LARUELLE’S UNFULFILLED PROMISES

1) It is laughable that so many people blindly repeat Laruelle’s claim that Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy is a « philosophy of difference ». It is much more accurately characterised as a « philosophy of multiplicity », that mutates in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? into a philosophy of infinity.

2) Laruelle has shown that he is capable of self criticism, but he is much slower in this than his contemporaries, and he lags behind them (his long-lasting scientism is a case in point). He is also blind to the self-criticism embodied in the work of others.

3) A notable case of this concept-blindness is to be seen in his persistence in criticising the « philosophies of difference », when the thinkers involved had already noticed the problem and moved on years before Laruelle got round to his critique.

4) A striking example is Deleuze’s passage from DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (which features the concept of difference, but closely tied to multiplicity) to LOGIC OF SENSE, where the concept of difference is marginal, and multiplicity comes to even greater prominence).

5) Laruelle’s ideas are becoming increasingly irrelevant. His critiques of Deleuze are of relatively minor interest. Zizek, Badiou and Latour have produced deeper and more thorough responses to Deleuze’s work, and their own work has been in constant evolution.

6) One would not guess these sorts of evolution exist from Laruelle’s texts. So Iwe must reject the undue simplification of philosophical history effectuated in Laruelle’s grand narrative, where he takes pride of place (quite unjustly).

7) Laruelle promises far more than he delivers, he misses the mark far too often, and it serves no good purpose, unless wilful ignorance is a good purpose, to pretend otherwise.

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LARUELLE’S FAILED SOLUTIONS TO RELATIVISM

1) Laruelle’s attempted escape from philosophical « sufficiency » (a form of totalising monism) leads him initially to the relativism of a plurality of thought worlds. But this plurality is still not pluralism, but merely a refined (and obscurantised) relativism.

2) Laruelle seeks for ways out of this relativism. His « democracy of thought » (where all thoughts are equal) is no solution as it leads only to a plurality of thoughts in an ocean of democratic relativism.

3) Some of Laruelle’s principal solutions to relativism are: determination, superposition, collision (in the methodological introduction to his NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY).

4) Determination in the last instance is envisaged by Laruelle as a way of acknowledging relativist plurality without falling into full relativism. However, this concept is quickly deconstructed in NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, and replaced by the more pluralist and less reductive concept of superposition.

6) Laruelle eventually sees the error of his notion of determination in the last instance (which we could call the « ultimate » determinant) and so inverts his conceptual flow, moving upstream to what he calls « indetermination in the pre-primary instance ».

7) This amounts to enshrining a new determinant under the name of « indetermination », and then proclaiming performatively: « no determination here ». It would be a solution if he could hold on to it consistently, but in practice it amounts to a prime determinant, as he incoherently conflates it with determination in the last instance. This is similar to his incoherence about his own scientism. He critiques it, but thenblithely conserves it.

8) « Superposition » is in itself not a solution. Its plurality of superposed circles is a form of relativism, unless quantum entanglement and leakage can break through the boundaries and borders between incommensurable worlds.

5) « Collision » is a violent image of using classical materials in a classically describable set-up capable of mobilising enough energy to produce non-classical outcomes. The intensity of the collisions cannot hide the fact that this method is anti-immanent, its method of collision is extrinsic.

 

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Vidéo Mon parcours du livre : Intensités philosophiques et langage des infinis

Voici ma contribution aux journées autour de « L’Immanence des vérités » d’Alain Badiou 1° et 2 octobre 2018, Théâtre La Commune (Aubervilliers):

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Ma Bibliothèque Bilingue (1): Sloterdijk

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LARUELLE AND POST-TRUTH: respecting one’s criteria

Post-truth blues. One of the biggest dangers to thought today is the « post-truth » image of thought that one may call democratic relativism (note: other, less objectionable, forms of post-truth are possible).

The contemporary philosophical context is driven by the search for a form of pluralism that does not fall back into mere relativism. This involves elaborating an ontology that is immanent, pluralist, diachronic, egalitarian, apophatic, realist, and testable.

Such an ontology can be treated as a metaphysical research programme, and evaluated in terms of its degree of satisfaction of these criteria, and also in comparison to rival or alternative research programmes that themselves embody some or all of these criteria. Within this general typology of pluralism versus relativism one can find divergent images of thought that interact in complex ways with the criteria of ontological felicity.

Thought-images. There are two influential images of thought that have given rise to diverse contemporary metaphysical research programmes in Continental Philosophy: the quantum image and the performance image. These are articulated in opposition to the dominance of the structuralist image.

Quantum and performance images. The most radical version of the quantum image of thought is given by Slavoj Zizek’s recent work, while the most radical version of the performance image is given by Bruno Latour’s AIME project.

François Laruelle attempts to give a version of the quantum image, and some of his followers have tried to develop a performance image in his name. In both cases their thought is not radical enough, because they are caught in un-criticised structuralist presuppositions.

Pluralism and relativism. Zizek and Latour are pluralists, their most recent thought is devoted to providing a grounding for truths, and to avoiding relativism. Laruelle is a relativist, his thought is a fall back into the democratic relativism of “all thoughts are equal”. In a word, testability is abandoned in favor of reductive equality.

Laruelle identifies the vice of philosophical sufficiency as invalidating the pretension of contemporary philosophy to come to terms with immanence, but is himself unable to propose a virtuous alternative. In view of Laruelle’s claims to scientific status for his non-philosophy, and his inability to respect his own criteria (in this case “immanence”), we must conclude that his non-philosophy is pseudo-science.

An ambiguous criterion, that of performativity (something supposedly being so because one declares it so) replaces the scientific criterion of testability in the non-philosophical research programme.

The philosophical struggle is reduced to simplistic applications of moralistic terms: the battle between vicious sufficiency and virtuous performativity. The evaluation is purely moral, based on the peremptory judgment of the one true non-philosopher (Laruelle).
The Laruellean performative hypothesis rejoins the Althusserian thesis of theory as theoretical practice.

However, Althusser himself required a political evaluation of his and others’ theoretical performances. Performance alone is not enough, the attempt to make it suffice is idealist.

Another example of the performative image of thought is to be found in the recent work of Bruno Latour, who argues that there exist different felicity conditions for the diverse performances in the different modes of existence or of veridiction, each of which has its different temporalities, and actualities.

The problems of evaluation and of testability cannot be avoided, mere performance by itself is not enough. It requires criteria of success or failure.

Performativity can only be seen as a positive criterion when its use is non-foundational. A foundational use of performativity is one that makes, or purports to make, something true by the mere fact of its being enounced. This idealist appeal to performativity is the principal vice of democratic relativism.

Such is the case for the scientism of Laruelle, which hesitates between the sufficiency of reductive scientism (science legitimates his theses in the last instance) and performative scientism (science legitimates his theses by the declaration their scientificity).

Laruelle’s work claims to give us a “science of philosophy”, but the only proof he offers of this structuralist claim is performative: the repeated enunciation of the scientific, or non-philosophical, character of the texts. This claim, in Laruelle’s use of it, is not testable.

Laruelle’s use of this philosophical material is abstract, universal, self-validating, and essentialist, whereas Alain Badiou’s use of it is in comparison concrete, historical, and dialectical. Laruelle’s attempt at new performativity fails, it is sufficient vice and not pluralist virtue.

Worse, Laruelle is incapable of recognizing a virtuous performativity when he comes across it, for example in Badiou. Instead of citing Badiou in a democratic pluralist spirit as a successful exemplar of his own goals, and hailing his non-standard usages, Laruelle re-essentialises them.

Laruelle poses important questions, but his answers are useless. The questions can be turned back on him with devastating consequences for the evaluation of his adhesion to his own criteria.

His demand for new uses of conceptual material is inspiring, but he does not go very far in that direction. Despite his promotion of the revisionary semantics of philo-fiction and the pluralist pragmatics of performance his own dramatizations are poor and graceless.

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LARUELLE’S TIME LAG: ANTI-BADIOU in context

Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU (2011) is a late-comer to the critical analysis of Badiou’s BEING AND EVENT (1988). These other analyses have not yet been translated, nor does Laruelle refer to them in French.

Temps Modernes 1Cahier 2

Note: this is from the Cahier du collège international de philosophie number 8, also published in 1989. Cover here:

Cahier 1

The time-lag between Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU and these important responses, that led Badiou to extend and revise his BEING AND EVENT project, is striking. Laruelle waited a full generation before publishing his own analysis.

Rancière and Terray also gave papers at the Conference around Badiou’s new book THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS published two weeks ago. We can see where true scholarship and living philosophy are to be found, and where its stale caricature resides.

My hypothesis is that Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU is best understood as, belonging with the initial wave of responses to BEING AND EVENT that were published the succeeding year by Simont, Terray, Rancière, Desanti, Lyotard, Lacoue-Labarthe, and culminating three years later in Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1991).

Laruelleans have attempted to annex this book, claiming that it is principally in dialogue with Badiou, but this is far from true. Badiou’s hypothesis that there are « two ways » in contemporary philosophy, Deleuze’s way and his own is far more pertinent. Deleuze and Guattari treat Badiou’s thought as a rival way to their own. They mention Laruelle’s non-philosophy as a tardy, misguided, and defective contribution to the way they have been exploring.

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LARUELLE’S DEMOCRATIC RELATIVISM: failed immanence, concept-blindness, and non-virtuous performance

1) Recent attempts at validating François Laruelle’s ideas in terms of the idealist criterion of « performativity » actively hinder their immanent evaluation and reduce his system to a form of democratic relativism where « all thoughts are equal ».

2) There can be no automatic validation of performance, performativity is not the same as infallibility, and a performance needs itself to be evaluated.

3) Laruelle’s critique of « sufficient philosophy » is based on his own primitive form of virtue epistemology: for him the (sufficient) philosopher is by stipulation not virtuous. « Sufficient » philosophy is not only cognitively closed, one-sided, and dogmatic, but also morally flawed: arrogant and authoritarian.

4) Laruelle’s replacement hypothesis for philosophy’s failed attempt at immanence is a form of quantum messianism. However, the « Quantum Christ » is a personal non-generic posit, which cannot rationally exclude the coming of a quantum flying spaghetti monster as synonym of his own more traditional appellations.

5) Laruelle’s quest for a new philosophical space (for what Badiou has called a space of configuration) is laudable and inspiring. His attempt to annex and to colonize that space is to be rejected. His dream of « non-standard » philosophy is not unique to him, nor is he its best exponent.

6) There is no saving metaphor: you cannot break free from the tradition simply by conserving its vocabulary and « quantising » or performatising the terms that happen to please you more than the others. Something more is needed.

7) Laruelle acknowledges this problem that a revisionary conceptuality is not enough to ensure philosophical virtue. A new practice of concepts is required. This is why quantum conceptualisation, felt to be insufficient, requires support from performative practice.

8) Laruelle’s monist « determination in the last instance » represents his attempt to escape from his relativism, but it leads him to abandon pluralism. To avoid this problem some Laruelleans replace this notion with that of « performation in the last instance », thus abandoning realism, and falling back into relativism.

9) Here a new problem arises: Laruelle cannot just declare performatively that he is making new uses of old concepts, he must give us some reason to think that he is indeed doing so. Unfortunately, this reason is not forthcoming, the claim is not justified, only  re-iterated. Rational argumentation is replaced by obscurantist incantation.

10) When Laruelle’s Anglophone followers reluctantly concede the need to justify his repetitious incantatory self-legitimations and self-validations, they talk naively of his « performative » style, they make no mention of criteria.

11) However, this is to ignore that performatives have felicity conditions, as Bruno Latour tirelessly points out in his AIME project, following John Austin: a performative can be inappropriate, inauthentic, feigned, or irrelevant. It can be a fake or a failure.

12) One criterion is democratic exchange. However, Laruelle is incapable of recognising a virtuous performativity when he encounters it in others. This uncharitable approach to his rivals is concept-blind and non-virtuous. It is a sign of Laruelle’s own sufficiency.

13) For example, instead of favourably citing Badiou in a democratic pluralist spirit as an exemplar of his own goals and hailing his non-standard usages, he dogmatically freezes, re-essentialises, and excludes Badiou’s hypotheses.

14) My hypothesis is that Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU (2011) can properly be understood as belonging with the initial responses to BEING AND EVENT (1988) that were published in the succeeding years by Rancière, Desanti, Lyotard, and culminating in Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1991).

15) Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU breaks no new ground, it functions as a time machine back to that period just after 1988, producing his synthesis of the critiques of that period. It is further out-dated in that it does not take into account Badiou’s evolution since that time.

16) In the intervening period Badiou undertook an immense theoretical work of extension, reformulation, and conceptual invention culminating in LOGICS OF WORLDS. He elaborated a theorisation of « anti-philosophy » in his seminars from 1992 to 1996, treating Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Lacan, and Saint Paul. None of this development is taken into account in Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU.

17) Laruelle published ANTI-BADIOU in 2011. It contains a one-sided discussion of Badiou’s philosophy from the point of view of his own « non-philosophy ». Laruelle’s sufficiency is monologic.

18) I have undertaken a response, not by replying to the book itself, but by doing the same sort of thing: describing how Laruelle’s project appears when viewed through Badiousian spectacles: https://www.academia.edu/12367809/LARUELLES_ESCAPE_FROM_THE_DICTATORSHIP_OF_THE_REAL.

 

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