Absolutizing the Correlation: On the Possibility of a Philosophy of Nature

Meillassoux’ arguments against correlationism are probably the most well-known and most discussed (and disputed) part of his writings. I will not discuss them further here, but rather comment on a point that has received rather less attention: his comparative lack of argumentation versus absolute correlationism.

Whereas weak or strong correlationism claims that nothing is knowable (weak) or thinkable (strong) outside the correlation, and that we therefore have no access to the absolute, absolute correlationism claims that the correlation is the absolute. I believe that there are several questions worth raising with regards to absolute correlationism:

1. Who are absolute correlationists? Is Deleuze (think about the discussion of Physis and Nous in What is Philosophy?, for instance. Or the early review of Hyppolite)? Is Derrida (a propos the recent Derrida debate and this post)? Is Zizek (is the Lacanian Real present in his thought indicative of strong correlationism rather than Hegelian absolute correlationism?)? One might even raise the same question concerning Badiou…..

In fact, I initially thought I remembered that Meillassoux only pointed out Hegel as an absolute correlationist. I was wrong:

A metaphysics of this type [absolute correlationism] may select from among various forms of subjectivity, but it is invariably charaterized by the fact that it hypostatizes some mental, sentient, or vital term: representation in the Leibnizian monad; Schelling’s Nature, or the objective subject-object; Hegelian Mind; Schopenhauer’s Will; the Will (or Wills) to Power in Nietzsche; perception loaded with memory in Bergson; Deleuze’s Life; etc. (After Finitude, p. 37)

In light of this list, it is quite surprising that the discussion has not revolved more around absolute correlationism.

2. How does absolute correlationism function? The clarion call against correlationism that is said to unite Speculative Realism seems to have issued in quite a few analyses of various versions of weak and strong correlationism, from defenders and detractors alike (their accuracy can be debated, of course). But absolute correlationism has not really been on the radar at all.

3. How can one argue against absolute correlationism? Meillassoux’ argument is that the “meshes of facticity” rules out any kind of metaphysical absolute, including the forms mentioned above. If this is true, it should in fact attract a lot more attention than his arguments against strong correlationism. Are not Leibnizians, Schellingians, Hegelians, (ok perhaps not Schopenhauerians), Nietzscheans, Bergsonians, and Deleuzeans rather numerous these days? More so than Kantians, Husserlians, Heideggerians and their like?

I am not at the outset convinced by Meillassoux’ argument against absolute correlationism, though I will need to revisit it. My conviction, though, is that it should be fleshed out by looking at the possibility of a philosophy of nature.

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