Realism Compromised

With so many renegade scholars now interested in Speculative Realism, the movement naturally becomes an ideal topic for philosophy blogging. This topic naturally evolves its own genre of writing. What’s perhaps most distinctive is the argumentative or rhetorical writing style which has been an essential innovations. Sustained debate in continental philosophy was a rarity before 2007. And the blogosphere even seems to encourage polemic, as though it clears into a smooth space for intellectual chivalry.

Polemic is definitely a seasonal fashion, and this fact recalls how Carl Schmitt absolutized the friend/enemy distinction.  He is often dismissed for his Nazism, but it’s worth remembering that his background was liberal Weberian neoKantianism. That school distinguished modernity as a plurality of autonomous value spheres such as art, economy, politics, religion etc. According to the Weberian model, these spheres drifted apart with the unraveling of divinity. But Schmitt of course took a conservative turn where he asserted the primacy of the political over the other value spheres. But in his model, the political never coded the other sphere’s. Schmitt was a practising Catholic, and he also theorized about Catholicism, and so it’s been conjectured that his model of sovereignty must have been theocratic. But in fact the primacy he gives to the political is radically secular. He claimed that beginning with the indigenous codes of any modern value sphere, the political was reached as a limit point in the intensification of conflict. A religious or scientific conflict might become political when it reaches some threshold of intensity. This was an abstract definition of the political as a maximum magnitude of difference. This was an Hegelian logic where intensive quantities increase to a magnitude where they become qualitative. This conceptual legacy also passes through Herman Cohen and Gilles Deleuze, and runs against Alexandre Kojève and Leo Strauss.

What happens to Speculative Realism under pressure?  How does it respond to the disruption of its sensitive points? It seems this question demands experimental disturbances of the movement. This would not necessarily mean exceeding the threshold of the political, to where friend/enemy codes might kick in (but have we already past that point?), but hopefully just to experiment with small intensive disruptions preferably at sub-political levels of intensity. SR has its own sense of the political, which it apparently inherited from analytical philosophy. The idea of realism is intriguing, but even more intriguing are the smallest compromises and corruptions of realism. The limits of any movement are where it gets puts to its tests, and its finest tests are the deepest limits of its alterity. This is why Deleuze said the ground rumbles more deeply and the Dionysian shores are closer with Leibniz’s dialectical calculus than with Hegel’s.

So my point is not to pursue SR’s greatest compromise. The point is not to open its worst smelling wound. However, I would hazard to identify that maximal infection as biopolital semiosis, as that is what I beleive most threatens to someday ravage this movement. Ontological promiscuity is the sin which makes SR so susceptible to these infections. This horrible plague can spread at an autoimmune level, breaking down the principles of reality into a dizzyiness beyond codification. Biopolitical discourse turns out to be a pattern of disruptive bifurcation which assumes no humanist metaphysics, and may refer to some unknown conspiracies of life. It’s virulent conflation is linked to an immanence that breaks down the analytical pretensions of realism

Let me suggest a provision against this coming peril. It may be possible to force the atonality of biopolitics through a pre-emptive falsification that sutures it to religion. This pre-emptive idealist compromise is roughly immunological, but it is an immunization against further immunology. It seems an idealist compromise may already be implicit in the formula “strange realism” – doesn’t the strangeness indicate a perverse return of ideality? The proposed suture involves a perverse ideality that forces the atonality of the biopolitical, and prevents it’s programmatic composition through regulative fiction. So, for the sake of advanced immunology, let’s suppose that biology is deeply implicated with religion….

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