Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time Without Becoming

Quentin Meillassoux

Time Without Becoming

"I call 'facticity' the absence of reason for any reality; in other words, the impossibility of providing an ultimate ground for the existence of any being. We can only attain conditional necessity, never absolute necessity. If definite causes and physical laws are posited, then we can claim that a determined effect must follow. But we shall never find a ground for these laws and causes, except eventually other ungrounded causes and laws: there is no ultimate cause, nor ultimate law, that is to say, a cause or a law including the ground of its own existence. But this facticity is also proper to thought. The Cartesian Cogito clearly shows this point: what is necessary, in the Cogito, is a conditional necessity: if I think, then I must be. But it is not an absolute necessity: it is not necessary that I should think. From the inside of the subjective correlation, I accede to my own facticity, and so to the facticity of the world correlated with my subjective access to it. I do it by attaining the lack of an ultimate reason, of a causa sui, able to ground my existence.


That’s why I don’t believe in metaphysics in general: because a metaphysics always believes, in one way or the other, in the principle of reason: a metaphysician is a philosopher who believes it is possible to explain why things must be what they are, or why things must necessarily change, and perish- why things must be what they are, or why things must change as they do change. I believe on the contrary that reason has to explain why things and why becoming itself can always become what they are not- and why there is no ultimate reason for this game. In this way, “factial speculation” is still a rationalism, but a paradoxical one: it is a rationalism which explain why things must be without reason, and how precisely they can be without reason. Figures are such necessary modalities of facticity - and non-contradiction is the first figure I deduce from the principle of factiality. This demonstrates that one can reason about the absence of reason- if the very idea of reason is subjected to a profound transformation, if it becomes a reason liberated from the principle of reason- or, more exactly: if it is a reason which liberates us from principle of reason.

Now, my project consists of a problem which I don’t resolve in After Finitude, but which I hope to resolve in the future: it is a very difficult problem, one that I can’t rigorously set out here, but that I can sum up in this simple question: Would it be possible to derive, to draw from the principle of factiality, the ability of the natural sciences to know, by way of mathematical discourse, reality in itself, by which I mean our world, the factual world as it is actually produced by Hyperchaos, and which exists independently of our subjectivity? To answer this very difficult problem is a condition of a real resolution of the problem of ancestrality, and this constitutes the theoretical finality of my present work."

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