Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Robert Jackson of the blog Algorithm and Contingency responds to someof my recent posts

Robert Jackson of the blog Algorithm and Contingency responds to some of my recent posts concerning "speculative realism," HERE.  Congratulations to him on the birth of his child, by the way (if I am reading his post correctly).

A few things.  It seems that Robert might be overstating my claims.  I don't presume to be hitting the final nail of "Truth" into the coffin.  And I don't presume any grand "reveal," that once revealed, all "practitioners" (?) should acknowledge some momentous change.  (I am not even sure what that means.)  I'm certainly not "touting" anything either.  And finally, my goal is not to "persuade" anyone (Harman the least of all).  I merely expressed my opinion about a rumor that there has been a change in a spirit of philosophy that has been since co-opted and politicized for the worse.  That opinion and sentiment was echoed in a postscript that I read, and insofar as I am concerned, coming from that source as well as others in that same community, it was the "last word."  As in, there is nothing more to say because for me the postscript said all that could be said about it.  I am not sure if I could be any clearer in that.

I am not alone in my opinion or sentiment as Jackson acknowledges when he mentions others who state that speculative realism was "dead on arrival," that it is the "dead elephant in the room," or that in retrospect we now are performing its "autopsy."  I never questioned the legitimacy of "what could have been" - in fact, at the end of one of my posts I state in agreement with others that that spirit ought to live forever: the spirit of speculative inquiry concerning reality in a manner of open engagement and mutual dialogue, especially as that spirit was found in a burgeoning community of philosophers interested in Continental metaphysics, realism, and materialism organized under the conference title of "Speculative Realism."  That is what is "dead."  Again, I am not sure why that isn't clear or how much clearer I can be.  Hence why I distinguish between an original "spirit" of "speculative realism" (the retrieval of speculative metaphysics in the Continental tradition) and its current manifestation of Speculative ®ealism™.  That was my whole point.

The trademark (Jackson misses that in his citing of me) is meant to indicate that there has been in-group and out-groups established within an online community and that that community, especially in its practice, has had pernicious effects on real people and real careers due to intentional exclusionism.  This is not the productive tension he mentions in his post, at least so far as I can gather.  I am not sure what Robert means by a "legacy" of speculative realism, other than only one philosopher of four claiming that label for himself (and this was mentioned in Brassier's postscript).  There is no "rejected relic of yesteryear."  Afterall, what specifically or who specificially would constitute such a relic?  I do acknowledge that there is such a thing as Speculative ®ealism™ today and that alot of folks are buying what its propagators are selling.  But none of the original conference participants (save one) would self-identify with such a label.  Insofar as I am aware - from my most recent correspondence with him - this is something that Meillassoux will address in the future (hopefully).  I have already read and commented upon Brassier's response to the "label," "movement," "existence," or "brand" question as it is addressed in the postscript.

I do not find my position to be "extreme" or "aggressive."  Again, I re-stated and offered as my opinion what I found in a postscript.  Take it or leave it.  I am not interested for whom "speculative realism" is dead.  Is it dead for me?  Is it dead for you?  Who is it dead for?  Who is it alive for?  I think I stated quite clearly that I have no reason to relish or indulge in such a death - if it wasn't dead already as some claim.  I am not blaring some trumpet with some form of grand news that most don't already know.  I am pointing out signs of the times.

Finally, while I do from time to time enjoy a good bit of snark and myself perpetrate it occasionally, I am especially careful not to direct it to the person or to anyone by name.  Thus I am perplexed by Robert's own "aggressive" reaction to my thought as he posted his responses about me on his Twitter account (links that my "friend" Tom Sparrow has so graciously re-Tweeted, and I've known Tom since we were undergraduates together).  I've made it clear that Jackson has never interacted with me before and does not know me personally, at all.  Yet he felt obligated to launch arrows.  He made presumptions about my claims and in his blog post (to some degree) misinterpreted my claims or at the very least exaggerated them.  Snarking to someone (and further coming borderline to snarking them again on one's blog) in my opinion does warrant one asking themselves why they are doing that to someone they don't even know.  But that aside...

I knew that Robert is an editor along with others of the journal Speculations.  It didn't even occur to me that he would have a vested interest in defending speculative realism's life because so.  However I think he is pointing to a paradox that applies to me, as it does to Wolfendale.  If it is "dead" then why write about it?  This, too, in my posts, I address several times.  So I won't repeat myself here.  Perhaps that is a productive tension.  I am not sure.  Although - I do wonder how Robert's engagements with folks on Twitter - if those engagements are in the same manner of politeness or lack thereof that they were with me - would affect his own professional judgment in his capacity as an editor.  What about in the future after he has a Ph.D.?  In my other posts I address how that plays out elsewhere with other folks (as in the editor of the "Speculative Realism" category of PhilPapers downright refusing to list my peer-reviewed and published journal articles on the subject, thus blackballing me, intentionally - which is wrong and that person knows its wrong). Such contributes to Speculative ®ealism™, not "what was" of that original spirit found in "speculative realism."

This I think Robert has right:
I’d like to suggest that as a movement SR was probably toodivergent to continue as a movement. But dead altogether? Not in the slightest,and here’s why. That divergence has slowly emerged as a deep hostility betweentwo very deep and important philosophical-historical positions. This is why thecalls to question how one might self-identify oneself as a proponent of SR ornot, holds little sway to the notion that SR is dead: largely as I think SR isconstitutive of a split so encompassing, and only brought to light because ofSR, that no-one can ignore it... 
What I might be saying here then, is that SR wasn’t so mucha movement of disparate voices returning to metaphysics, realism andmaterialism, than the beginning of a renewed split in those domains: Here, oneside takes realism/materialism to be reducible to authentic epistemologicalvehicles of science and mathematics whilst the other side does not: refuting inturn, that the real/material can be known by reason, and that reality iscomposed of other skeptical-based entities that possess, and are defined by thesame limitations.
A renewed split in the domain of realist and materialist metaphysics.  That's it.  That domain - and I would largely repitch that split as consisting of both a Kantian trajectory and a Hegelian one - has been renewed in contemporary philosophy.  Thus contemporary Continental metaphysics has gone back to decide again whether to dismantle and then reinstall a modified correlationism of Kant or a modified correlationism of Hegel, or better, engage either Kant or Hegel in their correlationism and then follow the path out from there.  With that reconstruction correlationism is "reinstalled" with new philosophical effects.

If blog exchanges (or Twitter comments) can be civil this is the sort engendering dialogue that I actually enjoy.  If Robert's (or others') response to me is not civil then I see no interest in making further comment.  I've watched Robert interact with Terry Blake on Twitter and I am not interested in those sorts of exchanges.  On the other hand if things are civil and productive then that's a different story.