CORRELATIONISM, PLURALISM, AND REDUCTIONISM: Kolozova, Brassier, Wolfendale and Harman

I have thanked Katerina Kolozova several times on this blog (for example in this post, here and here) for having provided interesting and useful conceptual content, from a broadly Laruellian perspective, to the term “correlation”. Her usage gives the term the opposite sense to what the OOOxians mean by it. From the beginning I have never seen any serious content for the term, nor for Harman’s related notion of “philosophies of access” and I give no credence to the distorted history sketched out by means of it. I do not usually employ the term “correlationism”, because in its OOO usage it is a bogus-concept, of minimum content but maximum extension, allowing anyone to be called a correlationist, including Harman himself as Wolfendale’s book shows.

I have already discussed critically, on several occasions, the fictitious history sketched out by those making use of the notion of correlationism (as expressed in terms of the fiction of pervasive “correlationism” in Continental philosophy, the overvaluation of the novelty of Meillassoux’s diagnoses, and the supposed “return” to realism effectuated by the thinkers habitually designated by the grab-all term of “Speculative Realism”). A striking, but slightly ambiguous, example can be found in the preface ot Kolozova’s book THE CUT OF THE REAL, which I discuss here.

I also do not usually talk in terms of “Continental philosophy” except when addressing a debate that features such a term. The one major time that I did employ that expression without sufficient precautionary disclaimers earned me a scathing critique from Brian Leiter! I much prefer the expression “French poststructuralist philosophy of the last 70 years”, because that is all I know anything about.

I have committed myself to reviewing Wolfendale’s book, so I have commented Brassier’s postface, not his whole work. I liked Wolfendale’s preface and devoted 3 posts to saying why. I only half-liked Brassier’s postface, which I find verbose, hastily written (Brassier criticises Harman’s metaphoric style, but would Harman ever use such a mixed metaphor as Brassier’s “reignite the breakout”), and badly thought out. Insofar as Brassier valorises Meillassoux and perpetuates this false simplistic history of recent philosophy he shares too much with Harman, and they become Tweedledum and Tweedledee, mimetic variants of the same configuration, one naturalist and the other anti-naturalist.

On the possible conflation of pluralism and correlationism, I think Wolfendale’s position is a little more nuanced than my previous post may lead one to think. However, despite his awareness of the multiple senses of  “pluralism”, Wolfendale principally refers to it as coinciding with some form of postmodernist scepticism and, by implication, of relativism. I have analysed pluralism repeatedly in struggle against that image, arguing that pluralists such as Deleuze, Feyerabend, Lyotard, Serres, Latour, Stiegler, Laruelle are not sceptics but realists.

On the association of correlationism and reductionism, I do not think that accusations of “reductionism” depend necessarily for their validity on a model of scientific explanation. We must distinguish intra-regional reduction (e.g. within the sciences, but equally within politics or psychoanalysis) from inter-regional reduction, where one or more regional ontologies are reduced to another (“regional ontologies” being roughly equivalent to Latourean modes of being, or Badiousian truth-procedures). Brassier could be accused of naturalistic (or even “scientistic”) reductionism if he gives ontological primacy to the natural realm to the point of reducing other proposed forms of existence to that realm. Similarly, Harman could be accused of anti-natural reductionism, in that he reduces all reality to his realm of real objects, declaring the objects of the sciences, the humanities, and common sense to be “utter shams”.

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