Thanks to the title of a symposium at Goldsmith’s College in 2007, Meillassoux has been tentatively housed with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Graham Harman under the philosophical shingle “speculative realism.” But this title does little to unite the different positions of these four thinkers, which range from neomaterialism to neonihilism (p4)
I’ve been fortunate. I arrived at the metaphysics of things by way of inanimacy rather than life—from the vantage point of a critic and creator of computational media in general and videogames in particular. (p 9)
If we wish to understand a microcomputer or a mountain range or a radio astronomy observatory or a thermonuclear weapon or a capsaicinoid on its own terms, what approaches might be of service?
Similar troubles plague vitalist and panpsychist approaches. The “akinness” of various material behaviors to human thought and feeling has promise, but it also draws far too much attention to the similarities between humans and objects, rather than their differences. Whitehead was careful to distinguish prehension from consciousness, while still managing to hold that entities are “throbs of experience.”
David Ray Griffin has offered a helpful shorthand for this position, calling it panexperientialism instead of panpsychism, and the former name may suit my purposes better than the latter
The true alien recedes interminably even as it surrounds us completely. It is not hidden in the darkness of the outer cosmos or in the deep-sea shelf but in plain sight, everywhere, in everything. Moun- tain summits and gypsum beds, chile roasters and buckshot, micro- processors and ROM chips can no more communicate with us and one another than can Rescher’s extraterrestrial. It is an instructive and humbling sign. Speculative realism really does require speculation: benighted meandering in an exotic world of utterly incomprehensible objects. As philosophers, our job is to amplify the black noise of objects to make the resonant frequencies of the stuffs inside them hum in credibly satisfying ways. Our job is to write the speculative fictions of their processes, of their unit operations. Our job is to get our hands dirty with grease, juice, gunpowder, and gypsum. Our job is to go where everyone has gone before, but where few have bothered to linger.
I call this practice alien phenomenology. (p 34, end of intro)