New Realism: Problems and Perspectives 9789540748917

New Realism is a movement in philosophy initiated in 2011 by Maurizio Ferraris (University of Turin) and Markus Gabriel

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New Realism: Problems and Perspectives

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New Realism Problems and Perspectives

New Realism Problems and Perspectives

Edited by

Alexander Kanev

St. Kliment Ohridski University Press Sofia 2019

© 2019 Alexander Kanev, еditоr © 2019 St. Kliment Ohridski University Press ISBN 978-954-07-4891-7

Preface This volume contains 19 papers presented at the International Humboldt Conference on New Realism, held at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Bulgaria, 26–28 May 2017. It brings together papers by scholars from universities in Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary, including the founders of the movement of New Realism – Maurizio Ferraris from the University of Turin and Markus Gabriel from the University of Bonn. I owe many thanks to each of the authors for their participation in the conference and their contributions to this volume. I wish to express my gratitude to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the patronage and generous financial support of the conference. Thanks also to the Faculty of Philosophy of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” for providing material and administrative support. Further thanks are due to all those who helped with the organisation of the conference and the publication of this collection. Special gratitude goes to Blagovest Mollov for his editorial help.



Tiziana Andina, University of Turin Maurizio Ferraris, University of Turin Markus Gabriel, University of Bonn George Gherjikov, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Alexander Kanev, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Georgi Kapriev, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Tobias Keiling, University of Bonn Hyun Kang Kim, University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf Anton Friedrich Koch, Heidelberg University Alex Kostova, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Blagovest S. Mollov, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Stanimir Panayotov, Central European University, Budapest Jens Rometsch, University of Bonn Enrico Terrone, University of Turin Christo P. Todorov, New Bulgarian University Vassil Vidinsky, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Jan Voosholz, University of Bonn Stilian Yotov, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”


Contents Preface / 5 List of Contributors / 6 1. Introduction: Why New Realism? Alexander Kanev / 9 Part I Ontology 2. Hermeneutischer Realismus und transzendetaler Idealismus Anton Koch / 19 3. How is (Non-) Being Possible? Alexander Kanev / 31 Part II Social Ontology 4. The Universal Blackboard Maurizio Ferraris / 63 5. Transgenerational Actions Tiziana Andina / 73 Part III Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind 6. Here Comes the Sun: New Realism’s Theory of Perception and the Speck-Star Problem Markus Gabriel / 97 7. What is a Realistic Concept of Reality? Jens Rometsch / 109 8. Welcome back Kant. New Realism and Perceptual (Cor)relation Enrico Terrone / 120 9. What is Context and Distext? Vassil Vidinsky / 130 10. Wozu brauchen wir den Wahrheitsbegriff? Christo P. Todorov / 143 Part IV New Realism and the History of Philosophy 11. Das Sein des Gedankens als Gedanke bei Anselm von Canterbury und die Sinnfeldontologie Georgi Kapriev / 151 12. Der Neue Realismus und die Wiederentdeckung von Schelling Stilian Yotov / 157 13. What is Phenomenological Realism? Metametaphysical Considerations Tobias Keiling / 187


Part V Film Studies 14. Die Erscheinung des Realen im Film Hyun Kang Kim / 209 Part VI Reflections on New Realism 15. A Formal Ontological Game. Does Meillassoux’s Speculative Realism Need a Correlation? Jan Voosholz / 225 16. Truth without Representation Alex Kostova / 235 17. Fields of Sense and the Contemporary Status of the Subject George Gherjikov / 242 18. Disembodiment: A Continental Feminist-Realist Approach Stanimir Panayotov / 253 19. On Reductio Arguments for Realism Blagovest S. Mollov / 278



Why New Realism? Alexander Kanev

New Realism is a very young movement in philosophy. It was initiated in 2011 by Maurizio Ferraris from the University of Turin and Markus Gabriel from the University of Bonn1 and has already had success in prompting debates on the perspectives for a realist turn in contemporary philosophy. Hundreds of articles pro and contra New Realism have been published, including papers by thinkers such as Umberto Eco, Hilary Putnam and John Searle. All over the world there have been international forums related to the movement.2 The main task of New Realism is to develop a fruitful theoretical alternative to postmodernism and, more generally, to the non-realist traditions of philosophising which have been largely dominant in Europe since David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Why, though, New Realism? To prepare the ground for the discussion, I shall address briefly other questions: Why is the opposition between realist and nonrealist ways of thinking central to philosophy? Why were non-realist movements from Hume and Kant to the postmodernists so influential? Why not just follow in the steps of the ontological turn in analytic philosophy accomplished by Quine, Kripke and Lewis? These are not easy questions. Let me outline my thoughts on them.3 I began my study of philosophy with the hope that philosophy could answer the deepest questions of human existence: those concerning the utmost possibilities of life, the origins of good and evil, the nature of justice, freedom and truth. And I believed that philosophy could shed light on human existence by revealing the principles of existence in general – because the human condition is supposed to be partly determined by the ultimate conditions of existence. Thus, my intellectual optimism about philosophy was closely related to my realist view that philosophy was able to illuminate the conditions of existence itself, and not just the conditions of our access to things. See Maurizio Ferraris, Introduction to New Realism, trans. Sarah de Sanctis (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), p. 2. 2 Cf. Maurizio Ferraris, “A Brief History of New Realism”, in New Perspectives on Realism, L. Taddio (ed.), (Sesto San Giovanni, Milan: Mimesis International, 2017), 59–82. 3 For reasons of space, here I can only sketch the general historical context of the emergence of New Realism and its main tasks. For book-length introductions to New Realism, see Maurizio Ferraris’ Introduction to New Realism and Markus Gabriel’s Why the World Does Not Exist, trans. Gregory Moss (Cambridge: Polity, 2014). 1


However, after reading Hume and Kant, Wittgenstein and the later Heidegger, I came to realise that my understanding of philosophy seemed badly outdated. Worse, it turned out that Wittgenstein and the later Heidegger, whose works had a profound influence on 20th century philosophy, were deeply pessimistic about the future of philosophy as a theoretical activity. The great philosophical theories were, apparently, a thing of the past. Maybe they were not that great in the first place, because, as Wittgenstein argued, they were trying to answer questions that were not even meaningful. According to Wittgenstein and the later Heidegger only scientific questions might be successfully addressed by theoretical considerations.4 If you want to study the nature of space, time and the universe as a whole, you better study physics rather than metaphysics. If you want to know the fundamental conditions of mind’s existence, you better ask neuroscientists or cognitive scientists rather than philosophers of mind. If you want to learn more about the roots of evil behaviour, you better talk to moral psychologists rather than to moral philosophers... I did not quite like this rather pessimistic picture of philosophy and embarked on a study of its historical roots. For a start, it was not difficult to notice an interesting correlation: the rise of critical and pessimistic views of philosophy coincided with the rise of non-realist stances in philosophy – that was the case in ancient Greece with the sophistic movement and scepticism, and also in modern philosophy – from Hume to Derrida. Further, it was natural to suggest that a major reason for the ascent of non-realist conceptions in modern and contemporary philosophy was the tension between philosophy’s aspiration to be a fundamental discipline and the absence of universally recognised philosophical truths. The latter was often perceived as an embarrassing failure of philosophy, especially in the context of the splendid development of modern science and the powerful ideology of progress. In order to solve the problem of disagreement and clarify the nature of philosophical methods and conceptions, the most influential philosophers from Descartes through Kant to Wittgenstein initiated revolutionary changes in philosophy. The first change was the turn to the subject. It did not begin as an antirealist turn. Descartes took it in order to defeat scepticism and provide a new, more secure foundation for our knowledge of reality. However, the Cartesian revolution did not overcome the persistent controversies which had given philosophy a bad name. More radical changes were needed. And they were offered by non-realist approaches. Hume and Kant radicalised the turn to the subject and transformed it in a turn against epistemological realism and traditional metaphysics. Remarkably, the turn to language had the same developmental structure. It did not start as a turn against semantic realism. Frege and Russell launched it because they thought that the deep logical structure of linguistic representations held the key to the common structure of thought and reality. Just as Hume and Kant transformed the turn to the Cf. Martin Heidegger, “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking”, in On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 55–73.



subject into a turn against epistemological realism and traditional metaphysics, so the later Wittgenstein, Gadamer and Derrida transformed the turn to language into a turn against semantic realism and foundationalist philosophy. But why did non-realist schools of philosophising from Hume and Kant to the postmodernists have such success? Well, they seemed capable of transforming philosophy for good. Crucially, they provided accounts for the alleged failure of traditional philosophy which spurred new research programs and new methods of philosophising. For one, they linked closely realism and dogmatism. The guiding idea was that traditional philosophy did not make progress because of uncritical realist assumptions about epistemological and/or semantic matters. Thus, for many philosophers, realism became tantamount to dogmatism – to a naive belief in the ability of our finite cognitive apparatus to reveal reality in itself. The antidote to dogmatism and realism was to reject the possibility of a God’s eye view of reality and provide an analytic of (our cognitive) finitude.5 The movements of Kantians and Neo-Kantians, positivists and neo-positivists, phenomenologists, hermeneuticists and poststructuralists bear witness to this. The next crucial move was to represent realist ways of thinking (about cognition, language, value...) not only as dogmatic but also fundamentally mistaken. Its theoretical role was to help us (1) overcome the deep disagreements in philosophy and (2) make life safe for “what is higher” (to use Wittgenstein’s words). Regarding (1), the turn to the subject introduced the principle of immanence according to which we have better access to our representations of reality than to reality itself. Following this principle, philosophers were supposed to first study the conditions of representation, if they were to understand what was wrong with traditional philosophy and why it was plagued by controversies. What is more, the account of representation was supposed to be prior to and independent of ontology; otherwise, it would involve dogmatic assumptions about reality and could not come to terms with the problem of disagreement. The requirement that the study of representation be autonomous from the study of reality was a major factor behind the rise of non-realist ways of philosophising. It seemed that epistemology (or philosophy of language) could be independent of ontology only if the conditions and the forms of representations were (regarded as) largely independent of the conditions and the forms of things in themselves. Regarding (2), non-realist schools were better placed to thematise the limits of science and calculative rationality, resist naturalistic reductionism and leave room for free will, authentic moral life, aesthetic values and wonder. In other words, they could better contribute to the “second wave of Enlightenment”6 which subjected Cf. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London: Routledge, 2002), 340–47. 6 See Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, “A Second Wave of Enlightement: Kant, Wittgenstein and the Continental Tradition”, in Wittgenstein’s Lasting Significance, Max Kölbel and Bernhard Weiss (eds.) (London: Routledge, 2004), 285–304. 5


to criticism not only traditional dogmatic ways of thinking but also the scientistic worldview. In contrast, it became increasingly difficult for realist philosophies to present themselves as inherently critical and liberating. This is why most realist movements after Kant were short-lived. For instance, analytic philosophy started as a realist revolt against British idealism, but soon Russell began to have misgivings about realism. Neo-positivists followed suit. Similarly, phenomenology was perceived as realist in spirit before Husserl’s transcendental turn. Critical realism and the so-called “New Realism” from a century ago did not fare better. All the realist revolts were all-too-fleeting. Now, however, the intellectual situation seems more favourable to realist approaches in philosophy and it is important to see why. To begin with, the internal dialectics of developing ever more radical criticisms of traditional ways of thinking has culminated in anti-theoretical and self-deprecating philosophies. It has become really difficult, nay impossible, to go further in questioning metaphysics and theoretical philosophy than the later Wittgenstein, the later Heidegger and Derrida. For several centuries, from Hume through Nietzsche to the postmodernists, every generation of philosophers criticised the previous generation for still being dogmatic and metaphysical. For Kant, Descartes was a dogmatic philosopher; Nietzsche thought the same of Kant himself; Heidegger treated Nietzsche as the last metaphysician; Derrida suggested that Heidegger’s thinking of being did not completely escape the metaphysics of presence; for the later Wittgenstein, the Tractatus was still in thrall of metaphysical pictures, and so on. In this period, to make progress in philosophy was to reveal and repudiate hidden (metaphysical) assumptions of previous generations of thinkers. Clearly, this could not go on forever. The widespread talk of the end of philosophy in the last decades of 20th century was a direct result of the tradition of ever more critical philosophising. More importantly, this tradition did not come to terms with the problem of disagreement. Any new account of why philosophy was rife with controversies became itself a subject of controversy. As a result, non-realist philosophies began to appear no less controversial (or dogmatic) than realist philosophies. Gradually, the endeavour of overcoming realism – whether metaphysical, semantic or axiological – started to lose its grip on philosophy. Apparently, it was easier to accomplish a realist turn in (postpositivist) Anglo-Saxon philosophy than in the so-called continental philosophy, not least because the former was (and still is) more interested in studying the strengths and progress of (natural) science than its limitations. To put it differently, most analytic philosophers seem more committed to the first wave of Enlightenment than the second one. This tendency facilitated the enormous success of Quine’s naturalism and, at the same time, was reinforced by it. Quines’s critique of the A/S distinction and his epistemic holism significantly weakened the grip of the principles of immanence and autonomy which had been used to substantiate non-realist stances in philosophy. Quine accepted the view that our access to reality is mediated by (historically evolved) conceptual practices and that, therefore, there is no God’s 12

eye point of view, but he rejected the idea that the successful investigations of linguistic and cognititive representations could be prior to and independent of our best scientific theories of their objects. Indeed, the rejection of the A/S distinction buttressed the naturalist position that meaning and truth are inextricably linked with factual reality and, accordingly, the position that the study of representation is not autonomous – that there is no first philosophy. Thus, Quine’s naturalism invited a turn to realist ways of philosophising: if our best scientific theories of life and the cosmos, such as the theory of evolution and the theory of Big Bang, imply that intentional acts do not play a significant role in the universe, and if we are reluctant to accept a higher authority than science, then we have no choice but to be realists of some stripe. Moreover, the naturalist view of philosophy as continuous with science suggested a promising solution to the problem of disagreement: should philosophy conform to the epistemic constraints of our best scientific practices and avail itself both of the most powerful and uncontroversial logico-mathematical tools (say, first-order logic and set theory) and the results of the best empirical theories (say, quantum mechanics and the theory of evolution), it could arguably make real progress. Perhaps surprisingly, the analytic turn to realist ontology (and metaphysics) received a further boost by non-naturalist and, hence, anti-Quinean developments – namely, the emergence of modal logic and the semantics of possible worlds. They made realism about natural kinds and essences respectable once again and paved the way for contemporary neo-Aristotelian metaphysics.7 The situation in non-Anglophone philosophy has been more hostile to realist ways of philosophising. Scientific naturalism and neo-Aristotelian essentialism have had little appeal to most of the so-called “continental” thinkers. To make a long story short, the tradition on “the Continent” has given rise to and suported the second wave of Enlightenment. Its propenents seek to expose the limitations of calculative rationality because they fear that its triumph facilitates totalitarian ideologies and undermines non-scientific forms of making sense of nature, life and ourselves. For them, scientific naturalism and essentialism facilitate the rise of instrumental reason and blind us to its potentially disastrous downsides. But in trying to undermine the dogmatic (realist) presuppositions behind oppressive ways of thinking and acting, postmodern philosophers have made all facts and values relative to our discursive practices. Intentionally or not, this view leads to relativism; and relativism is a deeply problematic position intellectually and practically, since it encourages post-truth politics. Worse, relativism threatens the ethos of postmodernism – the struggle against oppressive ways of thinking and acting, especially with regard to those who are different. If truth and justice are relative to our beliefs and interests, then why not use violence to defend the latter 7

Cf. Tuomas E. Tahko (ed.), Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).


against other persons or other religious, social and ethnic groups? Without some (non-dogmatic) form of realism about truths and values, the step from truth to posttruth, or from democracy to post-democracy, might be surprisingly short. The intellectual situation is favourable to realist stances, but the challenge to create new forms of realism, which, as such, maintain the ethos of critical philosophising and expose the limitations of instrumental reason, remains quite difficult. We need bold and original philosophical theories, capable of doing justice to the insights of the non-realist traditions. Some proposals in this direction are discussed in the present volume: for instance, Ferraris’ ontology of social reality, Gabriel’s ontology of fields of sense, Koch’s hermeneutic realism. Crudely and very schematically put, New Realism takes on board the insights of non-realist movements by jettisoning foundationalism and representationalism, and by endorsing pluralism. New realists reject foundationalism both in its ontological and epistemological versions. For one thing, they repudiate the idea of the great chain of being according to which reality is unified by a hierarchical structure grounded in some ultimate, self-sufficient being(s). The metaphysical notions related to this idea (e.g., totality, ultimate ground, necessary being...) are dismissed as inadequate guides to the nature of existence. New realists are critical also of the so-called analytic metaphysics insofar as it remains metaphysics and, thus, wedded to foundationalist ideas of being.8 For another thing, new realists tend to endorse fallibilism: there is no secure basis for knowledge, whether empirical or a priori; no system of knowledge is immune to revision. Taking into account insights of non-realist schools, they are critical of representationalist accounts of perception – or cognition in general – and favour direct realism. No less important is the tendency to combine realism with pluralism. In my view, it is key to making sense of the persistent disagreements in philosophy and their role in philosophy’s non-linear progress. Generally, pluralism is looming large in contemporary philosophy: from the philosophy of logic and mathematics to the philosophy of science.9 Many new realists are pluralists: they believe that there are diverse ways of making sense of things and that each of them has its strengths and limitations because of being only partially true or productive. By my lights, pluralism based on the notion of partial truth is needed not only in science10 but also For a prominent discussion of the distinction between metaphysics and ontology, see Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 1–24. 9 For pluralist accounts of respectively logic, mathematics and science, see Jeffry C. Beall and Greg Restall, Logical Pluralism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006); Michele Friend, Pluralism in Mathematics: A New Position in Philosophy of Mathematics (New York: Springer, 2013); Hasok Chang, Is Water H2O? Evidence, Pluralism and Realism (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012). 10 The concept of partial truth is taking centre stage in contemporary philosophy of science. See Newton C. A. Da Costa and Steven French, Science and Partial Truth: A Uni8


in philosophy.11 There is an important difference between science and philosophy and it creates the illusion that philosophy does not make any progress in comparison with science. Whereas a partially true scientific theory may be highly empirically successful and therefore universally accepted by the scientific community for a certain period of time (say, Newtonian mechanics), a partially true philosophy is bound to be controversial and criticised for the inconclusiveness of its arguments (for instance, Heidegger’s existential ontology). This is an important reason why the solutions to philosophical problems are more controversial than the solutions to scientific problems. However, the controversial character of philosophical theories does not imply that they lack partially true contents and that philosophy is incapable of advancing towards truth. On the contrary, philosophical controversies help us understand better the limitations of our representational practices and transform them for good. They open up new conceptual spaces for scientific inquiry or moral reasoning and reveal new possibilities for experiencing, thinking, and acting. New realists may sympathise with a pluralist stance towards philosophy, but they question the analytic/continental divide in it.12 New Realism is neither an analytic nor a continental movement. Generally, new realists draw on the achievements of both traditions and urge us to realise that the divide between them is obsolete. Maurizio Ferraris and Markus Gabriel feel at home in both camps and build bridges between them. Ferraris, for instance, has co-authored books with some of the most distinguished figures of the so-called analytic and the so-called continental tradition.13 Unlike some “continental” thinkers, Ferraris and Gabriel stress the importance of clear and rigorous argumentation. And in contrast to many “analytic” philosophers, they recognise and build on the achievements of other traditions, e.g. of thinkers like Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida. New realists tend to question not only the borders within philosophy but also the borders between philosophy and other parts of intellectual life. Like all special sciences, philosophy has become extremely professionalised and specialised over the course of last century. But whereas this tendency has been conducive to the progress of special sciences, it is not clear that it has not had serious drawbacks to philosophy. For one thing, specialisation has not solved the problem of disagreement tary Approach to Models and Scientific Reasoning (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). 11 Already Hegel attempted to make sense of the history of philosophy by conceiving of the great philosophies of the past as partially true. Admittedly, his conception of progress through sublation of partial truths is not (sufficiently) pluralistic and cannot do enough justice to the complexity and non-linearity of philosophy’s development. 12 See Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), p. XII. 13 See Jacques Derrida nd Maurizio Ferraris, A Taste for the Secret (Cambridge: Polity, 2001) and also Angela Condello, Maurizio Ferraris and John Searle, Money, Social Ontology and Law (New York: Routledge, 2019).


and has not brought cumulative advances in (foundational) philosophical disciplines. For another thing, by becoming more and more specialised, philosophy is becoming more and more fragmented and more and more alienated from other fields of inquiry and other cultural practices. And this is a bad thing. In the words of Sellars, philosophy seeks to “understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.”14 New realism opposes the increasing isolation of philosophy from other scientific and cultural practices and shows that it is possible to philosophise in a manner which is not only rigorous but also accessible to wider audiences. Philosophy should not be done only for professional philosophers: it possesses a genuine transformational power and can contribute to the big scientific, cultural and political debates of our time.

References Beall, Jeffry C. and Greg Restall. Logical Pluralism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006. Chang, Hasok. Is Water H2O? Evidence, Pluralism and Realism. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. Condello, Angela, Maurizio Ferraris and John Searle. Money, Social Ontology and Law. New York: Routledge, 2019. Da Costa, Newton C. A. and Steven French. Science and Partial Truth: A Unitary Approach to Models and Scientific Reasoning. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Derrida, Jacques and Maurizio Ferraris. A Taste for the Secret (Cambridge: Polity, 2001. Ferraris, Maurizio. “A Brief History of New Realism”. In New Perspectives on Realism, edited by Luca Taddio. Sesto San Giovanni, Milan: Mimesis International, 2017, 59–82. — Introduction to New Realism. Translated by Sarah de Sanctis. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Friend, Michele. Pluralism in Mathematics: A New Position in Philosophy of Mathematics. New York: Springer, 2013. Foucault, Michel. The Order оf Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge, 2002. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. — Why the World Does Not Exist. Translated by Gregory Moss. Cambridge: Polity, 2014. Heidegger, Martin. “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking”. In On Time and Being, edited and translated by Joan Stambaugh. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 55–73. Sellars, Wilfrid. “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man”, in his Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1963). Stekeler-Weithofer, Pirmin. “A Second Wave of Enlightenment: Kant, Wittgenstein and the Continental Tradition”. In Wittgenstein’s Lasting Significance, edited by Max Kölbel and Bernhard Weiss. London: Routledge, 2004, 285–304. Tahko, Tuomas (Ed). Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. See Wilfrid Sellars, “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man”, in his Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1963), p. 1.




Hermeneutischer Realismus und transzendentaler Idealismus* Anton Friedrich Koch

Vorbemerkungen Es gibt theoretische, hermeneutische und technische Disziplinen. Der theoretischen sind nach klassischer Meinung drei: Metaphysik, Physik und Mathematik. Zu den hermeneutischen gehören die hi­storischen und die interpretierenden Wissenschaften; im Zwischenbereich der technischen und der theoretischen finden wir die Chemie und die Lebenswissenschaften; und zu den technischen gehören die Ingenieurwissenschaften und die Handwerkskünste. Eine Philosophie, die als hermeneutischer Realismus auftritt, sollte sich als hermeneu­tische Disziplin verstehen, und so ist es hier beabsichtigt. Was sie von anderen hermeneutischen Disziplinen – Rechtswissenschaft, Geschichte, Literaturund Kunstwissenschaften usw. – unterscheidet, ist in der Methode ihr Apriorismus und in der Fragestellung ihr Zug ins Grundsätzliche und Allgemeine. Sie ist ein Realismus, weil sie das Reale für unabhängig von einzelnen Wahrheitsansprüchen erklärt, und sie ist eine hermeneutische Lehre, weil ihr zufolge das Reale wesentlich auf endliche Perspektiven und Standpunkte hin der Fall ist und existiert. Eine vollständige, standpunktneutrale und widerspruchsfreie Übersicht über das Reale kann es dem hermeneutischen Realismus zufolge aus begrifflichen Gründen nicht geben. Die Theorie des endlichen Erkennens und die Ontologie sind intern miteinander verflochten. Wenn hingegen eine Position als transzendentaler Idealismus auftritt, so gehört sie zur Tran­szendentalphilosophie, die ihrerseits einen abstrakten und formalen Grenzfall der Metaphysik darstellt und sich somit als eine theoretische Wissenschaft verstehen wird. Die Transzendentalphilosophie der Alten, um eine Kantische Wendung aufzugreifen, thematisierte die Tran­szendentalien, also Bestimmungen, die nach der aristotelischen Systematik die Kategorien an Allgemeinheit noch übertrafen. Kants eigene Transzendentalphilosophie thematisiert überdies und insbesondere Raum und Zeit, und zwar als allgemeine und reine Formen der Sinnlichkeit, und erklärt sie für ideell im transzendentalen * Der nachfolgende Text ist mit minimalen Abweichungen auch in den Freiburger Universitätsblättern 217 (2017), 9–18, erschienen. Ich danke den dortigen wie den hiesigen Herausgebern für die Möglichkeit, ihn an zwei Stellen zu veröffentlichen.


und für real im empirischen Sinn. Im folgenden soll nicht nur der hermeneutische Realismus, sondern auch eine modifizierte Form des tran­szendentalen Idealismus vertreten und in den hermeneutischen Realismus eingebettet werden. Einzubetten ist also ein formaler Grenzfall der Metaphysik in eine trans­metaphysische Erste Philosophie. Auf dem Weg dahin wird im ersten Teil des Vortrags zunächst der Gegensatz von Realismus und Idealismus erläutert und im zweiten Teil der hermeneutische Realismus umrissen, bevor im dritten Teil der transzendentale Idealismus neu gefasst werden kann.

I. Realismus und Idealismus Bevor wir bezüglich des Hermeneutischen und des Transzendentalen ins Detail gehen, sind Erläuterungen zu den beiden anderen Bestandteilen des Vortragstitels erforderlich: Realismus und Idealismus. Fangen wir mit den zugehörigen Adjektiven an: „real“ und „ideell“. Ideell zufolge der Hegelschen Logik der Qualität ist das, was ausschließlich als Aufgehobenes, nicht außerdem als Selbständiges, Ansichseiendes vorkommt. Liest man bei Hegel weiter bis zur Logik der Reflexion, so stößt man auf eine paradox anmutende Nähe von Aufheben und Setzen, tollere und ponere. Das, was rein nur gesetzt ist, dessen Dasein also bloß Gesetztsein ist, so zeigt sich da, ist ipso facto ein immer schon Aufgehobenes und folglich Ideelles. Schauen wir näher zu. Es gibt Dinge, die einmal real waren und nun aufgehoben sind; als Selbständige, heißt das, zwar vernichtet, aber in der Erinnerung bewahrt, wie etwa der abgerissene Palast der Republik in Berlin, in dem die Volkskammer der DDR tagte. Und es gibt Dinge, die sowohl real sind als auch andererseits im Denken aufgehoben, wie das Brandenburger Tor, an das wir hier in der Ferne denken können, ohne es herbeizitieren zu müssen, und das zugleich in Berlin steht. Vom Endlichen sagt Hegel aber, dass es ideell sei, also überhaupt nur als Aufgehobenes vorkomme. Es war nicht irgendwann real und existiert nun bloß noch in der Erinnerung, und es ist auch nicht anderswo real, so dass wir hier in Abwesenheit an es denken könnten, sondern es ist von Anfang an nie und nirgends real gewesen und war stets nur Inhalt des Denkens. Ich referiere diese Hegelsche Position des Beispiels wegen, nicht weil ich sie für zutreffend hielte. Sie mag gelten für das abstrakt Endliche im reinen, transzendentalen Medium des Logischen, gilt aber dem hermeneutischen Realismus zufolge nicht für das konkrete Endliche der Lebenswelt. Die konkreten endlichen Dinge – Himmelskörper, Ber­ge, Flüsse, Dinosaurier, Menschen, Käsespätzle und Mobiltelefone – sind oder waren real. Sähe ich es anders, dürfte ich meine Position nicht hermeneutischen Realismus nennen. Bei dem Ausflug zu Hegel kam es also nur darauf an zu klären, was das Adjektiv „ideell“ bedeuten soll. Ideell wollen wir nennen, was überhaupt nur im Denken und nicht auch außerhalb der Fall ist oder der Fall war – was also nur als Aufgehobenes allererst ins Denken kommen konnte. Wie steht es mit dem Gegenbegriff zum Aufheben, dem Setzen? In der 20

Hegelschen Reflexionslogik werden drei Formen der Reflexion unterschieden: die setzende, die äußere und die bestimmende Reflexion. Wiederum beziehen wir uns auf die Hegelsche Logik nur des Beispiels wegen und interpretieren das Setzen sogleich realphilosophisch, nämlich bewusstseinstheoretisch, als das Erheben von Wahrheitsansprüchen. Nicht alle Wahrheitsansprüche sind zugleich Ansprüche auf Objektivität. Nach der Kantischen Systematik beispielsweise beanspruchen wir objektive Gültigkeit nur für unsere Erkenntnisurteile über die Natur und über die Moral, für die reinen ästhetischen Urteile über das Schöne und Erhabene hingegen nur inter­sub­jektive und für die empirischen ästhetischen Urteile über das Angenehme nur sub­jektive oder Privatgültigkeit. Aber ästhetische Urteile gibt es nur, weil es auch Erkenntnisurteile gibt. Halten wir uns also an den grundlegenden Fall, die objektiven Wahrheitsansprüche der Erkenntnisurteile. In ihnen beanspruchen oder setzen wir, dass etwas der Fall ist unabhängig davon, dass wir es setzen. Nicht, weil wir auf eine bestimmte wahrheitsaffine Weise (alêthôs) meinen, du seiest bleich, bist du bleich, sondern weil du bleich bist, sagen wir, indem wir dies sagen, die Wahrheit (alêtheuomen, Aristoteles, Metaphysik Θ 10, 1051b6-9). Unser Setzen in unseren basalen Wahrheitsansprüchen ist insofern ein Voraussetzen, d.h. ein Setzen als nicht gesetzt, sondern als unabhängig von unserem Setzen der Fall seiend. Diese Unabhängigkeit des Der-Fall-Seienden von je einzelnen Setzungsakten nennen wir Objektivität. Und das Reale, so meinen wir im Urteilen, müsse ein Objektives sein. Unsere Urteilspraxis ist geprägt von einer impliziten, generellen Objektivitätsthese. Wir setzen im Urteilen voraus, das heißt: setzen als nicht gesetzt, dass sich jeweils etwas so und so verhält. Wenn aber das Der-Fall-Seiende unabhängig von unserem jeweiligen Setzen der Fall ist, kann unser Setzen grundsätzlich nicht garantieren, dass das Reale sich so verhält wie von uns gesetzt. Indem wir die Objektivität, das heißt Setzungsunabhängigkeit, des Der-Fall-Seienden setzen, setzen wir daher unsere eigene Fehlbarkeit mit, von der wir aber für den jeweiligen Fall abstrahieren. Wenn die Fehlbarkeit so die notwendige Kehrseite der Objektivität ist, wird unser Nachdenken über das als objektiv Gesetzte, also über das Vorausgesetzte, aber zu einer äußeren Reflexion in Beziehung auf dieses. Und daher rührt derjenige Skeptizismus, der den starken, metaphysischen Realismus als sein ständiger Schatten begleitet. Der metaphysische Realismus ist ein Realismus, der über sein Ziel hinausschießt. Seine unnötig starke Grundannahme besagt, dass das Reale nicht nur von je einzelnen Urteilsakten, sondern auch davon unabhängig ist, dass überhaupt geurteilt wird, also unabhängig von dem generellen Grundfaktum, dass im kosmischen Prozess irgendwann und irgendwo urteilende Subjekte auftreten. In seinem Ansichsein soll das Reale, anders gesagt, keinerlei internen, wesentlichen Bezug auf unsere Urteilspraxis haben. Dann aber kann es prinzipiell nicht zum Phänomen für uns werden, sondern bleibt ein unerkennbares Ding an 21

sich, in sich verschlossen wie ein schwarzes Loch, aus dem keine Information nach außen dringt. Die Wissenschaften, die der metaphysische Realist gegen idealistische Verwässerungen schützen wollte, werden zum Ratespiel; die Skepsis triumphiert; unsere besten Theorien können allesamt grundfalsch sein. Putnam hat diese Aporien des metaphysischen Realismus in den 1970er Jahren durchgespielt, allerdings ebenso die Aporien des Antirealismus Dummettscher Prägung, und hat selbst einen Mittelweg gesucht unter dem Etikett eines internen Realismus. Den wahren Mittelweg und Ausweg aus der Aporie hat er nicht gefunden. Es ist der hermeneutische Realismus. Der metaphysische Realismus lässt sich motivieren, aber nicht rechtfertigen. Er lässt sich motivieren unter den Stichworten der ancestralité und des arche-fossil, die Quentin Meillassoux in die Debatte geworfen hat. Das Reale, so scheint Meillassoux zu schließen, kann nicht davon abhängig sein, dass inmitten seiner geurteilt wird, denn es gab Zeiten, in denen nicht geurteilt wurde, Zeiten, in denen unsere leiblichen Vorfahren als rattengroße, beuteltierartige Säuger unter Dinosauriern lebten und litten. Doch dies ist ein erstaunlicher Fehlschluss, besonders erstaunlich für jemanden, der die Wissenschaft schützen will (vor idealistischen und antirealistischen Verdikten); denn die Wissenschaft lädt in Gestalt der Relativitätstheorie dazu ein, ihre Ergebnisse im vierdimensionalen Minkowski-Raum zu formulieren mit der Zeit als einer vierten Dimension. Wenn es also Beziehungen der Abhängigkeit gibt, so können es auch transtemporale, ungleichzeitige sein. Konkret: Dass es einst Dinosaurier gab, könnte bei vierdimensionaler Betrachtung wesentlich davon abhängen, dass es heute unsereins gibt. Man braucht hier im übrigen keine einseitige Abhängigkeit anzestraler Sachverhalte von heutigen anzunehmen – was zugegebenermaßen ein wenig kontraintuitiv wäre –, sondern kann ein Verhältnis wechselseitiger wesentlicher Abhängigkeit, kurz ein Wechselverhältnis, ansetzen, wofür sich unabhängig von Fragen des Realismus aus der ontischen Individuation raumzeitlicher Einzeldinge und der Identität des Ununterscheidbaren argumentieren lässt. Diese Argumentation führt, wie im Druck schon oft dargelegt wurde, zu der so genannten Subjektivitätsthese, der zufolge in jedem möglichen Raum-Zeit-System irgendwo und irgendwann innerweltliche, leibliche Subjektivität auftreten muss. Es hätte demnach keine Dinosaurier und auch sonst nichts geben können, wenn nicht irgendwann und irgendwo im kosmischen Prozess unsereins – wahrnehmende und denkende körperliche Wesen – existieren würden, zum Beispiel hier und jetzt. Freilich scheint Meillassoux notwendige Beziehungen durchweg und als solche in Abrede zu stellen, darin Hume folgend. Auf diese Weise die Wissenschaft starkreden zu wollen, die vor (nomologischen) Notwendigkeiten strotzt, ist jedoch ein recht abenteuerliches Unterfangen. Wie auch immer, das Grundproblem eines zu starken Realismus ist es, dass er unsere epistemischen Aktivitäten als äußere Reflexion betrachten muss, die ihren Gegenstand nicht wirklich erreicht und nicht zu bestimmender Reflexion 22

werden kann. Die bestimmende Reflexion hätte der starke Realismus freilich wohl ohnehin im Verdacht, ein Eingriff ins Reale statt eine getreue Nachzeichnung zu sein. Doch hier muss man differenzieren zwischen unserem ontischen und unserem epistemischen Bestimmen; in ersterem gestalten wir, in letzterem registrieren und erkennen wir; ersteres ist praktisch, letzteres kognitiv. Und unsere Reflexion kann ein epistemisches, konservatives Bestimmen nur sein, wenn das zu bestimmende Reale in einem Wechselverhältnis zu denjenigen Ausschnitten des Realen steht, für die es zum Phänomen wird, also zu unsereins. Fassen wir kurz zusammen: Das Reale ist als Objektives unabhängig von je einzelnen Urteilsakten, nicht aber von der Praxis des Urteilens überhaupt, und die Abhängigkeit zwischen dem Realen und der Urteilspraxis ist eine wechselseitige – trivialerweise, denn die Urteilenden sind selbst Teile oder Aspekte des Realen, und zwar leibliche, raumzeitlich-mate-rielle Teile. Der Gegenbegriff zum Realen, der des Ideellen, bedarf ebenfalls noch einiger Erläuterungen. Ideell, so hatten wir mit Hegel gesagt, ist, was ausschließlich als Aufgehobenes und ipso facto ausschließlich als Gesetztes vorkommt, nicht auch noch unabhängig von seinem Aufgehoben- bzw. Gesetztsein. Nun ruht unsere Urteilspraxis auf drei Säulen: sinnlichem Anschauen, imaginativem Vorstellen und diskursivem Denken. Letzteres dominiert, denn das Anschauen enthält imaginative und die Imagination figürlich-diskursive Anteile. Allein diskursives Denken kann rein für sich vorkommen und imaginatives Vorstellen immerhin ohne anschauliche Präsenz des Vorgestellten. Die Anschauung und nur sie ist (oder enthält) ein Denken und Imaginieren in Anwesenheit des zu Denkenden und Vorzustellenden; in der Anschauung ist, mit anderen Worten, das Angeschaute unmittelbar präsent. Das hat Konsequenzen für die Einteilung des Ideellen in seine drei Arten. Das diskursiv Ideelle, um mit ihm zu beginnen, ist Setzung des Diskurses. Der entsprechende Idealismus wäre ein Diskurs-Idealismus („Diskursismus“), wäre die Behauptung, dass alles, worüber wir sprechen, nichts als eine Setzung unseres Diskurses ist: esse est concipi. Richard Rorty hat bisweilen so geredet; und poststrukturalistische Positionen scheinen sich, soviel ich davon verstehe, mitunter auf einen solchen Diskurs-Idealismus festlegen zu wollen. Vermutlich war dies der Anstoß für Meillassoux, einem erneuerten Realismus das Wort zu reden, so als wäre der alte aus der Mode gekommen und nicht vielmehr die breite Hauptströmung der analytischen Weltphilosophie. Wenn er je aus der Mode gekommen war, dann höchstens lokal: in Frankreich und in den Literaturwissenschaften. Die zweite Art des Ideellen ist das imaginativ-Ideelle. Wenn „imaginari“ nicht schon ein mediales Deponens wäre („sich vorstellen“), könnte man als seine Grundformel „esse est imaginari“ angeben. So aber lassen wir es besser bei der deutschen Version: Sein ist Imaginiert-Werden. Ob ein entsprechender Idealismus je mit Bedacht vertreten wurde, weiß ich nicht – abgesehen vom transzendentalen Idealismus, den ich als einen – als den reinen – Idealismus der Einbildungskraft präsentieren möchte. Das transzendental Ideelle soll, mit anderen Worten, hier als 23

ein imaginativ Gesetztes gefasst werden, das so nur in der Imagination vorkommen kann – und in der Realität höchstens in modifizierter, beeinträchtigter Form. Wie steht es drittens mit der Möglichkeit eines Ideellen der Anschauung? Die Grundformel des betreffenden Idealismus wäre das Berkeleysche „esse est percipi“. Aber so idealistisch, wie man zunächst denken mag, ist diese Formel gar nicht. Denn die Wahrnehmung als empirische Anschauung ist Präsenzbewusstsein; das Angeschaute wird in ihr nicht re-präsentiert, sondern präsentiert sich selbst, ist also nicht (oder nicht nur) gesetzt, sondern im Angeschautwerden zugleich real. Ein „Idealismus“ der Anschauung müsste demnach behaupten, dass die Realität des Angeschauten, obgleich dieses keine bloße Setzung ist, vom Anschauungsakt abhängt. Das Angeschaute wäre real, solange es angeschaut würde; aber es wäre nicht objektiv real, nicht unabhängig vom Anschauungsakt. Sobald es aus der Anschauung verschwände, würde es aufhören zu sein und wäre dann nur noch ein Gesetztes der imaginativen und diskursiven Erinnerung. Aber es wäre auch dann noch ein ehedem Reales und daher kein Ideelles im Hegelschen Sinn. Das „esse est percipi“ ist insofern keine Formel des Idealismus, sondern eher die Formel eines rein subjektiven Realismus (und zugleich objektiven Antirealismus). Soweit der begriffliche Rahmen; jetzt näher zu den beiden beteiligten Positionen, dem hermeneutischen Realismus und dem transzendentalen Idealismus. Beginnen wir mit ersterem.

II. Der hermeneutische Realismus Die Wissenschaft als solche strebt nach Allgemeingültigkeit und methodisch kontrollierten Begründungen ihrer Lehrsätze. Doch nur die theoretischen Wissenschaften realisieren dieses Streben auf dem gewünschten Niveau effektiver Verfahren: durch mathematische Formulierung und experimentelle Überprüfung. Eine künstlich von allen indexikalischen Momenten gereinigte Sprache, in der selbst das Tempus verbi bedeutungslos wird und die mühelos globalisierbar ist, kennen wir aber nur aus der reinen Mathematik. Nur diese ist eine theoretische Wissenschaft im strengsten Sinn, aber als reine Mathematik bleibt sie formal, apriorisch, nichtexperimentell. Das Musterexemplar einer sachhaltigen theoretischen Wissenschaft, einer auf die Natur angewendeten Mathematik, ist die theoretische Physik. Auch die Metaphysik galt seit Aristoteles als eine theoretische Wissenschaft, als die erste unter ihnen, die mit der Physik als der zweiten die Sachhaltigkeit und mit der Mathematik den Apriorismus teilt. Das methodische Grundproblem der Metaphysik, das offen zutage trat, als die Physik sich in der Moderne zu mathematisieren begann, ist es aber, dass sie als die erste Wissenschaft sich von keiner anderen, auch nicht von der Mathematik abhängig machen darf und andererseits keine eigene, nichtmathematische und doch aseptisch indikatorenfreie Sprache entwickelt hat und entwickeln kann. So ist sie angesichts der Erfolgsgeschichte der mathematischen 24

Physik zu einer unglücklichen Daueraspirantin für den Status einer theoretischen Wissenschaft herabgesunken. Auch Kants Kritizismus, auch Hegels Transformation der Metaphysik zu einer Evolutionstheorie des logischen Raumes, auch gegenwärtige Bemühungen um analytische Metaphysik konnten und können daran nichts ändern. Es kommt vielmehr darauf an, mit dem frühen Heidegger einzusehen und anzuerkennen, dass die Philosophie in ihrem Kern keine theoretische, sondern eine hermeneutische Wissenschaft ist, und zwar die erste und apriorische unter den hermeneutischen Wissenschaften. Alle Wissenschaft drängt auf Allgemeingültigkeit, so auch die hermeneutischen Disziplinen; doch diese stellen in Rechnung, dass ihre Standpunktgebundenheit ihren Lehren nicht äußerlich bleibt, sondern in die Inhalte einfließt, und dass sie ihre Allgemeingültigkeit nicht mühelos durch Mathematisierung und Experiment garantieren können, sondern in der Auseinandersetzung mit alternativen Sichtweisen stets von neuem rational aushandeln müssen. Eine hermeneutische Wissenschaft ist anders als die Makrophysik keine Relativitätstheorie, die ihrerseits absolut gilt und präzise Transformationsgleichungen bereitstellt, um die Messungen verschiedener Beobachter ineinander umzurechnen. Für abstrakte physikalische Beobachter gilt, dass ihre Jemeinigkeit nur eine komparative, keine echte Jemeinigkeit und dass die Alterität fremder Beobachter ebenfalls nur eine komparative, keine echte Alterität ist. Die Philosophie aber kann das konkret Physische nicht zum abstrakt Physikalischen verdünnen; sie artikuliert sich wie die übrigen hermeneutischen Wissenschaften zu den Bedingungen einer unhintergehbaren Jemeinigkeit, die sie nicht durch präzise Transformationsgleichungen trivialisieren kann; sondern sie muss sich nach Faustregeln der Horizontverschmelzung auf unhintergehbare Alterität einlassen. Dieses Unvermögen ist ihre Stärke. Die Physik hat in der Mathematisierung eine durchgreifende, selbst im endlosen Progress von immer präziseren Nachfolgertheorien nicht mehr abzuarbeitende Generalabstraktion von konstitutiven Zügen des Realen, und zwar schon des physisch Realen (nicht erst des Geistigen), getätigt. Die Modi der Zeit beispielsweise, in Heideggers Diktion die Ekstasen der Zeitlichkeit – Zukunft, Gegenwart und Vergangenheit –, sind in der mathematischen Physik unwiederbringlich preisgegeben; aber vollkommen real. Ebenso real und von einzelnen Wahrnehmungsakten unabhängig sind die phänomenalen Qualitäten der Dinge, die diese schon hatten, als es noch keine Augen gab, sie zu sehen, und keine Ohren, sie zu hören. Das abstrakt Physikalische, das von der Physik erfasst wird, ist also nur ein einseitig ausgedünnter Auszug des konkret Physischen. Damit wird offenkundig, dass die Erste Philosophie eine aseptische, alles Indexikalische und Phänomenale abschneidende Theoriesprache gar nicht erst anstreben darf, wenn sie das konkret Reale nicht als solches aus dem Blick verlieren will. Indem sie es im Blick behält, bleibt sie zugleich der indexikalischen Umgangssprache, insbesondere dem Tempus verbi und der konkreten, vollen 25

Zeitlichkeit verpflichtet. Dann aber muss sie das fruchtlose Bemühen um den Status einer theoretischen Wissenschaft preisgeben und sich als eine hermeneutische Disziplin, nämlich als die apriorische und aufs Ganze gehende unter den hermeneutischen Wissenschaften verstehen. Wir sahen im ersten Teil schon, dass dies nicht zu Lasten des Realismus gehen muss. Der hermeneutische Realismus lehrt, dass wir alle implizit und a priori wissen, dass wir endliche, raumzeitliche, leibliche Subjekte sind. Anders könnten wir nicht auf Einzeldinge in einer raumzeitlichen Mannigfaltigkeit Bezug nehmen. Auch Descartes‘ meditierendes Subjekt weiß implizit, was es explizit bezweifelt: dass es ein leibliches Wesen inmitten der raumzeitlichen Mannigfaltigkeit ist, deren Details ihm vorschweben, sei es im Wachen oder im Traum. Damit wir an jene Details denken und uns eindeutig auf jedes beziehen können, müssen wir uns überdies ursprünglich in Raum und Zeit a priori selbst orientieren. Wir müssen die Zeit grundsätzlich vom Raum und die drei räumlichen Dimensionen voneinander sowie die acht Richtungen aller vier Dimensionen und die je drei Gegenden in jeder Dimension a priori unterscheiden und uns selbst a priori in diesem Strukturgeflecht lokalisieren können. Zum hermeneutischen Realismus gehört insofern eine Theorie der apriorischen Voraussetzungen der Bezugnahme auf Einzelnes. Diese Theorie zeigt, dass indexikalisches, perspektivisches Denken, das wesentlich mit Abschattungen zu tun hat und keinen vollen Überblick gewinnen kann, unhintergehbar ist. Der universale Standpunkt von nirgendwo, den die theoretische Wissenschaft einnimmt, ist durch abschneidende und zurichtende Abstraktion erkauft. Wenn dies die epistemologische Seite des hermeneutischen Realismus ist, so entspricht dem passgenau die ontologische Seite, deren Grundlage die zuvor erwähnte Subjektivitätsthese bildet. Die sich als leiblich und endlich wissende, asymmetrisch verkörperte und sich a priori in Raum und Zeit vororientierende Subjektivität ist kein kosmischer Zufall, sondern notwendige Bedingung der Möglichkeit des Raum-Zeit-Systems, und zwar eine dem System immanente Bedingung. Denn nur die innerraumzeitlich verkörperte Subjektivität kann die logisch notwendige Identität des Ununterscheidbaren garantieren. Nur weil es hier und heute unsereins gibt, kann es ein Raum-Zeit-System geben, das weit über die Grenzen unserer Leiber und unserer Lebensläufe hinausreicht. Unsere fragile Subjektivität steht in einem Wechselverhältnis zu Raum und Zeit und allem, was darinnen ist und vor sich geht. Realistisch ist diese Lehre, weil sie die Phänomene der Anzestralität ohne Abstriche gelten lässt und anerkennt. Aber sie lässt sich nicht in einem Vortrag begründen, sondern ist in Büchern ausführlich begründet und entwickelt worden. Der transzendentale Idealismus ist demgegenüber eine lokalere Theorie, die sich kompakter präsentieren und motivieren lässt und zu der wir nun übergehen.


III. Der transzendentale Idealismus Im Wechselverhältnis von Subjektivität zu Raum und Zeit sind die Dinge wesentlich unverborgen, epistemisch zugänglich, an ihnen selbst Phänomene. Aber ihre Unverborgenheit ist nie total, sondern in vielfältigen Weisen abgeschattet. Die phänomenal-qualitativen Bewusstseinsinhalte in der Wahrnehmung sind zugleich phänomenale Qualitäten der wahrgenommenen Dinge, und unser Bewusstsein erstreckt sich im Prinzip so weit wie die Raum-Zeit-Struk­tur, die wir a priori kennen und die wir perspektivisch um unseren Leib zentriert vorstellen. Zwar nehmen wir auf Grund der vielfältigen Abschattungen nur ein Weniges vom materiellen RaumZeit-System wahr, vor allem nicht das Zukünftige – und Vergangenes nur zu den Bedingungen der Lichtgeschwindigkeit und somit nur als uns Gegenwärtiges. Aber in der Imagination ist uns das ganze unendliche Raum-Zeit-System gegeben; die Frage ist nur, ob als ein Ideelles, von der Imagination Gesetztes, oder ob als ein Vorausgesetztes, das wir bestimmen können, weil es im Wechselverhältnis zu uns steht. Kant antwortet bekanntlich mit einem So­wohl-als-auch: das Raum-ZeitSystem sei transzendental ideell und zugleich empirisch real. Die Wahrheit ist: Es gibt etwas am realen Raum-Zeit-System, das in der Imagination abgezogen und für sich betrachtet wird, und das so, wie die Einbildungskraft es ummodelt (remodelliert), nie und nirgends wirklich vorkommt und nie und nirgends vorkommen kann. Raum und Zeit sind in dieser reinen Nulleinstellung, in der sie nichts Reales mehr enthalten, tatsächlich ideell. Im realen Wechselverhältnis sind die Seite des Apriorischen und Notwendigen und die Seite des Empirischen und Kontingenten unentwirrbar miteinander verflochten, so etwa im wirklichen Andenken an Vergangenes und Entferntes. Dabei abstrahieren wir gerade nicht von uns als leiblichen, wahrnehmenden Wesen im Zentrum unseres je persönlichen raumzeitlichen Koordinatensystems. Anders verhält es sich, wenn wir das RaumZeit-System rein für sich, also leer denken und wenn unsere Einbildungskraft dieses Wegdenken des Materiellen als ein Rezept benutzt, um eine zwar irgendwie konkrete, aber imaginativ schematische Vorstellung zu erzeugen, die diesem Denken entspricht. Dann streichen wir in Gedanken und in der Imagination auch uns selber durch und stellen uns Raum und Zeit zwar immer noch von innen, von einem Blickpunkt hier und jetzt aus perspektivisch vor, aber ohne Abschattungen und auch ohne diejenigen Abschattungen, die unser je eigener Leib sonst erzeugt. Die Einbildungskraft ist unsere Fähigkeit, Abstraktionen zu modellieren, sie in einem leeren, von Schlacken des Realen gereinigten Medium schematisch zu rekonkretisieren. Dieses Medium ist das reine, als leer imaginierte RaumZeit-System – gleichsam die Schreibtafel oder besser das Zeichenbrett der Einbildungskraft. Dieses Medium ist neutral, aber nicht absolut flexibel, nicht bedingungslos durchlässig für diskursive Vorgaben, sondern gebunden an die tran­szendentale Null­ein­stel­lung des Diskurses, in der nichts Reales mehr gedacht wird und das Denken ganz bei sich ist und nur noch seine eigenen kategorialen 27

Formen denkt. Die philosophische Theorie der reinen Nulleinstellung ist Tran­ szendentalphilosophie, und diese ist bezüglich des reinen, auf null gestellten RaumZeit-Systems ein Idealismus, näher ein Idealismus der Imagination. Dies erklärt, warum es uns schlechterdings unmöglich ist, leichte Krümmungen der Raum-Zeit, wie sie durch massives Reales herbeigeführt werden, anschaulich zu imaginieren. Eine lahme, inakzeptable Erklärung, die man mitunter hört, besagt, die Abweichungen von der Euklidizität seien so geringfügig, dass wir sie nicht wahrnähmen und uns infolgedessen daran gewöhnt hätten, sie auch nicht zu imaginieren. Aber was sollte uns nun, da wir durch die allgemeine Relativitätstheorie entsprechend unterrichtet sind, daran hindern, unsere Imagination entsprechend auf den wissenschaftlichen Vordermann zu bringen? Auch Mikroskopisches nehmen wir nicht unmittelbar wahr und können es uns in vergrößertem Maßstab leicht vorstellen, auch wenn wir selbst nie mikroskopiert haben, sondern nur den Angaben anderer folgen. Unsere Vorstellung des Raumes aber bleibt hartnäckig euklidisch, und wider besseres relativitätstheoretisches Wissen lassen wir uns nach wie vor mit Zirkel und Lineal ad oculos demonstrieren, dass die Summe der Innenwinkel im Dreieck gleich zwei rechten ist und sein muss. Die Erklärung dieses erstaunlichen Phänomens ist der transzendentale Idealismus der raumzeitlichen Nulleinstellung. Das Raum-Zeit-System der reinen Imagination enthält keine realen Massen, die es krümmen könnten, und ist daher notwendig flach. Und bloß vorgestellte Massen, mit denen wir es imaginativ besetzen können, sind eben dies: nur vorgestellt, nicht real; sie interferieren daher nicht wirklich mit Raum und Zeit und lassen diese in der reinen, eu­kli­di­schen Null­ einstellung. Die Imagination ist außerstande, ihr reines Zeichenbrett aus eigener Kraft zu deformieren. Da die zeitgenössische Physik Raum und Zeit streng euklidisch konzipierte, wäre es für Kant theoretischer Selbstmord gewesen zu sagen, was aus rein philosophischen Gründen zu sagen gewesen wäre: dass in einen ideellen Rahmen nichts Reales passt. Der ideelle Rahmen ist der nicht nur kontrafaktische oder irreale, sondern kontralogische und impossible Grenzfall des Realen – was ihn indes nicht theoretisch diskreditiert, denn auch Newtonsche Massepunkte bzw. Einsteinsche punktförmige Ereignisse sind kontralogische, impossible Grenzfälle realer Gegebenheiten, mit denen die theoretische Wissenschaft dennoch gewinnbringend arbeitet. Kant, aus verständlichen Gründen blind für die Option des theoretischen Selbstmords, musste daher annehmen, dass sich die imaginative Idealität des reinen, euklidischen Raum-Zeit-Sy­stems auf das empirisch Reale vererbe, dass also auch dieses ideell sei, transzendental ideell, unbeschadet seiner empirischen Realität. Umgekehrt sollte sich die empirische Realität gegebener Massen auf Raum und Zeit vererben; und so lehrte Kant, dass das materielle Raum-Zeit-System transzendental ideell und empirisch real sei. Philosophisch folgerecht, aber theoretisch tollkühn wäre es gewesen zu lehren, was Sache ist: dass der transzendental notwendige, leere Grenzfall des 28

Raum-Zeit-Systems imaginativ-ideell und streng euklidisch, aber zugleich metaphysisch unmöglich ist. Jede mögliche Welt wäre im leeren, kontralogischen Grenzfall euklidisch, aber keine ist euklidisch. Das transzendental Notwendige ist metaphysisch unmöglich und das metaphysisch Notwendige transzendental unmöglich. Kein materielles Raum-Zeit-System kann ganz flach, kann streng euklidisch sein. Das Reale interferiert notwendig mit seinen allgemeinen Formen, mit der Zeit als der allgemeinen Form seines Dass-Seins und dem Raum als der allgemeinen Form seines Was-Seins. Metaphysisch möglich sind Raum und Zeit nur als systematisch gekräuselte und gekrümmte. Plötzlich öffnet sich die Kantische Philosophie für den hermeneutischen Realismus, sofern man die Spreu vom Weizen, die philosophische Substanz von einer wissenschaftlich falsifizierten Meinung Kants und seiner Zeitgenossen trennt. Das Raum-Zeit-System ist nicht streng euklidisch; daran ist nun einmal nichts zu ändern. Um so dankbarer sollte man die Ressourcen nutzen, die Kants Philosophie bereitstellt, um sie als einen uneingeschränkten Realismus zu interpretieren. In ihrer Substanz ist sie kein bloß empirischer Realismus, sondern ein Realismus simpliciter: Die raumzeitlichen Dinge sind real und ihre fast euklidischen allgemeinen Formen, Raum und Zeit, nicht minder. Der transzendentale Idealismus wird dadurch nicht entwertet oder überflüssig gemacht, sondern bekommt seinen angemessenen Platz zugewiesen: Er gilt für Raum und Zeit als reine Formen der Imagination und ipso facto für die impossible, tran­szendentale Nulleinstellung jedes möglichen RaumZeit-Systems. Diese Nulleinstellung ist eine Abstraktion auf der Basis der realen Raum-Zeit, die wir in reiner Einbildungskraft schematisch rekonkretisieren und in die wir dank reproduktiver Einbildungskraft Alternativen zum faktischen Stand der Dinge einzeichnen können, ohne dass sie dadurch deformiert werden könnte. Erst massive Objekte, die wir empirisch anschauen können, deformieren ihre eigenen allgemeinen Formen Raum und Zeit – und realisieren sie ipso facto. Die Transzendentalphilosophie als Theorie der leeren, impossiblen Nulleinstellung des Realen, in der seine allgemeinen Formen als Gebilde der reinen Imagination für sich betrachtet werden, ist der Rest an theoretischer Wissenschaft, der dem metaphysischen Denken allenfalls bleibt. Die sach- und welthaltige Erste Philosophie bettet dieses Residuum ein und versteht sich selbst als apriorische Hermeneutik. Allerdings schlägt ihr hermeneutischer Charakter wohl doch auf das eingebettete Stück theoretischer Wissenschaft durch, und dieses wird den Status einer theoretischen – im Kuhnschen Sinn reifen, paradigmenfähigen – Wissenschaft schwerlich je in gleich unangefochtener Weise erreichen wie die theoretische Physik oder gar die Mathematik. Es ist vorauszusehen, dass der transzendentale Idealismus bezüglich Raum und Zeit, wie er hier entwickelt und vertreten wurde, nicht auf durchgängige Zustimmung treffen wird und dass möglichen Einwänden auch nicht mit einem bündigen „Calculemus!“ begegnet werden kann. Die eingebettete Transzendentalphilosophie dürfte vielmehr von der einbettenden apriorischen 29

Hermeneutik deren prinzipielle Verhandelbarkeit erben, auch wenn sie selbst von unhintergehbarer Jemeinigkeit und Alterität nach Kräften sich freimachen möchte. Aber effektive Beweisverfahren gibt es eben nur in der Mathematik, und die Transzendentalphilosophie ist nicht mathematisierbar, denn als Hilfsdisziplin der Ersten Philosophie kann sie sich von einer nachgeordneten Wissenschaft so wenig abhängig machen wie diese selbst. So bleibt die Transzendentalphilosophie wohl eine theoretische Wissenschaft im Wartestand und im Modus des Gesuchtseins. Das ist kein Schade; denn die Erste Philosophie ist ohnehin eine hermeneutische Disziplin und auf dem Boden der Überlieferung stets neu auszuhandeln.


How Is (Non-) Being Possible? Alexander Kanev

In this paper I sketch a non-classical picture of the first principles and grounding structure of reality with resources drawn from non-foundationalist ontologies, and, in particular, from New Realism. The paper consists of two parts. In the first part, I explain briefly what is distinctive about new realist ontologies by pointing out a key difference between them, on the one hand, and classical theories of being in the Western tradition, including most of analytic metaphysics, on the other. Roughly, classical accounts represent being as hierarchically structured and/or ultimately grounded in some fundamental being which, as such, is ungrounded or self-grounded. In contrast, new realist ontologies are anti-foundationalist: they argue that the conditions of being are of formal-ontological nature and do not involve any fundamental beings; what is more, they preclude the existence of such beings. In the second part of the paper, I outline a non-classical picture of the necessary structure of ontological space according to which it is constituted by the immutable conditions of the difference between being and non-being. The structure is necessary because it grounds not only the possibility of being but also the possibility of non-being – of any modality of ontological negation – and thus cannot be otherwise. The ultimate source of necessity does not reside in the unconditioned nature of some primary being(s) but in the conditioned nature of the difference between being and non-being and hence of non-being itself: the various modes of non-being are possible only within the space grounded by the structural conditions of its difference from being. Crucially, any of these conditions plays its grounding role through multifarious relations of interdependence with other conditions. Some of these relations of interdependence are non-symmetric and thus allow for ontological priority: the thinner structural conditions of the difference between being and non-being are ontologically prior to the thicker ones because their insufficiency as conditions of ontological space is the reason why the thicker conditions (as timeless conditions /realisers/ of the thin conditions) are part of the necessary structure of ontological space. The ultimate principles are not independent grounds of everything else but, in a sense, the most dependent features of reality: because they are (realised) through everything else, no matter whether eternal or ephemeral, formal or material. Provided that the principles of the difference between being and non-being are multiply realisable by different categorial structures, ontological space comprises a plurality of “worlds”. However, while the thinner conditions of being can be investigated a priori, the thicker conditions might be partly inscrutable, and not only for pure reason but also for (current) empirical theories. Thus, philosophy ends in wonder. 31

1.1. The Great Chain of Being Aristotle’s comments on the subject matter of metaphysics implicitly distinguish between two directions of the inquiry into being as such – one oriented towards the most general aspects of being (“being qua being”) and the other towards its ultimate grounds (“the first principles and causes”) – but they do not clarify their relation. This twofold orientation of metaphysics has persisted throughout history. It was extensively discussed in the Middle Ages and later motivated the distinction between metaphysica generalis and metaphysica specialis in modern philosophy. It comes to the fore also in contemporary philosophy – in Husserl’s distinction between formal and material ontology, Heidegger’s critique of ontotheology, the contemporary debates between Quineans and neo-Aristotelians in analytic metaphysics,1 and the new realist opposition between ontology and metaphysics.2 Why, though, this twofold orientation of the inquiry into being? How can we explain it? My suggestion is that it is closely related to the dominant view of fundamentality in Western philosophy as involving asymmetric dependence. The reasoning behind this view is that fundamentality requires priority and priority – independence of the more basic from the less basic. In other words, ontological dependence (and grounding) has been widely regarded as excluding interdependence and hence as necessarily heading in a single direction. Accordingly, classical theories of being in the Western tradition tend to be foundationalist. There is a great variety of such theories – materialistic, idealistic, dualistic, and so on – but virtually all of them share a basic assumption about the nature of reality. It is expressed in the metaphor of the great chain of being. According to it, reality is unified by a hierarchical structure of beings in which the most fundamental entity (or entities) grounds everything else. Notably, the classical hierarchy of being is ordered by asymmetric dependence relations: the more basic beings are independent of the less basic beings and ultimalia are independent of everything else – ultimalia are ungrounded (or self-grounded) grounds of reality. However, already Aristotle suggested that some grounds of being have little to do with entity-grounding or entity-fundamentality.3 For instance, formal principles of being such as the law of non-contradiction “hold Quinean metaphysics seeks to provide a clear “overall pattern of canonical notation” capable of “limning the most general traits of reality” – see W. V. O. Quine, Word and Object (Camb. /Mass. & London: MIT Press, 2013), p. 147. In contrast, Schaffer’s neoAristotelian stance emphasises the other orientation of traditional metaphysics – namely, towards the ultimate grounds of reality. Cf. Jonathan Schaffer, “On What Grounds What”, in Metametaphysics, ed. D. Manley, D. Chalmers, and R. Wasserman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 347–383. 2 See Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 1–24. 3 For criticisms of entity-grounding and entity-fundamentality, see Theodore Sider, Writing the Book of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 161–65. 1


good for everything that is”,4 no matter whether fundamental or non-fundamental, divine or mortal. What is more, for Aristotle and his followers, they seem to hold good beyond being – the non-being of an entity is possible only if it is not selfcontradictory. Thus, in a sense, the formal principles of being (and non-being) are ontologically prior to the material principles: (1) the former determine the structure of ontological space at a more general level (“being qua being”) and (2) the latter must obey them to be ontologically possible at all. At the same time, on the classical understanding of fundamentality, the formal facets of being cannot be prior to the non-formal ones because they are not supposed to be on their own, that is, independently of the latter. Thus, arguably, classical theories of being fail to offer a plausible unified account of the relation between the formal (non-entitative) and material (entitative) grounds of being. It is this failure that Kant’s critique of traditional metaphysics emphasizes by arguing that there is an unbridgeable gap between logical (formal) and real (material) necessity and that this gap makes the inquiry into the non-logical principles of being futile. Much of current analytic metaphysics follows in the steps of classical metaphysics and its foundationalism.5 Fundamentality and grounding, for instance, are among the hottest topics in philosophy journals. Even foes of intensional and hyperintensional metaphysics, such as Quine and his followers, seem tacitly committed to foundationalist ideas of traditional metaphysics.6 Notably, the spirit of foundationalism in analytic metaphysics is bolstered by its scientistic tendencies. The ultimate structure of reality is modelled on the structure of our best scientific theories and is thus viewed as necessarily involving primitive elements which, as such, are basic and resist explanation. It is an entrenched dogma of analytic metaphysics that reality is fundamentally structured by asymmetric (dependence) relations between its primitive and non-primitive aspects, with the former considered inexplicable because of being brute or not apt for having a ground.7 The ‘brutalist’ stance8 is dominant today: David Lewis, for instance, famously states that it would arouse his “suspicion to be told that, after all, explanation does not inevitably terminate in brute matters of fact.”9 Be that as it may, both brutalist and essentialist accounts of first principles take them as inexplicable explainers which, as such, are largely independent, both Aristotle. Metaphysics, Г 3, 1005a22-24, in: Vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Aristotle, The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton University Press, 1984). 5 See Ricki Bliss & Graham Priest, “The Geography of Fundamentality”, in Reality and its Structure: Essays in Fundamentality, ed. Bliss & Priest (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 2. 6 See Jonathan Schaffer, “On What Grounds What”, p. 367. 7 Cf. Shamik Dasgupta, “Metaphysical Rationalism”, in: Noüs 50, 2 (2016), 379–418. 8 For a discussion and critique of ‘brutalism’, see Kerry McKenzie, “Against Brute Fundamentalism”, in Dialectica 71, 2 (2017), 231–261. 9 David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1986), p. 129.



of each other and of non-fundamentalia. Accordingly, they dismiss the possibility of holistic metaphysical explanation which views first principles as standing in relations of interdependence, both between themselves and with everything else. As a result, they do not shed much light on the nature of the relation between the formal and the non-formal principles of reality: they tend to assume – rather than argue for – the answers to the deepest questions of the metaphysics of logic: What is the relation between logic and reality?; Are logical laws (grounded in) formal-ontological laws?;10 Is there one true logic?; Are the formal dimensions of ontological space prior to its material contents or (some of) the former are “curved” by the latter? Admittedly, entity-based essentialist theories of (logical and metaphysical) necessity trace its ultimate source back to the nature of necessary entities.11 But do they answer Kant’s objection that there is nothing internally contradictory – and hence logically (or formally) impossible – in the absence of any entities whatsoever?12 It seems not. Contemporary accounts of real modality have done little to alleviate Kant’s worry that the gap between formal (logical) and non-formal (real) necessity makes absolute necessity “the true abyss” for human reason.13 Testimony to this is the unclarity surrounding the notion of metaphysical necessity.14 If metaphysical necessity is not reducible to logical (or conceptual) necessity, then the absence of some metaphysically necessary facts cannot entail “a manifest absurdity or impossibility.”15 Why, then, call such facts metaphysically necessary, if there is no clear reason for the absolute impossibility of their absence? The presence of truths which are – allegedly – non-logical but necessary does not constitute such a reason for they may express conditional necessities about contingent beings such as stars, plants or tigers: viz., if something is a star, then, necessarily, it is a spatiotemporal entity. As Kant already argued, conditional necessities about entities do not entail their existence, let alone the impossibility of their non-existence. Generally, absolute (metaphysical) necessities are supposed to concern the nature of existence, not the nature of contingent phenomena studied by the special sciences. It is not See Gila Sher, Epistemic Friction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 271–283. See also Colin McGinn, “Logic without Propositions (or Sentences)”, in his Philosophical Provocations (London: MIT Press, 2017), 219–225. 11 See Bob Hale, “The Basis of Necessity and Possibility”, in Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 82 (2018), 109–138. 12 Immanuel Kant, “The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God”, in Immanuel Kant, Theoretical Philosophy 1755–1770 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 123. Kant’s mature philosophy maintains his early insight that the non-existence of (any) entities cannot be internally contradictory. 13 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 574. 14 Gideon Rosen, “The Limits of Contingency”, in Identity and Modality, ed. F. MacBride (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 13–39. 15 Ibid., p. 23. 10


particularly illuminating to be told that it is absolutely necessary that tigers are animals or that water is H2O. If anything, such examples are potentially confusing, because they tend to obscure the difference between, on the one hand, absolute necessities which characterize the structure of ontological space and, on the other hand, relative (or conditional) necessities about its contingent contents. This brings us to a related weakness of current conceptions of metaphysical necessity: they do not provide a unified account of the various metaphysical necessities. A typical list of such necessities is like a hodgepodge, ranging from contentious principles (say, of classical extensional mereology) to Kripkean identities to common sense trivialities. There is no obvious reason why there cannot be a possible world without any of these necessities or, respectively, without any of the entities that supposedly ground them. Recent developments in metaphysics have challenged a key premise of the foundationalism orthodoxy (shared also by metaphysical infinities16), namely, that metaphysical dependence is asymmetric. E. Barnes, R. Bliss and N. Thompson17 have made a good case for holistic metaphysical explanation by exploring the possibility of (some form of) metaphysical interdependence.18 G. Priest has drawn inspiration from Buddhist metaphysical and logical ideas and in particular from Nāgārjuna and the Chinese Buddhist Huayan tradition to develop an antifoundationalist picture of the structure of reality and its relation to logic.19 In addition to challenging the orthodox view that classical logic is the one true logic, and in line with the Buddhist principle of interdependence, Priest has argued that the relation between logic and metaphysics is not one-way – logic is not free of metaphysical commitments. I think he is right to draw attention to Buddhist metaphysics. Remarkably, it suggests a view of the structure of reality that goes beyond the apparently exhaustive alternatives of foundationalism, coherentism and infinitism. On the one hand, all forms of Buddhism distinguish between conventional and ultimate reality20 and endorse the existence of the latter. Apparently, Buddhist thinkers accept some hierarchy of being: ultimate reality is in some sense more fundamental than or prior to conventional reality. However, the Buddhist hierarchy of being is not ordered by For a discussion of metaphysical infinitism, see Matteo Morganti, “Metaphysical Infinitism and the Regress of Being”, in Metaphilosophy 45, 2 (2014), 232–44. 17 See Elizabeth Barnes, “Symmetric Dependence”, in Reality and its Structure: Essays in Fundamentality, 50–69; Ricki Bliss, “Viciousness and Circles of Ground”, in Metaphilosophy 45, 2 (2014), 245–256; Naomi Thompson, ‘Metaphysical Interdependence’, in Reality Making, ed. Mark Jago (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 38–55. 18 Another interesting development in naturalist metaphysics is ontic structural realism: it also questions the classical hierarchy of being by rejecting the existence of independent (or self-dependent) objects. 19 See Graham Priest, One (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 20 Graham Priest, The Fifth Corner of Four (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 33 16


asymmetric dependence relations and is therefore of a completely different kind from the one envisaged in the Western metaphor of the great chain of being. Indeed, the principle of interdependence, which is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist thought, rules out the existence of ultimate, ungrounded (or self-grounded) grounds of reality: everything depends on something (or even everything21) else; ultimate reality and non-ultimate reality ground each other. Crucially, the interdependence relations between the ultimate and the non-ultimate aspects of reality do not preclude metaphysical priority and hierarchy of being for some of them are non-symmetric. Thus, Buddhist metaphysics suggests a middle way between foundationalism and coherentism. To be sure, such an option is not (completely) foreign to Western philosophy either for the idea of the interdependence of all things was suggested already in Antiquity22 and developed further by (neo-) Hegelians23 and Whitehead,24 to name some of its prominent proponents in modern times. For Hegel, the absolute aspects of reality are mediated by and dependent on the non-absolute ones. As Kreines puts it, “what is most mediated and even, in a sense, dependent (…) is also first, or of highest metaphysical priority.”25 In contrast to classical and contemporary (analytic) versions of metaphysical foundationalism, Hegel’s stance implies that the ultimate order of reality begins not with the most independent and complete being(s), but with the most abstract – and hence most dependent and incomplete – categories of reality. It is precisely their self-insufficiency (or “emptiness” in Buddhist jargon) which is the reason for the (dependent) “origination” of both the absolute and non-absolute facets of concrete reality. Hegel’s revolutionary reversal of the classical (Aristotelian) order of metaphysical priority has been underappreciated for two major reasons. The first is that this reversal is carried out in the framework of absolute idealism, which is often perceived as an anachronistic version of metaphysical foundationalism due to being centred around an obscure, self-grounding entity – the Absolute Idea. The second is that the dialectical method Hegel uses to derive the categorial determinations of (ultimate) reality does not seem to have the modal power to justify claims of absolute necessity – that is, to show why there must be anything (absolute) at all and why it cannot have a different categorial structure. Hence the widespread view that Hegel’s conception of the nature of reality failed to answer Kant’s Ricki Bliss and Graham Priest, “The Geography of Fundamentality”, p. 14. Cf. Christopher Gill, Marcus Aurelius: Meditations, Books 1–6 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 46. 23 Jonathan Schaffer, “The Internal Relatedness of All Things”, in Mind 119, 474 (2010), 341–376. 24 Cf. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: The Free Press, 1978), p. 10, p. 18. 25 James Kreines, “From Objectivity to the Absolute Idea in Hegel’s Logic”, in The Oxford Handbook of Hegel, ed. Moyar, Dean (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 311. 21 22


criticisms of dogmatic metaphysics and the ensuing dismissal of his idea of holist metaphysical explanation grounded in non-symmetric interdependence relations between the absolute and non-absolute modes of reality. Be that as it may, my aim here is to suggest how the idea of a hierarchy of being ordered by (multifarious) interdependence relations can be developed into a full-blown theory of the ultimate principles and structure of reality. First, however, I shall sketch what I regard as highly original in new realist ontologies.

1.2. New Realism: Ontology without Metaphysics The distinctive feature of new realist ontologies is that they are anti-foundationalist in a specific sense: they do not dismiss the idea of ultimate principles of being but reject the existence of ultimate beings. In a nutshell, their position is that the fundamental principles of being are such that there are no absolutely fundamental beings. The principles of being are not only not part of a great chain of being but preclude the possibility of such a chain. Clearly, there are important points of intersection between Priest’s conception of being, the ontological theories of Meillassoux and Gabriel, and Buddhist thought. They all tend to think of the (formal) structure of existence as entailing the absence of necessary or absolutely fundamental beings – of beings with self-nature (svabhāva).26 Roughly, the new realist justification for this conclusion proceeds in two steps. First, it is argued that the principles of being are not beings but have a formal-ontological character: they amount to formal-ontological constraints on reality. Second, it is advocated that the formal conditions of being rule out the presence of material conditions of being in general – of absolutely necessary and/or absolutely fundamental existents. Let me illustrate this with the ontological theories of Quentin Meillassoux and Markus Gabriel. Meillassoux specifies two fundamental formal conditions on existence: the principle of unreason – of the necessity of contingency – and the principle of non-contradiction.27 The former proscribes the presence of necessary beings: being is necessarily such that no being is necessary. According to Meillassoux, reality is ultimately Hyperchaos capable of creating and destroying any (formally-) ontologically possible world without cause or reason, no matter whether it is a world of an impeccable order or a world of a frenetic disorder.28 Markus Gabriel repudiates the idea of the great chain of being by establishing the Graham Priest, The Fifth Corner of Four, p 5. Cf. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Continuum, 2008), p. 71. 28 See Quentin Meillassoux, “Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition: A Speculative Analysis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning”, in Genealogies of Speculation, ed. Armen Avanessian and Suhail Malik (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), p. 193. 26 27


following formal condition of existence: something exists if and only if it appears in a field of sense. Therefore, no field of sense can ground and unify all existents because it itself can exist only by appearing in another field of sense. This has the striking consequence that an all-encompassing totality – the world – cannot exist.29 Nothing can encompass everything. There are indefinitely many fields of sense and no one of them is fundamental. No particular (kind of) entity, whether physical or non-physical, is a necessary condition of existence: there are no necessary material conditions of being. Accordingly, ontology as the study of the formal structure of existence is possible, but metaphysics as the study of the ultimate ground(s) of the whole of reality is impossible and needs to be jettisoned. New realist ontologies face two significant challenges. The first is to explain in more detail the relation between logical and formal-ontological principles. Generally, they do not view logic as prior to or independent of ontology: if certain logical laws are necessary, it is because they are (grounded in) formal-ontological laws. Meillassoux, for instance, argues that the law of non-contradiction derives its ontological validity and necessity from the principle of unreason. But his argumentative strategy is problematic. He accepts that we cannot reason our way to an absolutely necessary principle of reality, such as the principle of unreason, and then derive from it other ontological principles without, at the same time, making (implicit) use of logical constraints on thinking, and especially of the law of non-contradiction. But then what guarantees that these (implicit) constraints are adequate to the task of establishing the truth of a necessary ontological principle – that they are, as it were, necessary-truth-conductive? What if other (say, nonclassical) logical norms are conductive to attaining absolute ontological truths? Meillassoux is well aware of the predicament of arguing for first principles: Philosophy is the invention of strange forms of argumentation, necessarily bordering on sophistry, which remains its dark structural double. To philosophize is always to develop an idea whose elaboration and defence require a novel kind of argumentation, the model for which lies neither in positive science – not even in logic – nor in some supposedly innate faculty for proper reasoning.30

Meillassoux’s “strange form of argumentation” of the principle of unreason seems to mimic Descartes’ method of doubt. Descartes probes the limits of reasonable doubt in order to achieve absolute truth. Meillassoux emulates Descartes’ approach in order to attain absolute ontological truth: he seeks to uncover the underlying logic of the various philosophies of finitude from Kant through Nietzsche to the postmodernists and to identify the point at which it breaks down, revealing the necessity of contingency as the ultimate principle of reality. See Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology, 187–212. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, p. 77.

29 30


Meillassoux’s strategy for overcoming epistemic finitude and establishing the most basic principle of reality as it is in itself is ingenious and reveals a philosopher with great imagination. What is more, his vision of the nature of reality as hyperchaotic is highly original. By my lights, however, the arguments for his central ideas are not convincing. His argumentative strategy is predicated on the assumption that an ultimate principle can be demonstrated only indirectly – “by pointing out the inevitable inconsistency into which anyone contesting the truth of the principle is bound to fall.”31 Apparently, his position is not that reality itself would be inconsistent – and thus impossible – without the supposed ultimate ontological principle, but that any argument aiming at contesting the truth of the principle would fall into “inevitable inconsistency”. There are several problems with this line of argumentation. For starters, if the untruth of the principle would not make reality itself contradictory and absurd, then, arguably, the contesting of the principle could not involve a contradiction or absurdity either, unless it is a principle of our reasoning about reality but not of reality itself (which would take us back to some form of antirealism). Further, it is not clear that our reasoning about the nature of reality should not be paraconsistent, unless we have established in advance that reality must adhere to the principle of non-contradiction. Indeed, if the nature of reality is dialethical, then to obey the principle of non-contradiction is to block the road to ontological inquiry. Finally, but most importantly, Meillassoux’s argumentation is based on the widespread but (as we have seen) dubious assumption that holistic ontological explanation of first principles is impossible. Later I shall argue to the contrary. In contrast to Meillassoux’s strategy, Gabriel’s approach seems more traditional and sounder: to gain ontological insights we need to address directly the question of what it is for something to exist. Ontological principles are principles of existence – to attain cognition of them is to understand the most general conditions that must be fulfilled for there to be anything at all. I shall advocate a similar strategy in this paper, but with a different accent. Already Plato suggests that the riddle of being is intimately related to the riddle of non-being. As Owen puts it in his classical paper on Plato’s dialogue The Sophist, “the one cannot be illuminated without the other.”32 I shall go a bit further and suggest that we can shed light on being and non-being by illuminating the possibility of the difference between them. Pace Heidegger, it is prior to, though not independent of, the difference between being and beings: it is the ontological difference par excellence. My working hypothesis is that the necessary structure of ontological space is constituted by the immutable conditions of the ontological difference: ultimately, all principles of reality (formal and nonformal) are interdependent conditions of the possibility of the difference between 31 32

Ibid., p. 61. See G. E. L Owen, “Plato on Non-Being”, in Plato I: Metaphysics and Epistemology, ed. Gregory Vlastos (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1971), p. 230.


being and non-being and thus of non-being itself – of any modality of ontological negation. What is absolutely necessary cannot be absent, because it grounds the possibility for absence. Accordingly, logical laws can be laws of reality only insofar as they are conditions of the difference between to be and not to be and hence of (ontological) negation. This hypothesis can provide an onto-logical framework for discussing the nature of existence – from the source of absolute necessity to the relation between (formal-) ontological and logical necessity to the dialectics of fundamental and non-fundamental aspects of reality. In a sense, it endorses Hegel’s insight that non-being is central to the essence of (absolute) being. The second challenge for new realists is to clarify the dependence relation between the formal-ontological principles and the material- (or regional-) ontological facets of reality. The crux of Meillassoux’s position is that there is a necessary modal gap between them: the necessity of the former makes the latter (necessarily) contingent. However, it is not clear that his position is consistent: coupled with his thesis that nothingness is absolutely impossible, it entails that it is necessary that there are entities, but it is contingent which entities there are. But if the absence of every entity is possible, then what guarantees that absolute absence – the absence of any entities whatsoever – is absolutely impossible? In my view, Meillassoux does not provide a consistent answer to this question. What is worse, the principle of unreason might make such an answer impossible. Meillassoux assumes that the necessary existence of Hyperchaos solves the problem raised above since Hyperchaos creates and destroys entities without reason and thus guarantees (1) the existence of entities and (2) that all entities are contingent. But this solution is deeply problematic. To begin with, note that Hyperchaos is not the modal property of contingency that is supposed to characterise all entities but the fundamental structure of reality which guarantees that all entities have this property. As Meillassoux himself recognises, contingency cannot be the only necessary feature of reality, because it can be such a feature only if certain ontological conditions are fulfilled.33 According to him, the law of noncontradiction, the necessity of existence in general and the necessary existence of Hyperchaos in particular are such conditions. But why think that Hyperchaos can complete the sequence of necessary conditions of contingency? Why think that it is ontologically possible at all? The notion of Hyperchaos seems quite vague. Is Hyperchaos supposed to be a non-entity that has the capacity to create and destroy every ontologically possible entity? But how could it be a non-entity if it has definite properties and especially the quasi-divine capacity of creation and destruction of all possible entities? Perhaps Hyperchaos is not supposed to be an entity, because it is not supposed to have any non-formal properties. Otherwise, the necessary structure of reality would include not only formal- but also materialontological features. It seems that, on pain of contradiction, Hyperchaos must be a 33

Meillassoux calls these conditions figures.


purely formal structure of reality. But would it make any sense to ascribe a quasidivine capacity of creation and destruction to a purely formal structure? Why think that it can have such a capacity? Arguably, without knowing how the capacity of Hyperchaos to create and destroy entities and worlds is possible, we cannot know that it is possible. And Meillassoux leaves us in the dark as to what makes this quasi-divine capacity really possible. But even if it is ontologically possible, it cannot solve the problem identified above. Since Hyperchaos is a formal structure of reality, it is not supposed to exist independently of the entities it creates and destroys; otherwise, it would be like a self-sufficient necessary being capable of creating all other possible beings. But how could its existence be necessary and at the same time dependent on the existence of contingent entities? Obviously, the hyper-chaotic structure of reality must be such that the non-existence of some being(s) is incompossible with the non-existence of some other being(s). But how could the non-existence of some contingent being(s) necessitate the existence of some other contingent being(s) so that, necessarily, there is some contingent being(s)? I shall argue later that the non-existence of some contingent being(s) can be incompossible with the non-existence of some other contingent being(s) only if these beings instantiate necessarily existing (nonformal) properties. Ironically, Meillassoux’s principle of unreason determines the immutable structure of reality in tacit conjunction with a non-classical principle of reason: together both principles endow reality with a non-classical grounding order. Meillassoux’s derivation of ‘figures’ – that is, of conditions of the necessary contingency of beings – suggests the existence of a hyperintensional modal order of reality that allows an explanation of why it is the way it is: from why there is something rather than nothing to why everything must conform to the principle of non-contradiction to why reality is hyper-chaotic and can thus create and destroy all ontologically possible worlds and things. The formal structure of that non-classical order of priority between the necessary ontological features of reality is as follows: (1) it is absolutely necessary that X; (2) X is possible only if certain conditions (Y, Z...) are fulfilled; (3) it is absolutely necessary that (Y, Z...). The order of priority is non-classical because the ultimate ground is not an entity, let alone an un-grounded or self-grounded entity: it is rather a necessary structural feature of reality that “gives rise to” other necessary structural features because of being dependent on them. Importantly, pace Meillassoux, his conception implies that the self-insufficiency of the principle of unreason is a reason for the other necessary aspects of reality and also, though in a non-necessitating manner, for all contingent entities: everything – from the other necessary features of reality 41

to the contingent entities – is because it plays some role, necessary or contingent, in making the absolutely necessary principle of unreason possible. Even more importantly, Meillassoux’s derivation of ‘figures’ suggests a non-classical form of ontological explanation: ultimately, to understand why something – anything – is the way it is is to understand its ontological role, necessary or contingent, in making (the fundamental principle of) reality possible. In the light of what has been said above, note that neither the principle of reality nor its conditions of possibility are thought as independent of each other: they are taken as determined through their interdependence relations. A formally similar kind of explanation has been offered within the confines of transcendental idealism by Kant and especially Fichte.34 It might be somewhat ironic to draw conceptual and methodological resources from the greatest antirealist thinkers in order to gain insights in the ultimate principles and structure of reality, but, at the same time, it is natural for philosophy. For a long time, “How is X possible?” questions have been central to epistemology and philosophy of language but not to metaphysics. Even the modal revolution in late twentiethcentury analytic philosophy has not succeeded in making “How is X possible?” questions metaphysically respectable. It has dismissed Quine’s qualms about modality and intensionality, but it has not gone far enough. This may well change with the hyperintensional revolution in contemporary metaphysics.35 Kit Fine, who is one of its leaders, has recently proposed a unified account of essence and ground in terms, respectively, of constitutively necessary conditions and constitutively sufficient conditions.36 The notion of constitutive conditions looms large in (hyperintensional) metaphysics and thus, hopefully, prepares the way for “How is X possible?” metaphysical questions. I shall argue that the question “How is (non-) being possible?” is the basic question of metaphysics: to answer it is to answer all (fundamental) metaphysical questions.

2.1. The First Principles of Reality In the beginning is a circle of ur-ground – a minimal relational structure of the simplest categories of reality (which I shall call transcendentalia), such as existence, identity, one, determinateness, something and their opposites. Their dependence relations constitute maximally thin constraints on ontological space. The radical ontological incompleteness of this primordial structure of reality is the reason for the Cf. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, “The First Introduction to the Science of Knowledge”, in his The Science of Knowledge, ed. and trans. Peter Heath and John Lachs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 25. 35 Cf. David Nolan, „Hyperintensional Metaphysics“, in Philosophical Studies 171, 1 (2014), 149–160. 36 See Kit Fine, „Unified Foundations for Essence and Ground“, in Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1, 2 (2015), 296–311. 34


“emergence” of more complex categorial structures: the maximally thin principles of reality are realised through “thick” structures, but the order of priority “flows” from the former to the latter. Arguably, any metaphysically possible categorial structure of reality is “saturated” by objects. But even if categorial structures can be completed only by objects, they are metaphysically prior to objects: since their ontological insufficiency is the reason why there are objects in the first place.37 The metaphysical order of reality does not begin but ends with what is traditionally conceived as the most complete and independent units of reality. The “objects”, no matter whether concrete or abstract, physical or ideal, complete the ontological “becoming” of reality. Reality does not “begin” with self-sufficient entities but with relations of interdependence between transcendentalia: presence and absence, identity and difference, one and many, etc. In an important sense, transcendentalia are prior to entities as their interrelations ground the metaphysical necessity of the existence of entities. Figuratively speaking, they open up the ontological space for the existence of entities but also for all modalities of non-being. They could not be otherwise because they ground the very possibility of being otherwise – of any possible ontological absence or difference. Thus, the ultimate source of metaphysical necessity is not the nature of certain entities – divine, physical, abstract, etc. – but the nature of (non-) being. The categories of being and non-being implicated in the first principles of reality are maximally thin. Normally, the notion of being is too vague to do a substantive work in metaphysics. The reason is that the constitutive conditions of being are only partially transparent, though to various degrees. But this problem does not arise for the proposed account because the principles of reality involve only the bare difference between being and non-being. In order to shed some light on the atemporal “emergence” of the necessary structure of reality, we start with the maximally thin difference between being and non-being – and thus with maximally thin concepts of presence and absence, identity and difference, etc. – and then 37

Priority structuralism about transcendentalia and more complex categories does not entail ontic structural realism (OSR). It is not clear whether OSR, especially in its more radical versions, represents a metaphysically possible world. Yet the thesis of the priority of (minimal) categorial structures to objects might support the thesis of the priority of physical structures to physical objects. Priority categorial realism could provide OSR with new metaphysical tools and address questions which the latter neglects: e.g., what is the nature of the relation between metaphysical, mathematical and physical structures and why there are physical structures in the first place? Similar considerations apply to priority monism. Even if the cosmos is metaphysically prior to the other concrete objects, it cannot possibly be metaphysically prior to its own categorial structure and, more generally, to its own identity conditions (which are likely to involve structural constraints on the co-existence and dynamics of the concrete objects within the universe). If the cosmic whole is a necessary being, it is because it instantiates a (or the) necessary structure of being, and not vice versa. The cosmos might be first in the metaphysical order of concrete objects, but it is posterior to its categorial structural conditions.


gradually determine their content by inquiring into their relations. Thus, the basic metaphysical concepts are primitive in one sense and non-primitive in another. They are primitive insofar as any of them represents an irreducible categorial feature of reality. At the same time, they are not primitive in the sense that their content is not fixed or relatively complete from the outset but is gradually constituted in the course of the account of the symmetric and non-symmetric interdependencies of the categorial constituents of reality’s structure(s). The grounding structure of reality is holistic and cannot be understood on the model of axiomatic deductive systems. Sure, the first principles of reality cannot be derived from other principles. But this does not make them metaphysically brute or autonomous. They are interdependent and necessitate each other within a relational structure which backs up a form of holistic metaphysical explanation involving “constructive circularity”.38 To paraphrase Heidegger, our foremost task is not to get out of the circle of ur-ground of (non-) being but “to get in it in the right way.”39 We can do this by exploring (in a manner reminiscent of Plato’s Parmenides) “impossible worlds” – metaphysical scenarios in which (some of) the first principles of reality fail to hold. Crucially, any of these scenarios involves extreme modalities of nonbeing: absolute nothingness, absolute inconsistency, absolute indeterminateness, absolute otherness, absolute incommensurability, etc. The first principles of reality provide constraints on possible worlds by putting absolute limits on non-being – on the ontological space within which the ‘not’ can “operate”. Beyond those limits ontological negation cannot make any ontological difference, that is to say, any ontological sense. To put it differently, the first principles are minimal necessary conditions of ontological space by being minimal necessary conditions of nonbeing. The conditions of the possibility of non-being are central to the necessary structure of being. The turn to the subject and the turn to language, which characterise much of modern and contemporary philosophy, have contributed to a widespread tendency to regard negation as something pertaining solely to the realm of representational processes. But the (logical) operation of negation is of central epistemic importance precisely because it is grounded in (non-being as an essential aspect of) reality.40 The difference between existing and not existing, For a discussion of constructive circularity see Gila Sher, Epistemic Friction, 31–32. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1996), p. 148. 40 For a recent discussion of the “ontological significance of negation”, see Daniel Dahlstrom, “Negation and Being”, in The Review of Metaphysics 64 (2010), 247–271. Following Hew Price, Francesco Berto has argued recently that “the inferential-logical properties of negation are to flow naturally from the intuitive features of the metaphysical (in)compatibility relation grounding it.” See Francesco Berto, “A Modality Called ‘Negation’, in Mind 124, 495 (2015), 761–793. Note that metaphysical (in)compatibility already involves the difference between being and non-being. 38 39


having and not having certain properties, being and not being identical with something is a difference pertaining to reality itself, and not merely to our ways of representing it. The study of the various modalities and conditions of non-being is key to understanding better the metaphysical presuppositions of logic. A central contention of this paper is that non-being – and thus the difference between being and non-being – is not unconditionally possible. Any modality of non-being presupposes a corresponding modality of being: inconsistency requires consistency, indeterminacy – determinacy, inexistence – existence. The first principles of reality express minimal dependencies of the modalities of nonbeing on the respective modalities of being. These dependencies rule out extreme modalities of non-being – that is, worlds which are completely inconsistent (trivial), indeterminate, empty, etc. Extreme modalities of non-being self-destruct as they cancel conditions of possibility of non-being. We do not have space here to show how this happens. Arguably, complete inconsistency, complete indeterminacy, complete inexistence would make impossible the very difference between, respectively, consistency and inconsistency, determinacy and indeterminacy, existence and inexistence and, more generally, between being and non-being. Note that the minimal dependencies of modalities of non-being on modalities of being are significantly weaker than basic laws such as the law of non-contradiction or the law of the excluded middle. We cannot know in advance that local contradictions and indeterminacies are absolutely impossible. What is more, we cannot know in advance that they are not necessary parts of the structure of reality.

2.2. Formal and non-formal principles, logic and metaphysics The proposed conception may shed new light on the interrelation between formal and non-formal traits of reality, and, in particular, between logic and metaphysics. Logic is not more fundamental than metaphysics for two reasons. First, the formal conditions of truth and truth preservation are partially grounded in the formal conditions of (the various spheres of) reality. Since the study of the former requires the study of the latter, logic involves metaphysics.41 Ultimately, logical laws refer to formal conditions of the difference between being and non-being and thus to formal laws of (parts of) ontological space. For instance, the law of non-contradiction would be a formal law of reality if only consistent ontological states could realise the difference between being and non-being. Second, the formal conditions of (the regions of) being are not self-sufficient principles but are holistically interdependent with other formal and non-formal ontological conditions. Reality might have formal 41

Here I follow Ross Cameron in “relying on the weak principle that for p to be true, the worldly conditions for p’s truth would have to obtain, and that for it to be false, the worldly conditions of its falsity would have to obtain.” See Ross Cameron, The Moving Spotlight: An Assay on Time and Ontology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 181.


facets, but there is no such thing as a purely formal reality. The formal bones of being are nothing without its material-ontological flesh. Of course, this metaphor has its limitations: it serves to indicate that the formal and the non-formal facets of reality are interdependent, but it is silent about the specific nature of their relation. They might be non-symmetrically interdependent in the sense that the formal-ontological conditions are entirely prior to the materialontological conditions: the latter only realise the former without co-determining their character. However, there are good reasons to think that not all formal constraints on reality are prior to its non-formal aspects. The formal conditions are metaphysically possible only if they allow for complete sets of material-ontological conditions and thus for metaphysically possible worlds. That is, the formal structures of (the regions of) ontological space are not metaphysically possible per se – through the intrinsic nature of formal properties (or logical entities). Arguably, they are not completely fixed prior to the material-ontological conditions of its occupants and are therefore partially “emergent”: ontological space “becomes” what it is because some of its pillars are shaped together with the material-ontological edifices of being. Strictly speaking, the non-formal conditions of being may not only realise its formal facets but co-determine some of them. Certain aspects of the formalontological space may depend both on the first and the last (sets of) necessary conditions of the ontological difference. For one, whether certain formal principles can give rise to metaphysically possible worlds is partially determined by whether the sequence of non-formal conditions of (non-) being can be completed – that is to say, whether the formal principles allow not only for first but also for last (sets of) necessary conditions of the ontological difference. For another, the nature of the non-formal conditions that can complete the sequence of necessary ontological conditions may well co-determine the nature of some formal traits of reality. Therefore, some of the formal conditions of (non-) being, including some (onto-) logical laws, might be mutually determining with some of its non-formal conditions. To return to the metaphor above, the formal curvature of ontological space might be partially determined by the material conditions of its occupants. In some cases, what follows ‘formally’ from what might well depend on the nature of extra-formal phenomena. Arguably, the first principles of reality do not include basic logical laws such as the law of non-contradiction or the law of the excluded middle, even if, ultimately, they are universal formal laws of reality. Because, as already indicated, whether and to what extent ontological space is formally uniform depends also on the (last) non-formal conditions of the ontological difference. More importantly, due to the interdependence of the formal and the non-formal conditions of (non-) being, reality may necessarily be formally diverse. Some parts of ontological space may behave according to the laws of classical logic, other parts may obey non-classical rules. If, for example, some non-formal conditions of the ontological difference require for their metaphysical realisation the existence of indeterminate or inconsistent states 46

of affairs, then basic laws of classical logic cannot express universal formal laws of reality. Now, reality might be formally diverse in different ways and degrees. There might be a minimal unifying formal structure of ontological space and hence a minimal ‘true logic’. The reason is that nothing in the ontological space is absolutely unconditioned: every possible ontological state (or world) requires certain conditions to be satisfied. Thus, a minimal logic of being is likely to be a minimal conditional logic “to which various principles may be added for different domains, justified by the nature of those domains.”42 In this way, different ontological domains may obey different sets of formal laws. For instance, the foundations of being may be strictly classical in their formal behaviour and the various edifices of being distinctly nonclassical. However, some regions of being might be formally diverse within their own bounds: some of the properties of, say, quantum phenomena might behave classically, and other properties of the same phenomena might follow non-classical rules. Anyway, the separation of the formal from the non-formal traits of reality might be productive within certain limits because it facilitates their mathematical domestication and treatment. But it is important to keep in mind that this approach might have substantial limitations due to the multifarious interdependence relations between the formal and the non-formal facets of reality. The gods of the formal (behaviour of entities) are not all-powerful. We should not “presuppose Procrustean global structural requirements on the material relations of consequence and incompatibility we want to codify logically.”43 The first principles of reality may not involve basic logical laws, like the law of non-contradiction or the law of the excluded middle, but this does not imply that they may contravene them. Even if some parts of the ontological space are necessarily characterized by ontological inconsistencies and/or indeterminacies, the ontological space cannot be inconsistent and/or indeterminate in all its parts. Inconsistent and indeterminate ontological states, if possible at all, could exist only within the necessary framework of the ontological difference. Any modality of ontological absence – inexistence, indeterminacy, inconsistency, etc. – involves, in one or another form, the difference between being and non-being and thus its necessary conditions. Any modality of ontological negation operates within the necessary structure of ontological space. Such a structure requires minimally consistent and determinate conditions of the ontological difference. Unlimited ontological indeterminacy (or inconsistency) would undermine the structure of ontological space, including its own possibility conditions. No possible world is metaphysically trivial or entirely indeterminate. Thus, the principles of minimal Graham Priest, “What Is the Specificity of Classical Mathematics”, in Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6, 2 (2017), 115–121. 43 Robert Brandom, “From Logical Expressivism to Expressivist Logic: Sketch of a Program and Some Implementations”, in Philosophical Issues 28, 1 (2018), 70–88. 42


ontological consistency and minimal ontological determinacy are among the first constraints on possible worlds: it is impossible that everything is self-contradictory and/or indeterminate.

2.3. Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? The proposed account of the first principles of reality provides the following answer to the riddle of existence. There is something rather than nothing because non-being requires being: the night of non-existence can descend only against the background of existence. Absolute non-being – the absence of anything at all, be it abstract or concrete, formal or material – would “erase” not only any presence but also the ‘background conditions’ of the difference between presence and absence and thus the very possibility of absence. Therefore, absolute non-being would be a self-contradictory state of reality in toto and would thus contravene the principle of minimal ontological consistency. Indeed, absolute absence would be a determinate ontological state, because it would be different from and incompatible with other ontological states and, at the same time, it would entail the absence of any ontological state and thus its own absence. In short, the ontological state of absolute non-being would be incompatible with itself, because it must have some form of being in order to exclude all being and it must have determinations in order to “annihilate” all determinations. Just as negation is possible only within a logical space, so non-existence is possible only within an ontological space. The difference between being and non-being requires existence. But how is existence possible? Is, for instance, pure existence possible, that is, existence without any existents whatsoever? I think the answer should be negative, because the difference between existence and non-existence (and between something and nothing) collapses into a contradiction without any beings. Existence and non-existence are necessarily different, but they become indiscernible “outside” the ontological space of beings. Nothing could distinguish pure presence from the presence of nothing(ness) or the presence of absolute absence. Hegel was right to point out that pure being coincides with pure non-being.44 Ultimately, both pure being and pure non-being are impossible: they are supposed to be necessarily different but cannot be different. For this reason, being cannot be a being, existence cannot be an entity. But being is not possible without a being (or beings). And nonbeing is not possible without beings either. Things may fail to exist only if other things do exist. This is why there is something rather than nothing.

Cf. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Science of Logic, trans. and ed. by George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 59.



2.4. Reality and Modality: Possible Worlds, Modal Intensionalism, Transcendental Hyperintensionalism The first principles of reality are intrinsically modal. Objective modality is essential to reality and hence irreducible. The reason is the conditioned nature of the ontological difference and thus of anything and everything that is. Generally, something is conditioned if its possibility depends on the satisfaction of certain (formal and/or non-formal) conditions. The inherently modal character of conditionedness is already indicated in some of the expressions we use: ‘necessary conditions’, ‘conditions of possibility’, ‘existence conditions’. A completely amodal reality would be reality without any conditioned features and entities, and therefore impossible – since it could not “implement” the difference between being and non-being. Influential philosophers such as David Lewis have offered bold and ingenious reductive accounts of modality. However, it seems that such accounts inevitably involve tacit modal assumptions. For instance, Lewis regards possible worlds as unified by systems of external relations.45 This feature of possible worlds grounds the principle of recombination, which Lewis uses to “generate” infinitely many possible worlds. However, the notion of external relations is (tacitly) modal. According to Lewis, “a relation is external iff it does not supervene on the natures of the relata taken separately, but it does supervene on the nature of the composite of the relata taken together.”46 Now, Lewis himself states that supervenience is modal.47 His definition of external relations implies that the latter are not among the necessary conditions of the relata taken separately and therefore characterise them contingently: the relations between the relata are external because the latter could stand in different relations without losing their identity and ceasing to exist. In other words, a relation cannot be external, unless it is a non-necessary property of the relata taken separately. It is only because each possible world is unified by a system of contingent relations that the principle of recombination and thus the reductive account of modality can get off the ground. Contingency is a built-in feature of Lewisian possible worlds – of the relations between their mereological parts. Lewis’s conception of the plurality of worlds does not succeed in reducing metaphysical modality, but it offers a fascinating and highly original picture of the structure of ontological space. Though the question of whether there are ontological islands (completely detached realms of being) is important to our understanding of the structure of reality, it has not received sufficient attention in the history of (Western) philosophy. Thanks to Lewis, it has been brought to the forefront of contemporary metaphysical discussions. The project of a reductive account of David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, 75–76. Ibid., p. 62. 47 Ibid., pp. 14–17. 45 46


modality has led Lewis to the striking idea of the plurality of worlds, but, at the same time, it has forced him to work it out in a somewhat dogmatic manner. First, he assumes without argument that there is no categorial difference between all possible worlds.48 I shall suggest later that this assumption is wrong: if there are any completely detached realms of being, it is precisely because they instantiate different categorial structures. Second, his view of the categorial structure of all possible worlds is influenced by (arguably incomplete and limited) physical theories which take spacetime as fundamental to physical reality. But approaches to quantum gravity suggest that spacetime emerges out of more fundamental physical phenomena. This spells trouble for modal realism: it may turn out that, on Lewis’s account, the actual world is impossible!49 It is an inherent danger of naturalist approaches to metaphysics that they take propositions of highly successful but still limited physical theories as representing the fundamental nature of the whole of reality. To try to naturalise metaphysics by taking our best empirical theories as the “measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not” 50 is not to avoid dogmatism but to encourage it. Indeed, it is hard to justify the assumption that all possible worlds are spatiotemporal or unified by relations analogous to spatiotemporal. It seems that this, if true, cannot be a matter of brute fact – that there must be a reason why no (detached) realm of existence can fail to involve spatiotemporal relations (or analogous to them). This is a serious weakness of the possible worlds approach to modality: for all its formal power it is a poor guide to what is necessary and why. Arguably, there is a significant trade-off between its formal power and its explanatory power. The same holds for approaches which base modal metaphysics on modal logic.51 Recently C. Warmke has proposed an alternative semantics for modal propositional logic which offers some remedy for the explanatory impotence of possible worlds semantics. Warmke’s main contention is that necessary truths should not be taken as truths in all possible worlds but as (truths about) “the preconditions for the existence of any world at all.”52 By my lights, it is an important step in the right direction: a necessary truth is a truth about something that pertains to the constitution of any possible world and as such is necessary for there to be any world at all. To be metaphysically necessary is to be a necessary condition for the existence of any world. Indeed, if something is not part of what it takes for there to be a world, then Ibid., p. 2. See Christian Wuthrich, “When the Actual World is Not Even Possible”, in The Foundation of Reality: Fundamentality, Space and Time, ed. George Darby, David Glick, Anna Marmodoro (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 50 Wilfrid Sellars, Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, (Camb. /Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 83. 51 Cf. Timothy Williamson, Modal Logic as Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 52 Craig Warmke, “Modal Intensionalism”, in Journal of Philosophy 112, 6 (2015), 309–334. 48 49


it would be mysterious why any truth about it would be necessary, given that there might well be a world in which it is not (the case). That said, it seems to me that Warmke’s project is not sufficiently radical and suffers from the same defect as all entity-based essentialist approaches to modality: it cannot explain (1) the necessity of being – why there is something (a world) rather nothing – and (2) the necessity of the (complex) structure of being (of any possible world). On the face of it, a possible remedy for (1) would be to assume that a completely empty world is possible: nothing(ness) would amount to the existence of an empty world. There are two problems with this. The first is that it is hard to see how the absence of any world whatsoever (absolute nothingness) could differ from the presence of an empty world. An empty world could be a world only if it instantiates the property of being a world whereas absolute nothingness cannot instantiate any property per definition. The second is that if one accepts that an empty world is metaphysically possible, the project to explain (2) – the various necessary truths of logic, mathematics, metaphysics, etc. – by grounding them in the property of being a world would collapse. Warmke’s suggestion regarding (2) is that logical and mathematical necessities are part of what it takes for there to be a world since a world is per definition “the totality of everything there is” and the existence of a totality requires consistency and plurality, and thus logical and mathematical truths.53 But even if we agree that the property of being a totality entails logical and mathematical truths, it is not clear what could justify the proposed definition of a world – why, for instance, are Parmenidean worlds supposed to be impossible? The necessity of being, the necessity of its pluralistic structure and the nature of the dependence relations between the elements of the latter seem inexplicable within Warmke’s intensional account of modality. I think we need a transcendental hyperintensional account – one that goes beyond the entity-based essentialist approaches to the sources of necessity and reveals the common roots of being and non-being in the minimal (‘transcendental’) preconditions of their difference.

2.5. Being and Determination: Kant, Hegel, and Transcendental Hyperintensionalism Remarkably, it is Kant’s critique of traditional (modal) metaphysics which points towards a transcendental hyperintensional account of the modal structure of reality. On the one hand, his argument against ontological proofs shows why entity-based hyperintensional approaches to modality cannot succeed – they cannot explain what makes certain entities necessary. The nature of X cannot on its own make X 53

Ibid., p. 332.


a necessary being since it itself must already exist in order to ground the being of X. As Kant argues: (...) if we reject subject and predicate alike, there is no contradiction; for nothing is then left that can be contradicted. To posit a triangle and yet to reject its three angles is contradictory; but there is no contradiction in rejecting the triangle together with its three angles.54

On the other hand, in trying to show that there is a gap between thought and reality, Kant might have inadvertently opened up new perspectives for a priori insights in the nature of being. How come? Well, Kant’s argument against ontological proofs involves two crucial metaphysical assumptions: (1) the non-existence of (all) entities is logically possible, (2) existence is not a real predicate. For Kant, (2) substantiates (1): the non-existence of (all) entities cannot be contradictory, because existence cannot be an analytic predicate due to its being a non-real predicate.55 However, (1) and (2) are arguably inconsistent when applied to absolute nothingness. (2) implies that existence makes no difference to the determinateness of entities and thus that the difference between existence and non-existence would collapse outside the context of real determinations. Hegel’s famous contention that pure being and pure nothing are the same follows naturally from Kant’s thesis that existence is not a real predicate. Now, as we have already pointed out, the nondifference between pure existence and pure (absolute) non-existence implies the impossibility of (1). Non-existence can differ from existence only within a space of real determinations – only if there is something which is determined thus and so. This is why absolute non-existence is not logically possible: pace Kant, there is no gap in the foundations of ontological space precisely because Kant is right that existence is not a real predicate. The ultimate source of the necessity and structure of being is the conditional nature of its difference with non-being and it can be cognized a priori.

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed. by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), A 595/B623. 55 Normally, Kant applies the A/S distinction to judgments and not to predicates. The reason is that most predicates are not analytic or synthetic per se but relative to particular concepts. Almost all predicates that are synthetic in respect to higher concepts can be made analytic in respect to lower concepts. For instance, the predicate of being heavy is a synthetic predicate in relation to the concept of body but an analytic predicate in relation to the concept of stone. Kant’s view that there are no infima species because logical determination cannot be completed implies that all synthetic real predicates which as such go beyond the concept of the subject and enlarge it can be turned into analytic predicates in relation to lower concepts. Existence cannot be turned into an analytic predicate precisely because it cannot be a real predicate. 54


2.6. The Structure of Reality: Necessity, Multiple Realisability, Parallel “Worlds” The metaphysical order of reality is determined by the “flow” from the thin to the thick necessary structures of being. It is made possible by non-symmetric interdependence relations between the simpler and the more complex conditions of the ontological difference. The various categorial constituents of the necessary structure(s) of being are interdependent because any of them is a condition of the others within the respective structure. Yet there is an order of priority among them: the metaphysical necessity of the more complex ontological conditions is non-symmetrically determined by the metaphysical necessity and the metaphysical incompleteness of the simpler ontological conditions. Thus, they are not equally prior even though they ground each other. If the simpler conditions of being were metaphysically complete (jointly sufficient), then the more complex conditions would be metaphysically superfluous or even impossible. The necessary order of being “flows” from the simple to the complex, but, pace traditional metaphysics, this is so because the simple is radically dependent and incomplete. There are “levels” of the necessary structure(s) of reality. Structural features of reality occupy the same level iff they are symmetrically dependent on each other. Relata pertaining to different levels of the same structure can stand only in non-symmetric interdependence relations. Arguably, symmetric dependence relations are constitutive not only of the ur-circle of ground but also of categorial sub/structures of varying complexity – all the way “down” to concrete particulars. The formal facets and laws of the constitution of the structure(s) of reality are the subject-matter of formal ontology. The discipline of formal ontology is to be understood quite broadly and interdisciplinarily – as encompassing not only strictly philosophical but also logico-mathematical investigations. It is formal because of the nature of its subject-matter, and not because of the manner of its investigation: formal languages are of central importance in studying the formal facets of reality, but “there are costs, risks, and limitations that must not be overlooked”56 when using them. Formal properties and structures vary significantly with regard to their “thickness”: philosophy and logic are more interested in the thinnest formal features of reality whereas the foundational branches of mathematics – e.g., set theory and category theory – explore thick formal structures. However, since thin and thick formal structures stand in interdependence relations, the study of the latter might influence the study of the former, and vice versa. For instance, as Tsementzis and Halvorson convincingly argue,57 the newly Catarina Dutilh Novaes, Formal Languages in Logic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 5. 57 Dimitris Tsementzis and Hans Halvorson, “Foundations and Philosophy”, in Philosopher’s Imprint 18, 10 (2018). 56


emerged foundation of mathematics – the Univalent Foundations – suggests “an entirely new mathematical logic (...) one which is moreover a proper expansion of first-order logic.”58 It encourages a structuralist ontology, according to which reality is “not the collection of facts, but of structures.”59 Similarly, the more philosophical parts of formal ontology might inspire productive lines of research in the more mathematical ones. The former address questions such as: Is it possible that reality consists of structures and not much else? Can reality be purely relational? Can there be properties without substances? These are questions which belong to the more philosophical parts of formal ontology and they might be addressed with various tools provided by its more mathematical parts. Negative answers to some such questions would amount to no-go theorems in formal ontology – theorems which give expression to formal constraints on (parts of) ontological space. Whatever the answers may be, it is natural to suggest that formal structures, no matter how thick, are ontologically incomplete and cannot possibly exist on their own – they need to be instantiated by non-formal structures.60 The same holds of non-formal structures: they can exist only by instantiating formal structures. The interdependence between formal and non-formal structures might go a long way in explaining why mathematics plays a crucial role in understanding order – in nature, social systems and mental life. Any order involving a manifold of particulars instantiates thick formal structures. Does reality consist of a plurality of ‘worlds’ – that is, of detached realms of existence? The answer to this question depends on the nature of the interdependence relation between the structural levels of reality. Generally, it is a relation of realisation – the posterior levels of structural features realise the prior ones. However, the realisation of prior by posterior categorial structures may be unique or multiple.61 If it is multiple in some cases, then there are diverse categorial structures of reality instantiated by detached realms of entities. Here is why. The prior aspects of reality are realised through its posterior aspects. Everything that is contributes to the difference between being and non-being by playing some role in the realisation of its ultimate conditions. Since these conditions are absolutely necessary, the question arises as to whether the proposed account can make sense of Ibid. Ibid. 60 Ante rem structuralists about mathematical entities face the problem of self-instantiation – see Scott Normand, “Do Ante Rem Mathematical Structures InstantiateThemselves?”, in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97, 1 (2018), 167–177. I agree with Gila Sher’s account of first-order mathematics (see Epistemic Friction, p. 92.) as “anchored in the reality of second-level cardinality properties, rather than in the existence of 0-level objects: numerical individuals.” 61 The notion of multiple realisability became central in philosophy of mind in 1970s and has since risen to prominence also in metaphysics. See Eric Funkhouser, The Logical Structure of Kinds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), Chapters 4 and 5. 58 59


contingency: how is it possible that contingent entities – e.g., properties, relations, states of affairs, etc. – realise necessary conditions of the ontological difference? Is it possible at all? The answer is affirmative: metaphysically necessary conditions can be realised by contingent entities because the latter might fail to do it only on the condition that other contingent entities would do it. The interdependence relations between necessary and contingent aspects of reality make the non-existence of contingent realisers of metaphysically necessary conditions incompossible with the non-existence of other such realisers: contingent non-being requires contingent being. Crucially, the necessary conditions of being realised by contingent entities cannot be only formal in nature: some of them must be non-formal and therefore entities. Otherwise, if all entities were contingent, the non-existence of some entities could not necessitate the existence of other entities. Incompossibility between nonexistences of contingent entities is only possible if the latter realise a necessary (non-formal) property. Contingency is necessary iff non-formal necessary features of reality require contingent realisers. Now, it may be the case that the universal (or transcendental) conditions of the ontological difference are multiply realisable – by different categorial structures of being. Whereas some categorial structures may require the existence of spatiotemporal beings, other categorial structures may leave no room for such beings. A categorial structure must satisfy two conditions. First, it must provide a complete “solution” to fundamental “how is it possible” metaphysical “equations”: e.g., how is it possible that there is something minimally determinate and consistent? Second, a categorial structure must be ontologically irreducible to any other categorial structure: it cannot possibly emerge or be created through radical ontological transformations. A corollary of both conditions is that different categorial structures could not be instantiated in one “world”: any of them would require a separate reality (a detached realm of entities) – independent of and parallel to realities instantiating other structures. Every possibility which cannot be realised by change is always already realised: the immutable conditions of the ontological difference are metaphysically necessary. Could such parallel realities have contingent existence? Given that the instantiation of any categorial structure would be completely independent from the instantiation of any other categorial structure, the existence or the non-existence of one “world” would not be incompossible with the existence or the non-existence of other “worlds”: thus, if the “worlds” were contingent entities, nothing could necessitate the instantiation of at least one categorial structure. But the necessary difference between being and non-being could not be realised without the instantiation of some categorial structure. Hence, any possible categorial structure is necessarily instantiated. If there are many possible categorial structures, then, by necessity, there are many parallel realities. Note the difference with David Lewis’s conception of the plurality of worlds. According to Lewis, there are no categorial differences between different possible worlds. The presented account entails the 55

opposite: if there are many detached realities, it is precisely because they instantiate different categorial structures. The latter would be autonomous branches of the fundamental structure of reality.

2.7. The Flexible Limits of (A Priori) Cognition: Philosophy, Science and Wonder I shall end this paper with brief epistemological remarks. Pace Kant, the limits of pure reason are movable and hence historical. The prospects and limitations of the a priori cognition of reality depend not only on the nature of our cognitive capacities but also on the nature of reality itself. The fact that reality is constituted by multifarious interdependence relations has important implications for metaphysical cognition. The different structural levels of the necessary constitution of reality can be accessed a priori to widely different degrees. The first principles and most general structural features of reality are a priori accessible to a significant degree. The reason is that they involve maximally thin basic categories – identity and difference, presence and absence, one and many. Accordingly, these categories are transparent to a high degree: the gap between our understanding of them and them themselves cannot be significant.62 They are not completely transparent though: there will be some gap in our understanding of them as long as the cognition of the ur-circles of ground is not completed. The next structural levels might include relatively closed “formal universes”, which as such can be a priori accessible with suitable formal tools. At the same time, however, their (non-symmetric) interdependence relations with other formal and non-formal facets of reality might be quite difficult to establish a priori. Philosophy cannot study them on its own, without interacting with logics and mathematics and availing itself of tools provided by them. The thicker the conditions of the ontological difference are, the less accessible to a priori theorizing are their interdependence relations, especially with conditions from other structural levels. It is virtually impossible to establish purely a priori the non-formal conditions of being. For example, it is currently impossible to cognise a priori whether spatiotemporal relations are necessary for the existence of particulars. The cognition of all necessary conditions of being may be well beyond our capacities, especially if there are parallel realities with different categorial structures. Pace Hegel, there is no method of the a priori deduction of the necessary categorial structure(s) of reality. A major reason is the holistic (or “synthetic”) nature of the necessary features of reality: none of them is necessary by itself but only as a part of an irreducible ontological structure that provides a complete “solution” to the possibility of the ontological difference. We cannot know that something is an essential part of a/the necessary structure of Cf. Kit Fine, “What is metaphysics?”, in Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics, ed. Tuomas Tahko, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 9.



being, unless we know that the structure can be instantiated by a realm of entities – that is, that the conditions specified by that structure can be realised. And we can know this only if we know that the sequence of material conditions of being does not result in a metaphysically impossible reality – reality that cannot be minimally determinate and consistent. Similarly to how philosophy has to cooperate with formal sciences in the study of the formal facets of the necessary structure of reality, it has to work together with empirical sciences to shed light on its material-ontological aspects. There is room for both a priori and naturalistic methods in metaphysics. It is not possible to establish a priori the necessary conditions of, say, time: philosophical investigations of the material conditions of being should take into account our best empirical theories. Yet a full naturalisation of metaphysics is likely to be a misguided project. As K. Stanford convincingly argues, naturalist “metaphysicians are asking us to invest an improvident faith in precisely those parts or aspects of our best scientific theories that seem most vulnerable to periodic wholesome transformations.”63 The deep controversies over the ontological implications of quantum mechanics should give the friends of radically naturalised metaphysics pause. Even our best theories of nature have significant limitations and do not make all fundamental conditions of their objects fully transparent. Arguably, they render some of them scientifically tractable by using idealizations which make other such conditions opaque or inaccessible. We are still far away from understanding well the necessary conditions for the existence of the various fields of existence which we inhabit, in particular the necessary conditions of space, time and consciousness. Matter is no less mysterious than mind. Philosophy begins in wonder but, as Whitehead puts it, “at the end when philosophic thought has done its best the wonder remains.”64

References Aristotle. Metaphysics. In Vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Aristotle, The Revised Oxford Translation, edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton University Press, 1984. Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations, Books 1–6, translated and edited by Christopher Gill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Barnes, Elizabeth. “Symmetric Dependence”. In Reality and its Structure: Essays in Fundamentality, edited by Ricki Bliss and Graham Priest. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, 50–69. P. Kyle Stanford, “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science”, in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays, ed. Matthew H. Slater and Zanja Yudell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 132. 64 Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (New York: The Free Press, 1968), p. 168. 63


Berto, Francesco. “A Modality Called ‘Negation”. In Mind 124, 495 (2015), 761–793. Bliss, Ricki. “Viciousness and Circles of Ground”. In Metaphilosophy 45, 2 (2014), 245–256. Bliss, Ricki and Graham Priest. “The Geography of Fundamentality”. In Reality and its Structure: Essays in Fundamentality, edited by Ricki Bliss and Graham Priest. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, 1–36. Brandom, Robert. “From Logical Expressivism to Expressivist Logic: Sketch of a Program and Some Implementations”. In Philosophical Issues 28, 1 (2018), 70–88. Cameron, Ross. The Moving Spotlight: An Essay on Time and Ontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Dahlstrom, Daniel. “Negation and Being”. In The Review of Metaphysics 64 (2010), 247–271. Dasgupta, Shamik. “Metaphysical Rationalism”. In Noûs 50, 2 (2016), 379–418. Fichte, Johann Gottlieb. “The First Introduction to the Science of Knowledge”. In The Science of Knowledge, edited and translated by Peter Heath and John Lachs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 3–28. Fine, Kit. „Unified Foundations for Essence and Ground“. In Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1, 2 (2015), 296–311. — “What is metaphysics?”. In Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics, edited by Tuomas Tahko. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 8–25. Funkhouser, Eric. The Logical Structure of Kinds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. Hale, Bob. “The Basis of Necessity and Possibility”. In Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 82 (2018), 109–138. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. The Science of Logic. Translated and edited by George Di Giovanni. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1996. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. — “The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God”. In Immanuel Kant. Theoretical Philosophy, 1755–1770, translated and edited by David Walford and Ralf Meerbote. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 107–202. Kreines, James. “From Objectivity to the Absolute Idea in Hegel’s Logic”. In The Oxford Handbook of Hegel, edited by Dean Moyar. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 310–338. Lewis, David. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1986. McGinn, Colin. “Logic without Propositions (or Sentences)”. In his Philosophical Provocations. London: MIT Press, 2017, 219–225. McKenzie, Kerry. “Against Brute Fundamentalism”. In Dialectica 71, 2 (2017), 231–261. Meillassoux, Quentin. “Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition: A Speculative Analysis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning”. In Genealogies of Speculation, edited by Armen Avanessian and Suhail Malik. London: Bloomsbury, 2016, 117–198. — After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Translated by Ray Brassier. London: Continuum, 2008.


Morganti, Matteo “Metaphysical Infinitism and the Regress of Being”. In Metaphilosophy 45, 2 (2014), 232–44. Nolan, David. „Hyperintensional Metaphysics“, in Philosophical Studies 171, 1 (2014), 149–160. Normand, Scott. “Do Ante Rem Mathematical Structures Instantiate Themselves?”. In Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97, 1 (2018), 167–177. Novaes, Catarina Dutilh. Formal Languages in Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Owen, G. E. L. “Plato on Non-Being”. In Plato I: Metaphysics and Epistemology, edited by Gregory Vlastos. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1971, 416–454. Priest, Graham. The Fifth Corner of Four. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. — “What Is the Specificity of Classical Mathematics?”. In Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6, 2 (2017), 115–121. — One. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Quine, W. V. O. Word and Object. Camb. /Mass. & London: MIT Press. Rosen, Gideon. “The Limits of Contingency”. In Identity and Modality, edited by Fraser MacBride. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, 13–39. Schaffer, Jonathan. “The Internal Relatedness of All Things”. In Mind 119, 474 (2010), 341–376. — “On What Grounds What”, in Metametaphysics, edited by David Manley, David Chalmers and Ryan Wasserman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, 347–383. Sellars, Wilfrid. Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Camb. /Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. Sher, Gila. Epistemic Friction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Sider, Theodore. Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Stanford, P. Kyle. “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science”. In Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays, edited by Matthew H. Slater and Zanja Yudell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, 127–140. Thompson, Naomi. ‘Metaphysical Interdependence’. In Reality Making, edited by Mark Jago. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 38–55. Tsementzis, Dimitris and Hans Halvorson, “Foundations and Philosophy”. In Philosopher’s Imprint 18, 10 (2018). Warmke, Craig. “Modal Intensionalism”. In Journal of Philosophy 112, 6 (2015), 309–334. Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. New York: The Free Press, 1978. — Modes of Thought. New York: The Free Press, 1968. Williamson, Timothy. Modal Logic as Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Wuthrich, Christian. “When the Actual World is Not Even Possible”. In The Foundation of Reality: Fundamentality, Space and Time. Edited by George Darby, David Glick, Anna Marmodoro. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.


Part II Social Ontology

The Universal Blackboard Maurizio Ferraris

Derrida’s Prophecy In 1967,1 when personal computers, not to mention the Web, were still completely unforeseen, Jacques Derrida made a capital statement in his Grammatology. Perhaps we were moving towards the end of the book understood as an organic and complete totality, as a Hegelian encyclopedia. But what would come – in an age when McLuhan talked about the end of writing – was, on the contrary, a boom of writing in every part of our lives. This boom of writing, as we can now see, is more profoundly a boom of recording, of the archive, of the external and mechanical memory called to compensate for the insufficiencies of organic memory. The problem is that Derrida’s prophetic intuition was accompanied by a hyperbolic phrase (also from a graphical standpoint: it was written in italics): “il n’y a pas de hors-texte”2, or, less cryptically, as Derrida clarified a little later, “Il n’y a rien hors du texte”3. The ontological scope of this sentence was repeated the same year in Voice and Phenomenon: “S’il n’est rien en-dehors du texte, c’est que le texte n’a pas de bord”. The statement did not fail to arouse controversy, easily lending itself to criticism by a thinker not too close to Derrida, Michel Foucault, who qualified the latter’s philosophy as a “small pedagogy” that “teaches the student that there is nothing outside the text.”4 John Searle, another philosopher who is not exactly an admirer of Derrida, also easily attacked him on this point. Derrida’s arguments, during these polemics, have been unconvincing: they consisted either in reducing the thesis to a banality, that is to the obvious assertion that nothing exists outside a context and everything requires interpretation,5 or in re-launching the hyperbole, complicating the thesis even more.6 As for the arguments developed by the many supporters of Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Gallimard, 1967). Ibid, p. 227 Ibid, p. 233. Michel Foucault, Histoire de la folie à l’age classique (Paris: Gallimard, 1972). My translation. 5 “Il n’y a pas de hors-contexte”; déconstruire, c’est prendre en compte cette “structure a priori” dont l’analyse n’est jamais politiquement neutre. See Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc. (Paris: Galilée, 1990), 252–3. 6 “I wanted to recall that the concept of text I propose is limited neither to the graphic, nor to the book, nor even to discourse, and even less to the semantic, representational, symbo 3 4 1 2


Derrida, at best they implied that Derrida meant something like “the I think must be able to accompany my representations”, but with the added risk of explicitly attributing an ontological value (there is nothing outside the text) to something that in Kant seems to have a mainly epistemological value (we cannot have knowledge except through the action of an “I think”). Also, it is one thing to say that the I has something to do with the world, but to say that the text is the essence of the world is very different. Yet, the exaggerations of a man of genius often hide some truth. If we weaken Derrida’s phrase into “There is nothing social outside the text”,7 we will have the best and most powerful key to social ontology hitherto elaborated, which finds its best illustration precisely in the ongoing technological revolution. Natural objects exist outside the text, and so do ideal objects. Artifacts exist outside the text only in their material component, while depending on users’ intentions for their use and meaning. But social objects – things like works of art, marriages, taxes and wars – do not exist outside the text, that is, outside a language, a system of rites and conventions, and above all a system of recordings that justify the importance of documents in our culture. Thus, it is true that there is nothing social outside the text, that is, outside the network of inscriptions (accounts, archives, shares, price lists, newspapers, websites, mobile phones) that invade our lives. In fact, according to the rule Object = Recorded Act, inscriptions construct social reality, implementing our will (such as when we make a promise) but also opposing it (like when we have to keep a promise but do not want to any more) and – which I think is even more interesting – arousing it. It is to this intuition, linked to the project of a grammatology (which was Derrida’s most fruitful thought, though not as popular as deconstruction), that we must turn our attention.

Economy and grammatology Again, there is nothing social outside the text. I have a banknote in my hand, and I can pay the bill at the restaurant. I can do the same thing with a credit card or with a mobile phone, photographing a barcode on the bill. What do these three operations have in common? Recordings, that is, codes (analog or digital) on the bill, and lic, ideal, or ideological sphere. What I call “text” implies all the structures called “real,” “economic,” “historical,” socio-institutional, in short: all possible referents. Another way of recalling once again that “there is nothing outside the text.” That does not mean that all referents are suspended, denied, or enclosed in a book, as people have claimed, or have been naive enough to believe and to have accused me of believing. But it does mean that every referent, all reality has the structure of a differential trace, and that one cannot refer to this “real” except in an interpretive experience. The latter neither yields meaning nor assumes it except in a movement of differential referring. That’s all.” Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 148. 7 As I propose in Ontologia del telefonino (Milano: Bompiani, 2005).


memories (analog or digital) in my pocket: paper notes, plastic cards, or even a mobile phone (which can do a lot of things because it has a great memory, from which derives a great capacity for calculation). So, money is a form of recording. Indeed, all money can be traced back to this origin and function – and everything that can fulfill this function can be used as money. A paper note, a plastic card and pure memory are not a deviation from the real nature of money, but a revelation of what money properly is: the recording of a numerical value that, thanks precisely to recording, acquires an economic value. The origin of money is the same as that of writing: pebbles (calculi) or inscriptions that kept track of trade, long before the establishment of financial capitals. Once we understand that the essence of money is recording, it also becomes clear why, before banknotes, we used coins (perhaps made of gold, a material that does not rust), or shells, or bags of salt: there are all discrete portions that can be counted, generating an archive; which can be divided, facilitating payments; and which can be kept in a limited space (for this reason only coins are better than bags of salt). In this sense, the true essence of money is the bitcoin, and retrospectively the bitcoin accounts for the value of paper money, gold, and salt. The digital currency, in fact, is only a memory of the transaction, a pure document that has no external roots, if not a secure and public register (the blockchain) that keeps track of, and guarantees, the transactions. So, money, very simply, is a document like any other: it is like a passport, for example, of which it shares the complicated doodles and characteristic colors. With a passport, a state authorizes a citizen to leave the country (as it originally used to be) and with a banknote it authorizes him to buy things. Since the citizens who want to buy are much more numerous than those who want to leave, banknotes are more numerous than passports. Also, since money changes hands, banknotes are not nominal, and – since the exchanges are done quickly and may involve illiterate agents – to prevent misunderstandings about their value, in most countries (albeit with the significant exception of the United States) banknotes have different sizes and colors, so that money could be defined as the document for those who cannot read. Moreover, both with passports and with banknotes, the state did not come up with anything new, but simply gave a paper form to ways of fixing acts and quantifying value that originate in our animal past, and whose evolution coincides with the evolution of human cultures. Society cannot do without inscriptions and recordings, archives and documents, and above all without writing as a prototypical form of recording. Moreover, without recording there would be and could be no legal institutions, obligations, guarantees and rights, therefore the intrinsically social notion of justice could not exist. Thus, documents do not simply regulate a legal or economic practice, but produce values, norms, cultures and conflicts, to the point that they determine (through education and imitation) individual intentionality and allow (through sharing) for collective intentionality. Despite appearances (and as shown by the stock market), it is the 65

document that creates value, not the other way around: gold is not worth it because it is gold, but because it has characteristics (the same ones that make it a useful metal in jewelry) that make it a durable and malleable document medium.

The Paleolithic blockchain This brings us back to a much distant i past than we are willing to admit: roughly to Rousseau’s noble savage, who was perfectly aware of the need for debt and credit. And who, pace Rousseau, was always equipped with technology. In fact, there are many superstitions about techne and technology: allegedly it is cold (which is paradoxical, considering that the use of fire is techne), it is alienating (one would wish! Unfortunately, it actually reveals the human being for what it is), and we would be better off without it (which is obviously false: we would die at twenty, at best). But among all these superstitions, the most monumental and false one is the idea that techne and technology are modern, like plastic or at least stainless steel, as suggested by the expression “age of technology” with which philosophers and non-philosophers often define the contemporary world. Of course, it is not like that. Techne is as old as human beings: it was born when hominids began to transform into humans. And this transformation did not take place through an increase in the brain mass, as the latter is not necessarily advantageous from the evolutionary point of view (the Neanderthals had a brain bigger than ours), but through an externalisation and a strengthening of our abilities by means of techne. Levers make us stronger, writing enhances our memory, and ornaments embellish us: for example, to mention again the Neanderthals, homo sapiens produced many more jewels than them, and filled caves with paintings. And, as far as modernity is concerned, aspects of technology that appear to be absolutely modern are merely the prolongation or repetition of very ancient techniques. The blockchain is a prime example of this. For some time now there has been much talk about this ultra-secure system to guarantee transactions, which are saved on many computers so that no one can think of cancelling their debts or inflating their credits. When did the blockchain appear? Wikipedia suggests that its prehistory began in 1991, when two American computer scientists, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta, formulated the hypothesis – purely theoretical at the time – of a chain of blocks (blockchain means this) capable of keeping track of our transactions in an indelible way. So, being less than thirty years old, the blockchain would have the same age as the millennials. But are we sure about this? In 35,000 BC, in Africa, someone carved the bone of Lebombo. For what? We do not know exactly, but one thing is certain: they did it to keep track of something. Exactly like whoever painted a series of points under the profile of a deer in the Lascaux cave. Once again, the reason for this gesture is unclear, but the fundamental idea is certain: it was to keep track of something, 66

if only of the passing of time, because without this minimal retention, which first takes place in our memory and can then be externalized in traces, everything would be an eternal beginning without progress. Even mathematics, which is seemingly the most abstract science we know, originates in these notches, because without an external support operations would not last, and (even slightly) complex ones would only be performable by a mind endowed with the marvelous automatisms of the idiots savants. Even perceptual constraints count in determining mathematical ideals. We know arithmetic systems that only had two numbers (which then came back in computer science): one and two. What we call “three” is a residue of the “trans”, the “beyond” that goes beyond one and two – is it not still so in those languages that include the singular, the dual and the plural ? The technical compensation of our limits does not only concern memory, but also perception. Notoriously, we can easily mark up to three notches (III), then, already from number four, we begin to have difficulties, which become worse with number five (IIIII) – as we know very well whenever we have to compile an IBAN by hand. This is why the Roman numeration indicates five with V, four with IV, and six with VI – and these expedients were already there in the notches of these ancient bones. For example, consider the bone of Ishango, which dates back to 20,000 BC. and which is rightly considered one the oldest mathematical instruments. It was probably a lunar calendar, but notches of course can also serve to track the relationships of give and take between people (not only in the financial sense). It is this necessity, as we know, that originated writing: the latter, in fact, is first and foremost an annotation of debts and credits (the foundations of social reality), and only later served to record other social objects such as dynasties, family names, prayers and hymns. In this context, it is no coincidence that letters and numbers continually exchange roles, that both derive from traces and not from words, and that the same things could serve as alphabet, computation system, and calendar (think for example of knots in South America). They are all forms of recording, just like letters, notches, incisions, and the extremely archaic forms, as old as the Palaeolithic, which, as we have seen, we still find in the Roman alphabet – the unfathomable antiquity that still survives in the prefaces of our books. Carving ever since Cro Magnon, the accounting of the illiterate of all time, and the cross put in place of the signature – all this refers to a single sphere, precisely that of the trace. But it is not always about engraving. To ensure a calculation unit, a reserve of value and a means of exchange (the three functions of money, which respond to innumerable needs in the social world) one could use stones (calculi), salt, cocoa beans, shells, etc. All these things have been indeed used to keep track of exchanges, determining a capital of which the current financial capital is only a derivation. The documedia capital, which arises from the superabundance of documents that characterizes the digital age, is its most complete realization. This also holds in the so-called societies without writing (I insist on saying “so-called” because the sphere of writing is hard to pinpoint precisely), where documentality 67

manifests itself in myths and in the use of complicated rituals handed down over time. This is documentality and not intentionality because, in most cases, it consists of actions whose meaning is unknown to the social actors and which take place, also topologically, outside of consciousness: in space and through movements. The actions and technology that underlie our everyday expressions and actions incorporate, transmit and inform very ancient gestures. According to the famous anecdote, Sraffa embarrassed Wittgenstein by asking him what the logical form was for the Italian gesture of rubbing one’s chin with the index and middle finger to express indifference. Wittgenstein could have answered, following Bacon, that it was a transient hieroglyph, an expression whose origin had been forgotten and which, despite this, continued to exist in the social world. The same answer could be given about the origin of documents, and about that crucial document we call money.

Banksters In the beginning, therefore, was the Debt8: I owe something to someone. And I would not find it surprising if Anaximander’s saying that entities “pay penalty and retribution to each other for their injustice in accordance with the ordering of time” (which Derrida, referring to Heidegger, connects with the notion of différance) referred to justice as a relationship9 that finds its condition of possibility in recording, in the register of give and take, in the account of our actions. A mechanical operation, like that of Anubis weighing the hearts of the dead, or prosaic like the rooster that Socrates owes to Asclepius. This is suggested by a passage that was central to the later Derrida: Hamlet’s sentence “time is out of joint”. Injustice manifests itself as a technical defect. And justice, the remedy that Hamlet is called to bring, appears in turn as a technical operation, as a reparation (“to set it right”). This is akin to the Lord’s Prayer (“et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris”). And it is the central point of Hamlet’s oath to the ghost of his father, whom he promises to avenge, imprinting his commitment onto the internal memory of the mind and the outer memory of the notebook.10 And, on the other hand, it is no coincidence that David Graeber, Debito. I primi 500 anni (Milano: Il Saggiatore, 2012). Aristotle, Etica Nicomachea (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925), 1131 a 10 – 1132 b 9. 10 Remember thee! /Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat / In this distracted globe. Remember thee! /Yea, from the table of my memory / I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, / All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, / That youth and observation copied there; / And thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain, / Unmix’d with baser matter: yes, by heaven! / O most pernicious woman! / O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! / My tables,--meet it is I set it down, / That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; / At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark: / Writing / So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word; / It is ‘Adieu, adieu! remember me.’ / I have sworn ‘t. (Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v, 93–113). 8 9


a radical injustice comes forward precisely through the condemnation of Shylock’s greed and the wrongdoings of Capital. Allow me an anecdote that sounds rather sinister in our times of populism. The mot-valise “Bankster” (banker gangster) was coined in 1933 by the American judge of Sicilian origin Ferdinand Pecora, but it had already been around the American press for some time – not before 1929, we must imagine, and this circumstance speaks volumes about the economic nature of the phenomenon. In any case, the expression found its greatest success in Europe, becoming the key word of the speeches of Belgian populist Léon Dégrelle, leader of the Rexist party and director of the newspaper Le Pays réel. In view of the administrative elections of May 24, 1936 Degrelle radicalized rexism by attacking the “aristobankers”, the “traitors of devaluation”; he denounced the moral corruption of the government as opposed to the purity of the “real country”; he took a broom as a symbol to sweep away the banksters and the corrupt. “All corrupt parties are equivalent. They have robbed, ruined, betrayed you all (...) If you want new scandals to affect the country, if you want to be crushed by the dictatorship of the Banksters (...) follow, like sheep, the political profiteers,” wrote Degrelle in Pays réel. In six months, a nonexistent party managed to get 11.5% of the votes on 24 May 1936, along with 21 deputies and 12 senators. However, since you cannot go very far by complaining and fighting banksters, after an initial success, as always happens to populists, the movement came to a dead end. Fortunately for Degrelle and his followers (and unfortunately for everyone else), Belgium was invaded by the Nazis in 1940 and rexism began an intense activity of collaboration. When the Nazi attack against Russia began in 1941, Degrelle went to the front, first with the Wehrmacht, then with Waffen-SS to form the 28th armored division of volunteers, called “Wallonien”. Decorated with distinction by Hitler, for whom he was like the son he never had, Degrelle continued unabated his fight against the banksters. On February 27, 1944 at the Sports Palace in Brussels, with the Russian front broken down and a few months before the Normandy landing, he stated: “We stand against all the banksters of the world”. And again in the 1960s, taking refuge in Franco’s Spain, after the extermination of millions of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals, he continued to preach the merits of Nazism. And he also attacked Europe, blamed as the Common European Market. His speech can be found on YouTube by typing “L’incroyable discours de Léon Degrelle”. For Degrelle the bankster is the perfect other, the enemy to kill, so even a soldier of the red army can be a Jewish stateless bankster (remember that the Jewish component, according to the Nazis, was a bridge between Bolshevism and Americanism except Stalin was anti-Semitic). In a remarkable book, Le Sec et L’Humide, writer Jonathan Littell analyzed La Campagne de Russie, Degrelle’s memoirs from the Eastern Front, noting how the whole book proceeds by dichotomous contrapositions: I / other, dry (the fascist) / humid (the Bolshevik), hard (man, western) / soft (woman, eastern). Oppositions that hold together a labile 69

identity, which lives only on oppositions and antagonists. Bankster or Bolshevik, woman or Jew: it doesn’t matter, the dichotomy goes on, mechanically generating a series of oppositions that we find both in Degrelle’s speeches and in Heidegger’s Black Notebooks. Which shows that there can be no such thing as a “Metaphysical antisemitism”: people vs. stateless, mass vs. elite, poor vs. rich, exploited vs. exploiter. These are eternal categories, which are not linked to metaphysics but to human weakness, and it is therefore not surprising that, thanks to the 2008 crisis, the Bankster category re-emerged as if nothing had happened. The Electoral posters of Marine Le Pen’s Front National, for the European elections of 7 June 2009, read: “Against the Europe of the Banksters”. The Occupy the Banks protests went: Jail the bankster$! And an endless literature does the same. Just type “Bankster” on Amazon to find dozens of books, movies and documentaries on the Banksters, with subtitles such as “much worse than Al Capone”, “The vampires of Wall Street” and so on.11 The condemnation of the Bankster is also used against the golden calf and consumerism, and the appeal to autarchy and to the national interest, i.e. today’s anti-European sentiment, is identical to the protest against the “unfair penalties”. And it would not be misleading to watch the news with the subtitles of the old Fascist song “We’ll just carry on” (Noi tireremo dritto): as the League goes against us, we’ll endure it with discipline, merrily singing a song (giacché la Lega contro noi s’ostina, /sopporteremo /con disciplina, /cantando allegramente una canzon). It was year 1935, but it could be today. With the same contradictions and inconsistencies. And above all with the same lack of clarity that makes people dream of a world without capital, when capital is the essence of social reality, as demonstrated jointly by the technological evolution of the web and the reflection of the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century: Jacques Derrida.

What is capital? If there is nothing social outside the text, and if the blockchain is one of the first human technologies, a direct derivation of the bone-club that opens 2001 A Space Odyssey, then there is nothing more intimately contradictory than the dream of a society without capital, which would be a society without a society. We cannot As an example, consider the book by Joseph P. Farrell, Bankster. Come un gruppo di banchieri ha conquistato il mondo – Storia, tecnologie segrete e crimini della finanza globale, dall’antichità a oggi (Castellana Grotte: Revoluzione, 2017). The editorial presentation is emblematic: “An elite of families has managed finance and the creation of money since the dawn of time. This financial ‘cartel’ is also the same that keeps hidden principles of physics that would free us from economic slavery, like antigravity. The elite creates ad hoc financial crises to control the flow of money in the world and make it flow into their hands. This immense amount of money is then used by the elite to fund research in alternative physics. The knowledge of this ‘secret physics’ allows the elite to create, influence and maneuver earthly events in their favor.”



get out of capital any more than we can get out of metaphysics. The problem, if anything, is to really understand what capital is, regardless of the mythological (and self-justifying) representation of an evil Kapital that plots against humanity. Capital does not plot for the excellent reason that it does not think: it simply notes, records, tracks. Therefore it should not be conceived as a self-conscious and diabolic intellect (one wishes there was something like that! At least the world would make sense), but as a universal blackboard recording all social acts in a way that is indelible and accessible to all humanity. On such a blackboard, each actor can keep track of their give and take (not only economically, but socially, politically, culturally etc.) with the other actors they relate to, also knowing the latter’s give and take with third parties. The blackboard keeps track of all promises, all bets, all transactions and all confessions: these acts are accessible to the whole humanity, and reveal all the relationships between every social actor with other social actors, as well as all the other social actors the latter interact with in turn. The blackboard, therefore, does not only note economic transactions, based on give and take, but also records all social objects, things such as war and peace treaties, graduation and marriage certificates, promises of eternal love and the blood pacts of secret societies. If such a blackboard were feasible, we would need neither documents, nor that peculiar kind of document we call money. However, since a blackboard of this kind has not been nor ever will be created, we have banks, money, stocks, sovereign debts, prices, etc. The documedia revolution has set the (technological) conditions to get close to this ideal blackboard, and the transformations underway, starting from the creation of big data, are the consequences of this.

This blackboard confirms that industrial capital is not in the least the prototypical form of capital, just as the enterprise is not as such the prototypical form of economic action, the proletarian is not the prototypical form of the worker, etc. Since social objects are recorded acts, it follows that capital is a structure that has far preceded industrial capital (coinciding in fact with the first stages of hominization) and that is obviously destined to survive after it. We have had various forms of capital: agricultural and mercantile capital, industrial capital (the one mainly referred to by Marx), and financial capital (the one that is criticized by contemporary populists, who curiously believe industrial capital to be natural, and financial capital to be 71

abnormal or perverse). Today it can be seen that the real capital is the documedia capital, which is formed when, as in our time, it becomes technically possible to capitalize on a quantity of documents that was previously inconceivable. There is a single thread which goes from the earliest forms of humanity up to us: it consists of capitalization. Capitalization of resources through the accumulation of assets; capitalization of energy through the development of technical equipment and work tools; capitalization of social prestige, also through expensive activities (gift economy, sacrifices, etc.). In the mirror of the documedia capital, which brings together all these aspects, we thus have the opportunity to capture the essence of human society in a timeless synopsis – and this essence coincides with capital. In this context, a grammatology as a positive science – that is, the most important task that Derrida has left us, much more important and decisive than deconstruction – is the best way to understand the nature of capital. Now, a universal blackboard would be far too indiscreet. We do not always want others to know about our relationships, our finances, our aspirations (even if we recklessly post them, for free, on social networks). And this indiscreet blackboard reminds us of paradise as conceived by the British philosopher McTaggart: a place where we will be with all those we have loved, and with all those whom they have loved in turn – which, on closer inspection, would put us in the concrete position of spending eternity with our wife’s lover. Such a blackboard does not exist due to practical issues (the actors’ interest not to disclose their social, economic, and political actions; and the impossibility of tracking minimal transactions, which is why it is highly uneconomic to use blockchain to pay for a coffee) and for reasons de iure (knowing everything about the world would cancel the margin of uncertainty on which the spirit of enterprise rests). If this blackboard has not been realized, and probably never will be, it certainly constitutes the regulative ideal of the social world, and that is what the Web manifests better than any technology and social organization that preceded it.

References Aristotle. Etica Nicomachea. Translated by W. D. Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925. Derrida, Jacques. De la grammatologie. Paris: Gallimard, 1967. — Limited Inc. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988. Farrell, Joseph P. Bankster. Come un gruppo di banchieri ha conquistato il mondo – Storia, tecnologie segrete e crimini della finanza globale, dall’antichità a oggi, Castellana Grotte: Revoluzione, 2017. Ferraris, Maurizio. Ontologia del telefonino. Milano: Bompiani, 2005. Foucault, Michel Histoire de la folie à l’age classique. Paris: Gallimard, 1972. Graeber, David. Debito. I primi 500 anni. Milano: Il Saggiatore, 2012. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992


Transgenerational Actions Tiziana Andina

There is a class of actions that, from a metaphysical point of view, has as its necessary condition some form of cooperation between different generations. This article aims to analyse the metaphysical structure of this class of actions and to show that they are a necessary condition for the existence of social reality for its perdurance in time. What are actions? The extensive literature on the topic has mainly tried (a) to define the concept of action,1 (b) to distinguish it from the similar concept of event and, (c) lastly, to organize a taxonomy of actions that explains what and how many types of actions there are.2 Keeping this framework in mind, I would like to suggest that, in order to understand the structure of social reality, it is not enough to consider it as a complex architecture with a certain structure at a time t1. In fact, it is also important to analyse its basic elements, paying particular attention to its components that undergo changes over time. I will therefore argue that the common taxonomy of actions should be integrated with a particular type of action that I will define as “transgenerational”. Social reality needs this type of actions in order to exist. In other words, there can be no social reality, organized as we know it, without transgenerational actions. Furthermore, I will show that the specific structure of these actions presupposes and requires the existence of particular actors of the social world.

1. Basic transgenerationality I will first define the concept of transgenerationality and then the concept of transgenerational actions. I will defend the thesis that transgenerationality is a primitive and, as such, shapes our identity as social individuals. Humans, as social and political animals, are naturally prone to creating relationships, often mediumor long-term ones. In most cases, these relationships involve individuals who are related neither by blood nor by kinship. These relationships are defined weak. Many pioneering studies have been published on this topic. See Arthur C. Danto, “Basic Actions”, in American Philosophical Quarterly 2, 2 (1965), 141–148; Arthur C. Danto, Analytical Philosophy of Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). 2 Cf., for example, Arthur C. Danto, Analytical Philosophy of Action; Carlos J. Moya, The philosophy of action: an introduction (Oxford: Polity Press, 1990). 1


The transgenerational relationship – like any other relationship – is mainly a constraint and, in this sense, it implies rights and duties. There are two types of transgenerational relationship. The former is widely considered within social reality and is protected by the law: the relationship between different generations of the same family. The transmission of the father’s surname – sometimes the mother’s or, more rarely, both – is one of the elements that typically identify the generational change. The last name is thus considered an external and characteristic sign that proves to preserve “something” in the transition from father to son. This “something”, in its minimal form, usually coincides with the biological makeup. In this kind of situations, which are the easiest to identify and define, the living beings’ biological and therefore constitutive structure is believed to be transmitted. An important emotional connection makes this transfer possible: if one considers the situation where x is the father/mother of y, who is therefore the son/daughter of x, the transmission of the biological makeup corresponds to the transmission of part of x’s being to y (at least the part linked to her biological makeup), so that x will maintain a special link with y in the name of natural continuity. The transgenerational biological relationship assumes that something physical and therefore clearly identifiable and definable is transmitted from one generation to another. Given this context, the resulting idea is that the transmission of part of the genetic makeup implies a somehow analogous transmission of the material goods available to the subject. The parental relationship, therefore, implies the transmission of some of the biological makeup as well as of some material goods. Now, this type of transgenerationality, which I call “basic transgenerationality”, is generally recognized in every culture and is well protected by the law. For example, those systems (such as the Italian one) that protect the transfer of goods from father to son regardless of the parent’s will are particularly interesting. If, for example, the parent decides to disinherit the son, what is technically called “reserved share” protects and ensures basic transgenerationality. Therefore, the idea that the continuity between x and y is an objective factor that must be protected, even by the law and regardless of the concerned individuals’ will, is generally recognized by common sense. The paternity acknowledgment – paternity denial must generally comply with very severe constraints – and the material protection of the child’s rights are some of the tools for the law to protect this kind of transgenerationality. Basic transgenerationality therefore amounts to a well-defined relationship that can be, and in fact is, well-protected. Thus, basic transgenerationality is essentially a state, a way of being. However, the second type of transgenerationality, which I call “secondary transgenerationality”, is theoretically more interesting. I will try to show that the secondary transgenerationality is a condition of possibility for the existence of social reality: without secondary transgenerationality, social reality 74

would simply be impossible, at least as we know it. I will now explain what I mean by secondary transgenerationality and then show why I believe it should be considered a necessary condition for the existence of social reality.

2. Secondary transgenerationality Secondary transgenerationality is a transgenerational relationship whose condition of possibility is neither parenthood nor kinship. Therefore, secondary transgenerationality does not need either of these conditions in order to exist. Given this framework, I will focus on the following questions: what features does secondary transgenerationality have? How can one support its existence? And why am I introducing a new relationship – the relationship of secondary transgenerationality – as one of the conditions of possibility of social reality? To answer these questions, I will try to summarize the issue as Immanuel Kant foreshadowed it. In his political writings, Kant introduced the idea that the relationship between different generations (not necessarily blood-related) does not only exist, but is also characterized by a particular structure. We shall see this in detail. In Idea for a Universal History in a Cosmopolitan Intent, Kant argues for the following theses. First thesis: “all natural predispositions of a creature are determined sometime to develop themselves completely and purposively”. Second proposition: “In the human being (as the only rational creature on earth) those predispositions whose goal is the use of his reason were to develop completely only in the species, but not in the individual”. In the first thesis, Kant emphasizes two elements in particular. First, the living creatures’ natural capacities and predispositions develop – that is, become complete – only over time. That is to say, it takes time for a human being to completely develop her rational capacities and become fully able to shape and order her energies. Furthermore, and with specific regards to human beings, all natural predispositions whose goal is the use of reason will not develop completely in the individual, but rather in the species. In this regard, Kant wants to point out that the relationships within the species are evidently organized with efficiency and completeness only over time and, particularly, over an indefinitely long period of time. Temporality is thus a central element: the passing of time, embodied in the individuals’ lives, is what allows reason to fully develop. Kant argues for the second thesis as follows: Reason in a creature is a faculty of extending the rules and aims of the use of all its powers far beyond natural instinct, and it knows no boundaries to its projects. But reason itself does not operate instinctively, but rather needs attempts, practice and instruction in order gradually to progress from one stage of insight to another. Hence, every human being would have to live exceedingly long in order to learn how he is to make a complete use of all his natural predispositions; or, if nature has only


set the term of his life as short [...], then nature perhaps needs an immense series of generations, each of which transmits its enlightenment to the next [...].3

Notoriously, the basic idea is that human nature is deeply flawed: a crooked timber that, as Kant writes in the sixth thesis, can never be straightened completely. Human beings are in fact governed by two opposing predispositions: the former leads them to gather together and the latter leads them to isolate themselves. Human beings are practically torn between the tendency to work together and the tendency to egoistically and authoritatively impose their will. Kant seems nevertheless convinced of the existence of a relationship between generations that has a constitutive function for social life. However, he also seems convinced that this relationship is positive and augmentative – that is, it increases the overall amount of both tangible and intangible goods. Basically, the idea is that however imperfect human nature may be, the relationship between generations is intrinsically positive and creates a virtuous circle in which the work of each generation will somehow benefit the following one. But it appears to have been no aim at all to nature that he should live well; but only that he should labor and work himself up so far that he might make himself worthy of well-being through his conduct of life. Yet here it remains strange that the older generations appear to carry on their toilsome concerns only for the sake of the later ones, namely so as to prepare the steps on which the latter may bring up higher the edifice which was nature’s aim, and that only the latest should have the good fortune to dwell in the building on which a long series of their ancestors (to be sure, without this being their aim) had labored, without being able to partake of the good fortune which they prepared.4

Prescinding from Kant’s teleological idea – which clearly reflects a cultural conditioning – of ​​an anthropomorphic nature committed to accomplishing through the species what could never be achieved by the individual, the basic argument remains interesting: each generation seems to act so as to favour the next generations or at least, each generation seems driven by nature’s plan (obscure as it may be) to reach goals that often remain unknown to humans but that, together, reveal their meaning as a whole. Each generation builds something that only the next generation will completely and fully enjoy. What is interesting here is not so much Kant‘s thesis – he was being optimistic, as one could easily show that the transgenerational legacy is not necessarily positive – but rather the fact that Kant considers secondary transgenerationality an obvious fact. Kant therefore believed Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim”, in Kant’s Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim, ed. Amélie Rorty and James Schmidt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 11. 4 Ibid., p. 12. 3


that, since nature follows a grand design and makes human history worthwhile, a secondary transgenerationality must exists. Otherwise, men would remain crooked timbers. For this reason, Kant’s transgenerationality – which is fundamentally augmentative – exists regardless of the individuals’ will. It is somehow part of a supra-historical dimension in which human beings are acted upon and act a little bit against their will and, in any case, beyond their awareness. Kant therefore deduces the existence of secondary transgenerationality from what he thinks is nature’s general work. Progress exists in human history because nature’s goals transcend the individuals and are brought about through the dynamics of secondary transgenerationality. At this point, provided that Kant’s teleological model can be legitimately questioned, one should ask oneself if the concept of secondary transgenerationality falls with it or if the existence of a secondary transgenerationality can rest on different foundations. In the following pages, I will try to show that this concept is related to some actions that constitute social life and are carried out mainly by States, which also represent their condition of possibility. These actions are those that indeed identify secondary transgenerationality.

3. States Typically, political philosophy answers the question “What is the state?” by subordinating the metaphysical analysis to the functional one. Essentially, the question “What is it?” is replaced with “What is it for?” Thomas Hobbes, for example, followed this strategy when he laid the basis for the philosophical reflection on the modern nation-state. Hobbes’ answer is quite simple and direct. The State’s function is to defend human beings, who by nature want to be absolutely free and to prevail over others. Since this is their nature, one cannot expect them – unlike other animals that naturally live in a society without coercive forms of power – to be able to live socially without conflicts and fights, unless they are forced to do so.5 In short, the animals that live a social life agree naturally. Humans, on the contrary, build societies as a result of a conventional agreement derived from a common determination due, mostly, to fear: “Therefore it is no wonder if there be somewhat else required (besides covenants) to make their Agreement constant and lasting; which is a Common Power, to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the Common Benefit.”6 If this is true – that is, if anthropology shows that human nature is characterized by a conflict or, more simply, competition with others – then one has to acknowledge that human societies cannot exist without an agent that regulates them by force. Abraham Lincoln rightly noted that it is impossible to govern someone without their consent. Starting from this same concept, Hobbes 5 6

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Seattle: Pacific Publishing Studio, 2011), Chapter XVII. Ibid., p. 108.


bases his definition of the State on the social contract and the people’s willingness to make such an agreement. However, this concept is rather paradoxical: people must voluntarily agree to give up their right to use force to a third subject. They must therefore submit themselves voluntarily to this condition, permanently delegating their right to self-defence to one or more individuals who, presumably, will make better use of it. Such a delegation is so radical that whoever is in charge of the alienated rights must be recognized as acting on behalf of all those who gave up their right to self-defence. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man and with every man, in such a manner, as if every man should say to every man, I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition: that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin CIVITAS.7 Human beings are weak and therefore need to make agreements that allow them to avoid a permanent state of war. However, in order to do so they must agree once and for all to give up their right to self-defence. This is the pars destruens of Hobbes’ model. I will now analyse the pars construens, which is even more interesting for the purpose of this text because it defines the nature of the State. In this context, what is a State for Hobbes? “It is a real unity of them all in one and the same person”. Therefore, this is a veritable new metaphysical entity: a person, or at least something whose characteristics resemble those of a concrete person and yet is oddly made up by the totality of wills – and perhaps consciences – of those who agreed to found the State. This object reveals rather singular characteristics. Of course, to argue that the State is roughly like a person has the advantage, from Hobbes’ point of view, of emphasizing the synthesis of wills. In fact, this exact synthesis – embodied in the sovereign or in the assemblies that represent the people – is entrusted with the exercise of power. Hobbes’ model, however, has some fairly obvious weaknesses. On the one hand, it is based on the idea that the majority gives a third subject both the authority and the delegated power to defence. On the other hand, however, this subject’s features are far from trivial. What does Hobbes mean when he says that the set of wills gives birth to a new person or subject? The idea that the State is a person – that is, what in literature was defined as “organicist paradigm” and spread during the eighteenth century8 – involves the State’s strict dependence on the citizens who enable it by willingly delegating some of their rights. It is not difficult to realise what this means on a concretely ontological level. Ibid., p. 109. For a discussion on this, cf. Karl Mannheim, Essays on sociology and social psychology (London: Routledge & Paul, 1953), 165–182.

7 8


For example, let us consider one of the many features that usually identify people, that is, the fact that each individual is marked by individuality. Typically, one is intuitively led to consider an organism as an individual, that is, as a being with precise spatial and temporal characteristics. In biology, some extensive and controversial researches have explored the concept of biological individual.9 However, it is debatable whether a determination of this type can also be attributed to the State in a non-metaphorical sense. If, for example, it is intuitively true that a biological organism can generally bear a limited number of changes on its body parts, one’s intuitions are different in the case of the State. Locke10 thought that memory was a good element of continuity to determine an individual’s identity through time. Where there is continuity of memory, there is also identity, that is, there is an organism and, in some cases, an individual. On the other hand, to transfer an individual’s soul – devoid of any memory and psychological trait – to another individual’s body would not make the latter identical to the former. This means that, without consciousness and memory, the identity of the thinking matter is not enough to make a person‘s identity. In the case of the State, there seem to be a wider tolerance toward the changes of its parts. Also, it is much more difficult to say what parts the State is made up of. For example, it is quite clear that the individual, as such, is not the necessary condition for the existence of the State: individuals are born and die. This means that they enter and leave the state community without modifying the identity of the State. Furthermore, this also means that the citizens who founded the State cannot be considered a necessary condition for its existence, as it persists in time long after their death. The state is indeed an entity that persists over time, that is, it lasts for a considerable period of time also because some of its elements are replaced. On closer inspection, the relative ease with which the individuals start and stop being part of a social and political community is what actually creates the States. The relatively easy adhesion and distancing from a social and political community, combined with the fact that people perform actions that last considerably (as regards both the duration of the action and the consequences implemented by them), presuppose a subject guaranteeing the consequences that this metaphysical structure entails. The State, therefore, exists; it is not a mere concept and it is not only – as the theoretical hypothesis posits – a guardian of people’s security, but also a guarantor of the individuals’ actions (I will dwell more on this later). In other words, a significant and important part of social actions would not be possible or normatively justifiable without the State.

See Jack Wilson Wilson, Biological Individuality: The Identity and Persistence of Living Entities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 10 John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. by Pauline Phemister (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), ch. Xxvii. 9


3.1. Ontology of the State From an ontological perspective, I think it is theoretically appropriate to reject the hypothesis that the State is a fictional entity, a mere concept, and to opt for a Hegelian realism. However, compared to Hegel’s model,11 which creates an analogy between the biological organism and the State, I propose to consider the State as an object that depends on and emerges from the subjects’ wills – which, as we have seen, vary constantly. In other words, the State is not a conventional term, as some theorists have proposed,12 but an entity that exists and persists in time, while its existence in space could even be optional. In these terms, the State is an entity that can be included in our ontologies with full rights. A State that only existed for a second is, perhaps, theoretically possible; however, it would not be concretely possible because, for example, it is not clear how it could develop its political action. In order to exist in time, States must fit a precise ontological structure that basically implies two conditions. 1) First, the individuals’ will, characterized by intentionality; this will has led to the creation of the State-object at a certain time (the State would not exist without a clear expression of some individuals’ will; it is therefore a necessary condition for its coming into being). 2) Secondly, it implies “something” that redefines and preserves the structure of the will that led to the formation of the State. Since the components of this will keep changing, it is clear that both its constitution and its expression must be constantly redefined over time as well. Therefore, the will implies what I define a “vehicle of the institutional structure” – that is, one or more relationships that, whenever the individuals’ wills change, guarantee to verify that both the general will and the mechanisms allowing the will to express itself are still valid. Between these two conditions, the latter is obviously more interesting and complex since it concerns how the State persists over time (de facto and de iure). Therefore, I will develop my analysis on two levels concerning the State’s need to preserve itself over time. The former concerns factual arguments (how can the State concretely preserve itself over time?). The latter is a matter of law (what rights allow it to preserve itself over time?).

3.1.2. How States can preserve themselves over time: matters of fact Edward Robinson13 rightly observed that in order to understand how an object so peculiar as the State manages to preserve itself over time, one must first observe See G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), § 269. 12 For a deeper analysis, cf. Philip Abrams, “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State (1977)”, in Journal of Historical Sociology 1, 1 (1988). 13 Edward H. Robinson, “A Documentary Theory of States and Their Existence as Quasi-Abstract Entities”, in Geopolitics, 19, 3 (2014), 461–89. 11


its document structure.14 Robinson’s thesis is widely based on the theory of documentality and defines the States as objects that are “almost abstract” – that is, they have a temporal, rather than spatial, connotation and their sovereignty is established, maintained and managed by different kinds of documents.15 It is therefore a document – theoretically, a constitution – that brings a State into being: that document is both the origin of the State and one of the tools, perhaps the main one, that preserve it over time. But why does a document have so much power? One can answer this question only by also answering the more general question about the nature of the document. That is, the philosophical question about the nature and function of a document becomes this: why is it that a document has so much power? There are different types of documents, with many functions and uses. However, it is generally possible to say that a document is an object – not necessarily an artefact – with three necessary characteristics: ​​(1) it can be consulted (that is, it can be observed, read, interpreted and so on) by a virtually unlimited number of people – this is true even for those documents that, for whatever reason, are classified; (2) it has a meaning – that is, one or more significant elements that can be the outcome of an intentional activity. Finally, the third condition (3) characterises those documents that belong to bureaucracy, a domain that is relatively narrow and has much to do with the State. The third condition states that all those inscriptions that incorporate a normative content are documents. The source of this normative content is a person, an assembly, another document or even the institutions in power. Furthermore, the elements of this normative content allow one to identify the document and its validation. In certain situations, some objects – or parts of natural objects – exhibit a document function. An example would be a tree trunk, which helps dating the tree. Leonardo Da Vinci was the first to notice that, every year, tree trunks are marked with a new ring, a fairly accurate mark of the passing time. People started talking about dendrochronology at the beginning of the twentieth century.16 Dendrochronology is based on a few simple principles. First of all, it is based on an empirical observation: in those regions where the winter and summer climate are strongly different, every year the trees produce a new ring that can be easily observed in the cross section of the trunk. Furthermore, trees of the same type that live in similar places produce, in the same lapse of time, similar annular series, since these depend on the weather. This allows one to compare the annular series of trees growing in the same geographical The philosophers theoretically grounding documentality are Maurizio Ferraris (Documentality: Why it Is Necessary to Leave Traces, trans. by Richard Davies, New York: Fordham University Press, 2012) and Barry Smith (“How to do Things with Documents”, in Rivista di Estetica 50 (2012), 179–198. 15 Ibid., 461 et seq. 16 For the development of this discipline, cf. Tree Rings and Natural Hazards. A State-of-Art, Advances in Global Change Research, eds. M. Stoffel, M. Bollschweiler, D. R. Butler, and B. H. Luckman (Springer Netherlands, 2010). 14


area. It also allows one to develop several arguments related to the dating of trees, because the sequences of rings formed over the years are real natural archives that keep track of the climatic and environmental changes experienced by a certain plant. Therefore, if properly read, the inner part of the trunk provides several interesting data. This does not happen because someone intentionally designed this specific aspect of nature, but simply because things work this way. In other documents, significant elements – even very complex ones – were created intentionally. That is, some objects – unlike trees that have a secondary and optional document feature – have a primary document function. That is, they have been specifically created so that a will, clearly expressed, may sediment in and be accessed through a document. The best example for this latter type of documents is given by those papers that express the wills and the founding principles of States. This class of documents has all of the previously identified conditions: they can be read and consulted by a virtually infinite number of people; they bear an intentionality shared by a large number of people or representatives of a community; and lastly, they incorporate one or more normative contents. That is, they have the right to directly or indirectly exercise power. This last idea, in particular, recalls the intuition that some documents have not only a passive form and character (that is, they are not just objects that passively incorporate a will), but they are also active, that is, they can act and affect the world. This implies significant changes in the structure and order of the social structure of a State. Barry Smith defined these as document acts: “what humans (or other agents) do with documents, ranging from signing or stamping them, or depositing them in registries, to using them to grant or withhold permission, to establish or verify identity, or to set down rules for declaring a state of martial law.”17 In this sense, then, documents are the archives of the wills that brought a State into being, contain some elements of validation (other elements are likely to be provided by the context and the information offered by history), and entail the occurrence of some facts – some of these facts are regulatory and institutional, others simply involve the formation and preservation of collective memory. From this, one can also infer that States cannot be reduced to documents neither from the point of view of the constitutive elements (documents exist because they must convey contents that do not necessarily derive from other documents), nor, as we shall see, from the point of view of the actions they perform. In some circumstances, therefore, both normative and non-descriptive documents produce actions. Some of these actions – and this is the most interesting theoretical point – are only possible because the States exist. In his metaphysical analysis, Robinson quite rightly points out the importance of temporality. Unlike most political philosophers, he considers time much more 17

Institutions, Emotions, and Group Agents: Contributions to Social Ontology, ed. A. Konzelmann Ziv and H.B. Schmidt (Springer: Dordrecht, 2014), p. 20.


important than space.18 As we have seen, time and action are directly connected: States perform enduring and persisting actions either directly or through elements that make their agency possible (documents, people, institutions). Some of these actions have a particular structure. I have identified them as actions of secondary transgenerationality. Let‘s now look at their characteristics.

3.1.3. How States can preserve themselves over time: matters of law States thus exists because of a normative bureaucracy in which people also play a role. Now that I have explained how the State can exist, I shall address the second question: why does it exist? The answer is that the State has to exist because it is the only entity that can perform certain kinds of actions that otherwise would be neither possible nor justifiable: transgenerational actions. Therefore, it is important to firstly outline a taxonomy of actions and, secondly, to identify the features of the transgenerational actions performed by States. Basic actions and complex actions Defining actions means both defining them as such and distinguishing them from simple events, especially when an action and an event do not seem to have different qualities or when an event and an action are seemingly indiscernible. Wittgenstein asked this question in relation to the logical status of actions. If one subtracts the fact that the arm goes up from the fact that someone lifts their arm, what is left? That is, what distinguishes a simple event (the arm that goes upward) from an action (a person who raises her arm)? The most controversial and best-known theories of action – that is, the causal theories19 – generally connect the explanation to the causes of the action, removing it from the ontological sphere. Causal theories refer to a specific element: what distinguishes an action from an event is not the action itself, but rather the causal chain that brings the action into being. Therefore, only the causes that determined two indiscernible elements can distinguish them. Thus, in terms of ontology of actions, what matters is not to examine the structure of the action but rather to reconstruct the origins of the causes that led to it. This approach lends itself to a specific objection raised, among others, by the American philosopher Harry Cf., for example, Carl Schmitt, Land and sea: a world-historical meditation, tr. S. G. Zeitlin (Candor, New York: Telos Press Publishing, 2015), and Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, expanded edition, tr. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). 19 Cf., for example, the seminal works by G. E. M. Anscombe Intention (Ithaca, New York.: Cornell University Press, 1957) and Donald Davidson, Essays on actions and events. 2nd ed. (Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). 18


G. Frankfurt,20 that is, the idea that two identical actions may be determined by different causal chains. This obviously makes it problematic to state that the causal chain would be the necessary and sufficient condition to identify an action. In fact, if one assumes that the causes of an action are necessary and sufficient conditions and admits – as one has to – that different causes can lead to the same action, then one also has to admit that those causes do not identify those actions. It therefore seems necessary to find a different strategy. Frankfurt believes that what decisively defines an action and allows one to distinguish it from movement pure and simple is the fact that the actions occur because of an individual’s resolution and are performed according to a coherent scheme. One could say that actions (even unintentional ones) are attributable to the agent’s planning. Think, for example, of the several different but well-coordinated actions performed by a pianist playing – it is obviously impossible to consider them as simple movements. Now, it is clear that one’s body can perform both simple movements and actions without one realizing it or being somehow aware of it, as there are systems made to control what Arthur Danto called “basic actions”.21 The important point, however, is that a specific work is required in order to design and retain coordinated actions with a complex structure. This is what distinguishes a movement from a real action. Individual actions are essentially a form of planning. Collective actions: a taxonomy Clearly, not all actions are individual – that is, concerning a single person. In fact, there is another type of actions, performed by two or more people. The most frequent hypothesis is that they have a different structure compared to individual actions and are typical of social reality. Thus, when creating a taxonomy of actions, it is necessary to distinguish individual actions from collective actions. At the metaphysical level, instead, it is useful to focus on the features of a collective action. The precondition for a collective action is, quite naturally, the fact that two or more people somehow act together, which roughly means that they share something – the purpose of the action. This can be shared in two different ways: 1. in one case, two or more subjects can share the same goal in a way that is, so to speak, accidental (when, hypothetically speaking, a fire breaks out in a movie theatre and the people inside all act pretty much the same way, with the implicitly shared purpose to escape); 2. or, and this is a different case, they can explicitly share the same goal: a fire breaks out and a team of fire-fighters acts so as to maximize their efforts and extinguish it. The latter case, for the purposes of this essay, is the most interesting and better identifies collective action. Harry G. Frankfurt, „The Problem of Action”, in American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1978), p. 157 et seq. 21 See Arthur Danto, Analytical Philosophy of Action. 20


Let us start with this case then. The basic question is: how can two or more people act so as to accomplish the most appropriate set of actions to achieve their goal (to extinguish the fire)? The social ontologies that have tried to answer these questions have mainly resorted to the notion of “collective intentionality”. This allows one, at least according to the theorists who support it,22 to suppose a sort of marked predisposition toward collective action. Searle’s version is probably the most challenging, as the American philosopher understands collective intentionality as a primitive that, as such, is prior to the human beings’ disposition to perform individual actions. To be clear, the disposition to act collectively would not only be innate, but also prior23 to the disposition to act individually. This means that, according to Searle, people are not only disposed to act collectively but they even share intentional states such as beliefs, desires and intentions. Collective intentions must therefore be added to individual intentions. According to Searle, a good example is that of those actions in which a person is doing something as part of an action that has wider boundaries: think of the players of a football team. Everyone performs their action, which certainly has a specific meaning (the goalkeeper defends his goal), but whose full meaning is entirely given only in connection with the totality of the actions that make up the game from beginning to end. The important fact in Searle‘s thesis is that collective intentionality can neither be reduced to individual intentionality nor be simply described as individual intentionality with some additional properties. Rather – this is Searle’s thesis – it is an entirely different thing. I will call this the strong variant of the theory of collective intentionality. A weak variant of the theory is supported by the Finnish philosopher Raimo Tuomela24. According to Tuomela, human beings obviously act by including other human beings in their plans of action. This means that they somehow take them and their responses into account. Tuomela’s position is more complex and therefore better captures some facts of reality. It distinguishes between three different notions of collective intentionality that have a specific relationship with their goals: 1. Objectives shared accidentally; 2. Objectives shared intentionally; 3. The objective of a collective. Cf. in particular, John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (New York: Free Press, 1995) and his Making the Social World: the Structure of Human Civilization (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.) For a weaker version of collective intentionality, which I will refer to repeatedly throughout the article, see Raimo Tuomela, The Philosophy of Social Practices: a Collective Acceptance View (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 23 John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, p. 23 ff. 24 Raimo Tuomela, The Philosophy of Social Practices : a Collective Acceptance View, p. 19. 22


The first one is obviously the weakest. This is the case, for example, of people at the movie theater when a fire breaks out. Everyone will predictably try to reach the exit as fast as possible. Therefore, everyone shares a goal in that precise moment. However, they do not share it by choice, but rather as a result of a series of things that determine their behaviour. In addition to sharing a specific goal (to do whatever it takes to exit as fast as possible), the people involved in the fire situation are also aware that to escape is, indeed, a shared goal. That is, they know that everyone who is in that situation – unless they have individual and specific reasons – will be willing to quickly run away; they know that others will do the same and thus organize their choices accordingly. The second option is more challenging. It implies that those who share a certain goal do so intentionally, but it also means that they have not shared a plan to achieve the common objective. It is as if, once the objective is shared, the subjects had not shared a plan to achieve it. The idea is that the goal is shared, but the actions and plans of action designed to achieve such a goal are not shared because people could not or did not want to. In this situation, the commitment toward the common goal is, clearly, quite weak. There is only the subjects’ intention, expressed or suspected, but there is no commitment as to how to realize this intention. This creates a significant degree of uncertainty regarding the possibility to realistically achieve the common goal. I think it is reasonable to ask whether this kind of intentional collective action involves any degree of commitment, as Tuomela suggested.25 Indeed, a commitment concerning the intentions already implies collective intentionality. And this is true even if no action is performed in order to finalize the goal. I will return to this later. Lastly, Tuomela’s third form of collective action concerns those actions that do not only imply the identification of a shared objective, but also the identification of the actions necessary to achieve it. In this specific type of action, people work closely together in order to achieve the goal that they jointly established. This type of collective action can obviously be structured in many different ways. For example, the goal can be shared by few or many people, by people who are only gathered because of the objective or, vice versa, by people who share other and more important goals, and so on. These actions are clear and distinctive because they imply both the subjects’ voluntary stance and the embodiment of this stance in a number of specific actions. The theoretical precondition that allows Tuomela to speak in all three cases of basic taxonomy of collective actions, as I have already mentioned, is the idea that: (a) people do not only have beliefs; but (b) usually tend to share them and choose the most advantageous option. If I am in the midst of a fire and decide to exit as fast as I can, I expect whoever is in the same situation: (i) to have beliefs about the fire and how to save herself; (ii) to plan actions and solutions similar to mine and, lastly, (iii) to choose to implement these solutions. Now, in this example, some Ibid., p. 20.



obvious external reasons suggest that, indeed, things could go this way and that all subjects would potentially act predictably, at least when choosing the objective (to save themselves). As we know, living beings base their choices on the survival instinct, that is, a primary biological instinct. These choices are therefore usually easy to predict. This presupposition is confirmed by reality as long as there are practical or normative constraints external to the subject that are quite strong and difficult to overcome. When this does not happen and the situation is like 1 or 2, it is not infrequent that the shared objectives remain unfulfilled, causing one to even doubt the fact that this was a collective action based on a collective intention. In other words, the interesting cases to test the idea of a collective or plural intentionality are those where the outside world does not “force” the subjects to cooperate by applying constraints of some kind – be they biological, normative or cultural. Obviously, these cases exist and have been studied. The biologist Garrett Hardin26 proposed one of the most interesting ones.

Collective Actions and Commons In seventeenth century England, “open” fields – i.e. fields available to public and shared management – were widespread. Peasants, who lived on the edge of the poverty line, had at least the opportunity to work the land, thus gaining sustenance for themselves and their families. Overall, the situation was far from prosperous, because the overall wealth was very little. Survival was probably guaranteed, but there was not much else to hope for. Between 1700 and 1810, the British Parliament emanated a series of ‚enclosure acts‘ that forced to enclose open fields and common lands. This generated two main consequences: it determined a concentration of land in the hands of the richest owners, namely those who could afford to bear the costs of the enclosures, and an increase in productivity. Interpretations of this dramatic change have often been contrasting: on the one hand, those in favor of enclosures claimed that this was the only way to increase the overall productivity of the state and, therefore, to increase the wealth of the country. Conversely, detractors have argued that enclosures marked the beginning of the institution of private property and liberal policies. In The Tragedy of The Commons Hardin engages with an issue that touches only briefly on commons, and that is rather related to the problem of overpopulation of the planet. Is there a way, a technical solution – Hardin wonders – so that overpopulation will not lead to the collapse of the earth? The answer is “no”, in the sense that any solution we might imagine will be nothing more than a temporary solution. Producing more food will result in an increase in population that will in turn oblige us to produce more food, in an unstoppable crescendo. 26

See Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”, in Science, 162 (1968), 1228–48.


To support his thesis, Hardin uses a number of targeted examples, all of which have an underlying leitmotif: it is utopian to hope that common property will be managed, by those who use it, with the same caution with which they would manage their own private property. But what are commons and how do they work? Hardin does not provide a definition, but he explains it through many examples, extensively analyzing “small” commons. Consider, for example, an unfenced field, or a stretch of sea where fishing is free. Experience shows that the field or stretch of sea will be exploited until total depletion, which is dangerously irreversible. This is precisely what Hardin, with an effective formula, christens ‚the tragedy of the commons‘: it occurs when individuals, who act in independent and rational ways, squander a shared resource, despite knowing that such behavior will go against their own interest. The reason for this is simple: the fear felt by those who make this kind of seemingly counterintuitive choice, is that by doing otherwise they may suffer a double loss. If they acted differently, they might gain less than all the others, who are likely to use the field recklessly. In such situations, therefore, people do not seem to be able to coordinate in order to achieve a collective goal and benefit. Now, whether they are unable to find the salient and rational option or whether, despite having identified it, they decide to act regardless of it, what matters is the result27: the pastures are depleted, the seas plundered of their fish, and the same fate awaits water and oil resources. The moral of the story is very clear: while the individuals are really inadequate to act in a cooperative way to preserve the richness of a common, the only hope to this aim is that an entity including all parts involved in the actions concerning the commons, without reducing to them, may be the actor having the power of taking the necessary decisions for a proper management of the common. What Hardin describes is a typical case of a transgenerational action. We have individuals who act in an independent and rational way, exploiting a shared resource. In the framework proposed by Tuomela, these individuals are supposed to share an intention (namely, a we-intention), which allows all people who share a certain situation to take the right decisions in order to exploit the common at best. Exactly as in the fire example, the people involved in the exploitation of – say – a portion of the sea, are sharing the situation (all of them have access to the exploitation of the resource), the objectives (to fish as much as is necessary to have a good life), and the technical instruments to do so. Nevertheless, even though all the conditions listed by Tuomela seem to be present in our imaginary case, very often people are not collaborative and cooperative – at least, this is often the case in real life. This means that, even though the goals and the intentionality are often collective, the actions in most of the cases remain largely based on individual choices. My view is that the commons testify to the main weakness of the hypothesis of a collective intention driving collective actions: there is no reason why rational objectives and shared Ibid., pp. 1246 – 47.



intentions should necessarily entail that people engage in common and cooperative actions. Rather, the opposite is true. Common actions are just a possible choice between many others. It is now the time to add a third example. In the example we are imagining, people involved in actions have achieved a good level of cooperation, after sharing common activities. The third example is a classical one. People playing something – say, a game or a piece of music – are sharing an objective (indeed, to play a game or a piece of music) and are doing the proper actions in order to achieve those objectives (to win the match or to play a beautiful sonata). What are the differences between these three cases? Or, to put it in other words, why is it that in one case people are supposed to act jointly, while in the other case (that of the commons), they are supposed to act individually? Let us pay attention to the differences.

The differences are in the details It is now the time to ask ourselves why, even if the three cases are so similar, they actually differ. To this aim, I would suggest two steps. Firstly, I would add another case, very similar to the third example: another case of exploitation of a common. Secondly, I would propose a comparison, trying to clarify the reasons why most examples show cases in which the collective intention fails to obtain its objectives. I will call this last case the good management of the commons. In Norway, as is well known, oil is one of the most important national resources. The “Government Petroleum Fund” is a sovereign fund set up by the Norwegian government in 1990. The purpose of the fund was to invest part of the profit coming from the extraction of oil. In 2006 it changed its name and status, becoming the “Government Pension Fund Global.” It consists of a deposit in Norwegian kroner run by the Bank of Norway on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, with the aim of ensuring that “a reasonable portion of the country’s petroleum wealth benefits future generations.”28 The reasoning behind this operation is very simple: the fund aims to be a sort of piggy bank in which to set aside the surplus proceeds from the sale of oil. The bank, in the intention of the legislature, maintains and produces new financial resources that the state is committed to providing for future generations. Oil, unlike pastures or fishing resources, is bound to run out. For this reason the state has decided to make part of the wealth produced by the exploitation of that common good renewable, and thus accessible to future generations that will no longer have oil. This is an exemplary case that seems to confirm Hardin‘s thesis: the public institution not only regulates the management of the common good, but it also finely programs a way to reconstitute its value, although in a different form. 28

In Ethical Guidelines for the Government Pension Fund-Global, 22 December 2005, on


We are now facing a very simple question: why is it that Hardin’s example ends up in disaster while Norway’s case is, in a way, a wonderful paradox? The case of people facing a fire seems to show that, in a very particular way, people are able to act establishing a kind of cooperation. This seems also true in the case of people playing a game. So the point is: why do people seem able to act together when playing a game or escaping a fire, but apparently fail to exploit a common resource? My view is that in all the positive cases the context is rather peculiar: first of all, there is a very strong constraint, external to the will of the subjects (think of the fire and Norway’s government). Moreover, in both good cases, there is a power (natural or normative) that is external to the subjects and makes the difference. This means that collective intentionality, supposing it really exists, in most cases has no real influence on the choices of the subjects acting in a certain way. Subjects surely have both the disposition and the ability to be cooperative when needed. However, the point is that this disposition is contrary and equivalent to the disposition to act individually. It is a matter of choice (and often of advantage) to choose to be individualists or not. At the end of the day, in fact, the only way to win a football match is to think of oneself as a part of a team, which means thinking of a strategy involving all players, rather than acting as a single player. The role of the others – as co-players and as opponents – is impossible to bypass especially if one aims to win the game. The question at this point is the following: are we sure that, in the case described by Hardin, people are sharing a collective intention which is concretized in a collective aim? If this is the case, what is the aim that is shared? It is impossible to affirm that it is the will to exploit the common natural resources in a sustainable way. However, this is precisely a case in which cooperation is needed in order to find a good balance between private and public interest. But people, at least in most circumstances, do not have the intention of exploiting the commons for public advantage. The case of the Norway’s oil shows a different end precisely because the public good is managed not by individuals but by an institution, Norway’s government and, in the long run, the State. Those institutions may choose public over private advantage, considering the fact that their decisions as well as their acts will be judged in the light of the chain of consequences they have over time. At this point of the argument one may conclude as follows: it is a matter of fact that people have the disposition to act and think together, but it is another matter of fact that people, generally speaking, have the disposition to get a certain advantage from the situation in which they find themselves. This means that, in most cases, they simply do not intend to be involved in cooperative actions. This is why normativity, declined in different forms, is not a choice, but the real precondition of every large social community that aims to live together for a long time.


A final remark about the State Concerned by the fate of future generations in the face of the vital challenges of the next millennium, conscious that […] the very existence of human kind and his environment are threatened, […] Determined to […] hand on a better world to future generations […] whose fate depends to a great extent on decisions and actions taken today […] Convinced that there is a moral obligation [whose fate ] depends to a great extent on decision and actors taken today […] Convinced that there is a moral obligation to formulate behavioural guidelines for the present generations [so that] … the needs and interests of […] future generations are fully safeguarded […] Each generation inheriting the Earth temporarily should [have the responsibility to bequeath it to future generations], take care to use natural resources reasonably and ensure that life is not prejudiced by harmful modifications of the ecosystems […] and should preserve […] the quality and integrity of the environment.

This is a Declaration on the Responsibility of the Present Generation towards Future Generations adopted by UNESCO in 1997. This declaration is particularly important because it shows very well how institutions address the problem of the relationship between generations. At this stage I would like to make some final remarks on the rule and function of the State as regards transgenerational actions. My view is that every complex society, whose members aim at living together for a long time, must reflect on this point. The case discussed by Hardin shows how the kind of actions requiring cooperation between people involved may not be guided exclusively by the intentions of the people involved. This is why there is no guarantee that people asked to act will decide for the best option, that is, for public utility. A provisional analysis of transgenerational actions includes at least two main types: 1. Those actions that cannot be completely accomplished by people who chose them, but require other people, belonging to different generations, to be completed; 2. Those actions implying a regular and substantial diminution or alteration of a common, that is, of a good whose propriety rests upon a society for a long period of time.29 The actions of type 1 and 2 exhibit similar properties. They both have a long duration over time, and both involve a number of different agents performing the action or a part of it, at some point in time. These two types of actions imply transgenerationality in two different ways. 29

Commons were firstly conceived as a tertium genius between public and private property. It is very interesting to look at the definition of commons proposed by an Italian commission, the Rodotà Commission, which in 2008 received the task of reshaping the discipline of the public goods as stated by the Italian Civil Code, which dated back to 1942. The definition is the following: “Commons produce utility that is functional to the exercise of fundamental rights and the free development of individuals. Therefore, the law must guarantee in all cases that they are enjoyed collectively, directly and by all, including future generations”.


Type 1 requires transgenerationality because these actions imply the trust that people who never decided for them will carry them out anyway, assuming that the decision is the right one. This trust is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the existence of these actions. It is interesting to note that this trust is based upon a prevision; namely, the prevision of a certain behaviour on the part of people that do not yet exist. If the prevision does not have a good possibility to be realized, the actions depending on that prevision would never possible, or would never have a positive conclusion. As for the second type of actions (2), that requiring a regular and substantial exploitation of the commons, transgenerationality is not a necessary condition for the accomplishment of the action, but it is a criterion of the normativity accompanying these actions. The case made by Hardin paradigmatically describes this group of actions. To sum up: while in the first case (1) transgenerationality is a “condition” for the action, in the second case (2), transgenerationality must be considered as the reference for the normativity accompanying some actions, as has been gradually recognised by the laws and constitutions of many states. In Germany, for example, with the revision of the Federal Court in 1994, it was added that “the state, also in its responsibility for future generations, protects natural resources” (article 20a).30 One can also note that, in the first case, transgenerationality goes together with the trust of people in the fact that transgenerationality itself will be effective over time. This point makes a great difference, which is very remarkable in the perspective of metaphysics as well as in that of practical consequences. As for the metaphysical implications, one should consider the subjects of transgenerational actions. What is a generation? How can it be past, present and future? Who belongs to a given generation? Each of these questions constitutes a compelling metaphysical problem, which is ever more compelling from the perspective of law. In the juridical framework, in fact, only where there is a subject is there a right. But what kind of subject is a generation? Namely, if it is possible to define in some way what a generation is and how it is composed, it is very clear that the adjective “future” makes things quite complicated. How it is possible that a non-existing object can be the subject of something, for example, of rights?31 My take is that it is the action itself, that is, this particular type of action that brings into life a new subject: the future generation. This is also a new type of entity, whose nature needs to be investigated. In a few words, the subject – that is, the “future generation” – is something constructed by people and institutions referring to it through their practices. For an overview of the international laws regarding this matter, cf. Protecting Future Generations Through Commons, vol. 26, ed. S. Bailey, G. Farrell, U. Mattei (Paris: Council of Europe, 2013). 31 A preliminary reflection on this can be found in Michele Spanò, “Who is the subject for future generations? An essay in genealogy”, in Protecting Future Generations Through Commons, 45–60. 30


The most evident implication is that concerning the institutions’ ability to not preserve transgenerationality as well as the set of rights connected to it. Most of the present forms of protection of transgenerationality are based on the idea that the concern for the future generation is a form of – we may say – over-generosity toward still non-existing people. This is the reason why most of the references to transgenerationality produce negative definitions. In fact, these definitions focus on needs rather than aspirations, projects and wishes. They essentially limit themselves to the notion that one should avoid dangerous excess that would significantly affect the actions of future generations. However, quite evidently, this is just half of the story. The other half concerns the fact that, in our very complex societies, the present generations presume the fact that the future generations will carry on some of its actions; this means that for some of our actions we take the will of future generations for granted. As far as I can see, the conclusion follows necessarily: if we assume that transgenerationality is a necessary condition to define some of the actions performed by individuals, institutions and states, then we have to conclude that states, and institutions in general, must guarantee that the consequences of transgenerationality (at least the foreseeable ones) are carefully considered along with the rights of future generations.

References Abrams, Philip. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State (1977).” Journal of Historical Sociology 1, 1 (1988), 58–89. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6443.1988.tb00004.x. Anscombe, G. E. M. 1957. Intention. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1957. Bailey, Saki, Gilda Farrell, Ugo Mattei (eds.). Protecting Future Generations Trought Commons. Vol. 26, Trends in Social Coesion. Paris: Council of Europe, 2013. Danto, Arthur C. 1965. “Basic Actions”. In American Philosophical Quarterly 2, 2 (1965), 141–148. Danto, Arthur C. Analytical Philosophy of Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Davidson, Donald. Essays on Actions and Events. 2nd ed. Oxford /New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Ferraris, Maurizio. Documentality: Why it Is Necessary to Leave Traces. Translated by Richard Davies. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. Frankfurt, Harry G. „The Problem of Action”, in American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1978). Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons”, in Science, 162 (1968), 1228–48. Hegel, G. W. F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. by Pauline Phemister (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Mannheim, Karl. Essays on sociology and social psychology. London: Routledge & Paul, 1953.


Moya, Carlos J. The Philosophy of Action : an Introduction. Oxford: Polity Press, 1990. Robinson, Edward H. “A Documentary Theory of States and Their Existence as Quasi-Abstract Entities”, in Geopolitics, 19, 3 (2014), 461–89. Schmitt, Carl. Land and sea: a world-historical meditation. Translated by Samuel Garrett Zeitlin. Candor, New York: Telos Press Publishing, 2015. Schmitt, Carl. The concept of the political. Expanded ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995. Searle, John R. Making the Social World : the Structure of Human Civilization. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Smith, Barry. “How to do Things with Documents”. Rivista di Estetica 52, 2 (2012), 179– 198. Stoffel, Markus, Michelle Bollschweiler, David R. Butler, and Brian H. Luckman (eds.). Tree Rings and Natural Hazards. A State-of-Art, Advances in Global Change Research. Springer Netherlands, 2010. Tuomela, Raimo. The philosophy of social practices: a collective acceptance view. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Ziv, A. Konzelmann and H.B. Schmidt (eds.). Institutions, Emotions, and Group Agents: Contributions to Social Ontology. Springer: Dordrecht, 2014.


Part III Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind

Here Comes the Sun – New Realism’s Theory of Perception and the Speck-Star-Problem1 Markus Gabriel

It should not come as a surprise that New Realism, among other things, draws on the notion of “realism” operative in accounts of perception. Traditionally, a realist account of perception is associated with the idea that perception is a dual relation that holds between the object(s) of perception and a perceiver. The realist maintains that there is no third term involved in that dual relation of perception. Such a third term, according to the realist, would make it evidently hard to see how the dual relation of perception could ever be instantiated. In any event, the realist denies that the dual relation enters the picture in the form of an interface between ‘mind and world’, to use Putnam’s term.2 For this reason, she believes to be fully entitled to claim that we can perceive things as they are in themselves without any further ado. All we need to do to achieve the epistemically privileged (knowledge yielding) state of perception is to stand in the perceptual dual relation to a perceivable object. According to the realist, to perceive just is a way of being in touch with how things really are.3 In what follows, I will mostly assume that realism is the right view. As I highlight some of its features, I will, of course, also give arguments in its favor. These arguments are mostly negative in that they argue against the family of views opposed to realism about perception. This way of proceeding is natural, because every theory of perception needs to give an account of the aspects of perception that have misled (and mislead) many philosophers and scientists alike into holding the opposite view. This paper is an outcome of conversations with Marius Bartmann, Jocelyn Benoist, Tyler Burge, Alexander Kanev, Jens Rometsch and Charles Travis which took place at the International Center for Philosophy at the University of Bonn as well as in Paris roughly over the last five years. Thanks to them for stimulating my philosophical imagination concerning the topic of perception. Almost needless to say, I am solely responsible for the claims defended in this paper. 2 See prominently Hilary Putnam, The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). 3 The most unabashed recent expression of a realist sentiment with respect to perception can be found in John Searle, Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception (Oxford: University Press, 2015). 1


There is an argument scheme I want to critically scrutinize in what follows. This argument scheme is a common factor in all maneuvers trying to circumvent perceptual realism or to make it look like a substantial thesis in need of defense in light of alleged empirical (or worse transcendental, “armchair”) facts. Given that the argument scheme plays an important role in motivating phenomenological accounts of perception, we can simply label it the phenomenological argument. In its crudest form, it goes like this: when I am in a position to perceive a table, say by seeing it, what I actually literally see is not a table but rather always only one side of the table. Of course, I can move around the table so that I get to see the other table sides. This activity of gathering evidence inductively supports the claim that there actually is a table. Perceptual knowledge is, thus, allegedly not based on perception, but rather on induction based on perception.4 On this construal, what I see when I come to know on the basis of perception that there is a table, is not the table, but a glimpse of the table. In addition to this alleged fact, a given table glimpse is present in my subjective visual field to the detriment of other table glimpses. A table glimpse throws its shadow over alternative glimpses. It is an adumbration (Abschattung). This familiar story amounts to a denial of the possibility of perceptual knowledge in the sense to be vindicated by perceptual realism. In effect, the phenomenological argument seeks to establish that perceptual knowledge is just ordinary empirical knowledge based on glimpses. To know that there is a table in front of me does not categorically differ from any other empirical theory. Historically, this train of thought is entrenched in the Kantian tradition to the extent to which Kant himself makes use of two notions of “experience”, one close to perceptual experience and the other one picking out the activity of being in a position to claim knowledge on the basis of various perceptual episodes. The phenomenological argument can be regarded as an attempt to both make room for an interface (glimpses) and to entitle our claims to perceptual knowledge by interpreting them in terms of empirical knowledge grounded in glimpses. In so doing, it locates perceptual knowledge on the wrong level of perception. For it does not really tell us how we could possibly ever know something by perceiving something. Thus, it threatens to undercut the factivity link between perception and the object perceived. By “the factivity link” I mean the familiar notion that the fact that someone, say Otto, perceives something, say a car, entails that there is a car. If someone perceives something or something to be the case, we are therefore typically entitled to draw a conclusion about how things are regardless of how anyone takes them to be. Husserl sometimes literally commits to perception as an instance of induction. See, for instance, Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), § 9.



The phenomenological argument at most offers an account of how we can know something about objects of perception, despite the fact that perception itself does never alone provide us with the relevant knowledge. It is, thus, no coincidence that phenomenology runs into problems with animal perception, as it construes perceptual knowledge as a rational, theoretical achievement that many would not want to ascribe to unsophisticated animals like insects or other mammals. What is worse, it also makes it hard to understand how human infants could ever come into the position of perceptual knowledge given that qua infants they are presumably not yet in the position to construct theories that synthesize their glimpses into glimpses of an objective reality. To be sure, there are various attempts in the phenomenological tradition to deal with these problems. Yet, as a realist I believe that we should block the road to these stories if an alternative is available that makes sense of perceptual knowledge without transforming it into a case of ordinary empirical knowledge, knowledge merely drawing on perception from the outside, as it were. In what follows, I will first outline a train of thought which prima facie lends support to the phenomenological argument. However, I will argue that the introduction of an interface in this context is not warranted. I will then present a view I call the conditional theory of perception. The conditional theory analyses tokens of perception into necessary and jointly sufficient conditions. In this context, physical objects, sensu stricto, play the role of necessary conditions of perception. However, they are not sufficient, as they generate perceptual illusions that perceivers can easily mistake for the real deal (the object of perception).

I. The Speck-Star-Problem In the wake of the long-expected publication of Kripke’s Locke Lectures, there is space for a resurgence of classical discussion about perception made prominent by a debate between Austin and Ayer.5 The case which motivates discussion concerns the speck-star-problem, as I want to call it. The problem is the following: if I and a friend look up at a clear starry night sky, I might have an occasion to refer to a given star as a speck in the sky. After all, there is a white dot in my subjective visual field.6 We moderns are accustomed to identifying the white dot with a See Saul Kripke, Reference and Existence. The John Locke Lectures (Oxford: University Press, 2013), Lecture IV. 6 By “subjective visual field” I mean the things I perceive right now from my spatiotemporal location in contrast to the things you perceive right now from your spatiotemporal location. The set of things in my field and the set of things in your field can, of course, overlap. We can perceive the same things. However, the two sets can never be identical. It is not built into this notion that a subjective visual field is in someone’s head or someone’s mind, (whatever that would mean). 5


star under suitable circumstances. What we do when we identify a given speck with a given star presupposes a lot of background knowledge widespread among educated modern people. Minimally, most people nowadays believe the truth that most of the white dots we see at the night sky are suns, i. e. physical objects of an impressive size when compared to the familiar sublunary mesoscopic visible objects we humans have been dealing with for hundreds of thousands of years. The speck-star problem points out that there is a problematic aspect to the scientifically grounded identification of a given speck with a given star. For the speck has different properties than the star. The speck grows larger, as I approach it (well, we cannot actually undergo this experience, as the stars are too far away for us to approach them in such a way that we witness the growth of a star-speck); we can cover up the speck with bare hands under many circumstances, but we could not cover up the star with our bare hands under any circumstance. If we ever came sufficiently close to a given star, we would notice this fact. This is something we can be certain about thanks to modern astrophysical knowledge. Compare this to the similar situation in the table case. The table part, turned into a glimpse by the phenomenological argument, has different properties than the table itself. So how could we ever identify the table with the table part experienced as a glimpse? Austin rightly points out that it is not a good idea to think of the speck as of a representation of a star.7 The speck does not represent the star in the sense that it would be about the star. The speck is not a case of semantic content, a way of representing a star as being such-and-so. For one thing, the speck, insofar as it appears in my subjective visual field, but not yours, is an object to which we can ascribe properties. I can truly say, for instance, of one speck that it is bigger than another one or that its light is more intense. I thereby represent the speck as being in a certain way. The representation of the speck as being in a certain way is not such that the speck thereby can be treated as a representation of a star. How could the speck ever be the representation of a star? One prominent way of trying to make sense of this option is to push the speck into perceptual consciousness. On this model, the speck is in my mind and serves as an interface between the star and me. The speck on this construal is a mental representation of the star. However, this immediately creates the problem that all objects within my visual subjective field are in my mind and serve the function of an interface. My visual field then is not at all a glimpse of an objective reality, but rather a mental representation of an objective reality (this is one way of generating a veil of appearances). But how could I ever establish contact with the objective reality by way of such a mental representation? The mental representation all by itself does not do it, which is why humanity has been wrong about stars for the longest stretch of its intellectual career. Only very recently did we figure out that there really are stars in the sense of certain physical objects. Aristotle did not know Austin qtd. in Kripke, Reference and Existence, p. 93.



that stars were anything like they actually are, which is why he could, for instance, believe that they were moved by some kind of soul and so forth, not even to mention the entire history of human mythological consciousness (astrology). At this point, the phenomenologist could resort to causation and claim that the speck is a representation of the star by being a trace imprinted in the human mind by certain physical processes. The star causes a speck in the subjective visual field of human perceivers. The speck represents a star in the same sense in which a footprint on the moon represents an astronaut’s presence on the moon. Yet, this is not an account of mental representation at all that without further ado could play the role of serving as a ground for empirical knowledge claims. In order to see why this is the case, compare the phenomenological situation to an ordinary situation where we actually read a footprint as a representation of a fact. If a hunter sees a deer’s footprint and recognizes it as such, he does not thereby first see a mental footprint as a representation of a footprint. Rather, he directly sees a footprint and establishes an epistemically relevant tie to a past deer presence at the location on the ground of his knowledge of a causal connection between deer, their habitat, properties of the soil, and so forth. Ordinary footprints are not mental footprints. If perception only drew on mental footprints we could not ever be in a position to know that there are causal links between those footprints and what caused them. We simply need independent access to the causes of mental representations in order to have an account of mental representations as caused. But how could such independent access not be perceptual in turn? It is hard to convince oneself of the view that we have non-empirical access to the causes of our perceptual, conscious mental representations. But this is what the phenomenologist needs if she wants to make the causal account of mental representation work at all. Even if she could pull this off, it would put her in a position where she claims direct, non-interface, access to things in themselves qua causes of mental representations. At this point, anyone not already submerged in the activity of fleshing out a full-fledged phenomenology of perception as a consequence of the phenomenological argument will be entitled to an argument by simplicity. If direct access to things in themselves is inevitable, why defer it to such a late stage in the argument? Why not work out an alternative theory that locates the direct access on the level of perception rather than on the level of a theory of perception? In any event, it seems odd to believe that we can really, only perceive objects on the basis of mental footprints that can barely play the role of evidence in the contexts of explicit knowledge claims concerning causation. Elsewhere, I sketched a general argument from facticity.8 The upshot of that argument is that we inevitably have to accept absolute facts, where an absolute fact is one that would have been obtained anyway, i.e. had no one ever noticed. If 8

Markus Gabriel, “Neutral Realism”, The Monist 98, 2 (2015).


this is generally the case, why would facticity only enter the picture in an account of how we come to know how things are in our environment at a late stage? The argument from facticity supports any maneuver that is capable of crediting the earliest stage in such an account with the relevant contact with reality. Given that perception is the concept originally introduced in order to do exactly that job, we are warranted in postulating direct perceptual realism as a condition of adequacy for further theorizing.

II. New Realism about Perception Before I can outline New Realism’s take on the speck-star-problem, I need to rehearse some of its fundamental tenets. My own contribution to the debates surrounding New Realism assumes the shape of the ontology of fields of sense.9 A field of sense (FOS) is a domain of objects individuated by the rules that govern membership in a domain. These rules are not generally the rules of a set theory, which is why field-membership differs from set-membership. We are warranted in believing that there is a plurality of FOS on the basis of our pre-ontological understanding of how things are and what things there are: there are fingernails, snails, atomic numbers, the past, presidents, neurons, perceptions, thoughts, artworks, cities in Israel, and so forth. Whoever knows something about these things, knows that they are such and so and that this involves other things being similar or different in the same context. The ontology of fields of sense on this ground argues that to exist means to appear in a FOS. This means that what there is, is part of a context, where the limits of the context are largely, modally robust. This means that we discover that they are a certain way and do not make it generally the case that things are a certain way by being around or by noticing that they are a certain way. Truth and holding for true conceptually come apart, as do reality and what we believe it to be. The view I have been defending is thus both a form of ontological realism and ontological pluralism. The fundamental reason for being an ontological pluralist is the fact that there actually is a plurality of domains. This fact is reflected in the constitutive impossibility of an all-encompassing FOS and the associated impossibility of a complete metaphysics, i.e. a theory of absolutely everything which (really) exists. This allows me to claim, for instance, that hands really exist despite the fact that there would have been no hands if subatomic particles had not been arranged in a certain way. The facts about subatomic particles and the facts about hands overlap in a field of sense, but it is not the case that the facts about hands are nothing other than facts about subatomic particles. We cannot even usefully reduce hand facts For details see Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: University Press, 2015).



to physical facts, as this would require too much information-processing, could it even be carried out in principle (which I would also deny). This overall ontological background picture, with which I am operating, can be applied to the problem at hand (the speck-star-problem) by looking at perception in the following way: any token of perception (any actual perception) is a case of an overlap of various FOS. There will be necessary physical conditions (such as electromagnetic waves), necessary, biological conditions (retinas, eardrums, taste buds, etc.), but also, of course, distal objects (which are not necessary for all tokens of perception) outside of one’s body, etc. Actual perception is, among other things, an event in the natural world where various natural FOS overlap, such as the FOS captured by quantum theory and the FOS captured by neurobiology. Currently, we are not justified by scientific evidence in believing that the neurobiological FOS and the physical FOS are identical. We are not even justified in believing that the neurobiological is nothing but the physical on the ground of available evidence. Metaphysical claims of this sort cannot be derived from natural science without philosophical interpretation, where the philosophical interpretation actually almost does the entire work. In addition to the necessary, natural condition of perception, conscious perception in humans (what we are interested in here) involves objects belonging to various FOS picked out by our mentalistic vocabulary. In the context of any philosophical account of conscious human perception, mentalistic vocabulary is indispensable, as we also want to make sense of the case of full-blown successful human adult conscious perception, and not just of a reduced kind of perception. In the natural sciences dealing with perception, typically a truncated notion of perception is at play due to the conceptual restrictions of the disciplines. The neurobiologist is in no position to operate as a theoretical physicist alone. Hence, whatever she does in figuring out how perception works, will be restricted to the FOS of neurobiology. Yet, perception as a neurobiological phenomenon is not identical to perception as such. Actually, there is no such thing as a perception token which is anything like perception as it is characterized in neurobiology. Neurobiology has to give a truncated, reduced account of what perception is, as it really does not deal with perception as such, but rather with some of its natural, necessary conditions. We cannot figure perception out by any combination of natural, scientific methods, as there is an irreducible and indispensable level of description on which we simply have to make use of our mentalistic vocabulary handed down to us by our most sophisticated ancestors.10 This is a sense in which the ontology of fields of sense is in sync with a fundamental assumption from the phenomenological tradition. We cannot and need not escape our quotidian way of making sense of human perception 10

On this see Markus Gabriel, I am Not a Brain: Philosophy of Mind for the 21st Century, trans. Christopher Turner (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017) and Neo-Existentialism. Conceiving the Mind After Naturalism’s Failures (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018).


which presupposes that a proper subset of our mentalistic vocabulary refers to nonnatural entities, i.e. to objects not belonging to the domain under investigation by any ensemble of the natural sciences.11 However, this does not, of course, rule out that we draw on insight from the natural, scientific study of human perception when addressing philosophical riddles such as the speck-star-problem. In this context, I propose the following way of looking at the problem. The speck is a perceptual illusion. Like notorious examples (think of the MüllerLyer-illusion), the illusion is unamendable.12 We can come to know why the illusion is unamendable by studying the causal webs that intersect on the level of the natural kind of tokens involved in human perception. The electromagnetic field of the sun, for instance, is part of an explanation of its radiation. We pick up that radiation by interacting with that field. Our photoreceptors literally belong to the same field. They are in the field of the sun. The sun is not elsewhere (up there in the sky, in the center of our solar system, or what have you). It is partially here, where we perceive it in the form of daylight. Yet, the sun together with the natural conditions of human perception generates a perceptual illusion in the universe itself. The speck is, thus, an objectively existing image, as Bergson calls this in Matter and Memory13, an idea arguably picked up by Russell’s account of objectively existing images in The Analysis of Mind.14 There, thus, really is a speck. We can point it out and expect that other members of our species of observers (typically humans, but probably other mammals too) undergo a similar experience. However, the speck is not the object of perception. It is an optical illusion accompanying visual, conscious perception in humans. The speck is ontologically like a mirage. It does not represent things as being such that there is a speck. It also does not represent things as being such that there is a star. It does not represent anything unless one wants to go so far as to call the fact that it is the outcome of certain processes governed by physical, optical, biological, psychological laws, a representation of something or other. Of course, we are in a position to know that there is a star on the basis of our perception. We can also learn something about the star by studying the speck. It is in the nature of the star to be involved in a causal web which contributes to there For a discussion between the ontology of fields of sense and phenomenology see Peter Gaitsch, Sandra Lehmann, and Philipp Schmidt, Eine Diskussion mit Markus Gabriel (Wien: Turia + Kant Verlag, 2017). 12 This is where I agree with Maurizio Ferraris who, on the basis of this feature of perception, tries to generalize to a general realistic outlook. See Maurizio Ferraris, Il mondo esterno (Milan: Bompiani, 2001); id., Manifesto of New Realism, trans. Sarah De Sanctis (Albany, NY: Suny Press, 2014); id., Documentality: Why it is Necessary to Leave Traces, trans. Richard Davies (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013). 13 Cf. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1991). 14 Cf. Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1921). 11


being a speck in the subjective, visual field of some humans or other. This just means that someone can have the perceptual, conscious experience she might voice by saying that she sees a speck in the sky. The speck is not a representation of a star. However, it can serve as evidence in a case study of what the star is. This is what astrophysicists rely on when they figure out how the experienceable brightness of a speck relates to something which actually happens on the level of the star itself. Our conscious, perceptual experience is part of the universe. It is woven into various causal webs. By studying the causal webs themselves we come to know many things without thereby having to consciously experience the objects or facts we figure out in a weird way. What I have in mind here is this: our conscious, perceptual experience needs not change for it to put us in epistemic touch with how things really are “in the mind-independent world”. It already is guaranteed to be such that we are in epistemic touch with how things really are. Evidently, in order to be in epistemic touch with how things really are, we cannot be required to be infallible by knowing everything there is to know about what it is to be in epistemic touch.15 As is well known, it is an erroneous principle to assume that for one to know something one needs to know of all conditions of one’s knowledge that they are satisfied.16 To be in touch with how things are means to be ignorant of many conditions that make our epistemic contact possible. In the context of perception, our constitutive fallibility cashes out in the following way. The conditions for our perceiving the sun, say, involve a huge array of physical facts (ultimately the entire observable universe). They also include neurobiological, psychological facts as well as the presence of conceptual capacities in humans actualized in any token of adult human, conscious perception. No one will ever be able to comprehensively characterize even a single episode of a perceptual token in such a way that all necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for this episode to take place can be explicitly stated. For this reason, everyone has to have a simplifying theory of perception, as soon as we try to answer the question what various, perceptual episodes have in common so as to be tokens of a type (say,: vision). We cannot avoid fallible theorizing about perception. Of course, this does not mean that perception itself is some kind of theorizing. The reality of perception is complex beyond fine-grained human conceptualization. For instance, there happens to be no pure case of vision which is not also a case of various others sensory modalities being active so as to stabilize the percept in the animal. This complexity goes beyond anything we exhaustively comprehend. However, making sense of our fallibility is at the same time making sense of objectivity. Precisely because we are fallible, we are in a position to know On this see Alexander Kanev, “New Realism, Pluralism and Science”, in New Perspectives on Realism, ed. Luca Taddio (Sesto San Giovanni, Milan: Mimesis International, 2017). 16 For my account of the failure of the iterativity of knowledge see Markus Gabriel, An den Grenzen der Erkenntnistheorie, 2nd. ed. (Freiburg and Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2014). 15


something concerning the kinds of objects about which we are fallible. Fallibility and objectivity are aspects of the same phenomenon, the reality of knowledge acquisition. This is why the sheer infinite complexity of necessary conditions met by any token of perception does not stand in the way of knowledge. On the contrary, it offers us much more to know than we might believe if we stick to the optical illusion in the shape of a speck, a table side, a person’s back, or what have you. Perception as real natural event, as taking place in the universe, presupposes innumerous necessary and jointly sufficient conditions. We can figure out what they are and we have devised disciplines and techniques that do this job for us in a scientific manner. We also have ordinary experience with how things are which helps us get along on the scale of “moderate-sized specimens of dry goods.”17 The details of this are not filled out by the philosophy of perception, I can leave it at that. No doubt, my comments will have provoked in many readers the worry that on this construal perception does not have direct access to its objects after all. If the speck is an optical illusion, how can visual experience ever put us in touch with the object itself, the star? Neither representation nor causation alone will do. Knowledge of causation certainly does put us in epistemic touch with the star itself, but this does not address the issue of the objectivity of perceptual experience. My answer to this is that nothing so far defended requires denial of the claim that the star is the object of perception. The perception is of the star. It cannot be of the speck, as the speck is an optical illusion and the concept of a conceptual illusion is one according to which there is no factivity link between our direct access to the content of the illusion and an object. If I have an experience as if of a speck, this does not immediately entitle me to the claim that there is a speck, just like the experience as if of water on a highway in the middle of nowhere on a hot day in New Mexico does not immediately entitle me to claim that there is water. If I know my highways, I rather refrain from such a claim on the very basis of my perceptual experience as if of water on the highway. Thus, if we want to keep the factivity link for perception at all, we should not say that it holds between a perceptual experience and an optical illusion. Therefore, we are justified in locating the factivity link elsewhere. Given what we know on the basis of perceptual experience, we know that there are stars which are part of our explanation of certain optical illusions in human perceivers (specks and the like). This is why we are fully justified in claiming to know that the object of experience in the speck-star-case just is the star regardless of whether a given perceiver is herself aware of this. This also justifies the attribution of perception to non-linguistic animals, who certainly do not know that there are stars. But this should not mislead us into postulating that they cannot perceive stars let alone into the view that we perceive specks where a dolphin perceives something ineffable 17

John Langshaw Austin, Sense and Sensibilia, ed. Geoffrey James Warnock (Oxford: University Press, 1964).


in any human language and vice versa. For all we know, (and I see no substantial reason to doubt this), there are stars and the stars are the objects of our perception. Given that the optical illusions generated in reality by the presence of certain observers cannot be what grants us representational access to there being stars, they can also not be the objects of perception. To know that such and such is the object of a perception is not the same as perceiving such and such. We perceive innumerous objects without knowing what they really are. We even consciously perceive innumerous objects without knowing what they really are. Let us say there is a certain artifact used by a social group in a country in Asia Donald visits for the first time. Donald knows nothing about Asia and probably does not even know where he is (China or Taiwan, say). The locals call the object 佛像. As Donald stands in front of the 佛像, he perceives a 佛像. It does not matter what happens in his mind, what imagery his experience processes. The correct answer to the question what the object of his perception is, is that it is a 佛像. Notice that the situation need not improve for poor Donald if we tell him that 佛像 in English means Buddha statue. His linguistic and cultural competence concerning the term “Buddha” might simply not be any better than his competence concerning the term 佛 in Chinese. What the object of perception is, is not a function of what the perceivers know it to be. This is a crucial realist assumption about perception. New Realism vindicates this realist platitude by dissociating the optical illusion which is a real ingredient in the fabric of the universe from the object of perception. A speck just is not a star despite the availability of manners of speaking which allow us to navigate our life-world.

References Austin, John Langshaw. Sense and Sensibilia, edited by Geoffrey James Warnock. Oxford: University Press, 1964. Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1991. Ferraris, Maurizio. Manifesto of New Realism. Translated by Sarah De Sanctis. Albany, NY: Suny Press, 2014. — Documentality: Why it is Necessary to Leave Traces. Translated by Richard Davies. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. — Il mondo esterno. Milan: Bompiani, 2001. Gabriel, Markus. I am Not a Brain: Philosophy of Mind for the 21st Century. Translated by Christopher Turner. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2017 (expected date: September 2017). — Neo-Existentialism. Conceiving the Mind After Naturalism’s Failures (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018). — “Neutral Realism”. The Monist 98, 2 (2015): 181–196.


— Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: University Press, 2015. — An den Grenzen der Erkenntnistheorie. 2nd ed. Freiburg and Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2014. Gaitsch, Peter, Sandra Lehmann and Philipp Schmidt. Eine Diskussion mit Markus Gabriel. Wien: Turia + Kant Verlag, 2017. Husserl, Edmund. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970. Kanev, Alexander.“New Realism, Pluralism and Science”. In New Perspectives on Realism, edited by Luca Taddio. Sesto San Giovanni, Milan: Mimesis International, 2017. Kripke, Saul. Reference and Existence. The John Locke Lectures. Oxford: University Press, 2013. Putnam, Hilary. The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Searle, John. Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception. Oxford: University Press, 2015. Russell, Bertrand. The Analysis of Mind. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1921.


What is a Realistic Concept of Reality? Jens Rometsch

Realisms in painting, sculpture, literature, film and philosophy live up to the name of realism by various commitments to reality. Some preliminary grasp of reality, at least, seems to be required for any such commitment. In turn, any such grasp seems to involve some kind of concept of reality – some kind of coherently explicable interpretation of whatever the realism in question is committed to. With respect to a philosophical realism, the requirements for its underlying concept of reality tend to be more specific. This does not imply that philosophical realisms should be expected to give us fully fledged reports about what there really is happening in the world. Since any such report would need substantial empirical evidence to achieve credibility, the philosophical task would involve hopeless evaluations of empirical knowledge claims. Instead, philosophical realisms tend to pronounce themselves as theories about the nature of knowledge. They usually focus around a thesis about the general and formal conditions of producing successful knowledge claims.1 They tend to comprehend their own stance as opposed to other theories deemed as oblivious or ignorant of those very conditions. Usually these other (anti-realistic, constructivist, relativist, post-modern) theories are under suspicion of unreasonably denying unavoidable standards for a concept of reality. However, occasionally the standards that realistic theories can successfully argue for fail to amount to a concept of reality that is essentially different from the one underlying the opposite position. Instead, realistic theories often seem to take a certain picture of reality for granted, a picture that presumably is not shared by the hostile, anti-realistic standpoint. However, not every realistic theory is able to successfully argue for this picture within the framework of its warranted premises. 1

To give at least some examples, I want to mention Michael Dummett’s definition of realism as „a semantic thesis, a thesis about what, in general, renders a statement in the given class true, when it is true” (Michael Dummett, “Realism”, Synthese 52, 1 (1982), p. 55). I should also like to mention Markus Gabriel’s characterization of the common denominator of the various authors whose contribution label under “New Realism”: “Unsere Erkenntnisvermögen und die mit diesen verbundenen Begriffe und Fähigkeiten müssen ebenso real oder wirklich sein wie diejenigen Gegenstände und Tatsachen, die man gemeinhin der Wirklichkeit, der Welt, der Natur oder der Realität zuordnet.” (Markus Gabriel, “Einleitung”, in: Markus Gabriel (Hrsg.) Der Neue Realismus. (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014), S. 8; “our cognitive faculties and the concepts and capacities linked to them must be just as real or actual as those objects and facts that one usually attributes to actuality, the world, nature or reality”).


A mere picture of reality needs to be nothing more than a vague background notion that is hardly ever addressed, let alone thematised. It seems impossible to avoid drawing on some background of this sort, inasmuch as no theoretical stance manages to achieve full transparency about all of its underlying assumptions and implicit conclusions. Nonetheless, ideally, as many portions as possible of the relevant background are to be transposed into a coherent and justifiable framework. Interestingly, when it comes to “reality”, this task finds itself slightly neglected by some philosophical realisms. A closer look reveals that an alleged opponent of a given philosophical realism does not have to share the same picture of reality but can still share the very concept of reality a realistic theory manages to effectively argue for. Even though it is certainly undesirable for any philosophical realism to share its concept of reality with one of its anti-realistic enemies, this observation should not be entirely surprising – after all, no theoretical position (not even a declared anti-realism, if there is such a thing) would want to label itself as unrealistic. Constructivist, relativist, post-modern stances of whatever kind happen to convince themselves of their own capacity to provide the best theoretical or discursive approach for describing what they take to be the reality of matters. This creates all the more reasons for realistic theories to provide carefully, explicit and worked-out concepts of reality that fail to provide shelter to those theoretical stances that realists are well advised to shun. This is what a realistic concept of reality should provide, but it should also (realistically) allow for alternative concepts of reality. The argumentation invested to defend a realistic concept of reality should not immunise itself by pretending to a priori evidence. I suggest to label any such concept of reality as “realistic”, because it takes into account that meaningful concepts and the theories around them are constantly put to the test by reality itself, no matter what concept of reality we choose to apply. I will try to exemplify this outline by looking at a specific concept of reality and the dangers it happens to confront. I take the model presentation of this concept from Paul Boghossian’s inspiring book Fear of Knowledge.2 I will then try to show how the argument unfolded by Boghossian’s presentation only covers a kind of realism that more or less everyone with an intelligible knowledge-theoretical stance should be willing to share. Since it does not reach further, even intelligible solipsists can unreservedly embrace it. I will then try to roughly sketch a concept of reality that intelligible solipsists could not embrace without trouble and spell out why this concept should not claim to have any a priori evidence (even though I take it to be very convincing). Boghossian’s Fear of Knowledge does not directly address the question of how to conceive reality – “reality” does not play a distinct terminological role in the book. However, some reflections quite clearly hint at an underlying concept of Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).



reality, and the over-all outline of the book certainly allows to label its general thesis as realistic. There is a chapter dedicated to the refutal of a stance that Boghossian labels as “fact-constructivism”; we can safely label what he develops in opposition to this stance as “fact-realism”. Here’s how Boghossian defines “factconstructivism”: According to fact-constructivism, it is a necessary truth about any fact that it obtains only because we humans have constructed it in a way that reflects our contingent needs and interests.3

Boghossian elaborates the consequences of this stance by taking a closer look at Nelson Goodman’s ideas about the conventionality of zodiac signs and at Putnam’s example of a world consisting of either three or seven individual objects (depending on how we conventionally count). According to Boghossian, Goodman and Putnam seem to suggest that there is no unconventional matter of fact pertaining to those examples: Whatever description we choose for stellar constellations or, even worse, whatever description we choose for the numeric individuation of objects, we cannot pretend to possess of any other justification than the seemingly correct application of an otherwise arbitrary and replaceable convention. We might concede that everything we describe qualifies for redescription. But for the fact-constructivist, the possibility of redescription entails that all we are ever confronted with cannot reach down to an allegedly factual level. In her view, all we ever have is a bunch of competing descriptions unable to connect with those matters of fact (if there are any) that subsist no matter how we describe them. Against this view, Boghossian contends that even though there might be “many equally true descriptions of the world”4, it is pointless to say that descriptions cannot be about something that in itself is not different from just another description. In order to justifiably presuppose that our competing descriptions are about something, it must be “assumed that there are some basic facts – the basic worldly dough – on which our redescriptive strategies can get to work”5. Boghossian’s secretly pastafarian metaphor of the “worldly dough” seems to suggest that unconventional basic facts should be primarily located in some thoughtexternal reality. But all metaphorical talk aside, Boghossian’s core claim concerns the conditions under which descriptions of reality can successfully count as claims to knowledge: In order for descriptions of any aspect of reality to be about more than just another contingent description (of that very aspect), epistemic access to a distinguishable or identifiable level of what there simply is must be warranted. Reality as such is not to be mistaken for the endless collection of our manifold ways of describing it if our descriptions are to count as truthful descriptions of reality. In Cf. Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism, p. 25. Ibid., p. 37. 5 Ibid., p. 37f. 3 4


order to be subject to any description or belief, reality must include “basic facts”, i.e. discernable things and circumstances with features that subsist independently of how we behave and discern them. Without this inclusion, our beliefs could not be true or false about anything – not even about themselves. I will not examine whether Boghossian’s insinuation about Goodman and Putnam being ignorant or oblivious of this requirement is justified or not. Instead, I will ask whether Boghossian’s insinuation that descriptions require some kind of worldly dough can count as a justifiable result of his own argument. This metaphor and much of Boghossian’s book suggest that Boghossian takes it for granted that the required “basic facts” are those by which we describe a world that is essentially external to our thoughts about it. For example, Boghossian ponders about the “worldly dough” perhaps only consisting of “the space-time manifold, or a distribution of energy, or whatever”.6 I do not want to doubt that “basic facts” of such a nature exist. But Boghossian’s argument does not entail that his “worldly dough” metaphor can only refer to a thought-external reality with the features we learn about from fundamental physics. No consequences about the nature of reality are to be drawn from his argument: His refutation of fact-constructivism only (and I think successfully) maintains that describing reality could not be intelligibly conceived if reality only consisted of the descriptions we make of it. But under that premise, reality could still be reduced to a level of mere thoughts or mental states. Obviously, my thoughts and mental states are a reality to be presupposed in order for me to have a chance of describing them correctly. But that does not oblige me to support the view that a reality external to my thoughts and mental states exists in order to deny fact-constructivism. The one imaginary figure in the history of thought famously denying the existence of a reality external to her thoughts and mental states is of course the solipsist, inspired by Cartesian scepticism.7 It does not matter whether any human being has ever been really convinced of the dogma of solipsism or not; for a great number of psychological and physiological reasons, I have a hard time imagining the actual mindset of a true solipsistic believer. But if solipsism is the conviction that only my own thoughts and mental states exist and nothing else, a solipsist Cf. the following passage: “If our concepts are cutting lines into some basic worldly dough and thus imbuing it with a structure it would not otherwise possess, doesn’t there have to be some worldly dough for them to get to work on, and mustn’t the basic properties of that dough be determined independently of all this fact–constituting activity? This basic dough can be quite spare. Perhaps it is just the space-time manifold, or a distribution of energy, or whatever. Still, must there not be some such basic stuff for this picture even to make sense?” (ibid., p. 35). 7 “quamvis accurate investigem, nondum tamen video ex ea naturae corporeae idea distincta, quam in imagination mea invenio, ullum sumi posse argumentum, quod necessario concludat aliquod corpus existere” (René Descartes, Œuvres de Descartes, 11 Vol., ed. C. Adam and P. Tannery, Paris: Vrin, 1996, AT VII 73; “and despite careful investigation of all these matters, I do not see that this distinct idea of corporeal nature of which I possess in my imagination provides for an argument to conclude with necessity that any body exists”). 6


can easily side with Boghossian and oppose fact-constructivism. All she needs to admit is that the reports she gives about her thoughts and mental states refer to something that she is confronted with independently of whatever specific report she happens to give. Her reports are supposed to be the only ones that possibly exist, which might make them seem incorrigible. But even though nobody else apart from herself could animate the solipsist to correct her reports, she can obviously still correct them herself (if she, for whatever reason, thinks that they do not match her actual findings within her mental realm). I want to argue that no intelligible solipsist could possibly promote factconstructivism as construed by Boghossian, which, in turn means that every intelligible solipsist is bound to be a realist in Boghossian’s sense. Let us, for the sake of the argument, try to imagine a fact-constructivist solipsist. This solipsist is by far more radical than the intelligible solipsist who simply believes that nothing exists apart from her own thoughts and mental states. The intelligible solipsist can simply claim it to be a fact that certain things are on her mind, that she, as a matter of fact, cannot stop herself from thinking along certain lines or from having certain perceptual experiences; her belief that everything she is confronted with does not exist outside of her mind still allows her to accept that her mind presents her with evidence for assuming certain basic facts about what is going on in her mind. In contrast, the fact-constructivist solipsist would have to insist that she disposes with auctorial authority of everything she imagines and thinks in the equally exclusive and all-inclusive internal forum of her mind. Unlike other factconstructivists, this solipsist could not resort to the idea of a convention or of a contingent habit mechanically imposed by the repetition of external impulses in attempting to explain what is going on in her mind. Unlike the intelligible solipsist, she could not be simply confronted with the reality of her mental states and not claim to have constructed that reality down to every little detail. And she could not claim that her mental contents are her constructions without claiming that she must have constructed them knowingly and willingly. If her mental contents were to be considered as matters of a receptive experience, as findings of a certain kind, she could not claim herself as their creator: She would not differ from the intelligible solipsist. Therefore, in order to unite fact-constructivism with solipsism, she has to pretend that she intends everything she grasps and that her grasping of mental contents proves that she must have intended them to present themselves. She would consequently have to confess to radical doxastic voluntarism: Everything a factconstructivist solipsist considers to be true would have to count as a product of her own fancy that she could replace at will by another conviction. No other origin of anything she imagines, thinks or considers to be true than her own arbitrary and voluntary makings would be possible if supposedly nothing exists apart from herself and her auctorial superpowers. Everything that is going on in a fact-constructivist solipsist’s mind is to count as constructed by herself, nothing in her mind is a pure given of which she is not the author. 113

This standpoint obviously runs into irreparable self-contradictions. If the fact-constructivist solipsist considers all the mentioned exclusive auctorial superpowers as a mere matter of fact, she cannot in the same vein ascribe to herself the power to alter or reverse that very fact without thereby no more considering herself to be a fact-constructivist solipsist. Reversing and abolishing the fact of her solitary super-powers would entail the introduction of another source for the reality of her own imaginations, thoughts and convictions than her own fancy. If the fact-constructivist solipsist takes her own standpoint seriously, she would have to exclude that any such alternative source could be introduced, since by her own self-definition, simply no possible origin for such an alternative source exists. Obviously, this admission would cast doubt on the tentative omnipotence of her auctorial super-powers. In the end, a fact-constructivist solipsist would have to maintain that whatever she asserts to be true is only made true by her own assertion. Nothing is going on in her mental theatre unless she orders it – under fact-constructivist solipsist premises, ordering something to happen and asserting it to be the case necessarily boil down to the same process. This stance is not even intelligible anymore, for it cannot account for a difference between truth and error and therefore excludes true belief, and, as a consequence, excludes understanding and knowledge. Any understanding of P relies on an implicit understanding of the conditions under which P could be the case. Therefore, without any means to draw a difference between true and false, between being the case and not being the case, no understanding, not even a merely intuitive or perceptual understanding, seems possible. Any epistemic stance aiming at either true or false beliefs must allow for a difference between true and false beliefs. The fact-constructivist solipsist cannot account for that difference anymore, since everything she asserts to be true (i.e. everything she believes), becomes true only through that very assertion. There is no room for a false belief under fact-constructivist solipsist premises (if she believes something to be false, by her assertion of it, there is no room for that belief to be correct). Without any such room, there can be no true belief in the same sense that is required to claim knowledge under all other premises than those of the fact-constructivist solipsist. The only solipsist stance that is intelligible (although not commendable) is that of the solipsist committed to the idea of never possibly being confronted with anything but her mental content, without believing to construct that content by means of pronouncing beliefs. But more or less, this solipsist takes the same stance as Boghossian’s realism about basic facts. The dough at the bottom of reality as conceived by the intelligible solipsist might not have the same kind of “worldly” associations about it. But the fundamental claim about basic level facts that are not optional and up for conventional choice remains identical. What is there to learn from this comparison? It shows that a concept of reality as the one Boghossian proposes is hardly sufficient if our concern is to find a realistic 114

concept of reality that manages to explicitly argue for those results that one might easily take for granted but that a naïve or common-sense picture of reality can merely hint at. If, against all good intentions, the result amounts to a concept of reality that even a solipsist must embrace for the sake of being intelligible, no such concept helps to establish a noteworthy profile for a philosophical realism. Quite obviously, if even the solipsist is a member of the realistic club, it is hard to figure how membership could be denied to anyone. If intelligible anti-realism is impossible even for a solipsist, then everyone is a philosophical realist. Hence, the label “realism” would be meaningless in philosophy. However, if philosophical realism is, in one way or another, a knowledgetheoretical claim, our observations regarding the fact-constructivist solipsist provide an important clue. The least we should expect from a realistic concept of reality is that it allows us to have a knowledge-theoretical stance that is intelligible. Therefore, we need some idea of reality involving facts of a certain kind – namely facts that share the feature of being open to either correct or incorrect descriptions, i.e. of being open to become subject of either true or false beliefs. The fact-constructivist solipsist cannot conceive of herself as ever having a false belief because she maintains that her assertions are sufficient to warrant that reality behaves accordingly. In the view of her dogma, reality cannot involve features that are subject to false beliefs. Consequently, “truth” as asserted by her true beliefs cannot mean the same as under any other premise – in fact, it is barely, if at all intelligible that “truth” can mean anything without presupposing a reality open to possible false beliefs. The intelligible solipsist subscribes to our concept of a reality involving facts that include the feature of being open to either correct or incorrect descriptions. Only this allows her to be intelligible. However, being a solipsist is not commendable, for reasons I will spell out and that will hopefully help to show what else is to be demanded from a concept of reality that can count as realistic. The intelligible solipsist accepts that there are basic facts about what is going on in her mind. This assumption allows her to concede that some of the beliefs she holds about her mental contents might be false. However, being a solipsist, she is convinced that her own existence precedes and originates the existence of everything she is aware of. If it were not for her, the mental states and contents she finds herself confronted with, would never have existed. To her, these states and contents are all there is; whatever they are is due to the fact that they are to her: This tentative fact is at the bottom of everything the intelligible solipsist recognises as a potential fact. Therefore, even though she might misinterpret what is going on in her mind, it is excluded that any fact could obtain previously to her becoming aware of it. This observation alone should suffice to show why it is not reasonable to adhere to this branch of solipsism, in spite of it being intelligible. It creates a significant worry about the conditions under which it allows for something to count as factual: Since all facts are presumably bound to be mental facts, facts are subjugated to 115

a temporal condition that does not follow from what is discernible about them.8 The fact that I feel, imagine, think something in a certain way does not imply that whatever is being felt, imagined or thought only occurs in fact after occurring to me. And yet a solipsist would have to insist on that implication. This, of course, turns out to be nothing but a prejudice about the nature of potential facts: Why should something only be allowed to be true or false after it occurs to me? The implied condition might be correct in a sense when applied to certain possible mental facts. Since the intelligible solipsist only allows for mental facts, she would have to incorrectly extend this condition to any possible fact. Under the premises of a solipsistic reality, there would have to be another evaluation of the basic facts of that reality and their feature of being subjected to either true or false beliefs by occurring to us. Whereas we should be inclined to say that this feature of facts only serves to make them experienceable and knowable, since it is the feature that allows us to explore and recognise facts, the solipsist would have to maintain that this feature creates facts, that it is the one feature about facts that makes them exist. According to the solipsistic dogma, nothing exists unless it is manifested as mental content. And nothing is manifested as a mental content without being involved in a context of facts subjected to either true or false beliefs. The intelligible solipsist does not have to claim that her beliefs about what is going on in her mind cannot be false because she apparently makes things happen by considering them to be true (she is not a fact-constructivist solipsist). But she has to insist that the facts of what is going on in her mind exclusively depend on the existence and workings of her mind. Nothing outside of her mind could influence what is going on in her mind, since according to her dogma, nothing exists outside of her mind. The basic facts of her mind do not depend on how she describes them (that is the realistic side of her dogma). But the basic facts of her mind entirely depend on appearing in her descriptions, whether they are subjected to true or false beliefs. If they were not, in one way or another, part of her descriptions, they would disappear (and that is the anti-realistic side of her dogma). To sum it up: The intelligible solipsist has a problem with conceiving the belief-independence of facts. Not every fact is belief-independent, but some clearly are. A belief-independent fact is a fact that obtains even though nobody gets a chance of noticing it and forming true or false beliefs about it. Not only the muchdiscussed ancestral facts, situated in an era in which competent fact-examiners did not yet exist, would have to rank among belief-independent facts.9 The precise number of hair currently on my head is a belief-independent fact. According to the solipsist’s dogma, everything she notices is essentially reducible to being noticed I am thankful to Anton Friedrich Koch for elucidating me about the temporal conundrum of intelligible solipsism. 9 Cf. Quentin Meillassoux, Après la finitude. Essai sur la nécessité de la contingence (Paris: Seuil, 2006), 13–38. 8


by her in one way or another – it could be evaluated by means of either a true or a false belief. The precise number of hair on what the solipsist might currently imagine to be her head has no reality apart from her assessment of it. Even if she accepts that her imagined head must currently have a precise number of hair and that this number is to count among the basic facts of her mental contents which she cannot knowingly and willingly construct, she would have to state that this fact depends on her having a mind with the imaginary content of her own head and its hair. And if she, being a very cunning solipsist, imagined the precise number of hair to have a reality apart from that assessment, according to her own dogma that very reality could in turn only count as one of her vague mental contents: The hair on her imagined head would only occur in their precise number after occurring as a vague content of her mind. Obviously, I do not mean to say that the minimal concept Boghossian draws of reality in order to fend off fact-constructivism runs into the same problems with belief-independent facts. On the contrary, the problem with Boghossian’s “worldly dough” – basic facts is that they are, without much ado, identified with natural (physical) facts or even with facts of a “manifest image”-scenario.10 Boghossian concludes that one must presuppose basic facts of some sort in order to conceive how any report can ever actually count as a description of reality. But even though Boghossian argues quite convincingly for the necessity of this presupposition, he fails to explain why one ought to identify basic facts with natural facts. This failure allows us to see that his concept of reality (as far as it is supported by a conclusive argumentation) shares much common ground with the concept of reality of an intelligible solipsist. And, so we can add now, this certainly unwanted parallel with a solipsist stance stems from another problem with belief-independent facts. Boghossian does not take into account that even though it does not depend on the existence of fact-examiners that belief-independent facts obtain, it does depend on the existence of fact-examiners that belief-independent facts can be claimed to obtain. The solipsist is wrong about basic facts when she thinks that they obtain because they are in her mind. But she could rightfully claim that basic facts of whatever sort could not count as knowable facts unless some fact-examiner can be presupposed. Only the existence of fact-examiners can eventually instantiate beliefindependent basic facts. Belief-independent basic facts are instantiated by factexaminations. Without these examinations, they would still be facts. But without ever being observed and duly noted, there would be no manifestation of their 10

“But once we see that there is no general philosophical obstacle to acknowledging mind-independent facts, we also see that we have been given no reason for supposing that those facts aren’t just the ones we always took them to be – facts about dinosaurs, giraffes, mountains, and so forth” (Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism, p. 57).


intrinsic relation to possible beliefs. There is one fact about belief-independent facts which is, albeit in another sense, not belief-independent. The fact that they can be subjected to true and false beliefs adheres to them objectively: They are what they are, but it belongs to the reality of what they are to be in an intrinsic relation to our attempts at knowledge. The fact that belief-independent facts are open to our observations and examinations is a feature that is just as essential to them as any of their other features we might discover by examining and forming beliefs about them. But this feature is a relational feature of facts, one that only holds inasmuch there are fact-examiners that hold beliefs about them. Boghossian’s Fear of Knowledge nowhere discusses this essential feature of the “wordly dough”, as he calls the basic facts that one must presuppose in order to conceive how any description could possibly serve as a description of reality. For reality to be describable by true beliefs, belief-independent facts must be in an intrinsic relation of being open to the formation of our beliefs. The intelligible solipsist reduces reality to being subjected to our formation of beliefs – whatever exists is only supposed to exist because it pops up in her mind. Boghossian, on the other hand, sketches the “worldly dough” factual basis of reality without attributing to it the essential relational feature of being open to fact-examination. Both accounts amount to something similar, because they both, albeit for other reasons, do not pay enough attention to all the aspects of the belief-independence of basic facts. In the end, this result helps to highlight an important sense in which Boghossian’s concept of the “worldly dough” is not realistic enough. It is not realistic enough inasmuch as its concept of reality does not take implicitly into account a realistic knowledge-theoretical stance. According to such a stance, as I would like to propose it, being subjected to the formation of true or false beliefs is to be presupposed as an essential and intrinsic feature of belief-independent facts. But this stance is open for debate, and it has to be to open for debate in order to be realistic. It would be unrealistic for a knowledge-theoretically motivated concept of reality to pretend a priori evidence, or to adopt similar strategies of auto-immunisation. A priori evidence is supposed to mean a kind of evidence one is entitled to consider as necessarily and universally true for the simple reason that one cannot manage to think otherwise than suggested by that evidence. Therefore, claims to such evidence turn out to be involuntary bedfellows of the fact-constructivist solipsist’s claim to making things true by asserting them. The fact-constructivist solipsist might believe to make her assertions out of a fancy, whereas the proponent of apparent a priori evidence would not. But the latter would still be bound to admit that her seemingly unavoidable support of a theoretical stance on the basis of any such apparent evidence boils down to trusting something to be true because one feels strongly bound to assert it. But even if we, as it is usually the case when we are confronted with strong evidence, do not manage to understand how we could possibly be wrong in what we believe, that alone does 118

not warrant the success of our knowledge claim. This is the realistic approach we should maintain, even with regard to our strongest convictions. It is part of a knowledge-theoretically realistic concept of reality to admit that one might be wrong, no matter how strong the evidence that one is not: Not to know how we could be wrong does not guarantee us that we are right.

References Boghossian, Paul. Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Descartes, René. Œuvres de Descartes. C. Adam, P. Tannery (Ed.; 11 Vol). Paris: Vrin, 1996. Dummett, Michael. “Realism”. In: Synthese, Vol. 52, No. 1, 1982, 55–112. Gabriel, Markus. “Einleitung”. In Markus Gabriel (Hrsg.) Der Neue Realismus. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014, S. 8–16. Meillassoux, Quentin (2006): Après la finitude. Essai sur la nécessité de la contingence. Paris: Seuil, 2006.


Welcome Back Kant. New Realism and the Perceptual (Cor)Relation Enrico Terrone

If there is a common factor in the varieties of realism that have characterized philosophy at the beginning of the XXI century, this is the rejection of correlationism. The latter is the claim that we only ever access to the correlation between subjects and objects, not to objects as they are. In this sense, New Realism can be seen as a quest for ways out from correlationism. In recent realist works, the refusal of correlationism, as a philosophical claim, often goes together with the historical claim that the roots of correlationism lie in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, from which the correlationist tree has spread through the XIX and the XX centuries. The connection between the new realist philosophical claim and its historical corollary is already at work in two seminal realist books both published at the very beginning of the XXI century, namely, Maurizio Ferraris’ Goodbye Kant1 and Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude.2 In this paper, I will slightly deviate from such a line of thought by proposing a Kantian way out from correlationism. I will argue that Kant’s philosophy not only gives rise to correlationism but also provides us with some theoretical tools that allow us to overcome it. More specifically, in § 1, I shall analyze the notions of correlation and correlationism; in § 2, I shall propose a realist way out from correlationism based on a realist account of perception; in § 3, I shall trace this realist view back to its Kantian roots; in § 4, I will address the main issue that Kant’s philosophy raises for a realist conception. 1. Let us begin with the characterization of correlationism that Meillassoux provides at the beginning of his book After Finitude: “the central notion of modern philosophy since Kant seems to be that of correlation. By ‘correlation’ we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. We will henceforth call correlationism any current of thought which maintains the unsurpassable character of the correlation so defined”3. The definition looks circular Maurizio Ferraris, Goodbye, Kant!: What Still Stands of the Critique of Pure Reason (New York: Suny Press, 2013). Original Italian edition: 2004. 2 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (New York: Continuum, 2008). Original French edition: 2006. 3 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (New York: Continuum, 2008), p. 5. 1


since ‘correlation’ is defined as the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being. What the correlation is, thus, remains obscure, and this makes the very notion of correlationism a bit puzzling. However, we can address this issue by replacing ‘correlation’ with ‘relation’ in the definiens. Correlation thus becomes the idea according to which we only ever have access to the relation between thinking and being, thereby overcoming circularity. The notion of relation is well entrenched in logic and theoretical philosophy, and we can rely on it in order to characterize correlation and correlationism. Meillassoux himself seems to suggest a similar strategy when he characterizes correlationism as the claim that “we never grasp an object ‘in itself’, in isolation from its relation to the subject”4 (my emphasis). That being the case, one might wonder what is wrong with correlationism. In fact, there is a sense in which correlationism looks plainly true: we never grasp an object in isolation from its relation to the subject because we are the subject and grasping is a relation! If a subject knows the true nature of an object, she entertains a knowledge relation to this object. In this sense correlationism is not what prevents the discovery of the true nature of objects, but rather what enables it. This cannot be the sense of correlationism that is under discussion in New Realism. Correlationism becomes problematic only if one conceives of correlation as a relation that prevents any knowledge of the object. In order to know an object, we need to be in some relation to it, this is obvious. Yet, if any actual relation to the object involves a sort of thick veil that prevents us from having access to the real features of the object, then knowledge of the object becomes impossible. To resort to a simile, if my relation to my neighbor consists in an insurmountable wall, I cannot know my neighbor. In this sense, correlationism raises a challenge to any realist philosophy. In the correlationist framework, in which the subjects cannot access objects as they are, there remain two options available, namely, skepticism, according to which objects as such cannot be known, and idealism, according to which objects as such do not exist and thought is the only reality. 2. My favorite way to challenge correlationism consists in rejecting the claim that any mental state involves correlation. Let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that intentionality is the mark of the mental so that any mental state involves an intentional relation to some object. Does this entail that any mental state involve correlation? I do not think so. In fact, there is a variety of mental states, and some of them can involve correlation, but others surely do not. Imagination, for instance, is a mental state that can involve correlation. I can imagine an object without being capable of knowing anything about what that object really is. I can even ignore whether the imagined object really exists. However, perception and memory do not function in this way. In such mental states, the intentional relation is a factive relation, 4

Ibid., p. 5.


that entails the reality of both its relata, namely, the perceiving (or remembering) subject and the perceived (or remembered) object. I can imagine something that does not exist but I cannot perceive (or remember) something that does not exist. At least, this is what is stated by realist accounts of perception and memory. Let us focus on perception since memory can be conceived of as a recall of a previous perception, so that the factivity of memory relies on the factivity of perception. The idea that perception is a factive mental state is crucial in British antiHegelian and anti-Kantian philosophy at the beginning of the XX century, though in two different ways5. On the one hand, in Cambridge, G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell argue that perception gives us direct access to mind-independent but non-physical entities such as color qualia or shape qualia. They call “sense-data” such entities and “acquaintance” the relation that gives us access to them. They explain hallucinations as cases of mismatch between the infallible experience of sense data and the fallible belief about what caused this experience. On the other hand, in Oxford, John Cook Wilson and H. A. Prichard argue that perception gives us direct access to concrete particulars such as flowers or tables. This view, which has been called ‘naive realism’, has characterized Oxford philosophy during the whole XX century, thanks especially to the works of John Austin and Peter Strawson, and remains nowadays one of the leading position in the philosophy of perception thanks to the work of other Oxfordeducated philosophers like John McDowell, Paul Snowdon and Mike Martin. From a naive realist perspective, hallucinations and perception are completely different mental states because the latter are constituted by the perceived objects while the former are not. In this sense naive realism leads to disjunctivism, that is, an account of perception that treats it as essentially disjointed from hallucination. Naive realism is not philosophically naive. It is naive only in the sense that it states that a naive non-philosophical observer succeeds in knowing the world, in spite of her naivety, because perception, as such, gives her a reliable direct access to the world. Neither is naive realism dogmatic, since it does not assume that perception is a direct relation to objects but rather demonstrates this by means of an insightful analysis of the very notion of perception. According to this analysis, a perceptual state involves a constitution relation to the perceived object, which enter as a constituent in the perceptual state itself. Perception can give us direct access to its objects because the objects themselves, as such, enter into the perceptual states. A basic way to characterize the constitution relation is in term of an asymmetric dependence: if the object had not been there, that perceptual state could not have occurred; however, if that perceptual state had not occurred, the object might have still been there. Thus the perceptual relation, as a constitution relation, entails not only that the object can be directly accessed, but also that the object can exist independently of its being perceived. This ultimately leads to a confutation of the correlationist claim that we cannot know mind-independent objects. Cf. Anil Gomes, “Naïve Realism in Kantian Phrase”, in Mind 126, 502 (2017), p. 529.



A key role in naive realist accounts of perception is played by the notion of a look6. If I see an apple, I cannot help seeing it from a certain standpoint, which depends on me, not on the object itself. However, what the object shows to me is an objective feature, namely, the look it has when observed from that standpoint. The look, so understood, is an observer-independent feature, since the object has it even if the corresponding standpoint remains unoccupied. The look is there to be grasped, and remains there even if there is nobody to grasp it. In sum, naive realism overcomes correlationism by treating perception as providing the mind with a direct access to a world of mind-independent concrete particulars. At this point, a defender of correlationism has two objections at her disposal. The first one consists in arguing that the naive realist account of perception is wrong, since perceptual states do not involve a direct relation to their objects but rather a representation of these objects, which prevents knowing what these really are. This objection amounts to tracing the debate between New Realism and correlationism in ontology back to the debate between naive realism and representationalism in the philosophy of perception. This amounts to acknowledging that the debate on correlationism is nothing but a rephrasing of an ongoing debate in the philosophy of perception. That is why I will not address this objection in this paper. It does not contribute to a better understanding of the debate on correlationism, but simply reduces it to another debate. The issue of correlationism becomes merely hypothetical: if representationalism is the right account of perception, then correlationism might hold, while if naive realism is the right account of perception, then correlationism is defeated. I will focus, instead, on the second correlationist objection, which assumes, for the sake of the argument, that naive realism is right, and yet argues that the objects to which perception gives us direct access are not real objects, but only mere appearances. Even though perception gives us access to objects and not just to representations of objects, these objects are not genuine elements of reality but rather a veil that prevents us from knowing reality. Thus, correlationism is back in action even within a naive realist framework. In Kantian terms, one might say that perception gives us access only to “phenomenal objects”, not to “noumenal objects”. Graham Harman7 seems to have something similar in mind when he distinguishes between “sensuous objects” and “real objects”. We are thus led back to Kant. His distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal seems to be the rock to be overcome if one wants to get rid of correlationism. In what follows, I will argue that Kant’s philosophy provides us with the theoretical means to overcome this correlationist rock that he himself put in the middle of the realist road. Cf. Michael G. F. Martin, “What’s in a Look?”, in Perceiving the World, edited by Bence Nanay (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). 7 Graham Harman, The Quadruple Object (Washington: Zero Books, 2011). 6


3. As argued by Peter Strawson8 and, more recently, by Anil Gomes9 (2014, 2017), Kant’s philosophy provides us with an account of perception as “an immediate consciousness of the existence of the things outside us”10. This is, according to Strawson, the main outcome of the Kant’s transcendental investigation. If we wonder what conditions make our experience possible, we discover some basic principles that are to hold if we could enjoy experiences. But we do enjoy experiences, and therefore such principles do hold. And these principles entail that our experiences give us access to mind-independent things. First of all, in Strawson’s reading of Kant, experience essentially is a temporal series of states that are to be ascribed to a unique subject, namely the transcendental subject. Yet, for experience to be possible, such temporal subjective series should differentiate itself from an objective order. Experience is precisely such a differentiation, such a subjective route through an objective world. As Strawson puts it, “No one could be conscious of a temporally extended series of experiences as his unless he could be aware of them as yielding knowledge of a unified objective world, through which the series of experiences in question forms just one subjective or experiential route”11. We cannot make our experience understandable to ourselves without presupposing an objective world on which our experience gives us a subjective glance. Only in this way experience can exist as something subjective, in contrast with the objectivity of the world experienced. In his examination of Strawson’s reading of Kant, Richard Rorty12 calls this the “objectivity argument”. What this argument shows is not only that experience involves an objective world, but also that this must be a spatiotemporal world. While experience is nothing but a temporal series of mental states, the world to whom experience gives us access must have not only a temporal dimension but also some spatial dimension. The reason is that the objects of experience, in virtue of their very objectivity, must keep existing even when experience does not occur. Space precisely is what makes room for the existence of objects when unperceived. Since experience is just a temporal series, if the only dimension of the world was time, there would be no way to distinguish the subjective temporal order of experience from the objective temporal order of the world experienced. Peter F. Strawson, The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (London: Methuen & Co., 1966) and “Perception and its Objects”, in Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer, edited by G. F. Macdonald (London: Macmillan, 1979). 9 See Anil Gomes, “Kant on Perception: Naive Realism, Non-Conceptualism, and the B-Deduction”, in The Philosophical Quarterly 64, 254 (2014), and “Naïve realism in Kantian phrase”, in Mind 126, 502 (2017). 10 Peter F. Strawson, “Perception and its Objects”, in Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer, edited by G. F. Macdonald (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. 132. 11 Peter F. Strawson, The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (London: Methuen & Co., 1966), p. 27. 12 Richard Rorty, “Strawson’s Objectivity Argument”, in The Review of Metaphysics 24, 2 (1970), 207–244. 8


Space thus introduces a crucial distinction between experience and the world experienced by providing the latter with a dimension that the former lacks. That is why the world is an objective order whereas experience is just a subjective series. The objectivity of the world relies on a spatiotemporal manifold in which, in virtue of space, things can exist unexperienced, whereas the subjectivity of experience amounts to a merely temporal series made of mental states that are, as such, experienced. In sum, the subjective temporal order of experience can be distinguished from the objective temporal order of the world that experience goes through because space makes the difference. I see an eagle flying and then the deer walking but the eagle is flying while the deer is walking, and I am well aware of that. This awareness presupposes the awareness of a mind-independent space in which both the eagle and the deer have a place even when they are not perceived. The deer follows the eagle in the subjective temporal order of my experience but the former is simultaneous with the latter in the objective spatiotemporal order of the world experienced. The connection between the subjective temporal order of experience and the objective spatiotemporal order is provided by the body of the subject of experience. On the one hand, this body is a spatial object in the objective order just as things like flowers, tables, mountains and planets are. On the other hand, the temporal series that constitutes the subject’s experience is determined by the position of the subject’s body in the objective spatiotemporal order. That is to say that the subject’s body occupies a temporal series of spatial positions in the objective world that corresponds to a temporal series of viewpoints on this very world that are actualized by the temporal series of perceptual states that constitutes the subject’s experience. The physical trajectory of the body in the objective spatiotemporal order thus underlies the experiential trajectory of the mind that constitutes the subjective temporal order. In this way, the subject’s body supports the subject’s experience understood, in Strawson’s terms, as a subjective route through an objective world. This leads us to “a certain view of the world, as containing objects, variously propertied, located in a common space and continuing their existence independently of our interrupted and relatively fleeting perceptions of them”13. Both experience as a subjective temporal series and the world as an objective spatiotemporal order are real, but in different ways. The world is real as such, whereas experience is real because the world supplies both a series of standpoints and a body that enables the subject to enjoy the perspectives corresponding to these standpoints. However, the fact that experience relies on the body does not entail that the former boils down to the latter. That is because the relation that constitutes experience is not of the same kind as those relations that just involve bodies or other concrete things. One might call the former relationship ‘affection’ and the 13

Peter F. Strawson,“Perception and its Objects”, in Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer, edited by G. F. Macdonald (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. 128.


latter ‘causation’. While causation has concrete objects as both its relata, affection has one relatum that is a concrete object, namely the object perceived, and the other that is not a concrete object, namely the experience enjoyed. Of course, experience is supported by a causal relation that connects the object perceived to the body of the perceiver, but affection does not boil down to this relation. As Strawson points out, affection, unlike causation, cannot be “established by noting correlations between independently observable state of affairs”14. On the one hand, we can observe that an object causes the change or movement of another object, for instance we can observe that a banana peel causes a man to fall. On the other hand, we cannot observe that the object causes an experience of ours. We cannot observe, for instance, that a tree causes our visual experience of that tree. All we can do is enjoy our experience of the tree. While the causal relations can be observed in an experience, the affection relation can only be enjoyed as an experience. The world that makes experience possible and is revealed by experience itself can be called, borrowing Sellars’ adjective, the “manifest world”15. It might be that the manifest world is not the whole world, but only the ontological region of the world that experience can reach. However, this does not entail that the manifest world and our experience of it are not real. Indeed, being part of a real whole entails being real, not being unreal. Strawson’s objectivity argument only shows the reality of the manifest world, but remains neutral on whether the manifest world is the whole world or just a part of a wider world. Physically-minded or metaphysically-minded philosophers might argue that the manifest world derives from a sort of “source code” that can be figured out in terms of mathematical structures. Yet, even if this is the case, this does not entail the unreality of the manifest world. If something derives from something real, the former should be real in turn. As Sellars puts it, the manifest world “is not something that needs to be reconciled with the scientific image, but rather something to be joined to it”16. The manifest world is compatible with the scientific discovery of a deeper world from which the former derives. Indeed, the scientific discovery of the features of this world essentially relies on the recognition of its effects on the manifest world to whom we have access in virtue of our perceptual experience. 4. Kant acknowledges that the manifest world revealed by experience and the deeper world known by science are in fact one and the same world. This is what allows him to ground scientific knowledge in the transcendental structures of experience. However, this also leads him to state that the manifest world and the Peter F. Strawson, “Causation in Perception”, in Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays (London: Methuen, 1974), p. 77. 15 Wilfried Sellars, “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man”, in Science, Perception and Reality (New York: Humanities Press, 1963). 16 Ibid., p. 40. 14


deep world are nothing but two aspects of a phenomenal world, whose structure is determined by the transcendental structures of experience. He therefore suggests that the true world should be a noumenal world, which is completely independent from the transcendental structures of experience, and from which the experience itself somehow emerges. The noumenal world, according to Kant, is completely out of the reach of human knowledge, which is essentially constrained by the transcendental structures of experience. Here is where Kant’s philosophy paves the way for correlationism. The crucial passage, in this respect, is Kant’s claim that space and time are the forms of intuition. If space and time belong to the mind, then the objective world, as a spatiotemporal world, comes down to a construction of the mind. Without the mind, no more space and time, and therefore no more spatiotemporal world. This seems to lead to the correlationist claim according to which all we can know is the outcome of our mind, not the ultimate reality of the world. There are two main strategies to face this correlationist inclination of Kant’s philosophy. The first one, which Strawson himself seems to endorse, consists in arguing that space and time are not only phenomenological structures of experience but also ontological structures of the world. Indeed, space and time are structures of experience precisely because they are structures of the world. As Strawson’s objectivity argument shows, experience must be directed towards an objective world and it can do so only if the basic structures of this world are among its constituents. Just as experience has the real objects in the world as its constituents, experience also has the real structures of the world, namely space and time, as its constituents. Space and time are the forms of intuition only because they are forms of the world, and intuition has the basic elements of the world as its constituents. Darwinism, which Kant could not know, allows us to strengthen this argument by treating the correspondence between structures of experience and structures of the world as an evolutionarily advantageous feature. Natural selection selects those living being whose body supports a mental activity that has the real structures of the world as its constituents. While this first anti-correlationist strategy challenges Kant’s claim that space and time are nothing but forms of intuition, the second strategy assumes it for the sake of the argument, and yet tries to face its correlationist consequences by relying on the Kantian claim that experience essentially involves a receptive component. Even if we concede to Kant that the mind contributes to what is experienced by means of space and time, it remains that, as Kant himself acknowledges, there is something in what is experienced that does not come from the mind itself. This leads to what Heidegger17 characterizes as “Kant’s problem of metaphysics”: if we assume that space and time belong to the subject, then, in order to avoid idealism, 17

Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).


we should acknowledge that being lies beyond space and time. That is to say that we have to characterize reality by means of a notion of being that is not the naive notion of being as having a place in a spatiotemporal system. Kant’s problem of metaphysics can be rephrased by stating that whatever affects the mind thereby producing experience should have a structure of its own that shows up, in the mind, as a spatiotemporal structure. Furthermore, the mind itself, with all its transcendental structures, is not a construction of the mind, and it also should be grounded in the noumenal world. Therefore, the phenomenal world is not a brandnew creation of the mind, but rather the result of the interaction of what grounds the mind at the noumenal level and something else at this very level18. The phenomenal world is the part of the noumenal world that is directly accessible to the mind, and, in principle, it can allow the mind to discover the structure of the noumenal world as a whole. In naive realist terms, one might say that the spatiotemporal phenomenal world is the look of the noumenal world, that is, an objective feature of the noumenal world which is actualized in its interaction with the noumenal counterpart of the mind. Ultimately, we experience the mindindependence of the noumenal world by experiencing the mind-independence of the spatiotemporal phenomenal world. Although the noumenal world is not spatiotemporal, space and time provides us with a way to experience its mindindependence. Kant’s philosophy would lead to correlationism if one conceived of the mind and its experience as not belonging to reality. In this case, space and time, as structures of the mind, have nothing to do with reality and therefore our experience of a spatiotemporal world cannot count as knowledge of reality. Yet, if we treat mind and experience as belonging to reality, we can conceive of reality, that is, the noumenal world, as a structure that makes room for an interaction the produces both the mind and the phenomenal world as its results. From this perspective, both the mind and the phenomenal world have counterparts in the noumenal world, and their reality comes precisely from their deriving from such counterparts. Surely, if we follow Kant in conceiving of space and time as belonging only to the mind, we cannot conceive of the interaction from which mind and experience derive as an interaction that occur in space and time. Yet, mathematics allows us to conceive of interactions that are not spatiotemporal in nature. The noumenal world might be made of such interactions. This is something that science, understood as a kind of metaphysics19, can strive to discover. Cf. David J. Chalmers, “The Matrix as Metaphysics”, in Philosophers Explore the Matrix, edited by C. Grau (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), David J. Chalmers, “Perception and the Fall from Eden”, in Perceptual Experience, Tamas S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), and Eric Schwitzgebel, “Kant Meets Cyberpunk”, in Disputatio, 2019, 19 Jerrold A. Aronson, Realist Philosophy of Science (Dordrecht: Springer, 1984). 18


Both general relativity and quantum mechanics can be interpreted in such metaphysical way. For example, we can treat the curved four-dimensional geometrical structure that according to general relativity constitutes the universe as a noumenal world that can only be thought, not perceived (that is what ‘noumenal’ means, after all). Yet, we can be justified in treating this geometrical structure as real inasmuch as it complies with what we can experience in the phenomenal world structured by three-dimensional space and the passage of time. Ultimately, science as metaphysics can investigate reality at the noumenal level since there is a part of reality that is already at our disposal, namely the phenomenal world to whom perception gives us direct access.

References Aronson, Jerrold. A Realist Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Springer, 1984. Chalmers, David J. “The Matrix as Metaphysics”. In Philosophers Explore the Matrix, edited by Christopher Grau. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 132–176. –– “Perception and the Fall from Eden”. In Perceptual Experience, edited by Tamas S. Gendler & John Hawthorne, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, 49–125. Ferraris, Maurizio. Goodbye, Kant!: What Still Stands of the Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Suny Press, 2013. Gomes, Anil. “Kant on Perception: Naive Realism, Non-Conceptualism, and the B-Deduction”. In The Philosophical Quarterly 64, 254 (2014), 1–19. –– “Naïve realism in Kantian phrase”, In Mind 126, 502 (2017), 529–578. Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. Washington: Zero Books, 2011. Heidegger, Martin. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. Martin, Michael G. F. “What’s in a Look?”, In Perceiving the World, edited by Bence Nanay, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 160–225. Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. New York: Continuum, 2008. Rorty, Richard. “Strawson’s Objectivity Argument”. In The Review of Metaphysics 26, 2 (1970), 207–244. Schwitzgebel, Eric Kant Meets Cyberpunk, in Disputatio (forthcoming). Sellars, Wilfried. “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man”. In Science, Perception and Reality. New York: Humanities Press, 1963, 1–40. Strawson, Peter F. The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. London: Methuen & Co., 1966. –– “Causation in Perception”. In Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays. London: Methuen, 1974, 73–93. –– “Perception and its Objects”. In Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer, edited by G. F. Macdonald. London: Macmillan, 1979, 41–60.


What Is Context and Distext?1 Vassil Vidinsky

1. Realism and contextualism: preliminary remarks Realism is a philosophical position which can be defended or contested at least in three different directions. Firstly, within the scope of ontology it is a claim about the existence of objects. These objects might be of any type – of physical, mathematical, cultural, axiological or metaphysical nature, thus allowing, for instance, one to be a realist about values and an antirealist about numbers at the same time. Secondly, within the scope of epistemology it is a claim about the independence of these objects from various forms of subjectivity, referring not, however, to our abilities to “build a house” or “write a book”, since such a type of dependency between us and the objects is a trivial one. Thirdly, within the scope of semantics realism and antirealism are claims about the truth value of the statements concerning these objects. In the present paper I will discuss context only in the first and second aspects; the first will be treated in realist terms, the second in moderately antirealist ones2. The general philosophical idea behind this text is that restricting discussions of realism to scientific challenges seems to be an arbitrary limitation; as an argument backing this restriction is lacking, discussions of realism should not neglect cultural phenomena.3 In contemporary discussions we sometimes witness the emergence of a certain tension between the terms realism and contextualism, inasmuch as the first term would often be associated with objectivity and truth, while the second one – with relativity, constructivism and historical contingency. Some philosophers relate the first term to precise and experimental scientific activities, while the second one is quite often related to “postmodern” interpretative strategies and discourses. Such an opposition, however, is valid neither in conceptual terms, nor in historical perspective; it is very likely to be a product of psychological or social tensions, rather than a result of philosophical analysis. I am thankful for the final critical remarks made by Philipp Steinkrüger, Dimitar Bojkov, Viktoras Bachmetjevas, and Vesselin Dafov. This does not imply that they will agree with the concepts and arguments in the paper. 2 The objects and their properties are only partially dependent on our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, cultural stereotypes and so on. 3 In terms of methodology this is a part of a tendency towards overcoming the opposition between the “analytic” and “continental” traditions of the 20th century (in fact this “conceptual” distinction is as meaningful as the opposition between “mammals” and “fast animals”). This opposition is historically and contextually based and it can thereby be sublated. 1


The subject matter of context is an interesting one as it mediates complex relations between philosophy, science and culture (between science and art, in particular) and therefore is directly related to the subject matter of realism. I would like to clarify this relation in accordance with the philosophical tradition of becoming, historicism and evolution4 (which commenced in the 19th century), and also in accordance with the more contemporary understanding proffered by the emerging program of New Realism.5 For this purpose, the concept of context has to be clarified first. The term context, however, is vague and ambiguous to such an extent that it rarely functions as a philosophical concept despite its constant presence as some kind of a general and self-explanatory idea.6 On the other hand, philosophical research and theories on context encounter yet another problem: it often happens that the more we probe into this extremely fruitful subject, the more trivial it becomes, and we come up with threadbare conclusions as a result. Without harboring the conviction that I could evade those two types of problems, I will endeavor to present some clarifications on the subject matter of context, as well as one succinct hypothesis on its function. In the end, I will proceed to explicate the concept of distext. The evolution (or historical change) of contexts and distexts implies that both empirical and abstract conditions can alter many (possibly all) of the intrinsic and all of the extrinsic properties. We will label conditional intrinsic properties all properties that undergo change should conditions themselves be subject to change (all extrinsic properties are in all cases conditional extrinsic properties). So which kind of properties can be considered unconditional? The extent to which all intrinsic properties are conditional intrinsic properties depends solely on the possible deformations of the conditions. Yet, it is thinkable that extremely dynamic conditions or extremely altered conditions could deform all essential intrinsic properties and quite possibly the existence of the things themselves. 5 The meaning of the term context curiously overlaps with that of Markus Gabriel’s term fields of sense: “‘Appearance in a field of sense’ is just a technical version of ‘being in a context’”, see Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology, ed. Graham Harman, Speculative Realism Series (Edinburgh: University Press, 2015, 158ff.). In this view, Gabriel’s statement that there exists no world can be positively rendered: there exist only different contexts. The present study discusses the initial conditions of the dynamics and relatedness of contexts. 6 After the beginning of the 19th century there emerges a slow-paced but gradually increasing interest towards this subject. Authors who had a marked impact on the philosophical conception of context include Georg Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Willard Quine, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, David Kaplan, etc. Last year was the tenth anniversary of the international and interdisciplinary biannual conference “CONTEXT”, inaugurated in 1997. Each of its meetings is followed by the publication of text collections where philosophers, technologists, psychologists, philologists, etc. share their views on this rather amorphous subject. For a methodological approach and earlier concrete reflections on context, see Stephen C. Pepper, World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence, VII ed. (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1942); Gotthard Günther, Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, 3 vols., vol. II: Wirklichkeit als Poly-Kontexturalität (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1979). 4


2. A working concept of context I will begin by establishing the working concepts to be employed. Of course, this is not a claim to reveal the fundamental essence of each term; it is rather an attempt to coordinate their various historical uses. At present, the question “What is context?” can be replaced by the question “How to understand the concept of context?” To begin with, by the term concept I mean only rational understanding. Here are some direct consequences of this narrow explication: (a) the ‘concept’ allows for accumulation and complexity, just as ‘understanding’ itself; (b) the ‘concept’ has mandatory synthetic character; with each analysis improving its synthetic construction; (c) the ‘concept’ can be developed and improved through historical reconceptualisations. In order to clarify the concept of context, it seems necessary above all to specify what I mean by the term ‘condition’, because these two terms (context and condition) are closely related both in history of philosophy and in our everyday usage. I will define conditions (or circumstances) as definite or indefinite varieties of objects, predicates, processes and so on, interacting both with one another and with the particular (possibly random) focus object. These relations need not be causal, yet causality is not excluded from the types of possible interactions; neither is it necessary that there be an essential focus object. We can finally conceptualize the context – it would be all cultural conditions of possible or actual emergence or existence. This approach of understanding ‘context’ can be termed transcendental-historical7; respectively, the conditions of possibility and actuality can be spatiotemporal (amorphous or rigid) fragments of possible cultural worlds, conditional historical varieties, institutionalized procedures or even routine and typically communicative situations and abstract, formal multitudes. Within the network of relations, necessarily included in the context, we can detect various subjects, structures, causal relations, analogies, distinctions, etc. Since, of course, this conceptualization of the context is rather general and encompassing, it does not bind us to a specific approach when dealing with it in the course of our further study. Thus, we have various ways of analyzing the conditions of possibility: as substrate, as structure, and as function. In this paper I will try to explicate only the last one. We should not, however, omit a third important element. If we have an idea of the particular context of the events observed, we are rather dealing with a contextual model (mental contextual model) – a representation, an interpretation or a construction of relevant context characteristics. It is obvious that the One may suggest an analogy (without establishing any identity) with Foucault’s approach, more specifically with his concept of historical a priori, repeatedly employed and theoretically developed in Michel Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1969, 166-173.). In Foucault’s earlier texts from the 1960s this concept appears along with the notion of the concrete a priori [l’a priori concret].



contextual model can be a form of reduction (distortion, refraction) with regard to the respective context. It is illustrative that the idea of a contextual model, owing to its subjective and cognitive character, enjoys a much greater recognition within the scope of philosophy (i.e. early empiricism, contemporary cognitivism, some forms of phenomenology) than the very concept of context. It is worth noting that the relation between the terms conditions and context is analogical (yet not identical) to the tension and complexity existing between the terms of the non-binary pair nature and culture. Likewise, the tension between context and contextual model is analogical (yet not identical) to the tension and complexity existing between the terms of the non-binary pair society and individual. As context can both employ and transform the conditions, so is the contextual model a secondary formation or transformation of the context (i.e. a transformation of the cultural conditions of emergence or existence). These distinctions are very important because the generalization from context to conditions allows us to think of the possibility of different cultures existing in very similar or identical conditions, as well as to assume hypothetical non-subject states and problems. And the generalization from contextual model to context allows us to think of the possibility of different individual notions or practices existing within the framework of similar or identical contexts, as well as to assume the existence of non-anthropological practices.

3. Functional interpretation of context Inasmuch as the substrate and structural approaches to context have been for a long time the more routine ones, I would like to present briefly a hypothesis on the relation between conditions, context and contextual model through a functional approach, which is more characteristic of philosophy during the second half of the 20th century. This functional approach is intended as a methodological (not conceptual) analogy related to Rudolf Carnap, and more specifically related to David Kaplan’s manner of discussing contextuality.8 The hypothesis consists of two parts, both cases involving the employment of the concept of function as a type of dynamic dependency or a principle of transformation. 1. Culture is a function, which transforms the conditions of possibility into understanding, i.e. culture is a function, which determines our understanding in a variety of conditions (circumstances). Respectively, different cultures can understand identical conditions differently. 2. Understanding is in turn a function, which transforms the context into a contextual model, i.e. that which determines contextual models within a wide 8

David Kaplan, “On the Logic of Demonstratives”, Journal of Philosophical Logic, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1979); David Kaplan, “Afterthoughts”, Themes from Kaplan, ed. Joseph Almog, John Perry and Howard Wettstein (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).


variety of contexts. Respectively, different individuals can construct different contextual models within identical contexts.9 This would mean there are two principal functions – culture and understanding – and three determining or determinable elements: conditions, contexts and contextual models. From right to left in this list we observe a recognizable generalization. For clarity we could present these relations in the following way: Table 1 Culture is a function from Conditions

towards Understanding Understanding is a function from Context towards Contextual model

The convenience of this hypothesis is that: (a) it is more formal; (b) it does not attempt to explain where conditions come from; (c) it does not analyze the ‘nature’ or ‘essence’ of conditions and contexts, it only analyzes their function. The crucial point in understanding the dynamics of this hypothesis is what we mean by determination. Firstly, starting from left to right, there is no strict defining or predetermining, only vague determining – this affirms our intuition that culture and understanding are normative (prescriptive) functions, meaning that they allow exceptions. Secondly, the determination could go both ways – from conditions towards understanding and from understanding towards conditions; from contexts towards contextual models and vice versa (this is a difference in relation to Carnap’s and Kaplan’s approaches). Thirdly, in reverse (from right to left), it is a different type of determination – an epistemological one. Two-way determination and normativity (which allows for exceptions) are the most important features of this hypothesis. I would like to specify forthwith that everything said so far does not constitute the full picture. Further below, when dealing with the term distext, the present hypothesis will be expanded. To clarify the differences, let me recall Kaplan’s interpretation which specifies the concept of meaning by introducing the term character (akin to ‘linguistic meaning’)10 and demonstrating how character, intension and extension relate to one another: For another type of relation between context and understanding see Henk W. de Regt and Dennis Dieks, “A Contextual Approach to Scientific Understanding”, Synthese, 144, 1 (2005). 10 The ‘character’ of an expression is invariant across contexts (it is context independent) and provides the rule for its correct use in each particular situation: this is an important difference from Table 1. Of course, Hilary Putnam’s philosophical treatment in “Meaning and Reference” (1973) is more influential, but Kaplan’s approach is more suitable for my methodological analogy. 9


Table 2 Character is a function from Context

towards Intension Intension is a function from Circumstances of evaluation towards Extension

Evidently, this second table could serve as an embranchment of the first one (the initial function in Table 2 takes the place of the second function in Table 1). The embranchment shows that we think of context differently – in the first case it is treated in general terms, while in the second case it is viewed rather objectively.11 I say “general terms” because the distinction between subjective and objective is sublated in Table 1 through the notions of transformation, evolution or development. It is exactly this sublation that renders my proposal in this paper realistic. Even if cultural transformations have subject character (so far this is the case), they are not simply subjective but are manifested objectively. In history of philosophy, practice and transformation often stand in opposition to the more rigid subject – object division. As is well known, sublating such binary oppositions does not lead to their abolishment. The tables illustrate two different approaches: whether context is what determines the contextual model (a more general approach described in Table 1); or whether context is what determines intension (a semantic or linguistic approach described in Table 2). In fact, context can assume both functions since this is not an exclusive disjunction.

4. Additional observations on contexts (1) The outside. It is crucial that context always excludes or removes something, which in each particular case is redundant or unnecessary – the context always has an outside to itself. This means that context never determines things completely Kaplan’s “Afterthoughts” specifically mentions an objective or metaphysical context – this stands in contrast with the formal, yet subjective approach in John McCarthy, “Notes on Formalizing Context”, Proceedings of the 13th International Joint Conference on Artifical Intelligence (Chambery, France: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 1993). See commentary and criticism on treating context objectively, as well as a brief overview of the division between objectivist and subjectivist theories on context in Carlo Penco, “Objective and Cognitive Context”, in Modeling and Using Context. Second International and Interdisciplinary Conference, CONTEXT’99. Trento, Italy, September 9-11, 1999. Proceedings, ed. Paolo Bouquet et al. (Berlin: Springer, 1999). In the present case I distinguish context both from subjective contextual models and mere objective conditions, i.e. context possesses subject characteristics but it is objective, just as human history, society and culture exist objectively.



(even if we accept the worldview of some fixed causal determinism or monotonic entailment), nor is it something firmly established. On the contrary, it can be transgressed, modified, and is therefore unstable, according to the definition given above. Furthermore, in the course of history or communication any context is threatened by outside interventions, which are contingent or accidental for the context itself. This is precisely the idea behind ‘contextualization’: within the framework of a given context not anything is possible, meaning that some things are excluded not because they do not exist (although this might also be the case) but because they do not matter in a particular occasion. And since they can be regarded as redundant and expendable, context can be viewed in each case as a restrictive resource, i.e. the cultural conditions of possible or actual emergence or existence are necessarily restrictive. We can rephrase it in the following way: some things are contextually impossible, yet through intervention from the outside they could become actual. Of course, the idea of intervention is a risky one – context, itself a conservative resource, offers strong resistance, and the outside factors cannot so easily automate the cultural conditions, so as to ensure unequivocal implementation. Yet, the outside truly contains additional possibilities which are principally omitted by the context. This can be generalized by the following statement: historical tendencies and accumulations always have something outside seeping into them which could possibly become part of history. The outside is grasped and understood only post factum, only after the events have taken place.12 Putting the subject of ‘the outside’ for discussion illustrates once again the context’s limitedness, i.e. what exactly is conditionally excluded in a particular context and what takes place around this conditional limit. It is partly science – or more specifically research, and partly art – or more specifically the avantgarde, that always transform these conditional limits. In turn, science and art must (preserve or) establish other or entirely new types of limits. Such a contextual transformation serves to expand understanding, along with the possibilities of individual contextual models, and could ultimately be considered a significant expansion of human sensory and speculative nature. In one particular aspect this expansion is manifested in the history of human beings and their culture as Homo sapiens technicus.13 So far it is evident that the transcendental-historical approach treats context in contrast to certain modern formal approaches.14 Moreover, explicating the Vassil Vidinsky, Sluchaynosti. Istoricheska tipologiya [Contingencies. Historical Typology] (Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, 2017). p. 250, pp. 371-372. 13 See Vassil Vidinsky, “Homo sapiens technicus i eksperimentite s prirodata (versiya 1.5)” [Homo sapiens technicus and the experiments with nature (v. 1.5)], Piron, Vol. 12 – The Inhuman (2016). 14 See McCarthy, “Notes on Formalizing Context”; Varol Akman and Mehmet Surav, “Steps Toward Formalizing Context”, AI Magazine, 17, 3 (1996). For a proper and non-formal rationalization of context see Michel Foucault’s works. 12


differences between the contextual and formal methods could complement our understanding of the concept of context itself. We will proceed to do so in relation to the notions of generalization and contradiction. (2) The generalizations. The statement to be discussed is the following: the generalization from one context to another can be incomplete. A complete generalization is observable only in a few isolated cases, for example, if we move from rational numbers to real numbers, or in more general terms – from one proper subset to the whole set which contains it, as is the case with inclusion relations. However, contextual generalization is often persistently unrealizable, for example, if we move from the context of Bulgarian radical literary avant-garde (B) to the context of European radical literary avant-garde (E). The former is not just a particular instance of the latter, but also has its own rich variety of textual and contextual specifics. It is only by assuming a more general viewpoint – exactly when the context and specifics of B are lost – that we could argue that there is an inclusion without anything left out, i.e. inclusion without remainder. And the conclusions derived from such a generalization are usually too trivial and serve as a sign of contextual ignorance and misunderstanding of B. We have turned the inside into an outside (B into E), i.e. what was the initial subject of our study has eventually become redundant, and the context of B is lost. Another reason for the drawbacks in employing such a type of formal generalization of contexts is that context is only sometimes a homogeneous and clearly outlined set, while in most of the cases it manifests itself as an indistinct and conditional diversity (or multiformity) – both synchronically and diachronically (historically). The impossibility for a complete generalization – we can call it inclusion with remainder – emphasizes something we already know: context always has a local character. In fact, the more context expands, the more contextuality is trivialized; or, in other words, generalization is a way of neutralizing the very context. Likewise, quite often the most abstract reflections on contextuality also become extremely banal, because they fail to grasp precisely the object of their study. This has already been pointed out – context is a specification of the possible, i.e. its limitation, a restrictive resource. Its most important property is the specific type of restriction it is, i.e. the specific cultural conditions of emergence or existence in each particular case. This is a significant drawback to all formal contextual theories – it is not a drawback to their formulation, but to their heuristics. (3) The contradictions. There is a well-known and rather interesting difference between contradictions in classical logic and standard contextual contradictions. While the principle of explosion (ex contradictione quodlibet) – namely that from contradiction anything follows – is valid for the former, it cannot be applied to the latter. In classical formal systems the acceptance of universal contradictions leads to a trivialization of the system, in which anything can become truth. From contextual 137

contradictions follow multitudes of events (sometimes they are unpredictable), but context itself restricts the possibilities. This means that not anything may follow from the resulting contradiction. Moreover, we need a specific contextual analysis, in order to establish what could possibly ensue from each local case. In fact, different cultures and contexts privilege certain contextual beliefs, transformations and analogies.15 Identical contradictions in different contexts can produce fundamentally different consequences; moreover, the result can be perfectly traceable and liable to explanation. We could say this is precisely what different cultures differ in: the ways they react to contradictions that took place within them, the ways they cope with them or not, the ways these contradictions transform them and the emerging possibilities, resulting from these contradictions. All this largely determines the processes of stabilization, development and ageing in history in general, since those cultures, which are unable to cope with their contextual contradictions, often experience this situation in the form of a dramatic crisis. All things considered, this nontrivial and constructive role of contextual contradictions pursues the course of the entire human history in its multifarious cultural distinctiveness. It is not to be underestimated that some attempts in the 20th century at introducing logical contradictions within formal systems employ an analogous procedure, which is definitive of contextual contradictions, namely – localizing the contradiction so that it does not affect the entirety of the system. Indeed, the localized and isolated formal contradiction very much approximates our understanding of contextual contradiction. If we finally decide to compare these two types of contradictions via the modal concept of possibility, we will notice yet another difference: it is one thing to have open possibilities, as with formal systems (even if some obvious restrictions are specified), and it is quite another thing to have contextual possibilities, as with significant historical processes, which necessarily include dynamic tendencies and slow-paced, sometimes even undetectable, changes.

5. Distext and dysfunctional functions While discussing (1) the outside, (2) the generalizations and (3) the contradictions above, we moved from treating the concept of context towards the relations among different contexts. It was mentioned that context can include another context with or without a remainder; moreover, it became clear that it can overlap or mingle with other contexts, and so on. Furthermore, within the context (or between contexts) we can detect serious incommensurability, which is in fact an even more puzzling form than contextual contradictions themselves. In contrast to the necessary Not to mention that the truth conditions and the conditions of transformation can be dependent on contexts themselves, which in turn may be partaking in a broader context and so on.



visibility and conflictual character of the latter, distextual relations (see below) can be latent, implicit or just assuming the form of silent incommensurability. We have two versions of distextuality, which cannot always be so easily distinguished: First version. When certain contradictions cannot be resolved within a given context, the cultural context concerned could completely disintegrate and produce a distext among the newly formed contexts. Or, if we start with the established state of extremely heterogeneous contexts exhibiting no possibility for broader contextual generalization, then we are once again describing a state of distext. We can therefore define the concept in the following way: distext is the cultural conditions of impossible emergence or existence. Second version. But distext would also describe any given state in which we observe a break in the cultural conditions of possible or actual emergence or existence. Or, briefly put: context itself can contain distext. This is not a necessary condition, yet distext is an extremely important part of the more intricate real contexts in which we exist and which we attempt to understand.16 In the first version of distext (empty relations among contexts) the negation is applied to the possibility. In the second version (empty relations within a given context) the negation is applied to the conditions. In its first version, distext can be presented more formally, which would further explicate its difference in relation to contradiction: distext is the impossibility to apply norms to relations among contexts (bridge rules) or the impossibility to apply axioms for lifting towards a broader context (lifting axioms).17 What is now added to these impossibilities is the second version of distext – a break in the conditions of possibility (including the disruption of the conditions of possibility of understanding). Typical examples of distextuality can be found at points of various orders: the incommensurable paradigms of Thomas Kuhn, the historical encounters between dissimilar civilizations and cultures during the period of colonization, the proverbial centennial incompatibility between the two pillars of modern physics – quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity, the existence of avant-garde art in the context of marketing normalization, the isolated ethnical communities or any other internal or external cultural incommensurability. Most commonly, a distext is observed only during a short period of time; it is gradually overcome and contextualized post factum, or lifted (sent back) to the level of stark contradictions. Sometimes, however, distext exhibits a long-term and almost invisible presence. If we recall Table 1 we can immediately ask ourselves – what happens now, in a state of misunderstanding? The question imposes itself since the cultural function, Distextual relations themselves can assume more intense or milder forms. At its highest level, distext can be considered an isolated case of external or internal empty relation. 17 Varol Akman and Mehmet Surav, “Steps Toward Formalizing Context”. AI Magazine, 17, 3 (Autumn 1996), 55-72. 16


transforming the conditions into contextually understandable ones, also necessarily leaves out broad areas of misunderstanding. What this means is that in one and the same act culture can employ conditions to produce both contexts and distexts. The function of misunderstanding, however, is not a separate and independent one, it is just the dysfunctionality of understanding. In this situation it is not entirely clear what could be produced as output of the second function in Table 1. In other words: what exactly is the product of misunderstanding? Distext often leads to suspicions towards the validity of existing contextual models or even to their disintegration – a process we can refer to with the term dismodelling. Most certainly, the output of the second function may contain further surprising fissions, since dysunderstanding (i.e. dysfunctionality of understanding) has no clear-cut norm or definitiveness. Or in even more general terms: misunderstanding can result in omissions, elusions of observation, etc. So, the simplest version would be to designate the output as lack of model.18 This explains why complex contexts, which often integrate distexts, are principally modelled with significant difficulty. Table 319 Culture is a function from Conditions

towards Dysunderstanding19 Dysunderstanding is a function from Distext towards Lack of model

Just as Table 2 served as an embranchment of Table 1, so does Table 3 assume the same spot of embranchments. In contrast to the former overlapping, which was only of a methodological analogy, what is stated here is the following: every complex context is accompanied by a distext (some philosophers are inclined to call such really complex and encompassing contexts worlds). This means that Table 3 is essentially a supplement to Table 1, it is on the same level of generality and abstraction, and it displays the same sublation between objective and subjective. Thus, it is exactly within the conservative framework of context (as restrictive resource) that the radical character of distext is manifested – as a destabilizing resource or simply as a state of incommensurability. Suspension, omission and dysfunctionality are essentially inevitable factors of human history and culture.

The more interesting term would be a positive one, not just “a lack of…”, as it is presently formulated. That, however, would require a specific analysis of a given distext. 19 In the table the term dysunderstanding serves as short for dysfunctionality of understanding. 18


6. The transcendental-historical approach The functional treatment of context and distext presented above (mostly in sections 3 and 5) is a specific implementation of the more general realist transcendentalhistorical approach employed to define the basic notions (conditions, contexts, contextual models) and then the concept of distext. This approach allows for other non-functional types of treatment, and, of course, the transcendental-historical view in itself is only one of the possible directions in understanding contextuality and distextuality. In the end, I would like to give an additional ground for the existence and employment of this approach. Since the multitude of contexts in social, historical, communicational, technological and even ontological terms is immense and heterogeneous, one could assume that there can be no single and universal theory of context. On the other hand, not only does context lack a single “essence”, but the instances of the term context represent a heterogeneous aggregate of family resemblances between seemingly similar, yet very different uses. From yet another viewpoint, (1) essentialism and (2) family resemblances are not the only possible variants to choose from. Purely methodologically, we can treat the concept of context via its (3) contextual differences and transformations. In such a case, we are neither looking for some internal essence of context (or distext), nor are we seeking to describe the diverse language usage – we are drawing distinctions through actual external relations, but also by way of their objective converted forms. This means that we can trace the contextual history of transformation; neither essentialism, nor family resemblances can ever provide us with such results.

References Akman, Varol and Mehmet Surav. “Steps Toward Formalizing Context”. AI Magazine, 17, 3 (Autumn 1996), 55–72. De Regt, Henk W. and Dennis Dieks. “A Contextual Approach to Scientific Understanding”. Synthese, Vol. 144, No. 1 (March 2005), 137–70. Foucault, Michel. L’archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard, 1969. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology. Speculative Realism Series, edited by Graham Harman. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. Günther, Gotthard. Beiträge Zur Grundlegung Einer Operationsfähigen Dialektik. 3 vols., Vol. II – Wirklichkeit als Poly-Kontexturalität. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1979. Kaplan, David. “Afterthoughts”. Themes from Kaplan, edited by Joseph Almog, John Perry and Howard Wettstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, 565–614. — “On the Logic of Demonstratives”. Journal of Philosophical Logic. Vol. 8, No. 1 (January 1979), 81–98. McCarthy, John. “Notes on Formalizing Context”. Proceedings of the 13th International Joint Conference on Artifical Intelligence. Chambery, France: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 1993, 555–60.


Penco, Carlo. “Objective and Cognitive Context”. Modeling and Using Context. Second International and Interdisciplinary Conference, Context’99. Trento, Italy, September 9–11, 1999. Proceedings, edited by Paolo Bouquet, Luciano Serafini, Patrick Brezillon, Massimo Benerecetti and Francesca Castellani. “Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence” Series. Berlin: Springer, 1999, 270–283. Pepper, Stephen C. World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1942. Vidinsky, Vassil. “Homo sapiens technicus i eksperimentite s prirodata (versiya 1.5)” [Homo sapiens technicus and the experiments with nature (v. 1.5)]. Piron, Vol. 12 – The Inhuman, October 2016. — Sluchaynosti. Istoricheska tipologiya [Contingencies. Historical Typology]. Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, 2017.



Seit 2016 – das Jahr in dem durch Volksentscheid der Austritt Großbritanniens aus der Europäischen Union beschlossen wurde und in in dem mehr oder weniger unerwartet Donald Trump zum Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten gewählt wurde – hat sich die Auffassung etabliert, dass im Charakter der Politik im Westen ein bedeutender Wandel stattfindet. Als Zeichen dieses Wandels wird oft die rasche Verbreitung des Wortes „Post-truth“, oder genauer gesagt „Post-truth politics“, in der öffentlichen Rede. Nicht von ungefähr wurde „Post-truth“ von Oxford Dictionaries zum Wort des Jahres 2016 erklärt. Die Rede von „Post-truth“ hat bestimmte Voraussetzungen. Sie impliziert: 1) dass im Prinzip Wahrheit etwas mit Politik zu tun haben sollte; 2) dass es eine gewisse Zeit gegeben hat, wo dies der Fall gewesen ist; 3) dass heute diese Zeit vorbei ist; 4) dass dies eine negative, nicht wünschenswerte Entwicklung ist. So enthält der Ausdruck „Post-truth“ eine diagnostische und eine kritische Komponente. Diagnostisch ist seine Verwendung Indikator für etwas Neues. In kritischer Absicht wird dieses Neue negativ bewertet. Das Verhältnis von Wahrheit und Politik ist immer problematisch gewesen. Es kann auf unzählige Beispiele von politisch motivierten Manipulationen und Falschifikationen der Wahrheit hingewiesen werden. Zumindest in der politischen Theorie steht jedoch spätestens seit der Publikation des Aufsatzes „Wahrheit und Politik“ von Hannah Arendt1 fest, dass es in der Politik bei Weitem nicht um Wahrheit sondern bloß um Macht und Interessen geht. Die Politik, so die These von Arendt, ist nicht der Ort der Wahrheitssuche wie die Philosophie, die Wissenschaft oder das Recht. Der einzige Berührungspunkt von Politik und Wahrheit sind die sogenannten „Tatsachenwahrheiten“, nicht die „Vernunftwahrheiten.“2 Politik hat nur mit Tatsachenwahrheiten zu tun. In transformierter Form treten sie als „Meinungen“ auf. Meinungen sind aber immer parteiich, während Wahrheiten, sofern sie überhaupt Wahrheiten sind, unparteiich sein sollten. Unabhängig davon, dass die Politik nicht der Bereich der Wahrheit ist, hat die Wahrheit unter den Bedingungen demokratischer Politik einen hohen Wert. Hannah Arendt, „Wahrheit und Politik“, in: Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft. Übungen im politischen Denken I (München: Piper Verlag, 1994). 2 Hier ist die berühmte Trennung von „Tatsachenwahrheiten“ und „Vernunftwahrheiten“ von Gottfried Leibniz gemeint. 1


In der demokratischen Politik wird um das Vertrauen der Bürger geworben. Die Glaubwürdigkeit der Politiker beruht auf dem Anspruch auf der Basis von „wahren“, d. h. begründeten, durch Tatsachen gestützten Meinungen zu handeln. In der demokratischen Politik kann die Wahrheit durch nichts anderes ersetzt werden. Was hat sich nun in der Zeit von „Post-truth“ geändert? Es sind Politiker aufgetreten, die den Anspruch auf Grund von wahren Meinungen zu handeln aufgegeben haben. Heute scheint es nicht mehr darum zu gehen ob Politiker die Wahrheit sagen, verschweigen oder schlichtweg lügen, sondern darum, dass der Wahrheitsbezug selbst nicht mehr von Bedeutung ist. In der heutigen Situation scheint es, dass die Wahrheit nicht mehr gebraucht wird. In der Politik bleiben nur viele gleichwertige private Meinungen, die miteinander konkurrieren. Warum aber soll diese Situation völliger Entwertung der Wahrheit in der Politik beunruhigend sein? Die Antwort auf diese Frage ist nahe liegend. Wenn politische Entscheidungen nur auf subjektive Interessen, Wünschen und Gefühlen beruhen und nichts mit Tatsachen zu tun haben, wird die gesamte Verbindlichkeitsstruktur der Politik aufgelöst, weil Interessen, Wünsche und Gefühle schnell wandelbar sind. Das Kapital demokratischer Politik ist Vertrauen. Ohne das Vertrauen der Bürger in der Regierung und in den Regierenden, hat die politische Macht keine Legitimität. Vertrauenswürdigkeit wird gemessen an der Fähigkeit der Politiker über eine gewisse Zeitspanne gegebene Versprechen einzuhalten. Wenn es keinen unabhängigen Maßstab der Aussagen über die Wirklichkeit gibt, der es erlauben würde, sie und die aus ihnen hervorgegangenen politischen Handlungen zu überprüfen, würde Politik nur auf Willkür, Zwang und Gewalt gründen. In der Politik ginge es einzig und allein um Macht. Eine solche Politik wäre dann nicht mehr demokratisch. Wenn Demokratie immer noch einen Wert haben sollte, muss in der Zeit von „Post-truth“ die Wahrheit verteidigt werden. „Wahrheit“ ist ein wichtiger philosohischer Begriff, der zentral für die Erkenntnistheorie und die Logik ist. Was sind aber eigentlich die Begriffe? Auf den Aufsatz von Gottlob Frege „Funktion und Begriff“3 (1891) geht die heutzutage weit akzeptierte Auffassung zurück, dass Begriffe generalisierte Prädikate sind. In den Aussagen über die Wirklichkeit haben Prädikate die Funktion, den Gegenstand der Aussage zu charakterisieren und zugleich zu klassifizieren. Wenn wir also über den Wahrheitsbegriff sprechen, sprechen wir in verallgemeinerter Form über die Verwendungsweisen des Prädikats „wahr“. Die Generalisierung der Prädikate, die durch Transformation eines sprachlichen Ausdrucks in einen Namen erfolgt, erlaubt es über Prädikate Aussagen zu treffen. Sie erlaubt es Wahrheitstheorien zu entwickeln. Allem voran ist aber „wahr“ ein normales Alltagswort. Wenn wir nicht metaphorisch oder ironisch sprechen, beziehen wir dieses Wort im Alltag einerseits auf Personen und auf Dinge (wahre Freunde, wahre Diamanten) und andererseits Gottlob Frege, „Funktion und Begriff“ In: Funktion, Begriff, Bedeutung. Fünf logische Studien (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008).



auf Aussagen (es ist wahr, dass ...). Diese Verwendungsweisen unterscheiden sich voneinander und können nicht aufeinander zurückgeführt werden. Im ersten Fall kann das Wort „wahr“ durch „echt“ ersetzt werden, dann wäre sein Gegenteil „unecht“ oder „gefälscht“. Es geht also um Unterscheidung zwischen Schein und Wirklichkeit. Im zweiten Fall dagegen kann das Wort „wahr“ durch das Wort „richtig“ ersetzt werden, sein Gegenteil wäre dann „falsch“. Diese Verwendungsweise bezieht sich auf den Wirklichkeitsbezug der Aussage. Abgesehen vom Spezialfall der sogenannten „analytischen Sätzen“ (z. B. alle Körper sind räumlich), ist die Frage nach dem Wirklichkeitsbezug unserer Tatsachenaussagen, niemals vorentschieden. Diese Frage soll immer nur angeichts der Erfahrung eine Antwort finden. Daher ist der Wahrheitswert der Tatsachenaussagen von großem Interesse für die Philosophie und insbesondere für die Erkenntnistheorie. Die wichtigste Frage bei der Verwendung solcher Aussagen ist die Frage nach dem Maßstab, nach dem über ihre Wahrheit entschieden werden soll, also die Frage nach dem Wahrheitskriterium. Wenn wir über Wahrheit im engeren Sinne des Wortes, d. h. über „Aussagenwahrheit“ sprechen, geht es um den Wirklichkeitsbezug. Das Kriterium, das wir im Alltag normalerweise benutzen, wenn wir über die Wahrheit einer Aussage zu entscheiden haben, ist die Übereinstimmung des Gesagten mit den Tatsachen. Dieses Kriterium bildet den Inhalt der wohl ältesten Wahrheitstheorie, der Korrespondenztheorie. Sie ist auf Aristoteles zurückzuführen. Nach dieser Theorie besteht die Wahrheit in der Übereinstimmung von Erkenntnis und Wirklichkeit. Eine Aussage ist demnach dann und nur dann wahr, wenn das in ihr Gesagte (also ihr Inhalt) mit einem wirklichen, für alle zugänglichen Zustand der Dinge in der Wirklichkeit außerhalb der Sprache, also mit einer Tatsache übereinstimmt. Es sind in der Philosophie eine ganze Reihe kritische Einwände gegen die Korrespondenztheorie angeführt worden. Kurz seien hier die bekanntesten dieser Einwände zusammengefasst: 1) Die Theorie ist zirkulär und kann nicht auf sich selbst bezogen werden. Es kann keine Tatsache wahrgenommen werden, der man entnehmen könnte, dass die Wahrheit einer Aussage in der Übereinstimmung ihres Inhalts mit einer Tatsache besteht. 2) Die Theorie setzt dogmatisch einen naiven, unreflektierten erkenntnistheoretischen Realismus voraus, nach dem eine von den menschlichen Erkenntnisformen und Aussagen unabhängige Wirklichkeit besteht. 3) Die Theorie setzt voraus, dass wir einen von unseren Aussagen unabhängigen Zugang zur Wirklichkeit haben. Vor dem Hintergrund dieser kritischen Argumente lohnt es sich auf zwei Versuche hinzuweisen, die Schwierigkeiten der Korrespondenztheorie zu beheben. Der erste Versuch ist die Redundanztheorie von Frank Ramsey. Nach dieser Theorie bringt bereits die Formulierung einer Aussage den Anspruch mit sich, wahr zu sein. So z. B. besteht zwischen der Aussage „Heute ist der Himmel über Sofia blau“ und der Aussage „Es ist wahr, dass heute der Himmel über Sofia blau ist“ Äquivalenzrelation. Der Anspruch auf Wahrheit ist selbstverständlich, also braucht 145

man das Prädikat „wahr“ nicht zu verwenden, sogar nicht einmal zu erwähnen. Die offensichtliche Schwäche dieser Theorie ist, dass sie kein Kriterium bietet, nach dem entschieden werden kann, ob der Anspruch auf Wahrheit einer Aussage eingelöst werden kann. Der zweite Versuch ist die von Alfred Tarski entwickelte semantische Theorie. Eine Aussage ist nach dieser Theorie dann und nur dann wahr, wenn das in ihr Behauptete wirklich der Fall ist. Die Schwächen dieser Theorie sind oft diskutiert worden. 1) Sie gilt nur für Sprachen, deren formale Struktur bestimmt ist. 2) Sie setzt die Unterscheidung zwischen Metasprache und Objektsprache voraus, wobei der Ausdruck „wahr“ zur Metasprache gehört. Zwar definiert die semantische Theorie die Bedeutung des Wahrheitsbegriffs, bietet aber kein Wahrheitskriterium. Neben der Korrespondeztheorie bestehen auch vier weitere Grundtypen der Wahrheitstheorie. Jede dieser Theorien formuliert ein Wahrheitskriterium, zugleich aber ist jede von ihnen mit spezifischen Schwierigkeiten konfrontiert. Bei der Kohärenztheorie ist das Wahrheitskriterium Kohärenz. Eine Aussage ist dann und nur dann wahr, wenn sie anderen Aussagen aus einem bereits akzeptierten Zusammenhang nicht widerspricht. Das Problem hier ist, dass die Aussage auf den Kontext relativ ist. Das Kriterium der Evidenztheorie ist Evidenz. Eine Aussage ist dann und nur dann wahr, wenn ihre Wahrheit wie bei mathematischen Axiomen unmittelbar einleuchtet. Die Schwierigkeit bei dieser Theorie besteht darin, dass man hier nie sicher sein kann, ob es nicht um bloß subjektive Erlebnisse der Wahrheit geht. Bei der Konsenstheorie ist das Wahrheitskriterium die Zustimmung. Eine Aussage ist dann und nur dann wahr, wenn sie in einem argumentativen Gespräch die Zustimmung aller Teilnehmer findet. Die schwierige Frage hier ist nach welchen Kriterien die Gültigkeit der Argumente bestimmt wird. Das Wahrheitskriterium der pragmatischen Wahrheitstheorie ist Nützlichkeit. Eine Aussage ist dann und nur wahr, wenn sie sich in der Praxis bewährt, also wenn ihre praktischen Konsequenzen nützich sind. Das Problem hier ist, dass „nützlich“ immer zweistelliges während „wahr“ immer einstelliges Prädikat ist – ob etwas nützlich ist, ist selbst eine Wahrheitsfrage. Alle Kriterien, die die aufgezählten Grundtypen der Wahrheitstheorien formulieren, sind auf etwas relativ – die Kohärenz auf die Wahl des Zusammenhangs, die Evidenz auf das subjektive Erkenntnisvermögen, die Zustimmung auf die Gesprächssituation und schließlich die Nützlichkeit auf die Zielsetzungen der handelnden Personen. In diesem Sinne bieten alle diese Wahrheitstheorien nur abhängige Maßstäbe, deswegen ist jede von ihnen einseitig. Die Korrespondenztheorie ist die einzige unter den Grundtypen der Wahrheitstheorie, die einen unabhängigen Maßstab zur Entscheidung über den Wirklichkeitsbezug der Aussagen bietet, nämlich die Übereinstimmung mit der Wirklichkeit wie sie an sich selbst ist. Wie kann man die Einwände gegen die Korrespondenztheorie begegnen? Was die Zirkularität angeht, so kann man sagen, dass jeder philosophische Begriff zirkulär ist, weil er immer ein intuitives Alltagsverständnis seiner Bedeutung 146

voraussetzt. Im Verstehen gibt es nach einem bekannten Spruch von Hans-Georg Gadamer keinen „Nullpunkt“. Begriffe werden im Alltag intuitiv gebraucht, während sie in den wissenschaftlichen und philosophischen Theorien reflexiv verwendet werden müssen. Im Unterschied zur Wissenschaft und insbesondere zur Naturwissenschaft bietet Philosophie keine strengen Begriffsdefinitionen, sie beschäftigt sich mit Begriffsaufklärung. In Bezug auf den naiven Realismus kann man Folgendes sagen. Eine gewisse Naivität bei der Annahme unabhängiger Wirklichkeit kann nicht vermieden werden, weil die Möglichkeit, die Existenz einer solchen Wirklichkeit in Zweifel zu ziehen niemals völlig ausgeschlossen werden kann. Wir haben aber nur selten und unter sehr spezifischen Umständen meistens theoretische Gründe, die Existenz der Wirklichkeit zu bezweifeln, zumal diese Wirklichkeit auch für andere zugänglich ist. Im Alltag, selbst wenn wir aus philosophischen Lehren wissen, dass uns die Sinne täuschen können, zweifeln wir normalerweise nicht daran, dass, wenn wir durch das Fenster sehen dass es draußen Nebel gibt, es wirklich neblig ist. Selbst wenn uns etwa von anderen philosophischen Lehren bekannt ist, dass die Wirklichkeit im stetigen Wandel ist, sind wir uns normalerweise ziemlich sicher, dass sich das Rektorat der Sofioter Universität in der Zar-Osvoboditel-Straße 15 in der Stadtmitte von Sofia befindet und dass, wenn keine außerordentliche Katastrophe passiert, es auch morgen dort stehen wird. Selbst wenn uns bestimmte Philosophen warnen, dass es logisch nicht ausgeschlossen ist, dass unser gesamtes Weltbild nur ein Traum sein könnte, sind wir überzeugt, dass wir wirklich unser Leben riskieren würden wenn wir uns nicht vor schnell fahrenden Autos nicht hüten. Mit anderen Worten, es gibt im Alltag Dinge, die weder Begründungen noch Beweise brauchen. Sie können nur unter sehr spezifischen Umständen zum Problem werden. So bleibt die theoretische Anstrengung, die gesamte Wirklichkeit, die Erkenntnisweisen der Wirklichkeit, alle Begriffe einschließlich des Wahrheitsbegriffs aus einem einzigen Prinzip heraus unter Einklammerung der gesammten sinnlichen Erfahrung zu konstruiren, ein spezifisch philosophisches Anliegen. Bezüglch des unabhängigen Zugangs zur Wirklichkeit läßt sich Folgendes anführen. Zwar ist für uns die Wirklichkeit nur über unser Erkenntnisvermögen gegeben, was aber nicht heißen würde, dass wir sie wie sie „an sich“ ist nicht zumindest annäherungsweise erreichen können. Alle wissenschaftlichen Theorien mit dem gesamten Apparat ihrer Ausweisung, Überprüfung, Vergewisserung, Diskussion, Kritik und Korrektur sind Annäherungen an die Wirklichkeit. Natürlich kann uns niemand daran hindern, dass wir diese Theorein wissenschaftstheoretisch als Selbtzweck oder als seltsame Speile mit eigenen Regeln beschreiben, nur werden sich auch diese Beschreibungen nicht den Anspruch entledigen können, die Wirklichkeit zu wiedergeben, wenn sie nicht reine Dichtung sein wollen. Die gefährliche Disqualifizierung des Wahrheitsbegriffs, die heutzutage bei weitem nicht nur in „Post-truth politics“ passiert, kann nur dann abgewehrt werden, wenn es klar ist, wozu eigentlich der Wahrheitsbegriff gut ist. Wozu also brauchen wir 147

den Wahrheitsbegriff? Der Wahrheitsbegriff hat in unserem Denken und Sprechen die Funktion eines unabhängigen Maßstabs zur Charakterisierung und Klassifizierung unserer Aussagen im Hinblick auf ihren Wirklichkeitsbezug. Da unsere Meinungen propositionale Form haben und zugleich wir auf Grund von Meinungen handeln, wäre ohne einen solchen Maßstab unser Handeln dem Spiel des Zufalls überlassen. Da wir mit anderen kommunizieren und kooperieren und auf die Kooperation von anderen angewiesen sind, wäre ohne einen unabhängigen Maßstab die minimale Verständigung über Zweck und Verfahren gemeinsamer Handlungen nicht möglich. Im Kontext der demokratischen Politik investieren wir unser Vertrauen in andere. Ohne einen unabhängigen Maßstab zur Beurteilung ihrer Aussagen wäre unser Vertrauen unbegründet. Das Ziel der „Post-truth politics“ ist aber nicht den Aussagen, sondern dem Sprecher zu vertrauen. Unter diesen Umständen wäre die Frage, wem man Glauben schenken sollte, wer Vertrauen verdient, nicht eine Frage der kritischen Überprüfung und der begründeten selbständigen Enscheidung sondern eine Frage situativer Machtverhältnisse. Wahrheit genauso wie Gerechtigkeit sind Begriffe, die die Funktion haben, unabhängige Maßstäbe unserer Aussagen und unserer Handlungen anzugeben. Wenn sie delegitimiert, entleert und bedeutungslos gemacht werden, wird das menschliche Zusammenleben einzig und allein von Stärke und Macht bestimmt werden. Es ist eine zivilisatorische Leistung der freiheitlichen Demokratie, dass sie die Politik nicht mehr auf der Basis von bloßer Macht sondern auf der Basis von Vertrauen und Recht begründet. Wer diese Leistung nicht verloren sehen will, der muss sich für Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit einsetzen.

Literaturhinweise Arendt, Hannah. „Wahrheit und Politik“. In: Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft. Übungen im politischen Denken I. München: Piper Verlag, 1994. Ferber, Rafael. Philosophische Grundbegriffe Bd. 1. München: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2003, Kapitel IV. Frege, Gottlob. „Funktion und Begriff“. In: Funktion, Begriff, Bedeutung. Fünf logische Studien. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008. Habermas, Jürgen. „Wahrheitstheorien“. In: Vorstudien und Ergänzungen zur Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1984. Nida-Rümelin, Julian. Strukturelle Rationalität. Ein philosophischer Essay über praktische Vernunft. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun., 2001, Kapitel 9. Schnädelbach, Herbert. Erkenntnistheorie zur Einführung. Hamburg: Junius Verlag, 2002. Skirbekk, Gunnar (Hrsg.) Wahrheitstheorien. Eine Auswahl aus den Diskussionen über die Wahrheit im 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977. Tugendhat, Ernst. Philosophische Aufsätze. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1992, Teil II. Tugendhat, Ernst, Ursula Wolf. Logisch-semantische Propädeutik. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun., 1993, Kapitel 13.


Part IV New Realism and the History of Philosophy

Das Sein des Gedankens als Gedanke bei Anselm von Canterbury und die Sinnfeldontologie Georgi Kapriev

„Das Einhorn existiert und die Welt eben nicht“ erklärt durch Markus Gabriel der Neue Realismus und zieht mich auf seine Seite in diesem Punkt. Ich bin für das Einhorn da, wie auch für den Centaurus, die Sphinx und die ähnlichen sympathischen Wesen. Ich bin, fachlich gesprochen, für jeden Ablehner der Parallelität zwischen Sein und Bewusstsein, d.h. der Separierung von der als das Extramentale schlechthin erfassten „Realität“ und dem als virtuell erfassten Intramentalen. Im Kontext dieser Parallelität werden sie, Wirklichkeit und Denken, zunächst total voneinander entfremdet, um danach die Frage nach den Kriterien für ihre adäquate Parallelisierung zu stellen. Dieser Sachzustand wird in den letzten Jahrhunderten vielmehr als natürlich betrachtet. Natürlich ist jedoch die Sache nicht. Die genannte strenge Parallelität war ein Effekt der dialektischen Entwicklungen im 12. Jahrhundert, grundsätzlich mit den Lehrperspektiven Abaelard’s, Gilbert’s de la Porrée und ihrer Fortsetzer verbunden, wobei der Universalienstreit keine zweitrangige Rolle in unserem Zusammenhang spielte. Die Triumphglocken läuteten allerdings mit der Wahrheitstheorie des Thomas von Aquin mit aller Kraft. Seine adaequatio rei et intellectus war ohne die Evidenz durchaus nicht möglich, dass der Bereich der realitas und der Bereich des intellectus zwei an sich inkommensurable Bereiche sind, die doch zulassen, in einem epistemischen adaequatio-Verhältnis gesetzt zu werden. Die ganze scholastische Transzendentalphilosophie stand und fiel mit dieser Prämisse. Die Grundfrage dieser Philosophie war nicht von ungefähr die Frage nach dem Ersterkannten. Die genannte Parallelität wurde durch die Descartischen res extensa und res cogitans auf Dauer untermauert. Schon Rudolf Göckel, der in seinem „Philosophischen Lexikon“ von 1613 als erster den Begriff “Ontologie” einführte, meinte damit nicht direkt die Problematisierung des Seins und des Seienden, sondern ein gnoseologisches Konstrukt, dafür geeignet, den Mittelpunkt zwischen der bloß empirischen und transzendentalen Auffassung der Wirklichkeit einzunehmen. Diesem Konstrukt gemäß ist die Seinsstruktur der Denkstruktur völlig fremd. Die Frage nach dem absoluten Sein verlief im Rahmen dieser Autarkie. Dadurch sollte der einzig mögliche Berührungspunkt der beiden Sphären argumentiert werden. Kraft einer retrospektiven Interpretation wurde dieses Konzept noch in der Zeit der mittelalterlichen Scholastik Plato und Aristoteles zugeschrieben. Sie hielten aber wenig davon. 151

Diese philosophische Konstruktion war auch dem abendländischen Frühmittelalter nicht vertraut. Ein Musterbeweis dafür ist der augustinische ZeitenBegriff. Für Augustinus besteht „die Zeit“ gerade deshalb nicht, weil die Zeiten eine Funktion der Bewegungen, der Veränderungen und der jeweiligen Seinsintensität sind, die im jedweden relativ geschlossenen System verlaufen. Zugleich haben die Zeiten jedes Menschen ihr festes Sein in seiner Seele, darin gerade das praesens de praeteribus, das praesens de praesentibus und das praesens de futuris inne sind.1 Geradeso musterhaft ist die Grundlage des so genannten Proslogion-Gottesbeweises Anselms von Canterbury, der sonst als Erzurheber des ontologischen Gottesbeweises bzw. der Ontotheologie empfohlen wird. Bei seinem Verfahren hat Anselm keine Absicht, das Sein oder die Existenz Gottes zu beweisen, mit dem er im ersten Kapitel anbetend redet. Im Proslogion versucht Anselm den Intellekt zum Gotteserkenntnisniveau des Glaubens emporzuheben. Gerade Gott ist dieser, der Anselm in seiner Suche lenken soll: „Ergo domine, qui das fidei intellectum, da mihi, ut, quantum scis expedire, intelligam, quia es sicut credimus, et hoc es quod credimus“.2 Am Ende des ersten Schrittes seines Verfahrens dankt Anselm für sein Gelingen wieder Gott: „Gratias tibi, bene domine, gratias tibi, quia quod prius credidi te donante, iam sic intelligo te illuminante, ut si te esse nolim credere, non possim non intelligere“.3 (In diesem Satz wird der Unterschied zwischen Sein im Intellekt und Sein im Glauben bereits explizit gezogen.) Das Argument muss in diesem Fall nur in einem Bereich entfaltet werden. Im Bereich des Intellekts. Deswegen beschreibt er Gott als „aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit / etwas, über das hinaus nichts Größeres gedacht werden kann“. Anselm nimmt mit guten Gründen an, dass dieser verständliche Ausdruck bzw. diese wohlgeformte Formel der Vernunft zugänglich und annehmbar ist. Jeder, der die Formel gehört hat, versteht das Gehörte. Es ist in seinem Intellekt (in intellectus eius est), auch wenn der Hörende nicht versteht, dass es ist (illud esse). Denn es ist ein anderes, greift Anselm unser Thema an, dass eine Sache im Intellekt ist (oder: im Intellekt Sein hat – in intellectu esse), und ein anderes zu verstehen, dass diese Sache ist (oder: zu verstehen, dass diese Sache Sein hat – intelligere rem esse).4 Das in intellectu esse des id quo nihil maius cogitari possit ist allerdings seltsam. Der Ausdruck ist nur auf die Vernunft gerichtet und will mit ihr allein zu tun haben. Er beschäftigt sich mit keinem Seienden, weil er sich keineswegs als Begriff repräsentiert. Kraft des Komparativs schafft Anselm, das Denken nach einem Pseudo-Gegenstand zu richten: Er lässt sich nie als ein konkreter Augustinus, Confessiones, trans. H. Chadwick (Oxford University Press, 1991), XI, 20, 26. Proslogion (= P), 2, F. S. Scmitt (ed.), S. Anselmi Cantuariensis achiepiscopi Opera omnia (Stuttgart/Bad Cannstatt, 1968), I, p. 101, 3–5. 3 P, 4, I, p. 104, 6–7. 4 P, 2, I, p. 101, 8–10. 1 2


Einzelgegenstand aufweisen. Wäre er ein „Was“, so würde er kein „maius“, sondern bestenfalls ein „maximus“. Es besteht kein „Was“ oder Gegenstand, von dem nicht ein Größeres als logisch möglich zugelassen werden kann. Die Formel führt jenseits des Gegenständlichen und Vergleichbaren. Sie kann also kein Begriff sein. Durch einen Begriff wird in jedem Fall ein Gegenstand, eine res im weitesten Sinn des Wortes gedacht.5 Deshalb gibt Anselm Gaunilo recht, dass id quo nihil maius cogitari possit mittels genus und species nicht begriffen werden kann,6 d.h. dass es keinen Begriff und keine Definition sein kann. Er ist dennoch durchaus nicht damit einverstanden, dass id quo nihil maius cogitari possit deswegen nicht im Intellekt gehabt werden kann. Es ist im Intellekt; es hat im Intellekt Sein. Anselm billigt den Seinscharakter des „esse in intellectu“. Jeder Gedanke steht als Gedanke bereits im Horizont des Seins. Eine weitere Frage ist die Perspektive, die sich aus diesem Horizont eröffnet. Die Sphäre des Seins eines Gedankeninhalts ist klar umgeschrieben. Ihr Umfang ist nur der Intellekt, der im Kreise seiner Funktionalität indifferent hinsichtlich des Problems ist, ob seine Inhalte auch einen anderen Daseinstyp haben oder nicht, und er kann von sich aus kein Dasein des anderen Typs realisieren. Das in solo intellectu Seiende hat seine Kompetenzgrenzen im Intellekt selbst und seine Wirksamkeit bleibt nur auf die Wirkungen auf die rein intellektuellen Ereignisse und ihre Kombination beschränkt. Anders gesagt: Es ist fest mit einem Sujet bzw. mit einem Sujet-Netz verbunden. Das Potenzial seiner Valenz erschöpft sich innerhalb dieses Netzes und kann auf andere Netzwerke keine unmittelbare Wirkung üben. Anselm besteht aber emphatisch, dass das aliquid quo maius cogitari non valet ohne Zweifel et in intellectu et in re existit7. Was soll mit dieser doppelten Existenz gemeint sein, mit der das anselmische Argument steht und fällt? Die Formel ist, wie gesagt, kein Begriff und definiert keinen Gegenstand, keine res. Sie verleiht dennoch dem Denken eine Dynamik, die es auf das Extrem des Denkbaren lenkt, das kraft des Denkens nicht überschritten werden kann. Das Extrem selbst ist zwar nicht zu erreichen; es ist immer maius als das durch jedweden Denkakt Erreichbare. Das id quo nihil maius cogitari possit weist auf die äußerste Grenze des Denkens überhaupt: die Konvergenzgrenze, die das Denken schlechthin möglich macht. Sie ist der Hintergrund oder vielmehr der UrGrund jedes Gedankens und des Denkens schlechthin. Diese an sich undenkbare Grenze, die alleine als „das Undenkbare“ gedacht werden kann, ist und kann nicht mehr bloß ein einzelner Gedanke, nur ein esse in intellectu sein. Et certe id quo maius cogitari nequit, non potest esse in solo intellectu. Si enim vel in solo intellectu est, potest cogitari esse et in re; quod maius est. Falls es in solo Cf. Aristoteles, Topica VI 10, 148a, 22–28; I. Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B 125. Quid ad haec respondeat quidam pro insipiente, 4, I, p. 126, 31–127, 7. 7 P, 2, p. 102, 1–3. 5 6


intellectu wäre, dann wäre id ipsum quo maius cogitari non potest, etwas, quo maius cogitari potest.8 Warum soll das esse et in re „größer“ sein? Und schon vorher: Was heißt hier „in re“? Ein der schwerwiegenden Missverständnisse bei der Deutung des anselmischen Vorgehens entsteht aus der Auffassung des „in re“ mit „in Wirklichkeit“, wobei diese – dem scholastischen Wortgebrauch nach – verbindlich als gegenständlich objektiviert, also als res, als „Realität“, umrissen und entfremdet gedacht wird. Dies geht aber zu weit an dem Verständnis Anselms vorbei. In De casu diaboli trifft er die folgende Unterscheidung: „Scio duas esse potestates, unam quae nondum est in re, alteram quae iam est in re“.9 Wie ist es aus scholastischer und postscholastischer Sicht möglich, etwas Seiendes nicht in re zu sein? Es ist zu ersehen, dass es bei Anselm um einen Vergleich zweier verschiedener Arten des Bestehens von Sachen geht, die Sein haben. „In re“ besagt in diesem Zusammenhang, dass die eine potestas aktual, d.h. Wirkungen ausübend, wirkend und deshalb wirklich ist. Der Unterschied besteht also nicht darin, dass die eine ist und die andere nicht ist, sondern darin, dass die Kraft in re sich als wirkende Ursache, einschließlich als äußerliche Ursache eines Gedankeninhalts erweisen kann. Die Tatsache, dass „in re“ auch im Proslogion auf diese Weise gedacht wird, wird von Anselm noch in den ersten Zeilen seiner Antwort an Gaunilo fixiert. Darin besteht er darauf, dass selbst wenn jemand das Sein dessen, über das hinaus nichts Größeres gedacht werden kann, verneint oder bezweifelt, er gleichwohl damit einverstanden sein muss, dass es, si esset, nec actu nec intellectu posset non esse.10 Hier ist actu als Synonym von „in re“ aus dem zweiten ProslogionKapitel verwendet. Die Unterscheidung zwischen esse in intellectu und esse in re im konzeptuellen Rahmen des Proslogion verläuft also nicht zwischen intramentaler Virtualität und extramentaler Realität, weil auch die beiden esse-Arten im eigenen Bereich des Intellekts verweilen. Von einer μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος kann beim originellen anselmischen Verfahren keine Rede sein. Es geht vielmehr um zwei verschiedene Wirkungsarten in ein und demselben Bereich. Wenn ich zurück auf die Sujet-Figur komme, dann soll ich bemerken, dass das Sujet, das von dem Gedanken „id quo nihil maius cogitari possit“ entfaltet wird, einen Gedankengang bewirkt, der auf eine Unendlichkeit geht. Diese Unendlichkeit wird aber durch eine mächtigere Unendlichkeit bestimmt und ermöglicht, die Anselm mit Gott in seiner Präsenz als Grenze der Vernunft identifiziert. Diese Grenze erweist sich aber als Erzeuger nicht nur dieses konkreten Gedankenganges. Sie bewirkt eine Mehrzahl von Sujets, die nicht unbedingt ein und derselben Menge gehören. Sie erweist sich als die Möglichkeitsbedingung jedweden Gedankens und des Denkens im Ganzen, P, 2, p. 101, 15–102, 1. De casu diaboli 12, I, p. 252, 30–31. 10 Quid ad haec respondeat editor ipsius libelli, I, p. 131, 6–8. 8 9


als Prinzip des Denkens selbst. Gott, als Grenz-Prinzip des Denkens konzipiert, existiert bedingungslos, weil das Denken evident existiert.11 Wenn man das Proslogion-Verfahren verlässt, soll man aus der Perspektive Anselms verallgemeinert feststellen, dass der Unterschied zwischen den beiden Seinsarten darin besteht, dass das in solo intellectu Seiende sein Valenzpotential innerhalb seines Sujet-Netzes erschöpft, während dies mit dem in re bzw. actu Seiende nicht der Fall ist. Es ist potent, Wirkung auf mehrere Netzwerke zu üben, wobei es relativ gleichgültig ist, ob diese Netzwerke von einem Denken nunmehrig reflektiert sind. In einem Vergleich mit dem ersteren ist dieses Seiende in seiner Wirkung inkomparabel polyvalenter. In einem Vergleich mit den entsprechenden Thesen des Neuen Realismus sind mehrere Korrespondenzpunkte mit der Grundstellung Anselms festzustellen. Das Kerngebiet ist die Behauptung des selbständigen Seinsstatus des Mentalen. Anselm würde aber kaum über „Sinnfelder“ sprechen. Vielmehr würde er unter Zweifel die Ansicht stellen, dass alle Seinsfelder sinnhaft sein können. Von seiner Wahrheitstheorie ausgehend wäre er in diesem Punkt eher skeptisch. Er würde stattdessen über Wirkungsfelder oder Wirkungsnetze reden, in denen die teilnehmenden Akteure ein Valenzpotential erweisen, das von dem Seinstyp des jeweiligen Feldes bestimmt wird. Aus derselben Perspektive würde er die Identifizierung von „Wirklichkeit“ und „Realität“ ablehnen. Wirklichkeit ist zweifelsohne allen Wirkungsfelder zuzuschreiben, während die „Realität“ ein unvergleichbar kleineres Umfangsbereich signifiziert. Der von Maurizio Ferraris postulierte Unterschied, dem nach die „Realität“ den epistemologischen Bezug unseres Wissens oder Denkens über den entsprechenden Seinsbestand bezeichnet, während die „Wirklichkeit“ vielmehr die ontologische Daseinspräsenz außerhalb der konzeptuellen Schemata charakterisiert,12 lässt Überzeugungskraft zu wünschen übrig. Schließend ist zu bemerken, dass der Neue Realismus im besprochenen Punkt kein absoluter Neuerer ist, aber er geht einen philosophischen Weg, der nicht ohne Verluste verlassen war.

Literaturhinweise S. Anselmi Cantuariensis achiepiscopi Opera omnia. Edited by F. S. Schmitt. Stuttgart/Bad Cannstatt: Friedrich Fromann Verlag, 1968. Über das vollständige Verfahren Anselms im Proslogion siehe ausführlich in: Georgi Kapriev, ...ipsa vita et veritas. Der „ontologische Gottesbeweis“ und die Ideenwelt Anselms von Canterbury (Leiden/Boston/Köln: Brill, 1998), S. 171–308. 12 Maurizio Ferraris, Introduction to New Realism, translated by Sarah de Sanctis. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), p. 41. 11


Augustinus, Confessiones. Translated by H. Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Aristoteles, “Topica”. In: Aristotelis Topica et Sophistici Elenchi. Edited by William D. Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958: 1–189. Kant, Immanuel. Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Edited by Ingeborg Heidemann. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1966. Kapriev, Georgi. ...ipsa vita et veritas. Der „ontologische Gottesbeweis“ und die Ideenwelt Anselms von Canterbury. Leiden/Boston/Köln: Brill, 1998. Ferraris, Maurizio. Introduction to New Realism, translated by Sarah de Sanctis. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).



Der erste Teil dieser Betrachtung wurde von der leser- und lehrreichen Begegnung einiger Thesen des „neuen Realismus“ und zugleich von dem Gefühl für ein im Kern dieser philosophischen Erneuerung gelegenes Problem inspiriert, das – ob mutmaßlich oder real – unterschätzt wurde, dabei auch seitens älterer Theorien, sowie z.B. der Theorie von Friedrich W. J. Schelling. Damit sei eine Befürchtung hervorgehoben: der Schatten Schellings könnte sich auch über die gegenwärtigen Versuche hinausbreiten, die Sehnsucht nach Realismus zu befriedigen. Im zweiten Teil schlage ich eine Alternative vor – basierend auf übernommene Ideen aus den Theorien von John Locke und Willard V. O. Quine – und stelle die Aspekte der Quantifizierung, der Identität und der Individuierung und deren Verhältnis zu der Prädikation in einer Auseinandersetzung dar, für die der neue Realismus meiner Meinung nach recht streitige Lösungen bietet.

I. 1. Sollte Manifesto treffen Manifesto… Das Manifest von Maurizio Ferraris Der neue Realismus (2012) erinnert mich in unauffälliger Weise an ein anderes, und zwar an das Rationalistische Manifest (2003) von Michael Della Rocca. Freilich wird das Wesentliche des älteren Manifests gleich durch den Titelabschluss ersichtlich: „Spinoza und der Satz vom zureichenden Grund”. Anscheinend schwört der neue Realismus keine Treue einem solchen universellen Prinzip, dafür aber erinnern die Akzente in den Überschriften beider Manifeste in ihren Zusammenschluss an die Hegelsche These, die besagt, dass was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig. Eine unmittelbare Folge der Allgemeingültigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund wäre: „dass jede Tatsache eine Erklärung hat,… dass es keine bloße Tatsachen gibt (no brute facts)“1. Deswegen ist gerade für Spinoza die Kausalität, aber auch die Existenz, identisch mit der Begreiflichkeit (conceivability). Dieser rekonstruktive Rationalismus bezieht sich einigermaßen paradox auch auf empiristische Theorien, 1

Michael Della Rocca, “A Rationalist Manifesto: Spinoza and the Principle of Sufficient Reason”, in: Philosophical Topics, Vol. 31, Nos. 1 & 2, Spring & Fall 2003, 75.


soweit sie Erklärungen aller Fakten anbieten, so dass kein Raum für brute facts gelassen bleibt. Eine der Reaktionen gegen den Standpunkt von Della Rocca kulminiert in der Idee ob und wann in einer Auffassung der Satz vom zureichenden Grund ist verstoßen worden. Dabei erstreckt sich die Suche nach und die Aufdeckung von solchen leeren Räumen, d.h. die Feststellung von unerklärten bloßen Tatsachen, auch auf die philosophischen Ausführungen von Spinoza und Leibniz. Geschweige denn von Hume, bei dem im Kern seiner Kritik gegen die Kausalität die fehlende Stichhaltigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund liegt. Wie könnte man diese Sachlage anhand von der Philosophie von Immanuel Kant beurteilen? Offensichtlich erkennt Kant die Allgemeingültigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund nicht an, er kritisiert ihn explizit, woraus seine Position folgt, dass er weder den Glauben an die Nichtexistenz bloßer Tatsachen, noch die Überzeugung, dass jede Tatsache eine Erklärung hat, als stichhaltig hält. Omri Boehm hat vor Kurzem Nachweise vorgelegt, dass bei Kant nicht nur die Antinomien, die Paralogismen und das Ideal der reinen Vernunft den Verstoß gegen den Satz bezeugen, sondern auch dass der Satz selbst auf dem ontologischen Gottesbeweis beruht: da Alles, was bedingt ist, bzw. jedes Bedingte, was von einem anderen Bedingten bedingt wird, letzten Endes von etwas Unbedingtem abhängen muss2. Der ontologische Beweis ist jedoch nicht stichhaltig, weil die Existenz kein reales Prädikat ist; d.h. es ist unmöglich etwas Unbedingtes nachzuweisen. Andererseits, der Satz vom zureichenden Grund, wenn zu Ende geführt, sprengt die Idee der transzendentalen Freiheit. Das Fehlen einer legitimen Erkenntnis über das Unbedingte verlagert sich also auch auf den Satz vom zureichenden Grund, deshalb sind wir hinsichtlich dessen Status verurteilt, im Zweifelzustand zu bleiben. Was geschähe aber, wenn wir annehmen würden, dass die Existenz ein reales Prädikat ist? Soll das heißen, dass wir einen geltenden ontologischen Beweis ausführen können? Falls dann der ontologische Beweis gültig wäre, bedeutet es damit, wir sollen die Allgemeingültigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund annehmen und anerkennen? Folgt es daraus schließlich, dass es keine Tatsachen gibt, die ohne Erklärung bleiben dürfen, d.h. dass es keine brute facts gibt? Ich binde mich nicht an die These fest, dass diese vier Fragen überall als miteinander verknüpft erscheinen, und nicht einmal daran, dass die Verbindung zwischen ihnen, falls so eine besteht, auch die entsprechende reversible gegenseitige Abhängigkeit dazwischen bestimmt. Jedoch ist bei Kant diese Abhängigkeit zwischen den Fragestellungen vorhanden und die negative Lösung der letzten verbreitet sich über die gesamte Kette hindurch und wieder rückwärts bis zu dem ersten Kettenglied. Die Anhänger des neuen Realismus vertreten zum anderen die These, zumindest wird sie von Markus Gabriel verteidigt, dass die Existenz jedoch Omri Boehm, “The Principle of Sufficient Reason, the Ontological Argument and the Is/ Ought Distinction“, in: European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 24, Issue 3, September 2016, 1–24.



ein „reales“ (und nicht bloß logisches) Prädikat darstellt, d.h. eine eigentliche Eigenschaft und nicht eine Kennzeichnung. Aus diesem Hintergrund stellt sich die Frage heraus, zumindest für mich, nach der Beziehung dieser Auffassung zu den übrigen oben erwähnten Themen. Ich vermag zurzeit die Folgen hinsichtlich des ontologischen Beweises nicht nachzuvollziehen, da ich die Einzelheiten des Werks von Gabriel nicht kenne. Seine Unterstützung für die These der pluralistischen Ontologie ohne Metaphysik und der Unmöglichkeit einer Welt der Welten entwirft zur gleichen Zeit anscheinend eine Unmöglichkeit des ontologischen Beweises. Die Unklarheit hindert mich nicht daran, mein Interesse zum weiteren Glied der Fragenkette, nämlich zum Satz vom zureichenden Grund, hinzurichten. Wie schaut es aus mit diesem Problem? Das Thema fehlt anscheinend total. Welcher Umstand, das gebe ich zu, mich darüber nachdenken lässt, ob ihre Einbeziehung für alle philosophischen Anläufe, die einen Realismus beanspruchen, obligatorisch ist. Vielleicht ist die Frage von dem zureichenden Grund nur für die Theorien von Bedeutung, die explizit rationalistisch sind und die nicht auf die Metaphysik verzichtet haben. Kann es sein, dass sich für manche Fürsprecher des neuen Realismus anstelle dieses Grundsatzes irgendein anderer auszeichnet? Fraglich ist überdies, ob Grundsätze überhaupt so unumgänglich sind. Eine radikale Erkenntnis-Position wie diese von Quine, die kein Apriori an sich hat, legt das Wissen in ein Meer voller Glaubensmomenten hinein, letztere mit empirischen Erlebnissen nur dem „Ufer“ entlang in Berührung kommend, um dort naturalistische Gewissheit eingeflößt zu kriegen. Kritiker dieses radikalen Holismus wie Michael Friedman vertreten die Ansicht, dass wir jedoch Begriffe und Grundsätze benötigen – und diese wiederum nicht nur auf der Ebene der empirischen Wissenschaften und der Mathematik – um empirisches Wissen in einen Rahmen zu fassen und zu präzisieren, sondern auch auf der Ebene der Philosophie, um zwischen wissenschaftlichen Rahmenbedingungen in Zeiten, wenn Wissenschaftserkenntnis in Krise eingetreten ist, wählen zu können3. Hinzu kommt, dass Quine selbst nicht ohne jegliche (formale) Grundsätze, welche eine ontologische Festlegung (commitment) beinhalten, auskommen kann. So erwähnt er ausdrücklich noch in „Was es gibt“ (Originaltitel On What There Is, 1948): „Als Entität angesehen zu werden (assumed as an entity), heißt schlicht und einfach, als Wert einer Variablen angesehen zu werden (reckoned as the value of a variable)”.4 Dieser Satz bringt den Grundsatz zum Ausdruck, dass „zu sein (d.h. ein Sein zu haben, zu existieren) bedeutet, Wert einer gebundenen Variable zu sein”. Es sollte nicht außer Acht gelassen werden, dass „die gebundenen oder quantifizierten Variablen“ nämlich S. den Abschlussabsatz in: Michael Friedman, „Philosophical Naturalism”, in: Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Nov. 1997), 7–21. 4 Willard V. O. Quine, “Was es gibt”, in: Von einem logischen Standpunkt. Neun logischphilosophische Essays, Ullstein, FfM 1979, 19; Die Seitenangaben von dieser Ausgabe folgen die Abkürzung [Quine 1948]. 3


„Worte wie ‘Etwas‘, ‘Nichts‘, ‘Alles‘ sind5”, d.h. „sie sind keine Namen“, dafür räumen sie aber in der Praxis jedem Diskurs Sinnvollheit ohne Benennung ein (Quine 1948: 14). Es scheint weitaus wichtiger, dass die Bedeutung des Verbs „sein“ und des Substantivs „Existenz“ unvermeidlich einer Quantifizierung bedarf! Eine gewisse „Auszählung” ist in demselben Umfang notwendig, in dem für Kant die reinen Formen der Anschauung unentbehrlich sind, damit wir Erkenntnis und eine gegenständliche Welt haben. Ohne die Fassette der Quantitativität verlieren „sein“ und „Existenz“ ihren Sinn. Die Quantifizierung ist die Voraussetzung der Existenz überhaupt – und so kommt man zu der ersten ontologischen Festlegung. Der Text beinhaltet jedoch noch eine weitere und die ist zwar an die „Wahl zwischen rivalisierenden Ontologien“ gekoppelt. Für Quine beruht die „Annahme einer Ontologie“ auf dem Grundsatz des „einfachsten Begriffschemas, in dem die ungeordneten Fragmente roher Erfahrung eingegliedert und geordnet (fitted and arranged) werden können“ (Quine 1948: 23). Das erinnert bestimmt an die Leibniz’sche Wahl des Besten, jedoch liegt diese Wahl in unseren Händen und nicht in den Händen Gottes, darum ist Quine ein Pragmatiker. Die Bedeutung bleibt jedenfalls dieselbe – Minimax – das einfachste Schema, das unsere Erfahrung weitestgehend umfasst und strukturiert. In einem späteren Stadium führt Quine auch einen dritten Grundsatz der ontologischen Festlegung ein. Er hat den Sinnspruch „Keine Entität ohne Identität“ (no entity without identity) in „Das Sprechen über Gegenstände“ (Originaltitel Speaking of Objects, 1957) geschmiedet und geprägt (Quine 1957: 39).6 Das Richten auf Dinge und Gegenstände erfordert nicht nur Quantifizierung, sondern auch Identifizierung und zwar wenigstens im Laufe der Zeit, d.h. Reidentifikation. Hier findet sich auch eine Analogie mit der Kant’schen Rolle der Kategorien. Es handelt sich aber auch um einen Grundsatz, um das Einfügen eines Grundsatzes in ein System von Grundsätzen. Außerdem, wie es nicht schwer festzustellen ist, um einen, der gewissermaßen dem Satz der Identität des Ununterscheidbaren bei Leibniz verwandt ist, so dass damit das Prinzip der Reidentifikation funktioniert, nicht eine vorangehende Individuation erforderlich wird, und da sie nicht überall möglich ist – nach Quine dies betrifft die Attribute und Präpositionen – so kann man hier nur über dämmrige Halb-Dinge (twilight half-entities) reden. Was aus der Unmöglichkeit der Individuation erfolgt, ist ein Thema der Philosophie von Quine, das weder seine klare Lösung gefunden hat, noch sei es hier zu erörtern. Es reicht aus, dass in einer seinesgleichen holistischen Erkenntnisvision die Prinzipien ihren bestimmten Stellenwert haben, untereinander verbunden sind und sogar eine ontologische Rolle spielen. In der Grammatik sind es Fürwörter oder Zahlwörter (Indefinitpronomen, Negativpronomen, zusammenfassende Pronomen); in der Logik – Quantoren. 6 Willard V. O. Quine, „Das Sprechen über Gegenstände” in: Ontologische Relativität und andere Schriften, Vittorio Klostermann, FfM 2003, 17–42. Die Seitenangaben von dieser Ausgabe folgen die Abkürzung [Quine 1957]. 5


Kommen wir zum neuen Realismus von Gabriel zurück und suchen wir nach dem Vorhandensein von Prinzipien. An einer Stelle in Sinn und Existenz ist gerade diese Frage nicht übersehen worden: „Mit Schelling und in Anlehnung an Heideggers Arbeiten über den Satz vom Grund kann man sagen, dass Gegenstände immer in einem Feld gründen. Dass nichts ohne zureichenden Grund existiert, bedeutet demnach nicht, dass es eine zeitlich geordnete kausale Abfolge von Ursachen gibt, an deren vorläufigem Ende sich jeweils ein gerade vorfindlicher Gegenstand befindet. Nicht alle Gründe sind Ursachen. Damit überhaupt etwas Verursachtes existieren kann, müssen Bedingungen erfüllt sein, die keine Ursachen sind“ (194)7. Diese Passage fehlt in der englischsprachigen Fassung Fields of Sense (FS167)8. Der Ausdruck ist an einer einzigen Stelle erwähnt worden: „some contemporary physicists explicitly reject the principle of sufficient reason” (FS137). Aus der Fußnote wird ersichtlich, dass Lawrence Maxwell Krauss der betreffende Physiker ist, der Autor von Die Physik von Star Trek (1995), Jenseits von Star Trek – Physik von außerirdischen Invasionen bis zum Ende der Zeit (1997) und Ein Universum aus Nichts: ... und warum da trotzdem etwas ist (2012), den die deutschsprachigen Leser anscheinend nicht mehr für wichtig halten. Beide Fassungen können sich natürlich gegenseitig ergänzen und bereichern, ohne etwas von der Hauptlinie der Argumentation zu ändern. Denn sich die Verwerfung des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund auf einige Physiker bezieht, während sich seine Annahme in die Theorie von Gabriel einfügt. Und sein Kern ist sowohl auf Deutsch, als auch auf Englisch vorhanden – 195/ FS168. Die Fassung und Gültigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund, denen Gabriel folgt, sind von Schelling übernommen worden: „Das Wesen, sofern es Grund ist, fungiert in meiner Terminologie als Sinnfeld, und das Wesen, sofern es existiert, entspricht demjenigen, was ich als „Gegenstände“ bezeichne“ (195). Ich bin wohl nicht der einzige Leser dieser Werke von Gabriel, der mit Schwierigkeiten konfrontiert wird, wenn es dazu kommt, das genaue Verhältnis zwischen „Existenz“, „Sinnfeld“ und „Sinn“ zu erkennen; hier einige der Schlüsselformulierungen: – die Existenz ist Erscheinen in einem Sinnfeld (an vielen Stellen) und ist keine Eigenschaft von Individuen, sondern von Sinnfeldern (96); die Existenz ist die Eigenschaft eines Bereichs, bzw. eines Feldes, nicht leer zu sein (138); es gibt keine Antwort auf die Frage, was es genau für einen Gegenstand als solchen bedeutet, in einem Sinnfeld als solchem zu erscheinen (243); wenn etwas existiert, steht bereits ein Sinnfeld fest, in dem es erscheint, das wiederum Regeln voraussetzt (244); – wenn dieses Feld aber selber in keinem Sinn existiert, ist es nicht mehr verständlich, wie überhaupt etwas existieren kann (123); Felder erfüllen die Funktion 7 8

Markus Gabriel, Sinn und Existenz. Eine realistische Ontologie, Suhrkamp, Berlin 2016. Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A new Realist Ontology, Edinburgh UP, Edinburgh 2015. Die Seitenangaben von dieser Ausgabe folgen die Abkürzung [FS].


eines Hintergrundes, vor dem ein Gegenstand hervortritt; Sie sind der Grund von Gegenständen, der selbst wieder in anderen Hintergründen gründet (194); – Ich nenne die Anordnungsregeln „Sinn“ und die Relation, die zwischen einem Bereich und den in ihm vorkommenden Gegenständen besteht, „Erscheinung“ (163). Wenn Gabriel in seiner eigenen Fassung des neuen Realismus die gerade aufgeführten und auseinandergesetzten drei Begriffe in Konstellation betrachtet, so tritt in der Fassung von Schelling die Rolle etwas Anderes hervor, nämlich des Wesens, und es spielt eigentlich eine doppelte Rolle – von Grund und Existenz (bei Schelling), und von dem Sinnfeld und den erscheinenden Gegenstand (bei Gabriel). Die Zuversicht von Gabriel gegenüber Schelling und die spezifische, zentrale Stelle des Wesens in seinem System, geben mir Anlass, die Beziehungen zwischen ihnen weiterzuforschen.

2. Grund und Prädikation Die Verbindung zu Schelling bringt einerseits keine Überraschung, da Schelling einen Schlüsselautor für Gabriel ist. Alle Streitigkeiten rund um die Ontologie der Sinnfelder finden andererseits ohne eine solche direkte und häufige Verwicklung von Schelling statt. Für mich besteht jedoch eine unbestreitbare Verbindung zwischen den beiden Themen und sie wird weiter unten besprochen. Bevor auf einige Momente dieses allgemeinen Themas geachtet wird, würde ich eine noch allgemeinere Erwägung darlegen. Bei mehreren Gelegenheiten haben sich Erneuerungsprojekte als Wiederbelebungsversuche alter Lösungen herausgestellt. Also auch hier, denke ich, dem neuen Realismus liegt, oder liegen könnte, ein Modell zum Zurechtkommen mit der Kant’schen Philosophie, das am Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts ausgedacht wurde, zugrunde. 2.1. Schelling und der Satz vom zureichenden Grund. Bei den obigen Ausführungen ging es um die Ansprüche des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund, wenn er als zentrales Prinzip im System der Erkenntnis betrachtet wird, um seinen Platz in der Philosophie von Kant, sowie um die Tatsache, dass er unter den neuen Realisten angeblich keine besondere Bedeutsamkeit genießt. Wie sieht es mit Schelling aus? Die Sinnfelder haben in der Fassung von Gabriel die Eigenartigkeit sowohl Dinge zu sein, wenn sie sich selbst abheben, als auch Hintergrund, gegen den sich etwas darin abhebt. Damit wird ihre Rolle als Grund unterstrichen; sie sind Gründe des Akzents der Abhebung und der hintergründigen Anordnung. Dies führt wiederum zu serienmäßiger Aneinanderverknüpfung und zum Weiterleiten von Reihenfolgen von einer zur anderen, und als Ergebnis von all dem – zu gewissen Problemen, die mit den Grenzen des Regresses verbunden und dem Satz vom zureichenden Grund innewohnend sind. Genau in diesem Zusammenhang erinnert Gabriel an die Furcht vom Regress bei Schelling, und an die Notwendigkeit eines ultimativen Hintergrunds, 162

der sich jedoch radikal von den Gründen unterscheidet. Statt ein Urgrund zu sein, ist er ein Ungrund. Wenn die Schranke der Reihenfolge der Abhängigkeiten, der Bedingtheiten, in der Auffassung von Kant an etwas Unabhängiges, etwas Nicht-Bedingtes streifen soll, wenn dem Satz vom zureichenden Grund in der Auffassung von Leibniz die Wahl Gottes unterliegt und deshalb die Kausalität in einer ursprünglichen Teleologie wurzelt, so ist für Schelling der Grund der Gründe hohl und leer, „das völlig neutrale, indifferente leere Wesen“, wie Gabriel schreibt (195). Es ist auf jeden Fall eben dieses Moment, das seine zentrale Lage in der Darlegung der Argumentation behält; der Abschnitt, in dem erstmals das Wort Ungrund erwähnt wird, beginnt mit den Worten: „Wir treffen hier endlich auf den höchsten Punkt der ganzen Untersuchung” (Sch406)9. Falls auf alle Ebenen des Seins irgendwelche allgemeine Abhängigkeiten zwischen den Gründen wirken, so verwischen sich in der Dimension des Nichtbegründeten jede Unterschiede zwischen ihnen: „Unmittelbar aus dem Weder – Noch oder der Indifferenz bricht also die Dualität hervor (die etwas ganz anderes ist als Gegensatz…)“ (Sch407). Gegensatz und Dualität bestimmen zwei Existenzordnungen, darum kann Schelling behaupten, dass Wesen allgemein und zugleich funktional in Grund und Existenz unterteilt sei. Nach Schelling und gewissermaßen auch nach Gabriel – und ich sehe keine Hindernisse für eine solche Zusammenfassung – hat also der Satz vom zureichenden Grund seinen Platz in der Philosophie. Außerdem kommen die Schlüsselzitate bezüglich der Doppelrolle des Wesens als Grund und Existenz sowohl im negativen (194-5/ FS167-8), als auch im positiven Teil des Buches (364/ FS258) zum Ausdruck. Seine spezifische Bindung an einen Ausgangspunkt, wo Unbestimmtheit und Indifferenz herrschen, wird sich jedoch sicherlich auf das letzte Glied in der Kette allgemeiner Thesen auswirken, d.h. auf das Problem: ob es überhaupt brute facts gibt? und zwar unabhängig von der Antwort auf die Fragen nach der Existenz als Realprädikat und nach der Gültigkeit des ontologischen Beweises. 2.2. Schelling und das Wesen der Prädikation. Eine Fußnote in der deutschen Auflage, die übrigens in der englischen fehlt, verweist auf einen Artikel von Gabriel mit dem Titel „Die Ontologie der Prädikation in Schellings Die Weltalter“10. Gabriel erinnert, bevor mit der Analyse des späten Schelling fortzufahren, dass Schelling noch in seinen Untersuchungen über die menschliche Freiheit vom Jahre 1809 auf das „Identitätsrätsel“ und auf den Unterschied zwischen Einerleiheit und Identität Friedrich W. J. Schelling, „Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die damit zusammenhängenden Gegenstände”, in: Sämtliche Werke (Hg. K.F.A. Schelling), Abt. I, Bd. 7, Cotta’scher Verlag, Stuttgart/ Augsburg, 1856–1861, 331–416. Die Seitenangaben von dieser Ausgabe folgen die Abkürzung [Sch]. 10 Markus Gabriel, „Die Ontologie der Prädikation in Schellings Die Weltalter“, in: Schelling-Studien. Internationale Zeitschrift zur klassischen deutschen Philosophie 2 (2014), 3-20. Die Seitenangaben von dieser Ausgabe folgen die Abkürzung [OP]. 9


aufmerksam macht. Im Zuge der Beweise stellt Gabriel einen weiteren Unterschied fest, nämlich zwischen Einerleiheit und Einheit, und so stellt sich die Identität schließlich in zweierlei Formen heraus: die eine streng und nicht zu unterscheiden wie man es mit der Einerleiheit hat, und die andere geteilt wie man es mit der Einheit hat. Dies erinnert zweifellos an den ebenfalls dualen Charakter des Wesens, was in seiner Tiefe indifferent ist, aber in seinen Manifestationen in Grund und Existenz gespalten ist. Gabriel selbst hat dieses Merkmal an einer Stelle in seinem Artikel durch den Begriff „Indifferenz (Einerleiheit)” ausgedrückt. In dieser Interpretation wird eine tiefgreifende Analyse der Prädikation vorgeschlagen, die parallel zur ontologischen Analyse des Grundes hinausläuft. Nach Gabriel und Schelling ergibt sich die Möglichkeit dafür aus dem Sachverhalt, dass die Identität keine Tautologie sei; sie ist zwar Tautologie in irgendeinem Anfangspunkt, bei ihrer Aktualisierung aber verwandelt sie sich in einen informativen Satz. Dies ist funktional auf die Kopula zurückzuführen, die in jedem Satz drei Positionen aufführt, nämlich zwei auf der Oberfläche bei dem Subjekt- und dem Prädikatausdruck, und eine dritte, die die ersten beiden vereint. Darüber hinaus ist das Prinzip vom Grund in der Struktur jedes Satzes präsent, deshalb enthält die Prädikation eine regressive Reihenfolge von gestuften Ebenen: unter der Oberfläche von „Peter ist groß“ kann man „dies da ist Peter“ (wohl auch „das ist groß“, obwohl Gabriel eine solche Stufe nicht erwähnt) sehen, und am Ende der Reihenfolge ist das grenzbestimmende und universelle „Dies da ist dies da“ gelegen, dessen dualer Charakter außerhalb seiner Indifferenz hinauszugehen tendiert und Unterschiedlichkeit innerhalb der Einheit anordnen lässt. Als Ergebnis erweist sich das identitätsstiftende Urteil als allgemeingültig für das Urteilen überhaupt; auf dieser Grundlage entstehen Momente des existentiellen Urteils vom Typ „dies da ist X“, die erst danach in das übliche prädikative Urteil „S ist P“ zusammenkommen. Die drei Bezeichnungen der Ebenen der Prädikation sind eigentlich von mir und nicht von Gabriel zugeordnet. Und sie beziehen sich auf drei von den vier verschiedenen Bedeutungen des Verbs „sein“ nach Frege: Gleichheit, Existenz, Prädikation, wobei die letzte, nämlich die Subordination, auch hinzugefügt werden könnte. Weiterhin stellt Gabriel selbst explizit eine Analogie zwischen Schelling und Frege her und schlägt die Schlussfolgerung vor, dass die Dialektik zwischen Einerleiheit und Einheit für den ersten mit der Auffassung des Sinns bei dem zweiten identisch sei. Von hier aus folgt eine Reihe von drei Zusammenfassungen: (a) die Gleichheit ist universell, sie ist die Urgrundlage für alle Arten von Urteilen, und daher sollten die Auffassungen von Frege einer Regression unterworfen werden; (b) die Mannigfaltigkeit der möglichen Individuierung wird zu stark durch das Voraussetzen seitens Frege von gewissen Bedeutungen eingeschränkt, dazu noch wird sie unnötigerweise stabilen Netzwerken von Begriffen und Propositionen untergeordnet, während für Schelling die Individuierung ihre Gültigkeit in einer minimierten und primitiven Form innehat, nämlich durch die schlichte Angabe „dies da ist X“; (c) diese minimierte Form einer semantischen, vorprädikativen 164

Affirmation bringt eine gewisse kognitive Tätigkeit zum Ausdruck, die – im Stile von Descartes – nicht bestritten werden kann und deswegen über ein reales Dasein verfügt, wenigstens als ein Performativ. Ich möchte nicht verheimlichen, dass nach Prüfung des Artikels von Gabriel und nachdem ich später anderswo zu lesen bekam, dass „contrary to contemporary theoretical decisions, Schelling believes that there is a uniform basic theory of predication that assimilates atomic propositions to identity statements”11, das ganze Konzept in Sinn und Existenz und insbesondere die Interpretationen von Kant und von Frege in einem ganz anderen Licht Gestalt bekam. Das starke Engagement von Gabriel mit der Aussage: „die Sinnfeldontologie behauptet u.a., dass die These, zu existieren bedeute immer, unter einen Begriff zu fallen, absolut falsch ist” (241), aber vor allem die für mich absolut unerklärbaren Schlussfolgerungen aus dem Schlusskapitel, nämlich: „Frege übersieht die Möglichkeit, Sinne als Eigenschaften der Dinge an sich zu verstehen, weil er den Sinn manchmal als epistemische Kategorie behandelt“ (466) sind diesmal, dank der Auslegung von Schelling, klarer und verständlicher geworden. Bislang, vielleicht wie anderen Gabriel-Lesern, war mir die Idee des Reduzierens der Urteilsarten auf ein grundlegendes, und zwar auf das Identitätsurteil, nicht aufgefallen. Weil ich immer noch genau diese Differenzierung der Urteile als eine unbestrittene Errungenschaft von Frege erachte, und in diesem Zusammenhang immer noch auf der Suche nach Auslegungen bin, die nach besserer Angemessenheit ausgerichtet sind, und nicht nach Widerlegungen.12 Wenn wir für einen Moment zum Anfang zurückkehren, wo ich die Idee von der Rolle des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund als die eines Leitprinzips, und von seinem Platz in der Reihe anderer Grundsätze präsentiere, so könnte es hier, basierend auf Schellings und Gabriels Ideen, ein anderes Prinzip sein, nämlich das Prinzip der Gleichheit, das einen Platz in der fraglichen Reihe verdient oder sogar eine führende Position darin beanspruchen kann.

3. Ansprüche und Leistungen des Identitätsgrundsatzes Eine derart scharfe Fokussierung auf das Prinzip der Identität wird wahrscheinlich weiterhin Anlass zur Sympathie geben. Mir erscheint das aber problematisch. Und das nicht wegen der Verstrickung und vielleicht des Verdrängens des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund. Meine Enthaltsamkeit wird durch das Niveau seines Informationsgehaltes und das Problem motiviert, ob er eine universalisierte Funktion erfüllt oder überhaupt in einer entscheidenden Situation eine Rolle spielt. Markus Gabriel, Schelling (1775–1854), in: Michael N. Forster & Kristin Gjesdal (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of German Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford UP, Oxford 2015, 88–107, 96. 12 S. in dieser Richtung Toni Kannisto, “Kant and Frege on Existence”, in: Synthese Vol. 194, (1), 2017, 1–26. 11


3.1. Informationsminimum der Identität – eine Beobachtung. Es besteht keine Notwendigkeit, auf den Streit zwischen Kant und Quine über die analytischen Sätze überzugehen und in welcher Weise wir Aussagen wie „alle Körper sind ausgedehnt“ und „der Junggeselle ist ein lediger Mann“ auslegen sollen. Sehen wir uns an, wie Gabriel solche Sätze bei Schelling betrachtet. Für beide sollte offensichtlich jeder Satz in sich ein Moment der Identität enthalten. Aber welche Beispiele führen sie an? Von Gabriel erfahren wir: „In diesem Sinn von strikter Identität könnte 2 + 2 nicht = 4 sein, da 2 + 2 andere Eigenschaften hat als 4” (OP4), und auch, „dass wir uns nicht fragen können, ob Dieses-Da wirklich Dieses-Da ist, während wir uns fragen können, ob Dieses-Da wirklich Peter ist”(OP7). In Bezug auf diese beiden Sätze würde Frege sagen, hier sind wir mit dem Unterschied zwischen „А=В” und „А=А” konfrontiert. Zwei Arten von Identität sind in den beiden Auffassungen vorhanden, aber in Anleitung von Gabriel gelangen wir im zweiten Fall zu einer Schranke, sogar zu einer Unmöglichkeit, während für Frege da ein Mangel an informativem Wert zu finden ist. Der wirkliche Unterschied lässt sich eigentlich nach der Antwort der Frage auffinden, ob alle anderen Satzarten auf identische reduziert werden könnten. Und Schelling? Hier ist, was er geschrieben hat: „Wer da sagt: der Körper ist Körper, denkt bei dem Subjekt des Satzes zuverlässig etwas anderes als bei dem Prädicat; bei jenem nämlich die Einheit, bei diesem die einzelnen im Begriff des Körpers enthaltenen Eigenschaften, die sich zu demselben wie Antecedens zum Consequens verhalten” (Sch342). Das von Schelling verwendete Beispiel übertrifft die Versionen aller Befürworter der Idee der allgemeinen Begründung der Prädikation auf dem Identitätsgrundsatz. Nämlich dadurch, dass für ihn der Satz „der Körper ist Körper” keine Tautologie darstelle, sondern informativ sei. Genauso wie es bei den österreichischen „Philosophen“ der Opus Musikband steht: life is life. Warum dann nicht “Dies-Da ist Diеs-Da“? Was veranlasst Gabriel so konsequent Schelling auf der Begriffsebene zu folgen und die Inhaltsübergänge, die in den Beispielen enthalten sind, zu verschweigen? Das Beispiel von Gabriel liegt gänzlich in der Ebene der Indexe, er referiert darüber so: „dass wir uns nicht fragen können, ob Dieses-Da wirklich DiesesDa ist”, Schelling aber besteht auf sinnvolles Gerede und zwar in einer Sprache, in der die Namen obwohl für einzelne und identifizierte Dinge stehen, jedoch nicht (als bestimmte Objekte) quantifiziert und individuiert werden. Die Theorie sollte das Minimum, wo sich der indifferente Sinn tatsächlich aufspaltet, besser spezifizieren. 3.2. Die Originalität der Auffassung und ihre Anwendung. Nicht nur stellt Schelling in einer Fußnote die Position von Reinhold hinsichtlich des Wesens der Kopula in Frage, sondern erwähnt er auch eine Auffassung von Leibniz, die ebenfalls der Reinhold’schen kontrastiert. Aus dem Text wird nicht deutlich, ob diese Konzeption dem Verständnis von Schelling selbst vorausgeht und mit ihm zusammenfällt. Leibniz erwähnt aber in seiner Dissertation vom Jahre 1666 die Lehre von Johannes Raue, um den Unterschied zwischen den singulären und universellen 166

Sätzen zu löschen (АА VI, I, 182)13. Als Leibniz zwei Jahre später auf Auftrag von seinem Mentor Baron von Boyneburg einen Brief von Andreas Wissowatius (Andrej Wiszowaty) der Trinität antwortet, nimmt er nochmal Bezug auf die Logik von Raue. Diese Antwort wurde später von Lessing übersetzt und veröffentlicht, und so könnte genau in dieser Weise auch Schelling bekannt geworden sein14. Johannes Raue ist nämlich der Autor, der glaubt, eine gemeinsame Struktur in allen Sätzen gefunden zu haben und dass diese Struktur die Kopula sowohl im Prädikat, als auch im Subjekt einzeln beinhaltet und zugleich diese beiden Bestandteile in einer Einheit vereint.15 Es wird von nirgendwo erkennbar, dass Leibniz Raue vollständig befolgt hat; eher übernimmt er einzelne Thesen, die einigermaßen in seine eigene Auffassung des Urteils eingetragen wurden, und zwar, dass Prädikate im Subjekt enthalten sind. Noch wichtiger scheint mir, dass Leibniz Raues Idee nicht im Zusammenhang mit irgendeinem Satz behandelt, sondern nur mit der Dreieinigkeit. Die ohnehin ein äußerst ungewöhnliches Objekt ist. Zudem ist für ihn die Idee von Raue eine Waffe der Kritik an den Thesen von Wissowatius und kein Mittel zur Darstellung des eigenen Verständnisses. Leibniz offenbart deshalb am Ende, dass in Bezug auf die Mysterien, Gott Vater, Gott Sohn und die Trinität selbst, die Sätze nicht nur im wörtlichen Sinne verstanden werden sollten. Daher könnten wir davon ausgehen, dass die Lehre der drei Manifestationen der Kopula, d.h. die These für die allgemeine „identitätsstiftende“ Natur der Sätze, nur das höchste Wesen, die Substanz betrifft. Oder aber wir müssten das Gegenteil annehmen, dass in einem jeden Ding etwas Mysteriöses drinsteckt, dass jeder Begriff seiner Herkunft nach vage ist und dass in ihm seine eigene Dreifaltigkeit schlummert. Schauen wir uns noch einmal Schelling an. Die Prädikation wird auf zwei Stellen im gesamten Text über das Wesen der Freiheit (1809) erörtert: am Ende, wo sich sein Blick auf das Problem des Unbegründeten fokussiert, und am Anfang, wo das Thema wirklich breiter angesprochen zu sein scheint16. Diese Stelle ist aber in einem noch breiteren Kontext eingebettet, in dem das pantheistische Weltbild ans Licht kommt. Der Pantheismus bringt eben eine paradoxe Einstellung zum Ausdruck; ihr gemäß fordert die Freiheit die Allmacht eines Überwesens heraus, womit sie Gottfried W. Leibniz, Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe, Akademie der Wissenschaften, Darmstadt/ Leipzig/ Berlin 1923–. 14 Gotthold E. Lessing, “Des Andreas Wissowatius Einwürfe wider die Dreieinigkeit”, in: Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 7, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 1956, 489–535. 15 S. Ignatio Angelelli, “On Johannes Raue‘s Logic”, in: I. Marchlewitz/A. Heinekamp: Leibniz’s Auseinandersetzung mit Vorgängern und Zeitgenossen (= Studia Leibnitiana, Supplementa XXVII), Stuttgart 1990, 184–190. 16 Das Wort „copula” wird an zwei Stellen im Haupttext verwendet: „der Grund solcher Mißdeutungen… liegt in dem allgemeinen Mißverständniß des Gesetzes der Identität oder des Sinns der Copula im Urtheil“, „diese Voraussetzung, welche eine völlige Unwissenheit über das Wesen der Copula anzeigt” und ein drittes Mal – in der Fußnote, in der es um Leibniz und Wissowatius geht. 13


aber selbst in die Gefangenschaft eines blinden Determinismus, sogar Fatalismus, gerät. Bevor sich diesem zentralen Moment zu widmen, schenkt Schelling einem anderen Problem Aufmerksamkeit, das dem Pantheismus eigen ist: die Gleichheit zwischen einem jeden Gegenstand und Gott, der Gegenstand als Modifikation Gottes. Es ist das Problem des Mysteriums dieser ontologischen Gleichartigkeit, d.h. ob ein Unterschied zwischen der Gesamtheit aller Dinge einerseits und Gott auf der anderen Seite bestünde, dass die Frage über die Identität als Grund des Urteilens stellt. Ihre tiefe Bedeutung liegt nicht in der horizontalen Dimension von „dies da ist Peter“ und „Peter ist groß“, sondern ist vertikal angeordnet, zehrt von der Spannung zwischen den Leitsätzen „Das Ganze ist die Gesamtheit seiner Teile“ und „Das Ganze ist mehr als die Gesamtheit seiner Teile“, und geht ihnen voraus so wie das Antezedent vor dem Konsequent. Das Identitätsrätsel, worüber Schelling spricht, betrifft vor allem das Verhältnis zwischen natura naturans und natura naturata. Nur wer ein Gespür dafür hat, kann die von Schelling verfasste Satzfolge rechtfertigen: „das Vollkommene ist das Unvollkommene”, „das Vollkommene und Unvollkommene sind einerlei”, „das Gute ist das Böse …beide seyen logisch das Nämliche”, woraus folgt, dass “Nothwendiges und Freies als Eins erklärt werden”, „daß die Seele mit dem Leib eins ist”. Aus meinen Einwänden gegen die Überbewertung des Identitätsgrundsatzes (so wie dies bei Schelling aussieht) folgt jedoch nicht, dass es nicht angemessene, mäßigere Platz, Rolle und Wert haben kann (so wie es definitiv für Leibniz ist). Ich glaube übrigens, dass dies gleichermaßen für den Satz vom zureichenden Grund gilt. Dieser ist hier nur der Anlass für meine Überlegungen und deshalb werde ich die Frage der Entscheidung über das System und die Hierarchie der Prinzipien im Folgenden unbeachtet lassen. Das Ergebnis, mit dem ich mich zufriedengebe, ist, dass eine zu starke Ausprägung eines allgemeinen Prinzips offensichtlich unvorhersehbare und in gewisser Weise unerwünschte Folgen hat. Vielleicht ist ein Ansatz vorzuziehen, in dem Prinzipien eine beschränktere Gültigkeit haben, sich untereinander durch lockerere Verbindungen auszeichnen und sich im Zustand einer Konstellation und nicht in einer Hierarchie befinden. Wichtiger dabei ist es zu sehen, ob es Ebenen und Sinngehalte der Identität gibt, die von Schelling – allem Anschein nach – nicht geahnt werden. Und zu sehen, ob es außer ihr und auf ihrer Ebene noch andere Prinzipien gibt.

II. Schelling hat bemerkenswerte Erfolge in der Philosophie auch noch vor seinem Werk über die Freiheit geleistet. Ein Teil davon ist auf dem Gebiet der Naturphilosophie. Aus diesem Kontext heraus entstehen natürlicherweise Fragen wie: Ob und inwieweit können wir die Handlungen anderer Lebewesen, die die kognitiven Fähigkeiten des Menschen nicht besitzen, als „frei“ benennen? Wie 168

können wir die Sprachpraxis in dem Maße verstehen, in dem es ihr an Prädikation fehlt? Vorher habe ich mir erlaubt die drei Momente der Analyse der Prädikation bei Schelling zu nennen, die Gabriel in Betracht von den drei Funktionen des Hilfsverbs „sein“ nach Frege, d.h. Identität, Existenzialität und Prädikation, einführt. Nehmen wir an, dass Identität an der Basis eines jeden Beurteilung liegt. Wir sind im Klaren, dass Prädikation eine Funktionsstufe ist, die einer entwickelten Sprache inhärent ist. Kann es einen Sprachgebrauch geben, der nur bis zum zweiten Moment, bis „dies da ist Peter“, reicht? Und wie entsteht er selbst? Das Erscheinen gerade dieses Zwischenaktes, unabhängig davon, ob dabei die Annahme der Identität vorangestellt ist oder nicht, ist für mich unklar weder bei Gabriel noch bei Schelling und auch nicht bei Leibniz oder Raue. Ernst Cassirer, basierend auf den Ideen von Hermann Usener, zeigt überzeugend im ersten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts wie mit ausdrucksstarken Eindrücken verbundene Orte und Ereignisse an Bedeutung gewinnen und göttliche Namen genießen, wie sie auch weiter Aufmerksamkeit erregen, obwohl weiterhin ambivalent erscheinen, und noch dabei Verwaltung durch den Menschen zulassen, und wie sich ein semantischer Sinn in der sensorischen Erfahrung über diese Objekte niederschlägt17. Zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts wies Michael Tomasello auf die Gebärdensprache der Primate hin sowie auf die elementare Semantik- und Kommunikationsfunktion des Zeigens. Diese und ähnliche Beobachtungen und Überlegungen passen kaum in das spekulative System von Schelling hinein. Hier möchte ich eine alternative Ansicht anbieten, die allerdings zu einer früheren und nicht zu einer künftigen Epoche gehört.

1. Benennung und Quantifizierung In der klassischen Philosophie des 18. Jahrhunderts spricht Locke über Namensgebung – naming (II, 11, 8)18, eine mentale Aktivität zwischen Vergleichen und Zusammenschließen, Fähigkeiten, mit denen auch die Tiere ausgestattet sind, einerseits, und die Abstraktion andererseits, die den Tieren fremd ist. Auf dieser Minimalstufe ersetzen Namen Ideen und vermitteln ihre Teilung mit den Anderen. Das Benennen der Modi, d.h. jener Ideen, die zum einen keine Qualitäts-, Substanz- oder Verhältnisvorstellungen sind, zum anderen aber sich gerade in ihrer Dimension das mathematische wie auch das moralische Wissen bewegt, und Anspruch auf spezifische Realität, Bestimmtheit und Information stellt, ist vielleicht das wichtigste Glied in Locke’s Theorie. Ontologisch gesprochen haben die Modi (bei Locke) weder die Selbstgenügsamkeit von Substanzen noch die kausale S. Ernst Cassirer, „Sprache und Mythos“, in: Wesen und Wirkung des Symbolbegriffs, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1956. 18 Zitiert nach John Locke, Versuch über den menschlichen Verstand, Felix Meiner, Hamburg 2006, ohne Seitenangaben, mit Verweis auf das jeweilige Buch, Kapitel, Abschnitt. 17


Belastung der Qualitäten, und auch stellen sie keine unabdingbaren Eigenschaften dar, wie die Attribute, noch sind sie ephemer – wie die Verhältnisse. Doch durch die Modi weist Locke auf die Möglichkeit hin, über ihre Eigenartigkeit nachzudenken, die nicht den Eigenschaften der übrigen ontologischen Realien gleichen und auf keinen von ihnen reduzierbar sind. Wie kommen wir zu den Modi? Zu den einfachen Ideen, die Locke aufzählt, gehören: die Vorstellung von Existenz, d.h. die Wahrnehmung von etwas, das sich von den Ideen in uns unterscheidet, sowie die Vorstellung von Einheit, die sich zur Existenz indifferent verhält (II, 7, 7), wie auch eine einfache Vorstellung von Anzahl (II, 8, 9) als Zerlegung einer Sache in Teile, die die Eigenschaften des Ganzen aufbewahren. Zahlen offenbaren allerdings ihre Einzigartigkeit als komplexe Ideen für einfache Modi; im gesamten zweiten Buch des Versuches, das den Ideen gewidmet ist, allein für sie heißt es: „Zahlen müssen benannt werden” (kursiv – SY). Locke erklärt in diesem Zusammenhang: „wenn wir, wie gesagt, die Idee einer Einheit wiederholen und sie mit einer anderen Einheit verknüpfen, so bilden wir aus beiden eine kollektive Idee, die durch den Namen „zwei“ bezeichnet wird“ (II, 16, 5). Die Bedeutung der Zahl als einfache Idee wird durch Unterteilung angedeutet und durch Verbindung als komplexe Idee wahrgenommen. Die zweite Operation erinnert selbstverständlich an die Kant’sche These von dem synthetischen Wesen des mathematischen Wissens. Im Gegensatz zu Kant sieht Locke die Genese der Zahlen anders. Anfangs sind sie diskrete Momente innerhalb derselben Qualität, danach – selbstständige Konstrukte, die unabhängig von irgendwelchen beliebigen Qualitäten sind. Dies kann man auch schematisch wie folgt veranschaulichen.

Und nun, aus dem Hintergrund dieses Schemas heraus, würde ich mir erlauben, den zitierten Satz von Locke mit Hilfe des Shelling’schen Jargons zu periphrasieren: „Die Zwei“ ist der erste Name, der die indifferente Gleichung „1=1” in die Einheit der Summe „1+1=2” umwandelt hat. Alle Zahlen sind in gewissem Sinne Einheiten, jede Zahl kann als „selbstständige Einheit“ betrachtet werden, aber nur die Eins ist so eine Einheit, die keine Beschaffenheit hat und eine reine „Einerleiheit“ ist, eine Eins in Form und Inhalt19. Warum? Weil die Modi ontologisch nicht selbstständig sind und in ihrer Rationalisierung im maximalen Umfang vom menschlichen Willkür abhängen. In seiner Dissertation De arte combinatoria (1666) geht Leibniz von der Relation (relatio) aus, um dann die Begriffe von Eins (unum), Einheit (unitas), Zahl (numerus) nacheinander auszuführen (§85, A: VI, I, 199).



Es ist dieser Voluntarismus, der ihnen eine eigenartige Urhaftigkeit verleiht; sie scheinen keinen Mustern zu folgen, sondern stellen selbst anscheinend Muster dar, sind ergo Archetypen von sich selbst20. Sie enthalten nichts Stabiles und dennoch scheinen sie fest verbunden und widerstandsfähig zu sein. Der Name, den wir ihnen gegeben haben, erweist sich in der Tat als diejenige Verbindung, die sie mit existenziellem Sinn sättigt, mit einem solchen, der weder aus der Welt, noch aus unserem Denken zu entnehmen ist. Benennung verursacht Existenz, Dasein. Genau in diesem Teil seiner Philosophie sieht Lockes Auffassung wie diese von Descartes aus; seine Vergewisserung in der Existenz erfolgt jedoch nicht durch das intuitive Denken, sondern durch die Namen, die unerwarteten und dauerhaften Einigkeiten erzeugen. In der Praxis stellen die Zahlen für Locke Eigenschaften der Gegenstände dar21, und unter den letzteren hat die Eins eine privilegierte und einzigartige Position. Sie allein kann sich auf einzelne Dinge beziehen; alle anderen Zahlen sind Eigenschaften von Mengen. Für viele hat Locke in der Philosophie keine Bedeutung, weil er kein Mathematiker sei. Dieser Umstand hindert uns nicht daran, in seinen Zahlenvorstellungen wichtige Ideen zu entdecken. Schauen wir uns bloß die Struktur dieses Teils des Zweiten Buches der Versuche an, der vom Thema über die komplexen Ideen und die gemischten Modi umgeben ist, d.h. von den Kapiteln 13-22 über die einfachen Modi (SS. 190-366). Die ursprüngliche Rolle der Modi bezieht sich auf Raum und Zeit (Kapiteln 13-15) und der gebildete Leser ist sich wahrscheinlich dessen bewusst, dass strukturell dies an der Stelle des zweiten Teils im ersten Buch des Traktats von Hume oder an die transzendentale Ästhetik im ersten Teil der Elementarlehre in der Ersten Kritik Kants erinnert. Allerdings scheint es so, als ob nur Locke das Thema über die Zahlen inmitten dem Bereich der Sinneserfahrung und zudem als selbstständigen Moment einführt. Bei Hume fehlen sie überhaupt und bei Kant sind sie in die reinen Anschauungen buchstäblich als Grundgewebe „eingeflochten“22. Könnten wir uns jedoch nicht eine elementare Form der Quantifizierung vorstellen, die den Zahlen vorangeht und zugleich in den mathematischen Anschauungen nicht organisiert ist? Ich denke, genau darauf besteht Locke und eine zeitgenössische Erklärung wäre bei Quine zu finden, wo die Rolle der Sprache noch deutlicher hervortritt. Außerdem bauen Locke und Quine ihre Theorien in Bezug auf die Kinder auf, aber nicht in marginalem Umfang, sondern in Anbetracht der Kontakte mit fremden Völkern, die einfachere kognitive Praktiken betreiben. Eigentlich verwendet Locke in seiner Terminologie das Wort “Archetyp”: mixed modes and relations, being archetypes without patterns – ohne Bezug auf irgendwo existierende Urbilder oder unveränderliche Muster zusammengefügt (II, 31, 3). 21 Erst George Berkeley wird darauf bestehen, dass Zahlen vollständig vom Geist geschaffen seien. 22 Erst die Marburger Kantianer werden einen Korrektionsversuch hinsichtlich dieses Verständnisses über die Rolle der Zahl unternehmen. Es genügt, die beiden Ausgaben von Hermann Cohen von 1871 und von 1885 miteinander zu vergleichen. 20


Laut Quine selbst in der einfachsten Form des Sprachgebrauchs, wenn kleine Kinder einzelne Wörter bezüglich Segmente der Umwelt aussprechen, mit einigen von ihnen (z.B. mit „Mama“) wird etwas spezifiziert, was ab und zu erscheint, und immer wieder sich selbst ähnelt und deshalb als etwas Zusammengesetztes auftritt, aber sie dafür mit anderen von ihnen (z.B. mit „rot“) auf verstreute Momente referieren, die sie sicherlich als noch etwas mehr und noch etwas mehr wahrgenommen haben. Das eine Wort bietet Fokussierung an, das andere – primäre Fähigkeit zur Differenzierung. Sind das nicht die tiefen Bedeutungen des Einen und der Dyade, von denen Platon spricht? Oder das Privileg des Eins, sich auf etwas Einzelnes zu beziehen, während die übrigen Zahlen auf Mengen, wie Locke denkt? Es ist aber bei Quine leicht zu sehen, dass obwohl beide Wörter ähnlich als Namen erscheinen, sie jedoch unterschiedlich funktionieren, und dass sie die Welt des Kindes auf zwei Weisen quantifizieren, bevor sie in einem Satz verbunden werden und viel früher, als ihre Trennung entlang der Substanz- und Eigenschaftenlinie erfolgt. Quine entgeht dabei eine dritte Benennungsmöglichkeit nicht; mit Wörtern über Schüttzustand (z.B. mit „Wasser“) erfasst das Kind die Bedeutung von mehr und immer mehr. Was Locke in Zahlen in ihrem Aspekt als einfache Ideen und in ihrem Aspekt als einfache Modi, die eine unvermeidliche Benennung verlangen, gesehen hat, erinnert auffallend an Quine’s Auffassungen. Die Anzahl der elementaren Formen von Quantifizierung bei Quine sind freilich drei, und bei Locke – zwei. Die Zerlegung in Teile und die Vereinigung in Einheiten sind bei den beiden vorhanden; bei dem Klassiker geht es explizit um Zahlen, während es bei dem Autor des 20. Jahrhunderts – um angehäufte, „massive“ Begriffe (bulk terms – d.h. unzählbare)23, die die umgebende Welt auf etliche Grundweisen strukturieren, sogar ohne dass dabei Zahlen zu verwenden. Und da ich Cassierer eben erwähnte, möchte ich auf das Detail aufmerksam machen, dass Quine in seinem eigenen Text auf ihn verweist, und dabei in derselben Publikation, und genauer in ihrer Übersetzung ins Englische (Quine 1957: 32). Damit enden die Parallelen nicht. Im ersten Band der Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, der der Sprache gewidmet ist, Cassierer, in Bezug auf den sprachlichen Ausdruck, behandelt ähnlich wie Locke Raum, Zeit, Zahl nacheinander, und danach die „innere Anschauung“ des Ichs24. Wenn wir dorthin zu Locke zurückkehren, wo wir ihn verlassen haben, so werden wir feststellen, dass der Betrachtung der Zahlen andere einfache Modi folgen, solche wie die Unendlichkeit (II, 17), und dann auch solche, die mit den Wahrnehmungen In der deutschen Tradition sind es Kontinuativa (vom Englischen mass noun) Termini, die ein kontinuierliches Dauern ausdrücken, dessen Referenzen weder gemessen, noch diskret aufgezählt werden könnten. 24 Ernst Cassirer, Philosophie der symbolischen Formen. Erster Teil: Die Sprache, Nachdruck: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1964, 149–248. Freilich bei dem Ich handelt es sich schon um einen Begriff, der andeutet, warum bei Quine eine aufsteigende Reihenfolge mentaler Tätigkeiten in Betracht gezogen wird. 23


und dem Denken, mit dem Vergnügen und dem Schmerz, sowie mit anderen Fähigkeiten verbunden sind (II, 18-21). Entspricht das nicht dem Cassierer’s Fokus auf die interne Erfahrung? Bemerkenswert ist, dass Locke, bevor er das tut, sich mit der Unendlichkeit auseinandersetzt! Klar, wir haben keine „positive Idee“ (II, 17, 13/16/18) von ihr, inhaltlich gesehen ist sie nichts Anderes als eine Negation der Einschränkungen (II, 17, 2), doch Zahlen geben uns immer noch die „klarste Idee“ von ihr (II, 17, 9). Das heißt, beide (nicht nur Quine, sondern auch Locke) nehmen auf der Ebene der Elementarerfahrung eine dritte Form der Quantifizierung25 wahr. Locke kam einfach zu schnell an die Idee von dem Überspringen jeder Grenze, und überhaupt an das Übertreffende, während Quine hingegen das Moment des Vergleichenden, des extensiv Anwachsenden oder des sich Verringernden nicht entging. Was soll uns dieser Exkurs über Schelling sagen? Schelling hält das Prinzip der Identität für ausreichend, damit sich von ihm eine Spaltung ergibt, aus der Informativität hervorgeht, eine Reihenfolge des sich entfaltenden Inhalts. Doch ist es Locke, und nicht erst Hegel – im zweiten Kapitel des zweiten Abschnittes des ersten Buches von Wissenschaft der Logik, betitelt „Quantum“, der die Möglichkeit und die Notwendigkeit einer primären und elementaren Quantifizierung der Erfahrung sieht. Dabei geht es bei Locke nicht darum, Ersetzung in die Dimensionen der Sprache zu vollbringen, sondern um objektgemäße (objectual – Quine) Konfigurierung, und ich würde sogar „Schematisierung“ sagen, obwohl ich damit riskiere, auf mich den Zorn der eifrigen Kantianer zuzuziehen. Dies sollte bei jedem Drang zum Denken des vorläufigen Gebrauchs von „Existenz“ bedacht werden, der von Kant, Frege und Quine verboten ist, aber den Schelling und Gabriel durchzusetzen versuchen. Stützbeispiele wie „Pferd ist Pferd“ oder „dies da ist dies da“ bleiben leere Tautologien, und „dies da ist Peter“ erfordert bereits Kompetenz für die Umformulierung eines Namens in Beschreibung und für die disjunktive Verwendung von „gebundenen Variablen“, wie es Quine in Was es gibt quantifizierend äußert. Sowohl Schelling als auch Gabriel gehen zu schnell zur semantischen Identität über, wobei sie den Formalismus der Quantifizierung zurücklassen. Geschweige denn, dass nicht nur in der Linguistik die Zahlwörter in Grundzahlwörter und Ordnungszahlwörter unterteilt werden, sondern auch in der Mathematik zwischen Kardinal- und Ordinalzahlen unterschieden wird. Philosophen der Mathematik konnten sich nie einigen, welche den anderen vorangehen und somit eventuell ihnen zugrunde liegen. Jede Lösung dieses Problems leistet jedoch ihren einschlägigen Beitrag zum Verständnis der Entfaltung der Quantifizierung. 25

Hier ist nicht der richtige Ort für eine Auseinandersetzung warum Quine auf die Differenz zwischen den Sätzen “kleiner als dieser Fleck” (smaller than that speck) und „kleiner als der kleinste sichtbare Fleck” (smaller than the smallest visible speck) verweist (Quine 1957: 29), weil sich in diesem Fall um eine der höchsten Phasen des reifen Sprachgebrauchs handelt und um unser Verhältnis zu dem Unsichtbaren und zu dem Abstrakten.


2. Die komplexen Modi von Locke – Kriterien und Bedingungen der Identität Die Verwendung von Zahlen ist eine Brücke zur Erklärung der sogenannten gemischten Modi: „Es ist klar, dass er seine Einheit einem Akt des Geistes verdankt, der jene verschiedenen einfachen Ideen kombiniert und sie als eine einzige, aus eben diesen Bestandteilen bestehende komplexe Idee ansieht. Das Kennzeichen dieser Verbindung nun oder das, was sie nach der gewöhnlichen Annahme erst vollständig macht, ist der einheitliche Name, der dieser Kombination gegeben wird” (II, 22, 4). Sowohl Zahlen als auch gemischte Modi benötigen besonders stark Namen, denn „diese haben als flüchtige und vergängliche Kombinationen einfacher Ideen überall nur eine kurze Existenz – ausgenommen ihre Existenz im menschlichen Geist; daher auch in letzterem sind sie nur so lange vorhanden, wie man sie denkt. Deshalb kommt ihnen der Anschein einer dauernden und stetigen Existenz nirgends mehr zu als hinsichtlich ihrer Namen; diese werden deshalb auch bei Ideen dieser Art sehr leicht für die Ideen selbst angesehen” (II, 22, 8). Das Erwerben komplexer Ideen für Zahlen (in ihrer Eigenschaft als einfache Modi) und für die übrigen gemischten Modi sind insofern ähnlich, als sie ein unvermeidliches Engagement der Sprache erfordern; mir erscheint jedoch viel wichtiger, dass es in den beiden Fällen um eine Tätigkeit geht, die maximal frei ist (II, 31, 3; II, 32, 12). Ihr ist weder der Einfluss irgendwelcher kausalen Abhängigkeit, wie wir eine in unserem Denken über die Substanzen und Akzidenzen spüren, noch die semantische gegenseitige Mitzugehörigkeit zwischen Attribut und Wesen, vorausgegangen, sie wird weiterhin nicht von Teleologie oder Harmonie vorgegeben, und scheint unabhängig von der unterstellten Gültigkeit des Satzes vom zureichenden Grund zu sein. Was hält dann die Einheit einer komplexen Zahlidee oder der Idee vom komplexen Modus zusammen? Ist der Zement der Sprache, der Klebstoff der Namen ausreichend? Es stellt sich heraus, dass wir bei Zahlen Schelling vertrauen könnten und davon ausgehen müssten, dass die Selbstunterscheidung der Identität und deren Rückkehr zu sich selbst ihnen mehr Stabilität verleiht und somit sie gegenüber jeglichen Veränderungen immunisiert, weshalb sie auch als ewig erscheinen, obwohl wir sie in einem Akt der bedingungslosen Freiheit offenbart haben. Aber wie sieht es mit den anderen Modi aus? Ist ihre Stabilität auf den Schatten, den die eigenartige Unantastbarkeit der Zahlen auf sie wirft, zurückzuführen? In Logik in der Mathematik im Jahre 1914, einem seiner letzten Vorlesungskurse, der sich stark von den traditionellen Debatten über die Begriffsschrift unterscheidet und der zum Glück nicht nur durch die Studentennotizen für uns erhalten blieb, ruft Frege auf: „Wie kommt es aber, mag man fragen, dass jemand erfolgreich in der Wissenschaft arbeiten kann, während ihm doch einer der Grundbegriffe dieser Wissenschaft ganz unklar ist? In der Tat ist der Begriff der positiven ganzen Zahl grundlegend für den ganzen arithmetischen Teil der Mathematik. Und eine 174

Unklarheit über diesen muss sich über die ganze Arithmetik verbreiten… Diese Frage ist weder eine arithmetische, noch eine logische, sondern psychologische. Die Enge unseres Bewusstseins erlaubt uns überhaupt nicht, dass ein sehr zusammengesetztes Gebilde in allen seinen Teilen gleichmäßig klar vor unserem Bewusstsein stehe… und doch kann man richtige Schlüsse ziehen, obwohl immer ein Teil des Sinns dabei im Dunkeln liegt… [Karl] Weierstrass… bewegt sich dabei in Widersprüchen und gelangt doch zu wahren Gedanken“26. Offensichtlich sind die Zahlen für Frege in ihrem Wesen nicht so klar wie für Locke. Und sein gesamtes Konzept der Bedeutung des Kopulagebrauchs sieht der Identität einen beschränkten und gar nicht grundlegenden Platz vor. Dafür aber einen von Schlüsselbedeutung. Während des ganzen Vortrags hindurch lenkt Frege die Zuhöreraufmerksamkeit auf die Rolle von Definitionen in der Mathematik, die nicht nur jene Besonderheit haben, einen Sinn zu bewahren, sondern auch ihn in einem anderen Aspekt darzustellen, womit sie sich als Voraussetzungen für Schaffen von neuem Wissen etablieren. Daher sind Fortschritte in der Mathematik möglich, auch bei mangelndem Wissen über grundlegende Elemente. Eine besondere Effizienz rechtfertigt im reversiblen Gang ihre ursprünglichen Annahmen. Da dies die Wahrheit über die Mathematik sein kann, ist es legitim, nach einer solchen Beziehung zu suchen, die auch die komplexen Ideen gemischter Modi, über die Locke spricht, stabilisiert. Anders ausgedrückt: es ist nicht nötig, Versuche zu unternehmen, um die Identität, auch wenn sie in der Mathematik gültig ist, weiter über die Mathematik hinaus zu verbreiten. In diesem Zusammenhang leihe ich mir die bereits im Jahre 1972 dargelegten Vorstellungen von Niklas Luhmann aus, die allerdings in seinen Theorien überall enthalten sind27. In Bezug auf die gesetzlichen Normen und im Gegensatz zu den moralischen, bringt er ihre Auswirkung auf die Entladung und ihren Effekt auf die Erwartungsstabilisierung, mit deren Hilfe sich ein System organisiert und die Überkomplexität seiner Umgebung bewältigt, zur Geltung. Die Entladung erfolgt in drei Dimensionen: temporal, situativ und personenbezogen. Für die Verwaltung eines Systems sind diejenige gesetzlichen Normen geeignet, die die Diversität so subsumieren, dass sie ferner in der Zukunft, in ähnlichen Situationen und von anderen Menschen verwendet werden könnten. Analog würde ich sagen, dass die komplexen Ideen von den gemischten Modi, obwohl sie keinen kausalen oder essentiellen Ausdruck der Substanz vermitteln, und auch keine adäquaten Kopien elementarer Eindrücke und Qualitäten sind, die Stabilität und Unzerstörbarkeit besitzen, die sich aus der Verwendung der Sprachnamen ergibt. Die innere Logik dieser Einheit ist aber eher narrativ, jedoch ausreichend, um durch die Zeit zu überleben; trotz der Besonderheit des Ursprungs erlaubt sie die Abstrahierung, so dass sie in anderen Kontexten und Situationen kann angewendet werden; sie kann auch universalisiert und damit öffentlich geteilt 26

Gottlob Frege, Schriften zur Logik (Hg. L. Kreiser), Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1973, 122. Niklas Luhmann, Rechtssoziologie. 3 Auflage, Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1987, 27–39.



und kreativ weiterentwickelt werden. Die Definierung in der Mathematik, die Frege anspricht, kann natürlich sogar auf die komplexen Ideen von einfachen Modi angewendet werden. Das gilt eindeutig auch für die Idee vom Einhorn und seiner Existenz in dem Film Das letzte Einhorn, welche Gabriel nicht nur in Sinn und Existenz diskutiert, und zugleich erklärt, weshalb ich diese Überlegungen eigentlich unternommen habe. Als künstlerische Gestalt wurde das fragliche Einhorn frei geschaffen; seine Genese wird nicht durch unmittelbare Bekundungen der Sinne bestimmt, hinter seinen konstituierenden Elementen vermuten wir keine Kausalkette, es fällt uns schwer festzustellen, welche andere Eigenschaften – abgesehen vom Horn im Singular – intern und untrennbar zu seinem Wesen gehören, d.h. ob es Equid wie die Pferde oder Paarhufer wie die Ziegen28, Hybrid oder Chimära ist, ob es eine DNS hat. Für Gabriel ist es notwendig und ausreichend, wenn es in einem konkreten Sinnfeld erscheint, das von irgendwelchen Regeln bestimmt ist. In meinen Augen leistet das Kriterium der Existenz, das vom Gabriel’s neuen Realismus vorgeschlagen ist, Unterstützung ontologischer Objekte, die den gemischten Modi, und nicht den Substanzen, ähneln. Sie haben zwar den Vorteil, dass ihre nominelle Natur mit der realen übereinstimmt, während bei den Substanzen sie voneinander divergieren29. In gewissem Sinne könnten wir sagen, dass diese „Wesen“ ausschließlich Essenzen sind, deren Dasein eigentlich keine Substanz darstellt. In diesem Zusammenhang stellen wir eine Frage im Sinne der Locke’s Terminologie: Derart Erscheinung – von einem Einhorn im Film Das letzte Einhorn – was ist sie: eher eine Substanz oder doch ein gemischter Modus? Erinnern wir uns daran, dass die ersten Beispiele von Locke für die gemischten Modi Dreieck, Dankbarkeit und Mord sind (II, 12, 4). Es wurde bereits gesagt, dass Locke auf diese Weise das mathematische und ethische Wissen von der Naturwissenschaft (wo sich die Substanzen befinden) abgrenzen will. Aber warum das Dreieck? Wenn die Zahl den Übergang von einfachen Ideen zu komplexen markiert und auf beiden Ebenen präsent ist, so markiert das Dreieck, schon innerhalb den Rahmen der komplexen Ideen, den Übergang von einfachen zu den gemischten Modi. Ich habe oben erwähnt, dass der Raum einen Grundausdruck einfacher Modi darstellt, weil er mit den „Modifikationen ein und derselben Idee“ zusammenhängt (II, 13, 1); hier sollte jedoch beachtet werden, dass uns die Fähigkeit, unsere Vorstellungen zu „wiederholen oder zu verdoppeln“, erlaubt, die Bedeutung sowohl des Unermesslichen (II, 13, 4) als auch das Verhältnis von Teil und Ganzem zu erfassen, in dem der Abschluss (termination) von Größe, Raum, Oberflächen auftaucht (II, 13, 5). Unmittelbar danach gibt Locke einige Beispiele aus der Daniel, 8:5. „Gemischte Modi und Relationen, die aus Ideen bestehen, die miteinander vereinbar sind, sind real” (II, 30, 4). Locke behauptet für diese eindeutig, dass – bei den geometrischen Figuren (II, 31, 11 und III, 11, 22) und bei den gemischten Modi – wir ihre innere Struktur wahrnehmen und daraus folgend auch alle ihre Eigenschaften erkennen.

28 29


elementaren Geometrie mit Verbindung von Linien als Erweiterung in derselben Richtung „so lange wir wollen“ oder unter „beliebigem Winkel“ und wie wir es auch mit gekrümmten Linien tun könnten (II, 13, 5). Ja, hier sind wir in der Tat mit der „unendlichen Vielfalt der Formen“ konfrontiert, ob aber die Spielmechanik mit geraden und gekrümmten Linien eine völlig freie Kunst ist? Für Leibniz reicht sie schon, den Golgota der Locke’schen Mathematik zu erblicken. Weil das fünfte Axiom von Euklid seit jäh, eine Unmöglichkeit, eher eine einzige Möglichkeit, definiert. Folglich unterscheidet sich die Kombinatorik in der Mechanik von der Kombinatorik in der Geometrie mittels der Freiheitsgraden. Und was geschieht, wenn wir uns entscheiden, von Zahlen zu Figuren zu übergehen? Nehmen wir ein Tischlerholzmeter – das gefaltete Werkzeug, das das Maßband immer noch nicht zu ersetzen schafft. Wir könnten es so falten, dass wir ein Dreieck bekommen. Was aber, wenn eines der vorgesehenen Seiten länger als die Summe der beiden anderen Seiten ist? Die kurzen werden nie in Berührung miteinander kommen. Nicht jede Möglichkeit führt zu einer Figur im Feld der „unendlichen Vielfalt der Formen“. Und falls wir beschließen, mehr als einen der Winkel des zukünftigen Dreiecks als rechte oder stumpfe vorzugeben, was passiert dann? Die drei Seiten werden niemals ein Dreieck bilden. Ich kann keinen Ort finden, an dem Locke auf diese ausreichenden oder notwendigen Bedingungen hinweist. Hingegen ist die Illustration eines gemischten Modus durch das Dreieck überzeugend, denn es fällt eben mit der Vorstellung der elementarsten Figur zusammen, jedes Polygon wird nämlich darin vollständig (restlos) zerteilt, mit ihrer Hilfe kann man auch eine Ellipse ziehen, d.h. sie gibt einer spezifischen Universalität Ausdruck, wenn auch nicht auf der grundlegendsten Ebene geometrischer Konstruktionen. Im Kontext der einfachen Modi hängt das Dreieck vollständig von seinen Bestandteilen ab, in Anbetracht der komplexen Modi hängt sein Wesen in eigenartiger Weise von sich selbst ab, d.h. von internen Beziehungen, die unableitbar aus dem Inhalt der Bestandelemente sind. So stellt der Übergang in der Dimension der Modi gewisser Zuwachs an Freiheit und Selbstgenügsamkeit dar. Wenn wir uns die anderen Stellen im gesamten Text anschauen, werden wir unter den anderen komplizierten Modi auch die folgenden sehen: Schönheit und Diebstahl (II, 12, 5), die Zahl „Zwei” (II, 13, 1 und 16, 5), die Maße und Gewichte, derer wir uns bedienen (II, 13, 4), die Melodie, die nur im Kopf des Musikers klingt (II, 18, 3), der Bogen, in dem Farben und Formen die himmlische Aufführung präsentieren (II, 18, 4), Spalten, Verrühren, Seihen, Reinigen, Destillieren (II, 18, 7), wahrscheinlich einige gemischte Gefühle: (II, 20, 7-10, 18), Schulden, Trunkenheit, Lüge (II, 22, 1), Heuchelei (II, 22, 2), Sakrileg (II, 22, 3), Vatermord (II, 22, 4), Urteilsaufhebung oder Anfechtung (II, 22, 7), Triumph und Apotheose (II, 22, 8), Ringkampf oder Fechten, Drucken oder Gravieren (II, 22, 9), Parese, Gewohnheit – ob Veranlagung oder Neigung – Überlegung und Zustimmung, Laufen und Reden, Rache (II, 22, 10), Polygamie (II, 28, 4), Duellieren (II, 28, 15), Diebstahl (II, 28, 16), Gerechtigkeit (II, 30, 3), Mut (II, 30, 3), Großzügigkeit (II, 30, 4), Ehebruch 177

oder Inzest (III, 5, 3), Eifersucht (III 6, 45)30. Was sind das für Realien, oder Realitäten? Zweifellos geht es ganz und gar um soziale Phänomene, Praktiken, Komponenten einer zweiten Natur! Aber noch einmal zu betonen: Kausalität oder Essenz ist bei ihnen nicht entscheidend, dennoch ist ihre Gegenständlichkeit nicht nur bloß ein Bündel von Qualitäten. Aber gerade ihnen, weil sie eben komplex und organisiert sind, sind Regeln inhärent, die im Begriff „Sinn“ bei Gabriel nur erwähnt, aber nicht erläutert sind, und bei Schelling fehlen sie angeblich überhaupt. Oder nein. Denn wie Schelling im Jahre 1802 in §30 der Philosophie der Kunst schreibt: „Also ist auch strenge Absonderung oder Begrenzung von der einen und gleichen Absolutheit von der anderen Seite das bestimmende Gesetz der Götterwelt“. Die Olympischen Götter präsentieren das Absolute mit einigen Mängeln, was sie so besonders macht; so etwas wie So tritt im Bild jedes Einzelnen von ihnen eine komplexe Einheit hervor, die um irgendeine Dominante herumorganisiert ist. Auf den ersten Blick ist dies auch beim Einhorn der Fall. Eine ähnliche sinngemäßе und funktionelle Überbetonung, die trotz der Mängel Einheit schafft, bin ich geneigt, auch in den gemischten Modi von Locke zu sehen. In einem Artikel über die Mathematik bei Locke wird ansonsten der Status des Dreiecks mit dem des Charakters Wilkins Micawber von dem Charles Dickens Roman David Copperfield verglichen31. Der Inhalt und die Funktionen der Anordnungsregel im Begriff des Sinnes bei Gabriel erscheinen mir vor dem Hintergrund dieser Zusammenfassungen zu amorph, und der Begriff des Leitsinnes32 – unbestimmt. Ihnen fehlt jegliches Zielmoment, das in den gemischten Modi von Locke oder in Schelling’s Mythen vorkommt. Gabriel scheint etwas aus der Vorgeschichte des Einhorns verschweigen zu haben. Im Film Das letzte Einhorn gibt es ein Einhorn, es gibt sogar viele Einhörner, denn es gab jemals solche, und sollte es keine gegeben haben, so gab es ähnliche fiktionale Objekte, vor allem aber gab es soziale Praktiken, bei denen Charaktere, die dem Weihnachtsmann ähnlich waren, eine konkrete rituelle Bedeutung hatten. Wie sind die Ähnlichkeit und der Unterschied zwischen den entworfenen Illustrationen zu erklären? Die gemischten Modi von Locke, die Götter von Schelling, das Einhorn von Gabriel haben gewisse Identität, die stabil ist und ihren Kriterien folgt, egal in welchem ​​Umfang sie von uns wahrgenommen werden. Die Identitätsbedingungen, die durch einen Begriff, eine Idee oder eine Praxis „Noch weniger dürfte es notwendig sein, alle gemischten Modi aufzuzählen, die mit den dazugehörigen Namen festgesetzt wurden. Das hieße, ein Wörterbuch fast aller in der Theologie, Ethik, Rechtsgelehrtheit, Politik und in den verschiedenen anderen Wissenschaften benutzten Wörter herstellen” (II, 22, 12). 31 Predrag Cicovacki, “Locke on Mathematical Knowledge”, in: Journal of the History of Philosophy 28 (4), 1990, 511–524. 32 323–324, 328, 336–338, 369–370, 373, 377–379, 383, 385, 392. S. auch Fußnote 91. (324), in der auf eine Beziehung zu Kants focus imaginarius verwiesen wird. 30


vorgegeben sind, beziehen sich (1) auf einen bestimmten Gegenstand oder mehrere Gegenstände (set) und (2) auf die Kriterien, nach denen die verschiedenen Zustände des Gegenstandes oder die verschiedenen Mitglieder der Menge gleich oder ähnlich sind. Aber ist das genug? Kaum. Denn nichts hindert uns daran, Situationen von Metamorphose zu denken, in denen sich die Identität verändert. Identität ist also keine unüberwindbare Grenze. Dieses Überspringen macht es notwendig, nicht nur über Identitätskriterien, sondern auch über Regeln, sogar über Gesetze zu denken, unter denen eine Identität bewahrt wird, aber auch darüber hinaus verloren oder verändert wird. Welchen Status haben diese Gesetze? Ich bin geneigt zuzugeben, dass sie in den meisten Fällen empirisch und aposteriorisch sind. Dies ist eben der Fall bei den gemischten Modi von Locke. Es ist keine Überfantasie nötig, um sich vorzustellen, wie die von ihm beschriebenen sozialen Praktiken ineinander übergehen und welche Bedingungen die Grenzen des Erhaltungsübergangs und der Transformation ihrer Identität ziehen. Auf ihrer Seite haben Schelling’s Götter apriorische und konzeptionelle Unterscheidungskraft, die die radikalsten Metamorphosen zulässt, aber sie scheinen ebenfalls nicht willkürlich zu sein. Kann sich jemand vorstellen, dass sich Athene wie Aphrodite verhält? Nein. Weil sie als Pallas weiterhin mit dem Speer schwenkend – shake-ing-the-spear (Shakespeare) und als Parthenos ihre Jungfräulichkeit schützen wird. Und welcher Homer würde es einer olympischen Göttin erlauben, nachts durch den Schrei ihres Kindes aufzuwachen?33 Ich würde mir eine weitere Analogie erlauben. Locke spricht über reale und nominelle Wesenheiten, Essenzen, und vor ihm spricht Francis Bacon über zwei Ebenen der Forschung: „Demnach obliegt die Untersuchung Formen, welche in bestimmter Weise und nach ihrem Gesetz ewig und unveränderlich (æternæ & immobiles) sind, der Metaphysik; die Untersuchung des Wirkenden, der Materie, des verborgenen Prozesses und des verborgenen Schematismus… gehört zur Physik“ (kursiv – SY).34 Lockes gemischte Modi haben den Vorteil, eine Wesenheit, eine Essenz zu besitzen, die nicht das Grübeln in den Schichten von etwas Anderem und „Wirklichem“ im Gegensatz zu ihr oder aber „Metaphysischem“ voraussetzt. Es bestehen jedoch kaum irgendwelche Hindernisse, in der nominalen Natur selbst zwei Arten und Ebenen von Gesetzen zu suchen. Jurisprudenz und Management geben uns hier eine Chance – vermittelt durch die Idee von Regeln – konstituierende oder gründende und aufrechterhaltende oder bewahrende Regeln auseinanderzuhalten (enabling & maintaining rules). Darüber hinaus kann sich diese Idee auch auf die Unterschiede zwischen Bacon und Locke mehrwertbringend projizieren. Hier genügt es jedoch, sich vorzustellen, dass der Identität auch anordnende und absichernde Bedingungen eigen sind. Egal wie paradox es auch sein mag, hat Gabriel Shelling’s Dies habe ich von Martha Nussbaum gehört, oder bei ihr gelesen, leider finde ich keine entsprechende Textstelle dafür. 34 Francis Bacon, Neues Organon. Zweites Buch, Felix Meiner, Hamburg 2009, II, 9. 33


These in Bezug auf seine eigene Theorie umformuliert, und hier werde ich das Zitat wiederholen: „Das Wesen, sofern es Grund ist, fungiert in meiner Terminologie als Sinnfeld, und das Wesen, sofern es existiert, entspricht demjenigen, was ich als „Gegenstände“ bezeichne“ (195/ FS168). Aus der Sicht meiner Interpretation von Locke geht es wirklich um eine Doppelfunktion des Wesens, aber nicht als Erscheinen in einem Sinnfeld und als Existenz, sondern als Bedingungen: zum einen zur Definierung (d.h. zum Nachweis und zur hypothetischen Zeugungsannahme) und zum anderen zur Aufrechterhaltung und Bewahrung von Identität. Gibt es denn nicht auch eine dritte Art von Regeln – solche für Transformation35? Die Identität setzt ansonsten auch Ebenen voraus, in denen die Modalität des Möglichen blüht. Manchmal ist sogar ein Übergang zwischen ihnen möglich. Die Identität wächst also, aber bedeutet das, dass ihre Unterabteilungen gelöscht werden? Das Einhorn im Film, das Gabriel meint, ist nicht nur ein Einhorn, sondern auch eine Jungfrau, und dann wieder ein Einhorn, tatsächlich zu Gefühlen fähig, die nicht in dem Einhorn, sondern in dem unglücklich verliebten Mädchen schmerzhaft innewohnen36. Das letzte Einhorn stirbt nicht wie der letzte Mohikaner, es erweist sich gewissermaßen als defekt, als beschädigt. Deshalb ist der Film kein Film über Völkermord wie bei den Mohikanern, sondern – über die Folgen des extremen genetischen Perfektionismus. Für mich stellt er jedoch die Verkörperung von Apriori-Voluntarismus, von zügelloser Metaphysik dar, die Chance des Möglichen nicht nur jenseits Physik und Logik vorsieht, sondern auch die internen Übergänge der Identität verwischt. Das Einhorn ist eine Instanz für das Lebendige als solches, das direkt in der Identität der Gattung des Lebendigen erfasst wird, unabhängig von einem besonderen Untertyp. Wahrlich ein metaphysischer Drescher. Gabriel beseitigt den ontologischen Unterschied zwischen Entitäten mit internen Identitätsebenen und solchen, bei denen eine differentia specifica fehlt oder nur eine vorübergehende Manifestation darstellt; der neue Realismus öffnet die Tür der Ontologie, in der die Gattungen Individuen sind, unabhängig von den Arten. In Hegel’s Sprache ist dies eine Dialektik, in der das Besondere keinen Platz hat, ihm ist keine wesentliche Rolle für die Struktur und für die Dynamik des Gemeinsamen vorbehalten. Was uns natürlich zu der Frage führt: Und was passiert mit dem Einzelnen (nicht nur unter quantitativem Aspekt)? Ich hoffe, hiermit die Erwartungen der Hegel-Fans erfüllt zu haben, die in den letzten beiden Abschnitten Ich möchte es nicht versäumen, mitzuteilen, dass die drei Arten von Regeln angeblich eine Ähnlichkeit mit den Verhältnisurteilen und -kategorien bei Kant aufweisen, im Grunde denen die Interdependenzen „gewiss ist, dass“, „wenn… dann”, und „entweder… oder” liegen. 36 “I can never regret. I can feel sorrow, but it’s not the same thing.”… “Of all unicorns, she is the only one who knows what regret is – and love.”… “I am a little afraid to go home. I have been mortal, and some part of me is mortal yet. I am no longer like the others, for no unicorn was ever born who could regret, bit I do. I regret.” 35


vorliegendes Beitrags die beiden Teile der objektiven Logik wiederentdeckt haben und jetzt ein Zusammentreffen mit der subjektiven Logik erahnen, sogar erwarten.

3. Der Individuierungstest Locke selbst war mit dem Stil seiner Darstellung in dem Versuch nicht zufrieden. Der geduldige Leser kann jedoch nicht übersehen, dass die Themen Wesen und Identität im Wesentlichen nur im dritten Buch, das der Sprache gewidmet ist, behandelt werden. In der Tat wird das Auftreten von „Wesen“ im zweiten Buch als „unbekanntes“ bezeichnet (II, 23, 3, II, 32, 18); deshalb erlaubte ich mir, es selten und unauffällig zu verwenden, nahe an der Bedeutung von Identität37. Die Identität bei Locke hat im Text ebenfalls einen festen Platz. Weil sie eine Relation darstellt, ebenfalls wie die Kausalität, und die Relationen als letzte Art komplexer Ideen sind betrachtet worden (in Kapiteln 25-28)! Identität bezieht sich primär auf „Existenz der Dinge“, auf einen „Vergleich von einem Etwas mit sich selbst“ und auf seine Existenz an verschiedenen Orten und zu verschiedenen Zeiten. Dies führt unweigerlich zur Vorstellung von Differenz, da es nicht möglich ist, dass zwei Dinge derselben Art zur gleichen Zeit am selben Ort sind. Es ist nicht schwer zu erkennen, dass die Konzepte der Eins und der Zwei in ihrer Eigenschaft von Modi in der Relationsdimension in einer „aufgehobenen“ Gestalt vorhanden sind. Für Locke ist es jedoch wichtiger, die Eigenartigkeit des Identitätsverhältnisses auf die komplexen Ideen der Substanzen und der gemischten Modi zu projizieren, was er am Ende von II, 27, 2 vollbringt38. Daher könnte der vorherige Abschnitt meiner eigenen Darlegung als Illustration dieser Projektion wahrgenommen werden. Zudem ist es durch die Abschnitte 4, 5 und 6 desselben 27. Kapitels hervorgehoben, das die Identität von Pflanzen, Tieren und Menschen entsprechend behandelt. Der kurze Abschnitt 3 (II, 27, 3 = 4 engl.), der den lateinischen Namen principium individuationis trägt, unterteilt die Darlegung bezüglich Identität und Unterschied in zwei Teilen: einen allgemeineren und einen angewandten. Dieses Prinzip der Individuierung scheint jedoch immanent mit der Frage der Identität verbunden zu sein: „Denn da es in jenem Augenblick das ist, was es ist, und nichts anderes, so ist es dasselbe und muss solange dasselbe bleiben, wie seine Existenz fortdauert. Denn ebenso lange wird es dasselbe bleiben und nichts anderes sein“. Wenn Identität ein Vergleich von Etwas mit sich selbst ist und seine Existenz grundsätzlich durch Zeit und Raum behauptet, so betont Individuation auf seine Beziehung zu jedem Moment von Zeit und Raum. Ich würde eine weitere Beobachtung mitteilen. Im ersten und zweiten Buch des Versuchs wird Individuation nur im Kapitel 27 erörtert (übrigens hinzugefügt erst in der zweiten Ausgabe!), wobei der Akzent auf die Sonst würde ein Vergleich mit Schellings Verständnis vom Wesen notwendig. Im Original stellt das ein selbstständiger Abschnitt dar, der in manchen Übersetzungen mit dem Vorangehenden getilgt wurde.

37 38


Menschen und vor allem auf ihr duales Sein von Mensch und Person (II, 27, 2) gelegt wird39; im dritten Buch wächst die Rolle von „Individuum“; im vierten wird sie aber schwächer. Das Erscheinen einzelner Namen für jedes Individuum erweist sich eigentlich nur für unsere Einstellung zu Menschen relevant zu sein, da wir uns nur bei Menschen mit Individuen und nicht nur mit einzelnen Substanzen befassen; dieses Handeln wurde nur aufgrund der Besonderheiten der menschlichen Praxis und der Lebensformen auf andere Objekte übertragen (III, 3, 4-5). Die Abstrahierung ist es, die des Weiteren Benennung einer losgelösten Idee erlaubt, die sich auf viele Personen bezieht. Hier wird jedoch die Übersetzung ins Bulgarische unbrauchbar! Wörtlich im nächsten Abschnitt 6 (eine der wichtigsten Stellen im gesamten Buch) wird „Individuum“ durch „Persönlichkeit“ ersetzt, obwohl Locke beide Wörter nahezu synonym verwendet. Dies geht weiter; das Individuum wird aber plötzlich zu einem „Repräsentanten“ (III, 3, 19), was sich nur kurz fortsetzt, weil es zum „Separaten“, Gesonderten kommt (III, 6, 3). Vor dem Hintergrund des „Separaten“ bleibt das Erscheinen vom „Individuum“, aber auch vom „Repräsentanten“, nur sehr sporadisch.40 Zu diesen Übersetzungsentscheidungen hat kaum die Angst vor Individualismus geführt. In der Praxis hat sich die Idee der Individuierung jedoch verflüssigt und erübrigt. Dies ist der Grund warum Locke’s Frage nach dem „Unterschied zwischen der Identität des Menschen und der Person“ nur eine vage Antwort erhält: weil man nicht sehen kann, wie die Individuierung in den beiden Aspekten funktioniert. Aufgrund der Unklarheit und um einer anderen Parallele willen, möchte ich hier von Locke’s klassischen Ansichten zu den moderneren Auffassungen übergehen. Der sprachliche Fortschritt, von dem Quine spricht, korrespondiert mit der Individuierung der Wörter, mit der Fähigkeit des Kindes, individuierende (individuative) Begriffe zu verwenden41. Der „Trick“ ist, dass es nicht darum geht, Sachen in Plural auf Eins zu reduzieren, sondern die Bezeichnung eines Objekts, gleich welcher Art, mit einem indikativen oder unbestimmten Pronomen zu verbinden, oder, wie es Quine darstellt: „zweifellos findet das Kind den Dreh dieser eigentümlichen Adjektive „derselbe“, „ein anderer“, „ein“, „jener“, „nicht jener“ im Kontext heraus“ (Quine 1957: 25-26). Ähnliches gilt für die Verwendung des bestimmten oder unbestimmten Artikels, der Negation und selbstverständlich auch Bis zu diesem Moment ist das Wort “Individuum” im Text nur einmal verwendet (II, 9, 15), wie dies auch später im Rahmen des 2. Buches der Fall ist (II, 31, 6). 40 Der Ausdruck individual substance fehlt weiterhin in der bulgarischen Ausgabe; dort ist sie entweder „separate Substanz“ benannt (II, 27, 10), oder sie wird überhaupt nicht thematisiert (II, 27, 21; III, 6, 8); in der deutschen Übersetzung sieht es so aus: the same individual, immaterial, thinking substance = dieselbe individuelle, immaterielle, denkende Substanz; two individual substances of the same species = zwei einzelnen Substanzen derselben Art. 41 Statt individualization verwendet Quine individuation. 39


der Pluralform. Vielleicht könnten wir spekulieren, dass uns Schelling hier etwas zu sagen hat. In diesen elementaren Teilsätzen haben wir ein bedeutungsvolles Wort in Begleitung von einer Reflexion, die seine Individualität beraubt aber gleichzeitig transzendiert. Es ist kein Zufall, dass manchmal einigen von diesen Redeteilen die Bezeichnung Indexikalien gegeben wird, da sie eben den Inhalt des Wortes, an das sie sich geheftet haben, zusammenfassen, und ihm eine strenge Eindeutigkeit verleihen42. Zumindest ich sehe aber bei ihrer Anwendung keine Präsenz irgendwelcher Kopula. Ist „dieses Pferd“ dasselbe wie „das ist ein Pferd“? Die Individuierung braucht, nach der Aufführung von Quine, keine Sinnfelder, in denen Objekte erscheinen. Deren Vollbringung liegt ganz bei uns, wie zuvor mit der Quantifizierung der Fall ist. Ihre Besonderheit besteht in der Bindung einer Identität an einen ganz bestimmten Moment in Zeit und Raum. Ob dies nun Realismus ist oder nicht, ich stelle mich nicht zum Richten. Was zählt ist, dass sobald wir sie von außen angeeignet haben – als Akzentuierung in unserer Sprachpraxis, können wir sie auf die Gegenstände projizieren und sie bei ihnen als „eingebaute Individuierung“ auffinden (Quine 1957: 28). Die Individuierung offenbart sich als ein elementarer Test, mit dessen Hilfe den primären Wörtern verschiedene Eigenschaften zugesprochen werden. „Mama“ ist immer sich selbst, Prototyp eines Vornamen und vielleicht nur im Ansatz eines einzelnen Begriffs43. Ob das Kind aber die Tatsache nicht erfasst, dass Mama sowohl ein Individuum als auch eine Person ist44? Andere Sachen jedoch – „Apfel” laut dem Beispiel von Quine – ermöglichen eine weitaus vielfältigere Individuierung, solche wie diese, nicht diese, dieselbe, usw.. Gerade sie offenbaren sich später als allgemeine Begriffe, d.h. als Deindividuationen45. Unter ihnen verhält sich „Wasser“ nach wie vor weiterhin merkwürdig. Mütter und Äpfel können gezählt werden, Wasser – nicht. Dem Objekt, das mit diesem Wort bezeichnet wird, passen immer noch die alten Charakteristiken wie wenig, mehr, noch mehr. Dies legt nahe, dass sich manche allgemeinen Begriffe für Individuierung als weniger geeignet herausstellen werden. Nach der Quantifizierung offenbart sich die Individuierung als ein Aus jeder Grammatik kann man erfahren, dass Pronomen (Fürwörter) jegliche Namen, wie auch substantivierte Verben, Adjektive oder Zahlwörter ersetzen können, und dass sie sich als autosemantisch erweisen. 43 „Darum gebraucht man an häufigsten Eigennamen (proper names) innerhalb der eigenen Art, mit der am meisten zu tun hat; denn hier sieht man sich oft veranlasst, einzelne Personen (particular persons) zu erwähnen. In diesem Gebiet haben einzelne Individuen (distinct individuals) ihre einzelnen Benennungen (distinct denominations)” (III, 3, 4). 44 „Wer infolge weiterer Prüfung die Vernünftigkeit hinzufügt, hat wieder eine neue Wesenheit der Art, die er Mensch nennt, so dass ein und dasselbe Individuum für den einen ein wirklicher Mensch sein kann, für den anderen dagegen nicht” (III, 6, 26). 45 „Jemand möge überlegen… worin seine Idee… abweicht, wenn nicht daran, dass er etwas ausläsest (leaving out), was jedem einzelnen Individuum eigentümlich ist und von jenen einzelnen komplexen Ideen verschiedener Einzelwesen alles das zurückbehält (retaining), worin sie übereinstimmen” – kursiv – SY (III, 3, 9). 42


formales Prinzip für die Aufspaltung eines jeden ontologischen Engagements. Und erst nachdem sie gemeistert wird, kann man Wörter, die in einem Satz verbunden sind, als Gegenstand und Eigenschaft betrachten: gute Mama, leuchtend rot, warmes Wasser. Ob sich bei ihnen wohl eine versteckte Kopula befindet? Es gibt aber Sprachen, darunter auch die Bulgarische, die es möglich machen zu sagen „млякото белее“ (Milch schimmert weiß) und nicht nur „млякото е бяло“ (Milch ist weiß), ähnlich wie auf Deutsch – „ich weiße die Wäsche“ und nicht nur „die Wäsche ist weiß“. Die Kopula kann sich daher als ein späterer und gewissermaßen optionaler Schritt in der Fortentwicklung der Sprachkompetenz erweisen. Sobald sie ans Licht kommt, haben wir Prädikation. Sollte sich aber eine Prädikation habitualisieren, dann tritt die mathematische Gleichung zurück, oder wird ihr sogar einen selbstständigen Platz einräumt. In der Mathematik beide „1=1” und „2=1+1” sind Gleichungen, obwohl nur die zweite informativ ist. Beide unterliegen aber dem Prinzip der Identität. Während die Propositionen „Mama ist gut“, „das Rote ist leuchtend”, „das Wasser ist warm“, oder die rudimentäreren Satzteile „Mama freut“, „Rotes leuchtet”, „Wasser wärmt“ nicht eine Prädikation, sondern eine Inhärenz (inherence) explizieren und dem Prinzip ‘besteht aus’ Ausdruck verleihen. Es ist nicht zu spekulativ, anzunehmen, dass Individuierung noch elementarer als Inhärenz ist. Denn sie stellt die Verbindung der Identität mit den Momenten der Zeit und Raum her, während die Verbindung der Identität mit den Eigenschaften in der Domäne der (rein semantischen) Inhärenz ist. Darüber hinaus und in diesem Fall ist es weitaus wichtiger, ob die Individuierung ihre Rolle auf der Prädikationsebene behält; und ob sie dort weiterhin als Test wirkt. Es ist leicht, eine bestimmte Eigenschaft des Individuums, die in ihm innewohnt, aufzuführen: Mama ist blond; der Apfel ist grün; Milch ist weiß. Aber wie weist man – in Sätzen wie: Mama ist Frau; der Apfel ist Frucht; Milch ist eine Flüssigkeit – auf die Art hin, zu der das Individuum gehört? Die Eigenschaften unterscheiden sich offensichtlich von den Objekten, in denen sie weilen, die Arten befinden sich in den Objekten selbst und zwar so, dass sie von denen nicht eindeutig unterschieden werden könnten. Deshalb – laut dem Test – lässt sich die Individuierung eines Objekts durch Eigenschaften, einerseits, von der Individuierung einer Art mittels eines Individuums, andererseits, prinzipiell auseinanderhalten. Aber machen wir das Bild nicht noch komplizierter. Hier begnüge ich mich mit einer Bemerkung zur pluralistischen Ontologie des neuen Realismus. Die Individuierung bringt mich zu Gabriel’s anderem berühmten Beispiel zurück. Auf dem Tisch gibt es drei Würfel – rot, blau und weiß. Wie lautet die Antwort auf die Frage: Wie viele Gegenstände stehen auf dem Tisch? (299). Aus seiner Sicht würde sie von dem Sinnfeld abhängen, in dem uns die geometrischen Körper, die Farben oder die elementaren Materialbeschaffenheiten erscheinen. Stellen wir uns vor, die Rede wäre von Gefäßen mit Wasser. Dann könnten wir die Antwort in Tropfen oder in Litern geben. Das ontologische Engagement, gemäß dem Erlernten von Quine, aber auch von Locke, verpflichtet uns, die Situation der 184

möglichen Individuierung der unmöglichen vorzuziehen. Dies befolgend könnten wir nicht gleichdeutende Antworte geben, worauf uns Gabriel zu bringen versucht. Uns ist jedoch noch seit Locke bekannt, was sortale Begriffe sind und was sie halt nicht sind (III, 3, 15). Deswegen unabhängig davon wie wichtig das Identitätsprinzip ist, stellt es quasi nur eine Grundlage für die Überprüfung dar, ob auch das Prinzip der Individuierung funktioniert. Dort wo es bestätigt wird, werden wir ein Treffen mit der Einheit einer Substanz oder eines gemischten Modus erwarten; dort wo es versagt, erwartet uns bloß eine in sich selbst endlos aufteilende Homogenität46, oder wie Wladimir Wyssozki singt: „Kahles Brachland, absolutes Nichts“47. Und Schelling? In seinen naturphilosophischen Schriften finden sich viele Aussagen über Individualität und Individuum; die meisten von ihnen enthalten bemerkenswerte Beobachtungen wie z.B. über die Rolle der Kohäsion, des Zusammenhaltes. Andere sind spekulativ: „in jedem Individuum widerspiegelt sich das Ganze, das Unendliche”. Solche Aussagen sind auch im System des transzendentalen Idealismus zu finden; dort aber werden sie an Schlüsselstellen von Fragen der Selbstwahrnehmung, selbst der Intelligenz, bewältigt. In Studien der Mythologie und der Geschichte wird dem kollektiven Bewusstsein ein wichtiger Stellenwert zugesprochen. Selbst in seiner Untersuchung des Wesens der Freiheit vom Jahre 1809 wird die Individualität – im Falle lebender Organismen – ohne Bezug zum Sein, sondern nur zum Werden, dargestellt, da jedes dieser Individuen seinen Ursprung in einem anderen Individuum hat. Ich gestehe aber frei und offen, hier kann ich kein vollständiges Bild des Themas geben. Es scheint auch darüber keine spezialisierte Forschung zu geben. Deshalb möchte ich darauf hinweisen, dass Schelling nirgendwo seine Ansichten zur Individuierung mit seinen Auffassungen über die Prädikation vereint. Das ist, was Gabriel eben schreibt: „Es geht Schelling darum, Individuation unabhängig von begrifflicher oder propositionaler Individuation zu denken” (OP: 21). Er selbst sieht ihren Anfang in der elementaren Verwendung von „Dieses-Da”. Deshalb „über die erste Materie können wir nichts aussagen, über Dieses-Da schon” (OP: 21). Leider auch dieser indexikalische Akt, der ein Demonstrativpronomen und ein Adverb verbindet, ist in seiner Individuierungpotenz entweder völlig gegendstandslos, oder besitzt er den informativen Mindestwert nicht, den uns die modernen linguistischen Beispiele von Quine und die klassischen phänomenologischen Analysen von Locke bieten.

„Es gibt aber kein einzelnes Materieteilchen (parcel of matter), mit dem irgendeine dieser Qualitäten so verknüpft wäre, dass sie für dieses Teilchen wesentlich oder nicht von ihm zu trennen sei“ (III, 6, 6). 47 Übersetzung von Elisabeth Jelinek, sonst aber auch: „nichtgebärende Öde und vollkommenes Nichts“ oder just a barren wasteland, just a nothing – a void. 46


Literaturhinweise Angelelli, S. Ignatio. “On Johannes Raue‘s Logic”, in: I. Marchlewitz/A. Heinekamp: Leibniz’s Auseinandersetzung mit Vorgängern und Zeitgenossen (= Studia Leibnitiana, Supplementa XXVII), Stuttgart 1990, 184–190. Bacon, Francis. Neues Organon. Zweites Buch. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2009. Boehm, Omri. “The Principle of Sufficient Reason, the Ontological Argument and the Is/ Ought Distinction“, in: European Journal of Philosophy, 24, 3 (2016), 1–24. Cassirer, Ernst. „Sprache und Mythos“, in: Wesen und Wirkung des Symbolbegriffs, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1956. — Philosophie der symbolischen Formen. Erster Teil: Die Sprache, Nachdruck. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964. Cicovacki, Predrag. “Locke on Mathematical Knowledge”, in: Journal of the History of Philosophy 28, 4 (1990), 511–524. Della Rocca, Michael. “A Rationalist Manifesto: Spinoza and the Principle of Sufficient Reason”, in: Philosophical Topics 31, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2003). Frege, Gottlob. Schriften zur Logik. Edited by L. Kreiser. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1973. Friedman, Michael. „Philosophical Naturalism”, in: Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 71, 2 (Nov. 1997), 7–21. Gabriel, Markus. „Die Ontologie der Prädikation in Schellings Die Weltalter“, in: Schelling-Studien. Internationale Zeitschrift zur klassischen deutschen Philosophie, 2 (2014), 3–20. — Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. — Schelling (1775–1854), in: The Oxford Handbook of German Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century. Edited by Michael N. Forster and Kristin Gjesdal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. — Sinn und Existenz. Eine realistische Ontologie. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2016. Kannisto, Toni. “Kant and Frege on Existence”, in: Synthese 194, 1 (2017), 1–26. Leibniz, Gottfried W. Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe. Darmstadt/ Leipzig/ Berlin: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1923–. Lessing, Gotthold E. “Des Andreas Wissowatius Einwürfe wider die Dreieinigkeit”, in: Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 7., Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1956, 489–535. Locke, John. Versuch über den menschlichen Verstand. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2006. Luhmann, Niklas. Rechtssoziologie, 3. Auflage. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1987. Quine, Willard Van Orman. „Das Sprechen über Gegenstände”. In: Ontologische Relativität und andere Schriften. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2003, 17–42. — “Was es gibt”, in: Von einem logischen Standpunkt. Neun logisch-philosophische Essays. Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein, 1979. Schelling, Friedrich W. J. „Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die damit zusammenhängenden Gegenstände”, in: Sämtliche Werke (Hg. K.F.A. Schelling), Abt. I, Bd. 7. Stuttgart/ Augsburg: Cotta’scher Verlag, 1856–1861.


What is Phenomenological Realism? Metametaphysical Considerations Tobias Keiling

The recent currents of speculative, new or other realisms signal a demand to clarify the metaphysical commitments of phenomenology. The critique waged by these movements does not simply call for a defense of phenomenology or correlationism. Instead of accepting the terms of the debate, self-identifying phenomenologists would do better to articulate what a phenomenological metaphysics stands for. My aim in the following is to delineate what I want to call ‘phenomenological realism’. Phenomenology may be realist in a philosophically interesting way that is not addressed by the current debate in philosophy more generally or explicitly developed in the phenomenological tradition. I will turn to a discussion of realism after sketching what I understand by ‘phenomenology’ and ‘ontology’ in sections 1 and 3, with a digression on Meillassoux’s speculative realism in section 2. Clarifying these notions will help me to set up the central problem of phenomenological realism in section 4. While I will refer to a number of ideas from Husserl and Heidegger in particular, my interest here is in a broader and more general consideration rather than in a discussion of how phenomenological authors have understood realism. I will also refer to recent work in phenomenological metaphysics at the expense of a more detailed exegesis of classical phenomenologists.

What is phenomenology? Defining phenomenological realism must explicate the notion of phenomenology and the idea of a phenomenological metaphysics. As I understand it, phenomenology cannot be conceived as avoiding, overcoming or twisting free from metaphysics. In a debate with Benoist about the metaphysical commitments of Husserl’s Logical Investigations, Zahavi described the “metaphysical neutrality” of phenomenology.1 1

Jocelyn Benoist, Phénoménologique, sémantique, ontologie: Husserl et la tradition logique autrichienne (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997); Dan Zahavi, “Constitution and Ontology. Some Remarks on Husserl’s Ontological Position in the Logical Investigations”, Husserl Studies 9 (1992), 111–24; Dan Zahavi, “Metaphysical Neutrality in Logical Investigations”, in One Hundred Years of Phenomenology. Husserl’s Logical Investigations Revisited, ed. Dan Zahavi and Frederik Stjernfelt, Phaenomenologica 164 (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002), 93–108. The discussion also serves as point of departure in Zahavi’s most recent work Husserl’s Legacy: Phenom-


Such neutrality may indeed be a particular strength of phenomenology and its clearest contrast to ontology. But it is important to note that for a position to be metaphysically non-committal is something else than to disregard the project of metaphysics as a whole. Phenomenology may be metaphysically neutral, but it certainly must not be metaphysically blind. I will here attempt to outline the interest phenomenology takes in metaphysics in a rather formal way by discussing the philosophical knowledge phenomenology involves and contrasting it with that involved in ontology. The perspective I take here is thus metametaphysical, it concerns what metaphysics can and should be. In this perspective, two very general claims can help to articulate fundamentals of a phenomenological form of ‘doing’ metaphysics. (i) Phenomenology is a descriptive form of philosophy. (ii) Phenomenology evaluates ontological commitments. Given the diversity of the body of theory associated with phenomenology, formulating the idea of phenomenology in this general way should allow setting up a framework within which to situate specific authors, notions, arguments and problems. These claims make no reference to canonical concepts or authors of phenomenology, yet drawing out their consequences should reveal them developing a number of ideas rooted in the phenomenological tradition. First, phenomenology as a descriptive form of philosophy is not determined by a range of objects it studies or a particular subject matter such as, say, consciousness, being, the mind, the flesh, the clearing or the given. Phenomenological authors have used all of these terms (and others) to define what phenomenology should be concerned with. The approach presented here, however, avoids determining the subject matter of phenomenology. I understand Husserl’s call to the ‘things themselves’ as a merely formal indication rather than as an implicit specification of the range of objects phenomenology should be concerned with. In this perspective, phenomenology is a form of philosophy that begins with a reflection on the nature and object of philosophical knowledge. Historically, this point is obvious in Husserl’s confrontation with psychologism and neo-Kantianism. The nature of philosophical knowledge is also the central problem in MerleauPonty’s introduction to the Phenomenology of Perception. The point I make here is articulated most directly by the later Heidegger when he argues that phenomenology’s first question is what philosophical thinking should be concerned with.2 enology, Metaphysics, and Transcendental Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 30–50. 2 Martin Heidegger, “Über das Prinzip ‘Zu den Sachen selbst’”, Heidegger Studies 11 (1995), S. 5–8; Martin Heidegger, “Über das Zeitverständnis in der Phänomenologie und im Denken der Seinsfrage,” in Zur Sache des Denkens, Gesamtausgabe 14 (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2007), S. 145–50; Martin Heidegger, “The End of Philosophy and the


Talking about the inherently and essentially descriptive character of philosophical knowledge takes up the parlance of Husserl and early Heidegger. It can be seen as an attempt to articulate two Husserlian ideas: the idea that consciousness is intentional and the idea that intentional life can be described as guided by the experience of evidence. Only if one conceives philosophical knowledge as descriptive can such evidence become philosophically relevant. Second, defining phenomenology in reference to the form of the knowledge it engages with disentangles it from certain accounts of the phenomenological self. My first claim neither implies that the self is the privileged givee of any form of givenness, nor that the self is defined by first-personal access to a form of knowledge inaccessible to others, which is only to deny that this knowledge carries metaphysical weight, not to deny that there is such knowledge. The idea that phenomenology is a descriptive form of philosophy entails neither an epistemological nor any metaphysical privileging of subjectivity. Its implication is rather that (inter)subjectivity, understood phenomenologically, is marked by its capacity to commit to descriptions as true. As Tugendhat has pointed out, a phenomenological account of truth must allow for the orientational function of truth commonly expressed by the contrast of truth and falsity or correctness. While Husserl consistently accounted for this contrast, Being and Time allegedly failed to do so. Whether or not this reading of Heidegger is correct, Tugendhat rightly upholds the idea that an account of truth must be able to generate this contrast as a normative one. It is not clear that all phenomenological accounts of truth have done so.3 In the view sketched here, no ontological or metaphysical claim, considered phenomenologically, falls outside this normative contrast. Ontological commitments are relevant in phenomenology because they contribute to what one holds to be true or false of what is and appears. To use Tugendhat’s term: in a phenomenological perspective, ontologies are treated as “aletheiologies [Aletheiologien]”.4 The subject, capable of holding descriptions to be true, presents a first point of contact between the form of knowledge involved in phenomenology and the form of knowledge involved in ontology. That subjectivity is not the only point of such contact will become relevant when I discuss the relation between phenomenology and different ontologies in sections 3 and 4. At this point, only note that my first claim implies a definition of selfhood through its capacity to commit to truth. This includes, though it is by no means limited to, subscribing to an “aletheiology”, Task of Thinking,” in On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 55–73. 3 This is my worry with regard to Alexander Schnell’s proposal, which appears to undercut the normative and orientative function of truth. Alexander Schnell, Wirklichkeitsbilder (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), S. 114–136 4 Ernst Tugendhat, Der Wahrheitsbegriff bei Husserl und Heidegger, 2nd ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1970), S. 180.


to implicitly hold an ontology to be true, or in Heidegger’s parlance: to have an understanding of being. I will not elaborate here the implications for the understanding of subjectivity implied by my proposal. My focus here is on the realist orientation of phenomenological metaphysics. Note an important implication of the primacy of truth for the role of perception. Perception, taken as the fundamental form of manifestation by Husserl and others, should be understood phenomenologically as a manifestation of truth and falsity, as has recently been emphasized in debates about normativity in perception.5 The foundational role of perception in the constitution of conscious experience, however, does not indicate a metaphysical primacy of perception or its objects as fundamental layer of reality. It merely indicates a certain epistemological structure in the makeup of the different forms of experience, where knowing certain states of affairs implies knowing that the objects involved are being perceived. Perception gains its distinctive place among the different forms of experience through the fact that all of these forms are continuous with perceptual experience in this orientation towards truth (evidence). Even the slightest perception of an object is oriented towards an optimal grasp of its meaning. Though I cannot argue for this here, the same holds true for all more complex forms of knowledge, including philosophical knowledge, the genuine measure of which is descriptive adequacy. In contrast to other forms of knowledge, such as the knowledge gained in perception, phenomenological knowledge includes a reflection on the nature of such adequacy. In this sense, phenomenology, including the phenomenology of perception, is a reflection of normative questions, as Haugeland, Crowell, and Golob have argued.6 In contrast to their accounts, however, the notion of ‘description’ is essential for the proposal outlined here. It aims to offer a general category to express an orientation towards what is grasped in a description as the normative standard to which all forms of knowledge, from perception to philosophy as phenomenology, are beholden to. Third, nothing in the claim that phenomenology is descriptive implies that there must be a single uniform and general method to achieve phenomenological descriptions or that there would be only a single true, genuinely phenomenological description of the world. Commitment to true description in philosophy only implies that manoeuvres creating greater descriptive plausibility in addressing a philosophical problem are preferable to those which fail to relate to what is exposed as the factual basis of a problem in the descriptions involved. It is therefore insufficient to only evaluate the logical or reflective coherence of philosophical claims for Steven Crowell, Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 124–146. Also see the contributions in Normativity in Perception, ed. Thiemo Breyer and Maxime Doyon (Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). 6 Steven Crowell, Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger (Cambridge University Press, 2013); John Haugeland, Dasein Disclosed: John Haugeland’s Heidegger (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2013); Sacha Golob, Heidegger on Concepts, Freedom, and Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 5


these claims to count as having been subjected to a genuinely phenomenological scrutiny. It is also unacceptable for the phenomenologist to base the assertion of a philosophical view merely on the rejection of its opposite or its alternatives. I will have more to say on this with regard to Meillassoux in section 2. Note that what I have elaborated as the descriptive nature of phenomenological knowledge already indicates a minimal realist orientation. In his letter to Baudin, Husserl associates his own realism with the concreteness of the descriptions philosophy produces.7 Defining phenomenology as descriptive form of philosophy is meant to spell out this commitment. I will come back to this when addressing realism in section 4. Another element of this commitment to phenomenology as essentially descriptive is seeing a continuity between phenomenology and hermeneutics. A description need not be the unequivocal or even formalized result of a specific theory or method or be accessible in unfailing certainty to a subject in order to present us with an account of what there is. Phenomenology in the sense I am envisaging here can embrace the hermeneutical tenet that descriptions need to be understood and, possibly, interpreted, perhaps compiled, summarized or translated. The fact that descriptions are in need of different aspects of interpretation is also not in conflict with its realist orientation. I concur with Figal’s assessment that hermeneutics rather needs the idea of objectivity in order to make sense of understanding and interpretation. There is a “deep layer [Tiefenschicht]” of philosophical hermeneutics that makes hermeneutic philosophy adhere to the same standards of truth and falsity as phenomenology.8 According to the view sketched here, there is no merely logical use of reason in philosophy, neither is there a merely hermeneutical reason that would not, in the interpretation of any element of language, already have the world in view. Because it embraces hermeneutics, phenomenology can renounce the idea of a uniform phenomenological method. Fourth, as descriptive and truth-oriented first philosophy, phenomenology is a transcendental exercise of reason. Cassam’s9 terminology is particularly helpful to understand the notion of the transcendental forming the background of my first claim: Phenomenology is a form of transcendental reasoning that is self-directed in that it reflects on the truth of a self’s commitments. But it is also world-directed, addressing the ‘things themselves’ already because of the ontological import of Edmund Husserl, Husserliana Dokumente 3: Briefwechsel I–X, ed. Karl Schuhmann and E. Schuhmann (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1994), VII/16: “No ordinary ‘realist’ has ever been so realistic and concrete as I, the phenomenological ‘idealist’”. 8 Günter Figal, “Wahrheit und Methode als ontologischer Entwurf”, in Hans-Georg Gadamer. Wahrheit und Methode, ed. Günter Figal (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2007), S. 219– 235, 223. Günter Figal, Objectivity. The Hermeneutical and Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), 49–120. 9 Quassim Cassam, “Self-Directed Transcendental Arguments,” in Transcendental Arguments: Problems and Prospects, ed. Robert Stern (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 83–110. 7


the commitments it studies, about which I will have to say more later on. Further, phenomenology is explanatory rather than validatory: phenomenology does not aim to simply validate any of the descriptions produced, in particular, by ontologies qua “aletheiologies.” To evaluate these descriptions rationally and under normative guidance of the idea of truth rather means to first of all understand their respective commitments. The notion of the transcendental and of transcendental knowledge in play here emphasizes this dual orientation of philosophical knowledge both towards the self and its commitments and towards what this knowledge is meant to describe. It is in this second orientation that a realist orientation of phenomenology gains metaphysical import.

Description, not speculation Before elaborating a phenomenological understanding of ontology in the next section, allow me a digression into the speculative realism debate. Although Meillassoux’ charge of correlationism has been at the center of debate with phenomenologists, his thought contrasts most sharply with phenomenology, as I understand it, in its methodology. Characteristic for Meillassoux’ approach is the absence of examples or specific (phenomenological) analyses from his book. As van der Heiden has pointed out, speculative realism bears this name for a reason. For Meillassoux, philosophy should “remain speculative”.10 Already in his programmatic embrace of speculation, Meillassoux distances himself from the phenomenological orientation of philosophy towards description. In a brief methodological discussion, Meillassoux elaborates his idea of speculation and the form of knowledge it is to yield. But the bulk of After Finitude employs an argumentative strategy that stands in even stronger opposition to the philosophical method of phenomenology than speculative knowledge. To set up his central argument, Meillassoux proceeds by identifying alternative scenarios in order to dismiss some in favor of others. These scenarios are derived from quite general interpretations in the history of philosophy. From a phenomenological perspective, it is particularly striking that these scenarios are not presented as descriptions. But it remains unclear what criteria, beside some implicit reference to descriptive plausibility, decide the confrontation of different scenarios. The positive picture resulting from the exclusion of alternatives is also not discussed in its implications for how to understand what there is. As Wiltsche has pointed out, Meillassoux’s ultimate deferral to the authority of science is simply uncritical.11 Gert-Jan Van der Heiden, Ontology after Ontotheology: Plurality, Event and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2014), p. 224. 11 Harald A. Wiltsche, “Science, Realism, and Correlationism: a phenomenological critique of Meillassoux’s argument from ancestrality”, in European Journal of Philosophy (2017), 808–832. 10


The phenomenological and, as I will argue in section 4, genuinely realistic procedure, however, would be to only accept some manifestation of the ‘things themselves’ as measure for the correctness of different metaphysical scenarios. This holds true in particular for the alternative of correlationism and speculative realism defining Meillassoux’ book. The best response to the charge of correlationism is not to defend the position ascribed to phenomenology but to question the alternative offered. As that alternative dissolves, a critique of correlationism ceases to be an argument in favor of speculative realism. Interestingly, Meillassoux himself acknowledges the need for some confirmation of his results and, after deducing the principle of factiality by eliminating alternatives, refers to an “intellectual intuition”: “‘intuition’ because it is actually in what is that we discover a contingency with no limit other than itself: ‘intellectual’ because this contingency is neither visible nor perceptible in things and only thought is capable of accessing it, just as it accesses the chaos that underlies the apparent continuity of phenomena.”12 Were Meillassoux to bring in the voice of a phenomenologist interlocutor, I imagine her being drawn to responding in the following way: ‘But how do you know that? How can you be sure of what lies beneath phenomena?’ Her most conspicuous worry will not be with the metaphysical picture Meillassoux argues for, but with the epistemology it implies. As Zahavi observes, speculative realism is “epistemologically underdetermined.”13 At the outset of his book, Meillassoux states his aim to reinstate the difference between first and secondary qualities. In his comment on intellectual intuition, it turns out that this distinction is presupposed by this metaphysical method. If this is so, the metaphysical method he upholds is already dependent on the metaphysical outlook the argument is meant to establish. This is a logical but not the deeper phenomenological worry. That worry is that Meillassoux assumes that there cannot be a phenomenology of absolute contingency. But why should there not be? I concur with Tengelyi that it is equally possible to simply describe such contingency as phenomenological fact, as already Husserl has done.14 Why should we accept the idea that we can only gain insight into absolute contingency through speculation in the form of assuming questionable alternatives? Thus dissolves the need for seeing through phenomena to what underlies them. In combating speculative realism, the phenomenologist need not and should not oppose directly Meillassoux’ attempt to replace correlationism with speculative realism or to establish one metaphysical principle (the principle of unreason) in place of another (the principle of sufficient reason). The real dispute between Meillassoux’ speculative realism and phenomenology is on another, say, methodological level. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London/ New York: Continuum, 2008), p. 82. 13 Dan Zahavi, Husserl’s Legacy, p. 203. 14 László Tengelyi, Welt und Unendlichkeit: Zum Problem phänomenologischer Metaphysik (Freiburg/München: Alber, 2014), S. 171–296. 12


It concerns metametaphysical commitments more than metaphysical ones. Not only can the phenomenologist point to the possibility of categorial rather than intellectual intuition. She would also deny that modus tollens arguments are sufficient to decide between alternative metaphysical scenarios and their defining principles. And she would point out that giving a description rather than stating a principle can make room for reason and unreason alike. According to Husserl’s “principle of all principles”, what should define metaphysical principles is the idea that there are “limitations in which [something] affords itself”.15 Phenomenology evaluates even its principles as descriptions in a way Meillassoux bars.

What is Ontology? The second claim I offered in view of defining phenomenology was this: phenomenology evaluates ontological commitments. Ontology, in the basic understanding I am about to lay out, is the most relevant contrast term to phenomenology when it comes to the question of phenomenological metaphysics. ‘Ontology’ here serves as an umbrella term for forms of philosophy or scientific theory more generally that aim at articulating a general understanding of all there is, serving as basis for further or more detailed philosophical or scientific inquiry. Ontological commitments are commitments of this universal scope. With regard to the history of phenomenology, putting ontological understanding in focus is the pivotal insight of Being and Time. But the same idea is already present in Husserl’s account of the so-called “natural attitude” defined as a set of ontological commitments amounting to the “general thesis”.16 Both Husserl and Heidegger further envisage a positive relation of phenomenology to ontology. In Ideas… III, Husserl sketches a new phenomenological ontology. Heidegger presents Being and Time as an attempt to provide a “concrete answer to the question of the meaning of being”.17 Figal has observed a merger of ontology and phenomenology in the phenomenological classics, and I follow him in his critique of this identification.18 The two claims I present here are an attempt to relate rather than identify both. Disentangling phenomenology and ontology is motivated by the observation that neither Husserl nor Heidegger were able to establish the phenomenological ontology they envisaged. Historically, there is a notable discrepancy between Edmund Husserl, Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2014), p. 43. Cf. John Sallis, Deliminations: Phenomenology and the End of Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 196–209. 16 Husserl, Ideas I, p. 52. 17 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh and Dennis J. Schmidt (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), p. 17. 18 Günter Figal, “Phenomenology. Heidegger after Husserl and the Greeks”, in Martin Heidegger. Key Concepts, ed. Bret W. Davis (Durham: Acumen, 2010), 33–43. 15


their success in advancing the discussion of specific metaphysical questions and their success in formulating a positive phenomenological metaphysics and of a phenomenological ontology in particular.19 As a consequence, I do not think phenomenology should aim at a positive and definitive articulation of all there is, an unambiguous account of ‘the way the world is’ or an ‘answer to the question of being.’ Arguably, none of these ambitions has been successful in the history of phenomenology. This historical observation motivates the first requirement for the understanding of ontology embraced by phenomenology. The decisive moment of phenomenology is not the formulation of a positive ontology but the moment in which an already given ontological configuration of understanding is called into question. This is the operation Husserl called the phenomenological ‘epoché’ and the later Heidegger the ‘step back’ from a commitment to the ontological epoch one finds oneself in. Husserl is correct in highlighting the “perfect freedom”20 to undo one’s ontological commitments. But it does not follow that the outcome of the phenomenological reduction is an account of “absolute being”.21 Heidegger is correct in assuming that the relation between ontology and phenomenology is a more complex problem. In Heidegger’s parlance, phenomenology will “elaborate [ausarbeiten]” the question of being but not attempt to “answer” it.22 I rephrase this idea in the claim that phenomenology discusses and evaluates ontological commitments rather than directly establishing and affirming them. The claim that phenomenology evaluates ontological commitments is meant to highlight that a phenomenological metaphysics should be capable of analyzing different ontologies and rationally discuss different views about what ‘the world’ as such is. This thought requires accepting the idea that there is no definite phenomenological ontology. In phenomenology, no ontology can be considered undoubtedly correct without its possibly being ‘bracketed’ again. As the later Heidegger pointed out, this “finitude of thinking” is not a weakness of philosophical reflection but a manifestation of the fact that the matter of thinking can itself only be finite.23 For a detailed exposition of these interpretations in the history of phenomenology, cf. Tobias Keiling, Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus: Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), S. 207–427. 20 Husserl, Ideas I, p. 53. For a discussion of the understanding of freedom emerging in the canonical passages of Ideas... I, see Tobias Keiling,“Phänomenologische Freiheit in Husserls Ideen...”, in Frei sein, frei handeln. Freiheit zwischen theoretischer und praktischer Philosophie, ed. Diego D’Angelo et al. (Freiburg/München: Alber, 2013), S. 243–271, DOI: 10.6094/UNIFR/10684. 21 Husserl, Ideas I, p. 90 22 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 5 and p. 16 23 Martin Heidegger, Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebenswegs, Gesamtausgabe 16, ed. H. Heidegger (Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 1997), S. 21. 19


This finitude leads to a second requirement. Phenomenology embraces a specific form of ontological pluralism. As the form of knowledge necessary to give definitive confirmation to a specific ontology is unavailable to phenomenology, it will remain a matter of debate which ontology is preferable phenomenologically. Phenomenology must from the very outset of its questioning, from the moment of the ‘epoché’ assume that there is a plurality of what it can mean that all there is is. As Husserl remarks, the pivotal achievement of the reduction is that it allows recognizing different ontological commitments “without confusion [unverwirrt].”24 This formulation implies a much more nuanced discussion than the idea that phenomenology provides an account of absolute being. Yet the understanding of ontological pluralism in play here is peculiar because it both presupposes and questions unrestricted generalization. It is possible to make claims about all there is by way of unrestricted generalization. Ontological monism is an intelligible metaphysical option. But if this is accepted, unrestricted claims about the meaning of existence must assume that there is a plurality of such views. Moreover, their contrast is not a merely verbal dispute or a very special debate within the already specialized discourse of philosophy. If the many descriptions of entities and the contrast of different ontological interpretations are to be evaluated phenomenologically, they are themselves to be considered phenomena. By upholding this form of ontological pluralism, phenomenology endorses what Hirsch calls “quantifier variance”, the idea that the unrestricted existential quantifier does not have a single meaning.25 The phenomenologist, however, would consider this formulation abstract. For her, the variety of meanings of the existential quantifier manifests itself in some way or other. It must itself be an identifiable feature of how entities appear. With regard to the phenomenological classics, the form of ontological pluralism endorsed here is the upshot of Heidegger’s later philosophy and the socalled ‘history of being’. This view is motivated by the observation that the history of philosophy provides numerous examples of how ‘the world’ or ‘what there is’ has already been thought. In Heidegger’s terminology: the question of being has already been answered many times.26 This not only calls for an elaboration of the question of being that works from the insight into a plurality of possible answers to the question of being. Any ontological understanding of an entity is in part determined by the history of these (provisional) answers. Since no positive Edmund Husserl, Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and phenomenological philosophy. Second Book. Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution, Collected Works III (Kluwer: Dordrecht, 1989), p. 190. 25 Eli Hirsch, Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays on Metaontology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 26 Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event), trans. Daniela Vallega-Neu and Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012), 58–61. 24


account has sublated the plurality of answers to the question of being into a purely ontological language, these different answers now form part and parcel not only of our explicitly ontological thinking but of any manifestation of anything. It goes without saying that this pluralistic sediment of ontological thinking will only be perceivable to an informed observer. It will, however, be encountered as ontological truth about that entity. The radically different ways the existence of an entity can be described do neither amount to a construction nor do they represent a form of imposition on an already existing entity. They rather constitute ontological meaning as it appears in the very manifestation of an entity. This form of ontological pluralism is the result of making phenomenology learn to think historically in the way Heidegger attempted, namely by way of a history of being rather than a history of reason as envisaged by Husserl. Heidegger’s exposition of this view in the context of the history of being, however, runs into an impasse I elsewhere call the “dilemma of the historicity of phenomenology”: either phenomenology must accept that there is a plurality of ontologies throughout history or it can claim to bring this history to a completion by proposing a definite (positive phenomenological) ontology.27 In Heidegger, this dilemma results from the lack of a criterion to phenomenologically evaluate ontologies outside the so-called history of being. Heidegger’s attempt to “think being without entities”28 motivates him to deny the need for ontological claims to be cashed out in the description of entities. By contrast, in the proposal developed here, this criterion is decisive to determine the standard of descriptive plausibility.

Phenomenological realism How does the framework I have laid out so far relate to the idea of realism? Why should phenomenology be considered a realist philosophy? And what kind of realism does it endorse? To answer these questions, consider Braver’s discussion of realism in A Thing of This World. In reference to Putnam’s distinction between metaphysical realism and internal realism, Braver argues that phenomenology and modern Continental philosophy generally deny metaphysical realism. For Putnam, metaphysical realism is the idea that “there is exactly one true and complete description of ‘the way the world is’ ”.29 I have argued in section 1 that phenomenology does not presuppose Tobias Keiling, “Phenomenology and Ontology in the Later Heidegger”, in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology, ed. Dan Zahavi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 251–267. 28 Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, translated by J. Stambaugh (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 2. 29 Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 49. 27


a single phenomenological method and a single true description resulting from using this method. Its rigor derives from a commitment to a hermeneutical theory of understanding and interpretation rather than to a specific method. I can easily extend Braver’s negative assessment to my own proposal. Phenomenology does not endorse metaphysical realism. Braver further suggests that rejecting metaphysical realism allows classifying a philosophical position as “anti-realism”. This implicitly excludes the possibility that it endorses another version of realism. Braver himself applies Putnam’s distinction to Heidegger’s history of being, classifying its “epochal realism” as internal rather than metaphysical realism.30 Braver bases this claim on the idea that, in the framework of the history of being, ontological categories are specific to a particular epoch. There is no interaction whatsoever between the different ontological paradigms. By contrast, I have argued in section 3 that Heidegger’s account of the history of being can be taken to imply a complex interaction between phenomenology and ontology. Phenomenology, in evaluating ontological commitments, endorses a specific form of ontological pluralism that is the upshot of Heidegger’s history of being. Studying commitments stemming from different ontological paradigms in view of their descriptive plausibility, phenomenology works across these different paradigms. On the view proposed here, ontological problems and categories can neither be defined in a single true description, nor are they merely internal to different theories. If phenomenology endorses a form of realism, this form must transgress the distinction of metaphysical realism from internal realism. How so? Any ontology generates descriptions of entities. These descriptions can be true or false, more or less plausible or distorting. In this way they fall within the scope of truth and rational evaluation. Evaluating ontological commitments, as phenomenology does (inter alia), consequently requires understanding how a particular ontology distributes the expectation of truth and falsity to descriptions of entities. Given a continuous commitment to the epoché, phenomenological descriptions do not concern being itself, as if ‘being’ or ‘the world’ were names for a super-object of ontological theory. As a case in point, I have argued against Meillassoux in section 2 that phenomenology cannot rely on any speculative access to the world. The descriptions ontologies generate rather concern specific or concrete phenomena. Although they are generated in view of a meaning of being, these descriptions concern entities rather than being itself. In Heidegger’s parlance, these descriptions are neither ontical nor ontological but ontical-ontological.31 Evaluating ontologies phenomenologically thus means to evaluate them indirectly, as it were, through their implications for the description of entities, for what shows Lee Braver, A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism (Northwestern University Press, 2007), p. 266. 31 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 12. 30


itself such that it can be described in such and such way. Haugeland calls this ontology’s “beholdenness” to entities. Ontology is “beholden for its ‘success’ to those very entities as discovered – entities that are independent of it in the concrete and inescapable sense that they are out of control”.32 If the subject in its commitment to truth forms the first point of contact between the phenomenological knowledge and ontological claims, the second point of contact are things as they become objects of theory, entities described by an ontology. With regard to the development of Heidegger’s thought, this is another idea specific to his later philosophy. While both in the fundamental ontology of Being and Time and in the metontology of the late 1920s Heidegger envisaged a return to the ontic, the only place for such a return was human Dasein, conceived as the exemplary entity of ontology. Only after these philosophical projects have failed does Heidegger begin to recognize the metametaphysical role of entities. In the artwork essay, for instance, Heidegger highlights that ontological paradigms provide “interpretations of the thingness of the thing”.33 When addressing their function in metaphysics, Heidegger typically refers to entities as ‘things’ (Dinge) rather than ‘objects’ (Gegenstände). Similarly, although Husserl emphasizes the role of transcendental intersubjectivity in the constitution of objectivity, it is striking that even his descriptions of the absolute flow of time-consciousness cannot do without reference to entities as poles of objectivity irreducible to consciousness.34 Ascribing a metametaphysical role to things defines phenomenological realism as I understand it. This proposal differs significantly from other attempts to determine a phenomenological notion of realism. One notable exponent of phenomenological realism is Figal. In Unscheinbarkeit, Figal describes space as the primary medium of the manifestation of phenomena. For Figal, phenomenology is realistic because it engages in the discussion of phenomena as manifestations in space and of space. To flesh out metaphysical claims descriptively is thus to look for the spatial configurations determining the manifestation of what there is and this includes, but is not limited to, the spatial nature of the manifestation of entities, which Figal, following Heidegger, calls ‘things’.35 In Figal’s proposal, it is not Haugeland, Dasein Disclosed, p. 59. Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 5 34 I discuss the different ways Heidegger reacts to the failure of Being and Time in: Keiling, “Heidegger’s Black Notebooks and the logic of a history of being”, in Research in Phenomenology 47.3 (2017), 406-428, DOI: 10.1163/15691640-12341377. For a detailed exposition of these interpretations in the history of phenomenology, cf. Keiling, Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus: Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), 207–427. 35 Günter Figal, Unscheinbarkeit: Der Raum der Phänomenologie (Tübingen; Mohr Siebeck, 2015), S. 89–138. Cf. Günter Figal, “Spatial Thinking”, Research in Phenomenology (2009), 333–343; Günter Figal, “Phenomenological Realism. Programmatic Considerations”, META Special Issue (2014), 15–20. 32 33


the ontic orientation of descriptions per se, but the orientation towards the spatial nature of manifestation that promises to give particular descriptive plausibility to metaphysical claims. For Figal, endorsing phenomenological realism means endorsing this orientation towards the spatial nature of manifestation, but no priority is given to the manifestation of entities. Although Figal avoids explicitly ontological claims, from the perspective advocated here, he proposes some form of spatial ontology. Specifically, Figal proposes to conceive the link between ontological or metaphysical claims and phenomenological description as essentially spatial. This is a notable deviance from Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, where the ontological difference is to be interpreted with reference to time. As I mentioned in section 3, the project outlined here is similarly motivated by the observation that the project of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, the phenomenological explication of all ontological categories in temporal terms, has failed. Although this assessment is shared, for the view advocated here, engaging Heidegger’s history of being leads to endorsing ontological pluralism in the form outlined above. By contrast, Figal’s spatial phenomenology seems to imply ontological monism. The framework proposed does not privilege either a specific domain of objects (such as human beings) or specific descriptive categories (such as space or time). Already in being about entities, these descriptions are realist in the sense relevant to and sufficient for phenomenology. Given the ontological pluralism phenomenology endorses and its rejection of metaphysical realism, there is no transgression from the account of an entity to the being of all entities, a move of unrestricted generalization. Nonetheless, the starting point for doing ontology in such a way as to achieve descriptive plausibility remains the (ontic) manifestation of entities. Evaluating different ontological views phenomenologically means to put to the fore their being-about-something. Phenomenology and ontology both hinge on things. Consider again the work of Putnam and its relation to phenomenology. Zahavi has pointed out that the criteria for realism Putnam establishes aim at a philosophical restatement of natural or common sense realism that is very similar to Husserl’s commitment to realism as concreteness. Zahavi pointedly labels this “real realism”.36 As I mentioned in section 1, this commitment is deeply rooted in phenomenology and shared by Putnam. It is also defended here as a commitment to descriptive adequacy. The task of the realist metaphysician thus becomes to transfer into a more general theory what is ʻcommon-sensicallyʼ true in a given context. But how to formulate criteria for succeeding at this operation? Putnam, at least for some time, considered ʻpragmaticʼ realism the best answer to that question. According to this view, the standard of what is true of a situation can be spelled in reference to correct language use. “A statement is true of a situation just in case it would be correct to use the words of which the statement consists in that way in describing the situation”. Here, the notion of correct use is to mean 36

Dan Zahavi, Husserl’s Legacy, 170–204.


“nothing more nor less that than a sufficiently well placed speaker who used the words in that way would be fully warranted in counting the statement as true of that situation”. Truth translates into warrant, were the speaker asked for justification. “The essence of ‘internal realism’ is that truth does not transcend use”.37 Benoist seems to similarly endorse realism qua pragmatism. In Logique du Phenomène, he argues that the pragmatic “logic of the phenomenon” precedes its givenness to a subject. For Benoist, it also falls outside the scope of phenomenology.38 I concur with the assessment that the idea of givenness is unsuited to develop a sufficiently complex account of subjectivity. However, I argued in section 1 that phenomenology can and should be defined without referring to the givenness to a givee-subject. The genuine point of contact between ontological and phenomenological knowledge is not their givenness to a subject but their shared orientation towards truth. As I have argued above, orientating metaphysics towards the emergence of descriptions of entities appears the best way to conceive their beholdenness to truth. Given the embrace of hermeneutics as advocated here, phenomenology can also accept the extension into a Wittgensteinian philosophy of language. To yield phenomenological realism, the rapprochement of realism and pragmatism would need to be supplemented, however, by an emphasis on the metametaphysical relevance of entities or things. From the perspective of internal or pragmatic realism, this commitment may raise a specific objection. This objection is associated with what Putnam calls the “cookie-cutter metaphor” and Benoist “the myth of white objects [mythe des objets blancs]”. The worry is the following. Highlighting the role of objectivity or ‘thingness’ in phenomenology may give rise to the idea that there are purely phenomenological objects. These objects are “pure reference poles both absolutely singular and absolutely devoid of properties [purs pôles de reference, à la fois absolument individués et absolument vides de proprietés]” (Benoist). Independent from all referential systems, these objects might be taken as the indeterminate substance of all reality. Being in themselves, these objects are the “dough” (Putnam) first to be cut into meaningful parts (cookies) by conceptual schemes.39 This problem can be related to the view developed here by formulating the following objection. Despite the emphasis on ontological pluralism, by assuming a genuinely phenomenological form of objectivity, the proposal still assumes, as Gabriel puts the same problem, a “foundational layer of objectivity [grundierende Gegenstandsschicht]”.40 The position therefore falls back on ontological Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), p. 115. Jocelyn Benoist, Logique du phénomène (Paris: Hermann, 2016), p. 164: “The real logically precedes the given. [Le reel, logiquement, précède le donné.]” 39 Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), p. 114; Jocelyn Benoist, Éléments de philosophie réaliste (PUF: Paris, Vrin), p. 59. 40 Markus Gabriel, Die Erkenntnis der Welt: Eine Einführung in die Erkenntnistheorie (Freiburg: Alber, 2012), S. 10, S. 399; Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense: A new realist Ontology 37 38


monism. Further, it would fail to make sense of what it claims to be its central problem. As Putnam points out, “the cookie-cutter metaphor denies (rather than explains) the phenomenon of conceptual relativity”.41 As the central problem of a phenomenological metaphysics, according to my proposal, is to evaluate ontological paradigms, substituting an account of phenomenological thingness for the relativity produced by ontological pluralism, would pose a serious worry. Fortunately, phenomenological realism diverges from the view under scrutiny in an important respect. I will limit my discussion to Putnam’s exposition of the problem. According to Putnam, “what the cookie-cutter-metaphor tries to preserve is the naive idea that at least one Category–the ancient category of Object or Substance–has an absolute interpretation … [Yet] the word ‘fact’ no more has its use fixed by the world itself than does the word ‘exist’ or the word ‘object’.”42 The view developed here, however, is not that any ontology or their phenomenological elucidation can provide an “absolute interpretation” of its categories. This includes the first category. Distinguishing between the ‘internal’ ontological and the ‘external’ phenomenological perspective as developed above, it does not naïvely assume a univocal meaning of ‘object’ or ‘entity’. It only entails the weaker claim that ontologies are internally organized and externally comparable with respect to their capacity to provide such an interpretation. In Aristotelian terms: without specifying its meaning, phenomenological realism only upholds the idea that the category of ‘thingness’ is indeed the first metaphysical category. This commitment extends beyond the internal perspective. It is based not on a view from nowhere but on observations made with regard to specific ontological paradigms. A commitment to such a metametaphysical importance of the first category can be seen as implicit already in Putnam’s earlier distinction of the two perspectives. Both assume, in the vaguest of senses, that ‘the world’ is somehow made up of ‘objects’. Describing “ ‘the way the world is’ ”, as metaphysical realism attempts, is simply equivalent to answering the question “what objects does the world consist of?”. This is the same question that, according to internal realism, can only be answered “within a theory of description”.43 These formulations imply that ontological commitments can be evaluated with regard to how they interpret the first category defining the notion of an ‘object’ or an ‘entity’. Putnam himself later makes a similar suggestion, moving, as Zahavi recognized, even closer to the phenomenological position. As Putnam argues now, there is a good reason for a philosophical discussion of objectivity to begin with the ‘middle-sized dry goods’ (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), p. 122. Thomas Arnold has raised a similar objection in his review of my book (“Breaking the Ontological Circle”), Phenomenological Reviews, DOI: 10.19079/pr.2017.7.arn. 41 Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), p. 114. 42 Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), p. 114 43 Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p. 49


we find in the life-world and also usually call ‘objects’ or ‘things’. In this vein, Putnam describes how the idea of the objectivity of unobservables is transferred to a domain inaccessible to the senses from those observables we recognize as objects. Putnam now holds that to do so is not to confront reality with a naïve idea of absolute substance. It is a “second naiveté” informed by the failure of metaphysical realism. Putnam calls this “an Aristotelian realism without Aristotelian metaphysics”.44 Such realism would be phenomenological realism.

Conclusion Recall the two claims about phenomenology. As they stand, both claims are not explicitly related, as it is unclear what the link between phenomenology and ontology is, besides the task of phenomenology to evaluate ontological commitments (among others). As I have argued in section 1, the norm of truthful evaluation is the first (subjective, normative) point of contact between ontology and phenomenology. Phenomenological realism is defined by assuming a second (objective) point of contact. If one accepts that ontologies not only determine the meaning of ‘existence’ but, in doing so, give an interpretation of the notion of an ‘entity’, an ‘object’ or a ‘thing’, this points to their real hinge. This idea does not entail that a single form of describing things is the only true one. It only entails that all word use implicitly or explicitly provides an account of what one takes entities to be. A third claim can thus be formulated as follows. (i) Phenomenology is a descriptive and transcendental form of philosophy. (ii) Phenomenology evaluates ontological commitments assuming (a peculiar form of) ontological pluralism. (iii) Phenomenology evaluates descriptions of ‘entities’/‘objects’/‘things’. This third claim holds that only in view of the manifestation of ‘entities’ or ‘objects’ can ontological commitments be evaluated as descriptions. The metaphysical task of phenomenology comes down to finding out what descriptions a given ontology entails for how any particular entity/thing/object is described. That thing is not a “white” object behind these descriptions but their shared focal point. The manifestation of things is constituted by the different ways in which they may be described, and more or less plausibly so. Note that this idea is not foreign to classical phenomenological discussions at all, even if it is here not linked with the notion of realism. For instance: according to Husserl, among the features of experience revealed by the epoché is the fact that 44

Hilary Putnam, “Sense, Nonsense, and the Senses: An Inquiry into the Powers of the Human Mind”, The Journal of Philosophy (1994), 445–517, 458 and 505.


experience always occurs as experience of objects or in contrast to objects. It is intentional. The most elaborate description of the intentionality of consciousness emerges in Husserl’s account of “horizon intentionality”.45 According to this account, experience occurs as the experience of objects within enlarging horizons. This structure is not only inherent in perception but also in other forms of experience such as the experience of time or of objects of value. Heidegger’s notorious hammer, around which enlarging contexts of involvement form, is perhaps the best-known example of the same structure. Heidegger’s later accounts of the manifestation of things in texts such as the artwork essay and “The Thing” similarly describe experience as characterized not by its givenness to a subject but by its orientation towards the manifestation of objects. These accounts already point to a metametaphysical relevance of objects for the constitution of experience even in classical phenomenology. This constitutive function of objectivity is given different weight in different phenomenological systems, yet in no account is this relevance trivial. In this minimal sense, all phenomenology endorses phenomenological realism. What my proposal adds to these received views is a more complex setup of ontology drawing from the later Heidegger.

References Benoist, Jocelyn. Phénoménologique, sémantique, ontologie: Husserl et la tradition logique autrichienne. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997. — Logique du phenomena. Paris: Hermann, 2016. — Éléments de philosophie réaliste. Paris: Vrin, 2011. Braver, Lee. A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism. Northwestern University Press, 2007. Breyer, Thiemo and Maxime Doyon (eds.). Normativity in Perception. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Cassam, Quassim. “Self-Directed Transcendental Arguments”. In: Transcendental Arguments: Problems and Prospects, edited by Robert Stern. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999, 83–110. Crowell, Steven. Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Figal, Günter. “Wahrheit und Methode als ontologischer Entwurf”, in Hans-Georg Gadamer. Wahrheit und Methode, edited by Günter Figal. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2007. — Objectivity. The Hermeneutical and Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), p. 27. See Saulius Geniusas, The Origin of the Horizon in Husserl’s Phenomenology (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012).



— “Phenomenological Realism. Programmatic Considerations”, META Special Issue (2014), 15–20. — Unscheinbarkeit: Der Raum der Phänomenologie. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. — “Spatial Thinking”, Research in Phenomenology (2009), 333–343. — “Phenomenology. Heidegger after Husserl and the Greeks”, in Martin Heidegger. Key Concepts, edited by Bret W. Davis. Durham: Acumen, 2010, 33–43. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense: A new realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. — Die Erkenntnis der Welt: Eine Einführung in die Erkenntnistheorie. Freiburg: Alber, 2012. Golob, Sacha. Heidegger on Concepts, Freedom, and Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Haugeland, John. Dasein Disclosed: John Haugeland’s Heidegger. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2013. Heidegger, Martin. “Über das Prinzip ‘Zu den Sachen selbst’“. Heidegger Studies 11 (1995), 5–8. —“Über das Zeitverständnis in der Phänomenologie und im Denken der Seinsfrage”. In: Zur Sache des Denkens, Gesamtausgabe 14. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2007, 145–50. — “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” in On Time and Being. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. New York: Harper & Row, 1972, 55–73. — Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebenswegs, Gesamtausgabe 16, edited by H. Heidegger. Frankfurt a. M.: Klostermann, 1997. — “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. — Being and Time, translated by Joan Stambaugh and Dennis J. Schmidt. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. — Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event), translated by Daniela Vallega-Neu and Richard Rojcewicz. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012. — On Time and Being, translated by J. Stambaugh. New York: Harper and Row, 1972. Hirsch, Eli. Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays on Metaontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Husserl, Edmund. Husserliana Dokumente 3: Briefwechsel I-X. Edited by K. Schuhmann and E. Schuhmann. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1994. — Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2014. — Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and phenomenological philosophy. Second Book. Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution, Collected Works III. Kluwer: Dordrecht, 1989. Keiling, Tobias. Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus: Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. — Phänomenologische Freiheit in Husserls Ideen...”, in Frei sein, frei handeln. Freiheit zwischen theoretischer und praktischer Philosophie, edited by Diego D’Angelo et al. Freiburg/München: Alber, 2013, 243–271, DOI: 10.6094/UNIFR/10684. — “Heidegger’s Black Notebooks and the logic of a history of being”, in Research in Phenomenology 47.3 (2017), 406–428, DOI: 10.1163/15691640-12341377.


— Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus: Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. — “Phenomenology and Ontology in the Later Heidegger”, in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology, ed. Dan Zahavi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 251–267. Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. London/ New York: Continuum, 2008. Putnam, Hilary. Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. — Representation and Reality. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988. — “Sense, Nonsense, and the Senses: An Inquiry into the Powers of the Human Mind”, The Journal of Philosophy (1994). Sallis, John. Deliminations: Phenomenology and the End of Metaphysics, 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. Schnell, Alexander. Wirklichkeitsbilder. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. Tengelyi, László. Welt und Unendlichkeit: Zum Problem phänomenologischer Metaphysik. Freiburg/München: Alber, 2014. Tugendhat, Ernst. Der Wahrheitsbegriff bei Husserl und Heidegger, 2nd ed. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1970. Van der Heiden, Gert-Jan. Ontology after Ontotheology: Plurality, Event and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2014. Wiltsche, Harald A. “Science, Realism, and Correlationism: a phenomenological critique of Meillassoux’s argument from ancestrality”. In European Journal of Philosophy (2017), 808–832. Zahavi, Dan. “Constitution and Ontology. Some Remarks on Husserl’s Ontological Position in the Logical Investigations”, Husserl Studies 9 (1992): 111–24. — “Metaphysical Neutrality in Logical Investigations”, in One Hundred Years of Phenomenology. Husserl’s Logical Investigations Revisited, ed. Dan Zahavi and Frederik Stjernfelt, Phaenomenologica 164. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, 93–108. — Husserl’s Legacy: Phenomenology, Metaphysics, and Transcendental Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, 30–50.


Part V Film Studies

Die Erscheinung des Realen im Film Hyun Kang Kim

Christian Metz hat bekanntlich die These aufgestellt, dass jeder Film ein fiktionaler Film ist. Die vorliegende Studie geht von einer anderen These aus: Jeder Film, ob Dokumentar- oder Spielfilm, enthält Elemente des Realen, genauso wie er gleichzeitig auch Elemente des Symbolischen enthält. Jeder Film ist auf dem wechselseitigen Verhältnis zwischen dem Gefundenen und dem Erdichteten, dem Material und der Fiktion, dem Realen und dem Symbolischen aufgebaut. Die offene Form des Dokumentarfilms macht dabei im Unterschied zur geschlossenen Form des Spielfilms das Wechselspiel zwischen dem Realen und dem Symbolischen, dem aufgenommenen Material und der Erzählung besser sichtbar.1 Der Dokumentarfilm ist keine Wiedergabe der Realität, sondern ein kreativer Umgang mit dem Realen. Er wird dabei geleitet durch die ewige Suche nach der Antwort auf die Frage, was das Reale ist. Wie Maxime Scheinfeigel sagt, bedeutet jedoch „der Dokumentarfilm [...] nicht das Reale; er ist der Eindruck von dem, was das Reale dem Bild antut, wenn es verfügbar ist.“2 Das Reale ist nicht beliebig verfügbar, sondern manifestiert sich gerade als Grenze des Verfügbaren und Symbolisierbaren. Der Dokumentarfilm ist ein „System der Wechselseitigkeit“ zwischen Reportage und Fiktion,3 die aufeinander Bezug nehmen, sich gegenseitig beeinflussen, einander verändern und transformieren. Er ist nicht einfach ein neutrales Dokument des Gewesenen, sondern immer schon durch den subjektiven Eingriff in die Realität gekennzeichnet. Jean Louis Comolli sagt daher treffend: „So sehr man auch das Dokument bewahren will, kann man doch nicht vermeiden, es herzustellen. Es geht der Reportage nicht voraus, sondern es ist ihr Produkt.“4 Was ist denn das Reale? Das Reale ist nicht die objektive Gegebenheit der Wirklichkeit, sondern etwas, das immer durch einen verzerrten Blick wahrgenommen wird. Im Realen ist der verzerrte subjektive Blick immer schon mit Für Rancière ist der Dokumentarfilm der „Film par excellence“, weil er durch seine „Bestimmung zum Realen“ die Normen der fiktionalen Repräsentation übertritt. Jacques Rancière, „Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films“, in: Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (Hg.), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit. Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2003), S. 242. 2 Maxime Scheinfeigel, “Abzeitige Bilder”, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012), S. 214. 3 Jean Louis Comolli, “Der Umweg über das direct”, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012), S. 218. 4 Ebd., S. 219. 1


einbezogen. Das Reale konstituiert sich durch die Interrelation zwischen Subjekt und Objekt, in welcher diese ununterscheidbar sind. Das Subjekt ist dabei durch die bloße Anwesenheit des Objekts beeinflusst, während das Objekt sich durch die Bewegung des Subjekts stets verschiebt. Das grundsätzliche Problem, das wir heute mit dem Realen haben, hängt mit der Frage nach der Objektivität zusammen. In unserer Gesellschaft, die Ernesto Laclau zufolge als Konglomerat divergierender Kräfte ohne Einheit erscheint, ist es unmöglich, eine Objektivität zu behaupten. Laclau stellt daher die Frage: „Wie kann diese Erfahrung des Ausbleibens von Objektivität mit der Behauptung in Einklang gebracht werden, das Reale sei objektiv?“5 Das Reale ist insofern weder objektiv noch subjektiv. Es gibt nicht das Reale an sich, das jedem zugänglich ist. Das Reale lässt sich vielmehr im Übergang vom An-sich zum Für-sich verorten. Es konstituiert sich erst durch die subjektive Verzerrung und enthält daher in sich bereits ein subjektives Moment. Das Reale ist folglich nicht jenseits des Subjektiven, sondern konstruiert sich erst in der Interrelation zwischen Subjekt und Objekt, welche sich wechselseitig beeinflussen. Wenn man einräumt, dass das dokumentarische Material immer schon von einer Interpretation und subjektiven Perspektive eingerahmt ist, heißt dies jedoch nicht, das Reale sei das Konstrukt eines Perspektivismus. Denn es gibt eine tatsächliche Wirkung des Realen. Dieses ist jedoch stets in einem wechselseitigen Verhältnis zwischen dem Beobachter und dem Beobachteten und verändert sich je nach der Position des Beobachters. Demnach gilt: „Es gibt nichts Sichtbares außerhalb des Dispositivs des Blicks und deshalb […] ist es immer schon gerahmt.“6 Das Sichtbare ist vom Blick eingerahmt, aber den Blick gibt es auch auf der Seite des Sichtbaren. Dieses erwidert den Blick des Beobachters mit seinem umgedrehten Blick: Es erwidert den sehenden Blick mit seinem unheimlichen blinden Blick, der den Beobachter in ein Objekt verwandelt. Was ist dann das Reale im Film? Im Dokumentarfilm ist diese Frage besonders relevant, insofern er als Genre verstanden wird, die das Material aus dem Realen behandelt. Dennoch wird bereits seit der Anfangsphase des Dokumentarfilms generell angenommen, dass er nicht das Reale an sich darstellt, sondern ein „kreativer Umgang mit der aktuellen Wirklichkeit“7 ist, wie John Grierson feststellt. Der Dokumentarfilm ist nicht fiktionsfrei, so wie der Spielfilm Elemente des Realen enthält. Sowohl im Dokumentarfilm als auch im Spielfilm findet ein ständiges Wechselspiel zwischen Realität und Fiktion (bzw. Erzählung) statt. Von daher sollte man nicht nach dem Realen im Dokumentarfilm suchen, sondern vielmehr nach dem Realen im Film. Ernesto Laclau, “Building a New Left: An Interview with Ernesto Laclau”, in: Strategies, N. 1 (Fall 1988), S. 15. 6 Jean Louis Comolli, “Le Passé filmé”, in: Cahiers du Cinéma, N. 277 (1977), S. 14. 7 John Grierson, “The First Principles of Documentary”, in: Forsythe Hardy (Hg.), Grierson on Documentary (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), S. 147. 5


Die Frage nach dem Realen im Film ist stets mit der Frage nach der Geschichte verbunden. Denn wie Walter Benjamin schreibt, wandert „die Geschichte in den Schauplatz hinein“.8 Die Geschichte wandert in den Film und der Film wandert wieder in die Geschichte hinein. Denn sowohl die Geschichte als auch der Film zerfallen in Geschichten. Da die Narrativität den gemeinsamen Kern von beiden ausmacht, hängt die Frage nach dem Realen im Film mit der Frage nach dem Realen in der Realität untrennbar zusammen. Wenn wir daher verstehen, wie das Reale sich im Film konstituiert, werden wir auch verstehen können, wie das Reale sich in der Realität konstituiert. Die Frage nach dem Realen im Film hat jedoch nichts mit dem ontologischen Realismus zu tun. Denn der Realismus ist nichts anderes als eine Konvention, die nur bestimmte bewährte Verfahren als realistische Darstellung gelten lässt. Wie Nelson Goodman feststellt, ist der Realismus nur eine Frage der Konvention, die unsere Sehgewohnheit bestimmt. Was als Realismus gilt, so Goodman, „wird durch das Repräsentationssystem festgelegt, das für eine gegebene Kultur oder Person zu einer gegebenen Zeit die Norm ist.“9 Der Realismus betrifft daher nicht die „Beziehung zwischen einem Bild und seinem Gegenstand“, sondern lediglich die „Beziehung zwischen dem im Bild verwendeten Repräsentationssystem und dem Standardsystem“.10 Der realistische Anschein einer Darstellung rührt von der Kongruenz mit der standardisierten Darstellungsweise, die je nach Zeit und Kultur variabel ist. Deshalb stellt Goodman ironisch fest, der Realismus sei eine Sache der „Impfung“, da er sich letztlich als „Frage der Gewohnheit“ entpuppt.11 Die vorliegende Studie misst dem Dokumentarfilm als Genre des Realen par excellence keine besondere Bedeutung bei. Sie geht vielmehr von der These aus, dass jeder Film realistisch ist. Dabei unterscheidet sich ihre These vom ontologischen Realismus von André Bazin und Siegfried Krakauer. Sie macht hingegen die Position eines transzendentalen Materialismus geltend. Der ontologische Realismus setzt die Realität voraus, die es wiederzugeben bzw. zu enthüllen gilt. Für den transzendentalen Materialismus gibt es keine Realität, die es zu enthüllen gilt. Er erfasst vielmehr das Reale in dem flüchtigen Augenblick, in dem es sich entzieht. Das Reale ist das, was sich im Augenblick der Erscheinung und des Entzugs zugleich als das Nie-Dagewesene manifestiert. Der transzendentale Materialismus unterscheidet sich darüber hinaus vom spekulativen Realismus insofern, als er die historische Beschaffenheit des realen Materials hervorhebt. Im Film lassen sich zumindest drei Arten des Realen feststellen: das geschichtlich Reale, das optisch Reale und das materiell Reale. Die vorliegende Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980), Bd. I, S. 353. Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1968), S. 37. 10 Ebd., S. 38. 11 Ebd. 8 9


Studie behandelt diese drei Arten des Realen anhand der Filmtheorien von Walter Benjamin, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy und Dziga Vertov.

1. Das historisch Reale: Das dialektische Bild Auf der geschichtlichen Ebene erscheinen zunächst Fragmente der Vergangenheit als Kandidat für das Reale. Dokumentarfilme haben am meisten mit diesen Fragmenten der Vergangenheit zu tun und schreiben ihnen den Status des Realen zu, wodurch sie sich vom Spielfilm abheben. Die Fragmente der Vergangenheit bilden keine sinnvolle Totalität und entziehen sich somit der Symbolisierung. Sie sind Bruchstücke, Spuren des Gewesenen. Sie sind weder vollständig noch verstehbar. Erst die Montage ordnet sie in einen sinnvollen Zusammenhang. Sie bringt Ordnung ins fragmentarische Chaos der aufgenommenen Teilstücke. Sie ist dabei gekennzeichnet durch die unvermeidliche Spannung zwischen dem organisierenden Blick des Künstlers und dem Nicht-Assimilierbaren, welches sich der Organisierung widersetzt. Aber dieses Nicht-Assimilierbare als das Rohmaterial des Films ist nicht das Reale. Warum? Weil es kein rohes Material gibt, kein rohes Material das nicht bereits vom organisierenden Blick des Künstlers ausgewählt worden ist. Vertov unterstreicht diesen Aspekt, wenn er sagt, die Montage sei als „augenblickliche Orientierung in jeder visuellen Situation“12 bereits im Gange. Als ordnendes Prinzip kommt sie nicht erst nach der Aufnahme, sondern ist während der gesamten Aufnahme bereits aktiv beteiligt. Sie begleitet mit „Augenmaß“ stets die „Jagd auf Montageteilstücke“.13 Die Fragmente der Vergangenheit sind daher immer schon Produkte aus dem spannungsgeladenen Verhältnis zwischen Sichtbarkeit und Blick. Die Montage ist Vertov zufolge die „Organisation der sichtbaren Welt“.14 Es geht Vertov nicht darum, das Reale als solches durch das mechanische Auge zu enthüllen und sachgetreu wiederzugeben. Es geht vielmehr darum, die sichtbare Welt durch die Montage in einem sinnvollen Zusammenhang zu organisieren. Der Film umfasst somit nicht nur den mechanischen, aufnehmenden Blick der Kamera, sondern auch den ästhetischen, organisierenden Blick des Künstlers. Die Montage ist daher kein subjektives Verfahren, sondern von vornherein ein wechselseitiges Verhältnis zwischen dem Subjektiven und dem Objektiven. Das Erfassen der objektiven Realität ist demnach nur durch die Anpassung und die Orientierung innerhalb der gegebenen Situation möglich. Das Subjekt steht nicht der objektiven Realität entgegen und versucht diese aus der Distanz zu erfassen. Im Gegenteil: Dziga Vertov, “Vorläufige Instruktion an die Zirkel des ‘Kinoglaz’”, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012), S. 81. 13 Ebd. 14 Ebd. 12


Durch das achtsame Herantasten und die „augenblickliche Orientierung“ tritt eine (Raum-Zeit-)Realität erst allmählich in Erscheinung. Mit anderen Worten: Erst durch das Wechselspiel zwischen dem tastenden Blick des Künstlers, dem mechanischen Blick der Kamera und der erfassten Situation kristallisiert sich eine optische Realität, die zuvor nie dagewesen war. Die „Orientierung in jeder visuellen Situation“ wird dabei vom „Gefühl des Augenblicks“15 geleitet. Moholy-Nagy hebt ebenfalls die zentrale Rolle der Montage für den Film hervor. Entgegen der Auffassung des ontologischen Realismus versteht er die Fotografie und den Film als gegensätzliche Typen von Medien. Die Fotografie ist demzufolge ein passives Medium und der Film ein aktives. Moholy-Nagy schreibt: „In der Fotografie ist nicht die Kamera, sondern die lichtempfindliche Schicht der Schlüssel zu echter Gestaltung. Dagegen ist bei der filmischen Arbeit nicht die Emulsion der Schlüssel, sondern die Möglichkeit, Bewegung zu erzeugen.“16 Moholy-Nagy fasst somit die Fotografie als ein passives, aufnehmendes Medium auf, das im Einklang mit einer realistischen Auffassung zur Fotografie steht. Der Film hingegen ist für ihn ein aktives, Bewegungen erzeugendes Medium. Er geht daher mit einer konstruktivistischen Auffassung einher. Die Fotografie ist sozusagen ein Medium, in dem das Licht sich selbst schreibt. Die Rolle der Kamera bei der Aufnahme des Lichteffekts wird dabei fast annulliert. Die Kamera als apparative Wirklichkeit tritt zugunsten der Transparenz des Lichtschreibens zurück. Die Fotografie ist daher die realistische Kunst par excellence, in der nicht das Künstlersubjekt, sondern das Licht sich selbst zum Ausdruck bringt. Der Film hingegen ist nicht so sehr durch die Passivität der Aufnahme gekennzeichnet. Er ist vielmehr eine aktive Kunst, die Bewegungen erzeugt. Er ist es vor allem aufgrund der Montage, welche „die Szene zu einer Raum-Zeit-Realität [macht], die es nie gegeben hat“.17 Während Vertov die Funktion der Montage in der „Organisation der sichtbaren Welt“18 und des Handelns sieht, geht Moholy-Nagy noch einen Schritt weiter und schreibt der Montage die Fähigkeit zu, eine andere, nie dagewesene Raum-Zeit-Realität zu konstituieren. Den Fragmenten der Vergangenheit kann folglich erst dann der Status des Realen zugeschrieben werden, nachdem sie vom subjektiven Blick durchdrungen wurden. Denn das Reale ist nicht objektiv. Es gibt nur das Reale, das einem Individuum bzw. einer Gruppe als solches erscheint. Wie Lacan feststellt, manifestiert sich das Reale einzig durch die subjektive Verzerrung. Damit ist jedoch nicht gemeint, dass alles subjektiv ist bzw. von einer subjektiven Perspektive abhängig ist. Vielmehr Siehe Thomas Schadt, Das Gefühl des Augenblicks. Zur Dramaturgie des Dokumentarfilms (Bergisch Gladbach: Bastei Lübbe, 2002). 16 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2014), S. 278. 17 Ebd. 18 Dziga Vertov, “Vorläufige Instruktion an die Zirkel des ‘Kinoglaz’”, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012), S. 81. 15


bedeutet dies, dass das Reale sich aus einem wechselseitigen Verhältnis zwischen dem Objektiven und dem Subjektiven herauskristallisiert. Weder das Objekt noch das Subjekt bleiben dabei unverändert. Das Reale ist das Ereignis, das beide radikal transformiert. Dieses Ereignis des Realen vollzieht sich für Benjamin im Modus des dialektischen Bildes. Im Passagen-Werk schreibt Benjamin: Bild ist dasjenige, worin das Gewesene mit dem Jetzt blitzhaft zu einer Konstellation zusammentritt. Mit andern Worten: Bild ist die Dialektik im Stillstand. Denn während die Beziehung der Gegenwart zur Vergangenheit eine rein zeitliche ist, ist die des Gewesnen [sic!] zum Jetzt eine dialektische: nicht zeitlicher sondern bildlicher Natur. Nur dialektische Bilder sind echt geschichtliche, d.h. nicht archaische Bilder. Das gelesene Bild, will sagen, das Bild im Jetzt der Erkennbarkeit trägt im höchsten Grade den Stempel des kritischen, gefährlichen Moments, welcher allem Lesen zugrunde liegt.19 Das Reale im Film manifestiert sich im Modus des dialektischen Bildes. Es gibt dabei keine Totalität der Wahrheit. Es gibt lediglich eine Konstellation, die sich aus mannigfaltigen Fragmenten zusammensetzt. Das dialektische Bild bedeutet jedoch nicht die Summe aller Einzelteile. Denn für das dialektische Bild ist der Zeitmodus des Augenblicks von essentieller Bedeutung. Es ist nicht die horizontale Summe aller Teile, die zusammen ein Ganzes bilden. Es ist ein vertikales In-BeziehungTreten von Sichtbarkeit und Blick, ein Augenblick der Lesbarkeit. Was sich im dialektischen Bild zeigt, ist nicht das ewige und wahre Bild der Vergangenheit, sondern das Nie-Dagewesene. Das dialektische Bild macht für einen Augenblick ein Nie-Dagewesenes sichtbar, um bald wieder zu entschwinden. Es ist eine kontingente und singuläre Universalität. Es ist niemals abgeschlossen, sondern „von der Zukunft her geöffnet“.20 Es ist „eine irreduzible Erfahrung der Zukunft“.21 Das Reale erscheint folglich als das Nie-Dagewesene. Seine Elemente sind bereits gegeben. Sie werden aber durch den konstituierenden Blick und die organisierende Montage ausgewählt und zu einem kohärenten Ganzen zusammengesetzt. Das Reale ist das Nie-Dagewesene als Ergebnis des Auswählens und der Konstruktion und nicht das Rohmaterial an sich. Wie bereits angeführt, gibt es kein rohes Material, insofern dieses bereits durch den konstruierenden Blick des Filmemachers und den aufnehmenden Blick der Kamera – d.h. ästhetisch-politisch einerseits und mechanisch-technisch andererseits konstruiert worden ist. Im dialektischen Bild treffen die Sichtbarkeit und der Blick aufeinander und gehen gemeinsam zur Lesbarkeit des Sichtbaren über. Das dialektische Bild ist daher gerade das Reale, das im Film zu suchen ist. Kurz: Das Reale im Film manifestiert sich nicht als Rohmaterial jenseits oder vor der Symbolisierung, sondern als das Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980), Bd. V, S. 578. Jacques Derrida, Dem Archiv verschrieben. Eine Freudsche Impression (Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose, 1997), S. 123. 21 Ebd. 19 20


dialektische Bild, in dem das dynamische Verhältnis zwischen Objekt und Subjekt augenblicklich zum Stillstand gelangt.

2. Das optisch Reale: Das Optisch-Unbewusste Auf der optischen Ebene erscheint das mechanische Sehen durch die Kamera als das Reale. Benjamin pflegt einen Begriff, der dieses mechanische Auge treffend bezeichnet: das „Optisch-Unbewusste“.22 Das mechanische Sehen ist demnach objektiv und unbewusst zugleich im Gegensatz zum menschlichen Sehen, das subjektiv und bewusst ist. Benjamins Entdeckung des Optisch-Unbewussten steht parallel zur Erfahrung der avantgardistischen Künstler zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts, die die enorme Erweiterung des Sehsinns durch die Technik in ihrer Kunst bewusst einzusetzen wussten. Neue optische Möglichkeiten wie Vergrößerung, Verkleinerung, Vogelperspektive, Obersicht, Untersicht, Verzerrung etc. wurden dabei nicht nur als Erweiterung der Wahrnehmung, sondern auch als Erweiterung der Erkenntnis aufgefasst. In diesem Kontext schreibt Moholy-Nagy dem Film die Rolle als Erzieher der neuen Wahrnehmung und der neuen Raumkultur zu. Demnach besteht das Ziel seines Films darin, „die im Unterbewußtsein verborgenen Kräfte durch das optische Organ – das Auge – in Bewegung zu bringen“.23 Denn die „sinnlich-moralische Erziehungsarbeit“ ist für den Film von essentieller Bedeutung.24 Da Film in erster Linie eine „Erziehungsarbeit“ leistet, ist es für Moholy-Nagy irrelevant, ob er Kunst ist oder nicht. Film ist für ihn vielmehr das geeignete „Mittel zur räumlichen Orientierung“.25 Denn letztlich geht es ihm um „die optische Fundierung der Raumkultur durch den Film.“26 Film soll uns ein neues Raumerlebnis ermöglichen und „zu einem Ausbau und zu einer Sublimierung unserer Raumkultur“ beitragen.27 Moholy-Nagy ist ein Vertreter des abstrakten Films, in dessen Zentrum ein „unmittelbares optisches Erlebnis ohne gegenständliche Bedeutung“ liegt.28 Dabei soll anstelle der „statischen Material-Konstruktion“, der ein Form-MaterialVerhältnis zugrunde liegt, ein „dynamisches Prinzip“ treten, welches von Kräfteverhältnissen ausgeht. Das dynamische Prinzip versteht das Material nicht Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980), Bd. I, S. 500. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Malerei und Fotografie“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst), 1987, S. 331. 24 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Neue Filmexperimente“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst), 1987, S. 333. 25 Ebd. 26 Ebd. 27 Ebd., S. 334. 28 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Fotografie ist Lichtgestaltung“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), MoholyNagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987), S. 319. 22 23


als Verwirklichung einer Form, sondern als Kraftträger.29 Es geht Moholy-Nagy letztlich um den „Zusammenhang zwischen Materie, Kraft und Raum“.30 Da er den Film als Gestaltung des Lichts und der Bewegung ohne gegenständliche Handlung oder Bedeutung versteht, bewegt sich seine Konzeption des Films von vornherein jenseits der symbolischen Repräsentation. Es geht ihm in letzter Konsequenz darum, die performative Kraft des Lichts, das sich selbst schreibt, einzufangen und dadurch die Kräfteverhältnisse im Raum jenseits des Form-Material-Dualismus darzustellen. Parallel zu Benjamin, der vom Optisch-Unbewussten spricht, spricht MoholyNagy von „latenten Überraschungen des Optischen“.31 Die Kamera kann uns demnach „sehen lehren“ und „uns helfen, unsere Augen aufzuschließen“.32 Benjamin sowie Moholy-Nagy haben in der Technik die Korrektur und die Überwindung der Schwäche des Menschen gesehen und das neue Medium Film mit dem utopischen Projekt der Entstehung eines neuen Menschentyps in Verbindung gebracht. Der neue Mensch vereint Technik und Natur und erlangt durch die Vereinigung zwischen Bewusstsein und dem Unbewussten, dem Organischen und dem Mechanischen, die seit der Romantik ersehnte Identität von Geist und Materie.33 Der Film ist das ausgesuchte Medium, in dem diese Jahrhundertidee sich verwirklichen soll. Denn er ist gerade jenes Medium, in dem die „Vereinigung zwischen dem bewussten Auge des Filmemachers und dem unbewussten Auge des Kinematographen“ stattfindet.34 Dieses andere Sehen durch das mechanische Auge, das Sehen anderer Physis, übersteigt die begrenzte Perspektive des Menschen und ist insofern positiv zu bewerten. Dennoch soll eingeräumt werden, dass die Technik nicht neutral ist. Denn sie ist immer auch ein soziales Konstrukt. Welche Rolle spielt die Technik für die Konstruktion des Realen? Dabei ist nicht nur der technische Aspekt der Technik von Bedeutung, sondern auch deren sozialer Aspekt. Moholy-Nagys Technik-Auffassung ist vom monistischen Denkansatz Raoul Alfred Kemény, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Dynamisch-konstruktives Kraftsystem“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987), S. 307. 30 Ebd. 31 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Fotografie ist Lichtgestaltung“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987), S. 320. 32 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, „Scharf oder unscharf?“, in: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy (Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987), S. 325. 33 Rancière weist darauf hin, dass „das ganze 19. Jahrhundert von jener neuen Freiheit geträumt [hat], deren Symbol die elektrische Energie war, die Energie einer immateriellen Materie, die zu Geist wurde […]. Die filmische Historizität ist also tatsächlich die Verwirklichung einer Jahrhundertidee. Der Film ist die Idee der Kunst, die durch ein ganzes Jahrhundert getragen wurde, er ist die Kunst des 20., gedacht durch das 19. Jahrhundert“. Jacques Rancière, „Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films“, in: Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (Hg.), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit. Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2003), S. 242. 34 Ebd., S. 241. 29


Francés beeinflusst. Francé stellt fest: In der Natur hat „jeder Vorgang seine notwendige technische Form. [...] Bewegung schafft sich Bewegungsformen, jede Energie ihre Energieform.“35 In diesem Denkmodell ist die materielle Erscheinungsform keineswegs die Verwirklichung eines verborgenen geistigen Prinzips. Im Gegenteil: Sie ist erst im Prozess der Bewegung der Energie entstanden. Die Energie, die der Trennung zwischen Geist und Materie vorausgeht und die Identität von beiden stiftet, schafft sich ihre Energieform ohne Intervention von außen. Sie ist die immanente Bedingung a priori für die Entstehung von Geist und Materie. Auch wenn wie angeführt eine grundlegende Kontinuität zwischen Natur und Technik angenommen werden kann, muss dennoch zwischen der technischen Form der Natur und der Technik des Menschen unterschieden werden. Denn die Technik des Menschen zeichnet sich durch etwas anderes, d.h. durch einen Exzess aus. In der Technik des Menschen gibt es einen Moment des Exzesses, der nicht vollständig im Kreislauf der Natur integriert werden kann. Dieser Exzess der menschlichen Technik ist darüber hinaus in der Lage, die Natur zu zerstören und somit die Grundlage der menschlichen Existenz selbst. Dieser Exzess, der zur Selbstzerstörung tendiert, ist der Wahnsinn, den es vollständig zu beseitigen der Vernunft niemals gelingen wird, da diese erst durch die Trennung vom Wahnsinn entstanden ist. Daher lässt sich feststellen: Trotz des grundlegenden Monismus zwischen Geist und Materie, Technik und Natur gibt es in der Technik des Menschen einen Exzess, einen Bruch mit der Natur, dessen Ursprung in der inhärenten Bestimmung des Menschen selbst liegt. Denn der Mensch will im Unterschied zu anderen Lebensformen nicht einfach nur leben und überleben, sondern mehr: Er will die Transzendenz jenseits der Vernunft. Die Technik des Menschen zeichnet sich aber nicht nur durch ihren Exzess und ihre inhärente Tendenz zur Selbstzerstörung aus, sondern auch durch ihre Bedingtheit in einem soziokulturellen Kontext. Denn „die Technologie ist […] eher sozial als technisch“, wie Deleuze treffend schreibt.36 Marcel Detienne zufolge ist „die Technik in gewisser Weise dem Sozialen und Mentalen immanent“.37 Die Technik des Menschen ist stets das Ergebnis einer bestimmten sozialen Entwicklung. Während daher die Natur ihre „notwendige technische Form“ produziert, hat die Technik des Menschen niemals eine notwendige, sondern immer nur eine kontingente und variable Form, die sozial und ökonomisch konditioniert ist.38 Wie bereits angeführt, war das Filmemachen zu Beginn mit einem utopischen Projekt verbunden, die menschliche Wahrnehmung zu erweitern und die Grenze Zitiert nach: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2014), S. 44. 36 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp), 1995, S. 60. 37 Ebd. 38 Diese enorme Variabilität der technischen Formen bildet die Basis zur technischen Innovation, geht aber gleichzeitig mit dem Bedürfnis des kapitalistischen Marktes einher und stellt variable Produkte her, die nicht aufgrund tatsächlicher Bedürfnisse, sondern vielmehr für die Erhöhung des Profits produziert werden. 35


der menschlichen Wahrnehmung und Erkenntnis zu überwinden. Vertov ebenso wie Moholy-Nagy begrüßten die technischen Möglichkeiten der Kamera und die Erweiterung des Sehsinns durch diese. Entgegen der Forderung anderer Zeitgenossen, dass die Kamera dem menschlichen Auge unterworfen werden soll, plädieren sie dafür, durch die Kamera das Sehen neu zu lernen. Das neue Sehen durch das mechanische Auge lässt demzufolge einen neuen Menschen entstehen, der die Trennung zwischen Natur und Technik überwindet und die Grenze seiner Wahrnehmung durch die Perfektion der Technik ergänzt. Der Film soll zur Entstehung dieser neuen Menschheit beitragen. Durch die Überwindung der begrenzten Perspektive des Individuums ist man letztlich in der Lage, die Dinge in einer umfassenden Beziehung zu erfassen: die Dinge „in einem sich ständig verändernden und verlagernden Feld wechselseitiger Beziehungen“ zu sehen.39 Das „Sehen in Bewegung“, das der Film ermöglicht, überwindet Moholy-Nagy zufolge die starre Perspektive und ermöglicht das „Sehen in Beziehungen“.40 Das Sehen in Bewegung ist mehr als nur ein optischer Vorgang. Es ist „Sehen, Fühlen und Denken in enger Verbindung“.41 Es „verknüpft und transformiert in ein und demselben Augenblick die einzelnen Elemente zu einem kohärenten Ganzen“. Es ist ein „gleichzeitiges Erfassen“, die „Simultanität“ von Raum und Zeit.42 In diesem utopischen Projekt ist jedoch nicht berücksichtigt worden, dass entgegen der Erwartung von Moholy-Nagy und anderen die Erweiterung des Sehhorizonts nicht automatisch zur besseren Erkenntnis führt. Denn die unsichtbaren sozialen Bedingungen, die den sichtbaren Ereignissen vorausgehen und diese erst konstituieren, sind selbst durch die allerbesten optischen Einrichtungen nicht erfassbar. Daher lässt sich konstatieren: „Es ist eine idealistische Mystifikation zu glauben, die Kamera könne ‚Wahrheit‘ einfangen. […] Was die Kamera tatsächlich erfasst, ist die ‚natürliche‘ Welt der dominanten Ideologie“.43

3. Das materiell Reale: Das Licht Auf der materiellen Ebene erscheint das Licht als das Reale. Moholy-Nagy macht das Licht zum zentralen Gegenstand des Films, indem er den Film als Gestaltung des Lichts auffasst. Das Licht als Bedingung der Anschauung verwandelt sich in dieser Lichtkunst in die Anschauung selbst. Es ist das, was zu sehen gibt. Es ist die transzendentale Bedingung des Sichtbaren. Dem Film als Gestaltung des Lichts, das „die Bewegung schreibt“, liegt folglich ein transzendentaler Materialismus 41 42 43 39 40

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2014), S. 114. Ebd. Ebd., S. 153. Ebd. Trinh T. Min-ha, “Die verabsolutierende Suche nach Bedeutung“, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms, (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012), S. 293.


zugrunde, welcher auf einem Monismus von Geist und Materie basiert. Denn das Licht, das im Film zu sehen gibt, ist die „spirituelle Energie der Anschauung, die die anschauliche Energie des Geistes enthüllt“.44 Es geht Moholy-Nagy nicht einfach um das physikalische Licht, sondern um das „ursprüngliche Licht, das die Dinge öffnet und die Sichtbarkeiten auftauchen lässt“.45 Es geht also um ein „Es gibt“ des Lichts, ein „Sein des Lichts oder LichtSein“.46 Für Moholy-Nagy reduziert sich das Licht nicht auf ein physikalisches Phänomen. Es ist vielmehr eine reine Energie, die die „Identität von Materie und Geist“47 stiftet. Es ist die „Energie einer immateriellen Materie“,48 die die Dualität von Geist und Materie unterminiert. Moholy-Nagy zufolge erscheint im Film schließlich der Körper als „Kräftediagramm“.49 Damit löst sich der Dualismus von Geist und Materie, Form und Inhalt, endgültig auf. Das Licht zerfällt in Licht und Licht-Sein. Das Licht ist die materielle Bedingung der Sichtbarkeit, während das Licht-Sein die transzendentale Bedingung der Sichtbarkeit darstellt. Moholy-Nagys Denken reicht weit über die aktuelle Realität hinaus bis zur Virtualität. Um die „virtuelle Sichtbarkeit“ auf den Blick zu beziehen, muss das Licht als eine „unteilbare Bedingung“, als „Apriori“ aufgefasst werden.50 Das Licht-Sein ist daher zum einen mit seiner Materialität untrennbar verbunden. Es gibt kein Licht-Sein, das ohne seine materielle Verkörperung erscheinen würde. Moholy-Nagy ist sich darüber bewusst, dass nur das Licht, das erscheint und sich auf einen materiellen Träger einschreibt, zur Aktualität gelangt. Das Licht-Sein beschränkt sich jedoch zum anderen nicht auf die aktuelle Realität, da es auch die virtuelle Sichtbarkeit gibt, die, wenn auch nicht aktuell sichtbar, der Möglichkeit nach irgendwann aktualisiert werden kann. Diese virtuelle Sichtbarkeit, die für Moholy-Nagy durchaus zum Teil der Realität gehört, wird durch das Licht-Sein als Apriori aufrechterhalten.51 Beim Licht-Sein handelt es sich jedoch keineswegs um eine metaphysische Figur. Denn das Licht-Sein bezieht sich auf die Sichtbarkeit lediglich rückwirkend. Jacques Rancière, „Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films“, in: Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (Hg.), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit. Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2003), S. 237. 45 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1995), S. 83. 46 Ebd., S. 83f. 47 Jacques Rancière, „Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films“, in: Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (Hg.), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit. Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte (Berlin: Vorwerk, 2003), S. 236. 48 Ebd., S. 242. 49 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2014), S. 36. 50 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1995), S. 84. 51 Das Licht-Sein entspricht in dieser Hinsicht dem „Ausdruckslosen“ bei Benjamin, das dem Ausdruck vorausgeht und diesen erst ermöglicht. Das Ausdruckslose ist die Bedingung a priori für den Ausdruck überhaupt und bleibt selbst stets ausdruckslos. Siehe Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980), Bd. I, S. 181. 44


Das Licht als materielle Bedingung der Sichtbarkeit beruht auf einem kausalen Verhältnis. Auf der phänomenologischen Ebene geht nämlich das Licht der Sichtbarkeit voraus. Das Licht-Sein als transzendentale Bedingung der Sichtbarkeit hingegen geht keineswegs der Sichtbarkeit voraus. Es enthält nicht die Sichtbarkeit, wie die Möglichkeit ihre Verwirklichung im Voraus bedingt. Im Gegenteil: Die Sichtbarkeit findet statt und erst im Augenblick dieses Stattfindens bezieht sie sich retroaktiv auf das Licht-Sein. Gerade in diesem Augenblick konstituiert sich das Licht-Sein als Ursache, die nie dagewesen ist. Das Reale sind nicht einfach die zerstreuten Sichtbarkeiten an sich, die hier und da plötzlich in Erscheinung treten. Denn es gibt kein Reales an sich. Das Reale erscheint erst, wenn objektive Effekte von der subjektiven Verzerrung durchdrungen sind, d.h. wenn das Licht-Sein als Apriori die Sichtbarkeiten auf den subjektiven Blick bezieht. Das Licht lässt sich dabei nicht einfach physikalisch, sondern auch sozial und historisch begreifen. Das Licht-Sein verortet sich an der Schnittstelle zwischen Sichtbarkeit und Blick. Es ist der Ort, von dem aus Sichtbarkeiten produziert und mit Bedeutungen versehen werden. Hier sollte man folgende Fragen stellen: Wie wird das Reale produziert? Und wie wird die Realität als Präsentation der herrschenden Ideologie produziert? Das Licht-Sein fungiert einerseits als Zentrum der Macht: Es ist die Macht, die die Sichtbarkeiten produziert und ihnen symbolische Bedeutungen verleiht. Andererseits kann es auch als Zentrum des Widerstands fungieren: Es ist der Ort, der andere Sichtbarkeiten erzeugt, die sich der herrschenden Ideologie entziehen und diese als solche entlarven. Es ist der Ort, an dem die stumme Sprache der Sprachlosen und der Dinge zum Ausdruck gelangt. Zusammenfassend lässt sich feststellen: Das Licht bei Moholy-Nagy fungiert als eine Denkfigur des transzendentalen Materialismus, der davon ausgeht, dass die transzendentale Bedingung der Erscheinung und der Erkenntnis mit ihren historisch-materiellen Bedingungen konstitutiv verbunden ist.

Literaturhinweise Benjamin, Walter. Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. I. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980.. — Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. V. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1980. Comolli, Jean Louis. “Le Passé filmé”, in: Cahiers du Cinéma, N. 277 (1977). — “Der Umweg über das direct”, in: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms. Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012. Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1995. Derrida, Jacques. Dem Archiv verschrieben. Eine Freudsche Impression. Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose, 1997. Goodman, Nelson. Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1968


Grierson, John. “The First Principles of Documentary”. In: Forsythe Hardy (Hg.), Grierson on Documentary. London: Faber & Faber, 1966. Kemény, Alfred and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. „Dynamisch-konstruktives Kraftsystem“. In: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987. Min-ha, Trinh T. “Die verabsolutierende Suche nach Bedeutung“. In: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms. Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012. Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo. Sehen in Bewegung. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2014. — „Malerei und Fotografie“. In: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987. — „Neue Filmexperimente“. In: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987. — „Fotografie ist Lichtgestaltung“. In: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987. — „Scharf oder unscharf?“ In: Krisztina Passuth (Hg.), Moholy-Nagy. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1987. Laclau, Ernesto. “Building a New Left: An Interview with Ernesto Laclau”. In: Strategies, N. 1 (Fall 1988). Rancière, Jacques. „Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films“. In: Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbach (Hg.), Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit. Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte. Berlin: Vorwerk, 2003. Schadt, Thomas. Das Gefühl des Augenblicks. Zur Dramaturgie des Dokumentarfilms. Bergisch Gladbach: Bastei Lübbe, 2002. Scheinfeigel, Maxime. “Abzeitige Bilder”. In: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms. Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012. Vertov, Dziga. “Vorläufige Instruktion an die Zirkel des ‘Kinoglaz’”. In: Eva Hohenberger (Hg.), Bilder des Wirklichen. Texte zur Theorie des Dokumentarfilms. Berlin: Vorwerk, 2012.


Part VI Reflections on New Realism

A Formal Ontological Game. Does Meillassoux’s Speculative Realism Need a Correlation?* Jan Voosholz

1. Posing a question Quentin Meillassoux dismisses the question of the right correlation both in his After finitude and in subsequent publications because his work aims to refute correlationism. The central question I want to address in this article is: Does Meillassoux’s position (and the New Realisms more generally) need a correlation to be more than just a formal ontological game? My answer to this question will be a no, but I think that both his and other versions of speculative and new realism need an interconnection between us and the things around us. I begin with the notion of correlation according to Meillassoux. A correlation – as I understand the term in Meillassoux’s writings – consists of at least one dyad (triad, …) of basic philosophical concepts which are ontologically inseparable. As Meillassoux states in After Finitude: “Correlationism consists in disqualifying the claim that it is possible to consider the realm of subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another.”1 Thus, one concept’s intelligibility rests on that of the other(s) and vice versa. We need the notion of subjectivity for objectivity and the other way around. Which concepts are involved varies widely depending on the position in question, yet one is always concerned with mind, consciousness or subjects and one with objects, things or the world. The specific concepts involved together with the way they are linked together constitutes a specific correlation. There are at least in principle indefinitely many possible correlations. Any one defines the core of a specific correlationist ontology. Unarguably, correlationism is a complex subject matter. For the purpose of this paper this simple working definition of correlationism and correlation will hopefully suffice. So what is Meillassoux’s idea for a speculative materialism and realism? * Thank you to: Alexander Kanev for the great conference, also to Markus Gabriel, Quentin Meillassoux, Sergio Genovesi, Noemi Stelzig, and Jens Pier for their time and a lot of remarks. I wrote this mainly in Paris during a stay at the Panthéon-Sorbonne which was made possible by Jocelyn Benoist, whom I would also like to thank. 1 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude. An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (New York: Continuum, 2008), p. 5.


On the one hand, Meillassoux wants his philosophy to be interpreted as a refutation of correlationism from within: He assumes a correlationist standpoint against dogmatic metaphysics and “subjectalism”.2 Subjectalism is Meillassoux’s umbrella term for subjective and absolute idealism (Berkeley, Hegel, PostHegelians) and vitalism (Nietzsche, Deleuze). In subjectalism, one aspect of life or mind is central to an absolute correlation. For instance, for Hegel there seems to be the total and absolute correlation which he names Weltgeist between the world (Welt) and the mind (Geist) – this means a correlation governing everything including any other correlations. Meillassoux uses correlationistic arguments to refute classical metaphysics and subjectalism. So, Meillassoux wants to carry the flag of anti-metaphysical thought further.3 He also does not seem to have a problem with the idea of correlationism when it comes to our mundane dealings in everyday life. His disagreement with correlationism focuses on the ontological level. On the other side, he takes what I would call a meta-correlationist stance. He finds discussion about the wrong and right correlations unproductive for the development of a new realist and speculative materialist position. All the arguments exchanged by phenomenology, postmodernism, the analytic-transcendental tradition and subjectalism “overshadowed the necessity of not in turn participating in this confrontation, but of changing the terrain.”4 Meillassoux is interested in this change of terrain, and with realist and materialist thought reemerging, he has succeeded in my opinion. The main reason for his meta-correlationist stance is Meillassoux’s refusal to invite any ontological or epistemological anti-realism. Under no circumstances does he want to become a correlationist. He sides with the correlationists against common adversaries, e.g. classical metaphysics. He employs the correlationist circle. And then he takes the metacorrelationist stance. This poses the problem in question: Does Meillassoux’s speculative realism lack a correlation? If so, can we conclude that all new and speculative realist philosophies need a correlation for similar reasons?

2. Formal ontological games The answer, I reckon, is strongly connected to our expectations of what a new realist philosophy aims to achieve. Meillassoux articulates this in his question of ancestrality.5 When I turn to the ancestral problem of Meillassoux I see at least two different interpretations: As a problem in philosophy of science, more accurately For this term see Quentin Meillassoux, “Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition. A Speculative Analysis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning”, in Avanessian/Malik (ed.), Genealogies of Speculation (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 117–198. 3 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, p. 53. 4 Quentin Meillassoux, “Iteration”, p. 123 5 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, Chap. 1. 2


any science of objective dating and time, and as an ontological problem. I think the second reading of the problem is the deeper one. The first interpretation puts the problem like this: How are correlationists able to explain ancestral events like the big bang or the formation of our solar system? These are – as physics describes them – events involving objects without the possibility of a correlating subject. So correlationism can either contradict its own premises or be antirealistic concerning many entities of natural scientific discourse (eternal laws of nature, ancestral events, and so on). The second interpretation cuts deeper. Here the question is: How is the givenness of any possible correlation thinkable without a creatio ex nihilo? In other words: How can a correlationist disregard all external and objective preconditions of our subjectivity and dismiss their absolute independence and reality? For instance, can a transcendental philosopher like Kant explain the logical possibility of the ontogenesis of subjectivity within a mind-independent world while claiming that space and time depend on the correlation between subjectivity and objectivity? I call this the ontological reading of the ancestral problem since it is concerned with objective conditions of subjectivity and mind-independent reality. Therefore, it is seperable from any particular scientific discourse, modern day physics for example. The second reading of the ancestral question cuts deeper for two reasons: Firstly, it does not presuppose any particular scientific hypothesis concerning the creation of the external world. And secondly, it shows a lack of ontological, epistemological and scientific realism in correlationism while the first reading focuses only on the latter aspect. Meillassoux’s basic idea for solving the ancestral problem can be summed up like this: He wants to show that external reality has at all times to be noncontradictory (which he deduces from his Principle of Unreason and the concept of Hyperchaos) and exists independently of any subjectivity if it does exist at all. Following this, he presents an argument that objects of the external world have primary qualities – qualities utterly independent of subjectivity and the human mind. These qualities are, according to Meillassoux, non-contradictory and mathematical qualities, such as form, position in space-time, etc. He then suggests in After Finitude that obviously we all, especially the natural sciences, know about the mathematical properties of certain objects in the universe. Ergo we know some primary qualities and thus have access to the external world. Yet, he does not introduce an explicit epistemology or philosophy of science that describes how we know these things. Nor does he put forward a philosophy of mind to present a model for our subjectivity and its ability to know and act in general. I presume this is due to the fact that he does not wish to abandon his metacorrelationist stance and get into the messy business of outlining the details of any connection of our subjectivity to the factual and actual world around us. I argue that any form of realism has to answer the question of the right connection between our subjectivity and objective reality if it wants to be more 227

than just a formal ontological game. With the notion of a formal ontological game I designate any philosophy with an elaborated, solid ontological foundation which, however, does not acknowledge the need for (or even the allowance of) a more detailed epistemology, philosophy of mind and science. A formal ontological game is not wrong. Yet it loses its appeal as a system because it does not have (or want) any contact with our (f)actual world. A formal ontological game merely considers its possibility. My argument is that, in order to give a full account not only of ontological but also of epistemological and scientific realism, and so to answer the ancestral question completely, some form of interconnection is needed: The way our subjectivity enters the picture of mind-independent reality has a vast impact on the resulting epistemology and philosophy of science. For any realist project such as Meillassoux’s we ought to be ontological and epistemological realists. And not only epistemological realists but also scientific realists: only all three positions together can provide the answer to the ancestral problem (in my second reading) without the realist in question becoming a reductionist – or a correlationist again. We need to explain the genesis as well as the logical constitution of our connection to the objecitve world and the objective preconditions of our subjecitivity. In Potentiality and Virtuality Meillassoux6 argues that life and thought are not actualizations of a potentiality of the inorganic. Rather, he writes, they emerged ex nihilo as a real novelty. Yet, he does not address the question of how this is possible, but only states that it is possible.

3. The periodic table of things 3.1. A most perfect ontology I would like to sketch four questions that need to be answered if we want to be epistemological and scientific realists. Let us assume for the sake of the argument that I could prove every external object has certain primary qualities. Moreover, assume I could present to you an argument which clearly shows that all primary qualities of any external object, for the present moment in time, only derive from the external object’s position on the periodic table of things. Imagine every object had something like an atomic number, an object number. Only this particular object has this object number. And the number has a destinct place on my periodic table of things. Suppose that such an infinite periodic table of things, quite like the periodic table of chemical elements, exists. Furthermore, I could give good reasons for the necessity of this periodic table – not only under Quentin Meillassoux, “Potentiality and Virtuality”, in Collapse II (2007), 55–81, here pp. 77–81.



our current natural laws, but the ontological necessity under any non-conradictory natural laws, even under instable laws of nature. Because external objects constantly change their position in space-time constantly, they end their existence comes to an end (by shattering into pieces for example) giving rise in tern to the existence of independent new objects (said pieces, for example), the periodic table of things is not only infinitely large but also in constant change. Suppose I could give you a perfect explanation for the process of the emergence and destruction of external objects without running into any problems with substances like so many other materalisms. And – finally – I could prove to you that for any given object number we could find on this periodic table of things every primary quality this object has at the moment when you are looking at the table.

3.2. Four pressing questions Even if I had ironclad arguments for all those claims, I would still be at a loss to explain how anyone could identify this particular external object with its position on the periodic table of things. I would have to give you a method for knowing the primary qualities by giving you a reliable method for knowing the object’s atomic number. This is the first question: Which method is used to gain knowledge of primary qualities? Also, you could ask me how secondary qualities enter the picture. Are they at all related to the periodic table of things? I would have to present an answer to this question because we are interested in those qualities too. Much of philosophy and life deals with secondary qualities. That is the second question: What about secondary qualities? Then you would ask me about all those other things which are not on the periodic table: relations, abstract concepts, past objects, future objects, theoretical objects, the periodic table of things itself. These are all significant problems, which leads to the third question: What is the status of objects without primary qualities in reality? Lastly, you could ask me if subjects feature on this periodic table – and if I am a reductionist who thinks they are all mere physical bodies, and that secondary qualities are only some kind of ‘special effect’ of primary qualities, which I explain in terms of a supervenience relation , etc. So: How to explain the empirical genesis of subjects, and what are their logical conditions and their positions within reality? If I could not give answers to these four questions – the epistemic method, the subject-related qualities, the status of abstract and non-present objects and the genesis, conditions and position of subjects – my ironclad ontology would be a formal ontological game. This is not to say that it could not be extremly interesting and relevant as a huge step forward to overcome correlationism. But the PTT is not an ontology capable of becoming widely shared in philosophy, the natural and 229

social sciences or society. What is more, the PTT cannot answer Meillassoux’s ancestral question on the deeper reading, because the PTT only permits me to claim ontological realism, not epistemological or scientific realism. It might be a great point of departure for the project of new and speculative realism. It is not its final realization. When I consider my four questions carefully, they can be subdivided.7 The first, the methodological question, concerning how we can know actual primary qualities of objects, points us in the direction of epistemology, and, more precisely, of philosophy of science. One part of this problem are the primary qualities of past and future objects; in other words, a definitive solution to Meillassoux’s ancestral problem on the scientific reading. I think the methodological question of science is an important point in the discussion of new and speculative realism, which sometimes does not get the attention it deserves. The three other questions about secondary qualities, abstract objects and the genesis, logical conditions and position of the subjects can be grouped together. Secondary qualities only exist when there is an interconnection between subjects and objects. Possibly, some abstract objects exist only if thought exists. At least for non-mathematical abstract objects such as fictional objects or moral values, subjects and intersubjectivity seem to be necessary. So I would argue that these two questions can only be settled together with the question of the emergence (surgissement) of subjects and the position of subjects in the world, that is, their interconnection with objects of any kind and with one another.

4. Conclusion 4.1. Other new and speculative realisms This paper is mainly concerned with Meillassoux. But there are other new and speculative realists who apply the two strategies I mentioned earlier simultaneously: the correlationistic contesting of dogmatic metaphysics and subjectalism as well as the meta-correlationist stance in ontology. Here philosophers like Graham Harman, Ian Hamilton Grant, as do the earlier works of Ray Brassier (before he became a Sellarsian) come to mind, but also in a way Maurizio Ferraris or Sandra Lehmann. I want to contrast Meillassoux’s silent position, which at the most offers a polydualistic and very slim epistmology with even less of a philosophy of mind or science, with one that is much more expressive. This position is Markus Gabriel’s, which also offers – in sharp opposition to Meillassoux – a pluralistic approach. In Fields of Sense and Neo-Existentialism Markus Gabriel engages in the quest for the right correlation – or rather the quest for the best philosophical account of I owe this point to Sergio Genovesi.



subjectivity in a mind-independent reality.8 Even if Gabriel does not have a problem with the idea of the interconnectedness of subjects and objects – the most harmless definition of correlationism –, he cannot want to be a full-fledged correlationist. For one thing, a correlationist has to say that there can be no universe in which subjects never appear because this would contradict the primacy of the correlation (if there are many universes at least in one universe there need to be subjects).9 This appears to be one of the central points where Gabriel strongly rejects Anton Friedrich Koch’s hermeneutical realism. Gabriel’s ontology is built on the definition of existence as appearing in a field of sense.10 This does not mean that all fields of sense are human creations. Extremely important fields of sense are no creations of ours: nature and the universe, for instance. Thus, not all objects are constructed by human activity. But some are. As ontology has to account for all objects of reality, if it wants to be a realist one, Gabriel not only considers different domains of objects, but also tries to shed some light on different sets of objects which are mind-dependent. His epistemological pluralism leaves enough room for different kinds of knowledge. And he offers a conception of the subject. Gabriel is but one example of a new ontological realists who has engaged in the philosophy of mind. He puts a strong emphasis on the question of how subjectivity is possible (its objective preconditions) and of the ways in which it engages with the things around it – in which fields of sense. Yet Gabriel and others do not want to be confused with correlationists, who have a general problem holding a realist position of any kind (partly due to Meillassoux’s problem of ancestrality).

4.2. Concluding remarks The periodic table of things is an impossible idea, and I do not want to suggest that any speculative realist or materialist argues for something like it. Certainly Meillassoux did not set out to find something like it. The PTT is merely an ontological construct that cannot account for any of the four question I outlined. It cannot because it is an ontology without any connection to an epistemology – or a philosophy of mind and subjectivity, or a philosophy of science, or philosophy of language, or phenomenology. But we ought to have an epistemology. And therefore we ought to have a philosophy of mind and subjectivity – and also, I would argue, at least a philosophy of science. We need this account of how we know the objective reality around us – how we as subjects are connected to the things. Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2015); Neo-Existentialism (Cambridge: Polity, 2018). 9 Anton Friedrich Koch, “Hermeneutischer Realismus und transzendetaler Idealismus”, this volume. 10 Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense, p. 158. 8


Thus far, Meillassoux has not delivered a full genesis of this interconnection within his materialist ontology. I am fairly certain he wants to avoid this task because his ontology is not to be tainted with temporally situated philosophies about mind. I call them temporally situated since we are only ever able to philosophize on minds we have encountered. We are limited to human subjectivity. Meillassoux does not want his ontology to be dependent on our current natural sciences, their practices and hypotheses. The only exception he allows himself is natural science’s mathematization, so that his philosophy is not rendered obsolete by any scientific revolutions. Also, Meillassoux has not offered an epistemology which would explain how we come to know primary qualities. (So, we do not have to surrender to “Hume’s problem”, the re-emerged skeptic.) Due to his reluctance to leave his meta-correlationist stance, he forfeits the chance to explain the connection of (f)actual subjects with (f)actual objects. But this explanation is an essential part of the ancestral puzzle and – even more – crucial for any realist philosophy which wants to appeal to philosophers from all field, scientists and (Western and NonWestern) common sense alike. It is important to notice the work of Anna Longo,11 who in her papers “The Contigent Emergence of Thought”, “The Reality of the End of the World”, and “The Genesis of the Transcendental” engages in this discussion. She analyses Meillassoux’s position on the contingent emergence of life and thought. Meillassoux’s speculative solution seems fine if we stay in the context of ontology. Yet, according to her, it neither allows us any “engagement in reality”12 nor offers us a better explanation of life, thought, and science than emergence ex nihilo. To make sense of this emergence is an open problem – in Longo’s analysis of Meillassoux – which can only be tackled by philosophy, not the natural sciences. Finally, Longo attemps to naturalize contingent thought. In her model, thought becomes “one of the possible outcomes of the contigent laws of nature”.13 Without going into the details, one can say that Longo is testing out a different path to an explanation of thought than Meillassoux’s version of an emergence ex nihilo without abandoning his core insights of the necessity of contingency. Even if we aim for a ‘flat’ ontology and resulting epistemology – as Gabriel does –, we have to explain how we can know mind-independent objects on a general level. We could call this form of two- or multi-sided connection a co-relation or an Anna Longo, “The Contigent Emergence of Thought”, in Meillassoux/Longo (ed.), Time Without Becoming (Milan: Mimesis International, 2014), 31–50; Anna Longo, “The Reality of the End of the World”, in De Sanctis/Longo (ed.), Breaking the Spell. Contemporary Realism under Discussion (Milan: Mimeses International, 2015), 31-48; Anna Longo, “The Genesis of the Transcendental. How to make a Realist Speculation out of Absolute Idealism”, in Methode 5 (2017), 150–176. 12 Anna Longo, “The Reality of the End of the World”, p. 43. 13 Anna Longo, “The Genesis of the Transcendental”, p. 172 11


interconnection to better separate terms. It will be different from a correlation in the sense that we can philosophically separate one concept from the other(s). The subjective side will not be a necessary condition for the objective side. So it is more of a mere relation than a correlation in Meillassoux’s sense. The objective side (some laws – if not necessarily our laws – of nature, for instance) is necessary for subjectivity. In this way the interconnection will still entail a meaningful relation between those parts. There are a lot of options for such interconnections. In the simplest case it is only one dyadic connection, but it could very well be traidic or a web of many dyadic connections interlinked with one another and so on. In addition to the different possible structures for the interconnection we can choose very different concepts to fill these structures. We have many of the options we recognize from correlationism, subject—object, mind—world, et cetera. Then there are options from subjectalism, like life, discourse and the like. Finally, New Realism could strive to create new concepts for its interconnections. Against the backdrop of this thought, the interest of Gabriel and others in the philosophy of mind makes perfect sense: New and speculative realists try to escape the fate of composing an ontology that ends up as a formal ontological game. If the new realisms are unable to spell out a compelling concept of subjectivity in their respective objective ontological setups, any of their arguments would lose their punch even if the ontology itself is consistent. I would like to add, to be epistmologically on the safe – the realist – side, that a philosophy of science is also required in addition to a philosophy of mind and an epistemology. We need an account of subjectivity and of the knowledge of objective reality. I do not think we can therefore dismiss natural scientific knowledge as a method of understanding objective objects of the external world. In order to gain scientific knowledge, we need the sciences and in order to understand how their practices and theories relate to one another and how they are grounded in our epistemic situation we need a philosophy of science. In the case of Meillassoux, I have mentioned his reluctance to propose an interconnection. His philosophy in its current state can be criticized as a formal ontological game. Hume’s problem in the Meillassouxian version, the re-emerged Cartesian sceptic, the question of the stability of Nature, remains (at least partially) unresolved. I see at least two different ways for Meillassoux and any speculative realist to address this problem. Either we argue that the ontological registers (or, in Gabriel’s case, “domains of objects”) allow epistemological pluralism (so Gabriel has, in fact, a number of interconnections at his disposal for different domains of objects). This way, Meillassoux would not have to give up his meta-correlationist stance but would have to become an ontological and epistemological pluralist. Or we could try to convert a certain type of strong correlationism – say Wittgenstein’s or Heidegger’s – from correlation to interconnection. We could 233

become hermeneutic (Koch) or phenomenological realists (Lehmann). Meillassoux’s speculative ontology remains unfinished, partly due to this open question. Another possibility would be to carefully combine these two options: We could argue for an epistemological pluralism, yet hold that certain kinds of objects (philosophical concepts, mathematical objects, fictional objects, cultural products, artworks, …) and our specific subjectivity call for a certain kind of strong correlation-asinterconnection to understand them. One of the pressing questions I see within speculative and New Realism is whether one of those three ways (or a fourth, fifth, …) proves superior to the others. Different answers to this problem lead to very different forms of realism and philosophy.

References Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2015. Gabriel, Markus. Neo-Existentialism. Cambridge: Polity, 2018. Koch, Anton Friedrich. “Hermeneutischer Realismus und transzendetaler Idealismus”. In this volume. Longo, Anna. “The Contigent Emergence of Thought”. In Meillassoux/Longo (ed.), Time Without Becoming, Milan: Mimesis International, 2014: 31–50. Longo, Anna. “The Reality of the End of the World”. In De Sanctis/Longo (ed.), Breaking the Spell. Contemporary Realism under Discussion. Milan: Mimeses International, 2015: 31–48. Longo, Anna. “The Genesis of the Transcendental. How to make a Realist Speculation out of Absolute Idealism”. In Methode 5 (2017): 150–176. Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude. An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. New York: Continuum, 2008. Meillassoux, Quentin. “Potentiality and Virtuality”. In Collapse II (2007), p. 55–81. Meillassoux, Quentin. “Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition. A Speculative Analysis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning”. In Avanessian/Malik (ed.), Genealogies of Speculation. London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2016: 117–198.


Truth without Representation: New Realist Ways of Overcoming Dogmatism Alex Kostova

After several centuries of dominance of non-realist approaches, contemporary philosophy is undergoing a realist turn. This is particularly obvious in the socalled1 analytic tradition, where figures such as Saul Kripke, David Lewis and David Armstrong have rehabilitated realist metaphysical theorising and made it mainstream again. A similar turn is unfolding in the so-called continental tradition. Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou have paved the way for post-critical ontological discourses. They are post-critical in the sense that they intend to re-establish ontology without, however, ignoring the criticisms of metaphysics and turning back to pre-critical forms of realism. Arguably, a crucial task of contemporary philosophy is to preserve the insights of the critical tradition in philosophy while avoiding its dead ends. One way to achieve this goal is to develop new realist conceptions of existence, knowledge and meaning.2 Indeed, we are witnessing the development of such conceptions today. Their key ideas might be understood as responses to arguments against traditional forms of realism. For this purpose, we need to bring into focus a characteristic feature of the critical philosophising from Hume and Kant onwards.

1. Dogmatism, Criticism and Realism The critique of dogmatism does not start with Kant, but he, as well as Wittgenstein, exposes а distinguishing feature of dogmatic realism. The essence of the dogmatic operation consists in obliterating the difference between the forms (or norms) of representation of things and their essential properties. As a result, the form of representation is considered a necessary feature of the represented. Rules, norms and forms of representation are treated as rooted in the nature of the things in themselves. For example, time, space and causation are considered mindindependent features of the sensuous objects of knowledge. Similarly, according to the later Wittgenstein, the norms of the linguistic representation of the objects of speaking are viewed as a manifestation of their necessary properties and, thus, For a critical discussion of the Analytic/Continental distinction, see Graham Harman interviews Markus Gabriel, (03.09.2018). 2 See Alexander Kanev, “Why New Realism?” (in this volume). 1


grammatical sentences are misinterpreted as metaphysical propositions about the nature of objects. Accordingly, the nature of the critical operation consists in unmasking the mistakes which lead to dogmatic objectification and universalisation of certain modes of accessing things. It promises to free us from unwarranted assumptions about the relation between mind, language and reality, to reveal new paths for philosophy and thought, and to provide us with a rich apparatus of tools for opposing oppressive practices of thinking and governing. This view of critical philosophising was largely accepted in the post-Kantian development of philosophy and gave rise to various attempts for overcoming of the dogmatic (or metaphysical) strands of thinking. For instance, Husserl repudiated both representationalist and (transcendental) realist views of intentional acts and emphasised their constitutive functions; Heidegger traced the representationalist accounts of truth and thinking back to substance ontology, which, he argued, continued to shape much of modern philosophy; Gadamer revealed the crucial role of traditions and language practices in making sense of things; Foucault highlighted the historicity and contingency of the production of knowledge and discussed the interweaving between knowledge and power; Derrida deconstructed representationalist accounts of language, meaning and truth. However, the postmodern radicalisation of the critique of realism, dogmatism and metaphysics seems to have left no room for objective truths: if we do not have access to anything independent from discursive practices, then, apparently, we are left with no (objective) facts but only interpretations. There are at least two problems with this. First, such a stance, to paraphrase Putnam, would make the enormous progress of modern science look miraculous. Second, it seems to lead also to political and social cynicism. Arguably, (political) freedom would be called into question without the difference between facts and interpretations. But it would also be called into question if we cast aside the pluralist tendencies of postmodernism and return to absolutist stances enabling authoritarian ways of governing. This is why the realist turn in contemporary European philosophy aims at overcoming the antirealist modes of philosophizing without harking back to traditional realism. It tries to answer questions such as, what is wrong with old realism?; how to combine realism and fallibilism?; can we acknowledge the historicity of knowledge practices without accepting relativism? In order to answer these questions, Maurizio Ferraris and Markus Gabriel propose realism without representationalism. They endorse the criticisms against the view that representational practices can mirror reality as it is independently of them but try to show that they are not valid criticisms against realism as such, for there may be non-representationalist kinds of realism. New Realism is to be understood as a non-representationalist realism. Accordingly, their projects have similar intentions. They both reject the metaphilosophical standpoint that forms the core of the postmodern approach toward reality, namely that philosophy could maintain its autonomy and critical attitude in the age of science and oppose instrumental rationality by taking an antirealist stance towards (scientific) 236

cognition, linguistic meaning, value, etc. They both resist the influential criticisms of realism by developing non-representationalist accounts of truth. They both aim to show that we can have unmediated access to objects, which, however, is limited and, thus, precludes an Archimedean viewpoint. Yet their conceptions hinge on different pictures of the roots of dogmatism. While Ferraris seeks to rethink the problem of the perception of the external world, since it could shed new light on the epistemic status of philosophy, Gabriel argues that senses are properties of objects and that everything exists in one or other field of sense. While Ferraris discards representationalism because he is sceptical towards the correspondence theory, Gabriel rejects representationalism because he favours a direct form of realism. Thus, we have two alternative models of bridging the gap between mind and reality opened by the tradition of critical philosophy. The first one is pro-naturalist and adopts empirical premises. The second is an anti-naturalist one and endorses an anti-reductionist stance towards senses in the overall constitution of objects.  

2. Ferraris’s New Realism and the Unamendability of the Real By introducing his realism as “new”, Ferraris begins with a direct rejection of the metaphilosophical premise which has dominated Western philosophy for two centuries, namely that philosophy has only two possible options: (1) either to be inferior to science, (2) or to criticise it, as in any case the knowledge of reality is a science’s prerogative.3 In order to do this, we should rethink the problem of the perception of the external world, since it could shed new light on the relationship between epistemology and ontology. The aim is to redefine it on the grounds of a new realist and naturalist conception on how we interact with the external world. Ferraris’ naturalistic perspective on the nature of objective reality, jointly with the underlying non-representationalist stance towards truth, is placed in a complicated relationship with several significant tendencies in modern and postmodern philosophy. First, by starting with the premise that nature is prior to and independent of cognitive processes, Ferraris takes ontological reality (Wirklichkeit) as having a structured nature that foreruns our conceptual schemes and thus guides our thinking and practices – that is, the epistemological reality (Realitӓt).4 This is what Ferraris calls the argument of pre-existence. 5 He links the independency of the first layer of reality with the independency of perceptions from conceptual practices. Unamendability,6 the incorrigibility of reality, characterises Maurizio Ferraris, Introduction to New Realism, trans. by Sarah De Sanctis (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 19–20. 4 Ibid., p. 41. 5 Ibid., pp. 37–40. 6 Ibid., See also Maurizio Ferraris, Manifesto del nuovo realismo (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2013), p. 24. 3


that content of experience which is not conceptual. Thus perceptions can resist, but also oppose conceptual constructions. Facts are not reducible to interpretations. Accordingly, experience has not only an epistemological but also an ontological role. The “fallacy of being-knowledge”7 designates the misunderstanding of the fact that perceptions have a cognitive content that is not determined by conceptual practices and is primary to every cognitive relation to it. Meaning is not located in the mind, but in the world. Ferraris does not argue that no forms of reality are in fact constructed; he simply shows that the real deconstruction should differentiate between those regions of being which are constructed and those which are not, and that the real task of hermeneutics is to discern the natural, ideal and social objects and artefacts. Ontology deals with them and their complicated dynamic causal relationship. In this sense, the thesis that “there is nothing social outside text” means that (1) only the social is constructed, on the basis of recorded documents, but also that (2) outside the text, the constructed forms of reality may well cause important changes in empirical world. For example, illicit financial flows could deepen the problems of climate change by impeding the use of resources needed to counter it; and artefacts are empirical entities which are individuated in a social reality. Second, the unamendability of the non-conceptual content of experience is to be traced back to representationally independent structures of reality. In this way, truth is liberated from anthropocentrism, since it is not dependent on the subject. At the same time, truth is not to be understood as a correspondence between thought and reality either. Reality resists and opposes our conceptual constructions without being mirrored by them. However, how does the mind relates to world then? Ferraris answers this question with his theory of emergentism.8 On its grounds he develops an idea of truth without representation. According to it, (1) the mind does not represent the world, but records it, and (2) the world seeks and encounters us rather than the opposite. Thus, his theory of truth is to be understood as realism without representationalism. However, it is not a renouncement of the correspondist and coherentist projects themselves. Ferraris’ adoption of experience-based and non-representational conception of our access to reality is grounded on the rejection of the possibility of a strict correspondence. If truth is not a representation, but a recording of a trace, the accumulation of traces produces true however not representative knowledge.9 Also, the interaction between beings with heterogeneous or even lacking conceptual apparatuses is thus possible: although things themselves do not appear in the same way for bats, gods and humans there Maurizio Ferraris, Manifesto del nuovo realismo, p. 33. Here emergence is not to be understood as appearing. It is bringing an individual object into existence by imprinting a trace of event in mind or (empirical) reality. 9 Maurizio Ferraris, ‘Happiness is overrated: It’s better to be right.’ On Truth as Emergence, in J. Dutant, D. Fassio and A. Meylan (eds.), Liber Amicorum Pascal Engel (Genève: University of Geneva), p. 71. 7 8


may be an ontological relationship with something, which Ferraris dubs competence, without an epistemological one, or understanding. Third, this conception of truth is historical and fallibilist. This is due to the evolutionary10 character of truth and the affordance that objects exert on mind and not the opposite. If perceptions have a cognitive content that is not determined by conceptual practices or constructions, then we have indefinitely many ways to relate to objects, which cannot be conceptually exhausted. This is the case due to the evolutionary character of reality: Ferraris gives the example of an artefact as the cell phone which gradually evolves into a typewriter and archive.11 Reality constantly surprises perception and thus the latter is not to be understood as infallible and is not the epistemological tool par excellence. Fourth, starting from the unamendable layer, knowledge is conceptual, linguistic, but also emancipative activity.12 This is important because, for Ferraris, normativity derives from the sphere of facts. The positivity of the fact is a condition of the possibility of normativity and hence of moral. With this move he protects the possibility for a different kind of thinking and for a delegitimization of the violence against the different, avoiding the realist-dogmatic danger of giving a set of universal truths, but also the relative character of truth in postmodernism that understands knowledge as a form of (oppressive) power. Knowledge can also be a form of liberation as well as being the anti-authoritarian principle par excellence. Normativity derives from facts, but also influences them. A mind-relative social event might have objective influence across the world and thus hold the key to the possibility of the emergence of radically new ways for relating to beings.

3. Gabriel’s theory of fields of sense: objects and their modes of presentations The theory of the fields of sense (Sinnfelder) provides the ontological ground13 on which Gabriel develops his criticisms of epistemological stances such as foundationalism, constructivism, reductionism, scepticism and relativism. According to this theory, the nature of existence consists in appearing in a field of sense. The notion of appearing has a purely ontological meaning: to appear in a field of sense is to belong to a field of sense. Hence, appearing has nothing to do with cognitive processes, unless such processes are necessary for the respective Sinnfeld. Senses are defined as objective modes of presentation; objects are bundles of such modes. Gabriel goes on to make several crucial points on the basis of these 12 13 10 11

Ibid., p. 72. Ibid. Maurizio Ferraris, Introduction to New Realism, p. 51. Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).


conclusions. First, there are no fundamental beings, because any field of sense can exist only by appearing in another field of sense. Notions like “the world”, “the nature of reality”, “the structure of reality”, “the ground of being”, etc. are cognitively empty and express metaphysical confusions. Nothing exists in a fundamental way and nothing is a condition of the possibility of everything else. The world does not exist, because no field of sense can encompass all fields of sense,14 no entity can unify all entities. Thus, Gabriel accommodates the insights of Heidegger’s critique of substance ontology,15 and especially of ontotheology, but avoids its anti-realist orientation. There is no gap between being and beings, or between the ontological and the ontical: the ontological determinations of beings are not projected onto beings in order to enable us to make sense of them; rather, they are objective modes of presentation which, as such, are constitutive of the beings themselves. Heidegger’s dualism of the ontical and the ontological is a dubious transformation of the dualism of empirical and transcendental determinations which in turn can be traced back to the metaphysics of matter and form. Heidegger tends to regard the ontical as inherently senseless: we make sense of it by projecting ontological determinations upon it. Gabriel rejects the ontico-ontological dualism of senseless things and senseful determinations. Objects are intrinsically senseful and the fields of sense in which they appear are generally irreducible: mental phenomena cannot be reduced to physical or chemical processes even though they are not ontologically independent of such processes. Physicalism, and any other kind of ontological reductionism, is a form of ontotheology. Second, there is no gap between thoughts and objects. True thoughts are not representations of objects but reveal modes of presentations that are constitutive of the objects themselves. It is wrong to ascribe to objects senses which they lack but also to assume a gap between objects and senses and take the latter as belonging to a representational medium: our minds or our linguistic expressions. Third, the same objects show themselves in different ways for different kinds of subjects (say, bats and humans). Thus, we have access to the things in themselves, but also we do not have a God’s eye view of them, since how things reveal themselves to us depends not only on their mind-independent properties, but also on our cognitive apparatus.16 What’s more, our access to objects is radically fallible. Even our best theories can be overthrown: there is always room for deeply surprising discoveries. Thus, New Realism thoroughly endorses fallibilism and pluralism while rejecting both foundationalism and relativism. Fourth, Gabriel’s conception of the fields of sense has the resources to criticise and oppose the intellectual dominance of naturalism, scientism and calculative thinking Markus Gabriel, Why the World Does Not Exist, trans. by Gergory Moss (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017), p. 103. 15 See Markus Gabriel, Ist die Kehre ein realistischer Entwurf, in: D. Espinet & T. Hildebrandt (Hrsg.), Suchen Entwerfen Stiften: Randgänge zu Heideggers Entwurfsdenken (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2014), 87–106. 16 Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology, 81–82. 14


without giving up on theoretical philosophy. All attempts to reconstruct the fields of sense characteristic of human existence in terms of physics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience and computer science are bound to fail – because they are irreducible to other fields of sense. We can make grave mistakes in trying to make sense of our existence in naturalistic terms and these mistakes may have bad consequences. But, ultimately, they cannot succeed, at least as far as we are free to pursue truth.

References Ferraris, Maurizio. Introduction to New Realism, trans. by Sarah De Sanctis (London: Bloomsbury, 2015. — Manifesto del nuovo realism. Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2013. — ‘Happiness is overrated: It’s better to be right.’ On Truth as Emergence. In J. Dutant, D. Fassio and A. Meylan (eds), Liber Amicorum Pascal Engel. Genève, University of Geneva, 63–72. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. — Why the World Does Not Exist, trans. by Gergory Moss (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017). — „Ist die Kehre ein realistischer Entwurf“. In: D. Espinet & T. Hildebrandt (Hrsg.), Suchen Entwerfen Stiften: Randgänge zu Heideggers Entwurfsdenken. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2014, 87–106. Kanev, Alexander. “Why New Realism?” (in this volume).


Fields of Sense and the Contemporary Status of the Subject George Gherjikov If we find Markus Gabriel’s fields-of-sense ontology plausible, sooner or later we face the question: how does such an ontology regard the classic problem of the subject? This seems to be an important question, because if we accept the premise that for an object to exist means for it to appear within a field of sense1, then the subject (as an entity capable of experience and conscious memory) seems to have a very peculiar relation to what exists. Specifically, subjects seem able to travel between separate fields of sense and simultaneously access various kinds of objects that do not necessarily belong together. For example, within a single day I can grapple with mathematical equations, read a history book, walk around my living room, and go outside to participate in, say, an ecological demonstration. That means that within a single day I can occupy myself with numbers and equations, which belong to the field of mathematics, with the Peloponnesian War, which belongs to the field of Ancient Greek history, with material objects that belong to the field of my living room as well as to the physical universe, with a demonstration which belongs to the field of local politics, etc. And when recalling the things that I occupied myself with on that day, I can put together all those various objects from various fields by remembering them all in the same instant. It seems very odd that there can be a situation in which the number 3, the warring Greeks, a wooden table, and a contemporary government can coexist in the same context. There are certainly no wooden tables within the field of mathematics, or any of its sub-fields, there are no Spartans fighting Athenians in my living room, and changes in the government’s ecological policies arguably cannot be brought about merely by studying the physical universe. Yet all those objects and facts somehow seem to meet together in the subject’s experience and memory. How do we account for that? Markus Gabriel does not ignore this topic. In Why the World Does Not Exist we find the following statement: “Our life is a single movement through various fields of sense, and in each case we produce or stumble upon the connections.”2 We also find mentioned “small trips through fields of sense which we take a hundred times a day” and the additional assertion that “we move unremittingly through uncountable fields of sense.”3 Markus Gabriel. Why the World Does Not Exist, trans. Gregory S. Moss (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015), pp. 50, 65. 2 Ibid., p. 95. 3 Ibid. 1


But how exactly do we do that? What is the subject in relation to fields of sense? I will attempt here to sketch out an answer to that question. My approach will be different from (though not incompatible with) the approach Markus Gabriel takes in his recent books, I Am Not a Brain and Neo-Existentialism4, which address the question of the self mostly with a view to refuting the naturalist understanding of “mind”. The term “subject” has been variously defined. It is sometimes taken to be synonymous with other terms like “soul”, “person”, “mind”, or “self”, and sometimes it is not synonymous with some of them, or any of them, or is synonymous with one which only partially overlaps with the others. The confusion is thus quite substantial; most authors choose either to redefine the terms to suit their own purposes, or to ignore the problem and leave it to the reader to tease out the words’ various meanings. In the quotations from Markus Gabriel given above, the use of the pronoun “we” conveniently simplifies things, but leaves the point too vague. Let us begin with one of the most influential modern views on the subject, that of Descartes. It has become a trivial observation to say that the Cartesian notion of subject has had a very hard time in the last couple of centuries. The classic attack against it was originally made by David Hume. In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume attacks what he takes to be the theologians’ view of the soul, but what he is criticising seems to actually be the Cartesian subject: a singular entity which is the seat of our thoughts and impressions and is not divisible into parts. (If the theologians of Hume’s day did regard the soul in this way, it was probably due to Descartes’ wide influence by that time.) Hume’s argument is based on a comparison between the realm of the soul and the realm of material things. According to him, the theologians claim that the domain of material things is divisible into different objects, but the soul is not (which is basically the well-known Cartesian position). Hume’s reply is the following: in the domain of bodies, of material objects, he finds the Sun, moon, stars, the earth, seas, plants, animals, ships, houses, etc. Then he turns to the domain of the soul, that is, of his thoughts, impressions and ideas, and there he finds another Sun, moon and stars; an earth, seas, etc. The notion that one of those domains, or as Hume calls them, universes, is divisible into parts and the other is a singular unity, appears to Hume to be arrant nonsense.5 He concludes that because the soul is made up of impressions and because they constantly change, then singular personal identity, which was much discussed in English philosophy at the time, is a dead end topic. According to Hume, all the subtle questions concerning personal Markus Gabriel, I Am Not a Brain. Philosophy of Mind for the Twenty-First Century, trans. Christopher Turner (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017). Markus Gabriel, Neo-Existentialism. Conceiving the Mind After Naturalism’s Failures (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018). 5 Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part 4, Sect. 5. 4


identity can never possibly be decided and are to be regarded as gramatical rather than philosophical difficulties.6 Reducing problems like that of the soul to a question of how we use language is a philosophical move characteristic of English empiricism; it was already made by Hobbes when he attacked scholastic terminology7, and it had a big future ahead of it. But it ultimately failed to satisfy a lot of authors as regards this particular issue, which they continued to ponder. Ultimately, their results have been just as detrimental to the Cartesian notion. Even as the term “soul” fell out of fashion, and came to be replaced with things like “self”, or “subject” or “personal identity”, the stress continued to be, as with Hume, on divisibility, multiplicity, and impermanence. Kant attempts to refute all syllogisms that supposedly prove the substantiality and indivisibility of the soul in his paralogisms of pure reason.8 In the 19th century Nietzsche, a thinker very much influenced by Kant, follows Schoppenhauer, another thinker much influenced by Kant, in declaring that the subject is a more or less random conglomeration, not so much of impressions, but of instincts and desires that somehow hang together, but are quite separate entities9. Freud reaches similar conclusions, and famously offers a view of the self as a dynamic structure rather than a unity. Many later authors follow this trend, very much in keeping with the tendency in the 20th century to announce the end of things: the end of art, of philosophy, of history; soon there also came the end of the subject. Structuralists announced the “death of the author”10; marxists like Althusser would insist that the notion of a unified subject is always shaped by a particular ideology11; neuroscience would see the subject as a by-product of a great number of biochemical processes, etc. By the time Deleuze and Guattari wrote A Thousand Plateaus, the idea that the subject was a multiplicity had become so trivial and commonplace, that they could begin their book as follows: “The two of us wrote [...] together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd. […] Why have we kept our own names? Out of habit, purely out of habit. [...] Also because it’s nice to talk like everybody else, to say the sun rises, when everybody knows it’s only a manner of speaking. [...] We are no longer ourselves.”12 Ibid., Sect. 6. Leviathan, Chapter XLVI., Errors Concerning Abstract Essences. 8 Critique of Pure Reason, I. Transcendental Doctrine of Elements, Part II, Div. II, Book 2, Chapter 1. 9 See for example Beyond Good and Evil, §19.; The Will to Power, §§ 485–490. 10 Roland Barthes “The Death of the Author”, in Image-Music-Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana Press, 1977), 142–148. 11 Louis Althusser. On the Reproduction of Capitalism. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, trans. G. M. Goshgarian (London, New York: Verso, 2014), 188–189. 12 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (11th edition. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), p. 3. It should be noted that this introduction to the book also appears to refer to the two 6 7


All of this development seems well argued and very liberating psychologically and politically, but it runs into a significant obstacle. The obstacle is that in spite of all this development we continue to perceive ourselves as “selves”. In most areas of life we do not consider it just a manner of speaking, but we immediately and without thinking about it regard ourselves as nameable unified entities, however many components those unified entities may include. We do so not purely out of habit, as the Humean or the Deleuzean thinker would say. We do it because we find it necessary, not just for ethical and legal purposes, which may well be influenced by ideologies, but for all our purposes, including communication and publication, which is necessary for the transmission and preservation of our ideas (our own bodies being perishable). No one outside the realm of pathology has been able to fully separate the impressions or desires that make up their self. And even if we regard such exceptions as liberated instead of pathological (as Deleuze and Guattari tend to consider some of them), they do seem to involve an inordinate amount of mental suffering and anguish, and, in any case, they continue to be exceptions rather than the rule. It may be a good idea to tease out and separate the components of the self, but historically it simply has not happened; it does not seem to be the direction we are going. There has been no conclusive “end of the subject”, just as there has been no end to history, or art, or philosophy. (The Berlin Wall did fall; people do continue to make art; and New Realism certainly seems to be a new philosophical development compared to both old realism and anti-realism). Neither objects nor fields disappear simply because theoreticians have worked out an idea of how they are constructed. (Incidentally, Nietzsche himself did not advocate the separation of the subject’s components; he instead lauded people who could combine as many different drives as possible and still control them.13) To return then to our original question, if the subject has proved resistant to attempts to make it dissipate, then what is the subject? What is this strange, resistant entity that unifies so many different components and traverses different fields in order to put together seemingly incompatible objects? And how does it do that? Following Markus Gabriel’s ontology, we may say that if the subject exists at all, then it is either an object appearing in fields of sense, or a field of sense appearing in other fields. I will argue that it is, in fact, both. According to Why the World Does Not Exist, “[f]ields of sense are objects, for we think about them with truth-apt thoughts.”14 In his later work Fields of Sense, Markus Gabriel elaborates on this point: “The difference is functional in that something is both an object in some field and a field in which some object appears depending on the functional authors’ experimentation with mind-altering substances, but the ground for their mode of expression as regards the unity of the self was already prepared much earlier. 13 The Will to Power, § 966. 14 Markus Gabriel. Why the World Does Not Exist (op. cit.), p. 71.


specification. For instance, the play Faust is a field in which there are witches, mountains, […] and many other objects (including events, which are just more objects […]). Yet, [the play] Faust is also an object, for instance, in the field of literary studies or in a library owning several copies of Faust.”15 On my reading, this means that the subject can also be regarded as a field of sense which in some cases appears as an object as well. The fact that it traverses other fields of sense can then be explained as overlap: the subject is a hybrid of other fields of sense, which is perfectly possible: “There are infinitely many fields of sense which partly overlap each other, and on another level just never come into contact.”16 Also, “[t]he world in which we live shows itself as a single continuous transition from field of sense to field of sense, as a coalescence and interweaving of them.”17 And, perhaps most importantly, “[m]any fields are hybrids, and what is mixed in them cannot be anticipated a priori.”18 Based on those statements, I suggest that we regard each separate subject as a field of sense that includes objects by virtue of overlapping with other fields. However, this is insufficient. There are many fields which overlap with others, so in order to define the subject in particular we need to point out what is specific about it, what properties it has that other fields do not. To begin with, if the subject is a field of sense, it appears to be infinitely divisible into other fields. However much we study anyone’s subjectivity, we will never exhaust all of its contents. This is a point made long before Hume, and much more forcefully, in the Confessions by Augustine. Book X of the Confessions famously features a very moving account of the soul as the seat of memory. This is also an important point, to which I will return shortly: thoughts, impressions and ideas can all be combined under the general term of memory. (The drives and desires that were so important for Nietzsche are perhaps trickier to place. The question of whether memory is ontologically prior to desire or vice-versa is perhaps too complicated to tackle here.) Examining his own soul, Augustine speaks of “the fields and spacious palaces of my memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses”19. He goes on to list pages and pages of different things and experiences that he remembers, in order to finally reach the following conclusion: “Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, [...], a deep and boundless manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this am I myself. […] Behold in the plains, and caves, and caverns of my memory, innumerable and innumerably full of innumerable kinds of things […] I dive on this side and on that, as far as I can, and there is no end. So great is the force Markus Gabriel. Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), p. 255. 16 Why the World Does Not Exist (op. cit.), p. 72. 17 Ibid., p. 97. 18 Fields of Sense (op. cit.), p. 242. 19 Confessions, trans. E. B. Pusey (public domain), Book X. 15


of memory, so great the force of life, even in the mortal life of man.”20 Among other things, Augustine here appears to be a passionate anti-Cartesian. We may therefore conclude that the field of the self, as defined by memory, is made up of infinitely many sub-fields. This is where another important idea of New Realism can be useful. I am referring to the idea of Maurizio Ferraris that the “soul” is basically a device for storing memories inscribed onto it, and that all its other functions, such as thought and feeling, are based on memory; memory is the substratum. This is what makes the soul comparable to a book, or indeed an iPad, or anything onto which traces may be left, content may be inscribed and (at least temporarily) preserved; this view also accounts for how culture is maintained and developed, with our “selves” and other devices serving as the storage media for it; this view also makes it possible to be realists about social objects, as their existence is guaranteed by inscriptions, by documentality, and by our participation in the general flow of documental content.21 This is however still not enough to sufficiently define the subject as a field of sense. There are many other fields that are infinitely divisible (possibly all of them are). What else is specific about the self in particular? As we saw, the self can connect fields by overlap; but it can also extend those connections to share them with other subjects, which is how culture is brought about. To quote Markus Gabriel once more: “The connections between fields of sense, which we observe and bring about ourselves, are made up of new fields of sense.”22 “We produce new fields of sense as extensions of given ones. Yet this production is in no way a creation from nothing but, rather, is only another alteration in the given structure of fields of sense. We live together in infinitely many fields of sense which we are always rendering intelligible in new ways.”23 To recapitulate: the subject is an infinitely divisible hybrid field of sense which produces other fields as extensions of available ones, and thus overlaps with other subjects to form a shared culture. The one thing we have not explained yet is how the objects combined in this hybrid field fit together. What connects the numbers, chairs, events, political entities, etc., that are combined in our memory? According to some authors, the connection is provided by a general narrative framework. This is an important notion for memory studies and other interdisciplinary areas; it was famously articulated by Paul Ricoeur. Recalling the passages by Augustine quoted above, Ricoeur famously says that a subject’s unity and self-identity is brought about by its narrative structure.24 The narrative framework approach applies to individuals as well as to communities, so the previous point I made about connections being 22 23 24 20 21

Ibid. Maurizio Ferraris, Anima e iPad (Parma: Guanda, 2011). Why the World Does Not Exist (op. cit.), p. 220. Ibid., p. 208. Paul Ricoeur. Memory, History, Forgetting, trans. Kathleen Blamey & David Pellauer (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 22.


shared between subjects holds here as well. We may suppose that the memories which do not fit the narrative are either not retained at all or are retained precisely because of the tension between them and the narrative, and because of attempts to dissolve that tension, to make them fit. However, there have recently arisen serious objections to the notion of a narrative structure of the self. These objections are best summarised in Galen Strawson’s essay “Against Narrativity”. According to Strawson, someone may or may not be diachronic (they consider their self as something that was there in the past and will be there in the future), a form-finder (they seek unity or a pattern in their experience), a story-teller (they tend to remember things as stories) and a reviser (they unconsciously edit their recollection of events to better fit a particular idea of what happened). Story-telling entails form-finding, but there are no other necessary connections between the four properties. The view of the narrative self, as Strawson finds it in Ricoeur, Dennett and others, implies that all subjects possess all four properties, whereas in Strawson’s view anyone may be any combination of the four, or indeed none of them (Strawson considers himself an example of the latter; he also cites other authors as examples for some of the other combinations).25 And indeed, there may well be someone who perceives themself as a subject and remembers events from their childhood but does not consider their present self as a continuation of their childhood self by virtue of a narrative. There may well be someone who only identifies with what they perceive themself to be in the present moment, although they may retain an infinite storage of memories from previous moments. Finally (and this is a point that Strawson does not mention, but that seems to apply equally well), someone who used to perceive their self as a narrative may experience events that completely shatter that narrative, introducing a gulf (or many gulfs) between what they used to perceive their self to be like and what they presently see as their self. In such a case, the narrative only goes on up to a point, and then it splits into multiple fragments which fail to connect up. This does not need to entail any kind of pathological division of the self; it only means that the self is no longer held together by a narrative structure, but by something else. This leaves two questions open: a) what is that something else; and b) how does an account like Strawson’s regard praise and blame? Let us start with the second problem. If it is perfectly alright for someone to not consider themself identical to an earlier self that they evolved from, then what happens to morality and law, which are based on the idea that people are responsible for their past deeds? Praising or blaming someone for a past action requires us to identify their past self with their present self. Otherwise rewarding or punishing them now would be no better than holding someone responsible for something that their parents did. Galen Strawson. “Against Narrativity”, in Narrative, Philosophy and Life, ed. Allen Spreight (New York: Springer, 2015), 11–32.



To this we may reply that for the purposes of law and morality, people may well be held accountable for their past deeds, because the community they are a part of does make a connection between their previous and current self. The self is not entirely isolated, as was already noted above; it overlaps with other selves in a particular community or culture, which means that it at least partially overlaps with its past versions, as long as the community considers that to be so. If the culture to which someone belongs has developed a morality and legal practises according to which people should be held accountable for their previous actions, then so they should. The remaining question is: if a (more or less) unified subject is not held together by a narrative framework of the memories that the subject contains, by what is it held together? What is the basis of its unification? Having assumed that a fields-ofsense ontology is correct, and that many fields of sense are hybrids, we may offer the following (somewhat broad and speculative) reply: The physical universe is an infinitely complex hybrid field of sense which overlaps with other fields in many ways. Its hybrid state leads to the formation of stars, galaxies, etc., and on the planet Earth it has led to the appearance and evolution of life. During its evolution, life has produced subjectivity, which becomes ever more complicated, and in human beings turns into what we are used to calling “subjects”. (This does not mean that the members of certain animal species may not also be considered as subjects, but the point is too complex and arguable to go into here. It is certainly quite possible that non-human subjects exist elsewhere in the universe.) These subjects are held together by the particular kind of hybridization that the physical universe (along with all the non-physical fields that it overlaps with) has produced to bring them about. Such hybridization holds things together that otherwise may belong in different fields, such as equations and political entities, even if they do not always quite fit together. Some objects inscribed in the subject’s memory fit together well, which makes the subject more unified, while other objects fit together poorly, which leads to the contradictions and internal strife that we witness in ourselves and others on a daily basis, and that in some cases lead to pathological disturbances in the self. As with the evolution of species, the production of subjects that hybridize different fields of sense can be regarded as a contingent, non-teleological process, which is what makes possible the random successful fitting-together as well as the inevitable poor instances of fitting-together. A religious person may believe the process to be overseen by some divine authority, and therefore not contingent, but such a belief cannot be verified empirically, and is therefore best left out of purely rational consideration. In any case, we end up with a picture of a hybrid physical universe which produces other complex hybrids within itself, thus eventually producing hybrid subjects which contain in their memory various objects that fit together with varying degrees of success. The fact that these subjects are tied to individual physical bodies is only one aspect of their hybrid status; one of the infinitely divisible fields of sense that they encompass simply happens to be the living human organism, whose experiences and state of health interact with the other 249

fields that the subject is made up of. What happens to the subject after the death of this physical body is another vexed question best left out of the present inquiry. Suffice it to say that, as the body is constantly changing (growing, replacing cells, aging, etc.), the older version of the body is always dying, while a new version comes about. What we refer to as “death” is merely another change in this long series of changes, but it is not qualitatively different from all the dying, that is, metamorphosing, that the body has been doing throughout its “life”. This dying of old versions of the body is accompanied by alterations in the subject, which may also be seen as the dying of its older selves. This is what makes it possible for someone to not identify with their younger selves, which is what Strawson’s account of selves with no narrative framework is based on. To summarise: The subject is a hybrid field of sense produced by a hybrid physical universe and is constantly changing, thus shedding older versions of itself. The different versions of the subject spread across time may be connected together by a narrative framework, or they may not. They do necessarily have family resemblances to each other, which is why a non-narrative subject can still reconnect with some, but not all, of its past selves, by making connections between objects that its present self’s memory encompasses and objects that one or more of its older selves encompass. And since subjects also form a shared culture, they overlap with each other and with other fields that they create together, which makes possible the reference to “we” that is often used by authors who wish to avoid the problem of what the subject is when they describe particular aspects of some culture. The overlap between subjects creates many different forms of “we”, of finite, but infinitely divisible, shared subjectivities. One more thing should be said about narrative frameworks. The inherent danger in those unified subjects that are made possible by narrative frameworks is that their personal narrative can easily serve as the basis for a world-picture. That is to say, if I have memories about different areas of experience and knowledge, and they are all connected into a general narrative, which is how I am able to have them, I may therefore conclude that such connections apply everywhere and that all domains ultimately form a totality which follows the same general rules, namely the rules I am personally familiar with. On Markus Gabriel’s account such a conclusion, however frequent, is entirely erroneous. There are infinitely many fields of sense, some of them are quite unconnected to others, and therefore a general totality of them is fully as impossible as there being a highest prime number. The idea that there is a world, and that to know the truth about things we must have a general world-picture, is, according to Markus Gabriel, one of the gravest mistakes we have inherited from earlier philosophy, and an entirely contingent mistake, one that can and should be done away with.26 Fields of Sense (op. cit.), 206–207.



Now, if this is true, the unmasking of such a mistake is quite recent, but was made possible by the general discovery of infinity in all its various forms in the modern era. According to Why the World Does Not Exist, this process began in art, mathematics, astronomy and science during the Baroque. “In the Baroque the world becomes infinite; it diversifies itself into manifold frames.”27 But when we face the results of this development, we “willingly overlook” them, “because we cannot attend to an infinite number of things at once.”28 And this brings me to one final problem posed by the subject. However infinitely deep our memory, we cannot attend to an infinite number of things. This creates in us tremendous anxiety and a strong opposition to the very idea of a pluralist ontology. A key passage from Why the World Does Not Exist reads as follows: “Just because everything exists does not mean that all is well or that all existing things or structures are somehow equally valid. We find ourselves together on a great expedition – we have arrived here from nowhere, and together we set out into the infinite.”29 However inspirational the second of those sentences may be, the first sentence is extremely unsettling: the notion that everything exists “does not mean that all is well”. The hybridization of fields of sense frequently produces a poor fitting-together of the objects within them. Thus internal contradictions arise and can lead to many undesirable effects; such effects in the physical universe that we inhabit include violence, suffering, and injustice. (And, on a less anthropomorphic scale, also entropy.) One of the reasons anxiety is unavoidable for us is the impossibility of grasping the notion of infinity fully. Augustine was inspired with awe, amazement, and indeed fear, by the infinity he discovered within his own memory. The possibility that the physical universe may be spatially infinite is for many people a very uncomfortable thought even today. Introducing the notion of infinite fields of sense that are infinitely divisible into still other fields makes things even more uncomfortable, because we have no idea how to work with, describe, study, something that is in principle inexhaustible. Indeed, the people who originally introduced infinity into early modern thought were not always very well received. (The first person who forcefully insisted that the universe is in fact infinite was Giordano Bruno, who is most famous for having been burned at the stake. Incidentally, Bruno’s own theories deserve wider attention in the present, because they may throw light on the invisible origins of contemporary attempts to work out a pluralist ontology.) Complex infinity is a scary notion, which is why a lot of people prefer reducing everything to a simpler set of principles, in all kinds of situations – it might be through naturalism (trying to reduce all fields to a single field, namely the one studied by the natural sciences); or in a political context, through narrow-minded Why the World Does Not Exist (op. cit.), 206–207. Ibid., p. 72. 29 Ibid., p. 221. 27 28


nationalism, or through support for a dictator who will enforce the same set of rules on everybody; or in an everyday social context, through imposing the same rules on, say, everyone who is of a certain gender: how they should behave, whether they should be raising children or having a career, what their sexuality should be, etc.; all these problems that are very prominent today in humanities departments as well as in the news. On all of these issues, societies tend to become divided; some prefer to simplify and reduce infinite complexity to more basic rules, which often leads to violence, while others attempt to embrace infinite complexity, but have few established methods of doing so to rely on. Human beings as subjects, as selves, have not worked out a way to comprehend a diverse, non-simple, irreducible infinity, even if such an infinity turns out to be, ontologically, what there is, what we have to contend with. Some people hope that the machines we create can achieve more than us in this regard, with artificial intelligences based on algorithms being able to process vast amounts of data and teach themselves as they go along, but various objections to such a belief have already been proposed. And so, as we continue to exist as subjects, and as we “set out into the infinite” together, this seems to be perhaps the biggest theoretical and practical problem facing us that we need to continue working on.

References Althusser, Louis. On the Reproduction of Capitalism. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Translated by G. M. Goshgarian. London, New York: Verso, 2014. Augustine. Confessions. Translated by E. B. Pusey. Public domain. Barthes, Roland “The Death of the Author”. In Image-Music-Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. London: Fontana Press, 1977. Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. 11th edition. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. Ferraris, Maurizio. Anima e iPad. Parma: Guanda, 2011. Gabriel, Markus. Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: University Press, 2015. — I Am Not a Brain. Philosophy of Mind for the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Christopher Turner. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017. — Neo-Existentialism. Conceiving the Mind After Naturalism’s Failures. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018. — Why the World Does Not Exist. Translated by Gregory S. Moss. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015. Ricoeur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting. Translated by Kathleen Blamey & David Pellauer. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Strawson, Galen. “Against Narrativity”. In Narrative, Philosophy and Life, edited by Allen Spreight. New York: Springer, 2015.


Disembodiment: A Continental Feminist-Realist Approach1 Stanimir Panayotov

0. Introduction One problem and four questions. One problem: the problem of approaching disembodiment in feminist poststructuralist philosophy – a problem that involves gendering speculation itself, the speculation about the correlation of being and thought, particularly as the manifestation of idealizing disembodiment. First question: Is disembodiment a viable ideal after poststructuralism? This question problematizes the returns to arguments from disembodiment within continental philosophy and realism, and the selective dismissal of arguments from embodiment provided by feminist philosophy, as well as the idealization of embodiment in feminist philosophy. Second question: If yes, is it gendered? The answer I suggest is positive and seeks to retaliate against the doctrinal inconsistencies in those returns to arguments from disembodiment but without having to revert to necessitating the political instrumentalization of embodiment, seeking to offer an interface between both types of arguments on the condition that new realist thought remains aware of feminist standpoint epistemology and feminist history of philosophy. Third question: If it is gendered, how to deal with gendering disembodiment in New Realism? This question is answered by bridging continental realism/New Realisms with Laruelle’s non-philosophy and his critique of philosophical decisionism. Fourth question: Is New Realism a project of disembodiment? This is answered by suggesting that a comparison between late antique philosophies’ and speculative/New Realisms’ relation to disembodiment is needed. I will first explain how new realist projects aim to surpass continental antirealism2 and the predominant agential pessimism of feminist poststructuralism with its strong emphasis on embodiment. I will then quickly explain how those realisms are reliant on Laruelle’s non-philosophy, followed by an outline of non-philosophy’s critique of philosophical decisionism. After that I will move to a discussion of the notion of embodiment in feminist philosophies and the I would like to thank Bogna M. Konior for providing critical and insightful comments on this article. 2 Lee Braver, A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2007). 1


problematic role of disembodiment for them, and how this relates to New Realisms. I will then explain the “idealization of disembodiment” by illustrating it with the work of Brassier3 and Lyotard4 and discuss why this idealization is a problem and how it defines the gendering of speculating about the correlation between being and thought.

1. Anti-correlationism’s New Realisms Speculative/New Realism5 is “the umbrella term for a variety of research programmes committed to upholding the autonomy of reality... against the depredations of anthropocentrism.”6 For such programmes, one has to start from either the real or the object; the minimal condition would be to treat the human as an object among others.7 The ontological region which this philosophy wants to communicate rather than mediate is the “autonomy of reality.” New (speculative) realism is a form of critical thinking and theory which does not deny objects their autonomy.8 For such a project to develop, two terms were introduced: correlationism and philosophy of access. Correlationism was defined by Meillassoux9 as a project that “underpins the Kantian-Hegelian account of the relationship between reason and nature.”10 It represents the inseparability of thinking and content: “All we ever engage with is what is given-to-thought, never an entity subsisting by itself.”11 Correlationism splits reality according to the way philosophy does that, through the division Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 4 Jean-François Lyotard, “Can Thought Go On without a Body?,” trans. Bruce Boone and Lee Hildreth, in Materialities of Communication, eds. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994), 286–300. 5 Levi R. Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (Eds.), The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re:press, 2011). 6 Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development, Vol. 2: Speculative Realism, ed. Robin Mackay (Farnham: Urbanomic, 2007), 303 (my emphasis). 7 This raises the question of treating women as objects on the ontological level, or their re-objectification. I follow the discussions offered on this problem by Timothy Morton, “Treating Objects Like Women: Feminist Ontology and the Question of Essence,” in International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism, ed. Greta Gaard, Serpil Opperman and Simon Estok (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 56–69 and Katherine Behar (Ed.), Object-Oriented Feminism (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2016). See my comments on Behar in my review of her volume in Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, Vol. 15, No. 1–2 (Summer 2018): 194–202. 8 Graham Harman, The Quadrupule Object (Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2011), 7. 9 See Mackay, Speculative Realism, 408, 409; Meillassoux, After Finitude, 13 et seq. 10 Brassier, Nihil Unbound, xii. 11 Meillassoux, After Finitude, 62. 3


between empiricism and transcendentalism. For correlationism, there should always be a “transcendental operator” mediating reality (or the “empirical”). Transcendental operators fill in the abyss between being (phenomena) and thought (the noumenon), and they found the indivisibility between the two. Consequently, this provides anthropic thought with privileged access to the correlation between being and thought. In this sense correlationism is anthropocentric. “New realisms” describes any philosophy which privileges the human over other entities as “philosophy of access”: “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.”12 This is a consequence of struggling with Kant’s transcendental idealism and moving its metaphysical questions to transcendental accessing of “things.” Philosophy of access thus posits that we never know reality directly, so the access to its “autonomy” is impossible. This thesis is known as continental anti-realism, and New Realisms have led to unearthing philosophical material that can be rendered continental realism.13 The very term “speculation” as used within speculative/New Realism is but the Hegelian overlapping of being and thought. What the use of this term disputes since the anti-correlationist thesis was launched is the status of the necessity of contingency. Speculation thus defined is predominantly used in so-called “New Realisms,” but the term is an ideational spin-off of “speculative realism.” The pluralization from speculative realism to New Realisms is no contingency: but neither is it a necessity. Along with its birth, the field of speculative realism was actively questioned by some of its creators, which has led to the use of “New Realisms.”14 Almost every founding member has been critical of the term itself, rather than the overall orientation of the field (thinking from the perspective of the real or the object). The problem with labeling the field is related with the anticipation that it might become a stable theoretical short-cut to a research paradigm whose premises have not been set yet (e.g., the anti-correlationsim), as well as its connectedness to other fields (e.g., neuroscience). As Kolozova claims, the notion of “speculative realism” has taken a life of its own even though the prominent representatives often reject the label, with the exception of object-oriented ontology scholars such as Harman and to some extent Bryant. Brassier goes as far as rejecting the term as a concoction of social factors rather than a veritable dialogue between scholars.15 Even though the term is often rejected, it is still being used to describe Ibid., 13. See Braver, A Thing; Paul Ennis, Continental Realism (Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2011). 14 Katerina Kolozova,“New Realisms, Materialisms, (Post-)Philosophy and the Possibility for a Feminist Internationalism.” Continental Thought and Theory: A Journal of Intellectual Freedom, Vol. 1, Issue 3 (2017): 673–79. 15 Marcin Rychter, “I Am a Nihilist Because I Still Believe in Truth: Interview with Ray Brassier.” Kronos Journal (March 4, 2011).,896. 12 13


the allegiance to the philosophical projects undertaken by names such as Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, and François Laruelle. At any rate, “New Realism” still describes a speculative kind of philosophy. With that proviso in mind, there are two common objectives for this field: “refuting the postmodern and poststructuralist claims (a) that the real is unthinkable and (b) that thought is closed off within itself without the possibility of accessing ‘immanence’ or explaining external reality.”16

2. Non-Philosophy’s New Realisms In order to void the abyss and to denaturalize the indivisibility between being and thought, a suitable approach is to follow Laruelle’s critique of philosophical decisionism. I will summarize some of non-philosophy’s mature results, in view of the problem of disembodiment, and explain what of non-philosophy determines regions of New Realisms. I do this by following Galloway’s claim17 that non-philosophy has been in the background of defining speculative/New Realism. Following Galloway, in this article I try to define “New Realisms” as the speculation about the Real grounded on Laruelle’s science of philosophy (nonphilosophy) against continental anti-realism. Laruelle opposes philosophy to non-philosophy. He calls non-philosophy a science of philosophy. In his major work Principles of Non-Philosophy,18 Laruelle lays out some of the most important rules for practicing non-philosophy in the aftermath of “philosophies of difference.” Non-philosophy can be enacted only through a “cloning” of phenomena, i.e., acting according to the Real. The Real cannot be reflected, it can only be cloned,19 which means it has a stand-alone autonomy. This leads Laruelle to define “unilateral duality” (of the Real), an understanding that posits a singular and non-communicable relation to the solitary Real. There is thus no “sublation” of the Real, as it is unilaterally foreclosed to us, and acts only through its “unilateral duality.” Non-philosophy aims to serve neither philosophy, nor itself, but the human. When Laruelle uses “the human,” he does address the problem of subjectivity Katerina Kolozova, Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 157 n1. 17 Alexander R. Galloway, “Assessing the Legacy of that Thing that Happened after Poststructuralism.” Culture and Communication (September 6, 2015). 18 François Laruelle, Principles of Non-Philosophy, trans. Nikola Rubczak and Anthony Paul Smith (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). 19 François Laruelle et al., Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, trans. Taylor Adkins (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Univocal, 2013), 52. 16


but without a recourse to philosophical humanism. His use of the term also defies posthumanism, transhumanism, and antihumanism. One has to abandon all of the human to reach the human. It is not man that is made for philosophy, it is philosophy which is made for man. This is a direct paraphrase of Mark 2:27: “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Laruelle’s theory of the Real is radically alien to the procedures of philosophical reason, best expressed in his suspension of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. This is the sense – and the effect – of the Real’s “unilateral duality”. Only under the alien hubris of the Real to us, and its almost mystical non-relation and nontranslatability,20 can one follow the non-philosophical project. Principles  of Non-Philosophy is not a plea for the (re-)humanization of the human.21 It is a distinctly demanding effort both to radicalize contemporary humanism and to differentiate it from its absolutist invariants (such as posthumanism) that remain philosophical. Non-philosophy should be seen as a project for human radicalism (for it is neither humanist radicalism nor radical humanism) whose reliance on “subjectivity” is driven by the unilateral duality of the Real to us. Since we are dealing with a radically human, but not humanist thought, it is immanently rather than inherently political to man. The consequences of such radical immanence of thought in non-philosophy can then be translated into problems deducible from instances of embodiment and its relation to philosophical notions (such as the One, see below). Laruelle desires to invent a thought that outstrips philosophy, but that is not a “meta-philosophy.” Historically, philosophy has made itself equal or superior to science in order to redeem itself from the problem of grounding, thereby producing itself as a “blind-spot” of epistemology.22 Philosophy is based on a “decision” to split the world into two – the noumenon and the faculty of understanding. In order to avoid epistemic regress, philosophy needs to remain blind to its decisional nature. Within the confines of Laruelle’s attack on philosophical sufficiency and decisionism, “[s]ince a decision is external, any particular philosophy is incapable of thinking its own decision; rather the decision is its blind-spot.”23 To the extent to which non-philosophy does not generate the blind-spot of decision, it is a “science of philosophy.” This science is not productive of meta-philosophical positions, because it remains uninterpretable24 and is not part of philosophy itself. Laruelle et al., Dictionary, 14. See John Ó Maoilearca, “The Animal Line: On the Possibility of a ‘Laruellian’ Non-Human Philosophy.” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 19, No. 2 (2014): 115, 117. 22 This relation of superiority is more complicated and ambivalent with respect to theology. 23 Nick Srnicek, “François Laruelle, the One and the Non-Philosophical Tradition.” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, No. 22 (2010): 5. 24 Ray Brassier,“Solar Catastrophe: Lyotard, Freud, and the Death-Drive.” Philosophy Today, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 2003): 421–30. 20 21


This thesis is best expressed in Laruelle’s dialogue with Derrida,25 who aimlessly demands philosophical legibility and understanding within the limitations of meta-philosophy in order to account for that decision. Since non-philosophy is not a meta-philosophical thought, it responds to the simple desire to know the object. It is thus not an absolutely isolated anti-philosophical enterprise, as it needs some interface to work with the materials rather than the objects of philosophy. Given that the task of non-philosophy is to submit philosophy to “regional knowledges,” Laruelle’s solution is not simply a “science of philosophy,” but a “unified theory of science and philosophy,”26 which allegedly outstrips philosophy. How does Laruelle escape the decisional character of philosophy? How this outstripping of philosophy relates to anti-correlationism? And how to relate it to the problem of disembodiment in feminist poststructuralism in particular? By re-engaging the ancient notion of the One and by maintaining a non-decisional (unilateral) relationship to the One, where non-decisional means internal (in as much as “decision” is external to philosophy). The desired pragmatics of non-philosophy to “suspend the decisional authority of philosophy”27 and the blind-spot of the One responds to the problem of zeroing in on embodiment in the following way. The One is what is already-given prior to any thought of it.28 Srnicek calls the One “infinitely conceptualizable.” Because the One has always already determined in-the-last-instance everything in the world, every object pertaining to reality is already a perspective on/from the One: because the One operates through the same invariant of unilateral duality. The One pre-determines every embodied object through this unilaterality. Laruelle is able to work with philosophical notions such as the One in an anti-metaphilosophical manner by submitting them to procedures of “transcendental impoverishment” and “radicalization” of philosophical concepts and turning them into “materials.”29 Only transcendentally and philosophically impoverished concepts are non-philosophical concepts. They undergo these procedures in order for non-philosophy to have positively (i.e., materially) relational attitude to philosophically impoverished thought. The call for “transcendental impoverishment” of philosophical concepts denies the sublation of ideas; ideas descend to Man in the name of Man.30 François Laruelle and Jacques Derrida, “Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy,” trans. Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay, in François Laruelle, The NonPhilosophy Project, ed. Gabriel Alkon and Boris Gunjevic (New York: Telos, 2012), 76–94. 26 Laruelle, Principles, 69–78; Laruelle et al., Dictionary, 43–48, 69–79. 27 Srnicek, “Laruelle,” 5. 28 Ibid., 3. 29 Laruelle et al., Dictionary, 143; Kolozova, Cut of the Real, 3–4. 30 Laruelle et al., Dictionary, 143; Kolozova, Cut of the Real, 63; Stanimir Panayotov, “Review of François Laruelle, Principles of Non-Philosophy.” Marx and Philosophy 25


Non-philosophy’s research orientation to the Real-One summarizes the anti-correlationist thesis in New Realisms, preceding it with some thirty years. But the danger is that it does torpedo decades of work on “subjectivity” and embodiment with respect to philosophy’s pretension of universality: the procedure of “radicalization” itself is meant to unearth a “kernel of universality.”31 New Realisms offer two main avenues for dealing with (a theory of) subjectivity: an a-subjective or a minimally mediating description of reality based on science. A-subjectivism has been promoted as “transcendental naturalism” by Brassier.32 Transcendental minimalism of subjectivity has been elaborated as “the Stranger” by Kolozova.33 Both Brassier’s and Kolozova’s notion of science is heavily influenced by Laruelle’s. The new realist use of “science”34 is an instance of the non-philosophical procedure of “radicalization” of concepts. Now, “philosophy of access” as the consequence of strong correlationism is a particular feminist concern because from a non-correlationist perspective “knowing reality” is a political premise for agential liberty of the subject. Submitting oneself to access in the correlationist sense perpetuates the feminist poststructuralist trope of the senselessness of subjectivity and its arbitrariness. Yet such senselessness then results in political depotentializiation exactly of agency. So countering philosophy of access from a feminist epistemological standpoint accommodates a more realist politics for the idealism of the common good. In this sense the projects Review of Books (June 14, 2016). 31 See François Laruelle, Introduction to Non-Marxism, trans. Anthony Paul Smith (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Univocal, 2015), 21. The term universality is especially loaded for feminist philosophies, and one novel way of re-reading it in a manner adequate to non-philosophy, and therefore New Realisms, and from within arguments from disembodiment is by opposing it to the later Laruellian notion of the “generic”: “[T]he generic is capable of supporting a multiplicity of heterogeneous acts or predicates, among other things the thoughts of science and philosophy: the generic is endowed with extension but without totality or singularity, thus under-determined, non-absolute.” François Laruelle, “The Generic Orientation of Non-Standard Aesthetics,” trans. Drew S. Burk, Joe Hughes and Christophe Wall-Romana. Performance Philosophy (October 21, 2013). Working out a feminist philosophical genericity does not fall within the ambition of this article: the task of debunking feminist-continental anti-realism is already loaded enough, but I do intend to go back to a move from universality to genericity in another project. 32 Bram Ieven, “Against an Aesthetics of Noise: An Interview with Ray Brassier.” nY, No. 2 (October 5, 2009). 33 Katerina Kolozova,“The Figure of the Stranger: A Possibility for Transcendental Minimalism or Radical Subjectivity.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Fall 2011): 59–64. 34 It would be incorrect to qualify Brassier a “new realist.” I subsume his work under the umbrella term New Realisms apophatically, to the extent to which he does not embrace any type of anti-realism.


of New Realism can be seen as a feminist rehashing of Platonic reductionism of the Good and/as the One, for the feminist philosophical attack on philosophical universality is always already politically determined.35 Yet it is philosophically determined, and as such its hidden term – that is, feminist philosophy’s own blind-spot – is the notion of embodiment.

3. Feminist Philosophy’s Anti-Realism For my account, the prehistory of the problem of disembodiment lies in conceptualizing its opposite: embodiment. This prehistory begins with the Pythagorean table of opposites and the ancient cosmological opposition between form and formless, which is derived by the (pre-)modern dyad rationalitymasculinity, identified by Lloyd,36 and singled out as soul/body dualism by Bordo,37 and many others. In Lloyd’s reading of ancient philosophy, femaleness was symbolically associated with unreason and the dark powers of conceiving, making them closer to earth and death.38 From the earliest cosmogonies and cosmologies of the pre-Socratics onwards, the female has been identified with the formless and the boundless (apeiron); there were differing value-laden classifications of boundlessness, but the negative one prevailed. It is the Hellenistic philosophical continuity that tied femininity to earthliness and embodiment in thinking about the possibility of change in both single- and multiple-element theories. Lloyd’s implication is that the body was figured as an impediment to knowing the truth about the reality of universe; the value-ladenness of the boundless crossed the threshold of femininity through a philosophical radicalization of embodiment. The identification between women and the boundless expressed a political worry about women’s political nature and participation in what should have been an autochtonous political geometry of horizontality (male isonomia/equality). Sexual differentiation in the post-Pandoran world became a cosmological problem of struggling to reduce identity to oneness, a oneness which was sent in the past once sexual differentiation in post-mythological thought emerged. With the advent of Plato’s philosophy and cosmology in the Timaeus, an identity between the female and the field of becoming, or “space” (chôra), unfolded. Questioning the role of femininity in cosmology occurred once the feminine This does not mean that only feminist philosophy is political, but that it weaponizes its own self-awareness of politicality against the presumed lack of it in discourses of universality. 36 Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason: “Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy (London and New York: Routledge, [1984] 2004). 37 Susan Bordo,“Feminist Skepticism and the ‘Maleness’ of Philosophy.” Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 85, No. 11 (November 1988): 619–29. 38 Lloyd, The Man, 2–3. 35


proximity to apeiron became conceptualized in metaphysical terms and identified with embodiment and the category of becoming. This is the dominant feminist poststructuralist interpretation: that women were excluded from the realm of change, although the female herself became the avatar of ultimate and endless becoming (and thus changeability). The irreducibility of the ancient notion of identity to boundless becoming and changeability, reliant as it was on sexual differentiation, led to Plato’s soul/body dualism and the gradual radicalization of idealizing disembodiment later in Neoplatonism under the notion of the One.39 Now, in order to move to the discussion of disembodiment in feminist poststructuralism40 and New Realism and offer a continental feminist-realist approach,41 I will explain how feminist philosophy’s critiques of reason and universality have led to an anti-realist sacralization of embodiment: for feminist anti-realism is mobilized against disembodiment. This will allow me to move to an affirmative feminist theory of disembodiment that is useful for anti-correlationist New Realisms without recourse to anti-scientism and without relapsing into gender-blindness. Since the inception and gradual dissemination and mainstreaming of feminist philosophy from the 1970s onward, the numerous feminist theories of subjectivity have been spearheaded via mounting an attack on “rationalism” and the defense of the irrational materiality (irrational in as much as irreducible to reason) of the body and the sensorium. Feminist philosophy and feminist poststructuralism in particular are the twin sisters of reclaiming body-centered subjectivity and excising rationalism from theories of subject constitution. Rewriting the dominant male rationalist theories of subjectivities, including the soul/body dualism of Plato or Plotinus’ One, is habitually proclaimed to be “feminist” if and mostly when the revisions at hand have either an immediate political agenda or a set of lateral consequences with the potential of influencing such an agenda. With the gradual distinction drawn between feminist philosophy and feminist poststructuralism, the “political agenda” model of (academic) feminism also gradually weltered. This model does not any longer connect the two fields: the main reason for this is the successful, if too slow, process of revising the canon. Now, one needs an account of the legacy of that model and its remnants, if not obsolescence, in order to criticize the negative aspects of the feminist notion of embodiment and its anti-realism. The ongoing turn to ontological and metaphysical I investigate this problematic in detail in my dissertation The Problem of Disembodiment: An Approach from Continental Feminist-Realist Philosophy. 40 When I use the term “feminist philosophy/philosophies,” I subsume feminist poststructuralism within that term. In addition, the term “feminist philosophy” here means “continental feminist philosophy.” 41 I use the term “continental feminist-realist approach” intentionally and do not further qualify it as “new realist” in order to void the false assumption that continental feminist philosophy has been entirely correlationist and anti-realist throughout. 39


projects in continental feminisms disrupts the dominant embodiment-tied model and slowly suspends its anti-realism. Today “feminist poststructuralism” is no longer constitutively tied to “difference” and “philosophies of difference,” and hence “embodiment,” which is partially licensed by anti-correlationism. But this tendency is just that: a tendency, and it certainly does not apply to all feminist philosophies proper. The role of “ontology” in feminist philosophy and poststructuralism is crucial and divisive, and it defines the relation to embodiment. The result is almost universally a feminist anti-realism which posits that knowledge is irruptively particularizing and any claim of universality and universal reason is antirationalist, contradictory self-suspension of reason. The consequence of feminist anti-realism and the problematization of ontology and metaphysics of presence is that its charge re-charges the importance of ontology. The French-Italian line of Deleuzian sexual difference feminism is the example par excellence, where the center stage is given to the ontology of sexual difference and its irreducible materiality. On the other hand, feminist anti-realism suspends the ontological grip onto “universal” subject constitution which leads to the politics of liberating the ontological difference as sexual difference to then effectuate a wholesale feminist politics of embodied ontology in the world of the “lived.” Various projects of feminist philosophies can be subsumed here, but especially those that seek to measure the pragmatics of feminist anti-realism as “experience.” It follows then that when anti-realism is always sought after as a political liberation project, it always liberates a topographical suppression of the ontology of sexual difference. This might lead to phenomenological, as well as ontological, projects, but the political pretense is invariably one of liberation within the core of everyday experience of “real women” and cracking down on male philosophical universalism. The fact remains that there is a strong politico-theoretical reliance on “real women” and their embodied experiences in order to philosophically sustain feminist-continental anti-realism: in short, the theoretical foundation of anti-realism relies on “real women” as much as on rejecting disembodiment. Thus, any concept from any canon within “history of philosophy” can be automatically rendered politically oppressive because hierarchical metaphysics (of presence) is always gendered via arguments from disembodiment of reason. And this can only happen against the background of an axiomatic and doctrinal notion of embodiment within feminist philosophies. To remain faithful to feminist philosophy thus means to be anti-realist even if you are following the sexual difference line, since you will have to demonstrate the naïve (or arrogant) realism of metaphysical gendered hierarchy within either philosophy or everyday life (or both, if you are a follower of radical constructivism). So, from this perspective to be a feminist philosopher engaged in doing philosophy par excellence always entails a feminist anti-realism which in turn presupposes a hidden form of idealism: indeed, a naïve form of idealism whose 262

pretension is to have sublated the boundary between the real and the ideal via the factum of embodiment. As a result, this political caveat of doing philosophy from a feminist perspective re-installs a blind-spot of feminist idealism that is philosophically decisionist and imitates the circular meta-philosophical primate: differences take precedence as originary, and often lead to matrilinear essentialism, as in the case of Irigaray.42 The political and theoretical inconsistency of such feminist idealism (and ideal of embodiment, built in opposition to the idealization of disembodiment) can, in the case of doing feminist philosophy, prove that “various versions of women’s liberation may themselves rest on the very same assumptions that have informed the deprecation and degradation of women, and other groups, in the past.”43 It is in this sense that the feminist notions of embodiment reproduce the very same meta-philosophical structure that Laruelle has attacked. The differences – even with respect to the notion of difference – within feminist philosophies notwithstanding, and with very few exceptions,44 the result is invariably feminist anti-realism. If we are closing the door behind the historical period of anti-realist continental feminisms, the big question is that of separation from the canon of feminist philosophies, which now exists. The separation can only come from interrupting the obsessive focus on embodiment and preparing for a synthetic shift from embodiment and difference to disembodiment and indifference: a move that does not repeat gendered hierarchical metaphysics. Whether in the last fifty years feminist philosophy specialized in Deleuze, Spinoza, or Marx matters little for the analytical dramatization of continental feminists and their anti-realism. Whatever explanatory modulation of the irreducible irrationality of rationality is undertaken (for example, Deleuze’s adage “every rational is the irrational of a rational”), feminist philosophies appear as correctional facilities for the rectification of male philosophical delinquency. This is not just a matter of having male predecessors and extinguishing the female ones. The single criterion to be imprisoned by this canon is to not have a notion of embodiment or, if you have one, to have it mistaken and misplaced below any concept of intellect, intellection, mind, nous, noema, etc. There is a good reason for that, and I do not venture into rephrasing it here: in fact, the work done by feminist philosophers in the last fifty years has made possible the current Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian G. Gill. (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1985). The very act of doing feminist philosophy performatively, through embodiment, spells out its ambition to be the new locus classicus of political philosophy par excellence, often exonerating philosophical and discursive oppressiveness of its political charge through deconstruction. As an unexpected consequence, this ambition makes it impossible to practice a non-political feminist philosophy. 43 Elizabeth V. Spelman, “Woman as Body: Ancient and Contemporary Views.“ Feminist Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring 1982): 125. 44 The very few exceptions usually come from the field of analytical feminist philosophy. 42


phase of “returning” to ideologies of matter and intellection.45 But the serious problems in front of the feminist notions of embodiment abound. It is a problem that “embodiment” is still the central category of analysis for scholars within and outside the canon of feminist philosophy and poststructuralism because: a) it uses the body as the limit of rationality; b) it limits feminist theorizing within this injunction of rationality; c) feminist philosophies are centered on the restitution of the “limitless”/the “boundless” and use the “limitlessness” as a limitation to thinking itself46; d) recent technological advancements moved theory and humanities away from the body proper to the study of the brain and neurosciences as the gateway to disembodiment (Malabou, Metzinger). Given all these limitations of embodiment for the present phase of feminist philosophies, why so much of us are clutching at the straw of embodiment, which does manifest itself as precisely the limit of glorifying and justifying the philosophical exoneration of the limitless? Has it not exhausted its political and theoretical potential? With this discussion, I tried to show that a move, not a return, to disembodiment and disembodied difference is happening in feminist thought.

4. Feminist Philosophy and New Realisms’ Problem with Disembodiment In speculative/New Realisms, I identify a present-day version of idealizing disembodiment. Detecting this problem does not need to reject feminist philosophical critique of false universality, but it also does not need to accept the rejection of universality. This is why I qualify my approach to the problem of disembodiment as continental feminist-realist approach, as I synthesize a) the feminist critique of male philosophical universality, b) the non-philosophical critique of philosophical decisionism (which includes the feminist notions of embodiment), and c) new realist anti-correlationism, building on Kolozova and Brassier.47 Whether one can call this “a first turn to intellection” in feminism is problematic, and thus I do not share entirely the enthusiasm in the talk of “return narratives.” This is also because return narratives stipulate that there has not been a contemporaneous undercurrent of continental feminist philosophy already dealing with the role of intellection. 46 This feature is almost universal, and it relies on the assumption that feminism is a relational and collective undertaking, which in turn is a practice warranted by a discursive protest against the philosophical limitation and sexing of the notion of morphe. 47 Unlike Kolozova, I explicitly try to elaborate a positive (affirmative) feminist notion of disembodiment. Apart from that, my approach is largely influenced by hers, and should be read as a re-modulation of her larger argument that tries to make feminist philosophies work with non-philosophy. In addition, neither Kolozova, nor Brassier are unproblematically anti-correlationist. I use the term in the sense that non-philosophy already engulfs anti-correlationism. 45


In my conceptualization of the problem of disembodiment in (feminist) continental realism, the term disembodiment applies to the role of the human being as she relates to cosmologies and the problem of the creation of the universe. The term defines tendencies within historical flows of both pre-discursive and discursive thought that are gendered. The gendering proper applies to the result of the creation of the universe: nature (physis), inclusive of the human body, itself inclusive of biological sexual difference. The disembodiment in question thus applies to the human body, in its sexed and gendered aspects, as a problem in the context of what the human being faces as the result of creation: the material world of physis that is always already divided from that body. Most types of cosmological and philosophical thought are gendered because they propose theories for the origin of the universe and fragmented theories of matter (of matter as the substance of nature), and these theories always have to do with gender because they compartmentalize the elements and principles of the created world through gendered terms and figures. This is especially true in ancient cosmology, and will last deep into Renaissance Neoplatonism, since a divide within matter (and thus nature) itself is introduced according to gender as a principle of differentiation within origin narratives. Thus, the term disembodiment as I use it defines a tendency within the transition from mythological to discursive/ philosophical thought; but it is meant to include feminist and new realist thought as well. I claim that the tendency towards disembodiment gradually radicalized the divide within matter according to gendered difference, typically present within theories of elements. The resulting discursive product of disembodiment is a divided notion of matter whose male and female counterparts serve different explanatory roles in explaining the origin of the universe, are subject to hierarchical metaphysics, and construe a male-centric cosmo-axiology. The cosmological accounts in continental realism orbit around radicalizing disembodiment also in a gendered way. Brassier’s cosmological account, which I review in this section, when read through his transcendental naturalism, reveals a somewhat latent preference for disembodiment, and a parallel can be drawn between late antique Neoplatonism and contemporary philosophies such as eliminativism/eliminative materialism and cosmological nihilism. What gets reproduced in the latter is the former’s cultural trope of salvific anthropological project for unification with the One and God. But the One is now exchanged for quanta, and voluntary salvation is exchanged for unwilling annihilation: in any case the preference for anthropic disembodiment persists. In his mesmerizing opus of extinctionism Nihil Unbound, Ray Brassier48 offers an account of a final closure: a narrative of the terminal separation between a we and a universe, leading to the extinction level event of embodiment:


Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 223–30.


sooner or later both life and mind will have to reckon with the disintegration of the ultimate horizon, when, roughly one trillion, trillion, trillion (101728) years from now, the accelerating expansion of the universe will have disintegrated the fabric of matter itself, terminating the possibility of embodiment. Every star in the universe will have burnt out, plunging the cosmos into a state of absolute darkness and leaving behind nothing but spent husks of collapsed matter. All free matter, whether on planetary surfaces or in interstellar space, will have decayed, eradicating any remnants of life based in protons and chemistry, and erasing every vestige of sentience – irrespective of its physical basis. Finally, in a state cosmologists call “asymptopia,” the stellar corpses littering the empty universe will evaporate into a brief hailstorm of elementary particles. Atoms themselves will cease to exist. Only the implacable gravitational expansion will continue, driven by the currently inexplicable force called “dark energy”, which will keep pushing the extinguished universe deeper and deeper into an eternal and unfathomable blackness.49

Brassier’s words have an oracular tone, but they are only partially representative of a “New Realism” and a particularly futuristic epistemological programme whose horizon of finitude takes the shape of a physically inevitable law. The inevitability of extinction becomes the impossibility of embodiment. This is no longer an idealization of disembodiment reaching to the mysterious Plotinian One. Yet the argument is presented with such a poetic swerve that extinction and disembodiment become very close to a mystical union with, and mythology of, the Great and the Small in a pseudo-scientific rehashing of Plato’s Indefinite Dyad. Brassier’s sweeping future landscape of inexistence was inspired by his reading of a philosopher much more concerned with embodiment – Lyotard. The cult around these few pages by Brassier itself is reliant on Lyotard’s essay “Can Thought Go On without a Body?” from his The Inhuman: The sun, our earth, and your thought will have been no more than a spasmodic state of energy, an instant of established order, a smile on the surface of matter in a remote corner of the cosmos. You, the unbelievers, you are really believers: you believe much too much in that smile, in the complicity of things and thought, in the purposefulness of all things! Like everyone else, you will end up victims of the stabilized relationships of order in that remote corner. You’ll have been seduced and deceived by what you call nature, by a congruence of mind and things.50 Human death is included in the life of human mind. Solar death implies an irreperably exclusive disjunction between death and thought: if there’s no death, then there is no thought. Negation without remainder. No self to make sense of 49 50

Ibid., 228. Lyotard,“Can Thought,” 288.


it. Pure event. Disaster. All the events and disasters we’re familiar with and try to think of will end up as no more than pale simulacra.51

In a text preceding Nihil Unbound, Brassier52 has paid some attention to the wording of Lyotard’s text as it is divided into “HE” and “SHE” parts. The division itself reproduces the ancient cosmological gendering in origin narratives described above. Lyotard’s text is neither relapsing into hierarchical metaphysics, nor construes a male-centric cosmo-axiology, but it curiously transfers a divided notion of matter from origin narrative into extinction narrative. Brassier emphatically mentions that according to Lyotard’s HE alter-ego there will be “separating the future of thought from the fate of the human body”, and that according to his SHE alter-ego “the claim that it is even possible in principle to separate thought from the body by abstracting a set of digitally codifiable cognitive algorithms from their material substrate” is challenged.53 He summarizes the two alter-egos as materialist vs. phenomenological thesis,54 concluding that “Lyotard is implicitly pitting the in-human singularity of sexuation against the anti-human genericity of the technoscientific neuter.”55 Brassier is not interested in reproducing the dualism and goes on to non-philosophically universalize Lyotard’s catastrophic and dualistically gendered solar death dramatization. What is significant here is that Lyotard’s text can be tendentiously read as the avatar of somatophobia,56 which would be wrong. Brassier’s reading in 2007 seems to be the by-product of a very specific synthesis of eliminative materialism and nihilism. Paul Ennis57 calls his solar death argument eliminativist nihilism, and Hilan Bensusan58 defines it as anti-vitalist nihilism and/or transcendental anti-vitalism. To subdue extinction and solar death to a conceptual immanence of the latter in thought itself Brassier assumes the theory of Paul M. Churchland on propositional attitudes and folk psychology, which he calls “cognitive catastrophe.”59 In Nihil Unbound Brassier seems to impersonate Lyotard’s philosophical primate of extinction, but this primate is reliant on the all-gendered finitude of embodiment and not on the non-gendered neutrality of extinction. Thus, the Lyotard-Brassier assemblage does not license a preference 53 54 55 56 57

Ibid., 289. Brassier, “Solar Catastrophe.” Ibid., 423. Ibid., 424. Ibid., 425. See Spelman, “Woman as Body,” using the term “psychophilic somatophobia.” Paul J. Ennis,“The Claim that We Are Already Dead,” unpublished manuscript, previously available at (2014). 58 Hilan Bensusan,“Brassier’s Nihilism, Concepts and Objects.” No Borders Metaphysics (December 13, 2011). 59 Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 9–11. 51 52


for topophobic somatophobia. The philosophical primate behind the solar death argument is one about nemocentric disembodiment. It is not about anthropocentric disembodiment. For Lyotard, the whole primate of extinction itself is reliant on gender, which is why the suspicion in somatophobia does not hold: It’s [sexual difference] lacking because it’s present deep inside, in the body, in the mind. Present like a guard, restrained, off to the side, at the edge of your vision, present on some horizon of it. Elusive, impossible to grasp. Again we’re back at transcendence in immanence. The notion of gender dominant in contemporary society what this gap closed, this transcendence toppled, this powerlessness overcome.60 ... to this neutrality gendered difference adds the suffering of abandonment because it brings to neutrality what no field of vision or thought can include, namely, a demand. The faculty to transcend the given that you were taking about, a faculty lodged in immanence, indeed finds a means to do this in the recursiveness of human language – although such a capacity isn’t just a possibility but an actual force. And that force is desire. So: the intelligence you’re preparing to survive the solar explosion will have to carry that force within it on its interstellar voyage. Your thinking machines will have to be nourished not just on radiation but on the irremediable differend of gender.61

To this part of the essay Brassier adds: What SHE calls “the irremediable differend of gender” becomes the ultimate Urgrund of ontological difference and the originary wellspring of the phenomenological Lifeworld. But for SHE, though sexual separation seems to pose a challenge to philosophy at least as radical as that of solar death, the key difference is that while the latter threatens to annihilate thought, the former engenders it.62

All of this does not mean that there is no gendering in the solar death argument; on the contrary, it is entirely predicated on gendering. The gendered dimension is infinitely immanent to thought so long as thought is infinitely embodied. Ultimately, such cosmological and law-bound nihilism is derivative of the idea that first principles are self-sufficient. Lyotard and Brassier do know (and reveal that explicitly) that identity and self-sufficiency are covertly gendered projects of disembodiment. If self-sufficiency is the same as discursive maleness, then cosmological nihilism, derived from science or folk psychology, is identical with a heavily male-gendered self-destruction. Lyotard, “Can Thought,” 298. Ibid., 299. 62 Brassier, “Solar Catastrophe,” 424. 60 61


The dangerous proximity in reproducing forlorn idealizations of disembodiment here does not come from dis-indexing philosophy from gender. It stems from the banal fact that the solar death argument is propagated by two biological men. These two biomales certainly reveal something approximating a desire for extinction. It is the correlation between the being of these two men’s sex with the thoughts of these two men’s sex that seems to recoil into the causation of a male-gendered disembodiment tendency, and not the fallacious assumption that gendered metaphysics has returned under the guise of extinction. When Lyotard says that “I concede that it isn’t any human desire to know or transform reality that propels this techno-science, but a cosmic circumstance”63 we can thus see that the cosmic circumstance of extinctionism is but a recursive desire for it. That gender brings a kind of cosmic demand on matter – however atomless and disintegrated – gets lost in Brassier’s followers. That “irreparable transcendence inscribed on the body by gender difference” which takes over the power of scientific discovery64 gets lost into gendered desire for disembodiment as much as the notion that gender functions as a “primordial explosion” is swiped away. Lyotard claims that against this scientific pushing of atomless and matterless future there persists the irreducible remainders of gender difference, opening an “endless thought” which is irreducible to both thinking itself or its disappearance. Simply, for Lyotard the body is gendered and then the gendered body “launches thought.”65 Brassier has not overdetermined Lyotard’s text, or Lyotard’s desire for disembodiment: he is not even interested in the annihilation of the human race, let alone its genders, as he pursues a “form of a non-human subject-(of)-death that neutralizes the distinction between the good and the bad inhuman.”66 But the literary cult – an all-male one – around those passages (see below) has done that and has translated it into a poetic programme for the future, driven by a theoretical libido,67 which in turn has caught the present into an axiomatic hold of disembodiment. Because the stipulated “inevitability” of extinction would lead 65 66 67 63 64

Lyotard, “Can Thought,” 299. Ibid., 300. Ibid. Brassier, “Solar Catastrophe,” 425. I am using Laruelle’s early formulation of the theoretical libido to articulate and analyze the gendered desire for extinction-as-disembodiment: “I am attempting to relate deconstruction to a principle of functionality a) that transforms it into a libidinal process of textual production; b) that pretends to reprise, even activate, effects-of-deconstruction on its behalf.” François Laruelle, “Introduction” [to Machines textuelles. Déconstruction et libido d’écriture], trans. Taylor Adkins. Speculative Heresy (September 1, 2013). I do not mean to imply that the authors analyzed here are deconstructionists; I borrow the definition only to compress the correlation between biological sex and theoretical libido as a “principle of functionality.”


to the ultimate finitude of anthropic embodiment under any scenario of human survival after “roughly one trillion, trillion, trillion (101728) years from now,” Nihil Unbound’s several pages on solar death have created a small cult of followers and interpreters that virtually embraced the pathos of extinction as the axiomatic, inevitable finality resulting in human disembodiment. There is a recognizable and gendered theoretical desire for extinction that has been introjected in scientism: a figure of redemption itself that others, in turn, project into a scientific-poetic nadir for the disappearance of embodiment. Projected desire for extinction, when merged with scientism, becomes faith and destiny. This entire literature is written by biological men, too. In the writings of Tom Trevatt, Ashley Woodward, Paul Ennis, Reza Negarestani and few others,68 “terminating the possibility of embodiment” became something of a programme whose impetus is scientific, not religious. As extinction and the thought on humanity’s finitude transforms into a scientific ordeal of the present, embodiment in the present converts into the weight of the future. At any rate, embodiment is terminal to begin with – and so terminating embodiment in the future will terminate the initial predicament of being-in-the-world once and for all. As a result, the speculative gaze storming in the future of extinction generated a little speculative cult of futurist disembodiment as a scientific idealization, which ends up reproducing the late antique trope whose gendering of incorporeality is now exchanged for the neutrality of law-bound extinction. The futuristic scientism of such claims necessitates the debilitation of the present of embodiment. Under this cosmological nihilism, it is very easy for feminist philosophy’s notion of embodiment to perform the good old critique against idealizing disembodiment as a male cosmological ordeal extrapolated from the past genderneutral universalism and rationalism. Only in this case the critique would plunder the male symptomatology of extinction and self-deprecation, and not the ancient male primate of self-sufficiency. Pressed against this textual-sexual data, it is very difficult to defend anti-correlationism on account of any argument from disembodiment, especially from feminist-realist perspective. The fact that a preference for anthropic extinction-as-disembodiment as the result of cosmic annihilation persists is a serious problem from continental-feminist and realist perspective: not because arguments from embodiment are not privileged, but because the slippage to arguments from disembodiment (be it Churchland, Brassier or Metzinger) reproduces a religious and cultural late antique trope via a neuro/scientific and cosmological nihilism. What is important is to explore the continuity of this trope from religion to science from a continental feministrealist perspective and to not perpetuate and reinforce the endless feminist/ Spinozist poststructuralist affirmation of embodiment as a body-positive theory Of these, see specifically Tom Trevatt, “The Cosmic Address.” (2014).



underwriting forms of naïve trans/post/anti/humanism, but to offer something that at least approaches a positive feminist poststructuralist theory of disembodiment. And such theory cannot exclude extinction narratives either.69 Now, the problem of disembodiment that I detect as gendered above is inheriting a motivation seemingly forlorn by the legacy of poststructuralism. Poststructuralist philosophy claims to have resolved the problem of disembodiment. But it did so with a price: transcendence (which for Lyotard is irreparable). The latter is, in effect, the thought on the Outside. While recovering the workings of the body, poststructuralist thought and feminist poststructuralism added another problem to the idealization of disembodiment that has a formulaic expression: do not think the Outside. The embodied text of constructed immanence of social reality is our only quasi-transcendence, much like the disembodied matterless implosion of the world is the cosmic reality of the end of humanity and the “world.” If for instances of today’s New Realisms there is scientific ground to know that our reality will no longer be, let alone have a supposed Outside, then for most of poststructuralism there is discursive ground to believe that our reality has no Outside to begin with.70 Without an Outside, there is thus no reason to explore the limits of reality and disembodiment – plunging into the speculation on embodiment in the here and now of humanity becomes the eternal prison of feminist perpetuity. There is no unifying thread behind the hissings of chaos that caused the speculation from the onset. Once the Cartesian legacy is dethroned, the reign of the Body can seamlessly ride the future of fleshy opportunism and the endless “opening up of new opportunities.” To the extent to which social constructionism and poststructuralism converge to explain the inexplicability and complexity of social processes and subjectivity formations, the postulate is that there is an outside of subject construction that is internal to the process, which radically diminishes opportunities of explaining the “outside,” opting for discourse-based solutions. This convergence has produced the tradition of immanent criticism, a tradition that shrinks the inside/ outside boundary and tendentiously reads the latter as the former. When this poststructuralist trait transforms into a theoretical reflex and inertia and then translates into feminist poststructuralist philosophy as a method, this outside is not always internal, rather, it is often external to the extent to which it is considered nonsensical and unthinkable. It simply becomes an irreducible and necessary transcendental that orders the infrastructure of the poststructuralist “explanation” 69 70

Claire Colebrook’s and Elizabeth Grosz’ recent work is the exception, and not the rule. This tendency has been disturbed by the ongoing feminist new materialism, see Diana Coole and Samantha Frost (Eds.), New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010). However, when new materialists lament the neglected status of any scientific datum, they often compromise a newly found techno-feminist materialism with a mystical panpsychism: panpsychism then becomes a feminist trope which conditions the reality of any materiality.


of reality. At this polarity of thinking embodiment the latter has gained an index of inexplicability that is self-explanatory and axiomatic. But this “unthinkability” of the outside – which seems to be ordering subject construction – is a disguise for the defense of the subject’s arbitrariness (or the particularist notion of gendered agency). Thus, one of the representatives of New Realism, Katerina Kolozova, identifies the following paradox: The limits of subject’s constructedness make manifest an “outside” of that subject, but for postmodernists the outside belongs to the domain of “nonsense” – it deserves no theoretical consideration because it has the status of an “unthinkable real.” The paradox is that the moment postmodernism embraces the “limitlessness” of thought and the subject’s arbitrariness, limitations on thought itself generally and on the thought on the outside particularly are being introduced. And for something like poststructuralism to introduce limitations on thought is as contradictory as not stating that everything is a text. Thus, the defense of arbitrariness transforms into a dogma that precludes the transformative (and thus political) use of any former doctrinal material from, e.g., the history of metaphysics that has been deconstructed. To the extent to which thinking a category such as the Outside or the One becomes occluded, the investigation of “reality” in turn remains in very strict, not to say dogmatic, poststructuralist conditions of being studied. The “limitations to thought” introduced by the dogma of poststructuralism then produces its Outside, but its dogma is so self-insulatory that it prevents itself from even recognizing the process of producing its extraneous disciplinary-discursive opposite, let alone studying it. Simply, the limitations posed by a limitless “play of differences” is the dogma. The assumption that “reality” belongs to the domain of non-sense cannot be questioned if this dogmatism is not addressed in the first place. Kolozova’s paradox explains it, but teleologically so: the no-Outside assumption forecloses any theory of unitary subjectivity; without such a project there is no reason to study social reality. But a unifying tendency in New Realism is precisely to unearth a post-poststructuralist way of such subjectivity and a recovery of scientific truth that is, on the one hand, loyal to, say, the legacy of Laruelle’s science of non-philosophy and is not, on the other hand, gender-blind positivism carrying on explanatory models from natural history, evolutionary psychology, etc. Seen in such a way, poststructuralist and deconstructive thought appear to have constructed its own dogmas, and the positing of dogmaticism cannot avoid the production of a certain Outside. It is thus understandable that, when a realist such as Brassier reads Lyotard, it is difficult to integrate “transcendence” (let alone gender): but the reasons have to do with the annihilation, not the production, of genders and humans. Brassier and others are not undereducated, dismissive of, or uninterested in gender and embodiment. Something has happened to the relevance of embodiment in today’s speculative/cosmological thought that has teraformed the late antique and early patristic rejection of the flesh. The problem from a new realist perspective is that the thinker has come to desire not disembodiment, but 272

something beyond it. The Neoplatonist was happy to bid adieu to enfleshment via a theory of disembodied contact with the Noema. For the new realist, that “beyond” of disembodiment includes its own death. The cultural-religious understanding of embodiment is exploded by the scientific-poetic reading of disembodiment. But what to make of the theoretical libido behind desiring disembodiment? This libido indexes precisely a novel idealization of disembodiment. It is true that there is a residual reflex against poststructuralist particularism and cultural specificity of social reality within New Realisms. But, we have to add, this is now not merely a masculine form of thought. When conjoined with the re-idealization of scientific truth, gender and embodiment are swiftly de-realized. New Realism questions, for example, the particularist notion of (gendered) agency inherent in poststructuralist (feminist) thinking. Making sense of a universalist notion of agency in contemporary speculative thought and New Realisms is, then, on the dissecting table of embodiment. If there is a problem of disciplinary unity in New Realisms, it is the problem of disembodiment: while for someone like Brassier this teleology can accommodate the restoration of an ancient ideal of disembodiment and its translation into a scientific acceleration towards extinction, the said teleology in someone like Kolozova generates a new meaning of embodiment based on a minimal programmatic understanding of embodiment as pertaining to a political finitude, and not a cosmological finality that easily discards embodiment, bypassing embodiment even when it is explicitly singled out (the Lyotard case). While someone like Brassier is not easy on dismissing gender, but dismissing subjectivity altogether with all its genders, because of desiring disembodiment, someone like Kolozova has taken on the path of accounting for the premise that jettisons the question of gendered subjectivity (and thus embodiment) from the reintroduction of a renewed ethos of “scientific truth.” So, there are, it seems, two ways of objecting to the anti-nomothetic ethos of poststructuralism: a scientific image of reality that carries within it the reintroduction of disembodiment, and a political image and modeling of reality that reintroduces and reinterprets embodiment via categories either forlorn or axiomatically banned by poststructuralism. I am tempted to call these two instances – of Brassier and Kolozova – the two ways of New Realism, at least when it comes to embodiment. For these two ways – the one abandons, the other carries forth – speak to two noematic strategies of realism: a philosophical quietism and a philosophical resistance. Since the disciplinary unity of New Realism is still being generated as I write these lines, it is hard to predict which way will prevail, and how the literature will unfold, but it is still possible to see the tendency – namely, what I termed above the mini-cult of extinctionism of the Brassier type that masterfully professes a scientific jump into the nothingness of our future, a project that does not hesitate to install disembodiment as merely the unintended consequence of a scientific form of realism. Scientific pessimism or eliminative nihilism are new realist projects 273

in the sense that they identify the inevitability of disembodiment based on lawbound extinction of the human and all perception. The realist tendency to favor disembodiment is not merely science-based, but it is also libidinal. Scientific extinctionism is something akin to Gnosticism: a scientific religion for intellectuals. My discussion of the problem of disembodiment in feminist philosophy and more particularly in feminist poststructuralism aimed to conceptualize a continental feminist-realist approach to the gendering inherent in the disembodying tendencies in areas of New Realisms and their genealogies that takes into account feminist philosophy critiques of the philosophical canon without automatically accepting their philosophical decisionism collapsed in “embodiment.” These critiques cannot be ineffably grounded on the philosophical sufficiency of the notion of “embodiment.” New realist anti-correlationism synthesized with realist feminist philosophies can offer a compromise between a-subjectivism and subjectivist minimalism. This discussion relies on the pluralization of “realism” from arguments from scientific realism, and I too use “science” in the sense of Laruelle. This is why, again, “New Realisms” in my reading means speculation about the Real grounded on Laruelle’s science of philosophy (non-philosophy) which resists continental anti-realism: a resistance against any philosophically sufficient grounds, including feminist ones. Under this notion, and following Kolozova, superposing a feminist-poststructuralist perspective onto new realist one does not in turn idealize embodiment from social constructivist and antiscientific perspective. It has been already demonstrated that the term can be sustained from both new materialist71 and new realist72 angles, and respectively from arguments from embodiment73 and disembodiment.74 Just as Brassier’s solar death argument reveals that scientific realism is not necessarily a relapse into naïve realism (although it can secondarily become just that), Kolozova’s work demonstrates that the return to realism does not mean the restoring of the metaphysics of presence (but it does not mean the destruction of subjectivity either). Brassier’s transcendental naturalism (of a-subjectivism) and Kolozova’s transcendental minimalism (of subjectivity) are two versions of approaching the problem of disembodiment in continental realism. From New Realisms thus defined, one can account for disembodying and gendering speculation about the correlation between being and thought as the idealization Coole and Frost, New Materialisms. Kolozova, “New Realisms”; Stanimir Panayotov, “Speculum of the Pruning-Scissors. Review of Katerina Kolozova and Eileen A. Joy (Eds.), After the “Speculative Turn”: Realism, Philosophy, and Feminism.” the minnesota review, Issue 88 (2017): 132–8. 73 Rebekah Sheldon, “Form / Matter / Chôra. Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism,” in The Nonhuman Turn, ed. Richard Grusin (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 193–222. 74 Carla Lam, New Reproductive Technologies and Disembodiment: Feminist and Material Resolutions (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015). 71 72


of disembodiment from a scientific (non-philosophical) point of view that collides disembodiment with embodiment on account of extinction, not creation. The proposal for a continental feminist-realist approach to disembodiment reconsiders how to do feminist philosophy in a realist way that will not render it as the particularization of a self-styled universalism, nor will it be rendered as the repetition of a philosophical dualysis, but will accommodate space for addressing the problem of anthropic finitude. Theories of embodiment presently cannot offer any exegesis of humanist perpetuation in the dark horizons of the impending sixth extinction. This is why theories of disembodiment – the proposed approach is just one among many possible – are bound to flourish and propose noematic strategies for facing the realities of embodied extinction of noesis, and not of disembodied poiesis of soma.

References Bensusan, Hilan. “Brassier’s Nihilism, Concepts and Objects.” No Borders Metaphysics (December 13, 2011). Bordo, Susan. “Feminist Skepticism and the ‘Maleness’ of Philosophy.” Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 85, No. 11 (November 1988): 619–29. Brassier, Ray. “Solar Catastrophe: Lyotard, Freud, and the Death-Drive.” Philosophy Today, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 2003): 421–30. — Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Braver, Lee. A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2007. Bryant, Levi R., Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (Eds.). The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Melbourne: re:press, 2011. Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost (Eds.). New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010. Ennis, Paul. Continental Realism. Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2011. — “The Claim that We Are Already Dead.” Unpublished manuscript, previously available at (2014). Galloway, Alexander R. “Assessing the Legacy of that Thing that Happened after Poststructuralism.” Culture and Communication (September 6, 2015). Harman, Graham. The Quadrupule Object. Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2011. Ieven, Bram. “Against an Aesthetics of Noise: An Interview with Ray Brassier.” nY, No. 2 (October 5, 2009). Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman, translated by Gillian G. Gill. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1985. Kolozova, Katerina. “The Figure of the Stranger: A Possibility for Transcendental Minimalism or Radical Subjectivity.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Fall 2011): 59–64.


— Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. — “New Realisms, Materialisms, (Post-)Philosophy and the Possibility for a Feminist Internationalism.” Continental Thought and Theory: A Journal of Intellectual Freedom, Vol. 1, Issue 3 (2017): 673–79. Lam, Carla. New Reproductive Technologies and Disembodiment: Feminist and Material Resolutions. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015. Laruelle, François and Jacques Derrida. “Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy,” translated by Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay. In François Laruelle, The Non-Philosophy Project, edited by Gabriel Alkon and Boris Gunjevic, 76-94. New York: Telos, 2012. Laruelle, François. “Introduction” [to Machines textuelles. Déconstruction et libido d’écriture], translated by Taylor Adkins. Speculative Heresy (September 1, 2013). www. Laruelle, François et al. Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, translated by Taylor Adkins. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Univocal, 2013. Laruelle, François. Principles of Non-Philosophy, translated by Nikola Rubczak and Anthony Paul Smith. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. — “The Generic Orientation of Non-Standard Aesthetics,” translated by Drew S. Burk, Joe Hughes and Christophe Wall-Romana. Performance Philosophy (October 21, 2013). — Introduction to Non-Marxism, translated by Anthony Paul Smith. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Univocal, 2015. Lloyd, Genevieve. The Man of Reason: “Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy. London and New York: Routledge, [1984] 2004. Lyotard, Jean-François.“Can Thought Go On without a Body?,” translated by Bruce Boone and Lee Hildreth. In Materialities of Communication, edited by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer, 286–300. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994. Mackay, Robin (Ed.). Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development, Vol. 2: Speculative Realism. Farnham: Urbanomic, 2007. Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, translated by Ray Brassier. London and New York: Continuum, 2008. Morton, Timothy. “Treating Objects Like Women: Feminist Ontology and the Question of Essence.” In International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism, edited by Greta Gaard, Serpil Opperman and Simon Estok, 56–69. London and New York: Routledge, 2013. Ó Maoilearca, John. “The Animal Line: On the Possibility of a ‘Laruellian’ Non-Human Philosophy.” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 19, No. 2 (2014): 113–129. Panayotov, Stanimir. “Review of François Laruelle, Principles of Non-Philosophy.” Marx and Philosophy Review of Books (June 14, 2016). reviews/8159_principles-of-non-philosophy-review-by-stanimir-panayotov.


— “Speculum of the Pruning-Scissors. Review of Katerina Kolozova and Eileen A. Joy (Eds.), After the “Speculative Turn”: Realism, Philosophy, and Feminism.” the minnesota review, Issue 88 (2017): 132–8. — “Review of Katherine Behar (Ed.), Object-Oriented Feminism.” Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, Vol. 15, No. 1–2 (Summer 2018): 194–202. Rychter, Marcin. “I Am a Nihilist Because I Still Believe in Truth: Interview with Ray Brassier.” Kronos Journal (March 4, 2011).,896. Sheldon, Rebekah. “Form / Matter / Chôra. Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism.” In The Nonhuman Turn, edited by Richard Grusin, 193–222. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. Spelman, Elizabeth V. “Woman as Body: Ancient and Contemporary Views.” Feminist Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring 1982): 109–31. Srnicek, Nick. “François Laruelle, the One and the Non-Philosophical Tradition.” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, No. 22 (2010): 1–9. Trevatt, Tom. 2014. “The Cosmic Address.” (2014). www.academia. edu/3323310/The_Cosmic_Address.


On Reductio Arguments for Realism Blagovest S. Mollov

Employing some form of reductio ad absurdum arguments, for obvious reasons, has always been a preferred argumentative strategy of realist justificatory projects with Global Constructivism having provided an especially easy target for those (starting with Plato’s self-refutation attack against Protagoras’ relativism in Theaetetus). Constructivism and relativism have, however, for less obvious reasons, proven surprisingly resistant and have even apparently managed to thrive, which has prompted some recent reiterations of the same line of criticism.1 Thus, Boghossian’s “objectivism about facts” or the view that: [t]he world which we seek to understand and know about is what it is largely independently of us and our beliefs about it. Even if thinking beings had never existed, the world would still have had many of the properties that it currently has.2

is similarly argued for via the (alleged) demonstration of the incoherence of its denial (Rortyan form of fact-constructivism or “Global Relativism about Facts”). The incoherence is said to follow from the fact that: “any relativistic thesis needs to commit itself to there being at least some absolute truths; yet what a global relativism asserts is that there are no absolute truths”3. According to the traditional objection, Global Fact Relativism faces a dilemma: it can take its assertions to be either absolute truths, which contradicts the (global) relativist thesis (that there are no absolute truths); or relative truths, which undermines the thesis by making it itself relative to a theory (that of relativism) and thus failing to achieve its aim of successfully attacking realism or absolutism about truths. While Boghossian agrees with the objection, he thinks the traditional argument for it is inconclusive since the relativity of relativism to a theory is compatible with the truth of that theory.4 That may be a wrong way to doubt the argument as the same dilemma now seems to face the status of the suggestion that “relativism is true relative to a theory that it pays for us all to accept, relativists and non-relativists alike”5: is the Cf., for example, Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); J. Adam Carter, Metaepistemology and Relativism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Markus Gabriel, “Neutral Realism”, in The Monist 98 (2015): 181–196. 2 Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism, p. 22. 3 Ibid., p. 53 (emphases in the original). 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid., p. 54. 1


suggestion absolutely or relatively true? Actually, Boghossian’s “new” argument against Global Relativism (about Facts) uses the same strategy – it asks about the only type of facts the (global) relativist accepts, “according to a theory, p” (rather than “p”) whether they are absolutely or relatively true. If they obtain absolutely, the (global) relativist thesis that there are no absolute facts would be effectively refuted. The (global) relativists could not evade the problem by claiming that those absolute facts, the only absolute ones there are, are absolute facts about “our beliefs”, or “what different communities accept” for they still be absolute, making relativism incoherent, whereas the “initial” motivation for (global) relativism was precisely that the conception of an absolute fact, of any sort: mental, physical or normative, is incoherent. And then there is the additional issue of explaining why (global) relativists should reckon absolute facts concerning entities such as “mountains and giraffes” as somehow more problematic than absolute facts about what communities believe.6 If, on the other hand, those facts (“according to a theory, p”) obtain only relatively, the (global) relativists would be caught in an infinite regress of successive embedments: according to a theory (according to a theory (according to a theory…, p)) – “But it is absurd to propose that, in order for our utterances to have any prospect of being true, what we must mean by them are infinitary propositions that we could neither express nor understand”7. Both horns of the dilemma lead to unacceptable results. Global relativists would have to acknowledge either that they cannot hold or even formulate their main thesis (that the notion of an absolute fact is incoherent so that no such facts exist) without pre-supposing what it aims to reject (the existence of some absolute facts). Or they would have to go with the equally unattractive alternative of embracing infinitary propositions as the only consistent candidates for truth-bearers.8 Markus Gabriel’s “argument from facticity” (AF) is similarly introduced9 to show that “some sort of realism is inevitable”, a conclusion taken to be “the common denominator of the rejection of overgeneralized constructivism in Paul Boghossian’s Fear of Knowledge, Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, and Maurizio Ferraris’s Manifesto of New Realism”10. Clearly, if the argument is valid and successfully establishes that conclusion (rather than a weaker or a different one), realism would have a reason to consider the justificatory front comprehensively closed and safely move on to more constructive projects. Basically, what the argument claims to demonstrate is that no matter what one’s general ontological or epistemological position is, it unavoidably ends up 8 9

Ibid., pp. 54–5. Ibid., p. 56. Ibid. Markus Gabriel, “Neutral Realism”; see also Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). 10 Markus Gabriel, „Neutral Realism“, p. 185. 6 7


acknowledging some “absolute fact[s]”, i. e., a fact or facts that obtain in complete independence of epistemic subjectivity, where by “fact”, Gabriel understands “anything that is true of something”11. As he notes, that understanding differs from the traditional (Russellian) one in that it makes truth a property of facts, i. e., facts are said to be truth-bearers, not truth-makers, which means that truth is not to be (always) identified with accurate representation of facts.12 On that background, the AF is said to demonstrate that on any account that tries “to sever any given representational system from what it is supposed to represent (with the aim of establishing that the system might be radically isolated from any kind of environment), we will sooner or later assume that the system has immediate access to some stratum of information or other”13 (i. e., to some absolute fact(s)). Thus, even the most extreme anti-realism, solipsism, has to, according to AF, rely on at least one absolute fact (the existence of the solipsistic mind) to be true. Gabriel presents the argument as follows. Let us assume the possibility that we (or one of our “epistemically relevant registries”14) is subject to systematic error. Note that, for him, this scenario would not affect the component of the conventional conception of realism which involves commitment to an unmediated access to reality, i. e., even if we are subject to a global Cartesian hallucination, we would still have an unmediated access to “how things really are” since the imaginary hallucinatory intermediary, “veil”, interface etc. would be a part of reality to which we would have direct access: All that interface scepticism is ever able to show is that we mistake immediate access to the interface with immediate access to something else. It can never show that we do not have immediate access to anything.15

Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology, p.45. Ibid. “Truth in my view rather is the glue holding facts together insofar as there only are facts if something is true of an object.” The view is unconventional indeed and may raise questions: if unlike propositions (and thoughts), facts are facts iff they are true, what can secure the possibility of distinguishing facts from non-facts or how can we know that something is true of an object so that we know that we are dealing with a fact? Saying that a false thought is not a fact, but part of the fact that it is false (ibid., p. 20) may not be enough. Can we properly say, on that view, that there are modal facts, i. e., that something is possibly/necessarily/contingently true of something else? Apparently, we cannot, as Gabriel is explicit in his rejection of the conception of possible worlds, which he proposes to replace with his conception of a plurality of actual worlds, called “fields of sense”, that are conceived of co-existing but not constituting one single world or perspectivally representing a world-in-itself, ibid., chs 10, 11. 13 Ibid., p. 15. 14 “[F]or instance, our sensory equipment, ethical community, religion, consciousness, and so on”, Markus Gabriel , “Neutral Realism”, p. 185. 15 Markus Gabriel, Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology, p. 14. 11



It cannot indeed, if that is what skepticism wants to show, so Gabriel’s point is clear enough: systematically misleading “interfaces” and the experience they generate cannot be excluded from reality, they are facts in themselves and their failure to represent reality (i. e., their being false thoughts or hallucinatory experience) is part of a fact correctly identifying that failure. He illustrates his point through a discussion of an imaginary case in which an expert neuroscientist, Laura, who happens to experience regular hallucinations about St. Mary16. Being the expert neuroscientist she is stipulated to be, Laura knows that she hallucinates (and is an atheist anyway), so she thinks that she interprets her visions of St. Mary correctly, i. e., as hallucinatory states that do not represent reality veridically. According to Gabriel, the case is similar to common cases of perception where we know what we actually observe when we have perceptual experiences phenomenally different from the observed entity – say, a speck in the night sky which we identify as a distant star. Neither of the cases, for him, should be construed as “constituting evidence for interface scepticism rather than for direct openness [to reality]”: skeptical scenarios can show only our epistemic “fallibility” and not the possibility of being completely epistemically isolated from reality. And that, he states, is the “upshot of the argument from facticity”.17 The first step of Gabriel’s AF – assuming, for the sake of argument, the possibility that one of our “epistemically relevant registries” is subject to systematic error – may seem a rather moderate one, since assuming the possibility of the epistemic errancy of only one or two of our “epistemically relevant registries” takes the bite out of the skeptical challenge by leaving room to claim that any partial epistemic deficiency may be compensated by the proper veridical functioning of other registries – in fact, to oversimplify, the way our cognitive capacities can be said to cooperate in the production of “epistemic content”, correcting, complementing etc. each other. Gabriel’s reason for having that apparently moderate assumption instead of a stronger one is that he does not believe in the coherence of the concept of maximally unified human knowledge which can be attacked and/or undermined by skepticism and thus justify the adoption of (epistemological) anti-realism.18 As it stands, the moderate assumption is sufficient to give us a reason to consider adopting local anti-realisms concerning the respective registries whose liability to systematic error we may be ready to concede. Now, says Gabriel, suppose that we may have a reason (again, not that we do have one) to doubt the deliverances of all “epistemically relevant” registries so that we may be inclined to concede more extreme forms of anti-realism, “transcendental idealism or … solipsism”: “In this case we might think that there would be nothing at all if there were no Ibid. Ibid. 18 Ibid., chs 12, 13. For him, “the concept of maximally unified knowledge is the epistemological counterpart to the metaphysical attempt to unify reality” (p. 16) into the concept of “the world” which he also reckons to be incoherent. 16 17


epistemically relevant registry”19. But he does not think that the generalization of the assumed type is possible – “unless we have additional justification for [it]”, we cannot subject “the whole of our theorizing”20 to systematic doubt on account of seemingly having reasons to doubt our epistemic reach in some cases: There will always be a limit to such a generalization due to the fact that we cannot have systematic reservations about any form of theorizing unless we take it to be the case that there is some discourse for which we need to acknowledge at least a potential divergence between our conditions of taking something to be true and truth itself.21

Or, such a generalization is necessarily limited since the supposition of the possibility of a thorough-going generalization would involve the effective undermining of the possibility to distinguish between truth-within-a-theory and truth simpliciter. I. e., if we believe that we have reasons to distrust all our forms of theorizing, there will be no basis for making that distinction, which is incoherent since the distinction is analytically contained in the very idea of that distrust. But then why not abandoning the idiom of epistemic distrust itself as misleadingly committing us to a distinction that cannot be substantiated or even be meaningful? Even the solipsist needs to distinguish between truth and falsehood and to have adequate evidence for truthascription. That evidence in her case can supposedly only be her acceptance of the absoluteness of the fact of solipsism itself, or, as Gabriel has it: that it “would have been a fact, even had no one ever held it to be true”.22 And so, Gabriel concludes, even the most extreme form of anti-realism cannot avoid “some form of realism”, a conclusion (of the AF) he calls “the principle of facticity”.23 Both arguments exhibit the basic structure of a reductio argument: the truth of p (in this case of “some sort of realism”) is established by showing that its alternative ⌐p (global constructivism) entails p (or, in other versions, leads to a (self-)contradiction, falsehood or impossibility, or some other consequence that is considered untenable). Now, there are several ways to resist or deflect the argument. It can be objected that ⌐p is not the real alternative to p, i. e., Boghossian’s Rortyan global relativism or Gabriel’s solipsism may not be reckoned to be the exact opposites of realism. Or that if it is, it is not properly presented either in its full force or form, i. e., it may be claimed that what is used as a premiss ⌐p is intentionally or not, a weakened version of ⌐p or a ⌐p with surreptitiously built-in p-component, that of course predetermines the conclusion to ⌐p’s entailing p but in fact begs the question. Thus, it may be said that Boghossian’s relativist or Gabriel’s solipsist has been illegitimately attributed one or more realist assumptions that they need not accept. Or a critic may 21 22 23 19 20

Markus Gabriel, “Neutral Realism”, p. 185. Emphasis in the original. Ibid., p. 186. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.


directly challenge one or more of the steps in the offered demonstration of how ⌐p actually entails p (or leads to (self-)contradiction, falsehood etc.). Finally, it may be insisted that even if ⌐p can be shown to lead to p (or (self-)contradiction, etc.), the soundness of the reductio cannot, by itself, establish the conclusion that p is true, which allegedly would require separate positive argumentation, i. e., the truth of p would not follow even if all of its known alternatives are shown to presuppose it or lead to untenable consequences (excluding some straightforward cases of x’s either being or not being F that complex philosophical doctrines such as realism and alternatives are patently not). That also may be taken to mean that reductio arguments are of limited explanatory value, for even if they can indirectly establish that p is the case on account of the consequences that assuming ⌐p may be proven to have, they do not explain why p is the case (though that might be a characteristic of other forms of arguments as well). So, all of the three basic components of reductios – (1) (assume) ⌐p; (2) (show that) ⌐p → p (or ┴); (3) (conclude that) p – are exposed to attack (again much like other forms of argumentation) and hence their success may often depend on adequate defence of the step or steps that may have been targeted. Doubtless, what counts as adequate will vary, and thus, in so far as Rortyan global relativism about facts (the only viable form of fact-constructivism, according to Boghossian) can be considered different from solipsism (or the most extreme version of factconstructivism in Gabriel’s AF), the steps of the two arguments may seem to require different kinds of independent support. I. e., it may seem that their respective reasons to think that (1) both views are proper negations of realism; or that (2) they pre-suppose realism (or are incoherent); or that (3) the ways that they pre-suppose realism or are incoherent warrant the conclusion of the truth of realism should differ. That sounds like a needless reminder of the importance of paying attention to the distinction between argumentative validity and soundness, but the difference can also be seen as a reminder of the supposed unclarity of the concept of realism and therefore as evidence for the impossibility of establishing realism via a single general argument. Yet what it shows need be no more than that the concept (and the position it designates) is complex and so can be opposed in more than one mode, and hence, instead of taking it as a reason for doubting the first steps of the arguments, the fact that realism can be shown to follow from the demonstration of the incoherence of its various alternatives gives additional support to the position. Which surely does not exempt the arguments from the task of defending their identification of, respectively, global relativism and solipsism as the relevant alternatives to realism. And therein lies the problematicity of that first step of all reductio arguments, since supposing an alternative that the argument intends to demonstrate as incoherent – i. e., an alternative the arguer does not believe is true – leaves sufficient room for the proponent of the attacked alternative to claim that her position has been mis-reconstructed or not properly purged of hidden alien assumptions that are question-begging in their essential linkage to the position the 283

reductio aims to establish in its conclusion. Having a certain conclusion in view is, the objection may go, determined by the position the arguer is committed to and so inevitably and distortively restricts her conceptual capacity of conceiving an alternative which she presents as ⌐p in the first step of her reductio. In other words, the contention is that, at least within the context of advancing a reductio argument, it is impossible to fairly reconstruct an alternative to the position the arguer is committed to – no matter how honestly she may try to suspend her epistemic and ontological presuppositions, some of these are too deep and too constitutive to identify and suspend; and, in addition, the very conception of an alternative to a given position is inevitably (analytically) restrictive. It is indeed a rather broad objection and, if correct, would seem to affect not only reductios but all polemical contexts, and even non-polemical ones as well (since, arguably, all conceptualizing and reasoning contexts involve conceiving of alternatives and relying on pre-suppositions). But maybe it is worth considering as it (apparently) does affect the two arguments in question in greater extent than the reasoning involved in other contexts, having in mind that both global relativistic constructivism and solipsism are extreme positions that have not been held by any actual thinker and thus especially vulnerable to suspicions of question-begging arbitrariness. Indicatively, the reason the two are so unpopular is not that they are patently incoherent but that it is hard to imagine – given our current epistemological and ontological convictions (and, probably, instincts) – what it would be for either of them to be the case, i. e., what an entirely relativistic or solipsistic possible (impossible) world would be. A reductio argument cannot answer that question since it, definitionally, is not a method for finding out whether things are a certain way: it does not set out to test the hypothesis that the actual world that appears to not be entirely relativistic or solipsistic may be in fact so and it does not try to establish, for some reason, what would an impossible world, a thoroughly relativistic or solipsistic one, would look like if it existed. The only aim of such an argument is to show what the arguer does not doubt in the least, namely, that a thoroughly relativistic or solipsistic world is impossible (not, to repeat, why it is impossible), though that raises the issue of how or whether one can be convinced that things cannot be a way whose precise character is or cannot be determined within one’s current conceptual scheme. Predictably, given that the possible or impossible states of affairs that “global relativist constructivism” or “solipsism” are taken to refer to are not (fully) fathomable, their use as a first step in reductio arguments is inherently challengeable, since any interpretation (on the part of the arguer) of what those worlds may be can be rejected as inaccurate. The objection may not be itself a relativistic thesis – it does not claim that relativistic constructivism or solipsism are properly and only understood from within a certain conceptual scheme as opposed to other schemes that, because of their inherent restrictions, distort or cannot make any sense of the positions. It merely points that the conceptions of entirely relativistic or solipsistic worlds are not and, maybe, cannot be fully understood on any of the current 284

conceptual schemes. But that sounds like a complaint that no description of given impossible worlds we can imagine at our actual one, say, worlds at which one or other physical or metaphysical or logical law does not obtain, can be a complete and/or proper one. Of course, it may be so, but that does not mean that we cannot counterfactually reason about those impossible worlds or can doubt that they are impossible (i. e., that what we currently take to be characteristics of a world that make it impossible are in fact characteristics of our actual world we simply do not know about, due, for example, to some fundamental mistake in our current physical or metaphysical or logical theories). True, that is a possibility, yet we cannot suspend our theorizing as we are capable of it now on account of the existence of such possibilities. Yes, our current theories might be fundamentally wrong but until they are definitively shown to be so and are replaced by an adequate alternative, we have no reason to suspend relying on them, however fallible they may be, in discussing what seem to be alternative impossible worlds. Just the opposite, we have every reason to employ them in that manner, for that is one of the most effective ways to put their conceptual framework to test and the only reasonable point the objection can be viewed as making is that we should be careful not to turn reductio arguments into blunt instruments of suppressive theoretical and conceptual conservatism. And, then, if the objection is accepted, it would be more damaging for those thinkers who may be tempted to adopt any of the two attacked positions, for it would imply that they just do not know what precisely they wish to adopt in verbally adopting global relativistic constructivism or solipsism. Though they too may respond in the same manner contending that they need not fully or properly describe positions the understanding of which is, at the time of their adoption, restricted by our current conceptual schemes. They would still need, however, to show that the adoption of the positions can actually lead to a replacement or relevant changes in those conceptual schemes, which will eventually provide us with the conceptual resources to fully or properly understand the meaning or consequences of the adopted position. We can only wish them luck in that undertaking. Thus, the objection that reductio arguments are necessarily faulty in their very first step because their assumption of ⌐p can never be sufficiently purified of the p-perspective from which ⌐p is (re)constructed can be safely dismissed as there simply is no other available option for the reductio to be devised. That objection should, however, be distinguished from the objection that in particular instances of reductio arguments ⌐p is inaccurately (re)constructed with the conceptual resources we do currently have at our disposal. The latter objection should not be understood as an unrealistic request for giving up the p-perspective but as a demand for strict conformity to conventional standards for non-circular argumentation and as such can be made and assessed on a case-by-case basis. As the second objection concerns the actual practice of constructing reductio arguments, it has no direct bearing on the issue of the potential and validity of reductios in principle, even if it turns out that all known reductios do fail in that respect. 285

And, as it concerns the validity of particular reductios, which is hardly debatable, it needs to be further distinguished from the objection that in certain instances of attempted reductios what is used as a ⌐p in step (1) is (allegedly) an incorrect, in some appropriate sense of incorrectness, (re)construction of the true, in some appropriate sense of “true”, alternative to p, that consequently makes the conclusion to p problematic. To repeat, this is not an objection against the possibility of reductios being sound in principle but against the soundness of particular reductios. For example, Boghossian’s argument has been criticized for his “uncharitable” reconstruction of the relativist constructivist’s position by questionably transforming the relativist “constructivist’s relatively obtaining facts (or “Relatively to S, it is a fact that p”) into relational facts (“It is a fact that relative to S, p”), precisely the construal of the constructivist’s position that lends plausibility to the argument, for if the construal is resisted the constructivist can avoid the dilemma.24 Gabriel too may be said to have misrepresented the solipsist position, since the solipsist may simply reject the distinction between absolute and relative (constructed) facts as meaningful from her perspective. But that objection clearly relies on debatable premisses of what the attacked positions “truly” involve, where the criteria of “truly” in those cases are left unspecified and are themselves debatable anyway, since they are determined by metaphysical pre-suppositions, whose truth has been notoriously impossible to definitively assess. Neither Boghossian, nor Gabriel can be criticized for having constructed their respective arguments from the meta-physical pre-suppositions they have, according to which global relativist constructivism and solipsism are what they present them to be in the arguments. The meta-metaphysical question as to why the truth of metaphysical views is so hard (or, unnecessarily pessimistically, impossible) to assess is surely important but not directly relevant in the context. As far as the two arguments are concerned, the peculiarity of the attacked positions is such that the objection is devoid of any of the force it may have in other cases, leaving aside whether the mentioned possibility of (re)constructing the positions differently could affect the point of the arguments. Broadening the context, the peculiarity of the “⌐p”s in the arguments under discussion can be seen as related to the issue of the nature of impossible or nearimpossible thoughts or propositional contents and their conceivability. While neither global relativist constructivism nor solipsism has been generally considered selfevidently “impossible” – after all, if they had been, there would have been no need of reductio arguments to demonstrate that impossibility (as following from their incoherence) – they have seemed sufficiently impossible to be “recognized” with reductios that are usually employed for positions tacitly taken to be “impossible” to hold. Since it is, to put it mildly, far from clear what “impossible” can refer to or what it means to conceive of, believe or suppose an impossible state-of-affairs, Iris Einheuser, “Review of Fear of Knowledge by Paul Boghossian”, in The Philosophical Review 117, 3 (2008), 451–455.



propositions, or, controversially, entities (the debate over impossible worlds and individuals having only recently started), the reservations some (many) harbour against reductios assuming impossibilities in their first steps is not surprising. If we cannot even make sense of a state-of-affairs or scenario that is reckoned impossible, how can we possibly be expected to demonstrate its impossibility? We cannot say that the assumed “⌐p”s are not impossible in that sense (yet what sense would that be?) for then the respective reductio, whose task is to demonstrate impossibility, would be a contradictory enterprise. It seems that the only way to proceed here is to come up with a theory of the impossible that would allow for its conceivability – probably along the lines skepticism about modality in general has been dealt with. Most of what can be claimed to be problematic with the second component of the reductio, (2) ⌐p → p (or ┴) seems to result from the noted (alleged) problems with (1). I. e., (2) can be rejected for (1)’s (alleged) failure to properly present ⌐p, or for its having presented ⌐p in such a way that it implies p or (or ┴) as a matter of definition. That, again, cannot be thought of as a problem of the reductio arguments in general, unless the critic can offer an argument to the effect that any construction of a ⌐p (in such arguments) necessarily incorporates in ⌐p aspects or elements of p. The problem, if it is a problem, can affect only individual reductios and its identification requires an adequate analysis of the particular case, assuming that an analysis of the kind can ever be adequate for reductios of impossibilities (for the mentioned reasons which, if invoked, would also need independent argumentation). The other problem that (2) may be viewed to have is related to the questioned legitimacy of applying conventional rules or principles of reasoning in the analysis of the impossible world that has been assumed to reach the conclusion as to its entailment of p or incoherence. Bizarre as it may sound, it has been recognized as a serious problem for any type of the so-called “extended modal realism” (or modal realism – admittedly, itself a bizarre doctrine – that accepts the full ontological reality of impossible worlds). In a well-known objection to the extension of the modal realism he originated, Lewis contended that the admittance of impossible worlds in one’s ontology would result in a concession of the reality of true contradictions at the actual world25. Which prompted the following dialetheist answer by the major proponent of extended modal realism, Takashi Yagisawa: That [Lewis’s objection] is indeed a good reason for the conclusion that you cannot tell the truth about anything possible by contradicting yourself. But it is hardly a good reason against impossibilia. Why can you not tell the truth about an impossible thing by contradicting yourself? It seems that you have to contradict yourself to tell the truth about impossible thing. What else would we expect? Impossible things are impossible!26 David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds (Basil Blackwell: Oxford, 1986), p.7, fn. 3. Takashi Yagisawa, ‘Beyond Possible Worlds’, in Philosophical Studies 53 (1988): 203.

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In our case, it also seems natural to ask or directly doubt whether ⌐p → p (or ┴) should be established through the means of classical logic and the general rules of reasoning it underlies. Yet, the analogy should be resisted for, firstly, assuming an impossible world (or an impossible way actual things might be) need not commit the arguer to believing in the genuine reality of that world (as Lewis and Yagisawa themselves agree, the problem does not arise for extended ersatzisms27) and secondly, the impossible worlds assumed are not such as to require alternative logic to be accounted for: neither global relativist constructivism nor solipsism are such that we need to contradict ourselves (or violate some other logic-sanctioned principle of reasoning) to be able to describe or say anything about them. So, it is rather unclear what the objector might mean in doubting the applicability of conventional inference rules in our discussion of impossibilities. Could she mean that some other rules that our current conceptual scheme obeys would have to be given up? If yes, which ones? What would we have to abandon or change in that conceptual scheme to make our account of global relativist constructivism or solipsism more accurate, in a sense of “accurate” that needs to be specified as well? If the suggested changes do not concern classical logical rules and their application in conceptual analyses (and I do not see how they can or why they should in those two cases), the objection would become a trivial request for modifying the content of certain concepts that the objector believes should be modified. But that too would be difficult to view as directly affecting the two arguments, since the conceptions of relativist constructivism and solipsism that are used in its step (2) seem minimally assumptive and unobjectionable enough to not require modifications. The two positions are taken as committed to the thesis that there are no absolute (mind-independent) facts and then shown to presuppose at least one such fact (the existence of the solipsist) or to either recognize the existence of absolute truths (as absolute facts) and thus self-refute or end up with an unintelligible epistemic infinite regress. I cannot think of any changes in the employed conceptions of solipsism and global relativist constructivism that could put into question the soundness of the “⌐p → p (or ┴)” step here. (One can, perhaps, speculate of whether the existence of the solipsist is actually an absolute, mindindependent fact rather that a kind of originary self-positing act of pure thought or that the infinite regress is actually intelligible and acceptable (or that we do not really have an infinite regress if we take certain truths about the relative nature of 27

Cf. David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, p. 7: “If worlds were like stories or story-tellers, there would indeed be room for worlds according to which contradictions are true. The sad truth about the prevarications of these worlds would not itself be contradictory.” Non-restricting modifiers (such as “According to some w story” or “Fred says that”) would block the argument because they affect truth-functional connectives as they do not pass through the latter, i. e., “according to some w story/Fred says that ⌐ A” would differ from ⌐ (according to some w story/Fred says that A)”.


truths to be relative) or that the recognition of the absoluteness of some relative truths does not result in contradiction, on some appropriate construal of “absolute” and/or “relative”, but if such changes in conventional philosophical semantics are suggested, they need to be properly argued and made sense of, a formidable task of unclear motivation and gains.) A seemingly more promising line of attack against the soundness of the reductio is to challenge the conclusion that (2) ⌐p → p (or ┴) actually implies (3) p, for there appears to be a sizeable gap between showing that a certain assumed position is incoherent (leads to contradiction or absurdity or pre-supposes its opposite) and claiming to therefrom have established the truth of its apparent opposite. A general question would be why, if the conclusion to the truth of p requires, as it apparently does, additional independent steps, some of which would in our case be of contentious (meta-)metaphysical character, we need the reductio in the first place? This also seem to be an objection related to the problematicity one may find in the initial definitions of p and ⌐p, for if it is believed that there are only two options within a given debate, the incoherence of either of them would automatically establish the truth of the other. That is, the arguer could be accused of committing the fallacy of false dilemma (ignoring possible alternatives or alternatives along the spectrum between the two extremes). Thus, most obviously, a reductio argument for realism of the considered kind can be rejected because the incoherence of global relativist constructivism or solipsism does not and cannot show that local anti-realisms are not tenable positions to adopt. The objection, however, may seem to miss the point of the reductio, which, as I see it, is that the same refutation procedure could be applied to local anti-realisms as well (for the respective domains they may claim would contain no mind-independent facts or truths). The critic would probably be not contented with that response, for she could claim that, firstly, she has not been presented with such arguments against local anti-realisms, and, more importantly, that the reductio she is presented with attacks the view that there are no absolute (mind-independent) facts/truths whatsoever and that is not a thesis any local anti-realism endorses – just the opposite, its being selfdefined as “local” is precisely a commitment to the view that there are both absolute and non-absolute facts/truths. The question of whether that holds for any domain, i. e., whether an anti-realistly interpreted domain is one that excludes all absolute facts is largely a definitional matter though of key importance for the issue at hand. Thus, to take as an example probably the most researched area in the debate, moral anti-realism is usually understood as claiming that all moral facts or properties etc. do not have a mind-independent reality, which is not the same as claiming that they are not real. They are but are so as constructed or relative to a moral code or doctrine etc., so, it can be said, that the fact of their reality (as constructed) is absolute, as are the facts of the existence of the moral agents who construct them according to a real moral code/doctrine etc. So, it seems, the distinction between constructed and absolute facts can be drawn differently or on different levels: it 289

may be said that a relativized fact is absolute from the given relativized perspective but is relative outside of the perspective, i. e., would be an absolute fact about the relativity of the fact that the relativized perspective takes to be absolute. If the picture looks similar to the one Boghossian sketches in his argument, it is because it is similar and the moral anti-realist can be forced to acknowledge that she is facing the same dilemma Boghossian’s global relativist constructivist faces: either self-refutation, or infinite regress (since the outside of a perspective is an inside of another perspective and so on). That, however, does not answer the general objection against (3). If a local anti-realist accepts the existence of some absolute facts among non-absolute ones in her respective anti-realistly interpreted domain – as most local anti-realists would probably readily do, since that would be a minor concession that does not really threaten their anti-realism – her position would become extremely resistant to reductios of the discussed type. For demonstrating that extreme anti-realism is incoherent, i. e., that the existence of one or more absolute facts/ truths is unavoidable, would not be enough to show that all forms of anti-realism are incoherent (certainly not local ones that are conceptually committed to the existence of both absolute and mind-dependent facts/truths anyway). Eradicating anti-realism completely would seem to require a demonstration that no facts/truths are mind-dependent, which, at least on the face of it, appears to be as absurd as trying to show that all facts are mind-dependent – an extreme form of realism that if suggested, may prompt someone to come up with a similarly structured reductio against it. But that objection, I think, misinterprets the conclusions of the two arguments under consideration: they are not arguments for global realism. What they or any reductio attempt to show is that the negation of a given position, in this case, that there are some absolute facts (though Gabriel does not specify what they are – hence the “neutrality” of his realism28 and Boghossian, somewhat assumptively29, takes those to be primarily and epistemically privilegedly established by science is false). There is no unwarranted epistemic “leap of inference” from the demonstration of the incoherence of global anti-realism to the assertion of the truth of global realism. Both arguments, it seems, are content with showing the ineliminability of a realist component (if not core) in any anti-realist position one can adopt. Whatever one might think of the significance of that conclusion, the reductios do not and should not, as they cannot, establish anything else or more (i. e., the establishment of the necessity of there existing some absolute facts cannot establish the correctness of realism in general, unless the latter is defined as essentially involving just that – the reality of some absolute facts). Markus Gabriel, “Neutral Realism”, p. 188. Cf. Graham Harman, “Fear of Reality: On Realism and Infra-Realism”, in The Monist 98, 2 (2015): 135ff.

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That may help dissolve the apparent puzzle of how the incoherence of ⌐p could be taken to show that p (the mentioned gap between showing that something cannot be the case to asserting that its opposite is the case) – if for a given state of affairs either p or ⌐p is assumed to hold (where these are the exhaustive options that can hold for the state of affairs), then the demonstration that ⌐p implies p or is incoherent would be enough to conclude that p holds (with no need to give independent reasons for asserting that p holds). The objection that the presented options are not exhaustive is avoided by the restriction of ⌐p to being only a negation of p (“there are no absolute facts” – “there are some absolute facts”), so that the exhaustiveness is guaranteed by the classical laws of non-contradiction and the excluded middle (in this case, there is no other way to negate “there are some absolute facts” and the two options cannot both hold simultaneously). Another skeptical question that, however eccentric in most cases, can be asked concerns the possibility of p being equally incoherent when subjected to a similar scrutiny, a possibility that reductios do not examine. They do not indeed, but they do not need to if the options they deal with are truly exhaustive – it would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which both p and ⌐p can be shown, for different reasons, to be incoherent (implying each other or leading to contradiction or absurdity) even if it, somehow, does not violate the laws of the excluded middle and non-contradiction. If a scenario of the kind is, somehow, conjectured, it (most probably) would involve a conceptual incoherence at some level, which (most probably) would be revealed on closer inspection. Which leads us to a different doubt a skeptic may have about reductio arguments in general. She may find it hard to comprehend what precisely can distinguish that type of argument from the generic form of argumentation against a given position, i. e., any argument from consequences (of modus tollens form). Clearly, reductios proceed via demonstration of the unacceptability of the consequences of the attacked position, so an easy response would be that they are a special case of argumentation from (negative) consequences and what makes it special is the character of the consequences they expose, in the strictest sense of the reductio, a self-contradiction. That response should suffice as the skeptic’s having difficulty to distinguish reductio ad absurdum arguments from arguments from consequences can be attributed to her use of a wider (looser) conception of the former30, on which the negative consequences warranting the rejection of a given position are taken to also include falsehoods, or unacceptable conclusions (where the reasons for the ascription of unacceptability vary – the respective consequences can be seen as meaningless, or unintelligible, or implausible, or incompatible with broader theoretical commitments etc.). To be sure, the skeptic is not concerned 30

For a discussion of the distinction cf., for example, Gilbert Ryle, Philosophical Arguments (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945); p. 6; Kneale & Kneale, The Development of Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962): 9ff.


with definitional or classificatory subtleties for their own sake, her interest here is motivated by the possibility to question the soundness of reductios in both senses the latter can be given. Thus, she can point to the contestability of the criteria for unacceptability (on the loose definition of reductios) as well as to the contestability of the content of the concepts that are employed in the premisses to allegedly lead to self-contradiction (on the strict definition) as providing sufficient grounds to resist the claim that reductios’ conclusions are unassailable. She is not saying that they are formally invalid, but that there is always room for doubting their soundness, i. e., the truth of their premisses, since the derivation of the contradiction depends on how the arguer interprets the conceptual referents of p and ⌐p, which is a metaphysical rather than logical matter. Again, the response that should suffice is that while one can agree that there is indeed room for doubt in principle, the objection requires evaluation on a case-by-case basis. Finally, a skeptic may also wonder as what the point of producing reductios can be, given the number and character of the areas at which they can be viewed as exposed to attack and their limitations as indirect form of argumentation (mainly, their inability to definitively establish their conclusion). Well, in some (many?) cases the attacks are unfounded and reductios do establish their conclusions soundly (the discussed arguments against global anti-realism are, I think, just such cases). The possibility of having cases in which reductios can be found deficient on one or several of the mentioned accounts cannot be a reason to discontinue their use anymore than similar possibilities regarding other forms of argumentation, actually, all forms of valid argumentation, can be a reason to stop arguing at all. Unless we are presented with a demonstration to the effect that reductios are constitutionally flawed form of argumentation in principle and hence can never lead to true conclusions, the skeptic does not seem to have a case here. As is the case of any form of valid argumentation, in those instances where reductios are indeed problematic, whatever problematicity they may exhibit does not result from some intrinsic characteristics of theirs that make them especially conducive to being misused but from arguers’ errors. And as is the case with any form of reasoning, the significance of skeptic’s role in – indirectly – pointing to ways in which our proneness to error could be minimized should be duly recognized.

References Boghossian, Paul A. Fear of Knowledge. Against Relativism and Constructivism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Carter, J. Adam. Metaepistemology and Relativism. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Einheuser, Iris. “Review of Fear of Knowledge by Paul Boghossian”. The Philosophical Review 117, 3 (2008), 451–455.


Gabriel, Markus. “Neutral Realism”. The Monist 98, 2 (2015), 181–196. — Fields of Sense. A New Realist Ontology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Harman, Graham. “Fear of Reality: On Realism and Infra-Realism”. The Monist 98, 2 (2015), 126–144. Kneale, W. & M. Kneale. The Development of Logic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962. Lee, J. M. „The Form of a Reductio ad Absurdum“. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 14 (1973), 381–86. Lewis, David. On the Plurality of Worlds. Basil Blackwell: Oxford, 1986. Ryle, Gilbert. Philosophical Arguments. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945. Yagisawa, Takashi. ‘Beyond Possible Worlds’. Philosophical Studies 53 (1988), 175–204.


New Realism Problems and Perspectives Bulgarian First edition Edited by Alexander Kanev St. Kliment Ohridski University Press