Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ray Brassier & Roy Bhaskar

Ray Brassier is a member of the Philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He was formerly Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, England. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction and the translator of Alain Badiou's Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism and Theoretical Writings and Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. He first attained prominence as a leading authority on the works of François Laruelle. Brassier is of mixed French-Scottish ancestry, and his family name is pronounced in the French manner.

Along with Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and Iain Hamilton Grant, Brassier is one of the foremost philosophers of contemporary Speculative Realism interested in providing a robust defense of philosophical realism in the wake of the challenges posed to it by post-Kantian critical idealism, phenomenology, post-modernism, deconstruction, or, more broadly speaking, "correlationism". Brassier is generally credited with coining the term "speculative realism," though Meillassoux had earlier used the phrase "speculative materialism" (matérialisme spéculatif) to refer to his own position.

Brassier is strongly critical of much of contemporary philosophy for what he regards as its attempt "to stave off the 'threat' of nihilism by safeguarding the experience of meaning — characterized as the defining feature of human existence — from the Enlightenment logic of disenchantment". According to Brassier, this tendency is exemplified above all by philosophers strongly influenced by Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Unlike more mainstream philosophers such as John McDowell, who would press philosophy into service in an attempt to bring about a "re-enchantment of the world", Brassier's work aims to "push nihilism to its ultimate conclusion".

According to Brassier, "the disenchantment of the world understood as a consequence of the process whereby the Enlightenment shattered the 'great chain of being' and defaced the 'book of the world' is a necessary consequence of the coruscating potency of reason, and hence an invigorating vector of intellectual discovery, rather than a calamitous diminishment"[3]. "Philosophy", exhorts Brassier, "would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity."[4]

Brassier's work is unique for the way in which it attempts to fuse elements of post-war French philosophy with ideas arising from the (largely Anglo-American) traditions of philosophical naturalism, cognitive science, and neurophilosophy. Thus, along with French philosophers such as François Laruelle, Alain Badiou, and Quentin Meillassoux, he is also heavily influenced by the likes of Paul Churchland, Thomas Metzinger and Stephen Jay Gould. He also draws heavily, albeit often negatively, on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

On the Ontological Principle from Grundlegung by Tom

I take the Hegemonic Fallacy to be Levi’s main target. This is significant because it not only sets him against correlationism but also against the speculative realisms of people like Ray Brassier. Brassier embraces eliminativist lines of thought and would doubtless not shrink from the charge of scientism. Here, materialism would seem to introduce matter as ‘one difference that makes all the difference.’ In contrast, Levi is keen not to debunk the human and his ontology is oriented to be open ended and inquiry led: if it is found to make a difference, then it is real — whether it be Oedipus, evil, Edith Piath or an electron. This is captured in the Ontological Principle which results from the Ontic Principle: “Being is said in a single and same sense for all that is.” Indeed, this is all that Levi thinks can be said about being qua being; thus, ontology must be pursued on the ontic level, dealing with beings themselves.


Roy Bhaskar (born May 15, 1944) is a British philosopher, best known as a significant proponent of the philosophical movement of Critical Realism...

Critical realism
Bhaskar's consideration of the philosophies of science and social science resulted in the development of Critical Realism, a philosophical approach that defends the critical and emancipatory potential of rational (scientific and philosophical) enquiry against both positivist, broadly defined, and 'postmodern' challenges. Its approach emphasises the importance of distinguishing between epistemological and ontological questions and the significance of objectivity properly understood for a critical project. Its conception of philosophy and social science is a socially situated, but not socially determined one, which maintains the possibility for objective critique to motivate social change, with the ultimate end being a promotion of human freedom...

In 2000, Bhaskar published From East to West: The Odyssey of a Soul, in which he first expressed ideas related to spiritual values that came to be seen as the beginning of his so-called 'spiritual' turn, which led to the final phase of CR dubbed 'Transcendental Dialectical Critical Realism'. This publication and the ones that followed it were highly controversial and led to something of a split among Bhaskar's proponents. Whilst some respected Critical Realists cautiously supported Bhaskar's 'spiritual turn', others took the view that the development had compromised the status of CR as a serious philosophical movement.
In his Reflections on Meta-Reality, he states:
This book articulates the difference between critical realism in its development and a new philosophical standpoint which I am in the process of developing, which I have called the philosophy of Meta-Reality.
The main departure, it seems, is an emphasis on the shift away from Western dualism to a non-dual model in which emancipation entails "a breakdown, an overcoming, of the duality and separateness between things." However, this move was seen by some to undermine some of early Critical Realisms strongest aspects.

Whilst his early books were 'models of clarity and rigour', Bhaskar has been criticized for the "truly appalling style" (Alex Callinicos, 1994) in which his 'dialectical' works are written. Andrew Sullivan mocks him for writing sentences such as:

"Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucaultian strategic reversal - of the unholy trinity of Parmenidean/Platonic/Aristotelean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and its close ally, the epistemic fallacy with its ontic dual; of the analytic problematic laid down by Plato, which Hegel served only to replicate in his actualist monovalent analytic reinstatement in transfigurative reconciling dialectical connection, while in his hubristic claims for absolute idealism he inaugurated the Comtean, Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean eclipses of reason, replicating the fundament of positivism through its transmutation route to the super-idealism of a Baudrillard."

More serious criticisms have been levelled at the substance of Bhaskar's arguments at various points. One objection to Bhaskar's early CR is that it begs the question, assuming, rather than proving, the existence of the intransitive domain. Another objection, raised by Callinicos and others, is that Bhaskar's so-called 'transcendental arguments' are not really any such thing. They are certainly not typical transcendental arguments as philosophers such as Charles Taylor have defined them, the distinguishing feature of which is the identification of some putative condition on the possibility of experience. However his arguments function in an analogous way since they try to argue that scientific practice would be unintelligible and/or inexplicable in the absence of the ontological features he identifies.

More serious criticism has been levelled at the dialectical phase of his philosophy, which it has been alleged proves too much, since CR was already dialectical. Bhaskar's concept of real absence has been questioned by, among others, Andrew Collier, who points out that it in fact fails to distinguish properly between real and nominal absences (in "On Real and Nominal Absences", in After Postmodernism, 2001). Bhaskar's most recent 'spiritual' phase has been criticised by many, perhaps most, adherents of early CR for departing from the fundamental positions which made Critical Realism important and interesting, without providing philosophical support for his new ideas. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Object-ions ...I think Roy Bhaskar’s transcendental realism as developed in A Realist Theory of Science provides the resources for moving from the domain of epistemology to ontology. First, Bhaskar argues that the treatment of being according to the requirements of knowledge, or the reduction of being to knowledge of being, constitutes a fallacy that he refer... from Larval Subjects . - Jan 14, 2009 12:55 AM

Correlationism ...following Roy Bhaskar and his early transcendental realism, I think correlationism is guilty of the epistemic fallacy. That is, correlationism is guilty of collapsing ontological questions into epistemic questions, or of working from the premise that ontological questions can be completely reduced to epistemic questions. Because of this, corre... from Larval Subjects . - Jan 23, 2009 3:23 AM

Principles of Onticology ...From Roy Bhaskar’s Realist Theory of Science. Hegemonic Fallacy- The reduction of difference to one difference that makes all the difference or one difference that makes the most important difference. This fallacy arises from failing to observe Latour’s Principle and the Principle of Irreduction, thereby ignoring the singularities of the assemb... from Larval Subjects . - Feb 3, 2009 9:01 AM

Roy Bhaskar: Transcendental Realism and the Transitive and the Intransitive ...been reading Roy Bhaskar’s remarkable Realist Theory of Science over the last couple of weeks. I am still trying to fully understand Bhaskar’s position and arguments, so if I misconstrue it in what follows I would greatly appreciate the input and clarification of those more familiar with his work. Bhaskar attempts to develop a position he refe... from Larval Subjects . - Feb 3, 2009 2:57 AM

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