LEVI BRYANT AND THE PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION (7): Anti-anti-naturalism as theological naturalism

Bryant sets up a double-bind which makes the discussion with him unwinnable for the non-naturalist who enters into its terms. This is the sort of “heads I win tails you lose” situation that Deleuze analysed as typical of intellectual discussion (in tne first part of DIALOGUES)and that he called the logic of the forced choice. Bryant sets things up so that  the implication is that if you are against anti-naturalism you must be for naturalism as he, Levi Bryant, presents it.

Bryant uses Heidegggerian, and implicitly Tillichian, language to define naturalism: the naturalist is defined as “choosing nature…as the ground of being”. This is theological language indeed. The only alternative Bryant considers is the “obscurantist gesture” of those who recoil from the naturalist conversion. The list of “obscurantists” he habitually cites (Hegel, Marx, Merleau-Ponty, structuralism and post-structuralism, Foucault, Gadamer) are in fact all naturalists (or at least compatible with naturalism)! Even Hegel can be given a naturalistic interpretation.

The difference with Bryant’s block naturalism is that all these thinkers believe that nature is itself a concept that needs to be analysed and not just waved around as a flag. Bryant’s coup de force is to trick the anti-anti-naturalists into swallowing as a block his naturalism, and into seeing rival naturalists as anti-naturalists. This is the anxiety of influence with a vengeance.

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