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Book Title: Nihil Unbound|
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Reader ratings: 5.2
The author of the book: Ray Brassier
Edition: Palgrave Macmillan
Date of issue: November 8th 2007
ISBN 13: 9780230590816
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 18.30 MB
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An argumentative survey of a very narrow range of contemporary philosophy. We hear about the Churchlands, as token representatives of Anglo-American writing, and then after that we're firmly in the "continental" world, where a great big statue of Heidegger looms over the landscape, blotting out the sun.
The discussion of Churchlandian elminitivism is fairly handled, but in the end Brassier endorses a slightly more sophisticated version of the "self-refutation" objection, coached in terms of representation rather than the vaguer notion of "meaning". He could have looked at other figures in the Quinean/Sellarsian community, but I don't suppose they would be any more relevant to his agenda about enlightenment and nihilism.
I've already reviewed Meillasoux' "After Finitude" (which Brassier translated), and I would repeat most of what said there. I think Quentin would benefit greatly from examining analytic work on modal logic and the recent books by Ted Sider and other Anglophone work in metaphysics and epistemology, since he seems to want to write in the mode that is considered unremarkable in Oxford or Harvard, but apparently seems alien in Paris.
The quality of Brassier's writing is in steady decline through this book, as he moves more and more on to topics and authors he is most familiar with, and with which he seems to assume greatest familiarity in his readers. Already exposition is getting quite poor in the Meillasoux chapter, and it becomes execrable in the following chapters. I cannot fathom what Badiou's arguments or ideas are supposed to be, so I can't judge the fatal problem Brassier thinks he has discerned in them. Equally, Laruelle seems to be little more than someone who generalises about the history of philosophy without bothering for any examples, so he hardly deserves the extended attention he gets here.
The seocnd half is mostly taken up with exposition of Heidegger and Deleuze, which merely confirms the impression that the former was just a naive idealist who shrouded his ideas in redundant terminology, whereas the latter was just a manufacturer of quasi-scientific vacuities, in the vein of the old German naturphilosophie. What unifies all this stuff is that the French authors are struggling to get away from Martin's pernicious legacy, which left French philosophy stuck in a cave for the past 70-odd years. That doesn't really connect with the Churchlands or anyone else over the water, since they were never stuck with any requirement to anchor every concept phenomenologically, quite the opposite.
I am giving this 1 star because I did not like it. It was not written well enough for the commentaries to give me any new perspectives on the authors under discussion, nor could I make enough sense of Brassier's overall argument. Incidentally, I *don't* think that analytic philosophy is the only worthwhile tradition, or that all French or German writing is rubbish. But that doesn't mean I have to join in with conventional enthusiasms. For what it's worth, I think Nathalie Sarraute was a more interesting philosopher than any of the overpraised peacocks of post-structuralism, even though her books are classed as "novels".
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