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Philosophical Research and Development

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Speculative Realism
Speculstiue Realism Ray Brassier, lain Harnilton Grant,
A 0n*Day {llorhelrqp
t*7prn- Friday 27 April 2007
Lecture Halt, Ben Pimloit Euilding Graham Flarman, Quentin Meiilassoux
Goldsmhhs, Univgrsity of London
New Cross, Lofldon SE14 gNW

Partlclpants: Ray Brassler (l$lddl0sex), lain llamilton Grant (UIIEI

Graham llannan (Ameriean Unlyercity ln Gairo),
Quentn Melllassoux (Ecole l{ormale Superieure)

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IEF S€FI)fEHAiD By IUAUMi e.r@seSoM.&.*
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

Howat4 as wmhshap nndtrator and. co-organiser Aherta Toscant or a cotlmunicational consensus, etc. Much of the
itldirnted, a commoniftature of tlw wmk presmted was tfu xrnpliulton mainstream of nineteenth and rwentieth century post-Kan-
tlntfun a genuiru intemgation oftlw contiruntnl tral:itionruussaih tian philosophy is about simply redefining, generalising,
etusues a repudiation of tlu orthodoxbs rymptunatic of tlal tradifim': specifying, these transcendental structures or conditioru
cuwptual exlnusfion (tlu rnost uiriblz of whith being tlw waninglr of cogrritive legitimation. And in a way, it doesn't really
atdlzss dzluge of iru@d secondny lilerature ard thz X-inn'identih matter whether you claim to have replaced the subject and
of its authors), thus radering tlu tarh of dning philasoplry in oru': the object with some form of communicational consensus
mtn nannz' essential once again. 'Speculatiue Realisml then, fmu: or being-in-the-world or any variant of the latter on these
contanporo"ry phil*o?ly to mafu a dzcision, but it is not so much ont issues: The transcendental function has been variously
concming idzali:m or realism. R"th.er, at stafrz hne is tln pwsibihh encoded in different versions of post-Kaltian continental
of a funre for audadous and original Philosophiral thought as c philosophy. But the thing that seems to be assumed within
discourse on tlu nature of ool4 - ffi, 6 onc might othmtti:e call il: this tradition, the thing that actually Graham's work first
philwoplry it:ef brought out to me, is the notion that whatever structure
there is in the world has to be transcendentally imposed
h,rsnxreuoN nv Rev Bnessrnn or generated or gua-ranteed, which is to say that objectivity
can only be a function of synthesis. And it's striking that in
Rather than reading a paPer, I'm just going to make post-Kantian philosophy the difference between Kant and
some general remarks about what I take to be the realls Hegel seems to be that where Kant will localise the syn-
significant points of convergence and divergence beftveen thesising function in something like pure apperception or
Iain, Graham, Qrentin, and myself. The fundamental wholly on the side of the subject, Hegel and the various
thing we seem to share is obviously a willingness to re-inter- forms of objective idealism will say that reality itself is self-
rogate or to open up a whole set of philosophical problem-' synthesising, that there is a kind of principle of synthesis
that were taken to have been definitively setded by Kanr encoded in objective reality itself. So that, famously, in
certainly, at least, by those working within the continenal Hegel's objective idealism, the relational s;mthesis which
tradition. This is why, as I'm sure everyone knows, the Kant takes to be constitutive of objectivity is simply trans-
term 'realist' in continental philosophy is usually taken to planted from its localisation in the subject and construed
be some kind of insult - only someone who really hasn't rather as the relation befiveen subject and object, which
understood Kant could ever want to rehabilitate something Hegel recodes as the 'self-relating negativiry' that yields
like metaphysical realism, or any form of realism which does the structure of reality. So the question is: If you refuse to
not depend upon some kind of transcendental guarantor. say that slmthesis - the slmthesis which produces objective
whether that guarantor is subjectively instantiated by pure stnrcture - is anchored in a subject, does this mean that
apperception, or consffued in terms of linguistic practices.

308 309
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

you have to idea,lise the real by attributing to it this capacitr

for self-relation? A capaciry for self-sl.nthesis whereby a
continuum of relation itself yields the rype of discontinuitr'
that gives rise to discrete objects? In other words, is there a
principle of intelligibiliry encoded in physical rea-lity? scendentalism and a kind of pragmatism which would sar.
This is absolutely the key issue, I think. in Iain's that evolutionary history simply guarantees the cong:uence
book on Schelling.l And according to Iain's reconstruc. betrveen representation and reality as a function of udapt"-
tion, Schelling proposes an a-lternative variant of objective tional neceisitl'. so that or-,ly ...ut,-r..s that have a cognti\.e
idealism, one wherein structure and objectiviry are intrinsic apparatus that is appropriate to their kind of biophysical
to nature, but the ideal structures that are intrinsic to or environment will be able to survive. And this is a claim that
inherent in physical reality are no longer construed in fuels much of naturalised epistemology', but one that I think
terms of a dialectic of opposition and conrradiction. In is metaphysicalll'problematic. because there is no reason to
Iain's brilliant reconstruction of Schellingialism, whar suppose that evolutionary adaptation would favour exhaus-
you get is something like a 'transcendental physics', a tively accurate beliefs about the world. There's no reason
physics of the All, where ideas are differential dlnamisms. to suppose that evolution would infallibly provide human
attractors immanent to and inherent in material reality. So. organ accuratelr.
nature is self-organising. And the idea-l stmcture of nature track of realitr.
produces the structure of thinking. But if cognition is a So in
result, a product - if it's every bit as conditioned as arrr' iblity ,ffi:i:t::
other natural phenomenon - the question then becomes and s
whether there's any reason to suppose that thought ca:.r ures o
limn or grasp the ultimate structure of reality at any given imply
moment, any specific historical juncture. Because the kev usefulness as viable surwival strategies. And the force of
thing, if you're committed to a transcendental realism, oi Iain's book is to try to propose what he ca_lls a ,transcen-
which Iain provides a powerful reconstruction in his book, dental naturalism' - which claims that you cal explain
is that it is the sfucture of material reaJity that generates the emergence of the structure of ideatioir from the ideal
the structure of thinking. But this means that one musr structure of phy'sical rea_lity, so rhat idearion would be
discount aly appeal to intellectual intuition, which is to sar'. capable of tracking the ideal dynamisms, the transcenden-
the idea that thinking can simply transcend its own materia-l. tal dynamisms, that underlie merely empirical or merell.
somatic reality.
t Iain Hanilton Grant, Philosophb: o1f Nature Afr Schrlling (London

310 311
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

An important distincrion in Iain's book is between the

Aristotelian-Kantian reduction of rnaterialitv ro sonlaric ol
corporeal reality - the idea that to be material means ro
be some sort of body rvith a set of perceprible properries
- and the transcendental materialism that Iain ascribes to
Schelling, where the real material stnrctures are the abstract
differential dynamisms that generate and produce bodies.
organisms, and spatio-temporal objects, but can never be
reduced to them. But here's one consequence of this: if the
struclure of ideation is a futrction of the ideal strllcrure ol
rnaterial self organisation, thcn the process is ongoing -
and Iain ernphasises this - so it's simpll' not tlle case thar
biologrcai history has reached sorne sort of apex in humal
consciousness. And if the process is still ongoing and 'rvil-
keep going, then not only is there rnore to knorv about the
structure of rettlif,than rve currently knorl, just nolv; there'j
also rnore to know about the structure of idaatin than
\'\re currently know. And I think this presents a quandarY
for someone who's conrmitted to a version of speculative
realisrn: transcendental ph1'sicalism insists that there ar-e are applicable? Carr rve be sure that these self-organising
real conditions of ideation but that these conditions hale features of naterial realiq.carr be linguistically encoded and
an ideal structure. The question then is: can rhe specific encapsulated? In other words, are thc resources of natr-rral
conceptual details of these ideal physical structures be sat.
isfactorily identified using thc currently available resource -.

of conceptual ideation? \Vhat does this mean? ft rnean.

using either the available registers of mathematical for.-
rnalisation available to contemporary science: or- if rve ar-e
thinking in terms of transcendental philosophl- - a ser ui
suitably generic conceptual categories. But then. can rve be
sure that any of the abstract conceptual categories in term:
of lvhich we propose to reconstrlrct these ideal structures
goes back to Plato and Aristotle: Is it enough simph. to

312 313
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

If you privilege productiviry if drese ideal generanve

d;.rramisms that structure and constitute materia-l realin'
cal be characterised in terms of the primacy of producrion
over product, then the question is, how do we account for
generators of material structure? the interruptions of the process? How do we account lor
discontinuity in the continuum of production? And rvhile
So, I guess whal I'm asking is: what is the status ot
I have no doubt that it's possible to do so, I think it's a
significant problem for any process philosophy that wants
to defend or prosecute a form of ontological monism based
on something like 'pure productivity', 'pure becoming',
'duration', or whatever one chooses to call it' Because then
it seems that you always have to introduce or posit some
tion of epistemology, but lvonderrvhether that re-inscriptior.l
sort of conceptual contrary some principle of decelera-
providei a warrant for what he calls 'speculative physics '
tion, intermption, disintensification or whatever' in order
\A4rat is the relationship between the d1'namic structure oi
to account for the upsurges of stabiliry and continuiry and
the idea and the mathematical register deplol'ed for its for-
consistency within this otherwise untrammelled flux of
malisation? So my question to Iain then is really about the
materialisn: becoming and pure process. So even if one then goes on
he pragmatic to reintegrate it into the former as a mere moment, one
ly evident. I still has to explain why there is anything but pure Process
or why the processual flux is ever momentarily stabilized.
think there's an issue here about what articulates ideatior.r
It's striking that you see this in Bergson: the idea that you
and the mathematical resources of ideation that have beer.l
need something to explain what interrupts the Process,
crucial in ridding us of this parochial Aristotelian model oi
what produces or introduces discontinuity into the flux of
physical reality. It was the mathematisation of nature that
-definitively becoming.
ruined and shredded the medieva-l Rook of the
World. And the question is, can we rehabilitate a form of And I think Graham's contribution lies precisely in this
transcendental or speculative materialism or realism thar key area. The idea is that if you begin with some form
would also explain lhe success of mathematical formalisa- of prelirninary methodological dualism of production and
tion in supplanting the old, pre-Galilean models of physics product or, in its classic Bergsonian articulation, something
and metaphysics? like duration and space, then you need to explain what
interrupts the continuum - how duration ever externalises
One final point, concerning the nature of dynamism'
itself or coagrlates into something like a spatial fixity or
and this is a general point related to Process philosophr':

314 315
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

stasis. And Graham gets around this problem by simph that the cotton is not rock; the rock
must (know, that rhe
having a rnetaphysics of objects, which in a way remove-s ice is not water. \4lhatever kind
of interaction obj..t, hur-..
the question of .synthesis altogether. \Arhat's strikine the fact that their interface is possible
about Graham's account is that you don't need to explain ";;"-basis .f thi.
how objects are s1'nthesised, because you simply tal<e
objects as nested within one another. You have this kind
of infinite nesting of objects wiftin objects within object-.
... Every relation between objects itself unfolds within
another object. So Graham turns the question around br'
showing how the problem consists in showing how discon'
tinuous, autonomous objects can ever enter inlo relation
with one another - his answer is that they do so on the
inside of another object. In other words, every relation is
itself another object. So what you have then is a kind oi
egalitarian objective univocity, a kind of ontology of pure
objectiviry: there are nothing but objects, objects nested
within one another, and the really significant metaphysical
cha-llenge is explaining their interaction.
But I have two questions vis-A-vis Graham's project:
First, Graham explains the interaction between objects
in terms of their sensual properties! i.e., no object ever
exhausts the ultimate realiry of arother object. It engages or'
interacts with it on the basis of a set of sensual or perceptible
properties, arrd it is these that provide the basis for the
reciprocal interaction between objects. And my question is:
what is the criterion for distinguishing sensible from non-
sensible properties for any given object? Is it possible to
provide such a criterion without giving it some sort of epis-
temological slant or formulation? In other words, in order
to interact with one another, it seems that objects need to
'know' something about one alother. The fire must 'knott"

3r6 317
COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea,lism

really fundamentally different in kind from explaining
cotton' or how marble is able to interacr
fire is able to burn a

with a table. But I think I want to problematise this issue

does not exhaust the task ofphilosophy'

few things about
vis his work' Nft
ellectual intuition'

318 319
COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea_lism

by some
either stumbled upon or had bestorved upon them
mysterious sort of process' and whic
to understand in more rudimentary t
arguably the most : Philo
of the twentieth ce Ie eme
cognition; that is, the idea that the Process of cognition can
be"re-integrated into the realm of objective phenomena
studied by" the empirical sciences' In other words'

q,r.fin.a as vicious by transcendental philosophl" Husserl
if yott
tiied to disqualify psychologir m on the grounds that
then yot'i
reduce ideaiion to a set of psychological processes'
remove the dimension of necessity, of logico-mathematica-
validity, which is the guarantor for the cognitive
In other rvords' you reduce scientific
ofthe natural sciences.
like any other discourse' simplr
discourse to a discourse
a way of speaking, and you basically turn into Richar.c

So, as I it, the key challenge for speculative realisr:-
is: Can one be a realist about the sorts of enlities al.
processes postulated by the sciences
'r'vithout having :
,ho.. .tp thut .o-toit-ent to realism with some sort ( -
p.ugu,ir* on the one hand, or transcendentalism on tl-'
Richa -
otn!.? Can one be a naturalist 'rvithout turning into
says is tn
Rorty, and can one maintain that lvhat science '
rvithout becoming a Husserlian or something of that il'<

And I think this ii a really interesting question: I

think tl-
is where sorne kind of communication is needed
of so-callt
lhe speculative audacitv which is a characteristic

i.orrtir..r-rtul philosophi,' and the really admirable level

engagement with the empirical sciences which is a feat'"-

320 321
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

PnnsnvreuoN nv IerN fleuu-roN Grervr of facilitator, a go-between, for phi_losophical history.

The basic thing I want to talk about is the philosophu' He sits between Fichte - who we all equally understand
cal problem of nature. and I think this is a springboard for because, after all, Fichte talks about ethics - and Hegel -
speculation - not opportunistically, bul necessarily. I thinl who no one understood but who everyone would like to.
that if philosophy of nature is follorved consistently it entail, Schelling had neither of rhese benefirs nor deficits, and in
that speculation becomes necessary as the only means nol consequence, no one could understand him nor wished rol
of assessing the arcess that we have. but of rhe production ol Howeveq Schelling also produced this monumenral s::.e .
thought. of works on the philosophy of nature, this extraord-:-.--
series of overdy speculative works - and when I sar.
I'll start from lwo things that I think everyone would =..
there's partially a descriptive element here. It's like a Er--.
accept and see if we can work outwards from there. I think
of writing, at one level. That is to say, the commitmen: :
that, unless you're some kind of convinced dualist, it's
getting it down as it's coming out, is not merely that o: .
absolutely necessary that we accept that there's something
poet under inspiration - it's also an ideational requireme:-:
prior to thinking, and that there are several layers of really. If the thought as it's happening is to have any imprc:
dependency amongst what is prior to thinking. It's not just
whatsoever on the world in which it's happening, then it
one thing, il's an entire complex series of events. Now lve

absolutely necessary that it be got down. So if you look ai

could articulate that by means of some form of causation.
Schelling's output, it's hideous, it's absolutely frightening.
We could try to establish, as it were, a direct line between
No wonder people hated his guts: he was writing six books
the event we're trying to alalyse, the event we're trying
a yeu - and that's not counting essays and journals edited
to account for in naturalistic terms, and all the causes that
ald so on. It was frightening - he rurned out more than a
might have contributed toward its production, ald so on.
novelist. So there's this extraordinary record of production
Such a task is inexhaustible in principle. not merely in
of works on the philosophy of nature. And to distinguish
fact. It's inexhaustible in principle because the conditions
the philosophy of nature as Schelling propounds it or
that support the event that's produced also support the
explicates it successively, again and again - and not always
production of other events. So if we accept that there are
in the same way or according to central shared principles -
naturalistic grounds for the production of thought, then
it's convenient to call it 'speculative physicsl as indeed he
we have to accept that the naturalistic grounds for the
did in the journal he edited under rhar name, the Journal oJ
production of thought a-re not themselves e'uident in thought
Seculatiue Plryszci. I don't know about you, but the very idea
except in so far as thought is regarded as part ofnature.
of combining those two things seems an absolute recipe
So that's the starting point, and I take this to be
for heaven on Earth. This is building particle accelerators
Schelling's central contribution to philosophy. Schelling. that cost billions, that bankrupt countries, sinking great
of course, is known as a transition engine' He was a son

334 335
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

capture - but there is certainlv something

- this i-. entails that it is .-rol.rtiorr-y, if it is"bo.r,
knowledge ofnarure.
This is what he has to say:
coming out of a philosopher's works.
So those redJy are the &vo things. Speculative physics:
what is entailed, on the one hald, vis-i-vis the nature of
philosophy; and on the other, what it entails for the nature
tf tno"gnt. Those are the tvvo a-reas I'm particularll'
I think these are signifrcant
interested in. And the reason

does. I'm very concerned that we see ald acknowledge this

to be the case, because the speculative tools that it has buih
into it are immense. This is from a book that Bosanquet ar-y terms, pher,
wrote called Logil, or tlw Morpholog of knuledge- It's a book there. But that
on logic. One quesrion is, why are the idealiss so fascinateC the univer their
by logic? \44:ry are they all experimenters in logic? \Alhr' expression that
do we get vast tomes, repeatedly, from idealists on logic? this
There are many possible answers to this, and I'll come to the
one of them later. But this is what Bosanquet has to sar' and
at the very conclusion of his book. Upon starting it our ,To
he has rwo epigrams, one from Hegel' from the Scicrrcc c'' know it is to endow it
Logic, the other from Darwin, frorn TIw Uigin of $eac:. that form is the form ::TlT:
and his avowed aim is to bring these two things together. I universe, manifesting elf against
won't use the phrase 'evolutionary epistemologyl althougl:
; B. Ingn, rto AI
obviously there's a certain kinship berween these strategies -Bosanquer,
\bl. II. 322 "r

336 oDa
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

fruit of the stated mechanism. It rvould be one and the san.re

bul from nature.

Now if we accept that, it seems to me that
is comrnitted to a realism about all things. a realism tha:
applies equally to nature and to the Idea. And in generl
terms I ttrlnk ttris is true, I think this is rvhat all idealisr:-

about an Idea. In terms of the situation in which

we find
ourselves today, my question really is: does this
or does this

this is fundamentally a physics. The Idea is a content-fi'e'

point that denies accessibility, that delermine-s' as it wele
ih. chuos around it to be chaos around it' Why? Becau"
ternal to the thinker that has
the chaos around it cannot be what it is, because it is tl--:
only self-identical thing there is. There are several Ideas c'
course, so it's not just one, despite certain splits toward cl-:
rhe thinker and the thoughr T;tH: ,H:.rufl:::'j:'l
seriesof exteriorities between thinker, thought, Idea, the
end of he RePublic. I'anous strata of the nature necessary to produce
that event
Okay, so I think basically there are grounds to assur': - necessary but not sufficient, it should be stressed. So
that idealism is realism about nature coupled with rea-lis:: can't say that this and only this nature could 1.ou
produce that

338 339
COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea.lism

event, but we can say that it's necessary. I've said a litde as it
were, in a process of production such that in some
about why, and that's a huge problem acrualll'. It's simph' sense the process of production has an outcome?',
that the problem of ground, naruralistically understood. without that surely it isn't a process of production. So is rh-is
presents us with a tremendous series of problems. If it is the d"{t:.T-d principles or is there sometbing else going on
there?_I'll begin this wirh a re-arriculation oi*h"t
case that the Idea is exterior to the thinl<ing, the thinking 5.h.iling
is exterior to the thinker, and the thinker is exterior to the did to Kant. This is brutal. If thought had an anatomy, anJ
nature that produced it, then, inevitably, we no longer have if a thinker were to have done this to an anatomy, then the
a series of interiorities within which it's possible for anyone owner of that anatomy would be completely dismembered.
to recognise themselves in the production of their thoughts In other words, this is Schelling being the Furies chasing
It's simply a banal accident that we know what it feels like to after Orestes in rhe forest. He iends k-rt to shreds.
have thoughts. That is not particularly significant. \4/hat's takes the apn*i and the aposterioriand totally inverts
significant is the thought. The thought is the product' anc qurpose. The a lrimiis intended to gua_rantee that prior to
of course there are events taking place that surround thal the production of any thought, theie are certain laws in
thought. It's very difficult to imagine, as I said, that what's place,of that thought that entail that that thought and onJy
necessary for the production of a particular event in nature that thoughr can be legitimate within rhe sphJre it's being
is sufficient for the production of that and only that event thought. Schelling turns it around arrd suys, ,No this is noi
a ?rioi, this is a prius.It,s firstnessl
In other words, we have no reason whatsoever to assume A pwtmori, Kant wants to
that our perception of our ourn interiority guarantees claim, is a matter of almost total inaifference. Any science
that that interioriry is somehow reproduced in reality. I: that studies, for example, as chemistry does, ,mere; sensible
just isn't: that the Ideas are sepa-rate from the thinker tha: a posteriori evidences, is basically mistaking
the product for
thinks them, the thinker that thinks them is separate fron: the-_law that produced it, and is therefoie poinrless,
really a science but a cataloguing exercise something,
the thinking that he or she thinks, arrd the seParateness o: -
the thinker from the nanlre that necessaily produced it isn': incidentally. that both Hegel and barwin complain aboJt
suffrcient un its ou)n to produce it, seems to me to guilantee rn the epigrams in Bosanquet,s book, this ,cataloguing
that. exercisel T\e ponerias and the prius for Schelling '_ 62i
from.representing rhis divide between whar is a
So that's idealism. \Arhat does idealism therefore offe: fioi r:ue
for a-ll knowledge, for all knowing, and what is^a posterion.
speculation? Why does it make it necessary? There are hvc
going to be given, that a priori once granted is to iay that
reasons why, and I'm really going to concentrate on one - -
this is simply a firstness and secondness that belongs to
and this is part of an answer to one of the questions that Rar a
generatlve program. The firstness is firstness not mereir. br_
asked earlier concerning, 'how do you a-rrest the process c i
the nature of thoughr but by rhe nature of what it is ihar
production, as it were?', 'how does the product intervene

340 341
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

thought is. In other words, it's not al internal problem of Smith's translarion of Kant,s first Critique.
fUfru, i, ii_,
thought that there is firsmess - apriority, if you like - it's happens when thoughr rries ro catch iis
own tail. tries to
rather a problem of nature that there is a problem, that trap rts own conditions of production in its
product? First
there is a question or al apriority. The a pnoi is nature .
of all. it can't happen, because, as for the mountain.
Unless there were a nature there would be no thinking, I the
conditions. of the production of the thought
are simplr. far.
think we can agree. If there were no nature there would be too extensive for it to be in principle posslble
no thirrking. T\e priu of thinking is necessarily nature. But for a thought
to recover them. So there,s u ,r...rru.y asymmetry. if
the prius never goes, is never a ?i^, unless there's a posteriu.: r:or-r
like, between thought and what pr...d.r'it,
for it to be ltrius to. In consequence, the product and the and it,s this
asynxnetr)' lvhich means that thought is always
productiviry the posterius and the prius, arc two co-presenr different
from rvhat precedes it and always at ihe same
and constalt elements in the articulation of process. It's time requir.es
what precedes it as its necessar)r ground _
simple. It's a formal nugget at one level. but at another necessary but not
sufficient. So there we have u'pio..r, of
level, it's actually the way in rvhich firstness and secondness generation that.s
understood as one then the next, that is iemonstrated.
- tirne, in other words, or its production - becomes if
you like. by the incapacity of thought or mountains,
particular, becomes particular entities, becomes particular by the
lithic or the noetic. to go back and"to recover
thoughts, whatever kind of entities are produced down the its conditions
ol production. ft's simply not doable.
line. All we have is sequencing, and the sequence is priu.
a:ad posterius. But a ltosterius can never, no matter what it is.
is the beginning of a problem, the beginning
capture the sum total of the causes of its production. This
^. l.a
or :n1,
naturallstlc lnter?retarion. a speculative physical
interpretation, of the question of gror-,rrd, of
applies to physical entities, it applies to mountains: Imagine the problem
of ground, which, it seems to me, is a problem
a mountain trying to contain within itself and catalogue. that we,re
all addressing. Several consequences flow from
lay out, merely to lay out and catalogue, all the elemenrs it which it
that went into its production. '4.5 billion years. By God.
seems h explicating, not in so far as they
that's a long lifel says the mountain. 'How much further
relate s project b.rt"i., so far as they relate, i
have we got to go? Only another 10 billion years, till we get
,littk, g.tr..ul. I would like to make cerrain
back to the point where I cata-logue all the events that are
clarms I would like to make the claim that
speculation is entailed by natural producivity.
necessary to my production', alld so on. It's as importalr We don,t
have, in other words, the comfort zone
lo the production of physical entities, such as is commonJr' of an interioritr.
understood, as it is to thought. \Arhat is it that happens when
rvhich re flex. We aorr,t t urr. tnu,
thought pretends to chase its own tail? - the Ourobouros
diagram from the front of the Macmillan edition of Kemp
rook,we :r:il.:"#;:tff:"f;
which thought is possible, and ontlpossible,.
We don,t har.e

COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

that comfort zone, that interioritl', and that's one reason arr entitl', it must be posterius. So the reformulation oi -i--:
why speculation's entailed ... It also means something question of ground, it seems to me, is the means bv n'hucr
very bizarre epistemically at a quite mundane level, at the we can guaranlee a consistent speculation concerning rhe
level of reference. \A4eat is it that happens rvhen lve have origins of thought as much of as the origins of stones. Ani
thoughts about things? Two drings happen: there are things that's where I'll stop and open it up ...
and there are thoughts. \Arhat's the basis of their relation?
Well, the thought that specifically occurs at that point is
the means by which they are related, and that if there is no
other body of reference, are we talking about a rvorld? No.
the world's talking. Now, the question therefore becomes:
If the world talks, if the world is articulate, and if, that is.
nalure thinks - ald however many strata lve want to Place
in between the agent and its product is fine by me, rvell, there
ought to be loads ... however many strata we want to Place
between the agent and its product, betlveen the thinker and
the thought is fine - but it seems to me that if nature thinks.
then it follows that nature thinks just as nature'mountains
or nature 'rivers' or nature 'planetises', or *'hat have you.
These things are the same to all intents and purposes. L.r
other words, there are new products every time there are
thoughts, which creates the problem of ground. And as I
see it, the problem as it presents itself through these lenses
seems to me to focus on a single question: Are there one or
many grounds? If there is one ground for example, the larr
of non-contradiction, such as Bosanquel espouses, beins
a fruit of nature - if there is one ground, then all of the
fruits of nature can be related to that ground. Necessarilr',
Certainly. But sufficiently, no. If there is more than one
ground, if there is ground every time there is event, ther:
that becomes a question of what job it is that the ground is
doing. Is the ground a pius or a posterius? And as a product

344 345
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

h.lsrrvrerroN sy GRAHAM HanvaN

Firstly, I'd like to thank Ray Brassier for conceiring
this evenr and organising it. This all started for me abour

'Speculative Realism,, first of a_ll, is a very apr title.

because realism, of course, is very out of 'fashion in
philosophy. And I rhink one of the r.uro.r, it's out of fashion
is that
the bo
ald fo re

in any of it. The conclusions are very strange in all four

cases. In Ray's case you have a reductive e'iiminativism.
and you end his book with the husks of burnt-out stars and

9. A one-day conference, 'Weird Realism: Lovecraft arld Theory,,

und_er the auspices of Goldsmiths Centre for Culnrral Snrdies on dO ep.,t

COLLAPSE III Specularive Realism
a pre-individual dynarnic flux lhar
In Iain's book you have that Ray is really. the o:*
somehow meets with retardations and becomes encrusteC is the only dlmamrst. I.:-
into rivers and mountains. In my work you get object-'
infinitely withdrawing from each other into vacuums anc Qrentin is rhe onh- ore
only barely managing to communicate across some sort ol necessaryrelationsbetween".r:-l;;':J;;i*t""jrt:
qualitative bridge. And of course in Qrentin's philosophr world. And you can also ,.. diff...Irrt influences in
you get no causal necessiry whatsoever. Everything's pure case. In Ray's case, I rhink: Badiou and Laruelle.
contingency. These are not the sorts of notions one usualh' are the two chapters that seem most central to me in
associates with realism. Metaphysics is usua,lly thought maluscript. And cognitive science, of course. In Iain.s case.
to be concerned with wild, speculative sorts of ideas, and German Idea-lism, Deleuze, Bergson, and his own readilq
speculation is usually not considered a form of realism, of Plato. In my case: Husserl and Heidegger, with a bit
You hear 'speculative idealisml not ' speculative realism'.
Leibniz and a bit of Latour. And in the cas"Jof Meillassous:
Another obvious common link is a kind of antiCoperni- Badiou, of course, but also. I see a lot of simi_larities be.r.een
canism. Kant is still the dominart philosopher of our time. him and David Hume in many ways; nor only the clarin.
Kant's shadolv is over everyone! and many of the attempts of his writing style, but even some of the arguments. seem
to get beyond Kant don't get beyond Kant at all. I think Humean in inspiration.
Heidegger is a good example of this. Heidegger's a great
Before I comment on the work of the other rhree or-r
example of the 'correlationist'. in Meillassoux's sense.I0
the panel, maybe I should give a quick summary of mr.
Obviously, we all think of Kant as a great philosopher. But
lhat doesn't mean he's not a problem. It doesn't mean that
own work. It all started for me with Heidegger. I donrr
was ever quite an orthodox Heideggerian. bur
Kant is the right inspiration for us, and in fact, I hold that
I:hi"k I
certainly loved Heidegger very much. And Jarly on il
the Kantial alternatives are now more or less exhausted.
my graduate studies, I was focusing on the tool_analr-sis.
One of the things I did to prepare for this conference the way *rings hide behind their faiades as we use them,
is to put each of our names on an index card, and I was And it occurred to me at a certain point fairly early that
shuffling them around on my table in Cairo, trying to all of Heidegger boils down to this. 'il,rere's really just one
group us together in different ways. And you can come up fu.ndamenta-l opposition that keeps recurring, whether
with different combinations in this way, various differences talking about being or tools or Dasein or anything else:
between us despite the shared similarities. I came up with a constallt, monotonous reversa_l between the hiddenness
some interesting ones; but if you were going to say what of things and their visible presence-at-hand. Arrd it started
distinguished each of us, I think it's fair to say - and they as just a reading of Heidegger, and there wasn't rea1h.
10 For 'correlationism' see Cor-rersn Vol II (March 2007).
any metaphysical inclination whatsoever at that poinr

368 369
Speculative Realism
What first started doing it for me was when I tvas writing
we have- a great idea, then we become
bored *rth
an article on Levinas a couple years after that. and trying
to piece together Levinas's theory of how the human s,h-r::d8: - and rhat's what happened roir ::rc n-:
started reatising. this_ is^not goi.rg to
subject breaks up the unity of being and hypostatises it into U.-'urry*rirrg rrro..
than 'practice comes before ,i.ori,l *J ,prr*i,
individua-l things. And this srruck me as so inherently pre- breaL
donn when the hammer fails'. It a.o o..rl.r.a
posterous. I'd never really thought ofir thar clearly before. to me rha:
does not get at the realiry of the object
but the more you think about it, why should it be that the Iru*ir. an). more
,hT.ft:ory does - rhat was.the next step. ier, q.i,rrrn=
human subject breaks the world up into parts? This actuallr.
at this chair I don'r exhaust its being,
has a precursor in the pre-Socratics; it was Anaxagoras, for U,ri Uy sitting in ir i
also don't exhaust it. There u.. ,o
whom zoasmakes the apeirutrotate very quickly, ald it starts *"urry deep layers to rlie
realiry of that chair that the human
breaking up into fragments, and so it's mind's fault that the
going to exhaust. Even if hu: als created ".t thesitirrg is ner-er
world has parts, and each of the parts contains all the others chair. even if
and mirrors all the others. But you see that in Levinas, too.
And I realised I was opposed ro thar, but I didn't quite
have the language to start defining why that *umo. Th.rr.
for my dissertation - which is now %ol-Being,tt the book -
if you look closely at Heidegger's tool-ana_lysis, what he's the depths. But the
really can't say that

and they're irrelevarrt to the

like the old reversal berween theory and practice. One ol became to clear to me that as soon
the great things about playng with an idea in your mind as you move away from
the idea that the world is u ho*oge.r.o.r,
for a long time is that you become bored with it after a ferr
or Anaxagoras think,
uJ, as Levinas
years. That's why I think we often make progress, because parts. AtrJ
", to i.rte.a
they're goi.rg 11"
1I. Graham Harman, %ol-Bring: Hrtlzgger and tfu Metaphl:ia of Objr:
(Chicago: Open Court. 20021.
,o hurr."tt."ru*.-..futio.rrfrry :tT:
III Speculative Realism
is a pivotal fwentieth-century thinker. Because his idea ,.
that the essence of the thing is never adequately expressibie
in terms of any relations or arry interactions with it. and so
that's where the kind of vacuum-sealed objects withdranine
from all relations came into my work, from Zubiri.
And then whar I did n %ol-Bring was thar I more or
less showed how a lot of things - Heideggeriurr concepcs
such as time and space and referential contexture. arrd
all these things - boiled down to the tool-analysis: rhar
was Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, I took that and used it as
a weapon against all the things cornmentators usualll, 521.
about Heidegger. In Chapter 3, I simply tried to rurn rn
a more speculative direction. And I can make this short.
because the rea-l speculative problem that arises from this
immediately is that if you have objects that are incapable of
contact, why does arrything ever happen? Given that it is

that we have. And reading \Arhitehead at about the same

time really cemented that idea, that you cannot privilege the
human relationship to the world of over arry other kind of in Iraq you had the Ash'arite school of theology. And of
relation. Whitehead's still the best source for that, I think. course this fits a lot more easily in Islam thal it does in
even better than Leibniz, because for \A4eitehead it can Christianiry which never had any real occasionalists in
happen at all different levels and sizes' With Leibniz there's the pre-modern period, because for the Muslims, in that
always a privileged caste of substances that are natural, and period at least, if God sends an innocent man to hell, so
you cal't talk about an intemational corporation having be it. God is all-powerful. It doesn't create a paradox of
relations with real things. But for Whitehead you can, and free will, as it did for many Chrisrians. So you see rhar firsr
for Latour you also can. So Whitehead was one key, and in the Arabs. It's not only a threar ro God if other entities
another key was Zubii, Xavier Zubiri, a Basque ontologist a-re creators, in the sense of creating the whole universe
who studied with Heidegger and Ortega y Gasset, who's - obviously there has to be only one entity that can do
not as well known as Whitehead, of course, but who I think

372 373
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

that - but things like creating furniture and brewing coffee

would also somehow denigrate God's poweq if individual
agents were able to do this themselves. And so God is there
to explain all actions, recreating everything constantly. And
although the theology seems a bit outrageous to us now,
it's a very profound metaphysical idea, the idea that things
ca-nnot relate, inherently, that things-in-themselves are
totally sealed off from each other. We see this come back in
the seventeenth century in Europe of course, and historians
of seventeenth-century philosophy are often extremely
finicky about who they allow to be called an occasionalisr:
just Malebranche, Cordemoy, and maybe a couple of other
French names. I see no reason not to expand it to include
Descartes, and I would also say Spinoza, ald Leibniz, and
definitely Berkeley. I take the name occasionalism in a very
very broad sense: any time that individual entities do not
have causal power you're giving in to a kind of occasional-
ism. And then Hume is the important final step. Skepticism
in many ways is simply an upside-dorvn occasiona-lism, and
it's no accident that Hume was a great fan of Malebranche.
Hume owned Malebranche's books, marked them
copiously, and here you have a hardcore theist and there
nn unrepentant atheist. The connection benareen them is
the fact that in both cases you have the problem of things
being unable to relate directly, and the difference of course
is that for the occasionalists, in the classical sense, you have
independent things in rhe world rhat are apart from each
other from the start and the question is how they relate. In
a sense, with Hume you already have their relations. We're
already born into a world where there are habits. Things
are linked in my mind already, and the question is only
t2, See Conersn Vol. II. 1Zl-205

COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

the world itself. But in Heidegger we have these tool-beings. objects are the sarne as the tools.
because ther.*r.a_nr ro ..,
these objects; they're rea-l objects, they withdraw from us. that Husserl discovered everything that
they do things in the world outside of our access to them. HeiJegg.. did e igi::
years earlier. It's not rrue!
\44rat you have in Husserl - which is often confused with
Heidegger's own discovery - are the intentional objects. ,other
point about Husserl: Husserl made anorher
bizarre discovery that no one ever ta-lks
If you read the whole first half of the Logital Inuestigatioru. about. rr.hich is
that.one object contains others: namely, consciousnes_.
after he's done refuting psychologism, his real enemy is
My intentiona_l relationship wirh the rable for .Flusserl
British empiricism, and what he is up against is the notion car_r
be viewed as a unit, the ielation itself as a
that what we encounter are qualities, and that somehott, whole. \\,hr.,r
Because I can talk about rhis relation,
the qualities are bundled together by us. Somehow the I .r, ;;;".;.,.i.
think about it, I can have other people analyse
objects are not given for British empiricism. What,s given i;i;;;; _
because, that is, other phenomenologists
are qualities, and those qualities are fused together by the .Jrr ,rr.,
relationship to the table - "rrr_11,r.
and none oi those analyses
human subject. That's what the enrire phenomenological er.er
tradition most opposes, I would say, because in Husserl make it an objecr.
you have intentional objects. You have this table, which solid, hard thing.
I'm only seeing the top surface of, I'm not seeing the fronr t is not exhausted
of, as these people [indicates audiatce] are. I'm not seeing the e intention as a whole is one
thing. But then within that intention, notice
bottom of it. I could circle around it. crawl beneath it and there are rn.o
things contained. There's the table and there,s
I myseli. both

like the real table would be. It's here. I look at ir. I see the
table. I'm not seeing all aspects of it at once, but I am seeing
the other direction, the table
the table, notjust scattered qualities. Furthermore, this table
is not the szure as the real table
and I am the phenomela] object being reduced by the
in the world. doing its orvn table
to a caricature of myself.I know it sounds strange. But I
independent work, because the one I think I see might not
exist - hallucinations do occur. And so intentiona_l ob;..,:
are not the same as rea_l objects, despite what Husserliar.
alrvays tell me. There was a big fight in Iceland last year with
the 'Husserlian mafia' - they tried to tell me that intentionat
meeting a sensual or intentio

o/ I
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

third rea-l object. And there are incredible problems trying

to work out exactly how this happens. There are paradoxes
that arise, arrd I started putting together the puzzle pieces
inCollapse 1lin that article 'On Vicarious Causation'. And
that's where the project is today. So I hope that gives some
idea of what I'm doing so I carr better situate it with respect
to the other three, who I think are a very good match for
what I'm doing. I think Ray chose exquisitely in this case.
I'll start with Ray since he went first. \{trat is always
refreshing for me in dealing rvith Ray and conversing with
Ray is his knowledge of arrd symparhy for the empirical
sciences, which is extremely rare in our discipline. Especialll-
in the case of cogeitive science, because, probably like most
of you, I grew up in an environment where the name of the
Churctrlands lvas always spoken with a wince ald a sneer.
I don't know the work of the Churchlalds nearly as well
as Ray does. I just picked up Metzinger and am looking
for-ward to reading that, but I don't know these things that
well. So that's extremely refreshing. Ray, Iike the rest of
us, does not want to see the human subject privileged in
its relation to the world. The idea that our relation to the
world is special could be eliminared, that it is a kind of folk
psychology, perhaps, I agree with him on all that, definitelr'.
The two ways in which we may differ ... Ruy is something
of a reductionist, because you heard his objections to me
earlier about the hobbits, and he's mentioned the tooth fain-
to me before. These are good objections. Are they reallr-
as real as solid physical objects? I'll address that one fust.
The point is well-taken, and this is a flaw in the Latouriar
position, I think - the position from which I come. Since I
diverged from Heidegger, Latour was one of the first life

COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

I thought I knew about you were false and yet I'm still people. Even rocks a'd tomatoes have some primirir-e for-
pointing at the sarne person. So there is something there of intentionality. So I'd like to know *h*
that I stipul.ate to be you that is deeper than the qualities
R;i;"ds up *iur
* tt Fd srage once eliminativism tu. ,rr'....a.d.
somehow And he even criticises Strawson and Searle, who would be my question to him.
give us the watered down 'cluster theory': 'well, you only
I'll go on next to Iairr _ I'm going in the order
have to be right about most of the qualities you knew about of the
the person'. But does that mean 51 percent of them, or a as I u.as
group of the most important? Arrd so I follow Kripke in his the idea
critical portions, that you have to be pointing at something e one of
deeper that is essential and the same, that is not reducible
say. t doesn,t
to surface qualities. But the reason I call it 'disappointing lirgh:I
ror me, ot what causation
ever really raise the
is, for example. It arguis abour
realism' is because it ends up being the physical structure
whether causation is statistica_l o.
of things, for Kripke, that is real about them. So what's
caused by the observer, but it never
-h.th.. itt retroactivelr-
real about gold is that it has seventy-nine protons. I find really gets into ,fr.
that very disappointing. What's real about each of you is lld.b:l:r
of what happens when one rhi.rg"ro.r.h.. ""r,
I thrnk rt needs to become more metaphysical,
that you had to have the two parents that you had - which, ald in ,On
first of all, is genetically false, right? You could get the same that this is how philosophr.
DNA, by some outlandish chance, through rwo different ve been so terrified by the
pilents. And it just doesn't quite seem like it's my essence. d arrd rwenty yeurr. We firrd
somehow, to have come from those two pa-rents. So, yes, I
would like to know if you are committed to such a reduc-
and power
onto the level
- i::'ffff11tililh;
tionism. For me, it's easy to escape that problem because I that we don,t have the
resources, but think in Iain,s book you can
have all these different levels, Latour has all these different
see there are tools for this that
levels, and even if we have a problem in showing how things we already have. I,m also
very sympathetic to his idea that inversions
reduce, the reductionist position has the more profound of platonism
are completely useless, becaus
problem of explaining what that final level is that endow-s
in the same two-world theory.
something with reality. Is it just the physical sffucture or is
flips it over- but then you srill
it something more? If it's not a physical structure then you
between appearance and platonic Ideas.
could be in some kind of weird idealism, where you have. Another thing I
love about Iain's book is that it firully
I don't know, brain-states floating around ... Pan-psychism -ade serrse of th.
Tarueus for me. There was a great
seems to be coming back in fashion among some of these fad for the Tarueu: tn
the 1990s due to Derrida,s ,ioro ,rruy
u.rd, worse.
COLLAPSE III Specularive Realism

throughJohn Sallis, which really turned me o{fl So I never to do anything other than haunt
ot-,r .rr.r.* .o,rr.. oul
really understood it. Three years ago I had to teach the current situation. But the proper
multiple would
Timaeus because I had to take over the class for someone
need to interact aparr_from
th. ,ub;..t.'ii doesn.t ;;;;"
at the last nrinute. and I wished he had ordered any other me that it does so in Badiou,
,rd irutir-*hy I would nor
dialogue than the faruuul But finally, after reading Iain's call myself a Badiouian, though
;; ;;*l is a fantas ric
book, it's sta-rting to become real to rrre'. funacus is the site lork gf specul_at1ze philosopty, ,fr.
I can think of
srnce Betlng and Tnne. I
of a one-world physics, a physics of the Idea in Plato - it's uppreciate the ambition of ir
and many of his strategi.s fo.
wonderful. Your critique of Kant, I like that, and you cite utia.kirrf...iri" rhings.
Badiou as saying we need to overturn Kant. not Plato. I So those are some of the things
*. ugr.. on. There .s
agree with that. I also completely agree with the idea that really just one central disugr.emeri,
and.it's a huge one, and it ieads
U.i*i" me and Iain.
life-philosophy is always an alibi. Life-philosophy is an alibi i"r";;;;:qreemenr
for refusing to deal with the inorganic. \,\rhy do people the history of philosophy. The abort
ts against what he calls ,,somatir]-,, is that Iain
like David Farrell Krell always go straight to life and never
talk about rocks? \Arhat's so sexy about life? You see, it's favour of it. For him. philosophy -J- t,_
toaty i'
;;-;J;out the bodies.
an alibi, and it's a way to stay close to the human while it's about a deeoer force prior
io the bodies {rom which
claiming that you're going deeper than that somehow. Iain the bodies emerge. For
also leans toward anti-eli-rninativism, as I do in my own T. ,1,, nothing but objects, there is
no pre-individuat dynamic
flux that,;;;; up irrto various
temperament, which makes us different from Ray, to some specific individuals. And I
exlent. And finally, I think, another thing that unites us,
suspe., ,t,..?1, Jj_. ir_,flr.,.,..
tion. The objects themselves
maybe more than the other two palelists, is that we are to lnteract, it all happens at
more ambivalent towards Badiou, I've noticed, although to a big disagreement about
we both respect him. You criticise Badiou for giving us only
use he sees Aristotle as being
this alternative of 'number and animal', and say that this is ees Aristotelia., substarrce ai
not a real alternative. You point out that it fails to capture antian phenomenon, which
the geological and other things, and I would tend to agree e are hmes when Aristotle
with that. And I also miss a philosophy of nature in Badiou. ent to the logos, but I think
For me, the problem is - as I said in my review of Meil- e says the rea_l can never be
lassoux's book in Philosoplry 'frd"q,t3 - is the inconsistent
multiple in Badiou really multiple? It doesn't really seem go so
perception of a chair for as m)'
.i,r'. g..J;;;;i;;",r.Kant alist. He ,*on
"ri ili
13.Graham Harman, 'Qrentin Meillassoux: A New French Philosopher'.
Philuophy'frfuy,Yolune 51, no. 1, Spring 2007: 104-117. "
382 383
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

been seen that way, so Iain's time. Something Ray said over coffee either last night or
saying Aristotle's actuallY on K this morningis that analyticphilosophers would be shocked
us -counterinruitive, but inter if they read this. They would say 'This isn,t the French
to retain Aristotle on our team. I would say the Aristote- he's actually makng
lian forms are not mathematical formalisations' They are eductive arguments.
substantial forms, and substantial forms can hide from the mselves on doing. as
tradition. At first the
argument about causation using the Cantorian transfilite
was less convincing to me thal the others in the book. But
I've been thinking about this more for the past few weeks.
and it's growing on me. So are there other ways to use
the transfinite to solve other problems like this, such as the
bogeyman of the infnite regress? Could you talk abour a

Causation is productive because there's always more in the

effect than there was in the cause. It's also true thal there there must be a bigger universe, and physics seems inclined
is less in the effect than there was in the cause. because I to support this lately.
Disagreements? The main disagreement here is obvious
as well, which is: causation is the key for me, and for
Meillassoux causation disappears. In some ways he leads
us to a more chaotic universe than Hume does. because as
Meillassoux himself says, Hume really doubts whether I
unlike Latour, talks about technological objects - oil rigs can know that there's a causal relationship berween things.
and things like that - because the different kinds of objects whereas Meillassoux hnows that it's absolutely continge;r.
are Iess important for Iain than the deeper natural forces the way things happen. He absolutely hnows that thire's
that all objects stem from. no causal necessiry between things. And that might be
Now on to Meillassoux. There are so many things to a brand new gesture. I don't know anyone else who has
admire about Meillassoux's book. Stylistically, it's ven' done this. He's doubting the Principie of Sufficienr Reason
clear and economical. You never feel that he's wasting your while keeping rhe concept of non-contradiction, and he's

384 385
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

thereby doubting necessity. But he actually goes further the question will come up as to whether
u ,t irrg .* .r.,
than this, ard he doesn't ta-lk about this much explicitly, but touch its own qualities. \Ahat is the relarion
of aihing to irs
in my view, since he is saying that everything is absolutely ou'n qualities? Within the mind, things
contingent, what he's really doubting is that there's any
do seem to relare.
because there are mary things in my
relationality at a-ll. Everything's absolutely cut off from #nd at once, so there
already is a kind of relationsiip This
is the lriticism I made
everything else, because if one thing could be connected of.Hume - you're starting with u relation.
toanother or could influence another thing, then he I see different
splotches and colours anJ shapes around
wouldn't have absolute contingency an)rrnore. He lvould the room, and
they are somehow related, beca.,se they're
sometimes have relations between things and sometimes all in my mind
at once. Also, if it,s true, then there would
not. So it seems to me that absolute contingency entails be no ielation
benveen my perception of
no relations at all between anything, and this is why I have elf. So
that even if we know thro
called Meillassoux a hyper-occasiona-list. because he doesn't at the
beginning of the book that
even have a God to save us from this problem. And unlike rea-lm
outside of
Hume, he does believe there's an ancestral rvorld outside of How does
us that exists, and it's totally outside of our minds. and n'e with what
seem to have no access to that either, because that rvould and so does unveiling, on M
require a relationship between me and what's outside of my mind relare to the world? And finally,
me, and that also seems impossible. So maybe I can know what are the
things outside the mind? Because if it,s
true thar rhere,s a
a pioi that there's an ancestral world, and I may also have problem, for Meillassoux, of linking a
thing to its qualities,
these qualities in my mind that are somehorv linked in my this you
.means have nothing but"disco#ected qualities
mind, but - according to my reading of his system - there's outside the m
really no hope of linking these things. It seems to me that to me'
because, as I
in his system nothing touches anything else at all. not even ry the
blackis alread t is the
partially, so in that way we're very close in our positions. brackness. so
The difference is that I try to find some solution so things ald I would say. rhen, in caus
can relate through the back door somehoq and he doesn't or objection to Meillassoux _
do this. And this leads to several other related problems. with this reading completely _;
So my first question to Meillassoux is: Does a thing touch necessiry and contingency. Isn'r
its orvn qualities? He may disagree with my assessment that isn't that middle gr6.lrrd a relation or interface?
he's saying that nothing relates to anything else or touches when two things relate, when you talk about
a relation_
arrything else, but if he accepts that reading of his system. ship, well, that's not absolute contingency,
b*.,r. they are

COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

affecting each other, right? And necessiry implies almost

a lack of separation between them, since it implies a kind
of searnless mechanical whole in which an action already
contains its effects. What a relation really consists of is
two things that are somehow partly autonomous yet still
manage to influence each other. And so my question is: Is
there any possibility of interface in Meillassoux's system?
Can one thing influence another without there being a
necessary relationship between them? And fitttllX my real
objection to him is that he hasn't published his system yet'
because I'd love to stay up the next three nights and read
it! That would be great reading. He says he's got multiple
volumes coming, six or seven hundred pages. I would be
delighted to read this right noq so please hurry! Alright,
now I'll listen to the responses from my fellow palelists.

388 389
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism


I would first of a-tl like to give my thanks to the
organisers of this conference. I'm very proud to participate
in it, considering the exceptional quality of the contributors.
And I am very happy to have this opportunity to express
my admiration for the books of Ray Brassier, Graham always-already correlated to a point of view, to a subjecrir.e
Harman, and Iain Grant. I think that the very existence of access- this is the thesis of any correlationism.
such a philosophical configuration of origina-l conceptual By the term 'correlationl I also walted to e-r-ilbi:
projects is in itself remarkable. I rhink thar we also must have
in common, the four speakers, the difficulty of explaining
our jobs to our familiesl But as I said ro Graham, I think it
is a configuration of what could be called a 'weird realism',
four modalities of 'weird realism'. I'd like to discuss here
one of the theses of Ray Brassier's beautiful book, Nihit
Unbound, and try to respond to some of his stimulating
objections, supporred by the non-philosophy of Franqois
Laruelle. Thanks to this discussion. I will expose and mark
out the fundamenta-l decisions of Afer Finitude, especially means: 'X is the correlate of thinking' in a Cartesian sen_ie.
concerning correlationism and the principle of factuality. That is: X is the correlate of an affection, or a perceprio:r.
As you may know, I have given the name ,correlation- or a conception, or of any subjective act. To be is to be .
ism' to the contemporary opponent of any realism. By this
term, I walted to avoid the usual 'parade' of transcenden-
tal philosophy and phenomenology against the accusarion
of idealism - I mean answers such as: ,Kantian criticism
is not a subjective idealism since there is a refutation of
idealism in the Gitique of Pure Reann': or ,phenomenology
is not a dogmatic idea-lism. since intentionality is ori..rtuted

In my opinion, the hinciptes of the Scienrc oJ'Kn;.,1..;i.,.

wrirren by Fichte in 1794, is the chefct'oruui of sucl. .

Speculative Realism
correlationism.Tlte is to date rhe most
Scimce of l{nowkdge
rigourous expression of the correlationist challenge opposed
to any realism. I'd like to begin this talk by remembering
the principal aspect of rhis philosophy. so that we can
be conscious of the very nature of this anrirealism at its
climax. I won't speak, of course. about the details of this
very difEcult book, but I shall onl1. recall the heart of its
argumentation: the principle of its conceptual production,
rvhich appears to me as the most precise form of the obstacle
that a contemporary realism has to surmount. I lvill rely,
on a recent interpretation of the Scjettce of Kttowkdge, which
has completely changed the comprehension of Fichte, at
else already knew!
Ieast in France: in 2000 Isabelle Thomas-Fogieltr proposed
a devastating criticism of the dorninant interprerarion How must we read Fichte, consequently? Accordirg
of Fichte in our country to Thomas-Fogiel, as a thinker of the pragmatic .orlo"l
- Philonenko's interpretation - diction: Fichte is a thinker who intends io Jrrul.,ut. ....r.,
and allowed us at last to read the true Science o1f l{nouledge,
instead of the extraordinary but also eccentric reconstruc- philosopher by his capaciry to do whar he says and to sar
tion elaborated by Philonenko in 1966.15 what he does. A pragmatic contradiction consists. as \.ou
know, in contradicting the content of a sentence br. rhe
Briefly: Philonenko claimed that the three first principles
enunciation of this very sentence. It is not a logical conrra-
of the Science oif IGtozuledge - including the famous 'I : I'
diction - such as: 'Peter thinks and peter does not *rinl.
- were not true principles, but dia,lectical illusions that
Fichte undertook to deconstruct throughout his system. So,
in the Scjnce of Knowkdge, you have three principles, and
he deduces all that follows from rhese three principles?
- No, it's not true! According to Philonenko, they were
illusions that Fichte deconstructedl Therefore, of course,
Philonenko also had to explain that Fichte was a srr:rnge
14 I. Thomas-Foglel, Gittgue de Ia relvaentatim: Etude sur Fithte (paris: Vrin,
2000). Austin,r6 to interpret the Science of l{nowted.geas a philosophv
t 5 A. Philonenk o . La libertd httmaine dnn: la philo:ophte dc Fihte (Paris : Vrin,
16 J. Hintikka, 'Cogtto, ergo sum: lnference or performance .).. pln.,, .:
I 966). _ ::..:.
Rnim. Yolume 71. No. I . Ja:r. 1962: 3-32. included in Kno ,!;.
, I, :: : ..

COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea-lism

written under the systematic constraint of pragmatic an independent real - otherwise we couldn't expia-:: -_-=
non-contradiction. In particular, the Scinte of (vtowledge passivity of sensation - and at the same time ir can.: p,-!::
destroys any attempt at realism by proving it is always and such a reality without contradiction. This ,double br:.:.
immediately self-contradictory in a pragmatic way. \A&rat is which is ultimately still what ,realism, means for con:er--
a philosopher really doing when he claims to have access porary philosophy - we need it, but we cal,t claim ir. sl'
to a reality independent of the I? He posits, says Fichte, an we cllm and. deny it - this double bind never o\.ersceps.
X supposed to be independent of any position. In other according to Fichte, the limits of the I, because the acrir.e i rs
words, he posits the X as non-posited. He pretends to think
what is independent and exterior to ary conceptualisation,
but in doing so he doesn't say what he effectively does. He
says his X is indifferent to thought, but what he does, of
course, is simply to conceptualise an X perfecdy dependent
on his own thinking. Hence, according to Fichte, the
pragmatic contradiction between the acts and the thesis of
any realist.
But Fichte's very originaliry in which he anticipates
Hegelian dialectics, is that his contradiction is essentially
fruitful. Contradictions produced - notably, by realism - in therein invented, and whose principle is always the same:
the Science ofI{nowlcdgedo not lead to the end of the discourse, If you think ,{ then you think X. That is what I called the
but to the creation of new concepts able to temporarily
neutralise the mortal opposition between content and act.
Only temporarily, since such concepts allow one to shift
the contradiction again and again bul not to abolish it - at
Ieast in the sphere of theory the resolution of the initial governed my own investigations and which I shall examire
contradiction being the privilege of practical reason, not of in relation to the non-philosophy of Frangois Laruelle. on
theoretical reason. the one hand, and the principle of facnraliry I set our in
To be more precise, we could say that there is for Afier Finitudz, on rhe other. But why this comparison nirh
Fichte a sort of 'double bind' for philosophy itsell it has Laruelle?
both to posit the secondariness of thinking relative to In his wonderfully radical book, Nihit (Jnbourul. Rar
Known (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974);'Cogio, ergl rum as an Inference and a
Brassier devotes a chapter to A,ficr Finitudl7 and, anorher
Performance', Philosophtcal fuuieu, Volume 72, No. 4. Oct 1963: 487-96. 17. I'fi.hil Unlound, Chapter 3; also see Cor,lepsn Vol. II, l5-5j

412 413
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

to Laruelle's non-philosophy.l8 Brassieq who is a firsl-class

reader, tries to show that Laruelle's 'transcendental
realism' is a more reliable and rigorous way to root out
the philosophy of correlationism than that which I propose.
Even if Brassier's reading is generally kind towards Afer
Fmitude, he points out what he sees as some weaknesses
in my argument, and particularly the fact that I speak of
an intellectual intuition of facticiry. In this expression -
'intellectual intuition' - Brassier suspects a possible abso-
lutisation of meaning, and maybe a rernnart of speculative
idealism that threatens my will to escaPe from the circle of
correlation. I shall try to respond to this objection in the
following way: First, I will show why the non-philosophy
of Laruelle, despite its admirable rigour, fails, in my view. to
efficiently fight the argument of the correlational circle. And
I will demonstrate this point by applying to non-philosophy
a Fichtean model of refutation - that is, a refutation based on
the pragmatico-genetic contradiction. Then, I'll show that
what I called 'intellectual intuition' tn Afer Futitudz - and
what I shall now call, more precisely, 'dianoetic intuition' -
is able, unlike non-philosophy, to neutralise correlationism,
even in its Fichtean version - that is, even at the high point
of its rigour.
The funny thing is that I discovered, after I decided to
confront Laruelle with Fichte, that Laruelle himselt in his
fuinciples of Non-Philwoplry,'n compated his own reasoning
with Fichte's in the Scienre of lGowlzdge. But Laruelle is a
tributary of the outdated commentary of Philonenko; that's
why his confrontation is disappointing.
18. Nilil Unbound, Chapter 5.
corresponds to the transcendental deduction. From *ris
19. Frarrgois Laruelle, hincipes fu k nm-philosophie (Paris: PUF, 1996)

4t4 4t5
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

representation - perceptual or imaginative - of a hor=: : =

wall, but you cal't have arry representation of a repre .e:_-=
tion. If you want to think what a represenrarion is - j..: -.
a unity of dtilum and a ltriori - you need somerhirs o-j-_-r
than objective knowledge, this being itself consdnrtec b,.
the unity of datum and a priori. This was Ka_nt's essen:-.'
failing, according to Fichte: Kant didn't explain horr- ir rr..
possible to write the Gitique of Pure Reason. He describe c
all knowledge in rerms of objectivity - that is. in cenns r,:
represenration, constituted by the slnthesis of categodes
by intellectual intuition. Let's see how Laruelle proceeds and space-time - but his own phihsophimt knorr-ledge
to extricate himself from the field of philosophy - that about objective knowledge, that is, about representario,,.
is, correlationism, in Brassier's version. I can't of course couldn't be described in the same terms. How n'as Kari:
reproduce all of Laruelle's reasoning, which is complex and able to elaborate transcendental notions such as matter
evolves from one book to another, but I won't need to do and form, categories and representation? This operatio::
so to explain my objection. needed, according to Fichte, another faculty which rvrr
First, I remark that there is a precise reason' different almost described by Kant: the faculty of reflection. -\ld
from Brassier's own reason, to refuse the identification of this faculty, reflecdon - contrary to the apparent opiruon of
philosophy with the circle of objectiviry. Brassier claims Laruelle - is essentially different from objectiviq'. Reflecrion
it lt to look for an etemal essence of philosophy, is a non-representative, non-objectivating faculry n.hich is
philosophy being constitr-rted by the contingent history of the condition for conceiving objectivity as such. Reflecrion
iexts. But I think there is another reason, a structural one, is what allows Lamelle himself to stand outside the circle oi
to refuse the idea that philosophy should be encapsulated objectivity when he conceives its unity. Laruelle is outside
in the circle of objectiviry one that Fichte was probably the circle of objectivity when he describes ir. because
the first to conceive. Ttris reason is: if you want to think describing it means not being in it anymore. But this is also
the circle of objectivity - what Fichte calls the representa- the case with every philosopher who was able to descr-ibe
tion, the unification of dntum and fartum and the o pn-i - this circle: a-11 of them adopt, consciously or nor. rhe poin:
of view of reflection, but Fichte was the first to conscioush-
and systematically adopt this point of view in order ro
construct his system.
Consequently, lf you want to escape from rhe circle o:
correlationism, you must not only escape from dee cl:;.;
416 417
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

of objectivity, but also from the larger circle of reflection, Laruelle says, this is the content of his discourse
which is outside Laruelle's circle and includes it. Correla- - Fichtean question - what does he do? ll}rar is rie .::
tionism, as I define it, includes reflection, since reflection of his discourse? Laruelle, of course, posits such a Re-
is position. \44ren you conceive the circle of objectivity, as independent of any thought. Co.rrequ..rdr-. he
you are outside this circle, but still in the circle of corre- exactly the contrary of what he says. He ,a1.r. .rhe
lationism, according to me. So i! like Laruelle, you posit Re:-
something outside the circle of objectiviry - in his case the
precedes thought - in particular, philosophical thought _
and is indifferent to it] but the oider of what he does i.
Real outside 'Philosophy' - this Rea-l will still be, according the opposite of rhe order of what he says: he begrns br
to me, in the circle of correlationism. Because it will be a ,Ifrlg,. and especially by thinking what philoslphicJ
posited Real: a Real posited by reflection outside of repre- thought is, and then progresses to tle Real. The Real is
sentation. This is exactly what Fichte calls, in his technical truly a notion of the Rea_l which is dependent on thinliins.
vocabulary, the 'independent activiry' - that is, to simplify and which is post-philosophical, elaboiated from his nonon
a great deal, the notion of the 'thing in itself', outside rep- ofphilosophy. The real order - or the order ofacts. nor of
resentation - Kaltian representation - and impossible to content - is manifest in the very name of Laruelle's theon.:
conceive through this representation. 'non-philosophy'. Non-philosophy is supposed
to thinJi r1re
Let's demonstrate this point more precisely. Here is my relation of thinking with a Real which piecedes philosophr,.
strategy: as I said previously, I propose to apply to Laruelle
the Fichtean way of reasoning - not his precise thesis, but
the pragmatico-genetic contradiction which constitutes the
principle of his argumentation. I am going to reconstruct
Laruelle's position in a correlational way, showing how pragmatic contradiction between what Lamelle says abour
what he calls 'the Real' is nothing but a posited Rea-I, and the ReaI and what he does when elaborating this norion.
how the concepts created by non-philosophy just shift this But ofcourse this contradiction, this pragmatic conrradic_
contradiction without being able to abolish it. We shall see tion, is far too trivia-l to worry
clearly, then, why I think that Laruelle doesn't really escape that he could easily respond
from the circle of correlation. new concepts. So the contra
Let's begin with the Rea-l as described by Laruelle. The diction, becomes fruitful because it compels the thinker ro
Real, he says, is radically indifferent to and independent shift it so that he can avoid a gap which in fact will ner.er
of the circle of objectiviry. The Real precedes thought, but filled in. Laruelle could first dimonstrate thar our objecrion
thought, conversely, is always dependent upon the Rea1, proceeds from a series of confusions. The Real is a negarror-
which is essentially unaffected by thought. That is whar of nothing: it is relative to nothing, according to bjm. a:rc

COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

especially can't be identified with the concept of the Other aiming at the exhibition of its independenc..
which presupposes the X whose other it is. The Real, on every rhesis add_ed by Lamelle will only
*O , ,: . ..:..
the contrary, is radically autonomous, without relation to w?rs:. That's why the only solution
male rhe si:u.: -.
foi Lan,elle rril be _- .
thought. Thought, on the other hand, can distinguish itself solution, according to me, of every modern
rea.hsm jgj:-_i,
from the Real if it ceases to identify itself with philosophy, correlationism or idealism: as it seems impossible
,o .:*._
locked up in the circle of objectivity, to think under the f.r.om this position, from this objection,
axiom of the Real. Then thought knows itself as deter-
rhe;d\.;olu;;;,: _
disqualify what you can,t refu"te. The solution
for Lan;e -.
rnined-in-the-last-instance by the Real, says Laruelle. That can only be: First, to say that the Real is
posited br-al a-r:c,::-
is: thought knows itself as relatively, but not radically, -.that is, something that can be neither demonsrrated n,,:
aulonomous. This means that thought can produce by discussed - and secondly, to introduce a
precise conce::
itself its own concepts, but has to avoid the sufficiency of which will disqualifr in advance anyone who cor-rrests
absolute autonomy proper to philosophy and which is its an axiom; that is, the concept of ,resistancel I rvrll
end -r-..
intrinsic illusion. Fichtean reconstmction of Laruelle with this concepr
We now have a series of new concepts: radical and I propose to examine, considering its genealogv aIrd -:-.
relative autonomy, sufficiency, determination-in-the-last- strateg'ic importance for any contemporary realism.
instance, etc. But have we then escaped from the correla-
tional circle? Of course not; we have only deduced what is
necessary to think a ltosited Real, if we admit that this Real
effectively precedes any position. But Laruelle gets this first
position just by force, just by a coup de force. The Reai is
poited as indifferent to its positing and as non-related to
thought. After that, Lamelle reflects on the possibility of his
own theory by claiming the relative autonomy of thought;
bul in fact, it seems, on the contrary that his thought is
able to posit the Real itself and its relation to the Real.
That is, to posit that the Real has no relation to thought,
and that thought has a relation of relative autonomy to the
Real. He also posits all these concepts as essentially non-
dialectical, but what he does is of course easy to dialecticise.
For the Real is now linked more than ever to his concepts,
more dependent on more and more intricate elaborations

420 42r
COLLAPSE III Speculative Reaiism

But of course, each time he removes it with another finger,

the plaster sticks immediately onto it! And since the process
is endless, Haddock quickly loses his temper. The plaster
is identical to the 'that is what you thinh' that the correla-
tionist just has to add to any realist thesis one might try
to assert. The realist always has to posit more concepts to
prove he has accessed pre-conceptual realiry. The situation
seems desperate: how could you refute that whenever you
think something, you thinh somerhing? That's why the
realist, conscious that his reasoning is apparently in vain,
has generally renounced any attempt to refute the corre-
lationist and has adopted what I call a 'logic of secession'
towards him. This secession is a blunt refusal addressed to
the correlationist: an 'I won't discuss with you anlanore, I
will rather discuss aboutyou'. This is a logic of unbinding,
of independence, but this independence is not the originary
independence of the Real towards the correlation but that
of the realist towards the discussion with the correlationist.
This logic of secession, it seems to me, takes two principal
forms in modernity.

422 423
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

we exarnine wlg,he says what he says. It is the well-known amputating reciprocity and sharpening one-sicied:-;.. ,
Iogic of suspicion that we find in Marx, with the notion of Unilateralisation is a complex concept in Larrelle rhar I -:_. :
ideology, or in Freud. with precisely the notion of resistance. explore now Br-._-:
The realist fights every form of idealism by discovering the in his book. uen;e :
hidden reasons behind these discourses - reasons that do the thought tor..Li
not concern the content of philosophies, but the shameful thought. Wh Lanie-_
motivations of their supporters: class-interest, libido, a/c. In introduces into the transcendental circle - conscirutei :,..
this way, the realist explains in advance why his theories the reciprocal syrthesis befvveen categories and inrur:1,:-
must be refused by those rvho are unable to see the - the essential as1-mmetry of the Real and thoughl. =:r
truth for such and such objective reasons. Hence he will as).rnmetry which disjoins the correlations of crirical r-:
neutralise any refutation as an already-described symptom idealist philosophies. But my ovm hypothesis abour -;::_.
of social or psychological resistance, unconscious resistance power of disjunction is that it proceeds more profour:C-.,
which is, according to the realist, often unavoidable. But from the strategy of secession towards correlationism. Th.
what is interesting, from my own point of view, is that this radical autonomy of the Re
well-known strategy of suspicion can be understood as is produced by the radical
the necessary result of arr inabiliry to rationally refute the pher, of Laruelle himselt
insipid and implacable argument of the correlationist. And the correlationist. Laruelle
we could say the same about the Netzschean suspicion of ald then he posits his refusal to discuss the correlaac,::.
the sickly Kantians of the University. Laruelle inherits these th the concept of resisra:-1c..
strategies through his oun concept of resistance: he says, n without answering ro il. i:
of course, that his non-philosophy must necessarily excite correlationist which cre:.r:.
great resistance from philosophy - he predicts that philoso- in the discourse the effect of the radical autonomr. of '.ee
phers will reproach him for a coup dejbrce, exactly as I did - es all the e{Iects of surdc -
and he claims that any refutation he will encounter from the ntal slmthesis. The meanl--;
point of view of the circle of Decision is the necessarT effect e's secession rather thal ---
of his theory of the Real upon philosophical sufficiency. severing of the Real.

Brassier makes an interesting suggestion regarding The concept of resistance is an effect, as \re s3-c
Lanrelle's theory: he says that one of his major concepts - of the theory of suspicion. Bur, in my vieq and er.en :
unilateralisation - is a 'surgical interwention upon the body I admire Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, realists shoulC :.:
of transcendental synthesis; severing terms from relations, last start becoming suspicious of this venerable rheon, -,:
20. Nihil Unbound,, 147.

424 425
COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea_lism

suspicion. Because, as I said, it seems to me that we czul the argument that we never have access to
sonte LLr_:
trace a genealogy of suspicion and its favourite notion, from that access - that the ,in-itself, is ,rr],r-ro... . -'-_ :
resistance. which discovers at its root an inabiliry to refute. only know the 'for-us1 Here is my strateg\.: rhe r,.61.: ;., :.
precisely and simply, the unbearable argument of the circle. correlationism consists in the dualiry of irs oppone:::.. r.
I refuse suspicion because realism, in my view, must remain relationism is not, in my definition, an anri-r;alsr:: iri..
a rationalism. The circle argument Lr an argument and must anti-absolutism. Correlationism is the modern \\.a\. :,r i,-
be treated as such. You don't refuse a mathematical dem- all possible knowledge of an absolute: it is the cl:_r,n j--=: - ,.
onstration because the mathematicians are supposed to be are closed up in our representations - whether con_i.-
sickly or full of frustrated libido, you just refuse what y-ou linguistic, or historical - with no sure access to an e\:-:.-,:
refute! I clearly understood the calamitous consequences reality independent of our specific point of r,"ierv. Bur ,-:-.:.
of the notion of resistance when I heard arr astrologer. are two main forms of the absolute: the rea,list one. rr.i::_--
answering placidly to a sceptic, that the larter's incredulity a non-thinking realitl, independent of our access ro ir. .._:
was predictable since he was a Scorpio! the idealist one, which is the absolutisation of rhe correl:*,:-.
What is at stake, consequently, is to build up a realism itself. Therefore, correlationism must also refute spe cu1::....
released from the strategy of suspicion: a realism which idealism - or any form of vitalism or pan-psy.chism _ .:
doesn't need to di:quaffi the correlationist because it wants to reject all dre moda-lities of the absolute. Bu:
has clearly refuted hirn. I want that easy and implacable argument of the circle is useless for this second refi-rr:;r _:_
refutation to be transferred to the other side, from cor- because idealism and vitalism consist precisell.in cla:r:-::-:
relationism to realism; and, conversely, the argument of that it is the circle itself which is the absolute.
resistance to become the last possible defence of corre- ist ald vitalist argume :t__.
lationism itself. But I don't want to refute only to refute
and win the discussion. As we sha-ll see, I'm looking for a
creative refutation. That is, a refutation which discovers a
tivist] the sup
truth, an absolute truth, inside the circle itself. That's why metaphysics. Correlation beir-rs h.-.
I propose an access to the Real not grounded on an axiom, maly different forms: the r soi.- _,
but on a clemonstrated pt-tipk - the principle of factuality that these relations, or indeed nor o:r-,,.
I'm now going to set out. of men, but of being itself. He projects into rhe thi.-::
The mainproblem I try to facenAferFinitudcisprecisely themselves a correlation whichmighibe perceprion. ,,1;3,.
that of building a materialism - or a realism - able to refute lection, desire, etc., and makes it the absolute it-.ell-. O:
clearly the conelational circle in its simplest form, which is course, this process is far more elaborate than I can desc:..'.
also the form which is the most difficult to fight with: thar is, here, especially in Hegel. Bur the principle of subjec;,,--_.:_-

426 427
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

is always the same. It consists in refuting realism and cor-

phrsical lar..5 1-s
relationism by the following reasoning: Since we cannot
ffect must follor,
conceive a being which would not be constituted by our
laws and causes.
relation to the world, since we cannot escape from the circle except eventually other ungrounded causes ald lau.s: ther:
of correlation, the whole of these relations, or an eminent is no ultimate cause, nor ultimate law, that is a cau_.e o:
part of this whole, represents the very essence of any realiry. a law including the ground of its own existence. Bul
According to the subjectivist, it is absurd to suppose, as the
correlationist does, that there could be an in-itself different Pe:
from any human correlation to the world. The subjectivist
thus turns the argument of the circle against the correlation-
,.: l:
ist himself: since we can't think any reaJity independent of is not necessary thatl should think. From the inside of rhe
humal correlations to the world, it means, according to the correlation, I have access to my
subjectivist, that the supposition of such a reality existing facticiry of the world correlated
outside the circle is nonsense. Hence, the absolute is the it. And this because of the lack
circle itself, or at least a part ofit. musa sui, able to ground my existence.
This is why I with Brassier's identification
disagree Facticity so defined is, in my view, the fundamenra,
of what I call with what Laruelle calls
correlationism answer to any absolutisation of the correlation. for f
'philosophy'. It seems to me that Laruelle's notion of
philosophy as a circle of Decision includes Hegel as well as
Kant - idealist speculation with transcendental correlation-
ism. In my view, it is on the contrary essential to distinguish
between them since this distinction demonstrates the
necessity for correlationism to produce a second argument
able to respond to the idealist absolute. This necessiry of a we are existing. But we can reply, this time, that rve c.a],r
second argument is extremely important, since, as we shall conceive our facticiry even from the inside of the corre_
see, it will become the flaw of the circle-fortress. This second
argument, as I claimed in Afer Finitudr, is the argument of
facticity, and I must now explain its exact meaning.
I call 'facticity' the lack of reason of any reality; that is, the
impossibiliry of giving an ultimate ground to the existence
of any being. We can reach conditional necessiry but never

428 429
COLLAPSE III Speculative Rea_lism

death. Otherwise, I would be able to

not necessa-ry. We choose whether or not to posit our own disappea_r- orir. ,:-_ _ -:.
condition; that I was still alive to *rlnt<-of mr. di.,p,i_1.
subjective reflection, and this choice is not grounded on any
alce and make this event a correlate of m;. access ro i_
necessa-ry cause, since our freedom is radical. But to say ^:
other words, I could be dying indefinitely, but I coulci ne -,,e
this is just to recognise, after Descartes, that our subjectiviry :
cannot reach an absolute necessify but only a conditional
pass away, because I would have to exist to malie of Ce .--
a correlate of my own subjective access ro it. If facric-:.
one. Even if Fichte speaks abundandy of absolute and
can be conceived, if it is a notion that we cal effecdr.e
unconditional necessiry his necessiry is no longer dogmatic -,.

and substantial necessiry but a necessity grounded upon

conceive -and this must be the case for the coneladc,:-.
a freedom itself ungrounded. There can be no dogmatic
ist if he wants to refute the idealist -then it is a nocrc,::
we can think as an absolute: the absolute lack of re i.so:_
proof that the correlation must exist rather than not. Hence
this absence of necessiry is sufficient to reject the idealist's
of any realifi or, in other words, the effective abilin. r:
every deterrnined entiry - event, thing, or law of subjeclr.-
claim of its absolute necessity.
tty - to appear and disappear with no reason for its behs o:
Correlationism, then, is constituted of two arguments: non-being. IJnreason becomes the attribute of ar-r abso'iure
the circle of correlation against narve realism - let's use this
time able to destroy and create arry determined encin, _
term for a realism unable to refute the circle; and facticiry event, thing or law - without any reason for thus creari:ni
against speculative idealism, agairut subjectivism. The and destroying.
idealist, the subjectivist, claims to defeat the correlationist
by the absolutisation of the correlation; I believe that we \Atrat I try ro show by this thesis concerns the condirior:
of the thinkability of the essential opposition of correlarion-
can defeat the correlationist only by the absolutisation of
ism: the opposition of the in-itself anj the for-us. The thesrs
facticity. Let's see why.
of correlationism is that I can't know what the realin. rroulc
The correlationist must claim, against the idealist,
be without me, without us, without thinking. uithour
that we can conceive the contingency of the correlation, thought. According to the correlationist, if I remove mr.se
that is: its possible disappearance; for example, with the lf
from the world, I can't know the residue. But this reasonir.rE
extinction of humaniry. The correlation is contingent: we supposes that we have access to an absolute possibilin:
can conceive the contingency of the correlation. But, in this
the possibility that the in-itself could be different from rhe
way, the correlationist must admit that we can positively for-us. And this absolute possibiliry is grounded in rurr
think of a possibfity which is essentially independent of on the absolute facticiry of the correlattn. It is because
the correlation, since this is precisely the possibility of the
I cal conceive the non-being of the correlation thar I can
non-being of the correlation. We can draw an analogy conceive the possibiliry of an in-itself essentiallv differerr
with death: to think of myself as a mortal' I must admit from the world as correlated to human subjecdrin.
that death doesn't depend on my own thinking about my

430 437
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

Consequently, I can refute the correlationist refutation of dangerous concession made to correlationism. Let s r.- :_
realism, grounded as it is on the accusation of pragmatic respond, to give an :rnswer to this objection.
contradiction, because 1 discover in correlational reasoning What did I mean, exactly, by this expression. 'inte'.;
a pragmatic contradiction : the correlationist's fundamental tual intuition'? Why did I take the risk of using an idea--_.:
notions - for-us and in-itself - are grounded on an implicit expression in order, of course, to subvert its meani:e:,
absolutisation: the absolutisation of facticity. Everything can From now on, I shall use, if you prefer, the o-xrmoro:::
be conceived as contingent, dependent on human tropism term intuitim dianodtique, 'dianoetic intuition'. I mean ':..
- everything except contingency itself. Contingency, and these words, the essential intertwining of a simple inruic::-
only contingency, is absolutely necessary' Facticiry and and of a discursiviry a demonstration - both being enrailec
only facticity, is not factual, but eternal. Facticity is not by the access to facruality. Let me explain this point.
a fact, it is not 'one more' fact in the world. I call this
\Alhy do I think that Laruelle fails to escape correl=,
necessiry of facticity 'factuality'; and the principle which
tionism? It is because he doesn't begin by refuring corre-
announces factuality, the necessity of facticiry the non-fac-
lationism but by positing as an axiom, a Real supposed ic,
ticity of facticity, I call the 'Principle of Factuality'' Finally, I
call Edcutntionfactuale speculation which is grounded on the
If you begin with the Real. r-ou c::r':
the circle - that is, the Real is a p,,;::. !
principle of factuality. Through the Principle of Factualiry
he Real as autonomous and deduces
I cal access a speculative realism which clearly refutes, from this axiom that thought is contingent for the Rea_l I
but no longer disqualifies, correlationism. I think an X
believe, on the contrary, that you must begin with correl:-
independent of any thinking, and know it for sure, thanks to
tionism, then show that correlationism must itself posir rle
the correlationist himself and his fight against the absolute'
facticity of the correlation, and demonstrate in this rvar- rhe:
the idealist absolute. The principle of factuality unveils the
this facticiry is absolute contingency. Then, finallr-. r'ou rril_
ontological truth hidden in the radical skepticism of modern
accede to an independent Real. Hence, the onlr- n'ar- to -ie
philosophy: to be is to be factual - and this is not a fact.
Real, according to me, is through a proof, a clemoutrain,... .
I shall now move on to my last point: intellectual demonstration unveils that facticity is not an igtoranre of .he
intuition. I used this expression in Afer Finitufu to char- hidden reasons of all things but a hnowledge of rhe absolult
acterise the intellectual access to factualiry - that is, the contingency of all things. The simple intuition of facici;-.
access to facticiry as an absolute - and Brassier wrote that is tralsmuted by a tlianoia, by a demonstration. irlco
such a notion threatens to close me again into the circle intuit "::
of correlation. Intellectual intuition, with its hear,y idealist the si
connotation, seems to entail an absolutisation of mearring,
I had i,-
hence an absolutisation of thought. It seems to be a iry. I ::
432 433
COLLAPSE III Speculative Realism

truly an intuition, a radical intuition - that is, a relation to discourse about the ReaI in itself. We can speJi ab ,.::
the Great Outside. We have a nous unveledby a dianoin, arr the ReaI as the impossibiliry of any conceprllalisaoon. c:_
intuition unveiled by a demonstration. This is why I called we car't conceptualise the Real. There is a disjunc:_-_
it an intellectual intuition: not, of course, because it is an between the Real and logos. A realism is. on rhe conlrei-,-
intuition which creates its object, as Kant defined it, but according to me, a logos which turns to the Rea_l irr.le::
because it is an intuition discovered by reasoning.
of turning around it. But what do I meal br- 'rurnins :_
I'd like to conclude with a final comparison berween the Real' as regards spiailntiun jutuale? My rhesis is th-:
the principle of factuality and other philosophies in the there are specific conditions of contingencl'. rvhich I c'''
twentieth century rvhich tried to access a Real outside the 'figures'. For exarnple, I try to show that non-connadicrio;:
circle of subjecti\,'1ty, from Heidegger to Derrida. The main is a condition of contingency, since a contradicton- rea.ii:-.-
difference between these philosophies and specuLttionjutuale couldn't change since it would already be what it is nc,:
is that the latter avoids what I'd like to call the syndrome The necessiry of non-contradiction is for me a conseque:t.e
of a 'Real without realism'. Philosophies of the twentieth of the falsiry of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: since
cenlury even when they tried to escape correladonism, nothing has any reason to be and stay what ir is. sinct
generally - not always, but generally - denigrated realism, everything cal change without any reason, nothing carr be
which was identified with narve or dogmatic realism. In his conradictory. That is what I try to demonstrate in ^J;,-
book, Brassier excellently presents the significance of these Finitudr, so that a conceptual discourse about the properce _.

ways of thinking. I quote: of the Real proves to be possible. We are not condemned rc,
Thus for much of twentieth-century continental philosophy, a'Real without realism'. I refuse this 'Real without realirp'
from Heidegger and Derrida to Levinas and Adorno, the on-ly because if I don't have a rational procedure to discor-er
conceivable alternative to the Scylla of idealism on the one specific properties of the ReaI, those properties threaten :o
hand, whether transcendenta-l or absolute, and the Charybdis be arbitrarily posited. My own work consisrs in elaboradns
of realism - which it seems is only ever naive - on the other, lies this procedure - which I call 'derivation' - grounded on &e
in using the resources of conceprualisation against themselves Principle of Factualiry and the conditions of conringencr-.
in the hope of glimpsing some transcendent, non-conceptual Producing a procedure of this sort is for me one of rhe mah
exteriority.2l challenges of a contemporary realism.

I think we can say the following: this Real, as a non- To conclude, I would say that what contemporil_-,-
conceptual residue ofthe concept, separates itselffrom any philosophy lacks is not so much the Real as realism: d:e
realism, because it forbids any possibiliry of a conceptual Real with realism is the true challenge of philosophr-. ard
that's why I think that the title of our day - speculair-e
2r Nihil Unbourul,729
realism - was perfecdy chosen, arrd is in itself a sor: :,: