So, You Want to Overcome Metaphysics?

I’ve certainly never claimed to be a metaphysician.  Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be one.  Especially by accident.

I’ve just had the pleasure of spending a week at Luce Irigaray’s annual symposium at the University of Bristol, where I was very lucky to receive a rather intensive course in continental thought in the shadow of “the end of the Western tradition,” the epoch in which Irigaray contends we have been living since the problem of nihilism was  elaborated by Nietzsche.  For her, the eternal return is only the intuition of the end of the Western tradition, since she contends Nietzsche was unable to overcome nihilism by himself without either acknowledging his debt to his maternal birth or by entering into a relation with woman, to escape the abstraction to neutrality of the thinking and living philosopher.

To overcome nihilism, philosophically, requires overcoming metaphysics.  As Irigaray puts it, the meta- indicates a sort of “jump,” a break without continuity, from the physical– from life– to the abstract level of the concept, ideality, and disembodied thought.  The phallocentric gesture par excellence is to go outside of nature, to go outside of life, and to go outside of the body by leaping to the meta level in order to grasp being as an object of knowledge for a subject, the philosopher.  Being in the world must be thought, for Irigaray, instead from and within life, from the nature which determines its forms, and from the body in whose morphological dwelling thought takes place.  Instead of a meta-physics, Irigaray proposes a diaphysics (not to be confused with this book), a thinking about being from within natural being, from dwelling in a being that is at least two in its forms, rather than one or multiple.

I wonder, then, about OOO, which is occupying most of my stack of reading these days.  I  find it useful for some things, while ill suited to others.  Not that OOO is reducible as a field, a set of texts, or concepts.  Nevertheless, OOO does seem to encounter the problem of being especially metaphysical.  In order to overcome correlationism, it necessarily pursues a weird metaphysics by which it aims to grasp the being of nonhuman objects and their relations with one another and with humans.  The nagging question for me, again, is that of life-itself, a necessarily non-concept (Eugene Thacker is great on this).  The objects of OOO all too often seem to me to have so much of an anthropomorphic quality to their lively being and relationality (and Ian Bogost deals with this question at length in Alien Phenomenology) that I am not sure Irigaray’s critique of abstraction, conceptuality, and ostensibly neutral ideality isn’t especially applicable to it as metaphysics.  Can not the “life” of nonhuman objects, or materiality, be even weirder than OOO can grasp it metaphysically? If the task of posthumanism were to consist of a process of contaminating or compromising the world-for-us through forms of “knowledge” production in which the life of matter flows in continuity into its thought, thought here escaping reduction to human consciousness, I wonder if ontology wouldn’t finally be just a little bit less anthropomorphic and a whole lot weirder.


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