A big part of Quentin Meillaisoux’s philosophy is based on the question of science and its capacity to think the ancestral. Correlationism (post Kantian support for an inherent nothingness to objects) is unable to cope, according to Meillaisoux with ancestral statements, or events that are older than any consciousness. Ancestrality refers to a world prior to givenness.
In Lacan’s Science and Truth 1956 essay, the same year that his seminar on the psychoses was delivered, there is a continuation on the theme of the subject that was taken up in the Subversion of the Subject lecture. What might the relationship between the ancestral and Lacan’s subject of science look like? To understand this, let me go into a bit more about Meillaisoux’s exceedingly complicated and lucid argument about the ancestral and his attack on correlationism.
Meillaisoux seeks to show that the post-Kantians (idealists) who sought to absolutize the correlate itself have gone too far. Kant’s first critique was revolutionary precisely because it dealt with the conditions under which modern science is thinkable, that is the conditions of the Copernican revolution. This post critical turn made the paradox of modern philosophy is how science became promoted over philosophy as a gurantor of knowledge. When philosophy started to think scientific knowledge, it lost its speculative character. It lost the ability to think the object in-itself. Why didn’t philosophy create a speculative realist standpoint, but philosophy remained under the question: ‘how is thought able to think what there can be when there is no thought?’ (AF, 196).
What Meillaisoux seeks to do is show that it is not the correlation, but the facticity of the correlation that constitutes the absolute. Thought experiences its knowledge through facticity, far from experiencing limits in facticity. In facticity it is the unveiling of the in-itself – “in knowing that we only know contingent facts, we know that it is necessary that there only be contingent facts” (AF, 52).
His conclusion is, following the After Finitude essay, that “I think an X independent of any thinking, and I know it for sure, thanks to the correlationist himself and this fight against the absolute, the idealist absolute (SR). Mellaisoux seeks to show that the post-Kantians (idealists) who sought to absolutize the correlate itself have gone too far. What Mellaisoux seeks to do is show that it is not the correlation, but the facticity of the correlation that constitutes the absolute. Thought experiences its knowledge through facticity, far from experiencing limits in facticity. In facticity it is the unveiling of the in-itself – “in knowing that we only know contingent facts, we know that it is necessary that there only be contingent facts” (AF, 52).
Although Meillaisoux argues ‘what is mathematically conceivable is absolutely possible’ — his anti-phenomenological return to things in themselves is the idea that we can think reality outside of thought itself.
It is this notion of ‘thinking thought outside of itself’ that immediately strikes one as problematic for the unconscious of psychoanalysis. But in Science and Truth, for which I will focus these comments, Lacan remarks that “science’s man does not exist, only its subject does” – and since science has no memory, only the structural correlates of the subject are what is important (E, 730). Not to mention that the very idea of a thought prior to consciousness.
The premise of ancestrality is that which is un-witnessed is un-thinkable. Husserl argued that a cube is never perceived according to all its faces, it always contains something non-given at the heart of its givenness. Consequently, it is reasonable to experience the non witnessizable from everyday perception. All you need to do is insert a counterfactual. To think science is to think the status of a becoming which cannot be correlational because the correlate is in it, rather than it being in the correlate.
Is the thinking of science related to truth in the capital T sense?
For lacan, science does not want to know anything about the truth as cause. Psychoanalysis brings, through Name-of-the-Father, truth back into scientific examination. Here we find that the cause is material, involving the impact of the signifier, mainly the phallus as the object that is unable to represent the Other’s biological sign.
The cogito establishes the moment of definition of the subject of science, where “the subject of the cogito is a subject related to knowledge.” The subject of science has developed that most horrific version of itself in 20th century ‘Game theory’ model, which sees the subject as circling around a series of signifying functions (E, 730). Game theory takes advantage of a subject that is reduced to the signifying combinations.
Since science is founded by the deadlock that ensues by suturing the subject. The subject is internally excluded from its object (E, 731). There is something unelucidated in science’s object since its birth in the seventeenth century. The object of psychoanalysis is object a. This chaotic, violent object is what divides the subject between truth and knowledge.
“Where it was, there must I come to be as a subject” (734).
Truth is grounded only in the fact that truth speaks, and it has no other means by which to become grounded. The lack about truth is a form of primal repression – do we have to give up the notion that every body of knowledge corresponds to a truth? We have nothing to join knowledge and truth together but the subject of science (E, 737).
If it is only the subject of the symbolic, of the signifiers that is the subject of science, then to think the subject that came before consciousness would be to locate that subject on the plain of the symbolic from the real. In other words, the subject of science would only access the ancestral in the same way that magic involves the truth as cause in its guise as efficient cause (E, 740). In other words, one of the conditions of magic is that its truth be veiled for the subject of science – this is one of its conditions. So does this make Lacan a weak correlationist – what thought can do anything except think the unthinkable?
Let’s remember that the very notion of the unconscious, and foreclosure, negation, and repression that structure the unconscious are discarded from Meillaisoux’s concern. And in some ways the fact that Mellaisoux contends that it is possible for objects to change for no reason what so ever without having to modify our relation to everyday things (137) – he is positing an ex nihilo alteration to objects. It is here that we see a materialism that is hyper-real, but that is not based on an inherent misrecognition in the ontological makeup of reality, a point that Zizek wagers against Meillaisoux as well.
More of this Hegelian take on Mellaisoux will commence in my next post. Thanks for reading!
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