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Defending a metaphysics of the correlation

My conversation with Meillassoux last Monday together with my reading of Jeffrey Bell's interesting essay on Deleuze and correlationism ("Between realism and anti-realism: Deleuze and the Spinozist tradition in philosophy", Deleuze Studies 5.1, 2011, 1-17) made me suspect that the issue with correlationism is not best captured by the many forms of the realist\anti-realist debate. The correlation is thought of as opposed to an attainable absolute as much as it is thought of as opposed to what is dependent of our ways. Surely, as Bell argues, it could be not obvious to label Deleuze either a realist (Bell thinks Deleuze would be with Latour in his criticism of the ready-made facts and then would not be a metaphysical realist, to use the worn out phrase Putnam used when he first converted out of this position, back in 76-78) or an anti-realist (Deleuze would not endorse a logic of representation that would typically inform (classical) anti-realism). Still, Meillassoux would not hesitate to take him as a correlationist - better as a metaphysician of the subjectivity, that I would prefer always to label a metaphysician of the correlation, and I will stick to my label in this post. Metaphysicians of the correlation could be to the realist side - like Whitehead or Bergson or, I would argue, Nietzsche and Latour - or to the anti-realist side - typically like Hegel. (Incidentally, this is why I think the label "metaphysics of the subjectivity" is slightly confusing.)

My form of metaphysics of the correlation is the ontology of fragments. It holds that anything can be treated in different forms and therefore enjoy more than one mode of existence. It is informed by the idea of multinaturalism that Viveiros de Castro and Tania Stolze Lima championed. There is no unter-reality, as I say, where things have an ultimate nature independently of each composer's way of treating them (composer are also fragments and are not unter-real). Clearly, if each mode of existence is relative to a composer, we are within the realm of the metaphysics of the correlation. (Incidentally, there is no clear form of anti-realism here as most of the fragments and compositions I am in contact with are independent of my - and our - ways.) The ontology of fragments attempts to make a general refusal of primitive elements, archaic elements in the form of fragments or compositions. This is why there is no privilege of the us as composers nor can me be taken as a special composer. This refusal of primitive elements could prompt Meillassoux to wonder that there is no space for anything absolute. In fact, Meillassoux reacted to this by considering it still a projection of the human: we are composers, so let everything else be likewise. (I suppose this is why he calls the position metaphysics of the subjectivity.) This business of composing, he would go, looks just too much like us.

He wants his speculative philosophy to be non-correlationist (different from any form of correlationism and from any form of metaphysics of the correlation) in the following sense: it is not a projection, not an analogy with the human ways. It ought to be critical, and not analogical, if we can put in simple terms. He then goes on to flesh out this (speculative) position with the thesis of general (and necessary) facticity. Surely, a Kantian could reply to him in a way that is very much like I suggested in my past post: how can we know that this facticity is not just ours, just a feature of our ways? In fact, correlation is factual. This tells us nothing yet about the world in an absolute way. Unless we're ready to engage in the procedure of speculative analogy. But if we do so, then someone would counter that we're again favouring an image of the world that is, alas, all too human. Meillassoux reacted to this by insisting that his vein was critical, he wanted to do away with all metaphysics. But then it was open for me to say that the ontology of fragments can be dressed in similar clothes: there is no unter-reality we can appeal to, things are what they are but are open to be something else in different compositions. I could say that against the principle of facticity as an absolute, I could present the principle of composition equally as an absolute.

Then I get stuck in this dialectics. Maybe we should move away from all forms of metaphysics of the correlation, including the ontology of fragments. But what exactly is the advantage of the principle of facticity over my proposal? Maybe because it mentions no correlation, it generalises on facticity that is too much ours but it appeals to no explicit correlation. It doesn't seem enough. Still, it enables us to be open to the completely different. Or this completely different ought always to be able to be predicated as factual? In fact I suspect this notion of facticity - as the notions of contingency and necessity - is itself part of the problem. I even suspect that if we take the notion of virtuality seriously - in the very sense that Meillassoux suggests - we should be cautious about the use of predicates like 'necessary' even in a speculative context.

This deserves more thought. But I guess this is another dialectics that can be escaped if we pay some attention to the modal presuppositions being made.


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