The Death of Thought

Giorgio Cesarale, “The ‘Not’ of Speculative Realism,” Mute 19 February 2014

… This is the very same paradox contained in the thought of death: if our physical and psychological annihilation were conceived as the correlate of an act of thought, we would, once again, transform nothingness into being, and we would prevent ourselves from thinking our nothingness. In order to think death, in other words, we have to think, chiastically, the death of thought. … Meillassoux’s discourse is probably one of the most extreme forms of nihilism in contemporary thought. Nihilism, in fact, does not simply amount to the affirmation that existence is worthless. Nor, as Brassier argues, does it have a special relation to disenchantment, to the awareness that reality is something indifferent to our existence. More radically, nihilism is a conception according to which any being ‘is’ in so far as it comes from nothingness and ends as nothingness. This also means that any conception of being as destined to nothingness is nihilistic. We can therefore conclude that the philosophy of Meillassoux perfectly corresponds to the instance of nihilism, as it is based on a principle — the principle of factiality — according to which only contingency is not contingent, only factuality is not contingent.

… One of the premises of our analysis was to locate Meillassoux, Brassier and Harman under the rubric of ‘nihilism’. To recall the introduction to the article, it is ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ to affirm that a philosophical proposal that claims to be ‘realist’ can be rooted in nihilism. But the concept of nihilism we have taken into account is the Heideggerean one, which we believe has a much more radical meaning than the usual one, since it affirms nothingness as the primary horizon of being. In this precise sense, all the three thinkers we have just examined can be called ‘nihilist’. Meillassoux in fact thinks facticity as what comes from nothing and can return to nothing; Brassier on the other hand conceives being-nothing as what determines being, although it is undeterminable and undecidable; and lastly Harman bets on the possibility of renewing the comprehension of the object-world through the introduction of a concept of the ‘real object’ which is, by definition, withdrawn from access. However, as we tried to argue, it is hard to preserve the radical character of negativity without ‘compromising’ it every time with its opposite. If, in fact, Meillassoux and Brassier ultimately conflate negativity with being, Harman does not succeed in rendering negativity capable of directly structuring ontology. However, what probably needs to be analysed more attentively is their primary philosophical gesture, namely, the violent exclusion of negativity from the field of being. …

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