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Saturday, 11 April 2015

The absolute other of Meillassoux

Been discussing Violence et Métaphysique in the anarchai research group these weeks, I've been growingly convinced that Levinas major (and radical) break with Husserl's phenomenology is somehow recapitulated in Meillassoux's twin rejection of correlationism and subjectalism. Derrida is hard on Levinas when he brings in the notion of alter ego such as it appears in the fifth Cartesian Meditation. Now, that is particularly interesting for me because the fifth Meditation is the official address of Husserl's monadology. He there presents subjects as monads intentionally connected in a way that each monad reaches the others and brings them in while maintaining them away - they are heard because they are egos, they are away because they are alter. An intentional act brings the intended other in by making it possible for the subject to register in thinking the presence of the other. The monadological relation makes up for a structure of intersubjectivity - the other appears to me as an other which is intelligible to me as another me. Then Derrida goes: this is the best one can possibly require from a structure of intersubjectivity - the other as another me; nothing could possibly be less violent than that and yet making sure that intelligibility is made of the other (and the philosophical discourse on the other is not cracked open). Yet, Levinas is deeply unhappy with Husserl's alter ego - as he would be, as it were, with any monadological approach whatsoever. He thinks that considering the other as another me is already closing oneself up to the other - and making an ontological claim that cannot bring in anything but a violent staring point. It is a way to make my intelligibility rule over what should come first, the alterarchy - the command coming from the other. The Husserlian alter ego is just not enough to bring in an opening to an absolute other - it is, in a sense, tainted with a correlation, with my own matrix of intelligibility. Derrida sees the drama: it is not enough and yet it has to be enough. By insisting on the first part, Levinas cracks open the philosophical discourse on the other. Derrida makes it even clearer: without something like a Husserlian monadology, violence against the other has no victim, as the other is not clearly an ego that can be victim of violence (or alternatively, violence has no perpetrator, from the point of view of the other). Cracking open the philosophical discourse on the other is therefore incoherent and arguably dangerously close of being unintelligible, Derrida diagnoses, and yet, he registers, Levinas goes precisely this way. And in this he is radical: intelligibility is not something one should sacrifice ethics for. He breaks therefore with the correlation intelligibility (and with the subjectalism of Husserl) by insisting on an infinite, on an absolute opening, on an absolute other.

Now, Meillassoux seems to be doing a similar move. It is not sufficient to make my intelligibility (or any one's intelligibility) the measure of all things - mediation, or correlation, cannot be made absolute because the price to pay is to taint the absolute character of the other. If correlation is absolute, the other can no longer be presented in its absolute character. To break with subjectalism could be to crack open philosophical discourse about the world, but this is the radical move: get away from any promise to make the world intelligible so that its character of absolute other can appear. Philosophical discourse is, in both cases, the eventual casualty.

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