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Okay, so this is proof that I’m not dead (yet). In fact, I’m simply working dilligently on my MTh thesis; although some might consider such a task as teetering on the edge of life’s flimsy grip (and I would certainly hesitate to disagree). In any case, I would like to pick up blogging again as I finish up my school work, so I’ve decided to begin a new, relatively short series concerning a matter I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: namely, how to think about theology given the recent speculative turn in continental philosophy. Ever since I first got my grubby hands on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, I’ve had a strong desire to attempt to correlate its (allegedly) revolutionary critique of Kantian anthropocentrism with certain Barthian tracks of theological thought (of the ‘revisionist’ variety, of course). Here is the introduction:

Part I: Introduction

In the Preface to Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, Alain Badiou reminds the reader that, as Bergson maintained, “…a philosopher only ever develops one idea. In any case, there is no doubt that the philosopher is born of a single question, the question which arises at the intersection of thought and life at a given moment in the philosopher’s youth; the question which one must at all costs find a way to answer. This is the category to which we must assign this book by Quentin Meillassoux.”[1]

Truly a weighty introduction if there ever was one. Yet, Badiou’s claim is not meant to ‘raise the stakes’, or to pick an academic fight, but to point the reader to the historical significance that Meillassoux’s argument entertains. Is Kant’s reply to Hume the only alternative to skepticism? Is there a path that allows us to accept Hume’s contention concerning the contingency of the laws of nature and the ability to think the absolute? If so, was Kant’s Copernican Revolution, ultimately, a fraud? Essentially, if Meillassoux is right, then the last 300 years have witnessed a fundamentally incoherent philosophical trajectory. As Badiou himself puts it: “Meillassoux’s proof – for it is indeed a proof – demonstrates that there is only one thing that is absolutely necessary: that the laws of nature are contingent. This entirely novel connection between contrary modalities puts thought in a wholly other relation to the experience of the world; a relation which simultaneously undoes the ‘necessitarian’ pretensions of classical metaphysics as well as the ‘critical’ distribution of the empirical and the transcendental… It would be no exaggeration to say that Quentin Meillassoux has opened up a new path in the history of philosophy, hitherto conceived as the history of what it is to know; a path that circumvents Kant’s canonical distinction between ‘dogmatism’, ‘scepticism’ and ‘critique’. Yes, there is absolute logical necessity. Yes, there is radical contingency. Yes, we can think what there is, and this thinking in no way depends upon a supposedly constituting subject.”[2]

As Meillassoux makes abundantly clear in his work, the contemporary ‘return to religion’ in Continental philosophical discourse is a direct result of post-Kantian philosophy’s emphasis on the constitutive subject. According to Meillassoux, what he calls ‘correlationism’ is the philosophical tendency to privilege the thought-being correlation over all other relations (that is, being must be thought before it can be being). This hegemonic anthropocentrism, and its consequent movement towards interiorization and further self-alienation, is to blame for the faux-spirituality of much of the ‘return to religion’.

It will be our contention that the religious turn in Continental philosophy has little to offer to the theological realm, and that, consequently, theologians should welcome Meillassoux’s “critique of Critique.” We will come to see that Meillassoux’s work has opened up a space for theology[3], and that the alleged “Speculative Turn”[4] is a boon for the return of metaphysics to both philosophical and theological discourse. The end of the postmodern era is nigh, and it is about time that so-called “contextual theologians” realized it.

In this paper, we will attempt to show, through a thorough analysis of Meillassoux’s After Finitude, why theology has something to gain from the advent of speculative realism. Subsequently, we will briefly outline why Eberhard Jüngel’s notion of the “more than necessary God” is the best theological complement to Meillassoux’s reconception of metaphysics. Through this experiment, we will see that a new way forward for philosophical-theological dialogue is emerging; a path that goes beyond the linguistic and religious turns to something entirely new. This speculative turn is at once the rejection of our shared Kantian heritage as well as a return to the object-oriented thinking of pre-critical metaphysics. However, this movement is nothing like contemporary ecumenical theology’s simple “return to the fathers.” Meillassoux’s notion of radical contingency opens the door for a wholly new way of experiencing what he calls ‘The Great Outdoors’. In the end, we will come to the conclusion that the theological tradition following in the footsteps of Eberhard Jüngel has nothing to fear in thinking the world after finitude.

[1] Alain Badiou. Preface to After Finitude, By Quentin Meillassoux (London: Continuum, 2008), vi.

[2] Ibid., vii.

[3] Meillassoux’s own work has shown this to be true, as his as-of-yet unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Divine Inexistence, is clearly meant as a work of ‘speculative materialist’ theological innovation.

[4] The Speculative Turn is a phrase that has come to denote the philosophical zeitgeist that has risen from the speculative realist/materialist thinkers of the last half-decade. This includes Meillassoux, Graham Harmann, Bruno Latour, Ray Brassier, Alberto Toscano, and Ian Hamilton Grant among others. The journal, Collapse, is the hub of the movement.