Yesterday on Object-Oriented Philosophy, Graham Harman made the following point about Quentin Meillassoux:
What many people still aren’t getting, and I myself didn’t quite grasp initially, is that Meillassoux is in a sense pro-correlationist, unlike the rest of us. For Meillassoux, the argument that “if you try to think a tree outside thought, you are thinking it, and it is thereby a tree inside thought” is a compelling fact for all philosophy. The attempt to get outside this circle is, for him, merely a dazzling rhetorical move or appeal to a “rich elsewhere” (he finds Latour guilty of this, and by implication me too). … Meillassoux really stands in the Badiou/Zizek/Lacan cluster, admires Hegel more than anyone else, and is not really a classic “realist.” Meillassoux simply wants to radicalize the human/world correlate into a form of absolute knowledge.
This is probably the clearest, most direct, and (it seems to me) most accurate characterization of Meillassoux’s position that I’ve come across. My reaction to his argument in After Finitude has always been that he has things backward (or upside-down?), so that the conclusions he draws from his mostly rather sharp insights tend to be the opposite of where those insights actually point. For instance, he sees “ancestrality” as a problem for “correlationism” because the ancestral datum signals a non-given existence, a time before givenness. But of course this is only a real problem if givenness has to be confined to givenness to or for the subject or thought in general, which seems to be exactly what he would want to argue against. If his initial characterization of correlationism is to be taken seriously, then it would be that position for which ancestrality is not a problem – or at most is a sort of attractive pseudo-problem. I can’t help but see it as such in After Finitude.
Now, I find his argument regarding the principle of factiality – viz., the sub-titular case for the necessity of contingency – much more engaging (if not always completely consistent). Thinking contingency as absolute is a problem to which so-called correlationism seems to be inescapably led, and one that it wouldn’t really be capable of addressing in any of its classical forms. What does bug me, though, is Meillassoux’s apparent attitude that taking the principle of factiality seriously amounts to an unstoppable critique of religion and/or theology. (This point, which is only a minor theme in After Finitude, makes me eager to get my hands on a copy of L’inexistence divine.) At least in After Finitude, Meillassoux never really engages with actual theological positions (many of which, at least in contemporary Christian theology, would be more than happy to endorse the complete contingency of every existent thing and existence itself – this is a perfectly coherent interpretation of creatio ex nihilo). Instead, he conflates belief, theology, and naïve fideism in a very facile way and then acts as if a defeat of the weakest of these amounts to a defeat of all of them.