The Enigma of Realism

On Quentin Meillassoux’s ‘After Finitude’


Quentin Meillassoux has recently proposed a compelling diagnosis of what is most problematic in post-Kantian philosophy’s relationship to the natural sciences. The former founders on the enigma of the ‘arche-fossil’. A fossil is a material bearing the traces of pre-historic life, but an ‘arche-fossil’ is a material indicating traces of ‘ancestral’ phenomena anterior even to the emergence of life. It provides the material basis for experiments yielding estimates of ancestral phenomena—such as, for instance, the radioactive isotope whose rate of decay provides an index of the age of rock samples, or the starlight whose luminescence provides an index of the age of distant stars…