Brassier on Consciousness

January 3, 2009

This is from Collapse Vol. III’s transcript of the Goldsmiths ‘speculative realism’ event.

The problem is this: If the structure of reality produces the structure of thinking, then the challenge is to avoid both transcendentalism and a kind of pragmatism which would say that evolutionary history simply guarantees the congruence between representation and reality as a function of adaptational necessity, so that only creatures that have cognitive apparatus that is appropriate to their kind of biophysical environment will be able to survive. And this is a claim that fuels much of naturalised epistemology, but one that I think a metaphysically problematic, because there is no reason to suppose that evolutionary adaptation would favour exhaustively accurate beliefs about the world. There’s no reason to suppose that evolution would infallibly provide human organisms with a cognitive apparatus that can accurately track the salient features or the deep structure of reality.”

Surely the correct response to that last bit is just: Yeah. Deal with it.



7 Responses to “Brassier on Consciousness”

  1. Carl Says:

    Exactly. Since when do emotionally inconvenient conclusions invalidate sound reasoning?

  2. duncan Says:

    Thanks Carl, yeah, it’s a little odd… I think the reasoning is that there’ll be some kind of paradox if we can’t guarantee knowledge about every aspect of reality – that knowledge must be perfect knowledge to be knowledge at all. I don’t see any reason to believe that, though, so I’m sort of nonplussed by the whole thing. Brassier’s a particularly puzzling figure, to my mind, because I can’t see any reason, based on his commitments, why he wouldn’t be hanging out in an analytic philosophy department – he generally seems perfectly happy with the Dennett / Churchland line of goods, naturalised epistemology and all the rest. But the apparent desire for perfect knowledge (which naturalised epistemology won’t get you) is putting him in the company of all these frank metaphysicians, with their emergent virtual gods and Heideggerian paperclips, etc. All very puzzling…

  3. Carl Says:

    Well, it really could just be an accident of our evolutionary adaptation for generalization. I just watched a show about skunks, and they seem to manage with admirable equanimity despite their crass ontological materialism and naive epistemological empiricism. I guess in principle I can’t fault anyone for seeking certainty as long as we’re not certain that we can’t be certain. But wishing doesn’t make it so, nor do I see the sense of indenturing my thinking to someone else’s imagination. And in the meantime I don’t find the robustness of our imperfect knowledge disappointing at all, skunk that I am.

  4. duncan Says:

    Skunks you and me both, Carl. πŸ™‚

  5. JCD Says:

    Hey Duncan; I somehow missed the shift to the new blog. But I agree with this post!

  6. duncan Says:

    Thanks JCD! πŸ™‚ (And thanks again for pointing me to Anwar Shaikh.)

  7. […] Isn’t, then, a philosophical assertion of objects sealed from perception the same sort of defense against inconvenient facts that religious afterlives are? Couldn’t we just take our perceptions and thoughts as they […]

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