Posted by: Johan Normark | December 12, 2012

2012: The correlationist circle that feeds the 2012-phenomenon

I do not primarily see the 2012-phenomenon as an aspect of a new religion. There are too many “non-religious” aspects that make me hesitant to label it as such. I see it as an apocalyptic fantasy and even though the very term “apocalypse” has religious connotation, there are also secular apocalyptic fantasies. In two recently finished articles I see the 2012-phenomenon as a hyperobject as well.

In this post I will lay out some of the ideas developed by the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux in his speculative materialism. This post should therefore be seen in relation to the previous post on the supposed “scientific materialism” discussed by various fringe theorists. My coverage of Meillassoux’s provocative and quite bizarre ontology needs at least two or three posts. In this post I shall begin with the part of his ontology that is the least controversial, i.e. his definition of correlationism. I have primarily utilized Graham Harman’s book on Meillassoux in this and the following posts.

Correlationism disqualifies the claim that the realms of subjectivity and objectivity can be considered independently of one another. Thinking and being are always correlated, they are never considered separately. This position, in-between absolute idealism and naïve realism, emerged with Kant. Kant argues that judgments arise from a priori categories. Mind is what creates the relation between events and objects. Kant replaced God with the human as the only omnipotent object that can define the world.

Kant’s position has two major implications. First of all, human knowledge has a basic finitude. We cannot understand things-in-themselves. We can only reflect on the transcendental condition of our access to the world. Kant’s position is a Weak Correlationist one. He at least allows us to think the objects. The Strong Correlationist position, popular today in Postmodernist circles, is that it is illegitimate to know the in-itself and that we can think it. For this position it is unthinkable that the unthinkable is impossible. Instead, Meillassoux attempts to show that absolute knowledge is possible despite the claims of Kant, Husserl and Heidegger.

However, Mellassoux fully accepts Kant’s second implication which is Kant’s critique of dogmatic metaphysics. That is, if one tries to think something beyond thought, this is a contradiction because one has already turned it into a thought. This correlationist circle implies that since we are thinking of a mind-independent reality it cannot be mind-independent at all. Meillassoux notes that it is Fichte rather than Kant who formulated the correlationist circle).                 

Meillassoux links the correlationist circle with fideism, skepticism, fanaticisim and creationism (and I also link this to the 2012-phenomenon). Even atheism is reduced to a mere belief. Interestingly Meillassoux sees fanaticism as the very product of Western critical reason because correlationism erased dogmatism in philosophy, and therefore philosophy lacks the capacity to distinguish itself from fanaticism. The 2012-phenomenon flourishes under the protection of postmodern relativism that is obsessed by respecting various epistemological limits and human finitude. Here I agree with Meillassoux and I find little sympathy for attempts that try to understand the 2012-phenomenon on other grounds than its subjective and religious positions.

However, Meillassoux is sympathetic with the correlationist position but it must be radicalized from within and it should not be dismissed from the outside. Meillassoux’s strategy is to radicalize Kant’s own argument and he suggests that any sort of totalization is a priori impossible. In order to escape the correlationist circle Meillassoux suggests that we take seriously the possibility that there is nothing living or willing in the inorganic realm. This anti-correlationist standpoint leads to a radical eliminativism where “matter” is entirely impassive, where there are no active forces, so that it cannot be affected by thought. Sensation and perception are downgraded or abolished since these imply interaction between observer and observed. Hence, Meillassoux eliminates meaning, the part so crucial for 2012ers. To be continued…

Harman, Graham  (2011). Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making. Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh.

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  1. Hi Dr Normark.
    The word apocalypse is a Greek word, meaning uncover.
    The four horseman in revelations, were the Jewish missionaries traveling to the Jewish diaspora on horses, revealing, uncovering teachings to the Jewish people.
    They use to tie a colored flag, or cloth to the horses tails, to match the seasons, summer, winter, fall, spring.
    When they arrived in town, they took the cloth from the horse, and tied to the back of their chair.

  2. I am primarily using “apocalypse” in the sense of “the end of an era”.

  3. The UFO:s are gathering at Pic de Bugarach:

    Little like the movie “Close Encounters of the third Kind”

  4. […] Meillassoux sees the doctrine of necessary entities as a dogma that underlies both classical metaphysics and rationalism, theism and atheism, Mayanism and Mayanist studies. He sets out to undermine this doctrine and in order to do this he wants to uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstall an absolute necessary entity (such as God, laws of nature or the subject-object correlate). Therefore Meillassoux attempts to develop an absolute knowledge where the things-in-themselves exist without reason and that they also can change at any time for no reason at all. This part is much more controversial than my previous post on Meillassoux. […]

  5. […] outlined in the past posts is something you should take a look at. The previous posts can be found here, here, and […]

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