Agent Swarm Digital Philosophy Book One: PLURALISING LARUELLE

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Laruelle’s REPLY TO DELEUZE (1): debate and pragmatic contradiction

I will be discussing Laruelle’s article « I, the Philosopher, Am Lying », A Reply to Deleuze, translated by Taylor Adkins, Sid Littlefield and Ray Brassier, published in THE NON-PHILOSOPHY PROJECT Essays by François Laruelle, Telos Press, 2012 (pp. 41-75).

I read Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? when it first came out in 1991 and was deeply disappointed. I found the text very unsatisfying, and if I had read Laruelle’s « reply » when it was published in French in 1995 I would have undoubtedly agreed with his arguments. However, today I have mixed feeling about both.


Philosophical debate is neither interesting nor perhaps even possible unless it is oriented toward thought’s outside (NPP, 39).

Laruelle begins with a non-philosophical maxim that rejects philosophical debate as enclosed in the principle of sufficient philosophy. This sufficiency sterilises philosophy by enclosing it within a wall that cuts it off from the « outside ». This non-philosophical maxim is also a Deleuzian maxim, which Laruelle admits:

we have to thank Deleuze for having stated this so clearly and in such a rigorously principled manner (39).

I reject this principle of refusing debate as showing the psychological and sociological rigidity of Deleuze and Laruelle.


Laruelle accuses Deleuze of contradicting himself by debating debate, disputing dispute, communicating his refusal of communication.

it is also necessary to explain the abandonment of dispute and its justification in the essence of thought and the real. The ultimate residue of any critique of communication is to communicate one’s reasons for abandoning communication (11-12).

Laruelle calls this putative contradiction between enunciation and enunciated content an example of Deleuze’s « naiveté », as if he were on the same plane as the solipsist who is a proselyte for solipsism. Hence the title « I, the philosopher am lying ».

In fact, Deleuze does not naively assert his opposition to dispute and communication, but has a well-worked out explanation in terms of the necessity of problems and the « forced » nature of thought.

I agree with Laruelle that Deleuze is guilty of philosophical sufficiency on this point since he overstates his case and his proof is incomplete. This sufficiency is only relative, as it is contradicted by arguments elsewhere in Deleuze’s work for an a-signifying porosity that exists between problematics.

Laruelle as usual is too absolute in his judgments of « sufficiency »: it must be all or none. He cannot allow that sufficiency may be relative, variable, and unevenly distributed.

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Live-blogging Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (2): Structure, Themes, and Questions

TETRALOGOS is subtitled « an opera of philosophies ». The book is conceived as a libretto for an opera composed of an overture and four books. The whole book is 622 pages long.

1) The Overture (84 pages) introduces the main themes and goal:

« to describe, via a montage of philosophical theories and of central references to music, the harmonic and contrapuntal amplitude of the epic of human life as a function of its sites which go from the Cavern to the Stars and the diversity of its stages and of its intrigues which go from Birth to Messianity » (page 11).

2) Book I (76 pages) is the Prologue, it presents « the conceptual characters and the structure of the action ».

3) Book II (132 pages) is the Organon, it articulates Laruelle’s theory of « reminscience » (sic), a « fusion of philosophical memory and of contemporary science ».

4) Book III (the longest, 231 pages) deals with the Amplitude, going « from the Cavern to the starry Sky ».

5) Book IV (59 pages) is the Ritorno, the « musical return from the Sky to the Earth ».

6) The Coda (15 pages) is entitled « For a treatise of speculative music (therefore effective without-music but not without ideally philosophical musicality) ».

Commentary: This is an ambitious project, whose amplitude covers the sites, stages, and intrigues of human life as cosmological epic. We are lucky to have such a book.

Nonetheless, we can make some observations, arising from diverse interrogations.

1) Given Laruelle’s operatic image of thought (I), his new topology of knowledges (II), his philo-science-fiction methodology (III), and his concern for a compositive praxis (IV), we may consider that TETRALOGOS is a work of conceptual Space Opera. The question to be answered here is whether Laruellean Space Opera belongs to the genre of « hard » science fiction or whether its use of science tends more towards the « soft » end of the spectrum.

2) The dramaturgy of conceptual characters and the dramatic structure of actions and intrigues reveal a greater closeness to Deleuze’s thought than some of Laruelle’s earlier writings may have led us to think. We can see TETRALOGOS as overcoming some of the problematic features and limitations of Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, while being heavily indebted to it.

3) Reminiscience is central to this new book. It refers to the generic « forced » mixture of philosophy as de-foundationalised transcendental act and quantum physics as the basis of the transcendental dimension. Here we can only note the contradiction between a will to overcome foundationalism and a continued scientism.

4) To achieve the goal of « amplitude », describing the passage from the Cavern to the Sky and embracing the stages of the epic of human life Laruelle’s endeavour must be fully generic, rather than partisan or parochial. We have seen that his scientism is a lapse from genericity, and I would argue that the same applies to his concept of « Messianity ». If this is only a question of terminology, then Laruelle should be willing to conjugate other forms of telos, e.g. Buddha-Nature, with Messianity.

5) Laruelle is a materialist in his emphasis on the dialectic of descent as just as important as the dialectic of ascent. The descent means that we acquire in the real a new practice of philosophy, and not just a new manifesto of beautiful intentions.

6) This new practice of non-philosophical composition may produce a dramaturgy of philosophy conceived as inaudible soundless music. We must then ask if the « descent » manages to produce new nuptials between the virtual and the actual.

It is thus a dramaturgy that is musical in spirit but philosophical in the « letter », whose « libretto » is provided by this text and its philosophico-scientific « dialogues ». But, let us repeat, it is a drama without sonorous or auditory actuality (TETRALOGOS, 11).


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THE PLURALIST « NON-« : Laruelle and Bachelard

The basic principle of François Laruelle’s « non-philosophy », a pluralising rather than a negativist use of the prefix « non-« , can be traced back to Gaston Bachelard’s « philosophy of non-« .

Laruelle’s work does not embody Bachelard’s knowledge of science nor his elegance of style. However, unlike Bachelard, Laruelle has knowledge of structuralism and of the early works of post-structuralism and tried at first to create a new synthesis from them, and then to go off on his own road.

Laruelle does occasionally discuss contemporary fellow thinkers such as Deleuze and Badiou, but his readings of these followers are demonstrably erroneous. So his scientific scholarship is wanting, as is his practice of dialogue with his contemporaries, but his tenacity in following his own path is admirable. Not everyone can be at the forefront.

We must therefore construe Laruelle’s treatment of rival figures as not constituting an objective representation of the real philosophers, but as the dramatised deployment of a set of conceptual characters.

Laruelle considers that these other thinkers have failed to attain immanence, whereas he has succeeded. In fact the thinkers that have been objects of his critique are not « rivals » but authors of alternative systems, achieving some of his goals in different ways.

Despite Laruelle’s anxiety of influence, his tenacious scientism, and his misreadings of the works of other French thinkers, the appeal of his own work lies in its exemplarity.

Laruelle is a great reader of contemporary French philosophers who created his own critical synthesis of  their ideas, and then went on to create his own system of thought, and whose thinking continues to evolve.

His path is a good model for anyone who is interested in recent French philosophy. It is exemplary of someone who, after absorbing the influence of the structuralist and post-structuralist nebula in his earlier years, went on to deconstruct his way out of it and to speak in his own name.

For more details see

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LARUELLE’S PATH: pedagogy and exemplarity

The French philosophy of the last sixty years is an exciting and intoxicating affair, a field of knowledge and of battle exposure to which transforms and intensifies our intellectual passions and strategies, and even our cultural and existential sensibilities. Its works are rich, difficult, and challenging and we most often must spend years of study and analysis before being able to give an informed opinion on them.

The ideas that we are exposed to in reading these works are rich, deep, and intellectually challenging. Often when we begin to read one of these thinkers we are obliged to start on the daunting task of working through a bibliography of references and allusions in order to understand what is going on within a given text. This combination of awakening us to vast new horizons and of demanding substantial intellectual work is close to the sense of wonder and of cognitive apprenticeship we find in the best science fiction.

Each of these two strands of philosophy can become perverted in various ways and enter into new combinations, showing traits of closure and claims to completeness, enchaining inquiry instead of opening and freeing it. Philosophy may no longer achieve the delicate balance of existential wonder and studious cognition, deviating into compulsive novelty or pretentious encyclopedism.

François Laruelle has noticed these deviations of philosophy from its highest task and its best accomplishments and considers them to be the diverse symptoms of an underlying intellectual malady. He has tirelessly examined their basis in what he calls « philosophical sufficiency », the self-enclosing self-validating self-satisfied tendency that he finds at the heart of philosophy in all its forms. He has particularly analysed and undermined one form that this « sufficiency » has taken in recent times: the « philosophies of difference ».

However, this passion of analysis in favour of greater openness and freedom of thought came to detach itself from the dialogue with contemporary philosophical production that Laruelle maintained in the seventies. Laruelle in the eighties had begun to crystallize his own philosophical project to the point that it had become an autonomous metaphysical research programme (in Karl Popper’s sense) and to develop and articulate it out of its own internal heuristic. This gave great strength and focus to his thought, but it came at the price of over-generalisation and a progressive conceptual isolation. The dialogue had ceased.

My own feeling is that Laruelle stopped reading his philosophical contemporaries (i.e. Deleuze, Derrida and Badiou) in any dialogical way around 1980, in order to pursue his own evolution. This had the unfortunate consequence that his criticisms of their ideas were outdated when he published them, as these thinkers had already made similar criticisms of themselves and moved on to something else.Laruelle seemed to ignore or even to be unaware of these transformations.

(Note: His « Reply to Deleuze » and his »Anti-Badiou » are only seeming exceptions to this rule, based as they are on demonstrably inadequate readings of the texts he engages with).

Yet his relative slowness and tardiness are part of the appeal of Laruelle’s work, and they give it pedagogical force as exemplary of someone who, after absorbing the influence of the structuralist/post-structuralist nebula in his earlier years, went on to deconstruct his way out of it (without realising he was following in the footsteps of his contemporaries).

This exemplarity is one of the most attractive features of Laruelle’s path: he models the sort of involvement and progressively critical detachment that we go through when we begin to throw ourselves into this field of reading and thinking things through.

More than the highly contestable adequacy of his readings, the value of a deep reading of Laruelle’s work lies in the conceptual pedagogy that it embodies, and in the transformed relation to the concept that he seeks to provoke in his readers. Laruelle, in his own way, and over decades of intense work, embodies the ideal of coming to speak in one’s own name and I read his work in that sense. Noone can have a monopoly of that sense.

In a slogan: let a thousand post-Laruellean flowers bloom!

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Live-blogging Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (1): a democratic proposal

In August I will be live blogging my reading of Laruelle’s most recently published book TETRALOGOS An opera of philosophies. In my opinion it is his best book, and also his most Deleuzian. My first reactions can be found here:

Laruelle does discuss Deleuze in this latest book, but I think I have already proven both on this blog (AGENT SWARM) and in my more synthetic articles, that we can construe Laruelle’s treatment of Deleuze as not constituting the objective representation of a real philosopher, but as the dramatised deployment of a conceptual character.

This dramatised (or « operatic ») reading is not how the official Anglophone disciples of Laruelle read him, displaying as they do a deplorable tendency towards naive realism in their approach to their Master. For more information see:

My own approach could be called « post-Laruellean pluralism », or « non-Laruellean non-philosophy ». To make the discussion more precise I list forty points of convergence and divergence here:

Such is my commitment to this process that I had a dream about my divergent reading of Laruelle, that I recount here:

I am as far as I know the only philosophical commentator on Laruelle to give a clear and comprehensible explication of his « quarter turn » of philosophy, a rotation effectuated by way of the square root of minus one (√-1) , which plays a great role in TETRALOGOS:

I have no doubt that this explication will be plagiarised, but don’t forget where you read it first:

I have shown how we can diagramme Laruelle’s text, and so show simply the differences between philosophy, anti-philosophy, non-philosophy, and non-standard philosophy as Laruelle sees them:

I have also briefly explained and commented on Laruelle’s discussion of Deleuze in TETRALOGOS:

More to come in August.

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Laruelle as Deleuze’s scientistic double

It would be a mistake to see Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? as to any significant degree devoted to engaging with Laruelle’s work.

There are only two mentions of Laruelle, and they are contained in footnotes.Both reject his scientism. WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? develops Deleuze and Guattari’s own concept of non-philosophy, reprising the theme of the image of thought that they had developed over two decades of collaboration. They see Laruelle’s notion of non-philosophy as a scientistic double of their own.

The last two sentences of WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? are devoted to a critique of Laruelle’s scientism: « François Laruelle proposes an understanding of non-philosophy as « real (of) science, » beyond the object of knowledge…But we do not see why this real of science is not also non-science ».

Their only other mention of Laruelle in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? is also consigned to a footnote, and it again critiques his scientism: « François Laruelle is engaged in one of the most interesting undertakings of contemporary philosophy. He invokes a One-All that he qualifies as « nonphilosophical » and, oddly, as « scientific, » on which the « philosophical decision » takes root ».

In PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY (published in French in 1996, the year after his « reply » to Deleuze) Laruelle critiques his earlier position as scientistic, but without even citing Deleuze and Guattari.

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