Review of Adrian Johnson, Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism Volume 2: A Weak Nature Alone (Northwestern UP, 2019) (2021)
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A Weak Nature Alone is the (sub-)title of the second instalment of Adrian Johnston’s tripartite series Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism. The aim of the Prolegomena project is to ‘establish the foundations for a new materialist theoretical apparatus’ (2013 xi) – which Johnson dubs ‘transcendental materialism’ – drawing on Hegel, Marx, Lacan, and contemporary analytic philosophy (particularly Anglo-American neo-Hegelianism) in order to provide an ontology (volume 2) and theory of the subject (the yet-to-appear volume 3) that is atheist and science-oriented. At the end of Volume 1, The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy (2013), Johnston left us with a statement of what his transcendent(al) materialism consists in. The somewhat (deliberately) unconventional transcendentalism of his materialism rests on the idea of ‘the subject as transcendent-while-immanent vis-à-vis the sole, Otherless plane of lone physical being’ (2013: 178). In other words, subjectivity is of matter, and cannot (or at least, does not) exist without it, is not something separate from it (in other words matter is a condition of possibility for the existence of subjectivity). Johnston’s transcendental materialism is materialist, therefore, in the specific sense that it requires subjects to think the real conditions of possibility of the emergence of subjectivity in non-conscious matter (2013: 179). It is transcendental in that it ‘affirms the immanence to material nature of subjects nonetheless irreducible to such natural materialities’ (2013: 178).