Thursday, December 26, 2013

The timeless in Harman and Meillassoux

I'm putting the following in the real/false reason thread, even though it's a criticism of the speculative realists Harman and Meillassoux, because they also commit that same sort of realist fallacies inherent to the mathematical model of complexity. That is, the notion of some sort of Platonic and/or Aristotelian eternal or categorial essences outside time in an eternal presence. Note that Bryant is not guilty of this, as noted elsewhere, per his essay "Time of the object." I also referred to this elsewhere as the difference between shentong and rantong Buddhism, noting how Harman and even Morton are shentong in this regard (like here and following).

From “Post-deconstructive realism” by Peter Gratton in Speculations IV,2013, 84-90:

“Derrida’s argument is [..] that in Western metaphysics, time and again, there is a na├»ve assertion of some X transcending the play of differences, something not given over to the vagaries of time, an eternal essence beyond historicity” (85).

“For Harman, Derrida cannot be a realist since he denies the principle of identity, which is a strange, if all-too-well known, a priori investigation of things as they are—a presumption of identity that is then circled back to. But that reverses it: Derrida’s 'realism' precisely relates to his demonstration of difference as that which, over time, makes any self-identity impossible in the first place” (86).


“Harman’s work must deny the reality of time in order to make his own claims for a certain realism—a problem that only serves to highlight the import of a certain form of deconstruction today, that is, a thinking of the meaning of the day and the future to come tomorrow. We are getting a repetition of what happened earlier in analytic philosophy, where Derrida was deemed to be the worst of the anti-realists, yet what was crucially ignored was precisely the ways in which his rethinking of time would upend any notions of anti-realism, since, as he noted, there is no writing of the concept without the difference and deferral of time, a time that is real, even as it marks texts. The speculative realists thus far don’t heed this lesson, finding the real in the set theory of Meillassoux or the 'hidden objects' 'forever in the present,' as Harman puts it about his own object oriented ontology” (87).

“But the upshot is that if one wants to look to where a discourse begins to unwork itself, to unwarrantedly abstract a Platonic point outside the play of contingencies it itself announces [...] then one could do no better than looking to its thinking of time, and especially to Meillassoux’s hope for a future 'World' of justice beyond the vicissitudes of mortality. (87)

“We come to Harman’s conception of time. For, if time is but the sensuous, as Harman and Platonism before him held it, then it cannot touch the reality of the thing itself, as Harman himself notes there is no correspondence between the thing itself and its sensuous objecthood and/or qualities. Time would be, in the strictest sense for him, 'illusory:' […] This is axiomatic for Harman’s metaphysics: there is no time and the object is forever in the present. (89)

“What Meillassoux doesn’t yet describe is this: the physical world is not a set as in set theory, which are unchanging (and thus sets). But the physical world has things that come and go; such is the stuff that makes history and the world go round. […] One can’t just, as in Badiou, leap from order of ontology (set theory) to the order of appearing (stable), and expect that true existence is simply the Set of all sets in the mathematical meaning of the term. More than this, it assumes that the world is reducible to points (the base units of set theory), and thus also abstract points qua now. This falls victim to Whitehead’s fallacy of misplaced concreteness, while also failing to amount to a robust mathematical theory of the cosmos. While Badiou has attempted to correct this in Logic of Worlds with the use of category theory, he still seemingly fails to account for the dynamics of reality in the way that Zalamea’s use of sheaf logic does. It is thus ironic that Derrida’s first published text—which attempted to hash out the importance of the relation between the transcendent/immanent in Husserl’s Origin of Geometry, that is, how does mathematics remain iterable but also written into history?—wrestles with just the questions that befuddle the mathematics of a later generation who think they can trump him with their use of a Platonist set theory. After all, what is this eternal set theory forever creating the world if not an updated version of the interlocking triangles in the Platonic receptacle in the Timaeus out of which the realm of becoming appears?” (88).

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