasis on mathematics with an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Among the numerous materialisms that have been developed in the 20th century, the cartographies developed by Félix Guattari (sometimes with the help of Gilles Deleuze) also merit the nomination of “speculative,” insofar as Guattari himself has also isolated an absolute, namely that of deterritorialization. In what follows, I intend to sketch out the way in which these two thinkers uniquely accent the positions that claims to be “speculative materialism” in order to better exemplify how Meillassoux’s groundwork can be applied outside its original problematic domain.

            The attempt to pair these two extravagantly different thinkers is not the result of sheer caprice, but unfolded due to the overlapping of a series of common concerns. Although they do not espouse the same conclusions, there is a shared impulse to refute the most intractable metaphysical dogmatisms, along with the fanaticism that develops through this refutation, ranging from abstract universals to abstract necessity. Indeed, the theoretical interaction between these two thinkers is required in order to unlock the dimensions of a speculative chaos upon which a speculative politics could unfold. Their conjunction leads beyond a hyper-Chaos to the immanent domain of hyper-utopias.

            One side of the problematic is to break the vicious circle of correlation. One of the ways in which Meillassoux describes correlationism relates to its attempt to disqualify the claim that subjectivity and objectivity can be considered apart from one another (5).  In fact, correlationism goes so far as to make the correlation unavoidable and asserts “anything that is totally a-subjective cannot be” (38). This side of the speculative thesis is also acknowledged by Guattari, who writes in L’Inconscient machinique: “Concepts must be folded onto reality, not the other way around” (155). In the same vein, for Meillassoux, “the materialism that chooses to follow the speculative path is thereby constrained to believe that it is possible to think a given reality by abstracting from the fact that we are thinking it” (After Finitude, 36). Given that language and consciousness are the two prime contributors to the persistence of the correlation, how do we escape from language, let alone take up a vantage point wherein subjectivity can be illuminated and discerned without having to become constitutive?

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New Post on Gabriel Catren’s Critique of Meillassoux via Speculative Physics

Over at Stellar Cartographies there is a new post (called: Speculative realism, stamp collecting, and the question of Science) that goes into great detail about Gabriel Catren’s critique of Meillassoux on the basis of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics (lovingly dubbed by the former as “speculative physics”). The majority of the post (in reality almost already essay-length) focuses on Catren’s extensive essay that appeared in Collapse vol. 5 just recently. There are also at least 5 or 6 essays by Catren that can be found online, some more mathematical than others, but all on theoretical physics and the question of objectivity. I even have the chance and honor to translate one of Gabriel Catren’s essays for the upcoming anthology The Speculative Turn, which will feature many of the big names in the “field” of speculative realism (or transcendental realism, as Laruelle has dubbed his approach, thus reviving an older nomination that could, for example, at one time have labeled Spinoza’s approach…although he was usually considered just a dogmatist by Fichte et al.). Definitely go check this out if you have an interest in the current debates about speculative realism.

For catren’s online essays, check out “On Classical and Quantum Objectivity” and “Can Classical Descriptions of Reality Be Considered Complete?” and “Geometric Foundations of Classical Yangs-Mill Theory” and “Notes on Dilaton Quantum Cosmology” with Claudio Simeone, and “Time asymmetries in quantum cosmology and the searching for boundary conditions to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation” with Mario Castagnino and Rafael Ferraro, and finally “Quantization of the Taub cosmological model with extrinsic time” with Rafael Ferraro.