To all those people who kindly “like” my tweets, facebook comments, and blog posts, or who leave links, comments and personal reflections, I would like to say thank you for your encouragement. Thanks to you, I am slowly synthesizing my thoughts into larger texts, so perhaps eventually I will be able to self-publish them as a series of monographs (on OOO, Laruelle, Latour, Feyerabend).

I do not belong to any particular lobby, so I think no-one would want to publish my stuff. Notwithstanding, it seems to me worthwhile to present the conclusions of a non-affiliated thinker concerning diverse movements of thought in epistemology and ontology that have caught my attention and held my interest long enough for me to explore their ideas both sympathetically and critically. I do not think these two goals are mutually exclusive.

Like many people I have been inspired by Deleuze’s constant theme of “speaking in your own voice”, and this is what I try to do on my blog and with my internet contributions. I do not consider myself a Deleuzian any more. However, I think that Deleuze constitutes one of the best apprenticeships in conceptual invention and in finding your own voice. As he points out does not mean erasing all influence, but having many voices speaking in your own.

I do have many voices speaking in my own, but I do not let any one of them dominate. Many times I have been confronted with people who envision a form of pluralism, but seek to limit it and to ground ground it on the basis of some ultimate insight. Over the years, I have had the same arguments many times with Husserlians and Merleau-Pontians, with Lacanians and Althusserians, with Laruellians as well as Heideggerians. If discussion is in any way possible I take the pluralistic approach, arguing on external reasons both for the possibility of other general hypotheses (for example Deleuze’s or Badiou’s or Laruelle’s) and for their necessity. You can only understand an idea in relation to other ideas, it has content only if it is confronted with fundamental criticism and with alternative worked out accounts).

A second, internal argument, is often possible. Heidegger himself moved on from the grounding in Da-sein when he developped his epochal vision of Being, and traced the historical succession of epochs of understanding of Being. In this phase Dasein is no longer discussed, it is seen as too foundationalist, and a plurality of understandings of Being is discussed directly. Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly give us good examples of this internal argument, and we can see its consequences in his book ALL THINGS SHINING, and in the lecture series accompanying it: From gods to God to gods, i.e. from pluralism (Homeric Greeks) to monism (Platonised Occident) and back to pluralism today.

Other thinkers have made this sort of self-unfounding, self-pluralising move. I have been arguing in my recent posts that this is the case of Laruelle too, in his move from “non-” to “quantum”. Bruno Latour’s modes of existence project is potentially another such case, even if he is hesitant to draw all the consequences. The specific theoretical vocabulary is not as important as the pluralist and democratic thought that it makes possible.

But the old academic reflexes based on election and exclusivity die hard. If there were only schools, teams, and lobbies on the web I would have thrown up my hands in despair and disappointment, stopped posting, and moved on to something more humanly satisfying.

Yet there are many human moments on the web, enough to encourage me to continue. So I will.

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ISSO – International Summer School in Ontology (some comments)

International Summer School in Ontology coming soon: 24-29 August 2015, Grado, Italy: “Six days course with six leading philosophers addressing the contemporary debate on ontology”.

There is a very interesting line up: Giorgio Agamben, Francesco Berto, Ray Brassier, François Laruelle, Paul Livingston, Davide Tarizzo. Some pdf summaries of lectures are already available on the page.

The titles of Laruelle’s lectures are:

1) Introduction to Non-standard philosophy

2) Marx with Planck. For a quantum Marxism

Some people might be puzzled at the very idea of François Laruelle participating in a Summer School on “ontology”. After all, he is known for a position that sharply limits the utility of traditional philosophical vocabulary, and that seeks to propose more satisfactory vocabularies. I argue that this concern is more semantic than substantial, an instance of a new logophobia,. This context-blind attachment to words would impede cross-continental understanding if allowed to flourish unchallenged.

Relevant texts I have written on these subjects:

LARUELLE: From Non-Philosophy to Non-Standard Philosophy




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LE GAUCHER BOITEUX (1): Michel Serres et l’anamnèse du cosmos

Voici l’incipit du nouveau livre de Michel Serres LE GAUCHER BOITEUX:

Le Gaucher BoiteuxOn pourrait être tenté de ne voir dans ce texte qu’une n-ième répétition par Michel Serres de la même histoire, le soi-disant Grand Récit, qui traîne partout dans ses livres depuis une quinzaine d’années. Il y a un effet de récognition, de reconnaissance immédiate, qui nous rassure et qui correspond à la fonction de légitimation et de rationalisation que Jean-François Lyotard attribuait aux “grands récits” de la modernité. Ces grands récits de la modernité (les Lumières, le Progrès, la Révolution, l’Etat-Providence) étaient en fait des méta-récits, et ils avaient pour but la domestication du hasard et de l’événement, et la planification de la nouveauté.

Lyotard affirmaient qu’à partir de la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale il était devenu impossible de croire à ces grands récits, et que nous sommes entrés dans une nouvelle époque, qu’il appelait “postmoderne”. Malgré le différend concernant les mots employés pour décrire cette évolution, Lyotard et Serres sont d’accord sur les profondes modifications des esprits et des pratiques que cette évolution entraîne.

Le “Grand Récit” esquissé par Michel Serres n’a rien avoir avec ces méta-récits modernes et l’apparence de nécessité qu’ils donnaient au cours du monde, réduit à l’échelle des agissements humains. Ce Récit souligne le rôle de la contingence dans l’histoire du monde. Excepté que le “monde” cette fois-ci, ce n’est plus le petit monde des humains et de leur histoire, mais le cosmos. Ceci est l’explication du titre de cette ouverture du livre: LES CHOSES DU MONDE.

On n’est plus dans l’image du monde, la vision simplifiée d’un ordre déterministe où tout est prévisible à partir des conditions initiales et des lois mécaniques. Ce qui prévaut dans la description que Serres nous propose, c’est la naissance et l’invention, la surabondance et l’émergence, la nouveauté et la contingence. On peut penser au titre du dernier livre de Paul Feyerabend “CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE”. Michel Serres s’apprête à nous raconter le grand récit de cette abondance délivrée de l’hégémonie des abstractions qui l’ont asservie aux méta-récits modernes.

L’innovation de Serres, c’est de remplacer le discours de la méthode cartésien par ce Grand Récit transposé au niveau de la pensée. Ou plutôt, il nous invite à plonger dans le Récit pour penser par contingences au lieu de règles universelles. Représenter le réel du dehors, c’est se condamner à répéter le passé. Pour penser et innover, il faut plonger dans le réel. On n’est plus dans le mimesis, mais le dynamis.

Il y a une conversion du regard à opérer à tous les niveaux. L’histoire se transforme non seulement au niveau du contenu factuel et thématique, mais aussi au niveau du champ lexical. Le nombre de mots dans ce court incipit qui disent la nouveauté, la singularité, et le pluralisme est étonnant. Serres effectue au niveau du style ce qu’il raconte au niveau informatif. La “méthode” que Michel Serres élabore dans tous ces livres, c’est  plutôt une anti-méthode, une méthode boiteuse et maladroite, parce que le chemin ne pré-existe pas l’émergence de la pensée qui l’emprunte. Penser avec le monde, c’est ça son ambition, et aussi son anamnèse.

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AGAINST LOGOPHOBIA: a plea for diversity of philosophical vocabularies

Some people might be puzzled at the very idea of François Laruelle participating in a Summer School on “ontology”. After all, he is known for a position that sharply limits the utility of traditional philosophical vocabulary, and that seeks to propose more satisfactory vocabularies. I argue that this concern is more semantic than substantial, an instance of a new logophobia,. This context-blind attachment to words would impede cross-continental understanding if allowed to flourish unchallenged.

This tendency is an embarrassing phenomenon in Continental philsophy, where a breakthrough in thought slowly but surely gets transformed into a repetitive discourse in the disciples and scholars that promote it. Words finally lose any cognitive meaning, and become tokens of membership in some group. For example a committed Deleuzian will talk in a stereotyped fashion, and will probably reject Badiou in much the same terms as any other Deleuzian, without any engagement with underlying problematics, that could give renewed content and meaning to their partisan positionings.

This seems to be the case with the disciples, students, and advocates of François Laruelle’s non-philosophy. The theory is so general, giving the universal structure and limitation of all philosophy, that our minds risk becoming numbed once we make the initial leap of commitment to exploring its ideas and their consequences. This is why I advocate the confrontation of such a non-standard philosophy, “non-standard” in terms of certain norms that one may argue are not universal, with alternative, or riva,l non-standard conceptualisations and their corresponding vocabularies. Increased testability and democracy, on both sides, will arise from the ensuing discussion.

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Sometimes it is so difficult to understand a French philosopher and to translate his works, that we translate directly, without allowing for or taking into account the sometimes very different intellectual context of Francophone and Anglophone philosophy. A sweeping radical generalisation in French, if translated without an awareness of context, will often seem even more sweeping and radical in English.

As Bruno Latour points out, the French respect for science is so great that it will never be probed and questioned, except for rare exceptions, in the way it is examined in English-speaking philosophy. The French readers will automatically and unconsciously apply a stronger set of filters than exists in English. Michel Serres points out too that writers such as Sartre and Foucault make far-reaching statements about the relations between knowledge and subjectivity and politics, without including hard science in their purview.

The non-philosophy of François Laruelle is a typical example of this effect of majoration by translation. When Laruelle discusses the closure of “philosophy” inside of the principle of sufficiency, he has in mind, whether he knows it or not, the grand German and French syntheses of recent date that he knows so well. None of his arguments apply to most post-Wittgensteinian or post-Popperian, or even post-Jamesian, philosophy developped in the English-speaking world.

Such is the conceptual and temporal phase-lag between continents that what seems like an amazing novelty to Continental thinkers may well have already been treated, under a different name, by Anglophone thinkers. For example, we can think of Bruno Latour’s “empirical metaphysics” as a “metaphysical research programme” in Popper’s sense (see the “Metaphysical Epilogue” to Popper’s QUANTUM THEORY AND THE SCHISM IN PHYSICS). Laruelle’s non-philosophy project is another such a metaphysical research programme.

We must not be afraid of, or taken in, by words. Laruelle talks of “non-philosophy” using a vocabulary based on the French context. But we are not obliged to use his vocabulary and criteria to assess his contribution to our own philosophical context. Using the Anglophone vocabulary of post-Popperian epistemology, we can say Laruelle’s non-philosophy project is “metaphysical”, in a non-pejorative sense. These metaphysical research programmes are composed of precisely the mixture of philosophical and scientific elements called for by Laruelle in view of a non-philosophical usage aimed at testability, which is another name for non-sufficience.

This re-description of Laruelle’s project, outside the exclusive use of his own descriptors, is not a move of destructive criticism or reductive dismissal. It makes Laruelle both more important and more relevant for discussions outside the narrow circle of Continental constructs. If we are content to translate his discourse with no awareness of the respective contexts, then Laruelle’s non-philosophy will seem outlandish, dogmatic, or irrelevant to analytic concerns. If however non-philosophy can be seen in terms of our own contexts to be working on something that other, more familiar, philosophers have begun to discuss in different terms then his contributions can be taken more srously by a far wider audience. This would seem to be a considerable advantage, given Laruelle’s emphasis on “democracy of thought”.

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Introduction to Socrates Tenured (forthcoming)


Very interesting project on making philosophy relevant to life.

Originally posted on Philosophy Impact:

“Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men.”   –John Dewey

In 1917 John Dewey published “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy,” a reflection on the role of philosophy in early 20th century American life. In it Dewey expressed concern that philosophy had become “sidetracked from the main currents of contemporary life,” too much the domain of professionals and adepts. He took pains to note that the classic questions of philosophy had made immense contributions to culture both past and present. But he was concerned that the topics being raised by the new class of professional philosophers were too often “discussed mainly because they have been discussed rather than because contemporary conditions of life suggest them.”  read more

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Translation from Michel Serres’s thesis on Leibniz: “we must enrich our models of thinking which are, generally speaking, lamentably poor”


Translation of Michel Serres on Bergson and Leibniz.

Originally posted on Christopher Watkin:

At the moment I am working my way through Michel Serres’s monumental Le Système de Leibniz et ses modèles mathématiques. I am struck by how many of the ideas that have come to be thought of as characteristically Serresian are already present implicitly or (more often than not) explicitly in this 800 page doctoral thesis. If it weren’t so huge, we might think of it as the genotype which generates the phenotype of all of Serres’s subsequent writing. it holds further fascination for the Serres scholar because, constrained by the conventions of the thesis genre with its footnotes and requirement for microscopic detail, it presents us with a Serresian thought that is quite unlike any of his subsequent writing. The thesis offers an incredibly fecund incipit into Serres’s thought, fecund because it blossoms forth in multiple possibilities of thinking that we see ripen in Serres’s subsequent writing.

Here is one passage among many which I…

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