Some people seem surprised by Meillassoux’s belonging to the “theological turn” (cf. Janicaud’s excellent book: Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”), yet this is totally coherent with his ontological reduction to contingency. Against this procedure, Hilan Bensusan at No Borders Metaphysics has written an interesting and important article (Dismantling absolute contingency), where he invokes Bruno Latour’s principle of irreduction. He makes it clear that giving primacy to contingence is no automatic guarantee of escaping the chicanes of transcendence. Using Latour’s notion of the cost of transport Bensusan argues that there is a price to pay for this absolutisation of contingence, and if the price is the covert reintroduction of transcendence and the religitimation of onto-theology, albeit in a radically “contingentised” variant, I for one find the price exorbitant.
A further price imposed is an astonishing epistemological naïvety, that of course we can also see in Badiou’s elucubrations on science and mathematics (Badiou’s “matheme” is for me a “batheme“). Bensusan cites Latour and Quine, but he could equally have referred to Heidegger, Kuhn and Feyerabend, or even Deleuze on this point. Deleuze does ontology, but he is careful to include it in the context of a reflection on the “Image of Thought” that allows him to avoid traps such as Meillassoux’s dubious mathematical reductionism.
I say “reductionism”, but I am compelled to add (intellectual) “conservatism”. Bensusan is perplexed by Meillassoux’s insistence that “the principle of non-contradiction, associated with his principle of facticity or unreason, is not restricted to classical systems”. He considers various possible explanations for this concept of “real contradictions”, but the only interpretation that makes sense is the persistence of conceptual conservatism in Meillassoux’s text: “Maybe then he means that we should pick classical logic as the logic of reality. That makes more sense. But then, of course, given all the alternatives – including a conception of reality that preserves a neutrality with respect to the different logics (Kit Fine has studied these alternatives considering perspectives and tense) – one would need an argument for that”. Once again we have a seemingly ontological claim based on a covert pragmatic (yet transcendent) decision, covering up an insufficient epistemological analysis. This formula of bad epistemology masking as (bogus) ontology is of course not unique to Meillassoux – he merely has the advantage of clarity, concision and elegance of style, which makes any “dismantling” that needs to be done both easier to carry out (Meillassoux is clear and concise) and a pleasure (his written style is elegant and his conceptual style is dazzling). If only the same could be said for certain of his intellectual associates.