Caputo on Meillassoux

What follows is an outline of Caputo’s lectures on the future of continental philosophy (both religious and not) that he is currently engaged in at Syracuse University with a few comments of my own. Mostly I want to outline some of the claims he makes and have a discussion about his views on Meillassoux, Brassier, and Laruelle. As of now only the lectures on Meillassoux are online but as Brassier and Laruelle will be coming up soon.

1rst Lecture

Caputo begins by asserting that Meillassoux proceeds like a Descartes sans god, setting forth mediations on correlationism instead  of the cogito. After outlining Leibniz and Descartes’ relation to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Caputo addresses Kant and the nullification of the ontological proof of God since God, for both Leibniz and Descartes, guaranteed rationalism. Despite Kant’s demolition though Caputo notes that he set aside room for faith in order to allow for moral law, practical reason etc. This formal distinction yet saving of the noumenal forms the basis of weak correlationism.

Given the explosion of doubt we have the Hegelian retort that the noumenal/phenomenal distinction itself gives intuition into the noumenal and hence mind becomes substance, doubt becomes knowledge as Hegel absolutizes the correlation. Hegel’s post critical metaphysics gives the absolute necessity as spirit hence all things must be contingent but the totality must not be. Here Captuo suggests a disagreement between Zizek’s Hegel and Malabou’s. For Caputo, Hegel saves God as non-existent  but infinite womb of all being.

Caputo argues that Meillassoux ignores Kant’s claim that all metaphysics fail because they do not appreciate the limited applicability of the a priori categories.

2nd Lecture

Caputo begins by summarizing the main arguments of After Finitude after reiterating Meillassoux’s abuse of the a priori. Strong correlationism disregards even the possibility of an absolute whereas Kant, as a weak correlationist, the  a priori are useful facts which allow thinking to be possible, a priori facts such as causality which without would lead to madness. Caputo points out that strong correlationists are language centered analytic philosophers and continentals who privilege consciousness.

Meillassoux pulls a Hegel on Hegel by absolutizing strong correlationism thereby turning skepticism into an insight which leads to the principle of facticity or a non-metaphysical but speculative principle of the necessity of contingency (p 55-56 of AF). Whereas the atheist and the theist are irrational the agnostic is a true rationalist as they are capable of thinking the non-being of thought.  Caputo asserts that Heidegger already did this in Being and Time but doesn’t provide the  specifics as it is only a passing remark.

Via the contradiction of ancestrality, Meillassoux deabsolutizes the correlation and absolutizes facticity a move which, for Caputo, seems to destabilize any appeal to mathematical physics (there is no mention of Meillassoux’s use of cardinality Adrian Johnston’s comments not with standing). Caputo then criticizes Meillassoux’s use of non-contradiction as “formal non-sense” and then swings back to Meillassoux’s critique of the Principle of sufficient Reason noting pages 72-73. Caputo says that Meillassoux is searching for disappointment and would like all the poets and Heidegger’s to stop pontificating about the why of existence.

The discussion  then moves to Hume’s problem. The constancy of nature flies in the face of Meillassoux’s hyper-chaos, a constancy explained as part of the bestness of possible worlds in Leibniz. After reviewing Hume’s billiard ball tract Caputo outlines Meillassoux’s appeal to rationality over empirical inference (or animal belief in cause-effect) an effect which Kant saw as necessary as constancy equals sanity. Caputo then moves to Meillassoux’s attack on frequentalism and probabilistic reason through his use of set theory. Here Caputo suggests that an appeal to mathematics is unnecessary as Derrida’s concept of Differance says the same thing vis a vis the post-structuralist critique of structuralism. Caputo then moves on to the final chapter of AF where Meillassoux attacks Kant’s rescue of appearances.

Caputo then makes some closing remarks. He states that Meillassoux’s arguments are all fruit of a poisoned tree because his account of correlationism is wrong. Nevertheless his results are close to Derrida’s in that both claim that the world is composed of things in time, a world that has an unforeseeable structure. Caputo then reiterates his remark on set theory as not necessary but then utilizes uncountability as part of Derrida’s open systems in Of Gramatology (- a concept which at its core is mathematical and not philosophical).

Caputo then moves to pragmatic issues as he says “here we are in the correlation. The correlation is real” (what this means I am not sure – also I’m not sure Meillassoux would discount the correation as real or at least producing real effects but would challenge its status as ontology). Caputo states that no-one is a correlationist as Meillassoux defines it and that thinking beings are real and thus have a real relation to reality. Caputo then closes with two points.

1 – He states that Meillassoux is Badiouian and that he is ultimately interested in politics and ideologies and has a political dimension that is Marxist (I’m not sure where this is from since Badiou himself, in my interview, state his concerns for Meillassoux’s apolitical philosophy thus far). Caputo then attacks Brassier for criticizing Badiou’s political dimension since politics is “like going back to church for Brassier.” Ultimately Caputo sums  this up as what does Meillassoux have to say about suffering?

2 – Caputo wants to know what about god and religion?

Both of these issues are addressed in Meillassoux’s “Immanence of the World Beyond” which the class will move onto along with Laruelle.

That is the end of the lectures.

2 thoughts on “Caputo on Meillassoux

  1. Hey Ben,
    thanks for this is great stuff!
    On the link to Caputo’s lectures I noticed that the last lectures of the term aren’t online yet. The audio list ends with “Caputo on Lauruelle_Future Christ, Brassier_Nihil Unbound (10-19-2010).mp3”. That leaves a few more lectures at the end of the term. Is there more to come? I’m looking into Speculative Realism and find Caputo’s comments intriguing.

    On another note: when is “The Speculative Turn” going to hit the markets? Looking forward to it.

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