LEVI BRYANT AND THE PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION (10): reinforcing strong naturalism with weak naturalism

We must beware of word magic, of being dramatically misled by focusing on words to the detriment of the concepts that should be our real focus in philosophical discussion. My thesis for a while now has been that OOO and its naturalised instantiations, such as Levi Bryant’s onto-cartography, are concept-blind and in place of concepts and arguments fetishise some words and ritual phrases, preferring to fight other words rather than fighting concepts.

In the case of phenomenology for example, just because it makes use of what it calls bracketing the“natural” attitude does not mean it is anti-naturalist, au contraire! However it does mean that it is not a form of naive objectivism and that it wants in fact to subject the environing mixture of common-sensism and scientism to critical scrutiny.

In the discussions over “naturalism” we may observe a furtive shifting between an extended concept of naturalism as the suspending of transcendence, i.e. naturalism as immanence (the thesis that “there is nothing outside the world”), and a more restricted notion of naturalism as the extrapolated unifying framework of the sciences. On the extended sense of naturalism, nothing can be ruled out a priori except transcendence and transcendent causation. In this sense a naturalist could accept teleological causes, and whether we need to resort to them or not as explanatory hypotheses would be a matter of research, not of arbitrary a priori decree. Similarly, Husserl is a philosopher of immanence and the bracketing of the natura lattitude brackets out concepts and assumptions that are transcendent to this field, thus widening the domain of investigation and experimentation.

Levi Bryant’s philosophical promotion of naturalism falls foul of the Laruellian critique that it posits naturalism twice: an extended but weak sense as a synonym of immanence, and then some hodgepodge that Bryant can never decide on once and for all, containing whatever ad hoc specific hypotheses he needs at the moment of proclamation to give specific content to his metaphyical espousal of naturalism. The strong sense of naturalism, which is in fact always changinng and ever oscillating between or combining incoherently the divergent positions of mechanism, materialism and physicalism, is somehow meant to be reinforced by the weaker more philosophical sense of naturalism, which is itself reinforced by the specific “scientific” content.

Having two forms of immanence Bryant’s naturalism can exclude a maximum of potential rivals. With weak philosophical immanence Bryant pretends he can exclude teleology in the sciences (but he can’t!) and with strong scientific immanence he purports to exclude thinkers such as Husserl and Foucault, and whoever may be the object of his ire at any given moment. But research (and here I include both philosophy and science) is not so much about demarcation and exclusion as critical investigation and experimentation.


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