After Finitude

From: <>
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 2009 12:28:10 -0700 (PDT)

Possibly of interest. I haven't read it, but it sounds intriguingly
Brunoesque. Perhaps Bruno could comment.

After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency,
Quentin Meillassoux


By claiming that physical laws are contingent, Meillassoux proposes in
chapter 04 a speculative solution to Hume's problem of primary and
secondary qualities. The author's treatment of what at first could
have passed for an innocuous metaphysical non-problem is implemented
in order to transform our outlook on unreason. A truly speculative
solution to Hume's problem must conceive a world devoid of any
physical necessity that, nevertheless, would still be compatible with
the stability of its physical laws. Here contingency is the key
concept that, insofar as it is extracted from Humean-Kantian
necessitarianism and thus distinguished from chance, enables
Meillassoux to explain how and why Cantor's transfinite number could
constitute a condition for the stability of chaos. Here we find the
transition from the primary absolute to the secondary or
mathematically inflected absolute. The demonstration thus consists in
implementing the ontological implications of the Zermelo-Cantorian
axiomatic as stipulated by Alain Badiou in his Being and Event. This
axiomatic enables Meillassoux to show that for those forms of aleatory
reasoning to which Hume and Kant were subservient, what is a priori
possible can only be conceived as a numerical totality, as a Whole.
However, this totalization can no longer be guaranteed a priori, since
Cantor's axiomatic rules out the possibility of maintaining that the
conceivable can necessarily be totalized. Thus Cantor provides the
tool for a mathematical way of distinguishing contingency from chance,
and this tool is none other than the transfinite, which Meillassoux
translates into an elegant and economical statement: "the
(qualifiable) totality of the thinkable is unthinkable." (104) This
means that in the absence of any certainty regarding the totalization
of the possible, we should limit the scope of aleatory reasoning to
objects of experience, rather than extending it to the very laws that
rule our universe (as Kant illegitimately did in the Critique of Pure
Reason), as if we knew that the these laws necessarily belong to some
greater Whole.

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Received on Sun Sep 20 2009 - 12:28:10 PDT

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