Ray Brassier

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Ray Brassier
British philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
Full name Ray Brassier
Born 1965
School/tradition Speculative Realism
Main interests Nihilism, Realism, Materialism, Antihumanism
Notable ideas Philosophy as the 'organon of extinction.'[1] 'Thinking has interests that do not coincide with those of living; indeed, they can and have been pitted against the latter.'[2]

Ray Brassier is a member of the Philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He was formerly Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, England. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction and the translator of Alain Badiou's Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism and Theoretical Writings and Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. He first attained prominence as a leading authority on the works of François Laruelle. Brassier is of mixed French-Scottish ancestry, and his family name is pronounced in the French manner.

Along with Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and Iain Hamilton Grant, Brassier is one of the foremost philosophers of contemporary Speculative Realism interested in providing a robust defense of philosophical realism in the wake of the challenges posed to it by post-Kantian critical idealism, phenomenology, post-modernism, deconstruction, or, more broadly speaking, "correlationism". Brassier is generally credited with coining the term "speculative realism," though Meillassoux had earlier used the phrase "speculative materialism" (matérialisme spéculatif) to refer to his own position.

Brassier is strongly critical of much of contemporary philosophy for what he regards as its attempt "to stave off the 'threat' of nihilism by safeguarding the experience of meaning — characterized as the defining feature of human existence — from the Enlightenment logic of disenchantment". According to Brassier, this tendency is exemplified above all by philosophers strongly influenced by Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Unlike more mainstream philosophers such as John McDowell, who would press philosophy into service in an attempt to bring about a "re-enchantment of the world", Brassier's work aims to "push nihilism to its ultimate conclusion".

According to Brassier, "the disenchantment of the world understood as a consequence of the process whereby the Enlightenment shattered the 'great chain of being' and defaced the 'book of the world' is a necessary consequence of the coruscating potency of reason, and hence an invigorating vector of intellectual discovery, rather than a calamitous diminishment"[2]. "Philosophy", exhorts Brassier, "would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity."[2]

Brassier's work is unique for the way in which it attempts to fuse elements of post-war French philosophy with ideas arising from the (largely Anglo-American) traditions of philosophical naturalism, cognitive science, and neurophilosophy. Thus, along with French philosophers such as François Laruelle, Alain Badiou, and Quentin Meillassoux, he is also heavily influenced by the likes of Paul Churchland, Thomas Metzinger and Stephen Jay Gould. He also draws heavily, albeit often negatively, on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger.




Original works

As Translator

See also


  1. ^ Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, p. 239
  2. ^ a b c Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, p. xi

External links

Bruno Latour

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Bruno Latour

French sociologist of science and anthropologist. ANT and STS theorist
Born 22 June 1947(1947-06-22)
Beaune, France
Occupation Professor at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris

Bruno Latour (born June 22, 1947, Beaune, France) is a French sociologist of science, anthropologist and an influential theorist in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS)[1]. After teaching at the École des Mines de Paris (Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation) from 1982 to 2006, he is now Professor and vice-president for research at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (2007)[2], where he is associated with the Centre de sociologie des organisations (CSO).

He is best known for his books We Have Never Been Modern (1991; English translation, 1993), Laboratory Life (with Steve Woolgar, 1979) and Science in Action (1987)[3]. Although his studies of scientific practice were at one time associated with social constructionist[3] approaches to the sociology of science, Latour has diverged significantly from such approaches. Along with Michel Callon and John Law, Latour is one of the primary developers of actor-network theory (ANT), a constructionist approach influenced by the ethnomethodology of Harold Garfinkel, the generative semiotics of Greimas, and (more recently) the sociology of Durkheim's rival Gabriel Tarde.




As a student, Latour originally focused on philosophy and was deeply influenced by Michel Serres. He quickly developed an interest in anthropology, and undertook fieldwork in Côte d'Ivoire which resulted in a brief monograph on decolonization, race, and industrial relations[3]. From there, Latour shifted his research interests to focus on laboratory scientists. Latour rose in importance following the 1979 publication of Laboratory Life: the Social Construction of Scientific Facts with co-author Steve Woolgar. In the book, the authors undertake an ethnographic study of a neuroendocrinology research laboratory at the Salk Institute[3]. This early work demonstrated that naïve descriptions of the scientific method, in which theories stand or fall on the outcome of a single experiment, are inconsistent with actual laboratory practice. In the laboratory, a typical experiment produces only inconclusive data that is attributed to failure of the apparatus or experimental method, and that a large part of scientific training involves learning how to make the subjective decision of what data to keep and what data to throw out, a process that, to an untrained outsider, looks like a mechanism for ignoring data that contradicts scientific orthodoxy.

After a research project examining the sociology of primatologists, Latour followed up the themes in Laboratory Life with Les Microbes: guerre et paix (published in English as The Pasteurization of France in 1984). In it, he reviews the life and career of one of France's most famous scientists Louis Pasteur and his discovery of microbes, in the fashion of a political biography. Latour highlights the social forces at work in and around Pasteur's career and the uneven manner in which his theories were accepted. By providing more explicitly ideological explanations for the acceptance of Pasteur's work more easily in some quarters than in others, he seeks to undermine the notion that the acceptance and rejection of scientific theories is primarily, or even usually, a matter of experiment, evidence or reason. Another work, Aramis, or, The Love of Technology focuses on the history of an unsuccessful mass-transit project. More recently Latour has turned to more "theoretical" and programmatic works. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he was one of the key thinkers in actor-network theory. His more theoretical books include Science in Action, Pandora's Hope, and perhaps his most popular work, We Have Never Been Modern.

Latour and Woolgar produced a highly heterodox and controversial picture of the sciences. Drawing on the work of Gaston Bachelard, they advance the notion that the objects of scientific study are socially constructed within the laboratory—that they cannot be attributed with an existence outside of the instruments that measure them and the minds that interpret them. They view scientific activity as a system of beliefs, oral traditions and culturally specific practices— in short, science is reconstructed not as a procedure or as a set of principles but as a culture. Latour's 1987 book Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society is one of the key texts of the sociology of scientific knowledge.

After spending more than 20 years at the Centre de sociologie de l'innovation at the École des Mines in Paris, Latour moved in 2006 to the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, where he is the first occupant of a Chair named for the aforementioned Gabriel Tarde. Latour is related to a well-known family of winemakers from Burgundy and is not associated with the similarly-named estate in Bordeaux. In recent years he has also served as one of the curators of successful art exhibitions at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany, including "Iconoclash" (2002) and "Making Things Public" (2005).

On May 22, 2008, Latour was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Université de Montréal on the occasion of an organizational communication conference held in honor of the work of James R. Taylor, on whom Latour has had an important influence.

Central concepts

Main works


  1. ^ See Steve Fuller, "Science and Technology Studies", in The Knowledge book. Key concepts in philosophy, science and culture, Acumen (UK) and McGill-Queens University Press (NA), 2007, p. 153.
  2. ^ See Latour's "Biography" Bruno Latour's official website
  3. ^ a b c d Heather Vidmar-McEwen,"Anthropologists biographies: Bruno Latour", "Anthropologists biographies: Bruno Latour", Indiana University Anthropology Department

See also

External links

Frieze Review

Clearing the Air


For a long time, continental philosophy has dominated large areas of cultural criticism, not least in the art world. Its orthodoxies have infected the way in which artists understand and describe their own work, as well as the critical reception of that same work. Traditionally, continental philosophy’s main adversary has been a dismissive Anglo-American commonsense. But a sophisticated challenge to continentalism is now emerging, drawing upon some of the same theoretical resources but using them for very different purposes.

At the forefront of these developments is the philosopher Graham Harman, whose work on cultural theorist Bruno Latour was the subject of a symposium held on February 5th at the LSE. Latour himself was in attendance, and he expressed a certain scepticism towards metaphysics. Harman, however, is an unapologetic metaphysician, and his work makes a powerful case for a return to metaphysics in the grand style.

Harman’s work is rooted in his renegade reading of the notoriously hard-going work of Martin Heidegger. He is enthusiastic about Heidegger’s conceptual breakthroughs but impatient with his tone, which at the LSE symposium Harman dismissed as something to be ‘endured’ rather than emulated. This refreshing contempt for the great philosopher of Being’s ‘oracular heaviness’ sets Harman at odds with the mainstream reception of Heidegger in continental philosophy, which has tended to revel in precisely that tone of mystificatory piety. (At its worst, deconstructive theory ended up being a laborious cultivation of Heidegger’s tone, and little else.) In person and in his writing, Harman’s brisk style – crisply poetic in its lucidity – could not be further from the ponderous perplexities of continentalist theory.

Part of the scandal of Harman’s reading of Heidegger is his belief that Heidegger’s crucial insights can be communicated at all– a thought that for many Heideggerians is itself apostasy. For this priestly cadre, the title of Harman’s superb introductory text, Heidegger Explained (2007), might as well read ‘Heidegger destroyed’. But Harman does for Heidegger what Slavoj Zizek has done for Jacques Lacan: he makes available to an intelligent audience the brilliant insights of a thinker whose tendency to the obscure has been exacerbated by a philosophy industry that has derived much of its influence from a disdain for lucidity.

At the core of Harman’s reading of Heidegger is his account of the ‘tool analysis’ in Being And Time (1927). When we are using a tool, Heidegger suggests, it cannot be at the forefront of our attention. If we are using a toothbrush, the toothbrush withdraws from visibility; as soon as we concentrate on the toothbrush as a toothbrush, as soon it becomes visible again, it ceases to be functional. It is only broken tools, or tools that are no longer doing their work, which can be made ‘present-at-hand’. So something is always missing from any ‘present-at-hand’ entity. Harman argues that this is true of all objects: every object has a hidden subterranean dimension that cannot be made present.

One implication of the tool analysis, not appreciated by Heidegger or most of his followers, is a radical de-privileging of human subjectivity. The refusal to put the human mode of being – what Heidegger called ‘Dasein’ – at the heart of philosophy is another heretical move in Harman’s aberrant treatment of Heidegger. It is not only in the lacunae of human attention that objects recline into mysterious depths. When objects engage with each other, without a human observer present, they too ‘caricature’ each other. When fire burns cotton, it does not engage with the entirety of the cotton’s being, only with those aspects of it that are flammable. Something in every object recesses from presence. 

Harman’s forthcoming book on Bruno Latour, Prince of Networks, under discussion at the LSE seminar, applies his ‘tool-being’ metaphysics to Latour’s ‘actor-network theory’. Latour’s ‘actors’ and ‘networks’ become ‘objects’ and ‘relations’. But Harman insists that objects have a reality that is irreducible to their relations. A chess piece may derive its meaning from its relation to other pieces, but this by no means exhausts its ‘objectality’: micro-organisms may be nestling inside it, for example. All objects have occulted depths which no external entity can ever fully access.

Whereas continental philosophy has turned endlessly, and increasingly fruitlessly, around problems of human consciousness and language, Harman, along with a small group of other ‘speculative realist’ philosophers, including Ray Brassier and Quentin Meillassoux, is fascinated by non-human worlds, by the interactions of dust mites in a carpet as much as by the dark sides of planets on which no human foot will ever tread. Harman asks us to stop being anxious about what an object means for us, the way in which it is supposedly constructed and constituted by our minds, and consider the object itself, alluring in its partial opacity. He calls his work ‘weird realism’, and wants to attune us to the strangeness of objects once they are liberated from commonsense’s somnambulant gaze.

Harman’s philosophy gives licence for a renewed boldness in cultural criticism. Deconstruction in particular preached against making definitive judgements about texts or artworks, favouring strategies of deferral and equivocation that suspended interpretative closure. The ostensible motivation for these evasions was a reverence for the irreducible complexities of the text. But instead of illuminating cultural objects, this often only obscured them; rather than engaging with the object, theory was induced into interminable meditations on how it was impossible to write about it. Harman shows that any encounter with an object must caricature it – but it is only through such caricaturing that a glimpse of the object’s hidden richness can be gleaned.

MP3s of the talks given at the symposium can be found on the LSE website.

Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher is a writer based in Kent. His blog can be found at


Added by dan_b, 1 year, 9 months ago

Harman looks interesting, but the notion that fire caricatures cotton by burning it is both a fundamental misunderstanding of Heidegger and a very narrow common-sense/anthropocentric view of what’s going on when ‘fire burns cotton’. Cotton burns - it is not burnt except where there is intent. It is the intent that brings the cotton under-description, and that reveals it in an incompete aspect of its being.

It feels like a misunderstanding of Latour too - the ‘fire burns cotton’ example seems to suggest intentionality, whereas Latour always answers his critics that ANT does not suppose intentionality of its actors.

At any rate, good article - I’ll be hunting down Harman’s book on Heidegger.


Added by lukejackson, 1 year, 9 months ago

Heidegger’s aim in Being and Time was to understand existence, and shatter the subject/object divide, but first he said he had to understand the being of the human doing the enquiry.

However, understanding this human being (Dasein) never gave way to the promised broader enquiry into all types of being, and the “object” was conceived only in terms of the subject, leading to the endless self-reference of deconstructionism.

Heidegger’s later work - and specifically his A Question Concerning Technology - realises the mistake (and even great peril) of conceiving of the world in terms of the human.

It has taken Latour, Harman, and Lucas Introna, amongst others, to continue Heidegger’s work beyond the limited standpoint of Dasein and produce an ontology that is increasingly relevant in today’s world where science and technology are ever more important actors in our world.  Definitely watch this space.

Graham Harman

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Graham Harman
American philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
Full name Graham Harman
Born May 9, 1968 (1968-05-09) (age 41)
School/tradition Speculative Realism
Main interests Metaphysics, Realism, Occasionalism
Notable ideas tool-being, vicarious causation, allure

Graham Harman (born May 9, 1968, Iowa City, Iowa) is a professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is a contemporary philosopher of metaphysics, who attempts to reverse the linguistic turn of Western philosophy. Harman is associated with Speculative Realism in philosophy, which was the name of workshop that also included the philosophers Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux.




Born in Iowa City, Iowa on May 9, 1968, and raised in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Harman attended St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, receiving his B.A. in 1990. He then pursued graduate study under philosopher Alphonso Lingis at Penn State University, receiving his M.A. in 1991. Transferring to DePaul University in Chicago, he received his Ph. D. there in 1999. While in Chicago, he worked briefly as a sportswriter for (now defunct). Since 2000, he has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at the American University in Cairo.


Through an interpretation of the tool-analysis of Heidegger's Being and Time, Harman sets out to develop what he calls an object-oriented philosophy. Taking the tool-analysis as the defining moment in twentieth-century philosophy, Harman finds in Heidegger the roots of a metaphysics of things which does justice to the things themselves. Although working from within it, he finds the broad history of phenomenology to be deficient in that it constantly subordinates the independent life of objects to our (human) access to them. Against the Kantian tradition, his object-oriented approach considers the neglected real life of objects to be fertile ground for a resurgent metaphysics. Emphasizing the notions of substance and occasional cause (see occasionalism), he affirms the autonomy of objects while aiming to 'allude' to their shadowy underground life and covert interactions by means of metaphor.

According to Harman, everything is an object, whether it be a mailbox, electromagnetic radiation, curved spacetime, the Commonwealth of Nations, or a propositional attitude. Expressing strong sympathy for panpsychism, Harman proposes a new philosophical discipline called "speculative psychology" dedicated to investigating the "cosmic layers of psyche" and "ferreting out the specific psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone" (Harman 2009: 213).

Cutting across the phenomenological tradition, and especially its linguistic turn, Harman deploys a brand of metaphysical realism that attempts to extricate objects from their human captivity and metaphorically allude to a strange new subterranean world of objects.


See also

External links

Quentin Meillassoux

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Quentin Meillassoux
French philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
Full name Quentin Meillassoux
Born 1967
School/tradition Speculative Realism
Main interests Materialism, Mathematics, Realism
Notable ideas correlationism, arche-fossil, absolute time

Quentin Meillassoux (born 1967 in Paris, France) is a French philosopher. He teaches at the École Normale Supérieure, and is the son of the anthropologist Claude Meillassoux.

Meillassoux is a former student of the philosopher Alain Badiou, who has written that Meillassoux's first book Après la finitude (2006)[1] introduces an entirely new option into modern philosophy, different from Kant's three alternatives of criticism, scepticism, and dogmatism. The book was translated into English by philosopher Ray Brassier, Meillassoux's associate in the Speculative Realism movement.

In this book, Meillassoux argues that post-Kantian philosophy is dominated by what he calls "correlationism," the often unstated theory that humans cannot exist without the world nor the world without humans. In Meillassoux's view, this is a dishonest maneuver that allows philosophy to sidestep the problem of how to describe the world as it really is prior to all human access. He terms this pre-human reality the "ancestral" realm. In keeping with the mathematical interests of his mentor Alain Badiou, Meillassoux claims that mathematics is what reaches the primary qualities of things as opposed to their secondary qualities as manifested in perception.

Meillassoux tries to show that the agnostic scepticism of those who doubt the reality of cause and effect must be transformed into a radical certainty that there is no such thing as causal necessity at all. This leads Meillassoux to proclaim that it is absolutely necessary that the laws of nature be contingent. The world is a kind of hyper-chaos in which the principle of sufficient reason is abandoned even while the principle of non-contradiction must be retained.

For these reasons, Meillassoux rejects Kant's so-called Copernican Revolution in philosophy. Since Kant makes the world dependent on the conditions by which humans observe it, Meillassoux accuses Kant of a "Ptolemaic Counter-Revolution."

Several of Meillassoux's articles have also appeared in English in the British philosophical journal Collapse[2], and have helped to spark rapid growth of interest in his work in the Anglophone world. His still-unpublished dissertation L'inexistence divine (1997) is forthcoming in book form.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Après la finitude. Essai sur la nécessité de la contingence, Paris, Seuil, coll. L'ordre philosophique, 2006 (foreword by Alain Badiou).
  2. ^ Quentin Meillassoux, Spectral Dilemma

Principle of sufficient reason

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The principle of sufficient reason states that anything that happens does so for a definite reason. In virtue of which no fact can be real or no statement true unless it has sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise. It is usually attributed to Gottfried Leibniz,[1] although the first person to use it was Anaximander of Miletus.[2]




The principle has a variety of expressions, all of which are perhaps best summarized by the following:

A sufficient explanation may be understood either in terms of reasons or causes for like many philosophers of the period, Leibniz did not carefully distinguish between the two. The resulting principle is very different, however, depending on which interpretation is given.

Leibniz's view

In fact Leibniz opposed fatalism and had a more nuanced and characteristic version of the principle, in which the contingent was admitted on the basis of infinitary reasons, to which God had access but humans did not. He explained this while discussing the problem of future contingents:

We have said that the concept of an individual substance [Leibniz also uses the term haecceity ] includes once for all everything which can ever happen to it and that in considering this concept one will be able to see everything which can truly be said concerning the individual, just as we are able to see in the nature of a circle all the properties which can be derived from it. But does it not seem that in this way the difference between contingent and necessary truths will be destroyed, that there will be no place for human liberty, and that an absolute fatality will rule as well over all our actions as over all the rest of the events of the world? To this I reply that a distinction must be made between that which is certain and that which is necessary. (§13, Discourse on Metaphysics)

Without this qualification, the principle can be seen as a description of a certain notion of closed system, in which there is no 'outside' to provide unexplained events with causes. It is also in tension with the paradox of Buridan's ass.

As a Law of Thought

The principle was one of the four recognised laws of thought, that held a place in European pedagogy of logic and reasoning (and, to some extent, philosophy in general) in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. It was influential in the thinking of Leo Tolstoy, amongst others, in the elevated form that history could not be accepted as random.

Schopenhauer's Four Forms

According to Schopenhauer's On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, there are four distinct forms of the principle.

Principle of Sufficient Reason of Becoming
If a new state of one or several real objects appears, another state must have preceded it upon which the new state follows regularly.
Principle of Sufficient Reason of Knowing
If a judgment is to express a piece of knowledge, it must have a sufficient ground. By virtue of this quality, it receives the predicate true. Truth is therefore the reference of a judgment to something different therefrom.
Principle of Sufficient Reason of Being
The position of every object in space and the succession of every object in time is conditioned by another object's position in space and succession in time.
Principle of Sufficient Reason of Acting
Every human decision is the result of an object that necessarily determines the human's will by functioning as a motive.


Counter Argument

See also


  1. ^ There are numerous anticipations. One often pointed to is in Anselm of Canterbury: his phrase quia Deus nihil sine ratione facit[1] and the formulation of the ontological argument for the existence of God. A clearer connection is with the cosmological argument for the existence of God. The principle can be seen in both Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Leibniz formulated it, but was not an originator. See chapter on Leibniz and Spinoza in A. O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being.
  2. ^ Freeman, Charles (1999). The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World. Allen Lane. p. 152. ISBN 0 713 99224 7. 

Principle of contradiction

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In logic, the Principle of contradiction (principium contradictionis in Latin) is the second of the so-called three classic laws of thought. The oldest statement of the law is that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e.g. the two propositions A is B and A is not B are mutually exclusive. A may be B at one time, and not at another; A may be partly B and partly not B at the same time; but it is impossible to predicate of the same thing, at the same time, and in the same sense, the absence and the presence of the same quality. This is the statement of the law given by Aristotle. It takes no account of the truth of either proposition; if one is true, the other is not; one of the two must be false.

In the symbolism of propositional logic, the principle is expressed as:

 \neg (P \wedge \neg P).\!




According to Allan Bloom, "the earliest-known explicit statement of the principle of contradiction — the premise of philosophy and the foundation of rational discourse" — is given in Plato's Politeia (The Republic) where the character Socrates states, "It's plain that the same thing won't be willing at the same time to do or suffer opposites with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing" (436B).

The principle is also found in ancient Indian logic as a meta-rule in the Shrauta Sutras, the grammar of Pāṇini,[1] and the Brahma Sutras attributed to Vyasa. It was later elaborated on by medieval commentators such as Madhvacharya.[2]

The law of non-contradiction is often used as a test of "absolute truth." For example, Christianity, and other religions, are based on the belief there is one true God of the universe. Other religious beliefs may claim that truth is relativistic. The defenders of absolute truth would argue that if it were the case "there is no absolute truth", then there is an absolute truth, namely the statement "there is no absolute truth." Thus making the statement self-refuting, unless they also deny the principle of non-contradiction.[citation needed].

Aristotle's attempt at proof

In chapter 4, book IV of the Metaphysics, Aristotle attempts several proofs of this principle. He first argues that every expression has a single meaning (otherwise we could not communicate with one another). This rules out the possibility that by 'to be a man', 'not to be a man' is meant. But 'man' means 'two-footed animal' (for example), and so if anything is a man, it is necessary (by virtue of the meaning of 'man') that it must be a two-footed animal, and so it is impossible at the same time for it not to be a two-footed animal. Thus '"it is not possible to say truly at the same time that the same thing is and is not a man" (Metaphysics 1006b 35). Another argument is that anyone who believes something cannot believe its contradiction (1008b).

Why does he not just get up first thing and walk into a well or, if he finds one, over a cliff? In fact, he seems rather careful about cliffs and wells [3].

Avicenna gives a similar argument:

Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned. [4]

Leibniz and Kant

Leibniz and Kant adopted a different statement, by which the law assumes an essentially different meaning. Their formula is A is not not-A; in other words it is impossible to predicate of a thing a quality which is its contradictory. Unlike Aristotle's law this law deals with the necessary relation between subject and predicate in a single judgment. For example, in Gottlob Ernst Schulze's Aenesidemus, it is asserted, "… nothing supposed capable of being thought may contain contradictory characteristics." Whereas Aristotle states that one or other of two contradictory propositions must be false, the Kantian law states that a particular kind of proposition is in itself necessarily false. On the other hand there is a real connection between the two laws. The denial of the statement A is not-A presupposes some knowledge of what A is, i.e. the statement A is A. In other words a judgment about A is implied.

Kant's analytical judgments of propositions depend on presupposed concepts which are the same for all people. His statement, regarded as a logical principle purely and apart from material facts, does not therefore amount to more than that of Aristotle, which deals simply with the significance of negation[citation needed].

Alleged impossibility of its proof or denial

As is true of all axioms, the law of non-contradiction is alleged to be neither verifiable nor falsifiable, on the grounds that any proof or disproof must use the law itself prior to reaching the conclusion. In other words, in order to verify or falsify the laws of logic one must resort to logic as a weapon, an act which would essentially be self-defeating. Since the early 20th century, certain logicians have proposed logics that denies the validity of the law. Collectively, these logics are known as "paraconsistent" or "inconsistency-tolerant" logics. Graham Priest advances the strongest thesis of this sort, which he calls "dialetheism".

In several axiomatic derivations of logic[5], this is effectively resolved by showing that (P ∨ ¬P) and its negation are constants, and simply defining TRUE as (P ∨ ¬P) and FALSE as ¬(P ∨ ¬P), without taking a position as to the Principle of bivalence or Law of excluded middle.

See also


  1. ^ Frits Staal (1988), Universals: Studies in Indian Logic and Linguistics, Chicago, pp. 109–28  (cf. Bull, Malcolm (1999), Seeing Things Hidden, Verso, p. 53, ISBN 1859842631 )
  2. ^ Dasgupta, Surendranath (1991), A History of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, p. 110, ISBN 8120804155 
  3. ^ 1008b, trans. Lawson-Tancred
  4. ^ Avicenna, Metaphysics, I; commenting on Aristotle, Topics I.11.105a4–5.
  5. ^ Steven Wolfram, A New Kind Of Science, ISBN 1579550088


External links

Copernican Revolution (metaphor)

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The Copernican Revolution, which in terms of astronomy amounted to the acceptance of heliocentrism as suggested by Nicolaus Copernicus, has also been used widely as a metaphor supporting descriptions of modernity. A particularly prominent case was the selection of this comparison by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason to explain the effect in epistemology of his new transcendental philosophy.[1]



Characteristics of the metaphor

David Luban has analysed four different sides of the metaphorical usage, deriving from different aspects of the Copernican Revolution as it is understood in the history of science, and its wider impact on thought:

The "Copernican Revolution in philosophy"

The attribution of the comparison with Copernicus to Kant himself is based on an passage in the Preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (1787, and a heavy revision of the first edition of 1781). In an English translation, it begins:

Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge. This would agree better with what is desired, namely, that it should be possible to have knowledge of objects a priori, determining something in regard to them prior to their being given. We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus' primary hypothesis. Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects.[3]

According to Tom Rockmore,[4] Kant himself never used the "Copernican Revolution" phrase about himself, though it was "routinely" applied to his work by others.


The phrase is now widely used, particularly in the humanities, for a simple change of perspective, connoting a progressive shift. Examples:

By defining hysteria as an illness whose symptoms were produced by a person's unconscious ideas, Freud started what can be called a ‘Copernican Revolution’ in the understanding of mental illness — which put him into opposition both to the Parisian Charcot and to the German and Austrian scientific community.[5]
Jacques Lacan's formulation that the unconscious, as it reveals itself in analytic phenomena, ‘is structured like a language’, can be seen as a Copernican revolution (of sorts), bringing together Freud and the insights of linguistic philosophers and theorists such as Roman Jakobson.[6]
Fredrick Barth (1969), in what could be called a Copernican revolution in the understanding of ethnicity, suggested that rather than anthropology focusing on the cultural “stuff” contained within ethnic groups, it is also the task of anthropology to focus on the problematic and socially constructed boundary between ethnic groups.[7]
The gradual shift of the cause of disability from the individual person (the rehabilitation approach) or the social interaction between people (interaction approach), to the confrontation (conflict) of the individual with the organisation of society, including the structure of the social-spatial environment, is described by Samoy and Lammertyn as a Copernican revolution.[8]

See also

François Laruelle

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François Laruelle (born 1937) is a French philosopher, formerly of the Collège international de philosophie and the University of Paris X: Nanterre. Alumnus of the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, Laruelle is notable for developing a science of philosophy that he calls "non-philosophy". He currently directs an international organisation dedicated to furthering the cause of non-philosophy, the Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale. He has been described by Scottish philosopher Ray Brassier as "the most important unknown philosopher working in Europe today" (Brassier, 2003, p. 24) and was described by Gilles Deleuze, in a footnote to What Is Philosophy?, as one of the most interesting contemporary philosophers [1].



Philosophical and Non-Philosophical Development

Laruelle divides his work into four periods: Philosophy I (1971-1981), Philosophy II (1981-1995), Philosophy III (1995-2002), and Philosophy IV (2002-Present).

The work comprising Philosophy I finds Laruelle attempting to subvert concepts found in Nietzsche, Heidegger, Deleuze and Derrida. Even at this early stage one can identify Laruelle's interest in adopting a transcendental stance towards philosophy.

With Philosophy II, Laruelle makes a determined effort to develop a transcendental approach to philosophy itself. However, it is not until Philosophy III that Laruelle claims to have started the work of non-philosophy.


Laruelle claims that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to analytic philosophy to deconstruction and so on) are structured around a prior decision, but that all forms of philosophy remain constitutively blind to this decision. The 'decision' that Laurelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of the world in order to grasp the world philosophically. Laruelle claims that the decisional structure of philosophy can only be grasped non-philosophically. In this sense, non-philosophy is a science of philosophy.

Selected bibliography

Articles translated into English:

François Laruelle, 'A Summary of Non-Philosophy' in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 8. Philosophies of Nature, 1999.

François Laruelle, 'Identity and Event' in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 9. Parallel Processes, 2000.

François Laruelle, 'The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter' in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 12. What Is Materialism? 2001.

Philosophie I

Phénomène et différence. Éssai sur l'ontologie de Ravaisson [Phenomenon and Difference: An Essay on Ravaisson's Ontology], Klinskieck, Paris, 1971.

Machines textuelles. Déconstruction et libido d'écriture [Textual Machines: Deconstruction and Libido of Writing], Seuil, Paris, 1976.

Nietzsche contra Heidegger. Thèses pour une politique nietzschéenne [Nietzsche contra Heidegger: Theses for a Nietzschean Politics], Payot, Paris, 1977.

Philosophie II

Les Philosophies de la différence. Introduction critique [English translation: Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy, trans. Rocco Gangle, New York, Continuum 2010.] Paris, PUF, 1986.

Philosophie et non-philosophie [Philosophy and Non-Philosophy], Mardaga, Liège/Brussels, 1989.

En tant qu'un. La non-philosophie éxpliquée au philosophes [As One: Non-Philosophy Explained to Philosophers], Aubier, Paris, 1991.

Philosophie III

Théorie des Étrangers. Science des hommes, démocratie, non-psychoanalyse [Theory of Strangers: Science of Men, Democracy, Non-Psychoanalysis], Kimé, Paris, 1995.

Principes de la non-philosophie [The Principles of Non-Philosophy], PUF, Paris, 1996.

Dictionnaire de la non-philosophie [Dictionary of Non-Philosophy], François Laruelle et Collaborateurs, Kimé, Paris, 1998.

Éthique de l'Étranger. Du crime contre l'humanité [Ethics of the Stranger: Of The Crime Against Humanity], Kimé, Paris, 2000.

Introduction au non-marxisme [Introduction to Non-Marxism], PUF, Paris, 2000.

Philosophie IV

Le Christ futur, une leçon d'hérésie [English translation Future Christ: A Lesson in Heresy, trans. Anthony Paul Smith, New York, Continuum 2010], Exils, Paris 2002.

L'ultime honneur des intellectuels [The Ultimate Honor of Intellectuals], Textuel, Paris 2003.

La Lutte et l'Utopie à la fin des temps philosophiques [Struggle and Utopia in the Endtimes of Philosophy], Kimé, Paris 2004.

Mystique non-philosophique à l’usage des contemporains [Non-Philosophical Mysticism for Contemporary Use], L'Harmat, Paris 2007.

Other Works Cited

Ray Brassier, 'Axiomatic Heresy: The Non-Philosophy of Francois Laruelle', Radical Philosophy 121, Sep/Oct 2003.


  1. ^ p.43 French edition

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Philosophical realism

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Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief in a reality that is completely ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Philosophers who profess realism also typically believe that truth consists in a belief's correspondence to reality. We may speak of realism with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the material world, or even thought.

Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality.[1] Realism is contrasted with idealism and anti-realism.



Debates about realism

Despite Harris the seeming straightforwardness of the realist position, in the history of philosophy there has been continuous debate about what is real. In addition, there has been significant evolution in what is meant by the term "real".

The oldest use of the term comes from medieval interpretations and adaptations of Greek philosophy. In this medieval scholastic philosophy, however, "realism" meant something different—indeed, in some ways almost opposite—from what it means today. In medieval philosophy, realism is contrasted with "conceptualism" and "nominalism". The opposition of realism and nominalism developed out of debates over the problem of universals. Universals are terms or properties that can be applied to many things, rather than denoting a single specific individual—for example, red, beauty, five, or dog, as opposed to "Socrates" or "Athens". Realism in this context holds that universals really exist, independently and somehow prior to the world; it is associated with Plato. Conceptualism holds that they exist, but only in the mind, Moderate Realism holds that they exist, but only insofar as they are instantiated in specific things; they do not exist separately from the specific thing. Nominalism holds that universals do not "exist" at all; they are no more than words we use to describe specific objects, they do not name anything. This particular dispute over realism is largely moot in contemporary philosophy, and has been for centuries.

In its Kantian sense, realism is contrasted with idealism'. In a contemporary sense, realism is contrasted with anti-realism, primarily in the philosophy of science.

In practice

Both these disputes are often carried out relative to some specific area: one might, for example, be a realist about physical matter but an anti-realist about ethics. The high necessity of specifying the area in which the claim is made has been increasingly acknowledged in recent years.

Increasingly these last disputes, too, are rejected as misleading, and some philosophers prefer to call the kind of realism espoused there "metaphysical realism," and eschew the whole debate in favour of simple "naturalism" or "natural realism", which is not so much a theory as the position that these debates are ill-conceived if not incoherent, and that there is no more to deciding what is really real than simply taking our words at face value.

Some realist philosophers prefer deflationary theories of truth to more traditional correspondence accounts.

Realism in logic and mathematics

Mathematical realism, like realism in general, holds that mathematical entities exist independently of the human mind. Thus humans do not invent mathematics, but rather discover it, and any other intelligent beings in the universe would presumably do the same. In this point of view, there is really one sort of mathematics that can be discovered: Triangles, for example, are real entities, not the creations of the human mind.

Many working mathematicians have been mathematical realists; they see themselves as discoverers of naturally occurring objects. Examples include Paul Erdős and Kurt Gödel. Gödel believed in an objective mathematical reality that could be perceived in a manner analogous to sense perception. Certain principles (e.g., for any two objects, there is a collection of objects consisting of precisely those two objects) could be directly seen to be true, but some conjectures, like the continuum hypothesis, might prove undecidable just on the basis of such principles. Gödel suggested that quasi-empirical methodology could be used to provide sufficient evidence to be able to reasonably assume such a conjecture.

Within realism, there are distinctions depending on what sort of existence one takes mathematical entities to have, and how we know about them.

Realism in physics

Realism in physics refers to the fact that any physical system must have its property defined, whether or not it is measured (or observed or not). However, some interpretations of quantum mechanics hold that a system lacks an actualized property until it is measured. This implies that quantum systems exhibit a non-local behaviour. Bell's theorem proved that every quantum theory must either violate local realism or counterfactual definiteness. Physics up to the 19th century was always implicitly and sometimes explicitly taken to be based on philosophical realism. With the advent of quantum mechanics in the 20th century, it was noted that it is no longer possible to adhere to local realism — that is, to both the principle of locality (that distant objects cannot affect local objects), and counterfactual definiteness, a form of ontological realism implicit in classical physics. This has given rise to a contentious debate of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Although locality and 'realism' in the sense of counterfactual definiteness, are jointly false, it is possible to retain one of them. The majority of working physicists discard counterfactual definiteness in favor of locality, since non-locality is held to be contrary to relativity. The implications of this stance are rarely discussed outside of the microscopic domain. See, however, Schrödinger's cat for an illustration of the difficulties presented. It can also be argued that the counterfactual definiteness 'realism' of physics is a much more specific notion than general philosophical realism.[2]


  1. ^ Blackburn p. 188
  2. ^ "We examine the prevalent use of the phrase “local realism” in the context of Bell’s Theorem and associated experiments, with a focus on the question: what exactly is the ‘realism’ in ‘local realism’ supposed to mean?". Norsen, T.Against 'Realism'

See also



External links