Speculative Objectivity: A Radical Philosophy of History

The aim of this book is to expound a new philosophy of history, which Michael J. Kelly refers to as ‘speculative objectivity.’ Working through speculative realism, object-oriented ontology and studies of the post-human, Kelly hopes to overcome the traditional paradigm of historical objectivity and its logically false displacement by historical subjectivity. Re-negotiating the positions of experience and performance to history, he presents the act of ‘anti-history’, of anti-historical and anti-philosophical splicing, as that which opens up a voided being to becoming and ties history formally to radical (or ‘militant’) thinking and potentiality.

Speculative objectivity re-envisions the space between objectivity and subjectivity and formalizes it as a necessary postulate in the historical method. This space is not simply that between object and subject, but, more profoundly, meaning and consequence, or the constellation: ‘post’-narrativism, narrativism and history. Crucial for speculative objectivity is the twofold imperative of history: first, the recognition of (the) past as materially-derived inexistent being, or object, with universal evental significance and, second, the ascribing to the historical object of consequence, not meaning or nomination, after its subtraction from the multiplicitous void by the anti-historian, hence, the cut between past (as object) and history.

Speculative objectivity is a philosophy of history that seeks a return to historical objectivity in so far as we can replace the naïve realism of its scientific approach with a critical and reflective speculation on the historical object and the conditions of its coming into being, its facualité. It is speculated that there is a historical real that has meaning, trans-temporally, without us, that appears as a consequence in the present only through (the whole act of) history. Speculative objectivity is a philosophy of history that speculates on the historical object while embracing the absolute necessity of historical contingency. The objective past has meaning outside of history; it is not a product of history, per se. History, like philosophy, is not a truth procedure, but a site for seizing the historical object subtracted by the performance of the anti-historian.

Ultimately, Speculative Objectivity brings history, through a reconsideration of its old ‘narcotic’, objectivity, into the vision of radical thinking by formulating a post-correlationist philosophy of history that appreciates the discursive relationship between the past and its interpreter (the forcing), while maintaining the authority of meaning inherent to the past as time-less object (its universality). All is not subjective and the initial methodological question that historians should ask themselves is not ‘how am I projecting the present into the past’ but ‘what are the consequences of the past when history captures the historical object?’

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