Skip to main content

Metaphysics vs transcendental philosophy

Ray Brassier, just after my talk here in Beirut on Monday (see below in the blog) expressed some discomfort towards my attempt to enlist Hume as the source of what I was calling a metaphysics of contingency. Rather than a source, I take Hume's criticisms of necessary connection to be (a possible) starting point for a concern with the nature of contingency. Ray thinks that Hume wouldn't be happy with any metaphysical endeavour - not even one that exorcises the appeal to any sort of necessity. My response was that one could read Hume's criticisms as leading both in a sceptical vein that will make all metaphysics hopeless (Kant's is a variation of this line) or as a leading towards an image of the world where there is no room for necessary connections (or maybe for modality in general). The second option is taken by those who attribute atomism or distinctness to Hume. In any case, the issue is really how a Humean sceptic would react to the idea of an endeavour such as the metaphysics of contingency.

The issue of the possibility of (all) metaphysics takes me to an idea I have for many years now. It is somehow unavoidable to choose between metaphysics and transcendental philosophy, tertium non datur. In order to reject all metaphysical projects, one needs to embrace an image of the (wanna-be) metaphysician. One needs, for example, to spouse and image of us as concept mongers, our limits and our capacities. Tristan Garcia, in the his three reasons to start out with a thought about thinhs and not about our access to things (Forme et Objet, 9-10) reminded me of this tertium non datur idea. It seems like our access to things is somehow a thing while arguably if things are understood in terms of our access to them, we are already doing some sort of metaphysics. To do transcendental philosophy is to do some sort of metaphysics of us - which would include theses concerning who composes the relevant us. So, the sceptic can come up with some sort of transcendental philosophy - simple ones include appeal to the phenomena as the only thing we can know (a claim about limits) and internalism stating that thinking doesn't require any knowledge (or maybe only knowledge of our own minds in the Cartesian theatre conception of mind).

So, the dialectics with the Humean would be as follows. If you're criticising necessary connections in a sound way, let me have a go in a metaphysics of contingency - or rather of non-absoluteness as Hume would reject both that it is necessary something is the case and that it is necessary that something is not the case. Now, if you're rather claiming that there is no metaphysics possible after your critique of necessary connections, then I suspect there are hidden metaphysical assumptions (likely dressed in transcendental garments) guiding your claim, In the end of the day, why is knowledge of the (wanna-be) metaphysician less vulnerable than knowledge of the (wanna-be) metaphysics?

The point was taken home in a perhaps oversimplified way in a discussion I had with Andrés Bobenrieth here in the Square of Oppositions conference this afternoon. He was advocating an antirealism concerning contradictions (in fact, inconsistencies). His position contrasts, he says, with that of Graham Priest in that he insists that to find a contradiction one needs to have a particular notion of negation in use. Now, surely, the choice of negations is bound to be ours, is bound to be conventional (in the spirit of Carnap). The plurality of negations (or logics) - as much as contingency or necessity in similar debates - cannot be ascribed to the world, so it has to be about us. His image makes logic some sort of (broadly speaking) transcendental philosophy. Interesting to see. I guess apart from the drive from sceptical doubts, the pull towards transcendental philosophy can be felt by having an oversimplified account of what the world could be. If relativity itself cannot be true (say, relativity of negations), what is left is to make truth relative and engage in a project that tells us more about ourselves and our process of failing to attain reality.


Popular posts from this blog

My responses to (some) talks in the Book Symposium

Indexicalism is out: l   The book symposium took place two weeks ago with talks by Sofya Gevorkyan/Carlos Segovia, Paul Livingston, Gerson Brea, Steven Shaviro, Chris RayAlexander, Janina Moninska, Germán Prosperi, Gabriela Lafetá, Andrea Vidal, Elzahrã Osman, Graham Harman, Charles Johns, Jon Cogburn, Otavio Maciel, Aha Else, JP Caron, Michel Weber and John Bova. My very preliminary response to some of their talks about the book follows. (Texts will appear in a special issue of Cosmos & History soon). RESPONSES : ON SAYING PARADOXICAL THINGS Hilan Bensusan First of all, I want to thank everyone for their contributions. You all created a network of discussions that made the book worth publishing. Thanks. Response to Shaviro: To engage in a general account of how things are is to risk paradox. Totality, with its different figures including the impersonal one that enables a symmetrical view from nowhere

Hunky, Gunky and Junky - all Funky Metaphysics

Been reading Bohn's recent papers on the possibility of junky worlds (and therefore of hunky worlds as hunky worlds are those that are gunky and junky - quite funky, as I said in the other post). He cites Whitehead (process philosophy tends to go hunky) but also Leibniz in his company - he wouldn't take up gunk as he believed in monads but would accept junky worlds (where everything that exists is a part of something). Bohn quotes Leibniz in On Nature Itself «For, although there are atoms of substance, namely monads, which lack parts, there are no atoms of bulk, that is, atoms of the least possible extension, nor are there any ultimate elements, since a continuum cannot be composed out of points. In just the same way, there is nothing greatest in bulk nor infinite in extension, even if there is always something bigger than anything else, though there is a being greatest in the intensity of its perfection, that is, a being infinite in power.» And New Essays: ... for there is ne

Necropolitics and Neocameralism

It is perhaps just wishful thinking that the alt-right seemingly innovative and intrepid ideas will disappear from the scene as Trump's reign comes to an end. They have their own dynamics, but certainly the experiences of the last years, including those in the pandemics, do help to wear off their bright and attractiveness. Neocameralism, what Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land with him ushered in as a model of post-democracy that relinquish important ingredients of the human security system, is one of these projects that is proving to be too grounded in the past to have any capacity to foretell anything bright beyond the democratic rusting institutions. It is little more than necropolitics - which is itself a current post-democratic alternative. Achile Mbembe finds necropolitics in the regimes were warlords take over the state-like institutions (or mimick them)  to rule on the grounds of local security having no troubles killing or letting die whoever is in their path. Neocameralism pos