Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 7, No 1 (2011)

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The Necessity of Contingency or Contingent Necessity: Meillassoux, Hegel, and the Subject

John Van Houdt


This article addresses the relationship of contingency to necessity as developed by Quentin Meillassoux and G.W.F. Hegel. Meillassoux criticizes the restriction of possibility by modern philosophy to the conditions of the transcendental subject, which he calls ‘correlationism’, and opposes to this correlationism, mathematics as an absolute form of thought. The arch-figure of a metaphysical version of correlationism for Meillassoux is Hegel. This article argues that, while Meillassoux is right to criticize a version of correlationism for restricting the range of contingency, he overlooks Hegel’s unique contribution to this issue. Hegel provides us a version of necessity modeled on the mathematical proof which answers Meillassoux’s concerns about correlationist versions of necessity but does not altogether jettison the concept of the subject. Instead, the subject in Hegel is a contingent interruption which emerges from the breaks in the kinds of necessity we posit about the world. Hegel offers us a way of tying these two concepts together in what I call ‘contingent necessity’.

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