Speculative Realism vs. Spectral Realism

Michael over at Complete Lies has a nice post up, relating my discussion of dark matter to both Derrida’s hauntology and to Schelling’s ‘weird realism’. Don’t have much time to comment now, but highlights include his concept of the ‘presence’ of dark matter in reality as a kind of ontological black hole.

Could there not be ontological voids or black holes? Could there not be entities that are entirely vaccuous to the extent that they deny Being to those entities around them, that is, that like black holes, actually exist not only as void in reality but destroy existence itself?

If ‘dark matter’ is that which is a nothing without context, that is, not a simply empty space in reality, I think the comparison to a black hole is fitting. My ontological black hole not only exists as void, but denies its very context and exists to annul its context in the universe. It is not a quasi-being, not a ghost, but a voided void, an absolute denial of existence.

Anontology does involve a certain inheritance of hauntology, which I’ve made some remarks on before and which I will elaborate on in the future. This link reminds me, also, of Eric Santner’s wonderful discussion of ‘spectral materialism’ in the work of W.G. Sebald. Here we not only have the problem of realism vs. materialism, but also speculation vs. spectrality, the specular or spectacular, and so on.

Just some ‘larvae’ for now, but I’ll certainly look forward to this new problematization of the Speculative Realist zeitgeist.

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7 Responses to Speculative Realism vs. Spectral Realism

  1. What are “spectacular realism”?

  2. Sorry, I mean to write: What about “spectacular realism”?

  3. reidkane says:

    I’d like to see a realist take on Debord. The spectacle not as an unreal distortion, but non-spectacular or non-mediated reality as itself the distortion of the spectacular/Real. I’m generally fascinated by the etymological entanglment of specter, speculation, spectacle, spectacular, etc. That all seems like work for Agamben…

  4. Michael says:

    Thank you for bringing Sebald (and Santner) to my attentions, I was unaware of this “spectral materialism” although from my brief look at that book on Google, it certainly seems like something I should be aware of.

  5. I think “spectacular realism” would be an interesting formulation – my sense is that “speculative realism” does not really want to be that “speculative” – I mean isn’t speculare synonymous with intuire in Hegel, thus the discussion of “intellectual intuition”? what exactly is so “speculative” about “speculative realism”? If we know things as they are in themselves, we don’t need to speculate about them, it seems to me…

  6. Michael says:

    I think a “Spectacular Realism” is probably close to Graham’s original “Weird Realism,” that is, emphasizing the fact that Realism is not boring but ultimately strange and exciting.

  7. reidkane says:


    I believe the term Speculative Realism is taken from Meillassoux’s notion of speculative philosophy, which basically claims that we can think the absolute, ie that which is not relative to thought. This is for him distinct from the correlationist position that claims that everything we can think is necessarily that which is relative to thought.

    He also distinguishes between metaphysical speculation, which claims that the absolute is some absolute entity or being beyond relative beings, and his own speculative materialism which claims that the absolute is the absolute principle of the contingency of all relative beings, properties, and laws (which are for him nothing more than relatively constant regularities).

    So in Meillassoux’s usage, ‘speculative realism’ would be a redundant formulation, if realism means the existence of something apart from thought. I think the term was simply coined as one of convenience.

    The major difference between Meillassoux and the other ‘speculative realists’ is that he claims the only absolute real is the principle of contingency (and its corollary, the principle of non-contradiction), whereas for Graham the ‘absolute’ is the inner-life of objects (for Meillassoux this would amount to a form of metaphysics, and he would therefore reject it), and for Brassier, as far as I know, the Real is indifferent to the philosophical distinction between relative and absolute, in which the terms are nonetheless still relative to thought. (I don’t know enough about Grant to characterize his position here.)

    I think your formulation of ‘spectacular realism’ may be appropriate for Graham, especially given his notion that relations between objects are possible because of a kind of inter-objectal intentionality, but for Meillassoux it doesn’t quite work. He doesn’t claim we have access to the thing itself, but that the ‘itself’ is not a thing but a principle that makes all things contingent and hence relative.

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