Levi answers before I can

July 4, 2009

Critical Animal put up a “10 Questions for the Speculative Realists” post. I was going to try to answer it later, but LEVI ANSWERED IT PERFECTLY WELL BEFORE I COULD GET AROUND TO IT.

I agree with almost all of what Levi said.

Working from memory, Meillassoux should probably be called a “speculative materialist” (his own term) rather than just a “materialist.” The latter term can mean all sorts of things, and I happen to think Meillassoux is not remotely a materialist in the normal sense of the word.

I’m also less sympathetic to Foucault than Levi is. For me, the admirable Foucault is the Foucault of the interviews, where he seems so lively and open-minded. In his books, I find him to be not as good a philosopher as the best philosophers and not as good a historian as the best historians. I also fear that people often like him because they agree with his conclusions, which in fact is not one of the best reasons to like a philosopher. That’s treating a philosopher like a useful screwdriver or hammer instead of as a philosopher: “He advances my political agenda.”

While noting Foucault’s shortcomings, Levi defends him as follows: “In [Foucault’s] practice, by contrast, we see him discussing all sorts of assemblages that include human and nonhuman actors. This is what renders a Foucaultian object-oriented philosophy possible.”

The reason this cuts no ice with me is because Foucault doesn’t let the nonhuman actors act on each other. The nonhuman actors in his books always do nothing more than historicize the human subject. The human subject and its transmutations always remain at the center of the story. For this reason I instinctively never cared for him all that much. (But again, I genuinely love the interviews. There, he seems like the ultimate philosophical conversationalist.)

But… Critical Animal may be curious to know… I’m probably more on board with one particular political agenda than all the other speculative realists combined– animals. I stopped eating them when I was 7 years old, and I will not eat another. Where to go from there, I’ve never been sure.

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