What is philosophy today? The predominant answer of contemporary scientists is: its time is over. Even the most basic philosophical problems are increasingly becoming scientific ones: the ultimate ontological questions concerning reality (Does our universe have a limit in space and time? Is it caught in determinism, or is there a place for genuine contingency in it?) are today questions addressed by quantum cosmology; the ultimate anthropological questions (Are we free, i.e., do we have free will? etc.) are addressed by evolutionary brain science; even theology is allotted its place within brain science (which aims at translating spiritual and mystical experiences into neuronal processes). At most, what remains of philosophy are epistemological reflections on the process of scientific discoveries.
In today’s antideconstructionist turn, there are, however, many attempts to return to a realist ontology, with all the usual caveats (it’s not really a return, because it’s a new ontology of radical contingency, etc.). Perhaps the main precursor of this return to ontology is Louis Althusser’s “aleatoric materialism.” In his two great manuscripts published posthumously, Initiation à la philosophie pour les non-philosophes
(1976) and Être marxiste en philosophie
(1978), Althusser (among other things) outlines a specific theory of philosophy which overlaps neither with his early “theoreticist” concept of philosophy as “theory of theoretical practice” nor with his later notion of philosophy as “class struggle in theory”; while closer to the second notion, it serves as a kind of mediator between the two. Althusser’s starting point is the omnipresence of ideology, of ideological abstractions which always structure our approach to everyday life and reality; this ideology has two levels, the “spontaneous” everyday texture of implicit meanings, and the organized religion or mythology which initiated a systematic system of these meanings. Then, in ancient Greece, something new and unexpected happened: the rise of science in the guise of mathematics. Mathematics deals with pure, abstract numbers deprived of all mythic reference, it is a game of axioms and rule in which no cosmic meaning resonates, there are no sacred, lucky or damned numbers. Precisely as such, mathematics is subversive; it threatens the universe of cosmic meaning, its homogeneity and stability.
The true break happens here, not between mythic ideology and philosophy but Post too long. Click here to view the full text.