I did not like Brassier’s postface as much as Wolfendale’s preface, no doubt because he combines his personal anamnesis of an ex-speculative realist with what I regard as a completely false historical narrative about the omnipresence of a correlationist orthodoxy and the attempted “breakout” that SR represented. This breakout was a failure supposedly due to the capture of the movement by Harmanian branding and marketing. As we saw in the last two posts, Wolfendale associates Harman’s OOP with scepticism and pluralism. Brassier tries to associate it with scepticism and “dandyism” posited as hallmarks of poststructuralism.
A strange feature of Brassier’s argument in the postface is that he associates correlationism and its “pervasive epistemological scepticism” (405) with the poststructuralist critique of representation. He even goes so far as to assert the existence of an “anti-representational (or ‘correlationist’) consensus” (417), in agreement with Wolfendale’s notion of “orthodox correlationism” as the “conceptual core” of the “sceptico-critical hegemony” (359). It follows from this conceptually misguided and historically false premise that the critique of correlationism is tied to an escape from scepticism and a return to representation.
We are moving at a very general and abstract level of discussion here, where words may be employed with different acceptions depending on the author’s problematic. But as a historical thesis about the concept of representation as actually used in recent Continental philosophy this is the exact opposite of the situation. The critique of representation, for example in Deleuze’s analysis of the image of thought, is the critique of “correlationism” (if one must use that misleading term). Representation is analysed as constructing the world in its own image and repressing awareness of this constructive activity, it is denounced as unconscious correlationism. That is to say that the critique of correlationism began and was accomplished long before Meillassoux set pen to paper. A return to representation risks being a return to the dogmatic image of thought and to its implicit correlational functioning.
This is why I do not like the term “correlationism”. If one can be an unconscious correlationist, all the while thinking one is a realist, it seems to me that anyone and everyone can be diagnosed as “correlationist” according to a dogmatic stance imported from outside into the debate. Similarly, the concept of representation is equally ambiguous, as both its proscription and its defence could be called correlationist. In its diagnostic use correlationism is not a clear and stable notion capable of serving as a demarcation criterion between “sceptical” and “scientistic” positions (as each calls the other).