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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Out of correlationism

In the last two meetings of my course in Chennai, we examined three possible ways out of correlationism:
1. Generalized correlationism: correlations are everywhere, the ontology of black boxes, cubist objects, desiring machines, intentionality is the mark of the dispositional, you name it. In this case, the world itself is made of correlations. This could seem like making the correlation not a contingency, but something like a necessary component of the world. I would resist the strength of such a necessity but to a Whiteheadian comment of the sort, our correlation is an example of the kind, the correlationist who cares about the contingency of the correlation could reply: I cannot step outside (my) correlation to check out whether this correlation (my correlation) is no more than an example.
2. Davidsonian bootstrap: the claim that our image of the world could be completely non-absolute (i.e. all false) is meaningless, as we need some truths (i.e. something absolute) in order to consider something lacking. In other words, in order to compare our image of the world with the world (and say that our image could be all wrong) we need to make sure there is something about the world (as an absolute) that we capture. The transcendental distinction, with its corresponding humility, would not make sense unless some of what we take as a phenomenon is also part of the thing in itself. Such a bootstrap can be accused of being too much of a reasoning from within, almost as if the absolute came from the guts of the correlation. I still often think that Davidson bites, but I agree that the absolute is then considered too much as a feature of our correlation.
3. Meillassoux's factiality: our correlation reveals a degree of factiality, of contingency, and this is what can be generalized. Our correlation is contingent and reaches no necessary connection because contingency is everywhere and nothing follows from nothing with necessity. Our correlation, again, is an example, no longer of the universe of correlations but rather of the universal contingency. Here, we also can also rehearse a correlationist reply like this: how do can I go beyond my correlation and check out that I am an example of contingency? However, in this case we are not saying anything about how things are, rather stating that however they are, they are a matter of fact.
The three procedures can be grouped in three types:
a) Procedures that take us as examples: 1 and 3
b) Procedures that consider correlationism as a departing point: 1 and 2
c) Procedures that attempt to find something absolute beyond correlations: 2 and 3
If all the three ways out are plausible, maybe we can have not one exit to correlationism, but three... Like those people who claimed that the tunnel between Dover and Calais could be made by two teams independently, one at each side. Each of them would dig through. If they never meet, we would end up with two instead of one tunnel...

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