Monday, 15 September 2014

The reality of speculation – speculative pluralism

Perspectivism, or scientific relativism, is never relative to a subject: it constitutes not a relativity of truth but, on the contrary, a truth of the relative. 
– Deleuze & Guattari, What is Philosophy?
Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain, and have worked yourself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment. But mistrust yourself, and think of all the sweet things you have heard the scientists say of maybes, and you will hesitate so long that, at last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair, you roll in the abyss. 
– William James, Is life worth living?
[...] when Sartre’s Roquentin, out of despair, vomits on a tree root, he certainly does not realize that the tree, the root, the rhizome have exactly the same problem as his: that they too are existential entities and not substances, that they are organisms which wage a bet on life in the sense that they have to exist, to get out of themselves and apprehend—hence the word prehension, so necessary for Whitehead—and that many other beings are necessary for the continuation of their existence. 
– Bruno Latour, What is given in experience?
Is existence worth existing? There's only one way to find out: speculate.

Speculative pluralism suggests not speculation on reality but, rather, the reality of speculation.

The pluralist specification: A philosophy must be capable of comprehending its own partiality and contingency without recourse to 'of course, I might be wrong'; that is, without the epistemological caveat. It must be capable of understanding itself as an event – and, what's more, remaining true to this particularity. It cannot outsource its particularity to doubt.

Speculative pluralism is sceptical of all 'regulative ideals' and 'as ifs.' These are the sounds of disappointment, not thought.

The least of a badly constructed concept's problems is that it is wrong.

Does 'reality' demand representation? In what tongue did you speak to it last?

Thinking is not 'made of' thought. The contrary: thencefrom derives all 'realist' mystification. (Thought can only 'correlate' if it is made from itself.)

To designate thought as 'speculative' – or, indeed, as 'pluralist' – is not to satisfy it with 'maybes.' Such indulgences are for those safe from the abyss.


  1. hard if not impossible I think for most (except for the very despondent and or ill) to seriously question if living is really worth continuing (as one grasps the alternative) which of course is not the same as speculating if Life has Meaning. Why not just frame speculation/pluralism in terms of contingency and the fact that things could be otherwise?

  2. I'm really just riffing on the James and Latour quotes and the generalisation of existentialism that is implied.

    However, I think that one can linger on contingency too much. I want to understand indetermination as a permissive condition of change, not as entailing change as a necessity. Yes, to become is necessarily to change but there's change and then there's change. The return of the same is always the return of difference but that doesn't mean that one mustn't distinguish between the return of the same and the return of difference. There are differences that make a difference and differences that don't. If any of that makes sense...

    So, there's necessarily a kind of gap that must be crossed, contingency or no contingency. Just because things could be otherwise doesn't mean that they will be. Indeed, becoming otherwise is only part of it. Becoming the same, enduring at all is no less problematic. Just as inherent contingency doesn't guarantee change nor does mere materiality guarantee continuation. Such a pluralism must wear the possibility of the disappearance of any given thing on its sleeve, I think.

    I don't know, I'm a bit hungover.

  3. but things will always be different, that's just physics, maybe not different enough for our liking/purposes but the larger point is that there is no Necessity, no ring to rule them all...

  4. More and more I'm finding the truth that change is essential to existence to be trivial. It's true but it's also, past a certain point, quite trivial. There are plenty of philosophers at present who embrace the thesis that everything changes, etc. but are by no means pluralists as a result. I get the feeling that by concentrating on processuality and changeability in this sense is to act like the General who is always fighting the last war. Trying to find another angle to engage the same kinds of questions from, but cutting across them a bit differently.

  5. it can only be trivial in relation to specific alltoohuman purposes (which we won't all share) and so pluralism...

  6. I think it's trivial in the sense that (a) it's been said a million, billion times and doesn't really need repeating by me, now; and (b) if one accepts it fully, totally and without caveat then one I'm not sure that anything really improves. It's trivial inasmuch as it's a permissive condition and nothing more. The mere fact of constant change just resets the parameters to asking: why do some things change oh so very slowly? And then one has to ask: what's the difference between something that doesn't change and something that changes so slowly as to be imperceptible? From a selfish, human point of view there's not much difference.