Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Meillassoux and process theism

To create and destroy even becoming ...

Over the past few days I have been re-reading some texts in metaphysical theology by Quentin Meillassoux, especially his essay "Immanence of the World Beyond" and his dissertation The Divine Inexistence. I have come to the conclusion that Meillassoux's God has process -relational features as much as it does, ontologically and epistemologically, features similar to the God presented by both Caputo and Kearney. Similarly, these features are also found in German idealism, especially in Schelling and Hegel.  In this post I just want to jot down what I take to be the process-relational features of Meillassoux's God.  I can approach Caputo's and Kearney's process thought at another time.

In terms of the radical contingency behind Meillassoux's God, I am first struck by how it reminds me in some very qualified but important respects of Whitehead's and Hartshorne's process God.  I say this because while Meillassoux's God in total does not exist but someday *may*, it is his Hyperchaotic ground which seems to encompass many of the aspects of the di-polar process God's contingent or virtual pole as a sort of transcendental condition or "ground."  And while there certainly is a difference in how power is conceived (Meillassoux's version is an unbridled power and utterly absolute, independent; the process philosopher's power is relative and non-coercive), it is the ontological scheme of how that power forms a sort of transcendental creative condition  which makes me think of process thought.  This transcendental ground (the Hyper-chaos, and also the virtual) is also quite similar to what some of the German idealists were doing, especially Schelling with the "unruly ground" and the divine "Potenzen" (this even despite Meillassoux posing being and becoming against each other in correlationism: Schelling and Hegel are important influences for him as he has already admitted in interviews).  Add emphasis on the process by which the virtual real spontaneously creates, and again, thinking about Meillassoux's God in process terms seems to make more sense.  The concepts of creativity and novelty both arise from the pole of Meillassouxian contingency. And so Meillassoux and process thought seem to fit together, but so far only on one hobbling leg of contingency.

One must keep in mind the places in Meillassoux's philosophy where the actual pole seems to take on a crucial function, most particularly the arche-fossil, for example.  Here one may consider the arche-fossil, ancestrality, as the "objective immortality of the past" and the other side of Whiteheadian or process di-polarity.  This is readily provided by the actuality of the "great outdoors" and the individuated reals which communicate their mathematizable properties.  These artifacts do not require the human, but nevertheless propel inquirers along into future worlds (whether of matter, life, thought or justice).  Further, science and empirical thought are the guiding lights to consider these "preserved" actual occasions in their immortal temporal tomb.  Reason and mathematics, prized lights of Whitehead as well, offer their own services in discerning the material real as empirical condition.  And so here we have the other leg of di-polarity: the actual. 

What reinforces these two pieces of Meillassouxian "process" thought?  Answer: the virtual God.  Meillassoux is thus close enough to a process theologian who seems to be emphasizing the virtual or contingent pole and its power for ethical, and religious, redemption, alebit more than likely unbeknownst to him.  Why?  

Although a specific deity does not "exist" (yet) in Meillassoux's ontology, the divine inexistence nevertheless possesses a role of truly divine power warranting the name "God" (that non-deity whose power is involved with the creation of time itself). This virtual force whose function is divine and God-like - something whose appearance is to be hoped for so that s Fourth World of Justice may be come to pass - arises from within a necessary contingency and is thus is entirely "possible" even though it is beyond ontological possibility itself (it is virtual).  Give that, such a power truly must be a divine inexistence.

This virtual entity is able to embrace both poles of the divine life found in process theisms of whatever variety (Whitehead or Hartshorne).  

To conclude: the nature and importance of a necessary contingent ground (which equals a sort of divine or ultimate freedom), the place of empirical thought vis-a-vis the divine and speculation about it (pace Whitehead), and the hope for justice through the coming to be of a virtual God (pace Caputo, Kearney), one seems to find a being "to be" freed from its virtual prison as a sort of ontological being in process of adventing itself before the world. This being seems to have a distinct ontological integrity all of its own.  

If the Meillassouxian Hyper-chaos can destroy even becoming, in *its* own power, then I ask how why not regard such a ground as divine, as Godhead birthing a process or coming to be God? Regarding the real possible as ground for creative addition, an addition and power that is even "beyond" becoming is still included within the divine life as an aspect of the di-polar God (Whitehead himself speaks this way by making creativity the ultimate category of nature) ...  [I have Peircean Firstness, the "can-be" possible, in mind here as well].
This hyper-chaotic time is able to create and destroy even becoming, producing without reason fixity or movement, repetition or creation. That’s why I think that ultimately the matter of philosophy is not being or becoming, representation or reality, but a very special possibility, which is not a formal possible, but a real and dense possible, which I call the “peut-être”- the ‘may-be’.   
- Q. Meillassoux (Time without Becoming)