Is there room for a transcendental approach in materialist ontology after Meillasoux?
The aim of my paper is to answer this question, highlighting the possibility of understanding Deleuze’s project of a transcendental empiricism as a radical form of materialist ontology, which escapes the correlationist framework.
In order to do so, I stage a confrontation between Deleuze and Quentin Meillasoux.
To prepare the critical ground, I first provide an account of Meillasoux’s philosophical objective. In his groundbreaking After Finitude Meillasoux articulates his philosophical position - identified as speculative realism - in terms of a rejection of what he names correlationism: “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other”(Meillasoux, 2008).
Meillasoux’s speculative materialism “holds in two key statements: 1. Being is separate and independent of thought (understood in the broad sense of subjectivity); 2. Thought can think Being. Thesis number 1 is opposed to any anthropo-morphism which seeks to extend subjective attributes to being: materialism is not a form of animism, spiritualism, vitalism, etcetera”.
It is clear that Meillasoux’s engagement with materialism is a radical break with any form of transcendental approach, an attempt to rethink the themes of thought and being beyond correlationism, that is to say, beyond the subject-object dyad and its implications that (though in different ways) characterize post-Kantian philosophy in general, even Deleuze.
Indeed according to Meillasoux, Deleuze’s philosophy is a specific variant of correlationism. Deleuze is considered as a “metaphysical subjectivist who has absolutized a set of features of subjectivity, hypostatized as Life (or “a Life”), and has posed them as radically independent of our human and individual relationship to the world”(Meillasoux, 2008).
My interest in Meillasoux’s (mis)reading of Deleuze lies in the question of his supposed reliance on the subject-object dichotomy and what light Meillasoux’s interpretation sheds on Deleuze’s own arguments.
Thanks to this focus on Meillasoux, I will offer a framework for understanding Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism. I will outline Deleuze’s attempt to construct a theory of the transcendental that maintains the differentiated structure of the transcendental field, while removing the subject as the synthesizing agent.
Far from absolutizing subjectivity, I will show how Deleuze affirms a re-engagement with a materialist perspective, emphasizing the affirmation of absolute immanence over transcendence.