the REPOST first :
Originally posted on >ect podcast: >ect explores why philosophers are compelled to try to understand the social reality of which philosophy is a part https://soundcloud.com/ectpodcast/ect-9-in-conversation-with-ray-brassier “To really distinguish the ideal and the real is to understand how they are distinguished in practice, and not in thought – in what we do, and not in what…
When the Speculative Realism symposium occurred, I think everyone acted like 1950 rock and roll fans. If Zizek is Elvis..
then the SR guys were like the Everly Brothers…
Ray Brassier was at both of the Conferences.
we should not be too unavailable to the whole presentation embedded of these figures and their reception. But when we begin to discount what is occurring here, we are likewise able to have a view.
From the first moment of SR, those philosophers were attempting to put down the popularity. This seems to be because all the hoopla was around another sort of idealism, despite what the SR’s would be saying in their respective philosophies. The reaction to their popularity can be found even in the fact of the authors attempts to dismiss themselves from some a sort of common “philosophical school”. Even as I can say “the SR’s” we should be careful not to lump them into some organized category; each purports to have different views on various topics. But the main thing that organizes (-ed) them is they all felt that there should be a way to get outside of what we know all too well, the “central phenomenal thinker” as this aspect tends toward exclusivity. It is no wonder that they decried their pop-star-lartity.
This ‘new’ idea of getting outside of the central thinker was the right move at the right time, but the manner that they proceeded, and proceed, is and has been a let down overall; a let down to philosophy, that is, but actually really good (in this case, at least) in the area of critical thinking, social structures, and social justice. Though many did or do not realize what happened, the basic fault is that the only way to get outside of the central thinker is to set the issue of the CPT (central phenomenal thinker) aside. As I have said, perhaps we need to begin to be more clear about what philosophy does, is capable of doing, and is allowed to do. Maybe Im splitting hairs, but it seems like Brassier has become less a philosopher and more a critical theorist. He even proposes that it is less ‘thought’ and more ‘practice’; Sounds like he’s falling right in line with Pierre Bourdieu and those other social French.
What this does, or did, was close-in the walls of free thought into the defined parameters of religious theology. Basically, the flattening out of the activity of the mind to a defined category called “thought” announces as it proclaims that every philosophy is basically and universally based in central thinking that will no longer be individualized within a universe of possibility. 700 years ago we would have called this given “the soul”, and even 100 years ago “the spirit”, and argued over not only it’s the stance of quality but indeed how it is supposed to be situated in the truth of the human being and it’s world. Now, the free thought will be organized within a defined limit that we call the universe, as the universe is now defined as the given region where thought occurs over a common category of being called human; this then is suppressed to be given, unnoticed, as an essential substrate no longer addressed, to be enlisted in the common goal of “humanity”, now another defined object amidst a multiplicity of universal objects, a universe of ‘social’ situations. If we never had an actual “humanity”, the SR’s allowed for us to confine our situation to there by begin the long historical process of sterilizing it, commodifying it, to there by establish more thoroughly and definitely its worth as a thing of the (catholic/capitalistic) cosmos; a thing to be used for the purpose of furthering the interest of humanity, or as they would have said 700 years ago, “God’s Plan”.
OK. no problem. If there is a problem then I should hear about it.
This then allows us to gain purchase on what Brassier is really talking about.
Pave over the distinction between “appearances” and “reality”. In short, our current moment is occupied by a need to account for random and apparently uncontrolled occurrences. Something is occurring from the “outside” that we have not been able to account for nor control; things like Trump, addiction, climate change, Russia, China, market fluctuations, technological authoritarianism, commercial manipulation, etc..Ray’s lecture is a short theological report of how humanity can come to terms with a freedom that is confined (imposed religion), with the apology that it such a confinement is needed if we are to ethically address these obvious social concerns.
We can’t have thinkers who are really free contaminating the scientific research toward of anarchistic, random fluctuations. We are on a species (special) mission of control.
It is at this point that we are able to come upon a significant philosophy. Of course, this is not to discount the need for critical thought and creative solutions for actual social problems. But if you look at the over arcing statement by Ray we have the implications of the discourse that moves towards authoritarianism rather than creativity itself; he says that any philosophy that does not consider it’s route and what is social should not be taken seriously.
Here we have the usual divisional strategies that go along with authoritarianism.
With a layman ear, the ear that most people will hear him through, even those intelligent, educated and lettered “laymen”, he is not just saying that society and considering social solutions is very important, he is saying that any critical philosophical thought that does not found itself in these issues is not a serious philosophical pursuit.
“To really distinguish the ideal and the real is to understand how they are distinguished in practice, and not in thought – in what we do, and not in what we represent ourselves as doing.”
“A philosophy that doesn’t try to understand social reality – that doesn’t try to understand its own connection to a world that wasn’t created to be philosophisable – is not being done seriously.”
This kind of statement should put us on notice, but also we don’t want to be too reactionary to this reactionary statement and proclamation. Yes; as I have said elsewhere in this blog, philosophy should consider actual real issues. Yet, of course, philosophy and social reality cannot be distinguished except under particular conditions, conditions that allow for what is particular. I am not sure why or how any one could write anything that has any meaning or purpose behind it and not be considering the social arena. We could even go so far as to say that a discourse, or philosophy, that would situate itself in not having to do with the social realm is actually a move that finds itself in contradiction such that its meaning would have to be non sequitur to the proposed area that it addresses. Indeed; as I have indicated of a certain non-philosophy: It is done in Bad Faith. But then isn’t that the real issue? The issue of Reality?
So on one hand, Brassier is situating us to not look at the contradiction; SR itself is a move away from the further consideration of contradiction, a move into that region where contradiction is the marker of what is true of reality over what may be true in itself. So in considering Brassier’s proposal here, we might consider an original panel member of the Speculative Realism talk, Graham Harman, who advocates getting back to the thing in-itself. We are dealing here with an agenda, a specific and particular manner of speaking about things, a particular manner of using things, objects. for a certain purpose. Right now, the single most necessary object we need to deal with is a social one, so this object has been associated with what is ‘real’ because of the necessity involved with being human in the world right now.
On the other hand, we should at least understand that he is involved in an institution which, after his “great” contribution to the SR, Along with his growing need to appear relevant in the academic community, must be upheld. He has reached a certain position of authority and stature that must be maintained if not as a conscious choice at least as a theological man date required by his position: he has no other way to make a living and so he can’t really suggest anything too radical, that is, except by reducing the object of that “radical” to something that is actually not very radical at all. We begin to see why SR became so popular for about a half a second and now has kind of falling into philosophical mediocrity: Because thats what people want: to offer reparations to a claimant for an issue that they do not understand. In other words, communication is likewise taken as a given potential accross a unitive category, even as we alteady know such a category is highly problematic.
yet, This is not a fault of Brassier; the issue has been laid out by his mentor, Alain Badou, and I doubt it was missed by Brassier. I like him, and I like SR, but it is a truth that, once pointed out, is commonly set aside as an indicator of intension to rebuke or deny. This is not the case with me or this post. This post is a description, a laying out what is before us in its blatancy. This is to indicate a certain categorical set where communication does occur. Again; it is not so much that we don’t need to consider Society it’s problems and ways to solutions through thinking critically, it is more that philosophers tend to lump “philosophy” into this generalized common category that as they go on in their institutional position are seeing more and more to be speaking to the whole category of not only philosophy but humanity in general as indeed a common ethical substance.
When we begin to understand what this motion is, and that an acknowledgement and recognition of this type of motion does not negate the validity of what is moving, then we begin to understand how such philosophical statements such as Ray’s here is really, often enough, limited in its scope of appropriation and provocative only in the sense that he is promoting a particular type of theological belief, at that, A necessary one that we call social justice.
We have stepped even deeper into that domain about which institutional and conventional philosophy becomes nervous.
In particular, we should see that the issue of race relations, in particular, problematizing Whiteness, is presently salient. In light of this, we would be remiss if we didn’t look to the end as it involved the reality of being human: If we at some point gain a sufficient equity of peoples such that race no longer can be used as a marker is power and oppression, what then, of a real humanity, do we have then? Do we think that Medieval Fuedal Europe was about race? Or the Ottoman Empire, or the Chinese Dynasties? or Pre-European Africa? Of course, because we are currently enmeshed in a pertinecy of race relations, we will inevitably see power and race being wielded everywhere, but if we take a cue from Descartes tac (highly unfashionable in this moment), we might just glimpse that race is not always the central issue. The issue is always power, that even within what we could generalize a homogegeous cultures, power is still wielded in an oppressive manner through manipulative systems and tactics upon people regardless of what type of people that might be. In fact, we might see that the discussion of race might move over into having to define what is not actually or specifically racial into it being the case, or analyzable through the racial trope. This is the post-modern condition we have; we need not go into how discourse may or may not determine reality and the repercussions of such an ideal here.
But to make short what could be a very long essay, I ask the reader to consider what systemic racism means in light of the following statement, and how that might have to do with philosophy, the turn away from the CPT, and the defining of the parameters of what should be taken “seriously”:
There are people who continue to write outside of white standards, to our collective benefit. But to reap the social fruits of their labor we must remove the standard of white-centric history.” ~Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report, Jan. 30, 2018
The issue of correlationalism and access appears to haunt the SR/SM thinkers; a very obvious and easy way to set this issue aside (the SR’s love ‘setting aside’ as a methodological tenant issues that directly challenge thier positions) is to move into the ‘social’ maxim.