Speculative realists question reality before Homo sapiens and after extinction
Keywords:speculative realism, Meillassoux, correlationism, ancestral, extinction
The term ‘speculative realism’ was first introduced in 2007 to describe the work of certain philosophers around Q. Meillassoux, of which many translations, introductions, and special issues have been published in Japanese. According to speculative realists, phenomenology, structuralism, analytic philosophy, and most subsequent schools of twentieth-century philosophy (L. Wittgenstein, M. Heidegger, and M. Foucault) assume the antirealist, Kantian claim that phenomena depend upon the mind to exist. That is, the speculative realists are united by their rejection of what Meillassoux calls correlationism. This is the doctrine according to which we never grasp an object in itself, in isolation from its relation to the subject.
Now, when we call ancestral any reality anterior to the emergence of the human species, we can ask, how is correlationism liable to interpret these ancestral statements? We can also ask, how has matter emerged from a vacuum? How have living systems appeared out of lifeless matter? How has Homo sapiens come into existence out of living systems?
Meillassoux himself asks how to pass through the correlationist circle. We should question the absolute, which is outside correlation. Our absolute, in effect, is nothing other than an extreme form of chaos. The world before human beings emerged is thereby contingent. There is a capacity-to-be-other, that is, there is the possibility of our own non-being.
The posteriority of extinction should also be considered, in addition to ancestral anteriority. R. Brassier, one of the speculative realists, refers to the death of the sun. He has said that ‘the death of the sun is nothing but a death of mind’. How does thought think the death of thinking?
Important is the dialogue of the correlationism of modern philosophy with old and new realism, which question the reality outside of the correlation.
We have already emerged in this universe with mind. Although we can recognise something with this mind, something, in other words, is nothing but something which is recognised by our mind. Thus, correlationism is correct and cannot be escaped. From within correlation, however, we can recognise that there is an outside to the correlation. We can recognise ancestral anteriority and posteriority of extinction through the correlation. We can think the reality through the working of negation of recognition. We can recognise Kantian thing-in-itself through the self-negation of recognition.
Again, we have already emerged in this universe with mind. What has already existed should be thought as necessary. Now, I can propose an ex post facto teleology. The fact is constituted by this after, by the belatedness of the subject. I also would like to propose a modest anthropocentrism. The emergence of human beings should be thought as necessary, while all things and living things potentially have minds. Thus, we can call this view a weak panpsychism. Furthermore, once we have minds with which to think, we think everything with these minds. The ability to think has something privileged.
Nonetheless, at the same time, it is important to think everything as contingent. There is no reason for anything to be or to remain the way it is; everything must be able to be other than it is. We not might have emerged through a process of evolution. We might not exist in this universe. We could be extinct in the future.