Meillassoux: Divine Inexistence

This is the reading for Saturday, May 27th.  You can get all the details at our page.

Imagine rolling dice and coming up with six.  Some might say this outcome was determined, and others might insist it was pure chance, and still others might say it was a mix of the two.  What they would agree on is that the faces of the dice had the appropriate numbers which could have produced a six—and importantly, this means that chance requires a set of pre-existing possibilities to work on.  We can think of any situation this way, as the actualization of pre-existing possibilities, governed by laws, chance, or a mix of the two.

Quentin Meillassoux’s work is dedicated to working out a single core idea: that the absolute truth of all existence is contingency.  Every single thing can exist, not exist, or exist differently.  What this means for our dice is that the ratio of chance and determinism governing their tumbling can be sidestepped entirely: Meillassoux’s thesis is the the faces of the dice can change, and can change for no reason, and importantly, it means this process does not answer to any possible account of probability.  Entirely new sets of possibilities can appear in the world, possibilities that had absolutely no antecedent.  He quite literally believes anything is possible.

His term for the appearance of new possibilities, or new dice, is the advent ex nihilo of a new world because they emerge from nothing and for no reason.  He says there have been three new worlds: the emergence of matter, the emergence of life, and the emergence of thought.  Life appeared in the context of matter, and thought appeared in the context of life.  Divine Inexistence is about the possibility of a fourth advent ex nihilo in the context of thought: the world of justice, a world of resurrected humans.  The goal is the final vanquishing of the division between being and value, otherwise known as the famous is/ought distinction.

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A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History & Philosophy and Simulation

This was a reading earlier in the year.  It is being posted now because I forgot to do so back then.

Manuel DeLandas A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History is divided into three parts, each covering mainly European history from 1000 to 2000 AD.  The first part is an account of urban development, the second is a genetic history of Europe, and the third is a history of language.  Three basic theses tie each part together.  First, DeLanda argues that the historical processes in each case are entirely material; cities, genetics and language can all be described in terms of matter-energy flows.  Second, there is an connection between human institutions and natural structures (such as geological strata) that is not merely metaphorical.  Third, the processes are nonlinearthat is, there are no successive stages, but apparently successive moments that can coexist and affect one another.

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