Alien Theory: The Materialist Decision

This will be the reading for Nov 17.

Ray Brassier’s wonderfully polemical writing follows two different but related strands of thought. First, he has a strong commitment to realism, which for him necessitates a nihilistic materialism. North American writers such as Wilfred Sellars and Patricia and Paul Churchland are the main representatives here. Second, he holds that this materialism has a hidden decision at its root: all philosophy, even the best, begins with a decision to divide the world into what is explained and how it is explained. The problem is that the contents of the “what” and the “how” are always basically arbitrary, as is the line between them. In order for philosophy to consider itself a self-sufficient source of knowledge, it has to ignore this arbitrary decision. In order to deal with this problem, he turns to the excessively strange work of François Laruelle, whose non-philosophy we will deal with at greater length in the future. This week, we will take a brief look at his arguments for materialism and the necessity of its non-philosophical transformation, found in his doctoral thesis, Alien Theory.

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