This year I shall teach a VU course on Speculative Realism. Speculative Realism is a growing and fascinating movement within contemporary philosophy. The course has the form of a seminar. Below I provide a short outline of its contents. Those interested in attending can contact me for further information.
Post-Kantian critical philosophy has focused almost exclusively on discourse and consciousness as what constitutes reality. Reality appeared only as the correlate of language or thought. Yet, in recent years one can detect a new development within philosophical thought. By contrast with the focus of post-Kantian critical philosophy on discourse and consciousness, a number of philosophers within the existential and phenomenological tradition turned again towards reality in itself. This movement is known as Speculative Realism.
The adjective speculative might suggest a return to pre-Kantian dogmatic philosophy. This is however not the case. Speculative realist thinkers purport to think reality in itself again, without falling back to pre-critical unreflective thought.
Speculative realists share a strong resistance to post-Kantian philosophies of human finitude. They reject the Kantian idea that we only have access to the correlation or interplay between thinking and being, and never to one of them considered apart from the other.
Further, these thinkers want to overcome the Kantian presumption that our human access to reality is somehow privileged. The target of philosophical reflection is thus shifted away again from the thought-world correlate.
Apart from these commonalities, there are important differences between leading speculative realists. Core members within speculative realism are Quentin Meillassoux (defending speculative materialism), Graham Harman and Levy Bryant (defending object oriented ontology), and Tristan Garcia (defending a flat ontology).
The objective of the seminar is to gain clear insight into the various positions within speculative realism and to be able to critically assess and compare these views. We shall explore together a number of fundamental texts that are generally considered to be representative of speculative realist thought and which founded the school of speculative realism. Participants are expected to actively participate by contributing to the discussion and giving a talk.
Literature includes (but is not limited to) selected chapters from After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency by Quentin Meillassoux; 'The Current State of Speculative Realism’ in Speculations, ‘Meillassoux’s Virtual Future’ in Continent, and ‘The Road to Objects’ in Continent by Graham Harman; selected essays from The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman; and selected chapters from Form and Object: A Treatise on Things by Tristan Garcia.