Realism, Speculative Realism, and Transgressive Realism

  • Umit Akyol

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In this thesis, I discuss the issue of realism with regard to Quentin Meillassoux’s Speculative Realism and Lee Braver’s Transgressive Realism. I aim to find out whether and how these two continental realist projects legitimately resolve the issue.

In the first chapter, I outline the realism issue in detail, with historical and systematic analyses. In the systematic section, I propose two distinctions: realism as an ontological thesis (R ont) and realism as an epistemological thesis (R epis). R ont is the thesis that there is a reality existing independently of us, while R epis is the thesis that we can access this reality. I conclude the systematic analysis with the claim that there is an enigmatic relation between R ont and R epis, in which the problem of realism has it source. In the historical analysis, I focus on René Descartes since his main philosophical project is one of the most important modern philosophical sources for continental realism. His project promises to legitimize R ont and R epis. However, I conclude that Descartes fails to justify this aim, and this failure is turned into a legacy, namely the Cartesian Legacy, having a profound effect on the question of realism in contemporary continental philosophy.

In the second chapter, Meillassoux promises to legitimize R ont and R epis in his speculative realist project. This project consists of two fundamental claims: 1) being is independent of thought (us) (R ont) and 2) we can have access to being as it is independent of thought (R epis). However, I argue that Meillassoux fails to fulfil his promise because his project collapses the border between R ont and R epis by dissolving the former into the latter.

In the third chapter, I discuss Lee Braver’s Transgressive Realism and argue his project provides us with a meaningful realist stance that can successfully account for the enigmatic relation between R ont and R epis. I first outline his historical reading of transgressive realism, which consists of three steps, with each step correlated to a thinker: Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. I then examine the Heideggerian form of Transgressive Realism. Finally, I compare Braver’s Transgressive Realism with Meillassoux’s Speculative Realism and I conclude that the former project is more effective than the latter project at solving the problem of realism.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTina Röck (Supervisor) & Frank Ruda (Supervisor)


  • realism
  • Speculative Realism
  • Transgressive Realism

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