I think I might be teaching the first graduate seminar on Graham Harman in the United States. At least two of my students are applying for this awesome summer institute at Bonn on the new ontology (teachers including Hagglund, Brassier, Harman, Grant, and Zizek!) and as part of a class on Derrida with my colleague Francois Raffoul they should get a chance to work through some of Hagglund's work.*
We've started the semester with a huge dollop of Meillassoux and Harman on Meillassoux (many notes thus far are HERE, this week I'm going to include more stuff on Harman on Meillassoux). Two Springs from now I'm scheduled to teach a class on Meillassoux and Graham Priest which will be awesome, awesome, awesome and which Insha'Allah might form the genesis of some collaborative work with Levi Bryant (at the very least it will form the genesis of some solo work on Bryant, which would also be awesome).
One of the things we've read this semester is Meillassoux's "Spectral Dilemma" essay and Harman's exegesis of parts of Meillassoux's second (currently unpublished) magnum opus L'Inexistence Divine. Strangely, I was able to lead a discussion of some of the material in the article in the current adult sunday school class I'm doing on the Meaning of Jesus.
So I think today, February 12, 2012 might be the first time Meillassoux has been taught in an adult sunday school class (notes on that class HERE; Meillassoux is mentioned multiple times in different contexts).
I do not think my teaching bits of Meillassoux today will be the last time that conscientious Christians will struggle with his ideas in churches though, for a couple of reasons.
- The manner in which Meillassoux struggles with the problem of evil puts him in the same league as Dostoevsky and Schopenhauer, which are the mainstay of honest (!!!)** apologetics and philosophy of religion.
- His a priori justification for the claims both that justice requires and that it is not unreasonable to hope for something very much like Christian eschatology is quite remarkable, even more so in that it does not presuppose theism, and
- There are many further christological aspects (involving being childlike and s perfect being who relenquishes perfections) that are fascinating in their own rights.
When I get a chance to read and hopefully teach the whole book I want to focus on a few more things:
- One radical historical view is that Saint Paul's christological thinking did not involve belief in an historical Jesus. This is supported by the fact that none of the biographical details in Mark are in the authentic epistles of Saint Paul. So some historians think that at best a prior christiological movement was grafted onto a radical movement that had its roots in Galilee after the fact (this is consistent with the historical Jesus having said the sayings in the Q gospel; though those who think there was no historical Jesus make the same claim). If you read Saint Paul this way, then the view is pretty close to Meillassoux's in a lot of ways.
- From Harman's spiel at least, there is no evidence that Meillassoux discusses process theology, which would also be much more sympathetic to the kind of claim he is making. Just as Meillassoux can be read as the most radical possible Pauline christianity, he could be read as the limiting case of process theology (this is also interesting in light of Harman's own connections to Whitehead).
- Meillassoux talks of three advents, that of matter, life, and sapience, with justice being the fourth. I don't know what he means by life here, but I do worry that there is too much of a Kantian anthropomorphic basis here. First, sentience is just as much an advent as the other three, and it is morally relevant. Second, we have moral obligations to nature too, ones that go beyond anything that a Kantian or utilitarian perspective could grant. I think that these things could be fit well into the general meta-ethical picture here, but will probably have to bring in some resources from Harman (who is the most consistent great anti-anthropocentric philosopher I can think of).
- Related to (3), the discussion of beauty is quite evocative and one more reason that I will be excited to read the book.
- As noted, the critique of fideism in After Finitude is already one of the most important challenges to the sorry state of contemporary Christian apologetics, which as a discipline way too forgiving of morally atrocious and historically dishonest crap. Meillassoux's honesty about fideism and neo-fideism alone should gain him already a footnote in the history of theology, and when you add that to (1)-(4) above, you start to see a figure who rightfully belongs at the forefront of this point in history.
In any case, I do predict and hope that significant parts of Meillassoux's radical atheology will be debated (and indeed form presuppositions of future debates) as part of a truly reforming church. It is not implausible to predict that, again Insha'Allah, if I keep teaching these Sunday School classes every year or so that some large portion of my old age will be in the labor of this . . .
*Sorry I'm leaving out diacritical marks, I don't know how to do umlauts or cedilles in Typepad, something I'm going to have to learn to do soon.
**Sadly, "honest apologetics" is nearly oxymoronic. Too many ludicrous beliefs about the historical composition of the bible are demanded by too many bad people involved. The very kind of fideism that Meillassoux denounces is alive and well in most Christian churches and in analytic philosophy dressed up in new guise as "reformed epistemology" (so-called!)*** which leads to all sorts of epistemic and moral vice.
***"Reformed" actually means something important in the history of Christianity, and part of this meaning tends against fideism, even and especially Plantinga's version. A constantly reforming church must be radically open to reason, empirical research, and divine revelation. It is no accident that people like Plantinga and Wright come out against gay people the way they do. The denigration of reason is always in the service of defending conservatism by ignoring valid arguments concerning what we have learned historically about the bible and what we have learned about how we ought to treat one another.]