Six Propositions

Proposition 1: The apolitical nature of ontology, as the discourse on being, is a norm – one that is met in some instances, though not in others.

Proposition 2: Viewing reality through a telescope, does not make that reality telescopic. Viewing reality through a political lens, does not make that reality political.

Proposition 3: Correlationists can consistently equate politics with ontology. Realists can not.

Proposition 4: If your definition of politics entails that two galaxies colliding is a political event, your definition is not meaningful or useful for politics.

Proposition 5: A meaningful definition of politics must exclude some aspects of reality. This is only a necessarily political gesture if you think only humans cut up the world.

Proposition 6: Politics as a ‘human-centered’ realm does not mean politics is a ‘human-only’ realm.

78 thoughts on “Six Propositions

  1. ‘The fact that every object is constituted as an object of discourse has nothing to do with whether there is a world external to thought, or with the realism/idealism opposition. An earthquake…is an event that certainly exists, in the sense that it occurs…independently of my will. But whether their specificity as objects is constructed in terms of a “natural phenomena” or “expressions of the wrath of God”, depends upon the structuring of a discursive field. What is denied is not that such objects exist externally to thought, but the rather different assertion that they could constitute themselves as objects outside any discursive condition of emergence’

    Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, p108

    • MLA, I take it that this is what Meillassoux would call a weak correlationism – they admit something exists independently of discourse or thought, but then refuse to grant it any determinations except as an object of discourse. It’s Kant’s empty noumenal all over again, which I’d argue isn’t a realism, but a subtle form of idealism (despite Laclau and Mouffe’s protests to the contrary).

      Realism doesn’t deny that the mind or language structures the object’s appearance in some way – it just denies that this is the whole story. There are real determinations, independent and outside of the human life world, and these, I claim, are necessary apolitical.

  2. This is great, Nick, I’ve always appreciated your concise and brave manner of putting things – I disagree, of course, but I think I’m genuinely intrigued by the possibility of a good old fashioned philosophical debate on the issues – pass me a beer, will ya?

    I hope to find time to respond later today. Cheers!

    • Thanks Mikhail, though the conciseness this time is actually in large part because I’m too busy to write out a longer post. But I really do hope to spark a serious debate on these issues, and I will try to partake as much as possible. I fully admit, I do have some nostalgia for the pre-realism wars time when all of our blogs were just interested in openly examining topics that fascinated us. And if you could order a beer through Paypal, I’d take you up on the offer of some debate over mutual beers!

  3. Hey Nick,

    I’ve been following these debates about politics and ontology from arm’s length for a little bit now, and I couldn’t resist commenting. For what it’s worth, I agree with your basic thesis: ‘ontology’ and ‘politics’ need not be coextensive terms. Our basic agreement, however, is immediately complicated by the ambiguity of both notions — that, and the fact that there are always regional ontologies like Lukacs’ social ontology, Schmitt’s political ontology, etc, which may or may not be reducible to a substantive (rather than merely formal) ontology. To make matters worse (and this has come up before, I think, I just can’t find it at the moment), the very idea of politics remains undeveloped. In point of fact, the minute one aims to distinguish politics from political ontology (or simply, ‘The Political’), one also commits oneself to some procedural (someone in another thread made this point viz. a parliamentary form of politics) conception of politics. I think most of Mikhail’s objections, for instance, stem from an implicit political ontology (the relations through which a polis arises) which doesn’t quite map onto a procedural account of political action.

    So, to reformulate: unless one is willing to introduce some form of ontological stratification (e.g. a formal ontology and its regions), it’s not clear to me that the distinction between ontology and politics is tenable. More forcefully: if you are committed to a flat ontology, then you’re committed to an ontological reading of politics, since there’s no way to leverage political procedures out of an account of being.

    All this by way of a preamble, I suppose. What I would like to ask you is something along the following lines: First, could you explain the normative status involved in proposition 1? I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by the apolitical nature of ontological discourse is a norm. Second, do you think your propositions are consistent with one another? I can think of a number of scenarios in which two galaxies colliding becomes political (i.e. becomes a political issue, politicizes another issue –e.g. scientific funding — or creates a new political movement), and hence an accurate description of this political environment would entail that two galaxies colliding is a political event. Simply put, i don’t think we can rule it out of politics. Now, I take it that this line of thinking is precisely what’s being asserted in Proposition 5, and Proposition 6. But this seems to suggest that, propositions 5 and 6 entail the opposite of Proposition 4.

    Anyway, it’s just a thought. I’d be curious to hear what you think.

    • Alexei, good to see you around again. I think you raise exactly the right questions here. Once we move past the naive thesis that politics is everything, it becomes a question of actually asking ourselves, what is politics? Is there a regional ontology of the political, or is politics not an ontological thing at all? Is it a practice, a norm, something else? I’m not sure, but these questions are immensely more useful for politics and philosophy than the simplistic understanding of their relation.

      I’m not sure I follow why a flat ontology necessarily leads to an ontological account of politics though – perhaps you could say more on that?

      By the apolitical norm of ontological discourse, I meant something like the apolitical norm of science – it aims to give us knowledge about a reality independent of ourselves, but can get moored in ideological battles and political positions at times, which distort its knowledge. As for the ontological status of norms, how norms function and affect actors, that’s still something I’m working out.

      Agreed with your point about Proposition 4 – galaxies colliding could be a political event (maybe one of the galaxies is our own?). It would be more accurate to say that if your definition of politics makes galaxies colliding necessarily a political event, then it’s useless. I think the three variants of ontological politics I noted a few posts ago, would all fall into this problem. I can understand wanting to be cautious about not excluding properly political actions, but the alternative – to avoid making any distinctions – just seems like such a watered-down notion of politics that leaves it with absolutely no use for real politics.

      So, I’m in complete agreement with what I understand to be Anthony’s suggestion below – that these terms need to be made more dynamic. I’m making the very basic claim that not everything is political. But apolitical events, things, structures, etc. can become political, absolutely.

      • Seems everyone here is more or less on the same page. My one worry, however, is that the shift in focus — away from static categories to the dynamics of politicization — leads directly to some kind of Schmittian conception of the Political (i.e. a political ontology that rests upon a groundless intensity of agonistic groupings, and that remains resolutely irrational): in effect, it re-ontologizes recisely what we wanted to de-ontologize in the first place.

        Given the basic agreement (and I think Anthony is spot on by raising the issue of intensities of certain ‘political vantages’ and the mutual determination of political action and being; Although I would appreciate it if someone clued me in on what the ‘normative fallacy’ is), let me just clarify my claim that flat ontologies require an ontological reading of politics. At it’s most basic, the thought runs something like this: if you have a flat ontology, then there’s no distinction to be drawn between the ontic and the ontological. There’s no room to claim that something isn’t ontological. Since you can only have different registers of a univocal ‘Being’ everything that ‘exists’ (in whatever sense we feel like attributing to the term) is identical to that ontology. If there is something called politics, in other words, then it is simply a register of ontology, not something fundamentally different or distinct. To the extent that something is observable, or affects something, or can be coherently. I may be wrong about that, but it seems to follow from the basic idea of a flat ontology. At least I don’t see what exactly would preclude this.

        At any rate, I want to mention that political ontology need not be substantive (its one of the reasons I like the regional/formal ontology pairing: it simply identifies the semantics and commitments one must use and have in order to coherently talk about a given facet of experience or action. I don’t think we need anything stronger). So perhaps we’ve poorly staged out debate. Maybe what’s at issue is how strongly we want to read the word, ‘ontology’.

        • I’m not sure I see why it has to lead to a Schmittian ontologization of antagonism. In fact, one of my current projects is to show how empirically false this Schmittian idea is, and to dissolve any friend/enemy distinction into something less static and less organized. Though that’s a whole other debate!

          (I’m not quite sure what is meant by the normative fallacy either, so I’ll have to leave that up to someone else.)

          I see your point about a flat ontology, though it seems to me that it can only lead one to say that (to use Spinozian terms) the political might be an attribute of being, or even a series of modes of being, but not all of being. Which is to say that there are other modes of being, other attributes of being, which are apolitical. And my basic contention is just that being is not political through and through. Though I may just be confusing matters by trying to force the questions into Spinoza…

    • About the Normative fallacy: since Mikhail and I are the same person, I’m just going to reiterate what Mikhail said on that post of Levi’s: there’s no fallacy there. In fact, one of the registers of normative language is counterfactual, so I really don’t see what the problem is. I must be missing something.

      Nick — I’d be interested to see your attempt to knock Schmitt off of the agonistic bloc(k). So maybe you’re right about politicization not necessarily entailing a Schmittian political ontology. I’m quite limited when it comes to political philosophy, so perhaps my limitation is simply pronouncing itself. From what I can tell, though, every theory of politicization involves some theory of interest or self-identification that becomes a rallying point for like-minded folks (the concept of justice functions similarly — if you look at the work of people like Rainer Forst, or even Nancy Fraser, you’ll find a similar rationalized notion of political grouping, based on notions like harm and recognition). I take it that that’s the basis for the friend-enemy pairing too (it’s certainly an interesting theory of recognition). Schmitt just ontologizes it, rather than treating it according to rational choice theory (like Rawls does for instance), or as a normative or ethical ground of human interaction. More forcefully stated, I suppose, I don’t see friend and enemy as a stable pairing (battle lines shift, and friends can become enemies, depending on certain kinds of existential problematics that introduce differences where none existed before). Schmitt’s on the Concept of the Political simply articulates the preconditions of political motivation from the perspective of the generation of existential differences. But you’re right, Nick, that’s probably a different kind of conversation.

      All this said, I agree with your claim about the difference of politics and substantive ontology. I’ve tended to think that the facile equation of the two in some strains of philosophy is not particularly helpful (although, really, as Reid pointed out, the only person who might have actually said something like this is Badiou — but he has a formal ontology, not a substantive one). Of course, and unlike you, I don’t have the strong metaphysical commitments. And My concern is that it’s difficult for me to see how that actually meshes with your other ontological commitments. If ontology provides us with the principles and categories for making everything intelligible, and this universe of discourse purports to be necessary and unique (and maybe even promises to eliminate false discourses), then what sense is there in saying that politics and ontology are distinct? How could that possibly be the case? Why isn’t there an intertheoretic reduction to more basic elements (this is, I take it, Anodyne Lite’s point about greedy reductions)? I mean, really, if what you’re really interested in is independent of metaphysics, why care about metaphysics at all? But if you don’t care about metaphysics at all, then there’s a very different problem brewing.

      • We are the same person, it’s true – despite currently being in two different places (which can hopefully be shown by our IP addresses, just case someone’s not in on the joke), plus we have the same ontological status.

        I really lost the track of this wonderful exchange, mostly due to the weird nature of comment-reply sequences – I kinda wish we were back in the day when comments just followed one another and could be read as one long text. But since Alexei is here, I feel no need to actually comment.

        • Hey Lou, doesn’t my/our bi-location mean that we’re eligible for canonization? Saint Pervegalit has a nice ring to it….

        • What is this silliness? Lou, shame on you – you are confusing people. I would like to point out that I am my own person, not Alexei, and I have my own ontological status, thank you very much.

          I concur though about the comments following comments – I have no idea who is saying what and most importantly when. I’m not sure if I can catch up at this point.

        • If there’s any democracy among these objects, let us vote on Being one person in Tennessee. It will be much easier….

        • Mikhail, the comments are unfortunate time-line wise, though I think it works best when trying to follow a series of arguments, no? At least, I find it easiest to respond to them this way – and being a selfish bastard, that’s probably how they’ll stay :)

      • Alexei, I’ll send you a copy of my paper attacking Schmittian notions of the political when it’s done soon. That argument really forms only a very minor part of the paper (and one that will probably deserve to be fleshed out more in the future), but I’d be curious to get your thoughts on it.

        Ah, the question of my own relation between metaphysics and politics. That’s obviously a massive question I’m still struggling with, and in large part, posts like this are attempts to work through it. I think it’s possible to have some sort of intertheoretic reduction, though the accomplishment of such a program appears to be a long ways off. But there’s always the question of what gets left over from these reductions (a problem both in philosophy of science and in Latour), and whether they can completely subsume the reduced into the reduction. So I don’t know…

        I think my claim that ontology and politics are separate may be misleading – I like the formulation that they are not co-extensive better. In that sense, ontology may provide the basic coordinates for the intelligibility of reality, but ‘the political’ forms only an emergent portion of it, with its own conditions of regional intelligibility.

        As for myself, I’m interested in both metaphysical questions and political questions – and I’m increasingly convinced that the former has little (or nothing) to contribute to the latter. If we take an emergent perspective on politics, it can be said to have its own unique laws and relations, independent of any reductive base. So that provides a good argument, I think, for being willing to study politics without having to ground it in some general ontological base.

        • Yes, do send me the paper when it’s ready. I’d love to see what you have in mind.

          By and large, I don’t think there’s any real dispute between us (although that may mean that ontology is simply beside the point altogether — hooray for post-metaphysical thinking!). Perhaps it’s time to re-embrace a stratified set of regional ontologires. How else would you make sense of emergence?

        • Alexei: Just a small point, but one cannot make sense of emergence if one constrains oneself to regional ontologies alone, for the question of emergence/reduction precisely concerns how one relates the different regions. This is precisely where something like fundamental ontology, beyond mere regional ontology is important, because it tries to make explicit the conditions under which there can be anything like a relation between the different regions (or between entities across those regions), in virtue of trying to understand the unitary structure (the world, Being, or whatever) of which they are all a part.

          Put simply, if you want to think about emergence as such, or even regionality as such, then one needs more than regional ontology, but ontology proper. As I mentioned on Anodyne Lite’s blog though, none of this implies anything like a fundamental region to which all others may be reduced (e.g., physics), or upon which all others are dependent (e.g. the region of Dasein).

          As an additional comment, I think we might be going wrong in considering politics as having its own region at all. This isn’t to say that there isn’t something similar to the creation and refinement of fundamental concepts in political discourse that there is in scientific discourse, just that it might be unwise to understand this foundational discourse on political concepts as anything like a regional ontology.

        • Hi Deontologistics,

          Let me see if I understand your contention. If I understand you correctly, your point is roughly aristotelean: there’s always a hypokeimenon (sub-jectum) underwriting secondary substances (regions, ob-jecti, genera). Hence there’s always some condition for the possibility of specific regions that needs to be thought through. Is that right? It’s a fair point, I’m just not sure it entails that the sub-jectum needs to understood as ontological. For my part, I think the late Husserl got this point exactly right. subjectum = transcendental logic. At any rate I’m happy to stay there.

          Anyway, past this nitpicker of a point, I think we’re roughly agreed. If one has a robust sense of ‘ontology’ (i.e. strong than simply meaning the basic conceptual framework in virtue of which things are intelligible as things), then politics doesn’t need any ontology. The problem, to crib from Quine, is that to be is to be the value of a bound variable — to be subject to the parameters of a given conceptual framework. I just don’t get why anyone would want a stronger definition of ontology in the first place. Anything strong seems like a version of the chicken and egg problem (of Hegel’s ‘Force and Understanding’).

          Does that clarify?

        • That clears things up a bit. The point I would make is that thinkers like Husserl and Quine are simply explicating our formal understanding of entities (and Being), or what Heidegger would call the pre-ontological understanding of Being. Ontology proper is what attempt to provide content to this formal understanding.

          One might legitimately ask why one would want to do this, or whether it even makes sense, but I think this issue of the relation between different scientific domains gives us a good way of handling these questions.

          Although we can have a formal understanding of what constitutes a domain (not any particular domain, but domainhood in general), the entities within it and their relations, and even perhaps a formal understanding of what it would be for there to be a relation between different domains (and the entities within them), and furthermore a formal understanding of the totality which these various domains go to make up (through their relations to one another), we don’t thereby understand the structure of this totality, and the proper relations between domains which make it up.

          The concept of emergence is a case in point. There seems to be no good way of deriving a formal concept of emergence so as to understand how the entities of one domain emerge out of another (e.g., chemistry out of physics, or sociology out of biology). This isn’t to say that there aren’t scientific stories regarding how chemicals and their properties emerge out of physical phenomena, or how some sociological structures are dependent upon biological features of the humans that make them up, but rather that there isn’t a general picture of what constitutes a legitimate relation between two domains, or what emergence ‘is’ as such. Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen had a good crack at trying to develop such a general concept of emergence in The Collapse of Chaos (albeit by coining two different concepts: simplexity and complicity), but what they were doing was not merely a matter of explicating a formal understanding we already implicitly possess, but rather doing something like ontology proper (regardless of how well they understand what they were doing).

          Trying to develop a proper concept of how these different parts of the world are situated in relation to each other is part of trying to develop a proper understanding of the structure of the world as such. And I think we have to recognise that the world does have such a structure IN ITSELF, beyond any purely formal understanding we might have of it.

          As a final point, I don’t think politics constitutes a genuine domain of entities because I don’t think it is a genuinely objective discourse, i.e., it doesn’t properly deal with ‘what really is’ with regard to something, but with ‘what should be’. There is of course a lot of questions regarding what concepts to use in talking about ‘what should be’, but these are not ontological questions, because our formal understanding is perfectly adequate to the structure of the ‘ought’, even if it is insufficient for the ‘is’.

          If you’re interested, I said more about these issues in my response to this little debate.

        • I see where you’re coming from Deontologistics, but I guess I don’t share the same committments. Like Hegel, I don’t see how the notion of the (Ding) an sich is even coherent without the complement, für uns oder für sich selbst. from the perspective of conceptual analysis, the idea of something in-itself foists upon us an either/or: Either this Ding an sich is necessarily unknowable (because it is not a Ding-an-sich-für-uns [Like Harman’s withdrawn objects], or it is knowable, in which case it’s not really an in-itself (but a perspectivally occluded, or immediate presentation). I don’t think Harman’s choice makes sense either (effectively, his argument is a transcendental paralogism).

          IN a similar vein, I don’t see how we can, as you said,

          have a formal understanding of what constitutes a domain (not any particular domain, but domainhood in general), the entities within it and their relations, and even perhaps a formal understanding of what it would be for there to be a relation between different domains (and the entities within them), and furthermore a formal understanding of the totality which these various domains go to make up (through their relations to one another)

          without also and by the same token understanding

          the structure of this totality, and the proper relations between domains which make it up.

          . There seems to be a leap. For my part, I would probably say, when pressed, that the elements you listed are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for knowledge of the whole (much like Hegel himself would say, I think). I don’t see why that isn’t sufficient. Or why I need something stronger.

          So, all things said, I think you’re trying to overmine the distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought.’ I’m not sure that that’s the most productive way of going about things, especially since facticity (as we all know) really is nothing more than the Anerkennung eines Sollens — the recognition of an Ought (Heinrich Rickert was Heidegger’s Habilitation supervisor).

        • We’re probably going to have to agree to disagree for now, but I will say that I (as many others) don’t by the following argument:-

          “the idea of something in-itself foists upon us an either/or: Either this Ding an sich is necessarily unknowable (because it is not a Ding-an-sich-für-uns [Like Harman’s withdrawn objects], or it is knowable, in which case it’s not really an in-itself (but a perspectivally occluded, or immediate presentation).”

          I’ll hopefully be saying something more on my position with regard to this soon, but in brief, I think that the structure of representation simply involves representing things as they are in themselves. To demonstrate this means arguing for something like a transcendental realism, but I’ll leave that for now.

  4. Of course we both know that we disagree over 1 and 3, because I would invert the meaning of the propositions. It’s not clear why you assume that SR’s ontology is relevent here.

    Proposition 3 – depends on your definition of realism, it’s clear from the loose defintions of realism that SR and OO employs that a realism could arhue that ‘everything is political’.

    Why is it that proposition 4 which considers that two galaxies colliding is a political event – can be considered as having any relevance to human social and political struggles ? It is after all a political event at an entirely different level than the one we humans exist at…

    Proposition 5 – why ? (this seems an unnecessary political gesture because it is incorrect to think that only humans cut up the world).

    Proposition 6 – would read better if it inferred that the human political field is dominated by humans and human concerns. Other politics do exist with the non-human beings who coexist with humans.

    Surely a human politics, a communism is no longer concerned solely with human concerns…

    • I think Proposition 3, in conjunction with Proposition 6, make it so that any consistent realism has to say politics is not co-extensive with ontology. Proposition 3, on its own, doesn’t necessarily have to, but I think you end up with a watered-down understanding of politics.

      Now if (3) and (6) say politics is a human-centered realm and there is a realm independent of us, it follows for (4) that watching galaxies collide through a telescope is not a political event. So I’d ask that you judge my propositions as a system, and not independently – I know from your own philosophical and political leanings, you would disagree with most/all of them independently, but I think they follow from each other.

      I do disagree that non-humans have a politics, in any meaningful sense of that word. I don’t think algae expanding over a rock is bacterial imperialism, or anything like that. For me, politics is always for the human. Other concerns can be taken in (the environmental movement, obviously), but these are still placed within a system oriented towards the human.

      • OK, so maybe algae expanding over a rock isn’t bacterial imperialism, but you don’t see a politics at work in the relations between elephants, both internal to an elephant community and with the non-human world?

        • Actually, I’m surprised the ecologists and critical animal people haven’t been more critical of my ‘human-centered’ claim. I have sympathies towards that position, but I still find it really hard to believe elephants interacting is anything political. But I don’t think it’s an a priori absurd proposition, like saying ‘galaxies colliding is political’ is.

        • My working definition (i.e. open to changing) is just a pretty basic conception of politics – something like ‘answering the fundamental questions over how to organize human communities’. We might want to say that certain animals have politics in this sense too, but this also seems like a projection from our own conception of politics. Do elephants really have to answer fundamental questions about how to organize an elephant community? I don’t think so, though maybe they do.

  5. Short unsubstantiated thought that I’m hoping just works at the intuitive level – isn’t what is making this such a problem a discussion of politics and ontology as static identities that obscure us from talking about things like intensities, “levels” (in a non-hierarchical or non-linear sense), or even something like “ecosystems” where in different systems the relationship of one will be different from the other? It seems to me that this whole debate is predicated on certain assumptions that turn it into a false problem if I’m right about the static identity line.

    • Anthony,

      Could you expand on this a little ? I’m interested in seeing whether what is hinted at above would perhaps enable Speculative Realist thought to escape from the rigid definitions it requires. Perhaps you could expand on what assumptions result in the ‘static identity line’ and how they could be changed to enable a more realistic understanding of politics to emerge.

      • Well, obviously there are aspects of the work of people who are called and/or who call themselves Speculative Realists that support notions of becoming or “nested objects” and the like. In that way people could endlessly challenge my reading here and point to things that they would say contradict it. I’m not so interested in destroying this entire project of Speculative Realism (though, really, at the end of the day the moniker itself describes more of a “crew” or closed society than any coherent, shared position), but on this one point of contention I see a lot of bad axiomatics being cast about.

        Nick’s point seems to be that there is Being and there is Politics and these two things must be given essential identities such that Politics never determines Being, there can be no convertibility of Being with Politics (a kind of Political Correlationism), but at the same time he does suggest that Being can determine Politics. (This is to say nothing of ontology, the discourse of Being, which means that [by Meillassoux’s lights] he is still correlationst since it requires that he posit X in order to know the posited X – this is all in Meillassoux’s discussion in Collapse III.)

        It isn’t clear to me that they are really arguing against anything yet, despite the apparent boldness of the thesis. When other people say that two galaxies colliding is a political event they are using the word “politics” to signify something different than when someone says that revolutionary politics is the overthrowing of one class by another. Both things have some univocal sense of political, but they express different intensities of the political. Hence, when Deleuze says something like “politics precedes ontology” he isn’t taking the strong position of Fallacious Normativity that is the aim of Levi’s and Nick’s “Normative Fallacy” (representing two different flavors of a realist ANT, one from the perspective of politics and the other from metaphysics) . I’m not sure that such strong Fallacious Normals actually exist, I’ve never met anyone who has said responded to a conservative saying that homosexuality is against nature with the claim that nature (convertible here with Being or ontology) is wrong and must submit to their political convictions. It is precisely because the discussion of politics operates at different intensities regarding different ontological “backgrounds” or “environments”. Related to this is the fact that political action changes regional ontologies and by implication Absolute ontology as well. If being is in process then changes to being can occur and can come about through political action (though, of course, not just political action and political action can be changed through a whole host of other things, I’m not arguing for any purity here except of the Real itself which has a purity through its perversion in non-sexual sense of perversion).

        All of this though may be unpalatable and seem too “anthropocentric” in some sense to those who have taken the anti-humanist line of realism. I’m working out of a thinking that is neither humanist nor anti-humanist, but instead is disinterested in the primacy or nihilistic kenosis of the human. It seems to me that if you take the Real as Process, but not in such a way that you subject the real to an ideal or transcendence of Process, you have to accept that the human is part of the Real determining thought. Not that the human co-determines thought, but that the human is implicated and, in a sense, unconsciously an aspect of the determination of the Real. One can’t evacuate the human from the Real without turning the Real into a hallucination that is just as mistake causing as confusing human thought with the Real itself. The Real is neither Being nor Thought nor Politics, it isn’t the correlation of the two either, instead it determines them but is at the same time what they are in the-last-instance.

        Hope that helps clear up what I meant, though I expect it is all a bit contracted, scattered and should really be given about 3000 words to demonstrate what I’m saying.

    • Anthony, if I’m understanding you right, I absolutely agree. This, to me, seems a much more useful way of approaching the question. Not postulating some fixed areas, one labeled ‘politics, another ‘ontology’, and never the two shall meet. But rather asking about processes of politicization – how does something apolitical become politicized? How does the politicized become wrongly apolitical (e.g. neoclassical economics)? My aim in these writings is just to point out that definitions of politics which make it co-extensive with reality aren’t useful or meaningful – and I think a dynamic understanding can make my point as well. I mentioned it in a comment a few posts ago, but this idea of a ‘zero degree’ of politics seems useful to me – we could ask about how ontology and science aim for this zero degree, and how they sometimes reach it. Meanwhile we could ask how something with a zero degree of politicization (galaxies colliding) can nevertheless become politicized under certain conditions. These questions, it seems to me, are eminently more useful than saying politics is everywhere.

      • We posted at the same time. I see that our disagreement is a bit more nuanced than I suggest in the comment above and that we largely agree here. I think this zero degree may be of interest, but I’m not sure how one could locate it without giving up an actualist perspective that I’m trying to let guide my speculations. Perhaps the Bergsonian notion of contraction is helpful, but I’d have to think about it more to develop it.

      • Nick,

        I am surprised and amused to see that rather than accept the relational understanding that everything to do with human beings is political, you would rather accept a process based understanding of the real. It is absurd that you are preferring to theorize a ‘processes of politicization’ to describe ‘how does the politicized become wrongly apolitical’ when the theoretical problem is that you THINK the apolitical is even possible. Which explicitly places you inside the understanding of the political that you refer to in the ‘neoclassical economics’ comment.

        • RT @Naxos: @nsrnicek ThXs4 it :-) Now I wonder what make u see my claim as correlationism & not bourdieusian relationism, which is out of such trap.

          In your response you say that I may disagree that there is such an event (galaxies colliding) independent of discourse. I do not: such an event exists as an event and not as an object and we may not have the knowledge to access its reality, but if we get to know its existence and might know something about its reality, then such an event will be political. So the event may not be neither actual nor real, but it could have been existed in time or in our time, if so. Events (beings, objects, entities, or whatelse) that are not political are those that might have existed in time or that may exist but that we just don´t know nor experienced them as such in such existence. Its clear that even if we could get into account not only their factual existence but also something about their reality, such an event could not possible be influenced by our existence and reality. To my taste, your realist argument is twisted and malformed: you are rejecting a reduction that it is not reductive: *ontology is not broader than politics*.

  6. Pingback: Conversación en twTr! @nsrnicek «

    • Anthony,

      I read you and thanks for your intellectual honesty, if we all could speak with frankness it would not be any distaste and maybe not any debate at all.

  7. I think the problem for many people is not that SR fails to do politics where previous philosophies took part in politics in a meaningful or useful way. I think the problem is that SR, surely unwittingly, though I know nothing of the politics of most of the SR ‘movement’, so cannot verify this unwittng element, plays up to negative political trends. For example the reduction of subject to object, or the removal of the pedestal that the subject might otherwise be seen to occupy renders it easier to rationalise the objectification of subjects in the social and economic sphere.
    And whilst SR rightly identifies the need for philosophy to accept scientific fact in some respects, it should be careful to avoid throwing out the painfully proverbial ‘baby with the bathwater’, because re; Science and Philosophy we are not dealing with simple abstractions, i.e. ‘metaphysics’ rather than ‘politics’. We are dealing with very real ‘opportunities’ opened by Scientific and technological developments re; the status of the subject. If philosophy is seen to overlook the importance of the subject for experience, and to existence, it may seem to justify actions that will, not long in the future, render us all as objects in a sense palpable and not abstract. This could occur due to, for example, computer AI outstripping human intelligence, to surveillance technologies rendering us all susceptible to a wider machine like economic organism, or for a range of reasons, we can all concive, even a mere allegories for the sake of argtument, without wishing to forecast doom. This is not to sound alarmist, but just to point out that philosophy, even when it owes its sole debt to ‘truth’ needs to be careful that it speaks the truth, lest it otherwise seemingly condone actions that should not be condoned. I would argue that SR is by and large right re; the fallacies of correlationism, but is lacking in having no aesthetic dimension and by that I mean one written by a thinker who really knows aesthetics theories, for an aesthetic element to SR would bring in vis the back door a viable reason to defendthe human project vis-avis ‘beauty’, even if that be conceptual beauty (and indeed, it would have to be, in light of the concept having usurped physical beauty innthe wider sphere of art and aesthetics).
    Put simply, the lack of political consideration shown by SR resides not in its direct lack of political input, which is justified, but in its apparent lack of rigour re; the ‘truth’ in realtion to the status of the subject, and its seeming inability to countenance any version of truth other than its own. Suh a stance is both bad for politics and for philosophy, for the latter will influence the former, as the former will influence that latter, so long as separate entities and disciplines exist.

    • Excellent questions, and I’ll try to respond to them all later, but just for now I wanted to point out a curious trend I’ve noticed – the people I know who actively work in politics (unions, occupations, various political groups) have all supported my claim for separating politics from ontology, and for returning politics to its proper autonomy. In other words, people actively involved in politics don’t seem to think anything useful is lost by making ontology and politics independent. On the contrary, it’s the philosophers who have resisted this claim. I won’t make any claims from that fact, but it’s suggestive of a lot of different conclusions for sure.

      • Seriously though, this isn’t fair. Different philosophers are going to have different reasons for not wanting to allow for the separation. One reason that has consistently been raised is the negative political effects this will have on philosophy, allowing it a blindness to ideology. That’s hardly something to be mocked. A similar problem will happen at the level of the activist (I doubt you followed it, but a similar argument is always raised in relation to “the church” and theologians). So, shenanigans!

      • Haha, perhaps shenanigans! But it’s an interesting trend to me nevertheless. And I’m not intending at all to say that ontology shouldn’t be wary of its own ideological basis – this is at least part of what I’m trying to get at by saying it’s a norm for ontology, and not a necessary separation.

      • ‘the people I know who actively work in politics’ really… surely this is because your ontology does not support us in our arguments for emancipation and equality…

        • SDV,

          Their support for rejecting the political significance of ontology wasn’t support merely for rejecting my ontology; it was support for rejecting ontology in total.

    • LR, I find myself agreeing with much of the first part of your comment – debasement of the subject is after all something capitalism achieves very well on its own even without us helping it philosophically. Though I’m not sure what you would mean by the aesthetic dimension you offer as an antidote to SR/OO. I’d like to know more about how it might ground a general (other than fairly regional) alternative. Doesn’t your formulation of it here somewhat abandon the theoretical and the practical (to sound Kantian and repeat divisions which may themselves be ideological) on which grounds one could also find good arguments against SR/OO?

      • Utisz, there are many ways that I might respond as I think there are so many fronts on which aesthetics can act as a corrective to OOP/SR and it seems to me that many of the propnents of OOP/SR clearly have a shakey understanding of philosophical Aesthetics in gernatl and particularly of those Aesthetic thinkers most relevant to their case, Kant, and Adorno. With regard to the former the base observation that correlationism is arrognatly human-centric made, but rarely expanded upon with regard to the texts, in some senses a welcome result of OOP/SR turning away from the endless picking over of texts, though one does wonder whether we might use the word ‘lazy’ here, whilst, further, the most obvious text to look at with regard to assessing Kant’s take on humans and objects, his Third Critique, has to my mind been completely overlooked. With regard to Adorno, he is something of a target in his apparently naive ‘hope’, as if that hope represents the xenith of shoddy correlationist wishful thinking, when in fact that hope is representative of the helplessness of man in the face of an overarching object of which he is part. It addresses the base objectivity of the subject before OOP/SR, yet it leaves room, unlike OOP/SR, for the subject. That ‘room’ resides in the hope that is the subjects realisation of it being object, but an object, unlike other objects, that is aware of this very fact: it is not a hope that might ever unbind the subject from the object. What it does with this awareness then perhaps becomes political in that the defence of the reality of the subject over object meets a political parrallel in the economic sphere. Yet this political parrallel is not shoddy wishful thinking, it is a result of the observation that subjects are objective in complexion, therefore a political import for the subject must be treatable as a philosophy of objects – i.e. the subject AS object in its relation to the ‘mere’ (but not ‘meagre’) object, and so is not beyond the remit of OO philosophies as such. In this way a singularly objective philosophy can still maintain a dialectic, i.e. ‘subject and object’ on one pole and ‘object’ on the other pole.
        Now, to me, Aesthetics is the subject’s construal of itself as seprate from the object, as having a unique status, even despite the material fact that it is comprised of base material like any other object. This construal is a mimesis of Art, where Art is a mimesis of meaning in an umneaning Universe. So an Aesthetic dimension, this proclamation by the subject of its ‘meaning’ is crucial to the subjects living as both subject AND object rather than being reduced to mere object; something that risks spoling what humans uniquely achieve, and runs counter to what we as subjects- that-are-objects intuit daily. We are an object with an aesthetic capacity, and that must be realised alongside our Scientific capacity, which in any case needs an Aesthetic dimension in order for any of its findings to be elevated above the mere burbling chit-chat of mere objects that merely think that they exist otherwise as unique objects with something valid to say.
        An OOP/SR that could countenance such a thought might survive the honeymoon period that it is enjoying with bored postgrads the world over. Otherwise there is sure to be a resurgence of Aesthetics that leaves OOP/SR hopelessly exposed and which will warrant a wholesale return towards a Kantianism that does not recognise what is amenable in Adorno’s thought to the OOP/SR cause.

      • Utisz and LR,

        Just a minor correction – when you say SR has rejected the subject, this is only true for a very minor part of SR, namely the eliminativist wing which rejects folk psychology and folk ontology. Though with Metzinger’s work, it’s attempted to show how phenomenal experience can be explained in its manifest image. This is not a rejection of subjective experience, therefore.

        Meanwhile, the other variants of SR, in particular Levi’s work, have consistently and repeatedly made clear that the subject still plays a part. It’s just not the centre or ground of the world anymore (a point I think you are both suggesting here). So I think you can find a number of allies with Levi, and with OOP and actor-network theory.

        As for aesthetics, two suggestions. One, if you haven’t already, definitely check out Steven Shaviro’s brilliant Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze and Aesthetics. I think it would have a lot to offer any future SR-related aesthetics. Two, you can check out this really interesting critique of Ray’s ‘Genre is Obsolete’ piece: Ray Brassier and the Invention of Experience

        • Thanks Nick, I have come to Metzinger’s work via Brassier and I am not convinced that the rescue of phenomenal experience in the way Metzinger proposes can really be said to do what you claim it does, unless one doesn’t really take on board the import of neursoscience, for if ‘meaning’ in life is restitiuted as meaning that is thought by the (objectively based) subject on account of the chemical processes that cause those thoughts, we really are thinking thoughts just as mere objective pocesses that delude themselves into beleiving they having meaning, where that belief is again chemically construed. Without either a designtion from ‘on high’ or a self designation (from the subject to the subject) as regards the unique character of the subject then the subject will be meaningless, objective, and perfectly ripe for a different kind – different in that it has palpable effects on the physical relam rather than just being a ‘thought’ designation of subject as object – of objectification; one at the hands of technocracy.
          A ‘designation from on high’ (i.e. from ‘God’) doesn’t wash here, so an auto designation must be made, that is, one attesting to ‘meaning’ existing in life,made by the subject with reagrd to itself. Such an act requires trickery. Such an act is effectively an artistic gesture (in that art has illusion as its basis, so can sustain the fact of the subjects objectivity whilst refuting its import, without challenging outright the reality that science reveals). I see nothing leaning towards this in OOP, and as regards Matt’s comments on ‘Genre is Obsolete’, they are good comments, but Brassier is far from having an aesthetic element to his theory itself, Genre is Obsoloete is a curio, not an extension of Brassier’s thought. Finally, re; OOP, all I sense are guffaws from its main proponents regarding the idea of allying Science with Art in the interest of maintaining the unique position of the subject, as such a project is seen as more of the same ‘wishful thinking’ on the part of the correlationist. Yet I disagree. Aesthetics must be abe to think its position in relation to mind-science and OOP, and that requires, for me, a privileging of the subject as unique among objects in its critical capacity.
          Hope that clarifies. Though perhaps one issue here is that proponents of OOP see Aesthetics differently to people who mainly study Aesthetics?

        • Again, interesting suggestions LR. Can I ask the naive question, what do you mean by ‘meaning’ here? I’m just wondering, because it seems like such a central part of your critique of Brassier and Metzinger, and I’m not sure I follow the precise argument.

          As I (mis)understand it, it seems to border on the argument against the Churchlands, that in order to believe their theory, you need belief – but belief is precisely what is supposed to be denied by them! Similarly, you seem to be suggesting something along the same line for ‘meaning’. But here’s Ray’s response in NU (which, now that I look at it, also includes meaning):

          “Churchland is not simply saying that there is no such thing as meaning tout court […] but rather that ‘beliefs’ (such as ‘that FP is false’) and ‘propositions’ (such as ‘FP is false’) are rendered possible by representations whose complex multi-dimensional structure is not adequately reflected in the structure of a propositional attitude such as a ‘belief’, and whose underlying semantics cannot be sententially encapsulated. The dispute between EM and FP concerns the nature of representations, not their existence.” (16)

  8. “Viewing reality through a telescope, does not make that reality telescopic. Viewing reality through a political lens, does not make that reality political.”

    I don’t think this analogy works. It would be more precise to say ‘viewing reality through an astronomical lens…’ But of course, in that case, such a view would reduce the world to its astronomical features – being a star, a planet, composed of stardust, etc. Same goes for physics, biology, etc. Reality in itself is certainly amenable to these appropriations, it has these aspects, it allows itself to be seen in such a light. The same goes for politics – from a political perspective, everything in reality becomes reduced to its political relevance.

    I’d moreover say that the human perspective is, as such, intrinsically political, and hence every human view upon reality is colored by its political appropriability or visibility.

      • reidkane,

        The phrase, originally from Deleuze is ‘everything is political’ which is somewhat less naive than the proposition that keeps being made through this interesting discussion that aspects of human existance are apolitical.

      • The context in which D&G say “everything is political” makes it quite clear that the ‘everything’ in question refers to ‘every constituent of a society or social body’.

      • Reid, yes, it was a bit of a strawman. More accurate, I think, would have been to reverse the statement, and say ‘everything is political’, or ‘everything is infected by politics’. Which is precisely the line of thought I’m trying to refute in these posts.

  9. Nick,

    “So I’d ask that you judge my propositions as a system, and not independently…”

    Ok a fair comment, I’ll do so and respond…

    • How to respond to your system, which is understandable as a system, and which of course I disagree with. The question is why I disagree and whether its a differend or a disagreement, I think there is space for mutual understanding. Since we have been speaking not of Ontology but of political philosophy…“Political philosophy is the philosophical reflection on how to arrange our collective life, our institutions and social practices”. As a statement this definition should really be understood the other way round. Our social practices, our institutions and our collective lives can only be understood through the political, political philosophy and ontology enables this.

      The claim you make is that your realist ontology enables and supports six realist propositions about the nature of politics. Realist propositions that really want politics to be a set of human concerns. My refusal of the six propositions begins from a middle out rejection – from a refusal of realism, but not from what you define as a correlationist position. A realism existing in the present must accept that reality is defined by science, that a realism is always a Scientific-Realism and that philosophy is continuous with science, because science can (or will) provide a complete account of all that exists for the human and non-human. Which is to say that if your understanding of realism extends its self-definition beyond Scientific-Realism then the extension is not a realism. My understanding is that the question of realism is not to be defined against philosophy but against science, for sciences define our world(s). A philosophical realism then accepts that reality is defined by Scientific-Realism which understands reality as being defined by the fundamental laws of science. A realist accepts that scientific laws are a true representation of reality, for they are the very ground on which realist philosophy is based. As an aside I realized during this discussion on politics that I could accept a philosophy which defines itself as a realism and then argues against Scientific-Realism but Speculative Realism does not do this instead it defines itself against a straw dog called ‘correlationism’. I think it is unacceptable to use terms like correlationist against those who accept science, but who refuse Scientific-Realism because they understand that some scientific truths and laws must be refused not just because they are not supported by adequate proofs but also for ideological and philosophical reasons. I am not sure that we should be interested in critiquing a realism which has not yet understood that the problem is science and not as it believes its straw dog of ‘correlationism’.

      A simple example which now has over a 100 year history may help. Let us assume as western society does that intelligence has a value that is not merely ideological and social but a scientific value, what if the underlying racism of science is correct, that they finally prove that some racial groups are of inferior intelligence. This would then become a scientific fact founded in the laws of genetics, which for scientific-realism would become as unchangeable as the second law of thermodynamics. A realism has to accept this law, this proven fact as true. It is after all scientifically correct and true, the evidence is strong, undeniable, stronger even than the evidence that galaxies exist and are colliding, stronger even than the strange idea that species exist. A realist must accept this fact. An anti-realist simply refuses the existence of the law. It understands that intelligence has no real value, because all singularities are of equivalent value. An anti-realist would say no research which aims to prove that person x has lessor value than person y can be accepted or even funded. An anti-realist evaluates Scientific-Realism as a series of ideological propositions, whereas a realist appears to be unable to do this because they are dependent on the fundamental laws of science which have just enshrined race and intelligence as a fundamental differentiator, as values.

      This links back to politics and propositions then: It should be clear that Proposition 3 “Correlationists can consistently equate politics with ontology. Realists can not….” is simply meaningless, it is not possible for an anti-realist to critique a position which may not understand why it is less of a realism than the anti-realism proposes. Proposition 6 wants to say that “politics is a human-centered realm”, but in fact reads as if it says that human politics is human centred. It is not that there is not a realm that is external to us – but rather that we understand our social interactions with this realm differently. All human interactions are social and thus relational, as a consequence all relations are political. Rather obviously then, I reject the default understanding that aspects of human existence are non-political – not only is ‘the personal political’ but everything else is as well.

      The straw dog question of are ‘galaxies colliding political ?’ is recognizably the same question as ‘are bacteria political?’ (Eric asked in 2007\8) – my response remains fundamentally the same – where you want to restrict what is political to a human-centred realm defined against the known, against what is a scientifically defined reality, I refuse this unnecessary action. Rather than restrict what is political to a narrow human definition I would accept that we need a more relaxed understanding which has learnt the diverse political lessons of the past century, events define what a political action is, a proscriptive definition of the political inevitably defines politics as something that an event will extend.

      So then know we don’t and cannot agree on the acceptability of the system you propose.

  10. I’m new to this “speculative realism,” which opposes itself to “correlationism” (which I understand to be an anthropomorphication of objective reality—this seems akin to the “correspondence/coherence” dichotomy in epistemology)—but this “speculative realism” seems to me to rely too heavily on “physics” for its examples, rather than biology. True there may be some continuum between physics and biology, but the “fact of foci” (re: self-organizing systems—that bodies are unified—that there may be something besides structure to life—that it’s not all about the machine-network) – the “fact of foci” suggest that, even if we should not anthropomorphise reality, how could we divorce it from foci which just MAY be dependent on something a-mechanical, something a-structural, in life. Such a “pre-life” (beyond pre-human) reality could be completely de-centered, utterly incomprehensible, and just possibly chaos.

    Now, if reality is not necessarily political, does this mean that the STRUCTURE of reality has nothing to teach us politically? (Think: the one and the many and its relationship to, say, the United Nations). This in the context that reality, without life (beyond without human life), could be without foci—and hence be a structure that is structurally incomprehensible. Am I even close to coherently engaging the debate here?

    • Hi J.D.,

      Since you admit you’re relatively new to SR, I’ll just point out that there is actually a whole wing of SR that takes a lot of influence from biology – I’d recommend Iain Hamilton Grant’s work as the main avenue, though I know there are similar books coming out from Michael Austin and Ben Woodard. You can also check out their respective blogs, Complete Lies, and Naught Thought, in the blogroll. They would definitely agree with your suggestions.

      It’s a good question about the structure of reality, though I personally don’t think politics has to be derived from the structure of reality, or that it necessarily has anything interesting to say about politics either. Take for instance, the axiom of equality: everyone is equal. Is this derived from some sort of ontological basis? No, it’s asserted as a political axiom, something to be constructed on the basis of its political truth, and not its ontological truth.

      • Nick –

        Thanks for your reply (and patience with an SR novice). I’ll definitely check out the work of the folks you cite—and already from the other comments here, I see that SR is not necessarily anti-subjective – I don’t think it aims to “bracket” the Human perspective context like some sort of Husserlian phenomenology, to get at a “pure experience of being;” yet I do wonder to what extent our being part of (non-human) reality allows us some access to it. (BTW: I always thought Hegel to be an “inverted Kant”—only inverted at the point of apperception or subjectivity).

        If nature is allowed in the picture, then beyond the “structure of reality” having political implications, we have natural history. True, equality is hard to find in nature; but some are not political advocates of equality per se, for example: consider Nietzsche developing an (anti) morality in accordance with the “will-to-power” which, I might hazard, he saw as fundamental to the structure of reality.

        That said, I’ve always had troubles with, say, Levinas putting ethics before ontology; I think it is a “nicely motivated” move in philosophy, but questionable, as to its “accuracy” and “result.” Maybe the SR move is to put human politics back into the Human discourse – to take politics to its own grounds; but I don’t think anyone here is so extreme as to say there is NO (theoretical) intercourse between “reality” and politics—it’s just not pervasive or mutually determined. (?)

        • Yes, definitely, natural history can play a significant role in politics – e.g. how did evolutionary pressures force us to develop in certain community structures? And what are the modern-day repercussions for this contingent fact? The point I’m trying to get across is that there are still aspects of reality that are entirely apolitical – which is a bit heretical to say in some continental philosophy circles :)

          As for Nietzsche, Ray Brassier has a useful critique of him in his book Nihil Unbound, where he shows how Nietzsche continues to make the will to power dependent on something outside of itself – namely the thinker who affirms it. In this way, Nietzsche remains stuck within the correlationist circle which makes being and thought mutually dependent. On the contrary, a realist (speculative or not) must assert the independence of reality from any necessary relation to thought. And so, yes, I’d agree with your last statement – it’s not that they can’t enter into relations whatsoever – it’s rather that there are parts of reality that don’t depend on some relation to thought (and consequently politics) for their existence.

  11. Nick, thanks for this. I’m sure you knew it would get this kind of reaction, but I honestly I don’t understand the pearl clutching that’s going on here.

    Even if all human being exists politically, that doesn’t mean all beings do, period. A star in another galaxy is not in need of a Marxist intervention. The lysosomes in a dog’s cells are not political subjects. Of course, that said, the institutional praxis of physics or cell biology are both politically situated.

    What it seems to me that you’re really doing (or at least, attempting to do) is narrowing the political field so it becomes meaningful to speak of “politics” again within philosophical discourse. For a while there it was becoming so vague and indeterminate as to be utterly pointless.

    • Anodyne,

      No no no, Nick is arguing that human beings do not exist politically. He place the galaxies issue here precisely to distract you from the fundamental apolitical nature of his argument.

      He’s like a late 19th C man arguing that women shouldn’t worry there little heads about politic issues… and then suddenly its 1905.

    • AL, much thanks. I knew of course I’d get a reaction like this, but I’ve tried to frame the issues in as clear a manner as possible, precisely to generate debate and force people to take sides.

      I think your suggestions about greedy reductionism were spot on (I think ANT can potentially avoid this, though it’s a difficult balancing act). And your last paragraph is exactly what I’ve been trying to suggest. When politics is everywhere, it loses any useful meaning, and it becomes of absolutely no help to changing our actual world.

  12. Nick,

    Yes, and the reason it is made in this way is because it specifies the danger of your position. How else to bring the unspoken into the open ?

  13. ‘Can I ask the naive question, what do you mean by ‘meaning’ here?’ – Nick

    Well, I mean ‘meaning’ as as opposed to the assertion that we are objects, who then, in my mind, are stripped of meaning in the human sense, so far as we understand it colloquially, day to day.

    Churchland says there is meaning but as appended to chemical processes, see again my comment on meaning from ‘on high’, vs. self determined meaning.

    Re; ‘belief’, I am saying that we do not need a belief as such, but rather to generate the fallacy of the subject being other to the object by declaring itself to be so, a trick we can borrow from art – ; i.e. paintings trick the viewer into thinking they are people or landscapes, Duchamp’s urinal is designated as art, when it’s merely a urinal, etc. So there is no belief as such, but rather the feigning of meaning, of ‘life’, subjectivity… and its is the subject (that is in fact objectively construed) that is uniquely capable, amongst objects, of feiging in this way, giving the subject a priviliged status. But that status is not confined to the arts, and I would argue that it extends to politics, as politics follows form the unique position of the subject and, then, the interest that that subject is not treated as an object, against objectifying social forces that wish to treat it as such.

    But maybe I’m making a big leap here. Though for people well versed in Aesthetics it wouldn’t be such a leap, which is why I find it a shame that Aesthetics is not addressed more in SR circles. In fact, Kant’s Critique of Judgment, aside from arguing for a common sense of beauty amongst all subjects, actually aims at pointing to how there might be a common moral sense. Aesthetics is never purely concerned with Aesthetics. Further, this Third Critique clearly points to the influence of the object on the subject. Beauty is something felt in the presence of the object as a result of that object’s invoking an interplay between the subjects senses that can arise to no definite cognition. Never is the strong form of correlationism countenanced, and never is it said that beauty can be invoked aside from the object. In fact the object is so much integral that one might argue that the subject that judges aesthetically cannot exist aside from objects. To me it seems pretty odd that this is missing from SR debate, but then, further, that Kant is rarely discussed in depth anyhow, but only as a cipher for correlationism. The notion that we need stop picking endlessly over old texts is appreciated fully by me, but to not address them at all, in some cases, does leave the whole project very exposed.

    • LR, This is not to try and turn you away from your approach (because I think an aethetic response-to/appropriation-of SR would be really interesting), but it seems to me that Metzinger perhaps offers the resources to do at least part of what you’re suggesting – namely to explain the ‘trick’ of the subject being separate from the object. In Being No One he gives explanations from a funtionalist and neurological perspective to understand how the idea of a single world, and a single subject would arise – and why they would arise from evolutionary pressures. So it may alter your argument a bit, or you may find some useful resources there.

  14. Sorry to lower the tone of the discussion here, but maybe a good question to ask is if there is anything political about this discussion, this thread, this blog?

    My suspicion is that all those bringing elaborate philosophical positions to bear on why everything is political, probably are not the same people engaged in politics. If they were, they would probably realise how useless a lot of ontologically derived political dispositions are.

    Even with Slavoj Zizek, it is his readings of Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, and most recently Simon Critchley’s ‘Infinitely Demanding’ which have made him a political figure – not his resuscitation of Hegel or endless infusion of Lacan into dialectical insights on Hitchcock films. In this sense, I certainly see Zizek as heading in the right direction with his last couple of books.

    Maybe I am muddying the waters here from Nick’s more fundamental realist distinction he is trying to make; but, in sum, I don’t think one has to be a speculative realist to come to the same conclusion.

  15. LR, ‘This is not to try and turn you away from your approach’ – …

    Nick, thanks, I will look at Metzinger’s ‘Being No One’. Great to have the opportunity to explore these ideas publicly (i.e on this blog, thanks again!).

  16. Hi Nick,

    Sorry for coming late to this post (I check your blog less frequently than I should) but I wanted to write a few comments.

    >Proposition 3: Correlationists can consistently equate politics with
    >ontology. Realists can not.

    I think it’s certainly correct that politics and ontology are not *equivalent*, but a weaker claim, that ontology can have a big effect on politics, I think is hard to dispute. For example, if one tends to view the world primarily in terms of independent objects, deemphasizing relations as opposed, for example, to thinking of the world as an inextricable network of relations, in which objects have no clear boundaries but are only approximate zones within a continuum network flux, this can imply a very different way of thinking about the meaning and purpose of politics. This is not to say that these different ways of cutting up the world are *equivalent* to politics but it certainly implies that the choice one makes here has an impact on politics

    >Proposition 5: A meaningful definition of politics must exclude some
    >aspects of reality. This is only a necessarily political gesture if you
    >think only humans cut up the world.

    This is certainly true (and for the record, I don’t believe humans have any special position vis a vis cutting up the world).

    >Proposition 6: Politics as a ‘human-centered’ realm does not mean
    >politics is a ‘human-only’ realm.

    Here we’re very much in agreement as well.

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