dinsdag 7 april 2015

Meillassoux on mathematics and the absolute

In his After Finitude Quentin Meillassoux aims to project unreason into the things themselves. He aims to establish that the ultimate truth about reality is that there are no reasons, no causes, no grounds and no explanations for anything. Everything exists or happens for no reason whatsoever. The absolute is pure hyperchaos. Moreover, he holds that mathematics is the proper language to describe reality as hyperchaos. But why would he think so? Isn't mathematics the science par excellence about the realm of a priori necessary truths? So, if reality is radically contingent, how then could mathematics be the proper science to describe it? As Meillassoux conceeds in After Finitude, he has indeed not yet convincingly deduced his Badiouian claim about mathematics as the true metaphysics of reality.

Now, in a paper of Peter Hallward entitled Anything is Possible: A Reading of Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude we find a quite interesting passage about Meillassoux's quest for establishing mathematics as the language of the absolute: "Meillassoux admits that he has not worked out a full version of this deduction. [..] In a recent lecture, Meillassoux gave a [...] clue to the future development of [it] by insisting on the absolutely arbitrary, meaningless and contingent nature of mathematical signs qua signs (e.g. signs produced through pure replication or reiteration, indifferent to any sort of pattern or 'rhythm'). Perhaps an absolutely arbitrary discourse will be adequate to the absolutely contingent nature of things."

Is this focus on the signs of mathematics as being radically contingent a promising pathway to a convincing argument for Meillassoux's claim? This week I suddenly realized that there might be a more compelling argument available for Meillassoux. It can be found in a short piece that I wrote more than ten years ago (in Dutch). In it I argue that almost all mathematical truths are true for no reason whatsoever. But then, mathematics does indeed seem to be the proper science to describe reality as being a radical contingent hyperchaos. Here we appear to have the argument Meillassoux is looking for, i.e. an argument for the thesis that mathematics, and mathematics alone, is the proper language of the absolute.

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