The problem of the transcendental has haunted philosophy for some time now. How can we think that which is external to our thought without by that token assimilating it to our thought? In other words, how can we speak of the outside without by that very gesture bringing it inside? While this conversation spun its complex tapestry over centuries, there developed alongside various attempts to dismiss or deflate the problem altogether. The most recent manifestation of this deflationary tendency is the “speculative materialism” movement, represented with most clarity by Quentin Meillassoux in his 2006 work After Finitude. He attempts here to restore “the Great Outdoors” to a philosophical tradition mired in what he calls “correlationism,” which he characterizes as a kind of narcissism. So the present conjuncture seems to offer us a choice between the subjective transcendental cellar and the wilderness of speculative materialism. In this essay, we articulate an alternative to this choice rooted in readings of Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze. Our intent here is not to compare or contrast their bodies of work as wholes, but to trace a distinct philosophical maneuver that is not only common to the two thinkers but reveals a link between them. Rather than annulling the transcendental question, these figures encourage us to reverse it, and ask instead “how can we think the inside without by that very token bringing it outside?” This provides us with a response to the problem of philosophy’s narcissism without recourse to Meillassoux’s “speculative” solution.

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