OVERCOMING DUALISM, BYPASSING CORRELATIONISM: Sean Kelly’s new project

Sean Kelly has reactivated the ALL THINGS SHINING blog after eight years of leaving it on hold with a complex gesture of reuniting with what is still living in the former project that he shared with Hubert Dreyfus, and also to begin to take stock of a sea-change in his thought. Originally they planned to write a sequel or companion volume dealing with the sombre aspects of existence, provisionally entitled The Lofty Sway of the Dark.

However, now that he must go on alone, to speak in his own voice, Sean Kelly has chosen to commit to a different intellectual project, to be expressed in a book with the tentative title The Proper Dignity of Human Being: Notes and Reflections from the Later Heidegger. Perhaps the intervening years have allowed him to grow beyond the dualism implicit in the division of labour between the two volumes originally envisioned.

The projected title The Proper Dignity of Human Being recalls one of the most famous and ground-breaking works of the Renaissance, Pico dell Mirandola’s philosophical manifesto Oration on the Dignity of Man. Perhaps Sean Kelly has attained or is approaching a more englobing perspective than was previously accessible to him.

In the discussion Kelly brings up Quentin Meillassoux and his critique of correlationism (or of idealism as I prefer to call it) in the Continental tradition. I don’t really think that AFTER FINITUDE is the most interesting of the recent contributions to French philosophy (the names of Bernard Stiegler, Bruno Latour, Alain Badiou and François Laruelle came up too).

Nonetheless the discussions of the problem of realism that grew around Meillassoux’s work is certainly important. In fact, I discussed Meillassoux and the possible objection of correlationism to ALL THINGS SHINING and possible replies to it in my review of the book: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2019/08/23/review-of-all-things-shining-by-hubert-dreyfus-and-sean-dorrance-kelly/.

For memory, Meillassoux’s book APRÈS LA FINITUDE came out in 2006, and its English translation, AFTER FINITUDE,  was published in 2008). It was only after my review that I gradually became clear about the vague open-ended set of criteria that I was making use of to understand and evaluate general metaphysical research programmes (in Karl Popper’s sense) such as that contained in ALL THINGS SHINING.

These criteria are heuristic rules of thumb, and include: pluralism, realism, historicity, testability, the shadow, apophatism (leaving some place for the ineffable), openness, and democracy. So it is clear that I will have to rewrite my review, to take into account this evolution of my thinking. Also, Sean Kelly’s own thought has evolved too, and needs to be taken on its own terms (and not necessarily judged solely as a sequel to his prior work).

In a previous post I listed three categories of questions that can be posed in relation to changing or emergent human phenomena: post-truth and a plurality of understandings of being, relativism and multiple modes of existence, open dialogue and the democracy of thought. We can now add a fourth:

4) Realism: there is a widespread impression that phenomenological thought is unable to attain the real, as it intrinsically limited to thinking the correlation between mind and world. To what extent is the ALL THINGS SHINING project subject to this critique, and in what way does Sean Kelly’s new project able to bypass it?

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