BRUNO LATOUR AND RELIGION AS “REL”

I have no hostility to religion as such, and I think that there is much to learn from the way Latour extracts religion  out of the mode of REF and of belief. However, I don’t think that a separate mode REL is the best way to do justice to religion historically, sociologically, and anthropologically. Also, I disapprove of smuggling credal assumptions into a text that is not supposed to be a theological treatise, but an “empirical” ontology. A philosophical text that is far more widely welcomed by priests and theologians than by philosophers raises doubts and questions.

I don’t think that the reserves expressed on Latour’s treatment of religion are due to dusty abstract philosophers being unable to cope with empirical investigation, but rather they are due to people finding that the inquiry is not empirical enough.

For those who are Christians the reduction of religion to the mode REL has devastating consequences. Not only does God does not exist in a referential sense, but neither does Jesus (or if it could be shown that he did exist, it would be irrelevant). The Gospels, on this analysis, describe no empirical historical facts, as they are not referential texts but propose the “wisdom” or the “poetry” of REL. So with Jesus non-existent or irrelevant we have REL as a Christ-without-Jesus mode, that very few Christians would recognise as the essence of their faith.

REL as mode is doing no service to Christianity, unless you are whole-heartedly embracing the refined, or symbolic, Christ-without-Jesus version.

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CARTOGRAPHY OF PLURALISM: an ongoing philosophical project

There is a common misunderstanding of my theoretical interventions that is based on a misapprehension of the context of my remarks. Many people perceive me as expressing a sort of personal obsession in my writing, for example in my critical analysis of Bruno Latour’s modes of existence project, rather than seeing that is strongly philosophically motivated.

Evidently, Latour is free to write about who and what he likes, and no doubt sees many thinkers in a different light than I do. I have no objection to that. A problem arises when one begins to see a pattern at work, where Latour consistently leapfrogs over the thinkers of the immediate past (Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault) to valorise the contributions of Souriau and James. The problem is not with his reliance on these thinkers: Souriau, Tarde, James and Whitehead are all quite valuable. My objection is that this practice participates in the more general movement of the re-writing of philosophical history that is promulgated by those influenced by the new schools of realists. The preceding generation of Continental philosophers are being declared inadequate for reasons that take them to say the very opposite of their main ideas.

The immediate argumentative context for my remarks in the last post is established in Kidd’s article, where he describes the various reductive stereotypes that hinder proper understanding and reception of Feyerabend’s work. I cite Bruno Latour in this context as providing a good example of the perpetuation of such stereotypes. However, my argument does not stop there as Latour’s “pluralism” should enable him to understand, illuminate, and engage with other pluralists. This is one of the basic ideas of pluralism: comparison, mutual criticism, and exchange are necessary not only for intellectual progress but also to give content to our ideas, which risk degenerating into empty dogmas if they are not continually enriched and tested.

This further argument is part of my ongoing cartography of pluralism, which has been the principle research project of my blog for five years now. A monistic pluralism, one that refuses constructive dialogue with other pluralists, and that insists falsely on its own uniqueness, is a failed or faulty pluralism.

True, I “like” Feyerabend, so my defence of his philosophical priority over Latour’s claims can be seen reductively, as mere personal score-keeping. But I also defend the pluralism of Alain Badiou, whose ideas I have up to now found much less satisfying, because there are important resemblances between his project and Latour’s. Their projects can enrich each other, while helping to correct each other’s defects.

For example, I use Latour to expand Badiou’s set of truth procedures. Badiou maintains that there are only four, where Latour develops fifteen modes of veridiction. And I use Badiou to get at the very confused notion and role of religion in Latour’s system. Latour uses religion as a mode of existence, whereas Badiou denies it this role, at least in the modern world. It is interesting and fruitful to compare their arguments.

Further, there is a movement of reaction that is premised on the rewriting of philosophical history. This can be seen in the conceptually and factually inadequate histories purveyed by tobject-oriented ontology, speculative realism, and the new realism. Latour’s narrative of the hegemony of bifurcationism participates in this general movement, and leads to the depreciation of those of his immediate predecessors who already articulated a thought that is outside bifurcationism.

Since his bad start where he was labeled as an irrationalist and a relativist during the Science Wars, Latour has consistently put the emphasis on constructing a pluralism that is consensual rather than challenging. Feyerabend’s style, on the other hand, is in general much more provocative.

There are many “patterns” at work here, far beyond mere personal loyalty and animosity. In my writing on these subjects I have done much to defend Latour from the charges of irrationalism and relativism (for example here), but that does not oblige me to close my eyes to the defects of his thought.

Beyond the particular example of Feyerabend, we can also examine Latour’s intellectual relation to Lyotard’s philosophy. Lyotard’s work is part of the general semiotic turn that affected many French philosophers in thesecond half of the Twentieth Century. When I first read Latour’s WE HAVE NEVER BEEN MODERN in 1997, I found it to be not very interesting, nothing more than a reformulation of Lyotard’s ideas, despite its explicit criticism of Lyotard, which was purely verbal in my eyes.

More importantly, Latour’s AIME with its plurality of enunciative modes is directly determined by Lyotard’s LE DIFFEREND, but you would never guess it from Latour’s own pronouncements. Latour seeks to construct a vocabulary free of the limiting connotations of earlier vocabularies, but this has the unfortunate result that it masks many of his intellectual debts. I am always disappointed not only by Latour’s lack of acknowledgement of his precursors, but by his active depreciation of pluralists like Lyotard and Feyerabend, as I feel that an occasion for intellectual dialogue has been lost.

I mention Lyotard and Feyerabend in relation to Latour, because they are very relevant to his modes of existence project, which should have given him the means to break free of the stereotypes and to understand them better. This sort of misunderstanding constitutes a wider pattern that encompasses more than just Latour. This pattern is that of “monistic pluralism”, of a pluralist refusing, or unable, to see the contributions to pluralism made by his potential rivals. Feyerabend is guilty of this too. This is a failing that can be found everywhere in the intellectual world. It is however crueler and more frustrating to see this pattern at work in pluralist thinkers, as pluralism in its very conception is aimed at free exchange, and at eliminating such barriers to dialogue.

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REMEMBERING FEYERABEND: On the Fortieth Anniversary of AGAINST METHOD

This year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Feyerabend’s AGAINST METHOD. It seems an appropriate time to revisit the book, and Feyerabend’s thought more generally, to see what contribution it can make to our current intellectual and existential concerns. Feyerabend did not separate philosophy from the general culture, and he constantly considered abstract intellectual pursuits in relation to concrete life. This privileging of life over abstract motivations is the well-spring of Feyerabend’s repeated claim that he is not a philosopher. Paradoxically, this insistence is part of what makes him a great philosopher, one who breaks the rules not out of “provocation” but because he has not the slightest interest in allowing his conduct and thought to be governed by the abstract stipulations of lifeless thinkers.

There will be a workshop held in July at Durham University to commemorate this anniversary by exploring the meaning and impact of AGAINST METHOD, and its continuing relevance to contemporary debates. The book is still very relevant not just to contemporary philosophy of science but also more widely to debates and movements in Continental Philosophy. The line up of papers is very interesting, but I don’t think it gives full justice to this wider relevance. In particular, Feyerabend’s thought has a strong and persistent ontological dimension, one of his earliest published papers, “Physik und Ontologie”, dates from 1954. Feyerabend’s work, including AM, is important to gain a perspective on recent discussions in speculative realism, and in relation to the ongoing philosophical projects of philosophers such as Bruno Latour, Michel Serres, François Laruelle, and Alain Badiou.

In some ways this 40th anniversary is a “false” one, as the breakthrough in Feyerabend’s thought was expressed in the original version of AGAINST METHOD, which was first published in 1972 as an essay in the Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science, available here. The “breakthrough” was accomplished when Feyerabend ceased to consider that he was elaborating a new, more satisfying, general method for science and began to propose a new use for all methods as heuristic suggestions for a more inventive approach to science and to life in general, rather than as fixed universal and prescriptive rules for the conduct and evaluation of research.

As part of the general process of commemoration Ian James Kidd has published a very interesting text reviewing the book from a contemporary, sympathetic, perspective: “What’s so great about Feyerabend? Against Method, forty years on“. Part of what makes it necessary to remember Feyerabend and to re-read his texts is the prevalence of a set of very inaccurate stereotypes and simplifications of his work. In particular, there is a widespread impression that Feyerabend is “old hat”, that his ideas belong to a dated debate, and that we have gone far beyond that intellectually antiquated phase of the philosophy of science. Indeed, often one cannot see what all the fuss was about, as many of the supposedly “provocative” ideas defended by Feyerabend, such as the absence of a universal method for the sciences, today seem self-evident, even trite.

Ian James Kidd remarks:

It is interesting that many of the claims that, back in the mid-1970s, made Feyerabend a radical maverick are, nowadays, rather commonplace. Consider the general picture of science sketched in Against Method, of ‘science’ as pluralistic and disunified, socially situated, unavoidably value-laden, complexly bound up with sociopolitical concerns, whose social and epistemic authority is disputed and, to a degree, fragile.

Feyerabend would seem to be the perpetual has-been, who wrote one vaguely interesting book, AGAINST METHOD, in which he popularised recent ideas on the history and the methods of science. The book led to much controversy, stirring up a preliminary version of the Science Wars, but its notoriety was based on a misunderstanding. Feyerabend, on this view, merely presented ideas that were already generally accepted within the philosophical community but chose to express them in a sensational and provocative style. Kidd sums up what one might call the “disappointed” reaction that a contemporary reader might have when confronted with Feyerabend’s text:

“It is interesting that many of the claims that, back in the mid-1970s, made Feyerabend a radical maverick are, nowadays, rather commonplace. Consider the general picture of science sketched in Against Method, of ‘science’ as pluralistic and disunified, socially situated, unavoidably value-laden, complexly bound up with sociopolitical concerns, whose social and epistemic authority is disputed and, to a degree, fragile”.

On the basis of this disappointment, the seeming familiarity and self-evidence of the books main ideas, a popular myth has arisen about Feyerabend’s intellectual evolution. Kidd talks of an “inherited narrative of Feyerabend’s career”:

good work in the 1960s, but then, into the 1970s, losing the plot, sliding into relativism, polemics, and ill-thought-out political theorising.

It is interesting to see that a work that was initially seen as “crazy” and “irrational”, AGAINST METHOD, is now perceived as trite and trivial. Now it is the later work on relativism that is perceived as irrational, until one day it too will be absorbed without fair acknowledgement into the mainstream. Perhaps this is what Bruno Latour is trying to do with his AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE project.

Faced with this reflex reduction of Feyerabend’s message of pluralism and disunity to a by now very familiar lesson, Kidd tries to find a more underlying, less familiar, message of AGAINST METHOD, “deeper” than its critique of monism, and its defence of pluralism. I do not find his argument entirely plausible here. Feyerabend shows a concern not just with epistemology, but also with ontology, from the beginning of his published work to the end. AGAINST METHOD is no exception here, and I think it would be a mistake to validate, even partially, the current myth that AGAINST METHOD is exclusively, or even primarily, an “epistemological” work. Kidd himself indicates a dissatisfaction with this valid but superficial appreciation of the book as follows:

My suggestion is that this book was more than a critique of methodological monism, and more than a call for epistemic pluralism—although both of those are indeed there.

Kidd argues that the methodological pluralism that can be found in AGAINST METHOD is not its deepest contribution. Feyerabend’s pluralism is not only a normative affair. In trying to describe the deeper message of AGAINST METHOD Kidd falls back on a notion of description as being more fundamental than prescription, and he emphasises the descriptive inadequacy of the standard vision:

The deep message of Against Method was that we ‘late moderns’ esteem science as a pre-eminent social and epistemic authority, due, in part, to its enjoying certain honorific features—for instance, its being methodologically unified or value-free, in a way that other traditions are not.

The disunity and value-ladenness of science are important features of Feyerabend’s description. However, this description is itself subject to the same disunity and value-ladenness as the object (science) that it purports to describe. Feyerabend is not dogmatic in his pluralism, and he does not contest that relatively unified and seemingly “objective” sequences of rational knowledge production can be isolated out of the historical process. However, he argues that such isolated sequences attain their unity and objectivity by political means, and that the ethical question of their place in a free and fulfilling life is always a valid and important one.

AGAINST METHOD is importantly an ontological project as well as a sketch of a more adequate prescriptive and descriptive framework for science. There is an impressive unity in Feyerabend’s work concerning both ontology and the need for a new way of thinking that he found embodied in Einstein’s and Bohr’s scientific practice and methodological discussions. Feyerabend’s early reflections on complementarity continue throughout his middle period, and underlie the new perpective he sketches out in his last works, as can be seen in CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE.

To give primacy to the epistemology in Feyerabend is part of the general neutralising strategy that surrounds his work. From the beginning Feyerabend’s work mixes together ethical or valuative (including political) and ontological considerations, as if they were inseparable. If we admit that, Latour’s belated “modes of existence” project was largely anticipated, in a more complete and satisfying way, by Feyerabend.

Underlying the polemics on the pluralism of methods and on the descriptive disunity of science, there is the problem of the value of science, its place in our lives, and its role in society. Kidd indicates that revising and complexifying the description has, or should have, practical consequences that must themselves be examined:

if we think that science is epistemically privileged because it has a special method, then if it turns out that there is no such thing, then we need to offer alternative credentials, or else rethink those privileges.

We find the same concern for description, credentials, and privileges in Bruno Latour’s work on science. It is interesting to note that Latour himself does not see any resemblance between his own theoretical project and Feyerabend’s. Whenever he discusses Feyerabend Latour promulgates the same old dismissive stereotypes that Kidd is arguing against. In a very interesting interview, Latour has this to say about Feyerabend:

I think deep down, Feyerabend rendered a disservice to the history and philosophy of science. I don’t take very seriously political anarchism, and I don’t take very seriously anarchism in science because it is completely reactionary…The attitude of unveiling and denouncing the falseness of the scientific method always reinforces the argument of the scientist, so I think Feyerabend has been rather counterproductive.

Latour’s whole career has been based on revealing the falseness of the thesis of a scientific method.So there would seem to be

In another more recent interview (2012), Latour even declares that what he has learned from his “empirical” study of scientific research is that “anything goes”:

“this a thing that I learned from the “scientists” I studied, i.e. that: “Anything goes as long as it leads to what you want to find”. Just as in a laboratory you have instruments of all sorts, including the most archaic and the most contemporary, because that is what is necessary in production, I myself have learnt a lot from “true” scientists, hard scientists, i.e. total indifference to questions of method” (page 123, my translation).

This is very exactly what Feyerabend proposes in AGAINST METHOD (already in the essay version published in 1971). Latour continues in the same vein for two and a half pages, applying this notion of epistemological anarchism to his own work, and concludes:

“So, how do you produce objects that resist what is said of them?, well, anything goes(126).

Latour does not acknowledge Feyerabend’s contribution, he merely appropriates it almost 40 years afterwards, and presents it as the conclusion of his empirical science studies. No wonder that Feyerabend’s originality has been difficult to perceive. Latour’s “anxiety of influence” is too strong here to allow him to see just how many of his ideas were already expressed, and often more clearly and more entertainingly, by Feyerabend decades ago. Ian James Kidd’s article is an important corrective to the sort of wilful ignorance and misrepresentation to be found in pronouncements such as Latour’s.

Yet despite his efforts to present a consensually acceptable epistemological anarchist and ontologically pluralist vision of science, Latour, like Feyerabend before him, has been unjustly accused of being “anti-science”. Kidd is at pains to distinguish the task of critical examination of a widespread entrenched ideology of science and the quixotic rejection of science itself:

Crucially, a rejection of certain credentials offered in support of the authority of science is not the same as a rejection of that authority, a point often missed by those who criticise Feyerabend as an ‘anti-science’ traitor to the cause. But it is better to think of him not as anti-science, but as anti-scientism: a critic of false, exaggerated, or inflated conceptions of the nature, scope, and value of science.

This reminder is more than ever necessary today. Contrary to a false rumour, scientism is still rampant in Continental Philosophy. Further, even when “scientism” is condemned, as for example by Graham Harman, the same simplistic unity of science is pre-supposed in the condemnation. The model of a unified value-free knowledge may even be transposed to the philosophical realm. This is where Harman’s unified knowledge of “real objects” encounters Laruelle’s naively scientistic ambitions of a “science” of philosophy.

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CLEARING DELEUZE: Alexander Galloway and the New Clarity

AS: What do you think of Alexander Galloway’s comments on forgetting Deleuze?

TB: I can only sympathise with him. Galloway seems to regret having wasted much of his time reading a lot of media theorists, no doubt for professional reasons, who make very uninformed use of Deleuze. His head seems to be in a mess at present: he can’t decide whether he is against “Deleuzianism”, or against 1972 Deleuze and in favour of 1990 Deleuze, or in favour of a paltry cluster of Deleuzian values that Laruelle rather than Deleuze gives us the means to think through. Maybe a close reading of Laruelle’s CHRISTO-FICTION would get rid of his confusion.

AS: Are you calling Alexander Galloway, one of the founding members, along with Eugene Thacker, of the New Clarity, “confused”?

TB: There is quite a lot of confusion in Galloway’s discussion of Deleuze. As I have already mentioned, he confuses Deleuzianism, Deleuze, and salvageable Deleuzian values. He also confuses the periodisation of various readings and receptions of Deleuze’s texts with the periodisation of Deleuze’s ideas themselves. Yet concerning the basic concepts of event, pluralism, multiplicity, and assemblage there is continuity between ANTI-OEDIPUS and the last writings.

We must remember Deleuze. To go forward we need anamnesis, a return to texts whose pluralist deconstructive power is richer, more abundant, and more multiple than the Deleuzianism and the anti-Deleuzianism that have followed.

First, we must forget the Badiousian Deleuze, the vitalist philosopher of “life” equated with an organic Totality. The primary concept is assemblage, not life. Deleuze describes himself as a “vitalist”, but the whole movement of his thought is in the construction of the concept of a non-organic, or unliving, life. There is no essence of life in Deleuze. The fold of life is unfolded to expose it to non-living forces of the outside (such as silicon) and recompose other folds of “life”. This is the source of Laruelle’s later, derivative concept of the “lived-without-life”.

Secondly, we must forget the Laruellean Deleuze, the so-called “philosopher of difference”. Laruelle’s version of Deleuze should be added to Galloway’s list of misunderstandings of Deleuze, as his ideas on Deleuze have nothing to do with any of Deleuze’s texts (except for surreptitiously borrowing major ideas from them). Deleuze is primarily a pluralist, not a differentialist.

AS: But Galloway does not reject Deleuze outright, he also wants to remember Deleuze.

TB: Galloway wishes to remember Deleuze for a few core values: antifascism, materialism, communism, and immanence, yet he has a one-sided politicist vision of these concepts. But the concepts he cites as worthy of remembrance cannot be separated from those of assemblages, multiplicities, and events.

AS: But just as he did with Harman’s OOO, Galloway shows that there is a formal homology between Deleuze’s anti-foundationalism and capitalism. Isn’t this alarming?

TB: The formal homology Galloway notes between Deleuzian ontology and capitalism is no discovery, as Deleuze himself draws our attention to it as a positive feature of his anaysis, as long as we understand that it permits us to see not just the progessive potential but the limit of capitalism as well.

AS: But Deleuze has been used to justify the facile spontaneism and relativism of the hippies and the post-moderns.

TB: Lyotard, the only one to propose a coherent philosophical concept of the post-modern, included Deleuze under the label not for any wild-eyed postmodern relativism (anything goes, everything is equivalent), but for his notions of sense from nomadic encounter, of incommensurability and of heterogeneity. All the concepts that Galloway attributes to Deleuze are travesties, because he homogenises them.

On the confusion between Deleuze’s constructivism, or assemblage theory of desire, and the Woodstock hippyism of free love and free desire, Deleuze is not at all in favour of pure expressive unfolding or decompression. He constantly emphasised the necessity of the fold and compression. Any examples he gave (drugs, schizos, nomads, networks, folds) had to be deterritorialised, or they were in danger of establishing new territories.

Note: this is a fictitious dialogue between Agent Swarm and Terence Blake. I am grateful to a real dialogue on facebook with Adrian Martin, Bradley Kaye, and Gil Morejón for helping me to clarify my ideas.

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ON NOT EXPLAINING: Laruelle and prudence

I think the idea that one can not or should not explain Laruelle, or any other philosopher, is more authoritarian than one may want it to be. Explaining is impossible, but I am a teacher, so I do the impossible every day.

Some people, e.g. academics, get exposed to helpful elements (information, books and articles, encouragement, invitations, money and time to think and write) much more than others, they are privileged elements in the academic philosophical nexus. The principle of “no explanations” would leave the privileged in sole possession of paths to understanding. Others not so privileged may have to read and grow for a much longer time before attaining a comparable degree of understanding.

So explanation can be a democratic move. One must be careful not to link too closely explanation and reduction. In my comments on various philosophers I aim to explain without reducing. It would be rather harsh to forbid a democratic singularity’s pedagogical action on the basis of a universal rule. Any explanations I give are hypotheses to be tested by confrontation with the texts and the ideas involved.

I have no universal rule. “Never explain” is a bad rule, but its “badness” comes from its universal status. Sometimes, it is true, it is better not to explain and to allow people to discover for themselves or to grow into understanding. I would prefer “Explain, but don’t reduce”. But even this prescription is too general, as some reductions can be good in a given context, although there is a price to pay in other contexts.

For example, reducing people to bio-chemical systems can help us to find medical treatments for some diseases, but it can also make us miss out on more global aspects that would have quite positive impact on our health.

So I accept the “rule” of no explanations as a warning: Be prudent in your explanations. But I do not accept it as a general interdiction. Prudence is not the same as abstention, and is usually a question of adapted dosage. Even moderation is not the best policy, as some things need extensive and/or intensive responses.

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LARUELLE CONTRA SUTURES

“On a theoretical plane, three current solutions make it difficult to approach the problem of man and victim without misunderstanding […]: (1) the creationist reaction as a symptom of a lost paradigm, without a doubt the most dangerous regression, but interesting for its permanent and hallucinatory confusion of the radical axiomatic identity, which makes up the essence of the human-in-person, with the unity of creative transcendence” (François Laruelle, GENERAL THEORY OF VICTIMS, page 17, Polity Press, 2015).

The passage cited here is part of a more general argument where Laruelle rejects three of the sutures or reductionisms that, according to him, generate misunderstanding of the problem of man and victim.

(1) Religionism: Laruelle rejects the religionist suture, both in the form of “creationism”, and in the form of any doctrine that conflates the radical axiomatic identity of humans with the unity posited or imposed by any belief in a “creative transcendence”. This means that he puts on the same level the literal simplistic creationists and the more metaphoric sophisticated “creaturalists”.

(2) Scientism: Laruelle in the context of the passage cited goes on to reject the scientistic suture, which he calls “the diehard imagination of science-fiction”. Here he is rejecting both simplistic literalist reductionism of the human to just one permutation of the android-humanoid complex, but also the more metaphorical sophisticated “death (or “vanishing”) of man” philosophies.

In this double context Laruelle tells us that we cannot overcome either or both of these reductionisms by inventing a juxtaposition or synthesis in order to get a more complete picture where one supplements the other: “However, the solution is not in the synthesis of creationism or intelligent design, even the most well-informed, and science fiction”. In this quote we can see that he explicitly includes the so-called scientific theory of “intelligent design” under the creationist paradigm. I think that it would be correct to include it under the scientistic paradigm as well. So “intelligent design” would be a good example of what Laruelle condemns as the illegitimate synthesis of religionism and creationism.

(3) Politicism: The third reductionism, or suture, that Laruelle rejects here is “the politico-historial model”. Once again he rejects both a simplistic literal form, the one-upmanship of seeking out and espousing the most oppressed elements of a society, and the more metaphorical sophisticated versions which are exemplified by the “philosophies of the event”. Here he mentions by name Badiou and Heidegger.

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PHILOSOPHICAL BLOGGING: DEMOCRACY, GNOSTICISM, INDIVIDUATION

I find many of the posts on philosophy blogs unreadable, premised as they are on being part of, and very interested in, the institutional inscription of philosophy and various other informal indicators associated with that institutional existence. This is no major concern of mine, as I am not part of the academy, despite having a very strong interest in many contemporary philosophical discussions. Sometimes something more philosophical catches my eye, but that is pretty rare.

I think that philosophical blogs do not “chat” enough, the dialogues and exchanges are too often tied to rank and status and codified interests. Not enough people are expressing themselves on philosophical blogs, and this gives a very misleading impression of the state of philosophical research on various topics, and on the sorts of things that people find interesting or could find interesting. People are too intimidated by academic credentials, or fearful of the often condescending (or worse!) treatment they receive if they dare to make a comment.

Periodically I wanted to stop blogging as I often feel that over the years it has taken up far too much of my time and energy, for so little return in terms of useful feedback, dialogue, inspiration and encouragement. Yet I continue to blog because that is part of who I am, not the blogging itself, as it is just one possible instantiation of something else, but of what? I think it is not so much the need to “express myself” as the need to have a trans-subjective context, however onesided, for inscribing my work with various concepts, arguments, and texts. I am so constituted that I am doing this conceptual work all thetime, and because thinking it in my head or writing it down in an intellectual journal is not enough. Nor is ordinary conversation, at least not in the sort of conversations I have access to, a sufficient “outlet” for such work.

I think we have all seen people who succeeded in academia with not much to contribute, because they were lucky (and I include social luck, and economic luck here) and because they worked on achieving that success as an important task in itself. As non-academic thinkers we are probably forever in the bind of seeking recognition from people whose very status of being able to accord recognition (or not) seems unjust to us.

Intellectual individuation does not stop when you leave the academy nor does it begin there. The thinking individual is not the academic subject, and the democracy of sharing is not the same as the conversations of cronies. I miss the academy for the access it could give me to libraries, people, and ideas, but when I was in the academy I did not find it to be a place of pure intellectual freedom nor of universal open exchange.

There are limits to my time and resources, for pursuing the thought that I like. But I do not stop thinking and saying what I think, nor am I easy to impress. Authorities, lobbies, and cliques leave me cold. There is freedom in the non-academic ordinariness of thinking and expressing myself. And I am not the only one to avail myself of such freedom. There is no room for such ideas as “I will publish my real work in a more serious place” because a blog is a very serious place indeed, and you are judged by very surprising, singular and unformatted, non-professional eyes and minds.

Like François Laruellle, Feyerabend has defended “gnostic” thinking, as long as it is not academic or dogmatic gnosticism. For both, gnosticism is part of the democratic project that they favour for thought. A gnostic acolyte is one thing, just another true believer or joiner of movements, but a gnostic individual is something else, someone who practices that equality that puts many of our intellectuals so ill at ease when it comes from outside the profession.

(Note: I used “democracy” in reference to Feyerabend’s defence of a democratic relativism as basis for free exchange between people of different ideas and modes of life, and also to Laruelle’s idea of a democracy of thought where no discipline is foundational).

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