Today I read Zizek’s chapter on Meillassoux in Less Than Nothing, “Correlationism and Its Discontents.” Given the hugeness of the book, I assume that very few people have gotten this far, so I thought I would report on Zizek’s critique, with representative blockquotes. Basically, he claims that the realism/correlationism dyad is still stuck within the framework of the transcendental subject — realism simply negates the transcendental subject without actually changing the underlying structure of the relation between subject and object. He thinks this binary misses the really crucial question:
The critical implication with regard to Meillassoux is that the true problem is not to think pre-subjective reality, but to think how something like a subject could have emerged within it; without this (properly Hegelian) gesture, any objectivism will remain correlationist in a hidden way–its image of “reality in itself” remains correlated (even if in a negative way) with subjectivity…. it is not enough to oppose trasncendental correlation to a vision of reality-in-itself–transcendental correlation itself has to be grounded in reality-in-itself; i.e., its possibility has to be accounted for in the terms of this reality. (642-43)
Zizek also puts a Lacanian twist on the arche-fossil argument:
The true problem of correlationism is not whether we can reach the In-itself the way it is outside of any correlation to the subject (or the way the Old is outside its perception from the standpoint of the New); but the true problem is to think the New itself “in becoming.” The fossil is not the Old the way it was/is in itself, the true fossil is the subject itself in its impossible objectal status–the fossil is myself, the way the terrified cat sees me when it looks at me. This is what truly escapes correlation, not the In-itself of the object, but the subject as object. (644)
To me, this critique seems pretty cogent. It also seems that Meillassoux pushes somewhat further in Zizek’s direction in the translated segments of The Divine Inexistence, but still doesn’t really grapple with the question of genesis — human subjectivity “just kind of happens.” There is a dialectical element to the argument, but it is not dialectical enough to be really satisfying in my view. It’s dialectical going forward (every qualitative leap has to preserve the previous level, so that animals are still physical entities, humans are still animals, the resurrection humanity is still human, etc.), but there’s not the retroactivity as far as I can see (until we get to the present human hope for the resurrection).