Speculative Realism book series

February 15, 2011

I’m pleased to announce that Edinburgh University Press is launching a book series in speculative realism (my own book on Meillassoux will be the first in the series). We invite proposals from all wings of speculative realism, and even proposals that are critical of the movement. Interdisciplinary works are especially encouraged. Proposals will be considered by a Series Editorial Board, already constituted.

I’m also pleased to note that all books in the series will be released simultaneously in paperback as well as hardcover, so there won’t be any $100 books that tantalize impoverished graduate students while remaining financially out of reach.

Now, what counts as speculative realism for the purposes of this series? There may be borderline cases that the Editorial Board will have to weigh carefully. But despite the loose, umbrella-term character of the phrase “speculative realism,” its meaning is relatively clear. Let’s consider both words, beginning with the latter.

REALISM

As Lee Braver’s EXCELLENT BOOK makes clear, continental philosophy has been almost entirely anti-realist in character. (Until the 21st century, that is.) Not that continental philosophers were outright idealists: far from it. The tendency in continental thought was always to dismiss realism vs. idealism as a “pseudo-problem,” a strategy pioneered by phenomenology and solidified by Heidegger and his heirs.

Hence the importance of Meillassoux’s term “correlationism,” coined in 2003 or 2004 but first published in 2006. (My own “philosophy of access” in the 2002 Tool-Being was similar, but not as concise or to the point.) To say that we can neither think of human without world nor world without human, but only of a primal correlation between the two, is a false third option that amounts to a shifty form of idealism, or as I have called it elsewhere: “idealism with a realist alibi.”

Speculative realism is a realism insofar as it rejects the correlationist subterfuge that has tainted almost all continental philosophy. The various speculative realist thinkers often have different intellectual motives for refusing correlationism, but refuse it they do, in the name of a philosophy that addresses reality itself. This is true even for those brands of speculative realism, such as my own, which hold that there are permanent constraints on our capacity to know the real.

SPECULATIVE

Realism in philosophy has often taken the form of a stuffy, middle-aged doctrine insisting that hands and billiard balls exist objectively outside the mind. The model of reality presented by such realisms is often of a boring and absolutist-sounding character, hostile to supposed flights of imaginative fancy, and I think this is part of the reason why many people instinctively resist realism.

Speculative realism is a speculative philosophy insofar as it generates models of reality that are notably weird. There is a real world, but it is strange enough to be barely detectable by the instruments of common sense. Read any of the works by any of the original speculative realist group, and you will find that all of us have drawn rather paradoxical conclusions about the structure of reality.

SPECULATIVE REALISM

Within these basic parameters (realisms flying far from common sense), speculative realism has always been a big tent indeed. Most philosophical movements can be defined by some shared credo or joint intellectual hero championed by all its members. But in the case of speculative realism, the only shared doctrine is a rejection of correlationism (and even this is a loose link, since Meillassoux admires correlationism more than the rest of us do). And as for shared heroes, you’ll have a hard time finding them: for example, phenomenology is the very pillar of my work, but is despised by some of the other speculative realists. Indeed, the only author admired by all four members of the original group is not a philosopher at all: the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.

PROPOSALS

Write to me first at gharman@aucegypt.edu to receive a copy of EUP’s book proposal guidelines. Proposals that look roughly suitable according to the series mandate will then be considered by several members of the Series Editorial Board.

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