Badiou on Speculative Realism

Badiou was kind enough to have 30min one-on-one sessions with students who requested them. I decided to conduct a short interview of sorts following from his celebratory comments regarding Speculative Realism and some of the themes presented in the course thus far which has centered on the theme of negation.

Q: In class the other day you positively mentioned what you called the new Speculative Philosophy. How do you see your work in relation to the work of the Speculative Realists (Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman). Meillassoux sees himself as a materialist and not a realist, is this distinction pivotal for the future of metaphysics and affirmation as you see it?

A: The work of Speculative Realists, from the beginning is very interesting for me, and they refer to me sometimes too. The rupture with the idealist tradition in the field of philosophic study is of great necessity today. We return to the question of realism and materialism later. Its a very complex question.  The Speculative Realist position is the position where the point of departure of philosophy is not the relationship between the subject and object or the subject and the world and so on or what Quentin Meillassoux names correlationism. I have known Quentin Meillassoux for a long time I was in his doctoral dissertation and so on and from the very beginning Ive thought this description of correlationism and the critique of correlationism is a very important point. Its not the classical distinction between realism and materialism like in the Marxist tradition like with Althusser and so on. It was something else. It is very interesting to see that the point of departure of Meillassoux is finally the relationship between Hume and Kant. The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is practically that all philosophical tradition is in the space of Kant, the sense that correlationism is the only clear answer to the question of Hume. The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is that there is another possibility. We are not committed to the choice between Kant and Hume.

My project is different in that it investigates different forms of knowing and action outside empirical and transcendental norms. My vision, however, is also that we must escape two correlationisms and it is a question of the destiny of philosophy itself. In the last century we had two ends of philosophy the analytic (focusing on logic, sense and science) as a kind of new positivism. The other end was phenomenological with Heidegger. There is a strange alliance between the two in France particularly in terms of religious phenomenology (Marion, Ricour, Henry) and cognitivist analytics. They join together against French Philosophy since, as they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Against this the fundamental affirmation of SR is an ambitious point of view, a new possibility for philosophy. A new vision. Philosophy can continue. In this sense I am happy that it is not merely a continuation of classical metaphysics nor an end of it. In this sense I am in agreement with the word realism. We are beyond the end of metaphysics and classical metaphysics with the term realism. The question of realism as opposed to materialism is not a crucial question today. What is important is that it is not correlationist or idealist. It is a new space for philosophy, one with many internal differences but this is a positive symptom.

Q: In class you also spoke of Time and the importance of a present that is not solely determined by the future. Does the speculative dimension of Speculative Realism not act on a certain futurity, does speculative thinking some how negate or at least avoid the present, the possibility of a present of a real present, a true life?

A: This is an important question. My answer will be an improvisation and not a meditation. There is a detachment from the present in SR, a kind of stoicism of the present. There is no clear presentation or vision of the present. This is very different from me. There is no theory of the event in SR. They need a vision of the becoming of the world which is lacking but it can be realist in a sense but as of yet they do not say what we need to do. For Meillassoux the future decides, the future and perhaps the dead will make the final judgment. This is a political weakness. The question is how is the Real of the present deployed for the future?

Q: Do you see any use in Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy? Does his concept of the Real (as undecidable) not have some worth?

A: I have difficulty in understanding Laruelle [laughs] especially regarding the question of the Real. The strength of philosophy is its decisions in regards to the Real. In a sense Laruelle is too much like Heidegger, in critiquing a kind great forgetting, of what is lost in the grasp of decision, what Heidegger called thinking. Beyond this, and not to judge a thinker only by his earliest work, his most recent work has a religious dimension. When you say something is purely in the historical existence of philosophy the proposition is a failure. It becomes religious. There is a logical constraint when you say we most go beyond philosophy. This is why, in the end, Heidegger said only a god can save us.

Ultimately, I do not see an opposition between being qua being (as multiplicity) and the Real, not at all. The Real can be decided except for the event which is always in relation to a particular world.

16 thoughts on “Badiou on Speculative Realism

  1. Pingback: Badiou on S.R. « Object-Oriented Philosophy

  2. Pingback: Badiou on not understanding Laruelle. « An und für sich

    • I suppose that AB makes a good point, especially in so far as my own impression of resistance to philosophy (as philosopher resisting the insisting agressive thinking which is not time or the concept, nor the non-conceptual side of the coin) comes to thinking about a formulation from Nancy where religion and philosophy form the ‘wings’ of the STATE.

      Analogously, we recall Schimdt’s formulation of ‘Movement’ State and People.

      So at least this clarifies the paranoetic who is religious routine, vs who has the or a concept of belief.

      Belief and Desire, this doublet, seems to be implicated here as the social glue (rorty) or as the collage of the history of philosophy (deleuze)

      interestingly now we cut and paste our way towards an experience of speculation first, which turns Hegel on his feet ( although it is said that he may not have had any feet, like those ancient carved figures from Africa or some origin. )

      On feet: footnote: recall Uncle Fritz’s words, prophetic and in a medicinal warning kind of way: ‘ Beware rider of the horse, man, woman, humanimal, as hero, in any event, as you step off and touch foot to curb’

      That is a false quote, but it paraglosses one we find in Nietzsche.

      And then, lest we forget, Blancot on stepping off the curb and the pas….meta pas.

      All of this of course ties back into the Holderlin inversion of Greek and German: Apollo over Dionysus to Dionysus over Apollo.

      Chaos working.

      Ben, this is an excellent site. Continue. Say Continue.

    • Yeah, it was a bit strange but I think his point was that he saw religiousity as a kind of structural problem in Laruelle whereas he adapts it in forms of subject positions in relation to action (fidelity) and knowledge (of the truth event etc). But the fact that he did not seem irked by Meillassoux’s possible god to come was strange though he did have political issues with it.

      • I get that, but I just don’t get why he would think that. Nor am I convinced that there is a difference between a religious structure and “subject positions”. If I remember right, that was Zizek’s point in The Ticklish subject.

  3. Pingback: Badiou on Speculative Realism « Philosophy in a Time of Error

  4. Thanks for this Ben. Interesting stuff here, though I wonder how well read Badiou actually is in SR since it seems that he only really mentions Meillassoux here specifically. Any idea how familiar he is in regards to others in the group?

    • I know he is very familiar with Brassier’s work as well as Meillassouxs – he knows of Iain and Graham but I didnt discover to what degree.

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  6. He’s read at least part of Tool-Being, and I’m told he liked it. I don’t know him personally and never met him. Same for Grant, I think.

    He knows Meillassoux extremely well, and also knows Brassier personally.

  7. Ben, this is really nice… I can hear Badiou’s voice in your writing. nice to see you in saas fee last week. i am interested to hear what you thought of the class we had with Ronell’s in light of your SR work. take care, nikki

  8. Pingback: Badiou on Speculative Realism at EGS « Larval Subjects .

  9. Hi, It seems to me that a whole era of philosophy is emerging from a rigid and not wholly legitimate distinction, between “correlativism” and realism. All I need do is come up with one thesis that is both realist and whose statements are true in virtue of what obtains of the statements themselves, rather than any stronger metaphysical claim as to the nature of the things they pickout (and, with one further priviso: that the statements are , in turn, posited as functional and intersubjective, with no corrosponding inner mental episodes), – if such a theory is advanced and found to be durable (there are many candidate examples) then an SR critique is not going to touch on them, which is to say, SR could be said to be operating from a rather false dilemma. Is this an empending danger for the project, Ben?

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