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Clouds have been parting, thanks to Meillassoux

by on February 14, 2013

First off, I believe I recall Prof. Reid mentioning that he usually begins the course with the Meillassoux’s After Finitude, and I fully understand why.  While it may be densely packed with information, Meillassoux schematizes (and for that matter, actually explains himself…yeah, I’m looking at you, Harman) in such a way that I was deeply grateful for.  Quite frankly, I have found several of the essays we’ve read to be written in a very needlessly convoluted way (Brassier immediately comes to mind) with little focus on progressive order, and while they demonstrate exquisite knowledge of their subject and philosophy in general, it seems unlikely they will convince anyone outside of their field by writing in such a specialized discourse (I know, its academics, it comes with the territory, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your potential readers, particularly if you are trying to establish a new philosophical discourse and convince others).  While I understand that the casual reader is unlikely to pick up a Harman book for fun, several of these essays have assumed a prior knowledge that I quite frankly didn’t have, and thus instantly limited my general understanding.  Meillassoux on the other hand takes the time to offer explanations that will be critical to his larger point and breaks them down into a comprehensive chain of logic.  I will just come out and say this, I am an English major, my interaction with metaphysics has been limited (at least in the formal sense, as I have been asking myself these very same questions for quite some time), and when Harman just assumes that I am intimately familiar with Plato, Heidegger, and Husserl (though he does make an effort to explain the latter two on most points) he kind of guarantees that I am not going to take what he wants me to from his text.

As far as the actual text goes, I am at a slight loss on how to comment, mainly because Meillassoux does a fantastic job at addressing the counter arguments and by not pretending that he will emerge with an answer that will somehow explain the beginning of time, space, and being, merely put it into a logical context (merely is probably not the right word there).  There is one particular passage from the first chapter has been echoing in my head for several days now, “But the time at issue here is the time wherein consciousness as well as conscious time have themselves emerged in time.  For the problem of the arche-fossil  is not the empirical problem of the birth of living organisms, but the ontological problem of the coming into being of givenness as such” (21).  I have spent the last few weeks trying figure out what question this philosophy is attempting to answer, mainly because what I took from Harman was basically, “we can never know an object” which quite frankly, I didn’t need him to tell me.  I have been seeing this all as many loose threads all blowing about with no real connection between them other than that we can never know how they truly connect, and though that makes wonderful fodder to sit and ponder for an afternoon, I’m not sure how/if it truly affects my interactions with being.  In Ancestrality, Meillassoux clearly lays out the implications of such a philosophy, and to that I say THANK YOU!  Maybe everyone else got this weeks ago and I just needed someone to put it in front of me, but this point alone has taken me from thinking that this is all very interesting but of little practical value, to seeing it as, not in contention with neuroscience, but the logical philosophical extension of neuroscience, as each seems to strive towards the same ends.     

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