The Radicalism of Anti-Correlationists?
Recently I re-read Fodor’s seminal paper Banish DisContent (1986), in which “good old Jerry” criticizes the ostracism of propositional attitudes from neural semantics. Entertaining as ever, Fodor starts with a brilliant paragraph:
“It is a curiosity of the philosophical temperament, this passion for radical solutions. Do you feel a little twinge in your epistemology? Absolute skepticism is the thing to try. Has the logic of confirmation got you down? Probably physics is a fiction. Worried about individuating objects? Don’t let anything in but sets… Apparently the rule is: if aspirin doesn’t work, try cutting off your head”
As attractive as a comment on Fodor’s acerbity might be, the appeal to bring this up is tied to a much more mundane point: the “recognition of philosophical radicals” in the contemporary Continental scene.
Namely, does not Fodor’s first description pick-out the new and mature Brassier, flirting with both extremes in the Sellarsian “state-space”, until rejecting them both in the total abrogation of philosophizing qua justification and affirmation?
And, isn’t our second thinker, troubled with “the logic of confirmation”, a twin-Earth copy of Quentin Meillassoux, whose “principle of factuality” leads us straight into the absolute contingency of natural laws?
And, of course, is it possible not to recognize Alain Badiou in Fodor’s worried individuator?
The concern is quite simple. Are the new dominant strands of Continental philosophy infested with unnecessary radicalism, a radicalism not unlike the one of the correlationist dogma? Or have the positions ridiculed by Fodor simply become commonplaces in the twenty years since the original text? Can Brassier’s resolute rejection of the “manifest image” be vindicated, especially in the light of the modern “theory-of-mind” debate? Is Meillassoux’s ‘factuality’ unnecessary immoderate, whilst repeatedly failing to counter the traditional frequentialist arguments? And, in that manner, is Badiou really able to bridge the gap between his ontology and the meta-ontological discourse of “justification and affirmation”?
Are, to put it provocatively, the post-Deleuzian coryphaeus cutting off their heads in a reaction to a mild correlationist headache?
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