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Friday, 7 July 2017

A note about strong correlationism and subjectalism

This is perhaps a follow-up from an old post from 2012.

Thinking about Meillassoux's alternatives, it seems like subjectalism (or what I call the metaphysics of the correlation) can only be countered once weak correlationism and nothing stronger is the point of departure. Strong correlationism, according to which we cannot even think anything beyond correlation, denies that all knowledge is finite and incapable of grasping reality in its own right because nothing beyond the finite can be thought. The thought of finitude is hostage to a weaker correlationism. Meillassoux understands subjectalism as a product of a speculative move starting from correlation itself: if I can know, think and conceptualize correlations and nothing else, there ought to be nothing but them. Our correlation becomes absolute – hence our concepts, our reasons and our knowledge is itself reaching beyond finitude. Correlation is itself absolute. Yet, Meillassoux is prepared to cluster here two different positions: one according to which there is nothing outside my correlation, it is absolute, and the other that speculatively projects my correlation on everything to say that everything is in a correlation. In the second position, the correlation is absolute, but it is not our (human) correlation that is absolute. In both cases, everything is a correlation. Meillassoux argues that such the two positions – in the subjectalist cluster – are inadequate answers to correlationism for it doesn't take into account that correlations are factual (contingent). For Meillassoux, this diagnosis is the starting point of his own speculative story according to which it is facticity itself that is absolute. Independently of his alternative, we can pause on his analysis of the facticity of correlation. To claim that the correlation is contingent is to claim either that

1. there could be no correlation or
2. there could be another correlation.

Now, if 1 is true, there ought to be something beyond any correlation that is at least thinkable (or conceivable). In that case, strong correlationism is wrong. If, on the other hand, 2 is true, we can step outside our own correlation and imagine another correlation altogether that would be equally possible. But here too strong correlationism looses its ground – and there is no reason to consider any correlation absolute. It seems like the claim that correlations are factual could only mean something if weak correlationism (and not strong correlationism) is adopted. In other words, only if the Kantian idea that something outside the correlation is thinkable.

If this is right and only on the basis of weak correlationism subjectalism in its both forms can be rejected, it would be interesting to explore the subjectalist (and speculative) scene from the point of view of a stronger correlationism. 1 and 2 above are very different. While 1 affirms that we could gain access to the world uncorrelated to our thoughts - there could be intuitions without concepts albeit as a matter of fact we are so constituted that intuitions cannot show or speak without concepts. It contains a claim, which is arguably Kantian, about the possibility of pure intuitions. The claim has been challenged by Hegel's analysis of mediation according to which there are no intuitions if there are no mediation. (Incidentally, McDowell is also convinced that intuitions present the world to us.) Now, 2 seems to point to a very different set of issues. If intuitions require being mediated, they don't require a particular mediation. One could then engage in a speculative flight where correlation itself is a point of departure. Strong correlationism will have to be proven false, but its connection between intuition and mediation would still be vindicated.



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