Ray Brassier – Nominalism, Naturalism and Materialism

Ray Brassier (b.1965) is a member of the philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, known for his work in philosophical realism. He was formerly Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, England.

Brassier is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (2007)and the translator of Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (2003) and Theoretical Writings (2004) and Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (2008). Brassier is also a leading authority on the works of François Laruelle. He is currently working on a book tentatively entitled That Which is Not.

Ray’s work will be featured here often as we continue to engage with his speculative theories in conjunction with our attempts to work through the implications of naturalist reasoning, radical materiality, and nihilism – and all in an effort to move towards cultivating independent strains of post-nihilistic thought.

The following was filmed at the War Against the Sun workshop, from the series ‘The Matter of Contradiction’:

“Ray Brassier discusses the work of Wilfrid Sellars regarding the myth of the Given, meaning, nominalism, naturalism, and materialism in this talk. Nominalism denies the existence of abstract entities or universals (properties, forms, numbers, species, propositions, etc.). Traditional nominalism proceeded from an empiricist epistemology that challenges the very possibility of metaphysics, whether idealist or materialist. The critique of empiricism is taken to entail the refutation of nominalism. But nominalism contains a valuable insight for materialists: reality does not have propositional form. This is an insight that should be taken up by post-Darwinian materialists, who ought to deny that reality has a conceptual structure. For a consequent materialist, realism about abstract entities is problematic because it re-iterates the theological presumption of a pre-established harmony between the conceptual order and real order. The question is whether materialism can take up this nominalistic insight while jettisoning the empiricist prejudices that tie it to skeptical relativism. For the claim that reality is devoid of propositional form need not require denying that we can use language to capture aspects of reality or that concepts have ontological purchase. This is what Ray Brassier proposes to investigate using the work of Wilfrid Sellars, who managed to combine nominalist semantics, epistemic naturalism, and what Ray calls ‘methodological materialism’.”

[ see also: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1145 ]

7 responses to “Ray Brassier – Nominalism, Naturalism and Materialism

  1. seems more pragmatic to me to be a taoist postdarwinian materialist, than to be a western semantic nominalist. as a taost I can say “naming is the origin of all particular things” but as a nominalist i must simply say that language and abstractions aren’t real and don’t do enough to say what they really mean. The taoist explanation is much simpler but hard for a western mind I suppose, what do you think?

    this is a great lecture of course

  2. I love rorty. I’m arguing that a taoist explanation of language has more pragmatic value in the world, than the ray braisserian interpretation of willffrid sellars explanation of the myth of the given, nominalism, and the methodology of empiricism. To understand “naming is the origin of all particular things” one must merely look at the sentence. To understand the western point of view, one must spend a few months reading and understanding a variety of thinkers before one can understand the meaning of “nominalism”.

    You’re saying they are EQUALLY as effective? How so? If you were to encounter a random american on the street and he said “I believe words have power, that words mean the essence of the thing being reffered to” would you rather explain nominalism or say “naming is the origin of particular things”? One seems like it would be boring philosophy, the other would be useful speaking.

  3. Pingback: Ray Brassier on the future and what it means to orient oneself toward it (video) | Senselogi©·

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