Science Fiction Studies

#130 = Volume 43, Part 3 = November 2016


Amy Ransom

Playing Dice with the Universe

Quentin Meillassoux. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. 2008. Trans. Ray Brassier. Pref. Alain Badiou. London: Continuum, 2009. 148 pp. $21.95 pbk.

─────. The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarmé’s Coup de Dés. Trans. Robin Mackay. New York: Sequence, 2012. 298 pp. $25.95 pbk.

─────. Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction (with “The Billiard Ball” by Isaac Asimov). Trans. Alyosha Edlebi. Minneapolis, MN: Univocal, 2015. 93 pp. $19.95 pbk.

Natural laws are the stuff our science is made of. Or rather, Western science’s primary aim has been to discern natural laws governing the functions of the universe based on observed phenomena. But what if natural laws are not a necessary condition for the universe, as “speculative realist” philosopher Quentin Meillassoux (pronounced: may-ah-soo) posits? Has the core project of “science” been for nought? Often described as the most important French philosopher in the Anglophone world since Jacques Derrida, Meillassoux’s life work aims to disprove the necessity of natural laws. Instead, he argues that the only universal and necessary constant is contingency. And yet, although he wishes to restore to philosophy its speculative power, a role it has largely relinquished to science, he also offers a way back to faith in the mathematical description of the universe rejected by his own field. His philosophy has compelling implications not just for science but also for science fiction. This review, then, introduces his three books available in English, making the case for more extended discussion of its applications to the study of sf.

Of primary interest here is Meillassoux’s most recent book, Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction (SF and XSF), which explicitly theorizes a new subgenre with the sexy moniker of “extro-science fiction.” His proposed new category of “fiction des mondes hors-science”—literally the “fiction of worlds outside science,” translated as “extro-science fiction” by Alyosha Edlebi and handily abbreviated as “XSF” in the text—derives its core ideas from Meillassoux’s acclaimed philosophical treatise, After Finitude. SF and XSF begins by offering a reasonable definition of sf, based on the genre’s relationship to science itself: “it is a matter of imagining a fictional future of science that modifies, and often expands, its possibilities of knowledge and mastery of the real” (4-5). Proper science fiction may propose and extrapolate science and technology that may not seem possible today, but its author must respect the rules of any system he or she puts into place. No matter what, “in the anticipated future it will still be possible to subject the world to a scientific knowledge” (5; emphasis in original). Meillassoux thus reiterates the basis for long-standing definitions of sf as “plausible extrapolation,” which posits that the fictional worlds constructed must adhere to the most basic principles of “science” as a system that, through experiment and observation, derives a set of constant natural laws governing the universe in question.

In contrast, XSF constructs “worlds where, in principle, experimental science is impossible” (5; emphasis in original). For Meillassoux, such fictions represent “a particular regime of the imaginary in which structured—or rather unstructured—worlds are conceived in such a way that experimental science cannot deploy its theories or constitute its objects in them” (5-6). Before providing the reader with an illustrative example, he makes clear the relationship of such a potentially frivolous question to his work in philosophy, linking it to “a very classical metaphysical problem”—namely, “the necessity of the laws of nature” (6). He then offers a summary of Karl Popper’s and Immanuel Kant’s erroneous responses to David Hume’s assertion that, indeed, there must be immutable laws of nature (a problem further addressed in the discussion of After Finitude below). He then provides an illustrative case study of Isaac Asimov’s short story “The Billiard Ball,” the text of which is handily reproduced at the end of this slender volume.

First published in the March 1967 issue of If magazine and then collected in Asimov’s Mysteries (1968), an anthology of science-based detective enigmas, “The Billiard Ball” introduces an anti-gravity device with an unfortunately fatal design “flaw.” When a billiard ball is introduced into the device, instead of hovering weightless in mid-air, it flies out at the speed of light, slaying its inventor. If the tale ended here—with the apparently random trajectory of the billiard ball—we might have found an early example of an XSF text. Because Asimov then implies, however, that a rival scientist had actually calculated that trajectory (due to “new” laws of physics), we must be disappointed and admit that this is mere sf. Meillassoux nonetheless uses “the example of the billiard ball with fantastical trajectories” (18)—that is, trajectories that do not seem to follow the predictable laws of nature as these have been outlined by experimental physics (actual or fictional)—in order to explain the difference between the two types of fiction. He asserts that “in science fiction we generally inhabit a world where physics … differs from ours, but in which laws are not … abolished” (23). In contrast, “In extro-science fiction, … it seems no order of any sort can be constituted and, therefore, no story can be told. If this were true we would be wrong to speak of extro-science worlds” (23; emphasis in original). We would instead be faced with images of chaos with no narrative interest—at least, that is, if we accept Hume’s notion that any constituted world must necessarily obey a set of natural laws. In classical philosophy, in the absence of natural laws there is only chaos, a state that precludes narrative structure; but disproving this position is precisely the cart to which Meillassoux hitches the metaphorical horse of XSF.

Careful to distinguish between the amateurish type of narrative in which a writer might violate the laws of his own premise and a literarily interesting extro-science narrative that creates a fictional world without natural laws, Meillassoux digs deeper and finds three types of extro-science worlds, two of which he subsequently disqualifies. True XSF must construct a world in which “irregularity is sufficient to abolish science, but not consciousness” (36); random events would occur with a certain amount of frequency, so that “no eventual sphere would be preserved from a-causal disorder,” but “daily life could always build on stabilities that are certainly very relative, but still sufficiently powerful to allow a conscious existence” (36). Finally, genuine XSF fulfills two requirements: “within it events take place that no real or imaginary ‘logic’ can explain; … [and] the question of science is present in the tale, albeit in a negative mode”: it presents “a world in which science suddenly becomes … impossible” (44) or was never present at all.

Meillassoux then offers three partial examples from the Anglo-American canon, and claims to have identified one bona fide XFS novel, French sf writer René Barjavel’s Ravage (1943). The first three, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik (1969), Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), and Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia (1998), are all “novels that take place within an uncertain reality, in which the real would go to pieces, progressively ceasing to be familiar” (48). Unfortunately, though, these novels eventually either explain their unstable phenomena or, in the case of Hitchhiker’s Guide, “produce a form of nonsense, verging on the pure joke” (47; emphasis in original). Only in Barjavel’s Ravage (translated by Damon Knight as Ashes, Ashes in 1967) does he find a work that so completely “grafts itself on a SF context that it contaminates with a logic foreign to it” (49-50). According to Meillassoux, Barjavel denies any restoration of order or logical explanation so “that the inhabitants of this world have all their time taken up by the vagaries of an environment that has become unpredictable and unrecognizable” (52-53).

René Barjavel (1911-1985) is one of France’s most respected sf writers, but his works are also found in mainstream literary imprints. Wikipedia credits him with being one of the first writers to invoke the grandfather paradox in time travel, with Le Voyageur imprudent (1944; trans. as Future Times Three by Margaret Sansone Scouten in 1958). La Nuit des temps (1968; trans. as The Ice People by C.L. Markham in 1971) is considered an incontournable [unavoidable; a must-read] classic of French sf. He is a logical choice of author for Meillassoux as his works, in particular La Faim du tigre [The Hunger of the Tiger, 1966], question the existence of God. The goal of Meillassoux’s philosophy is precisely to recover his discipline’s capacity for speculative thinking in the absence of metaphysics and theism (see Watkin). One must understand this aspect of Barjavel’s ideology to accept Meillassoux’s categorization of Ravage as XSF; without this knowledge, aspects of the text suggest that divine intervention might explain the breakdown of natural laws that it posits.

Ravage at first appears to be a typical French anticipation [novel of the future] extrapolating technological developments and their impact on everyday life in the year 2052. The tale is told with humor and/or a critical bent that makes its future Paris something of a dystopia, and when that society suddenly breaks down—the book was written during the Nazi Occupation, as was Albert Camus’s The Plague (1947)—one is also tempted to read it as a political allegory. Indeed, Meillassoux suggests that Barjavel meant to critique the collaborationist Vichy régime in southern France, with its ideology of conservative “family” values and a return to the land. The breakdown of the highly technologized society makes this novel extremely interesting today, in light of the omnipresence of the post-apocalyptic genre, and there are aspects of the protagonist’s activities that make him a precursor to Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead television series (2010-). Civilization’s breakdown results precisely from a sudden, worldwide change in the laws of physics previously held to be immutable: in an instant, all forms of electric machinery cease to function.

Barjavel makes Meillassoux’s job easy, in that he explicitly engages the problems of science and natural laws. (Interestingly, Meillassoux does not provide his readerswith the following analysis, perhaps presuming they already know the novel.) When all machinery stops, including food factories and water processing plants, the public gathers, hoping that the eminent scientist, Professor Paul Portin, can explain. Yet he is completely at a loss:

My good friends, I can tell you nothing. I don’t know anything. Such a thing has never happened before. Our science is an experimental science. Well, the phenomenon which has occurred does not correspond to anything we know. In disappearing, electricity has violated all the laws of nature and logic. And, electricity having disappeared, it’s even more incredible that we’re still living. The whole thing is crazy. It’s an antiscientific, irrational nightmare. All our theories, all our laws have been overturned. (86; emphasis added)

Later, as a corollary effect (and here one senses Barjavel’s satirical, Voltairean bent), virgins worldwide swoon into unconsciousness. Thus, although the electricity needed for the human body to function has not generally been affected, this inexplicable side effect of the catastrophe is taken as confirmation of the significance placed on virginity as a cultural universal. This time, a medical doctor is asked if the protagonist’s fiancée’s condition is linked to “the disappearance of electricity” (106). Once again the man of science is perplexed:

“But the electricity hasn’t disappeared, my young friend. If it had disappeared, we wouldn’t be in existence, we would have gone back to nothingness, ourselves and the universe. We, and that table, and this stone, we’re all nothing more than marvelous combinations of energy. Matter and energy are the same. No part of them can disappear or the whole thing would disappear. What’s happened is a change in the manifestations of the electric flux. A change that bowls us over, that demolishes the whole edifice of science we’ve constructed, but which surely has neither more nor less importance to the universe than the beating of a butterfly’s wing.” (106; emphasis added)

Not only does Barjavel invoke a fundamental law of physics and Lao Tzu in the same paragraph, he provides Meillassoux with an apparently perfect example of XSF since the change in electricity’s behavior itself is not universal but appears random. Furthermore, despite the apparent abolition of a formerly maintained law of physics, the world goes on; life becomes increasingly contingent, however, and a good portion of the novel narrates the protagonist’s struggle to survive with a small group of followers. It eventually concludes with their installation on a farm (a fortunate throwback still in existence thanks to stubborn peasants’ refusal to embrace modernity) and the constitution of a new, peaceful, agrarian society with an oral tradition of its origin and a new religion. All seems to be for the best in the best of possible worlds—until, one day, a curious boy constructs a machine.…

Meillassoux senses the critical potential that such fiction holds for speculative thought, and I cannot help but be swept away by his rhetoric. Yet some unresolved issues plague the text. First, Meillassoux waffles in his terminology, referring variously to extro-science fiction as a “genre within the genre” (4), but later arguing that it “can become a full-fledged genre” of its own (56). This may be simply splitting hairs. Of more substantial difficulty is Meillassoux’s lack of engagement with other theories of sf. My impression is that his differentiation of what we might call “classic” sf from “extro-sf” may not be a completely original insight, although his manner of arriving at it is. I would welcome a deeper interrogation of this short book in relation to existing genre theory. Finally, his understanding of the term “science” is an uncomplicated one, taking for granted that all science is Western-style science, thus leaving him open to critiques from alternative perspectives. I would like to see how XSF might be related to indigenous futurism, postcolonial sf, and other forms of speculative fiction outside the Anglo-American canon.

Meillassoux’s example of Barjavel’s Ravage does suggest the potential application of the term XSF to any number of Western texts today, beginning with certain zombie-apocalypse narratives, from Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011) to the recent French series (not really about zombies per se) Les Revenants [The Returned, 2012-2015]. The latter presents a world in which the dead return for no apparent reason, and why these dead in particular is never fully explained (although this maybe due to the pressures to wrap up a series before it has run its course in its creators’ minds). Indeed, in most zombie texts, although a pseudo-scientific explanation may be given (an epidemic), no current laws of physics or biology can explain the walking dead, nor are any new ones rationally extrapolated. But are we then in the realm of true extro-science fiction, or merely poorly conceived sf, or perhaps the supernatural fantastic?

Which brings us back to Meillassoux’s interest in metaphysics. With its intriguing title and cover illustration (a manipulated image of stars scintillating in what appears to be deep space), After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency may at first glance appear to be more directly related to the problems of space and time at the core of science fiction than it actually is. Although its conclusions do have significant bearing on our field, and one of its particular goals is to legitimate the scientific study of the distant past and far future, Meillassoux’s most serious book may prove a bit much for the non-philosopher. Meillassoux himself admits that “[p]hilosophy is the invention of strange forms of argumentation, necessarily bordering on sophistry, which remains its dark structural double” (76). This book is a proof in point. Whereas his goal is to refute Kant’s and Hume’s positions on the necessity of the laws of nature, concluding instead that the only absolute necessity is contingency, the path he takes to get there—admittedly, in keeping with his profession as a philosopher and a teacher at one of France’s most prestigious universities, the École Normale Supérieure—is a series of seemingly convoluted arguments, as well as refutations of potential objections to those arguments, deeply rooted in the philosophical tradition. Although I frequently felt in above my head, I will attempt to summarize here the main points of relevance to the study of sf.

Chapters 1, “Ancestrality,” and 2, “Metaphysics, Fideism, Speculation,” introduce two key concepts in Meillassoux’s overall project: ancestrality and correlationism (see Harman). Correlationism is Meillassoux’s term for the type of philosophy in effect since Kant and codified by twentieth-century phenomenologists—that, in the absence of an absolute necessity (God), knowledge cannot be absolute but must be based on humanobservation. All knowledge (and thus reality) is based on the co-relation between human observer and observed; this philosophical position introduces a form of anti-realist relativism that ultimately denies the independent existence of the universe outside of human intelligence/reason. The problem for science is that we now have scientifically observed and/or extrapolated phenomena that predate and outdistance actual human perception. Ancestrality refers to scientific facts that pose a problem for correlationist thought—for example, archeological knowledge of the earth’s development before the evolution of human intelligence or astronomical data about the distant past taken from stars hundreds of thousands of light years away from earth. Meillassoux’s goal is to resolve this conundrum, effectively rejecting correlationism as a tenable epistemology; he has to justify “the possibility of thinking what there is when there is no thought” (36).

Traveling through Descartes’s cogito ergo sum (from the 1637 Discourse on Method), which was put into the service of metaphysics by also being used to prove the existence of God (fideism), moving on to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781), which allows the refutation of Descartes and becomes the basis of contemporary correlationism, Meillassoux argues that in order to escape the traps of both the necessity of God and correlationism, “we must uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstate any form of absolutely necessary entity” (34; emphasis in original). Since it seems generally agreed that neither God nor any other ultimate cause for the universe exists to explain why things are the way they are, we must find some other type of final cause, or perhaps not even a cause per se.

In chapter 3, “The Principle of Factiality,” Meillassoux takes on Kant and Hegel, borrowing the Heideggerian term “facticity” (see Harman 21-22), and works toward “demonstrating the thesis which states that the thing-in-itself actually exists, and there is a realm of the in-itself” (71)—that is, that the real does exist independently of human perceptions of it, thus refuting the correlationist position. Through facticity, he arrives at an absolute, “the one that would allow mathematical science to describe the in-itself” (64): Chaos. Along the way, Meillassoux acknowledges the skeptic’s questions, such as “How could such a disaster provide the foundation for scientific knowledge? How could Chaos possibly legitimate knowledge of the ancestral?” (65) He asserts that only “an extreme form of Chaos, a hyper-chaos, for which nothing is or would seem to be impossible, not even the unthinkable” (64) offers philosophy “an omnipotence equal to that of the Cartesian God, and capable of anything, even the inconceivable” (64; emphasis in original). This hyper-chaos is “Contingency [that] expresses the fact that physical laws remain indifferent as to whether an event occurs or not—they allow an entity to emerge, to subsist, or to perish” (39; emphasis in original). This, and this alone, of all natural laws is necessary; thus, contingency is the absolute necessity. He then develops another apparently original concept, mentioned in the chapter’s title: “factuality,” that “exerts the actual contingency of the laws of nature” (83; see Harman 30).

Chapter 4, “Hume’s problem,” refers not just to the fact that Meillassoux “has a problem” with Hume’s philosophy, but also to the “familiar philosophical problem” of cause and effect, predictability, and returning again to the necessity of natural laws governing the universe (85-86). Essentially, Hume argues that, since we can predict the workings of the universe via science and can repeat experiments to verify results, we have predictability, which means there must be natural laws organizing the universe. Here is where After Finitude is most closely linked to Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction, because once Meillassoux demolishes Hume he opens the way for XSF and restores to philosophy a speculative power that it had relinquished to science. He asserts that: “Hume’s problem raises the question of whether … physics as such … will continue to be possible in the future.… [C]an we demonstrate that the experimental science which is possible today will still be possible tomorrow?” (86; emphasis in original). Concluding that we cannot, he confronts his imaginary objectors, at the same time describing before the fact the task of XSF narratives. His argument posits, first, that, if we accept that there is no reason for things to be the way they are (there is no absolute necessity, either God or natural laws), then we must embrace unreason (82-83). But if we do admit that “not only things but also physical laws are really contingent, … we would have to admit that these laws could actually change at any moment for no reason whatsoever” (83; emphasis in original). Such a world, “a world without physical necessity[,] would be riven at each instant and in each of its points by an immense multiplicity of disconnected possibilities” (84); this possibility very clearly points to imaginary worlds found in a wide array of texts that we now label sf but may now want to reconsider as XSF. A further passage, in which Meillassoux answers his objectors, bears citing because of its literary applications:

Those of us who endorse this claim [that natural laws are contingent] would have to spend our time fearing that familiar objects could at any moment behave in the most unexpected ways, congratulating ourselves every evening on having made it through the day without a hitch…. Such a conception of reality or relation-to-the-world seems so absurd that no one could sincerely maintain it. (83-84)

While this might appear absurd to the average philosopher, for the regular reader of speculative fiction the idea is hardly extraordinary at all. Rather, this description fits not only the fictional realities of Kafka and perhaps Dino Buzzatti and Italo Calvino, and a number of Québécois writers such as Louis-Philippe Hébert and Jacques Brossard, but it also seems to describe our everyday lives in hypermodernity.

Meillassoux concludes this chapter with the mathematical discussions necessary to support his claim and explaining his title: After Finitude. He invokes Georg Cantor’s theorem, which asserts: “take any set, count its elements, then compare this number to the number of possible groupings of these elements…. You will always obtain the same result: the set B of possible groupings (or parts) of a set A is always bigger than A—even if A is infinite” (104; emphasis in original). This theorem, which mathematically proves that there is something after infinity, allows Meillassoux—after a reflection on chance and the aleatory, both of which etymologically derive from the game of dice (a notion to which we will return in a moment)—to conclude that: “It is by way of mathematics that we will finally succeed in thinking that which, through its power and beauty, vanquishes quantities and sounds the end of play” (108; emphasis in original).

A final chapter, “Ptolemy’s Revenge,” may be the most fruitful for those interested in the culture of science and philosophy, for in it Meillassoux comes back to trace the origins of the break between science and philosophy. He argues that the Galilean-Copernican revolution in science, which overturned Ptolemy’s geocentric solar system, actually forced philosophy into the false position in which correlationism has placed it. Ptolemy’s revenge lies in the fact that, at the very moment when science had decentered man from its conception of the universe, philosophy put him right back at the center with the ergo. Whereas Galileo’s revolution was to allow the world to become “exhaustively mathematizable” (115; emphasis in original) and thus henceforth autonomous from divine necessity or human perception, “the Critical revolution [of Kant] makes the object conform to our knowledge” (118). Meillassoux scathingly accuses his profession of relinquishing the “speculative import” (120; emphasis in original) of philosophy:

While the Copernican revolution has revealed its own extent, philosophers have accentuated their own pseudo-Copernican counter-revolution, remorselessly exposing the metaphysical naivety of their predecessors by contracting the bounds of knowledge ever more stringently within the bounds of humanity’s present situation. (121)

Ironically, as science became capable of knowing what lay outside the temporal and spatial scope of immediate human perception and experience (the distant past, remote outer space, the microscopic and even sub-particulate), philosophy limited itself to the immediately knowable. He concludes this powerful chapter with a three-stage account of what he calls the “Kantian catastrophe” (124), and a call for a new school of philosophy, “speculative materialism” (121; emphasis in original), which will seek answers to “the most urgent question”: “how is thought able to think what there can be when there is no thought?” (121; emphasis in original).

Given Meillassoux’s investment in contingency and the etymology of the related terms chance and the aleatory, we can understand his motivation for taking on the role of literary private detective in his second book translated into English, The Number and the Siren. In contrast with the somewhat sloppy literary methodology that Meillassoux applies in SF and XSF, he engages here a much more systematic and masterful approach to a canonical work of French literature, symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un coup de dés n’abolira jamais le hasard” [A throw of the dice will never abolish chance, 1898]. This study proposes a controversial but compelling reversal of established readings of Mallarmé’s stunning, revolutionary masterpiece. At first glance, this book may appear only marginally related to the study of sf, yet its connection to Meillassoux’s overall project regarding the necessity of contingency and even the theme of the poem itself can be linked back to our field.

As Meillassoux reminds us, “Edgar Allan Poe [was] Mallarmé’s acknowledged master” (195), as illustrated by his homage sonnet, “Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe” (1887). And Meillassoux’s quest to crack the numerical code hidden by Mallarmé in “Un coup de dés” reads something like a detective story, a genre pioneered by Poe. The poem contains references to a mysterious “Number,” and the poet evidenced his cabbalistic obsession with esoteric calculations in the notes for his unfinished masterpiece, known only as “the Book,” meant to be not just a total literature but also perhaps a modern ritual to unite the French Republic in the absence of Christianity. Nonetheless, conventional criticism rejected out of hand the notion that such a canonical poet might be pursuing such a mad project as to embed into his masterpiece a carefully designed code. (Clearly, they hadn’t yet read Dan Brown.) The most compelling work of literary criticism I have ever read (perhaps it helped that since graduate school Mallarmé’s hermetic works have fascinated me), Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren explains this enigmatic and formally innovative poem line by line.

Above all, it flies in the face of literary convention and finds clues within the poem itself and in other works by Mallarmé in order to deduce an actual magic Number, 707, laden with symbolic meaning. It also concludes that this minutely structured, highly formalistic poem (it is one of the first works to experiment with a graphic layout on the page reflective of its contents, predating Guillaume Apollinaire’s better-known collection Calligrammes [1918] by two decades) represents an intervention into the ongoing debate over free verse occurring in France at the time.

All along, something like the narrator of Poe’s “The Black Cat” (1843), my reading of Meillassoux has been intuitively haunted by the image of another cat, used in one of the most famous analogies in all of science to describe aspects of quantum mechanics. Additionally, I have always heard an echo of Mallarmé’s “Coup de dés” in Einstein’s famous dictum, “God does not play dice with the universe” (although this may be a merely personal connection; it seems unlikely that Einstein spent his free time reading French symbolist poetry). Of course, Einstein was not reaffirming Divine Providence but rather addressing the strangeness of quantum mechanics and attempting to refute Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (see Dickerson). The cat in the metaphorical box, in Schrödinger’s telling, is both alive and dead at the same time. This is precisely the position taken by the protagonist of Mallarmé’s poem, a figure for the poet himself. In Meillassoux’s account, Mallarmé achieves the perfect ambiguity, a moment of hesitation frozen forever in the poem’s telling (a technique that could be linked to the Todorovian fantastic), in which the ship’s captain has either thrown or not thrown the dice as his ship (in another clear homage to Poe) descends into the maelstrom. Meillassoux’s fascination with this poem and his desire to crack its code derives as well from his own search to find an absolute necessity in the absence of God. \

To return to the question asked in the introduction of this review-essay: by reducing the necessity for natural laws to the single law of contingency, has Meillassoux rendered the scientific project to discover such laws useless? I hope it has been clear that, instead, his philosophical project actually seeks to rescue science by removing the barrier that contemporary philosophy has placed on scientific knowledge by limiting it to the scope of human reason. More important for Meillassoux, though, is his call to philosophy to once again engage in speculative theorization, a function it lost when it abandoned metaphysics as a valid pursuit. Most importantly for us, his work invites the question: has science fiction (with or without its corollary of extro-science fiction) been performing all along the speculative work that philosophy has for so long abjured?

Barjavel, René. Ashes, Ashes. 1943 (as Ravage). Trans. Damon Knight. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Dickerson, Kelly. “One of Einstein’s Most Famous Quotes Is Often Completely Misinterpreted.” Tech Insider. 19 Nov. 2015. Online.

Harman, Graham. Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011.

“René Barjavel.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Online.

Watkin, Christopher. “Beyond A/theism? Quentin Meillassoux.” Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011.132-67.

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