An interesting debate seems to be taking place in response to Peter Hallward’s recent review of ‘After Finitude’ which was published in this month’s issue of radical philosophy. If you don’t normally read radical philosophy, I highly recommend getting a copy from your library or local bookstore and reading this review, which is on par, and in many ways similar, to the previously mentioned review of Logics of Worlds Hallward published in last month’s New Left Review.
Over at speculative heresy they have posted a response to Hallward’s review by Nathan Brown. It’s a well thought out review that brings up many good points, but, I must say that I still side with Hallward’s review. I think his critique of Meillassoux’s use of mathematics (which is very similar to the way he critiques the use of mathematics in Badiou) is quite accurate, and poses an interesting problem for those of us working on Badiou and Meillassoux.
For a taste of Brown’s piece, towards the end he says:
“Throughout Hallward’s critique of After Finitude, the basic move is to extend the book’s arguments beyond the proper domain of their application and then to hold Meillassoux accountable for the resulting difficulties.”
I, for one, find this critique a bit problematic. Hallward brings up some important questions regarding the potential (or lack there of) present in Meillassoux’s contingent ontology to bring about political and social transformation. As much as Meillassoux doesn’t explicitly set out to make an argument of this sort in After Finitude, can’t it still be said that every ontology necessarily has political and social implications? And if Meillassoux holds a position of absolute contingency, doesn’t it leave us waiting for political novelty to happen, rather than providing a way towards developing the sort of ‘transformational materialism’ that Hallward seems to be aiming for? In a sense this critique is very similar to those levelled against Badiou, and specifically in regards to what is to be done in the pre-evental state of existence from the perspective of the potential subject. Whereas Badiou has (to an extent) clarified this in Logiques des Mondes in the sections on the commune, intensity, and evental sites; Meillassoux has yet to clarify what is to be done towards the work of transformation in a situation of absolute contingency. He could very well, and I would assume likely will, clear this up in his future work; but as it stands now, it seems as if Hallward has every right to make this critique.
The only thing I would say regarding Hallward, is that in light of his two recent reviews, I’m quite anxious to see how he attempts to solve these problems haunting contemporary French materialism in his own work. As far as I know he still seems to be working on his political will/determination project, but hopefully he takes a more constructive and original path in his future work and begins to develop this transformational materialism he seems to find lacking in both Badiou and Meillassoux.