Quention Meillassoux
Philosophy in the Making

by Graham Harman
Edinburgh University Press 2011

Meillassoux- Philosophy 175

175 Appendix: Excerpts from L'Inexistence divine
175 A:
Advent ex nihilo is a rational concept.
We hold that if immanentism is maintained in fully radical form, it implies a world with nothing outside that could limit its power of novelty. If nothing exists outside the world, then the world alone is the source of the advent (surgissement) or disappearance of anything.
176 That which is belongs fully to the world because it belongs only to the world, and is contingent to the core.

Thus novelty should not be considered as the action of a transcendence that is “always already there”and would therefore forbid anything truly new
. If an infinitely perfect God were the source of advent, time would necessarily be poor, since what followed this Origin could be no better than a diminishing of it. But if instead time is rich in creative advents, then these need not be limited in arbitrary fashion by empirical constants or by ideal worlds outside our own.

These two options are to ultimately identical ways of restoring time to an essential and divine Steadfastness of the possible, in which everything would already be contained before it ever appeared.

Boe: immanence - transcendence

Reason teaches the contrary. For in no way is it illogical (i.e.contradictary) to
think a becoming always capable of breaking with the laws that currently determine its possibilities, thereby establishing a novelty that was nowhere before coming into being - one that contains no originary Principle in germ, as if it were hidden away in the secret drawer of a demiurg before becoming manifest. This is the rational meaning of time, once we think the contingency of laws. If laws themselves are temporal, then the advent of what is ultimately obeys no law – no arche where it would already be present before its advent. God did not create thought, and nothing in the world was thinking before the advent of thought; God did not create the suffering or pleasure in a vital activity, and nothing suffered or enjoyed in the world before the advent of life.

Boe: potentiality and virtuality - contingency

This indicates in the most striking fashion that
if we think advent in its truth, it is an advent ex nihilo and thus without any reason at all, and for that very reason it is without limit. In revealing the contingency of laws, reason itself teaches that becoming is ultimately without reason. It is this very paradox, which is constitutive of the rational, that must be developed in all its consequences.

In particular, we will see that if anything governs what time can or cannot do, this can only be time’s own capacity to make all determinate beings (whether laws or events) appear or disappear. For the sole necessity to which becoming is subordinated is its own eternal power of the advent or abolition of each thing. If advent is immanent, then it is absurd; thus it is capable of anything.

By advent ex nihilo we do not mean that being arose entirely from originary nothingness. What we mean, stated in classical terms, is that there is more in the effect than in the cause: that this “more” therefore has no reason at all for its advent, and hence nothing (no law) can limit it.

As a result, advent ex nihilo does not conceal an essential religious notion, but forms instead the sole immanent concept of becoming. It expresses the fact that what arises suddenly in the world does so thanks not to a Supreme Being, but to the absence of any governing principle of becoming.

Boe: immanent principle of becoming

177 In a certain respect, philosophy amounts to an astonishment that God does not exist. It is an astonishment at the universe lying before us, following the collapse of good sense, which wants the originary real to be richer than what ensues from it. For the inexistence of God is what unveils the staggering power of novelty of our own world. This power alone (precisely because it has no peer) patiently destroys the framework of its own laws. In this way we see that the world is by no means the prisoner of what ever arises within it, because this advent concerns the sum total of what belongs to it. The worldly is destined for a transformation without reserve in which there remains no substrate of becoming, no determinate substance that remains unchanged amidst change. To think becoming thus means to
think the eternal excess of becoming-without-law beyond the laws of becoming. It is the eternal excess of time over and above its temporary constancy.

177 B Becoming and Quality
The concept of contingency that we have begun to construct allows us to specify the sense in which the capacity for becoming exceeds all constancy. Our return to the problem of induction aims to demonstrate that we can abandon the idea of a necessary constancy of laws without reaching the opposite notion of a necessarily disordered world. For the disqualification of probabilist reasoning, which serves as the basis for refusing any contingency of laws, suffices to show that the possible confirmation of the constancy of this world does not necessarily require a disruption of these laws. In affirming that the world can really subject its laws to its own process of becoming,
we propose a contingency superior to all necessity.

Precisely for this reason, this contingency is subject to no constraint, and above all it is not subject to a frequential law that would supposedly render the non-effectuation of certain possibilities increasingly improbable.

178 To say that becoming is rational means that becoming can actually produce everything that is thinkable (i.e. non-contradictory). And that amounts to saying that
belief in the stability of laws is essentially irrational, insofar as it does not grant the world the radical power of disorder resulting from a conception of the world that would be logical at last….

Abandoning the necessity of laws has no effect on the state of the world, and we have also begun to see that it dissolves a number of speculative impasses and the false mysteries to which they give rise, since they derive from a postulate that we now know to be unjustified. Of these false mysteries, the first to be dispelled is that of the necessity of natural laws, which could obviously only be “explained” by some obscure pre-established harmony between our certainties and the order of nature.

What was said about advent ex nihilo now allows us to touch on the second speculative impasse that results from the totalising and necessitarian model of becoming: the apparently inexplicable “mystery” of the
appearance of life and thought from a material realm that supposedly excludes them from its potentialities .

We maintain that becoming is irreducible to an actualisation of possible cases (perhaps recordable in a list) of a constant, determinate Universe. The essence of this universe is disclosed in the advent of a Universe of possible cases that cannot be recorded in a list (in fact or in principle) in the form of
a Universe of Universes of cases, while the Whole of these universes cannot exist.

179 The possible universes cannot be recorded in a list as possible cases of a Universe of Universes. The emergence of these universes is an advent literally ex nihilo, for it is irreducible to the actualisation of some sort of potentiality that would be pre-existent in the supposedly perpetual Universe-Whole of what is able to happen. Now, from these considerations we obtained the theoretical weapons needed for the idea of the true novelty, given that the result of the advent of a Universe of hidden cases is no longer irreducible to the simple manifestation-actualisation of an eternally fixed reservoir of possibilities. If such a universe were to arise, it would manifest immediately as a set of cases irreducible to every other Universe, especially that or those Universes in which its advent would occur.
We would be faced with a radical novelty that would be a becoming essentially capable not only of actualising cases, but even of creating them from nothing. It would be a becoming in excess of all deterministic constancy, since it could never be totalise in a divine law laws.

Advent ex nihilo thus presents itself as the concept of a world without God, and for that very reason it allows us to produce an irreligious notion of the origin of pure novelty.

Boe: vgl. Markus Gabriel Warum es die Welt nicht gibt

180 This
essential excess of life and thought beyond matter implies a scission (scission : the act or an instance of cutting, splitting, or dividing [from Late Latin scissiō, from scindere to split]) that ruptures all continuity, leaving the divine and the soul free reign to fill the resulting chasm.

Nevertheless, such “mysteries” collapse once the qualitative component of life is identified with the advent of a Universe of cases that were in no way contained in the universe previously. Such a Universe gives us the advent of a pure novelty whose possibly regular concordance with material complexes does not obliterate the radical excess found in the affective qualities of suffering or jubilation and the travails of life or consciousness.

From this we recognise that
the qualities inherent in the affective and perceptive world of life are immediate signs that becoming makes its novelties emerge from nothing.

Boe: Quality = pure selfreference

All quality as quality is without why, since none of its content refers to anything other than the advent ex nihilo of its being….

A world of contents and qualities, given immediately to us as a set of facts irreducible to all determinism and all causal genealogy - such a world can thus be identified with a sudden advent ex nihilo of a Universe of cases.

Quality is a pure fact referring only to itself, and as such it displays the irrecuperable excess of a Universe of cases (namely, that of the living) on another (that of material configurations). It is given as a brute existence that essentially cannot be deduced, and which refers to its actuality alone.

If quality suddenly arises, it does so from nothing, not from the potentiality of a Universe-Whole where it would have lain in a ambush for all eternity. The remarkable thing is that the brute facticity of quality is where the inexistence of the Whole is immediately given. For the facticity of quality refers to its advent ex nihilo, which refers in turn to the absence of an originary Whole from which it could be inferred with complete necessity.

182 C:
The advent of the living:
We have seen that the experimental sciences are unable to give an account of the qualitative excess of life beyond its material underpinning, and clearly this is not their goal. They do not even aim at such an explanation, which is simply meaningless with respect to their procedures. We have nonetheless shown that the incapacity of experimental science to touch even remotely on this problem does not doom every rational approach to it, as long as we accept the disjunction between reason and real necessity.

183 We should emphasise that we are confronted here with a difficulty of fact for experimental rationality rather than a difficulty of principle. Indeed, if science cannot resolve this problem of the qualitative advent of the living (for it cannot even pose it), in principle it can discover the frequential and/or deterministic laws at the origins of the material configurations that accompany vital and conscious contents. Thus, by recourse to its own procedures alone, science can resolve the second difficulty inherent in the aleatory model.

It would thus be necessary that the advent of life ex nihilo would be exclusively qualitative, that it would concern nothing but the irreducible excess of affective and cognitive contents of human and animal life beyond their material underpinning.

Boe: vgl. Varela: life is sense-making - Quality = pure selfreference

But the
notion of contingency that we have theorized does not require that it happened this way. It could be that, like all radical novelty, the advent of life (the appearance of a hidden anatomical organisation or cognitive activity) is accompanied by the simultaneous event of the material configurations that rupture with the physical laws in the midst of which they emerge. Indeed, nothing forbids us from thinking that the advent of the qualitative universe of vital contents should be one on the same as the advent of the material underpinning by which these contents are inscribed in the material universe that precedes them.

In that case, the appearance of the material organisation of life would have no reason to obey the frequential constants of matter.
The configurations of life would break the laws of chance, because they would not at all be the possible cases of matter, but rather the correlate within matter of the appearance ex nihilo of vital contents.

186 In replacing the alternative of chance and finality with that of chance and contingency (the aleatory advent of an advent in the midst of the law; the contingent advent of all without there being a law for the advent of laws) we acquire the means of opposing the defenders of finalism.

187 Such people profit logically from the scientistic (but not rational) belief in the necessity of laws to affirm that the extreme improbability of the appearance of life or the evolution of species is proof of transcendent intervention.

As we have seen, these "miracles" exhibit that the opposite is true.
The world is limited by nothing, and for this very reason it is identified with an event without any law of laws, irreducible to probabilistic reasoning.

To identify rationalism with the eternity of natural, deterministic, or frequential laws is to render thought powerless before originary phenomena, and ultimately to resign oneself to acknowledging a transcendent foundation.

Reason teaches the exact contrary: laws have no reason to be constant, and nothing entails that they will not contain new constants in the future.
Such cases of advent can be divided into three orders
that mark the essential ruptures of becoming:
matter, life, and thought.
Each of these three appears as a universe that cannot be qualitatively reduced to anything that preceded it. (No sensation can be reduced to a material configuration, and no concept of universal extension or mathematical concept of the infinite can be reduced to a finite mass of sensations.) As for the quantitative aspect, they can arise suddenly in a manner that is highly improbable in view of the preceding constants: the material supports of life, of new species, and of the human brain, all of them configurations possibly rupturing whith the frequential constants of physics or genetics.

187 D: Immanent Immortality
We have sketched the essential traits of an ontology that adopts once more the philosophical requirements of the anhypothetical principle, and show how this eternal principal founds an immanent theory of truth. This ontology is the condition of philosophy, or rather its end: namely, the constitution of an immanent ethics based on such an ontology. We know that the eternal truth of contingency is the foundation of an immanent theory of being qua being.

But what is an immanent ethics?
An immanent theory presents comprehensible truths as the sole possible truths excluding the religious idea of a totally other truth, of a revealed truth transcending the power of thought.

In the same manner we can say that
an immanent ethics is an ethics that posits life as the only desirable life. It would thus be an ethics that (unlike religion) would not promise some other life than ours (the life founded on another truth) but an ethics that manifests on the contrary such a desire for this life that it wishes this life to be immortal.

Immortality is the philosophical desire for life, the desire that this human life and no other should again and always be lived. Philosophy wants a life without a beyond, and that is why philosophical ethics must be an ethics of immortality: that is to say, an ethics of life with no elsewhere.

188 Immortality is definitely the central concept of an ethics of immanence, and ethics of human life without the beyond precisely because it is immortal. And it is precisely because Spinoza and Nietzsche were the masters of irreligiosity that they were also the thinkers of immortality, though of an immortality such that I am only capable of expecting the renewal without end of what is here in this world.

Now, how can we demonstrate that this life itself possesses the dimensional of immortality? The demonstration (and herein lies its great strangeness) is without difficulty given what has been established.

The factial is an ontology that allows us to think immortality directly as one possibility among others, but as a real possibility (since it is non-contradictory) of advent ex nihilo.

Boe: the factial - vgl. Meillassoux23

There is hardly anything more to be said about the reality of this possibility. The factial, in demonstrating the effective contingency of the laws of this world, has no difficulty in basing the hope of philosophical immortality on a radically irreligious ontology. What we call divine ethics (we will justify the term later) rests on the real possibility of immortality, a possibility guaranteed by factial ontology.

189 It is necessary to draw a distinction between the advent of what I call a World and the advent of the intra-Worldly. I call “Worlds” or “orders”, the three categories of advents known as matter, life, and thought.
I call “intra-Worldly advents” those that are capable of occurring in the midst of a determinate World: for example, the advent of new species in the midst of a World of life, ordered events of creative intervention in the midst of the World of thought. And finally, I reserve the term “world” with a lower case “w” to designate the non-Whole of what is.

Worlds arise suddenly from the world, and if these have a right to a majestic capital letter for first time, it is because there is more in a World than in the world, since there is more in what in ensues than there is in the origin (more in the “effect” than in the “cause”).

Why make this distinction? What is its basis? The distinction between World and intra-World aims to show that rebirth entails the advent of a World different from the World of thought, and not an advent internal to the creative activities of humans.

Following the three Worlds of matter, life, and thought, the rebirth of humans ought to be distinguished as a fourth World. The point to be established is thus as follows: if a World were to arise beyond the three preceding ones, this World could only be that of the rebirth of humans. We will call this “fourth order” the World of justice, a World where humans acquire immortality, the sole life worthy of their condition.

World of matter, World of life, World of thought, World of justice: four orders, of which three have already appeared, with a fourth able to take place and existing already as an object of hope, of the desire of every human qua rational being. The World of justice ought to be viewed as the object of desire traversed by reason, or as the place where life is transfixed by the thought of the eternal.

190 Let us justify these propositions. I propose that the kingdom of ends (which was discussed by Kant as a just community of humans) ought to be rethought as the anticipation by humans of the possible advent of a novelty ulterior to themselves. This ought to be understood in the strong sense as a novelty that has the same relation to humans as humans have two life all life to matter. For we know that humans have access to the eternal truth of the world.

Boe: Buddha – human=communication

Thus nothing more can appear beyond humans considered as thinking beings: there can be no further being incommensurable with our humanity, but only additional contingent variations of life or matter. By “humans”, of course, we mean rational beings capable of grasping the absolute truth of contingency, and not simply the bipedal species in which such a reality now happens to be encountered.

This rational entity is the one that cannot be surpassed in the way that life is surpassed by humans. Here we are in the logic of incommensurables.
Only a thought reaching a higher truth than that of contingency could re-enact the rupture inaugurated by thought with respect to animality.

Only an all-powerful God, whose impossibility has already been sufficiently considered, could outstrip the beings of the third World just as these outstrip the second World. Every other creature (however intelligent and advanced one imagines) would not change the World. They would only give us access to the imaginary modification of our humanity, without offering any higher truth about the eternal being of everything.

Boe: entry in the World of Meaning - the World of Sense - information-processing revolution (Seth Lloyd)

The human as a thinking being is thus presented as the insurpassable effect of an event ex nihilo. The problem, then, is as follows. In what could a World following the human consist? What advent could produce something other than a variant of former Worlds (some new law of matter, new living species, or new creation of thought) since no being can be incommensurable with humans in the same manner as humans are with life or life with matter?

Boe: the World of justice

The response follows naturally from the question: namely,
the sole possible novelty surpassing humans just as human surpassed life would be the recommencement of the human. That is why the fourth World ought to be called the World of justice: for it is only the World of the rebirth of humans that makes universal justice possible, by erasing even the injustice of shattered lives.

191 Humans are in fact defined by their access to truth, understood as the eternal contingency of that which is. As a consequence, there is of course no human without a World of thought, since thought is only this relation of the contingent being to contingency as such.

But there could also be no humans without a World of life, for life is the sensible relation of contingent beings to other contingent beings: to the particular thing that can be perceived as such only by affect. And yet there can be no thought of contingency without the relation to particular things, to that which is contingent, since contingency is only the contingency of what is.

Finally, there are no humans without matter: without non-living being. For life itself ought to be given as a contingent possibility that arises ex nihilo, and thus to be incarnated in a mortal existence for which matter always represents both the menacing other (which is the living can always become once more) and the originary constituent on whose basis life can appear as a pure emergence.

The three Worlds thus represent the three constitutive orders of the human. Whatever might be the laws of matter, forms of life, or of intellectual or artistic inventions - what ever the various intra-Worldly at advents might be - the three Worlds remain the definitional invariants of the human as a being of reason.

But humans are also defined by their relation to a fourth World, and this relation is that of hope as desire crossed by thought:
the desire of humans torn between their present contingency and the knowledge of the eternal by which they reach the idea of justice.

For this knowledge gives us access to the strict equality between all humans qua human. The eternal truths to which our condition grants access are in fact indifferent to differences, to the innumerable and necessary differences between individual thinkers. The differences are necessary because humans, as simple existents, are contingent and particular beings indefinitely differentiable from other humans. Yet these differences are undifferentiated by the impersonal reason that marks all bearers of truth. This is why humans, as long as they think, are affected by injustice whenever it strikes them, since nothing permits us to found an inegalitarian difference of humans from themselves. And of all these injustices the most extreme is still death: absurd death, early death, death inflicted by those unconcerned with equality. Hence those who exercise their humanity, those who think the impassable character of a condition shared equally by all beings of reason, can only hope for the recommencement of our lives in such a way that justice would surpass the factual death that has struck down our fellow humans. It is not a question here of some exorbitant conception of justice, but only of giving a precise exposition of it in its exessiveness, since justice is only such an extravagance towards the present world by which the human condition is specified. Justice can survive only as an idea of existent and irrepairable wrongs, and we owe the dead nothing less. When the requirement of justice actually transfixes us, it also summons our refusal of injustice for the dead. For the universal is universal only when it makes no exceptions.

The World of justice turns out to be a World in the proper sense: an advent that crosses the boundary of the third World as the third did the preceding one, because it contains the sole conceivable radical novelty of following the human: the recommencement of the human in just form.

And this World is a World in the sense of a definitional element of humans qua humans, as those who think hope by refusing the injustice done to their fellow humans, whether they are still alive now or not.

The core of factial ethics thus consists in the immanent binding of philosophical astonishment and messianic hope, understood as the hope for justice for the dead and the living.

The bond is immanent, for while philosophical astonishment generates the hope of a World to come, it does not refer to any otherworldly realm but solely to the consciousness of the power of advent ex nihilo.

We well understand the specificity of this relation: the world is shown to be astonishing in the sense that it refers to no "other world", because for this reason alone it is shown to be capable of making more (humans) arise from less (matter). On the contrary, if God existed, then creation would be poor and also quite astonishing, since it could not make less (humans) arise from more (God). Thus the hope of rebirth is bound to the astonishing awareness of the inexistence of God; divine inexistence fulfils, for the first time, the condition of hope for the resurrection of the dead.

This awaiting is not faith, since the event that serves as it object of hope is explicitly determined as a possibility that can be produced or not produced. No necessity, no probability, can guarantee its advent. But no impossibility and no improbability can discourage us from anticipating that it might happen.

Beyond all calculation and all foresight, we are confronted with the very essence of the universalist hope. Like all hopes,, it is a tormented joy: a life of the spirit in which our happy knowledge that justice is rendered possible is mixed with a voluntarily maintained disquietude, guaranteeing us against the religious relation to the desired advent, and linked to the symmetrical consciousness of a possible non-advent of the next World. It is a troubled certainty about possibility that protects us from the dogmatism of necessity, and which all subjects share once they dissociate the newly restored hope with a human condition.

193 E Symbolisation
At the outset we should make a distinction, essential for further persuit of our goals, between the foundation in the strict sense of the universal and what we will call its symbolisation.

The real possibility of the fourth World removes the hopeless absurdity (found in the case of every ideal) that results from its ontological impossibility. But this possibility would be unable to found the value of the original requirement of justice, a problem we will examine later. It is not because justice is possible as world-to-come that the requirement of justice has value.

The fourth World, conceived as a recommencement, is the necessary condition for the universal requirement of justice to have any meaning: for it surpasses unjustified early death, by which these requirement would otherwise be irremediably flouted.

194 But the possibility of justice (its non-aberrant character as a radical, universal requirement valid for the dead and the living alike) is still not its foundation or it's proper legitimation. The fact that justice is possible does not tell us why it is necessary to be just. Here we have something comparable to the relation established by Kant between the moral law and the postulates of God and immortality. These postulates prevent moral law being felt as an aberrant requirement of reason, yet they provide no foundation for its value. In short, to demonstrate that the universal is possible does not found it as a properly ethical requirement.

The problem of the foundation of the universal will be dealt with later, in connection with a problem whose full comprehension first requires that we linger over the procedure that establishes the real possibility of the fourth World. Let us recall that with this demonstration we have escaped the habitual impasses of idealism. The requirement of justice is no longer reduced to an abstract principle deprived of all ontological basis. Nor does the possibility of justice rely on any transcendent reality. The fact of living for justice, of living a non-selfish relation to other humans, means living according to the truth of the ultimate ontological possibility of the world: namely, our rebirth.

The factial permits us to resume, in a hidden world, the lost relation between being and value; the absurdity of early death ceases to undermine our aspiration to universal justice, since it becomes the guarantor and no longer the obstacle of a possible justice for the dead and the living alike. This breaking of the despair of the absurd by the absurd achieves in a new form what I will henceforth call symbolisation: an immanent irrational link between being and the universal.

Boe: the factial: Facticity itself cannot be just a fact; it must be necessary, or else correlationism would collapse into idealism. This led us to the principle of factiality: everything that exists is absolutely contingent.
If it were merely the case that if something exists then it must be contingent, then the facticity of that thing would merely be a fact, since we would already have suppose that its existence was not necessary. But while establishing the principle of factiality, we already saw that facticity cannot be a fact. Therefore, something must exist that is contingent in order for contingency to be necessary and that something obviously must be something in-itself, since the kingdom of the for-us is entirely dependent on the existence of human or at least animal life, which is purely contingent.
there is something that exists in itself. Or as Meillassoux puts it: “it is necessary that there be something rather than nothing because it is necessarily contingent that there is something rather than something else. The necessity of the contingency of the entity imposes the necessary existence of the contingent entity” (After Finitude 76).

195 F: Philosophy and Symbol