Ray Brassier doesn't like you.

Posted by | Chris | 5.3.11 | 15 Comments

In an interview here Ray Brassier makes a brief and interesting summary of his philosophy. It's well worth a read. However, he also dismisses Speculative Realism with the following sneering words:
The ‘speculative realist movement’ exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever: actor-network theory spiced with pan-psychist metaphysics and morsels of process philosophy. I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.
I'm aware that my post below, a jumbled collection of my feelings after finishing Nihil Unbound, didn't amount to much in the way of philosophical contribution. It's not much of an argument to think that someone's a bit mean. Reading the paragraph above however, I was struck again by just how ruthlessly unpleasant Brassier can be. To say that he lacks the urbanity of thought which Whitehead praises in Plato for instance would be an understatement.

Clearly, to show disdain for those philosophers with whom you disagree does not disqualify your own thought. In fact, Brassier is that much more imposing because he clearly wields a formidable intellect, intervening with technical acumen across a wide spectrum of philosophy.

The remorseless attacks on opponents clearly stem from Brassier's nihilist will to know (truth). A program of knowledge so mono-maniacally motivated by objective truth will clearly regard other disciplines and ideas as false, pointless distractions. I am nervous of attempting to mount a counterargument to this attitude and the possibility of sounding like a relativist, thereby consigning myself to the same anti-philosophical trash-heap as so many of Brassier's foils. However, such a challenge can be made, most interestingly on the grounds of what defines philosophy and science.

Brassier describes the relationship of philosophy to science as being to distinguish "which of its metaphysical assumptions are empirically fertile, and which are obstructive and redundant". I would tend to agree with this. But my problem with Brassier's project is the very narrow characterisation of these disciplines. Very briefly, I think that it is difficult to countenance a philosophical program which is so concerned to pitilessly policing the discipline and ejecting from it all but those select few who conform to your way of thinking. To say this is not to admit relativism or anti-realism, only to suggest that in the continuing adventure of intellectual discovery there are many things of which we cannot be certain, and therefore it would be better to nurture a pluralistic, respectful and open attitude at the same time as engaging in constructive dialogue about truth, knowledge and the world. There may be many more 'empirically fertile' a priori assumptions than Brassier would like to admit.

Public Domain Plato with Stephanus Pagination.

Posted by | Chris | 1.3.11 | 4 Comments


There are many public domain texts of Plato's works but almost none of them have the Stephanus pagination, making them useless for citations. Perseus Digital Library is an excellent resource with Stephanus numbers and side by side Greek text, but it's browser only format makes it difficult to read.

Prompted by this I have collected two English translations of Plato's Timaeus and the original Greek. I have used Benjamin Jowett's 1871 translation available from Project Gutenberg, W.R.M. Lamb's 1925 translation available from Perseus and the Greek also from Perseus.

I'm aware that Jowett's translation is not highly regarded. I can't find any comment on Lamb's. However, both are available for free and side by side with the Greek they at least give a place to start in a study of the Timaeus.

The document is available to download as a PDF here. This is a first edit for which I have not fully checked. A properly corrected version will follow.