Thursday, March 28, 2013

Brassier "Nominalism, Naturalism, and Materialism" (MP3)

Ray Brassier (AUB) presents "Nominalism, Naturalism, and Materialism" from the Philosophy of Nature and Naturalism SeriesUniversity of West England, Bristol UK - February 2013.  (MP3 HERE)

Some thoughts:

A minor but revealing part of the talk is that Brassier divulges how his interest, through Sellars, is in process and not objects (around 22:00 minute).   This is a direct consequence of rejecting the myth of the given. 

“The category of objects must be dispensed with” (48:00). 

More important though is Brassier’s emphasis on the indispensability of the manifest image as a “cognitive achievement” within Sellarsian metaphysics – it is what gives one leverage so as to enter the physical order. 

Practices anchor one to an extraconceptual order, so this is why the rejection of the myth of the given does not lead one to suppose that reality is just a linguistic construct (traditional nominalism) but rather to suppose that language (as a practice) is embedded in non-linguistic reality.  This is Sellars’ pragmatism and what places Brassier in a unique way next to Hegel.

“Naturalism and materialism are not equivalent.”  Brassier's naturalism is capacious.  Processes, though without meaning, are robust.

 Linguistic function is rooted in inorganic as well as organic function.  Function is distinct from meaning.  “Names are part of the natural order but only insofar as they are meaningless.”  Emphasis is on the sensate and insensate function which establishes propositional form.

Function (activity or practice) is where the conceptual order and real order interlock.

Overall impressions:

Brassier moves ever more close to two traditions with which I am familiar and endorse: pragmatism and philosophical naturalism.

Insofar as he emphasizes function and process he also moves tangentially to Iain Grant. 

I am curious to see if Brassier would take up the theme of natural semiotics.