Skip to content

After Finitude Upon First Look

by on February 14, 2013

If contingency is to become a necessity, the only necessity, or as Meillassoux seems equally willing to phrase it, if hyperchaos is to become the only necessity, then it seems all is left to random chance. The principle of his thought would seem to be the necessity of chance. And though Meillassoux repeatedly notes that this dictates that necessity is impossible, that there can never be a necessary entity, what is pure contingency, pure possibility, pure chance, without the possibility of one day granting rise to a or the possibility of necessity? In order for this to occur the principle of pure possibility need not generate something necessary above it or to which it must bend itself or in which it finds its origins, the principle must simply be turned against its own logic. If everything is contingent, then contingency too is contingent, and thus necessity could one day arise. Now the matter of whether or not this has already happened is a matter of figuring out what sort of time operates within or without this principle of pure possibility. For if the time in play is infinite, then the contingent suspension of contingency must arise. An infinite task will be completed in an infinite time. “The permanence of facticity” here see,s problematic for if it is indeed permanent, then it how could it give rise to temporality, how could the impermanent arise, even contingently from an absolute lack of time? Furthermore is not this permanence itself subject to contingency?

These leads to back to an earlier problem (above I was discussing my issues with Chapter III), the idea of a time before givenness. Specifically he speaks of  a space-time before givenness. I am inclined to think space-time as givenness itself, and that there is no time and there is no space without or antecedent to givenness, there is no archaic space-time that is outside givenness. This is why his objection to the first correlationist response to his notion of the arche-fossil seems wrong to me.

Furthermore, I have trouble with his main assertion that in order for the world to be, one must be able to think the world different in itself or think one’s own death and yet not be capable of thinking of “non-being of existence as such” (76). Death could very well be the non-being of existence as such no?

It could be he anticipates these objections, and I’ll double check when I go back over the book before class. But so far I think that his principle that no necessity may arise except contingency does not do full justice to contingency, it limits contingency to the realm of the contingent.  It it not a pure contingency or pure possibility but a limited one that prevents anything from being possible at any moment.

  1. John, with regards to your problems with Meillassoux’s “notion of a time before givenness”: I get the sense that Meillassoux does anticpate this object. That said, I also get the sense that you likely won’t find his response – or my understanding of it, as such – terribly satisfactory. That preamble aside, here goes.

    It seems as if your objection to the idea of a time before givenness is addressed, somewhat, in the first chapter, with Meillassoux’s discussion of what he refers to as the idealist conflation between his notion of “ancestrality” and the paired signifiers of form – “distant” (spatial) and “ancient” (temporal). The issue you raise, as I understand it right now, seems directed at Meillassoux’s notion of time as being temporally prior to givenness.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the full nuances of Meillassoux’s definition of the term “anterior” elude me at this point, but it does seem clear to me that he draws a clear distinction between “anterior” and both temporal description (in the sense of being before givenness) and spatial description (in the sense of being cloistered from givenness). On the point of space-time being constituted as givenness itself, as you write, Meillassoux seems to me to be addressing something like this throughout his discussion of what he terms “strong correlationism” in the second chapter, and its predication upon the twin decisions that: first, the inseparability of the act of thinking from its content (what he calls the “primacy of the unseperated/correlate”); and, second, the assertion that the correlation itself is absolutized (36-37).

    In equating givenness itself with space-time, one reinforces the inseparability of givenness-as-being from space and time as descriptive forms of relation-to-the-world. Meillassoux seems to claim that, in describing givenness as before/outside space, time, and/or space-time, one cannot help but engage in a descriptive correlationist “two-step,” as he calls it, in which “just as we can only describe the a priori forms of sensibility,” we can likewise “only describe the logical principles inherent in every thinkable proposition” without being capable of deducing their absolute truth (39). Equating space-time with givenness – even when speaking of something as “before” or “outside” givenness — is to relegate being to our ability to access it via descriptive forms and principles.

    Wow, I wrote quite a bit more than I planned there, and seem to have digressed a bit. My point, at the outset, is (I think) something like this: anterior, in Meillassoux’s view, seems to be something that both exceeds and (maybe, encompasses) both a priori forms of space and time. At the very least, it seems to be a third term, of sorts.

    Anyway, not sure how cogent this response is; suffice to say, your post was thought-provoking. As far as the other issue you raised – that of the necessity of contingenty — I’m still thinking through it myself.

  2. I wanted to address death as being the “non-being of existence as such.” I have mentioned a course I took in my undergrad about the philosophy of death before, and it seems useful in this area. I think to approach this question, we have to consider what death is, and while that ultimately proved quite allusive for the course, one conclusion was reached: death is at best a momentary occurrence, incredibly fleeting (literally taking place in such infinitesimal time that it is nearly impossible to identify a time of death, even in the physiological sense), and deeply problematic to identify. While the result of death can be seen as non-being, non-being is not death in itself; in fact, it can be argued that death does not result in non-being at all. The body continues to exist, or even if the body has been destroyed, some remnant of it persists, thus death is not a state of non-being for ontology, and if we are to oblige Harman, we cannot even be sure that it is a state of non-being for phenomenology. Death as non-being strikes me as an anthropocentric interpretation of death, especially since death is only experienced (and even the notion of death being experienced is problematic, as death is the cessation of experience…maybe) by living or conscious entities, and is thus only a state of non-being of thought.

  3. jmdaven permalink

    I would just like to add a few of my thoughts on the Meillassoux book so far that might clear up my questions and praise for the work.

    Facticity as discussed on p. 39-41 seems to me to lie at the center of the work. Its differentiation from contingency and Meillassoux’s aim to move beyond it demonstrate a penetrating look at the logic underpinnings of strong correlationism, and I very much enjoyed reading it. However, I think it necessary to add just a phrase or two that I think Meillassoux elided perhapson accident, in hopes that it makes his differentiation clearer and perhaps more precise than it comes out: Meillassoux’s talk on p. 41 about facticity as the “the unreason (the absence of reason) of the given as well as of its invariants” and as proving that “the principle of non-contradiction itself is without reason, and that consequently it can only be the norm for what is thinkable by us, rather than for what is possible in an absolute sense” (41) should both be revised. The second quote could simply be fixed by adding “so far as we know” to the end, for the principle of non-contradiction could very well be the universal absolute, we just cannot prove whether it is or not. The first quote could be fixed by adding “to us” to the end, which is again to say that there could very well be a reason of the given. Man simply has no access to that logical chain so as to be able to say whether it is contingent or not.

    My questioning lies along the line of whether an ontology of contradiction works, as they seem appealing to more and more contemporary thinkers. Hagglund for instance, I would say brings a structure of illogic to bear out entirely logically, as Meillassoux does in After Finitude. Necessity of contingecy and the becoming time of space/becoming space of time. Meillassoux himself insightfully discusses the strength and nature of contradiction or illogic in a logical sense, and yet he does not seem to immediately address why or how an illogical structure would need to or does or should work logically in any way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: