December 30th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Quentin Meillassoux: Benefit and Alterity - Revisioning Metaphysics; or a Dark Materialism?

"One could not better describe the movement underway: this benefit (bien) from a thirst for otherness [altérité] and the decentering which metaphysics begins again in the plural, requiring us to think this profusion in preserving it, as much as we can, from ancient wanderings."
     - Quentin Meillassoux 
Is there a need to return to metaphysics? Instead of the grand systems of the past we are seeing a pluralistic metaphysics that encompasses its "great adversaries—instructed by its reversals (Nietzsche), by its destruction (Heidegger), therapeutic dissolution (Wittgenstein), or deconstruction (Derrida)—sets out both an extraordinary heritage, a treasure of unique thought towards which we are yet able to return—and at the same time imposes on us a totally new and exciting task: that is, how to produce a contemporary metaphysics, able to give a meaning, even a fragile one, to our lives by the sole force of thought, and one which may be likely to “pass across” [passer au travers] those tremendous undertakings of “demolition” which together ran through [traversé] the 20th century." [1]

It seems Quentin Meillassoux has decided we should begin by "returning to the surface of those either forgotten or neglected for a long time...", which offer an alternative to the great classical systems of Aristotle, Descartes or Hegel: "a metaphysics no longer of substance, of the subject, or of the closed system, but of the Open (Bergson), of the event (Whitehead), of singularity-in-becoming (Simondon), of possession (Tarde), of the work to be created [l'oeuvre à faire] (Souriau). Many more undertakings which demonstrate that metaphysics [“la” métaphysique] is not reducible to a determined collection of concepts which, once disqualified, take with them the whole of speculative thought." (ibid.)

He tells us that the  "difference [l'altérité] of metaphysics permits us to be comforted in our hope for its renewal, and that from the heart itself of those currents which contested it the most radically: Alain Badiou, thinking totally within the heritage of Lacan's anti-philosophy, takes up in depth the most radical requirements of Platonism in order to elaborate a system of the undecidable event and its weak multiplicities; Graham Harman, an American philosopher whose first work in French we are about to publish, successfully extracts from Heidegger himself a completely rethought metaphysics of the object" (ibid.).

Last there is the "rediscovery of an “other metaphysics” [autre métaphysique] (according to the expression of Pierre Montebello) is accompanied by the discovery of a metaphysics of the other [métaphysique de l'autre]—that is to say, of “non-Western” peoples. In Métaphysique cannibales, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro establishes that the Amerindians developed a metaphysics of original predation, a “multinaturalist perspectivism” that philosophy—in particular that of Deleuze and Guattari—can help us to tackle and understand. Viveiros can then cite, to support his point, a postface of Lévi-Strauss to a volume of L'Homme, dating from 2000, which treats of this “metaphysics of original predation” and reveals to us the gripping evolution of the author of Mythologiques vis-à-vis philosophy: “...whether one rejoices or worries, philosophy once again occupies center stage. No longer our philosophy, of which my generation had asked foreign [exotiques] peoples for help to dismantle [défaire]; but rather, by a striking turn, theirs.” (ibid.)

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"We thus glimpse if all-too-briefly, the outlines of a philosophy emancipated from the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and endeavouring, in this very recommencement, to maintain the double exigency inherent to the classical form of rationalism: the ontology of that which is given to experience, and the critique of representation."
      - Quentin Meillassoux

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