LARUELLE’S THIRD TABLE: Anthony Paul Smith’s Clarifications

Another interesting talk by APS on Laruelle and the Speculative Turn here. He makes much use of Louis Morelle’s paper on Speculative Realism. Anthony for some reason keeps talking about chairs, but to align his talk with the example used in Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE I will couch my summary in terms of tables.

Anthony gives the by now standard, but apparently still necessary, explanation of the « non- » in non-philosophy as not so much an operator of negation as of relativisation and pluralisation. He cites the « pluralism of mathematics » (around 26minutes in) as a model of what non-philosophy is trying to do and talks about the pluralist claim of non-philosophy (27mins45s): « Given an object more than one form of knowing is able to know it as such … it’s a pluralist notion ». This shatters philosophy’s monist Ur-doxa, negates its authoritarianism, and liberates lived experience. The aim is « to free the actualised immanent identity from its transcendental conception » (32mins). Actuals are projected by philosophy and circumscribed in « closed concepts within a transcendence ». Laruelle resolves the correlationist dilemma by seeing subject and object as projections of a « third thing » (37mins) « the thing as it is radically immanent not to a concept or an idea but to itself  as it is lived without life. For the example of the table (37mins50) « you can’t just say that it has no relation to subjectivity…there is still some human element to the actuality of the table, there is still some mathematical actuality to what the table is » (Note: in the original APS talks of the « chair », I have substituted « table »). « The identity of the table as radically immanent is what he is concerned with ».

Anthony comes out with what he calls a non-philosophical thesis: « There is no fundamental ontological difference in the relations between subject and object, but there is an identity of each of these objects that is prior to ontology and significant, what Laruelle calls in-One » (41mins15). NP and OOO agree that philosophy itself has no privilege, it is just one object amongst others. For Laruelle, ontology is flattened and non-hierarchical  objects are « real in the last instance » ie in Harman’s terms have an identity that is « withdrawn ». For Harman the table is withdrawn from human determination, for Laruelle the table is real in the last instance. It has an identity that is the chair’s itself ».

To illustrate the difference between NP and OOO Anthony talks about how OOO’s use of Latour litanies does not get beyond the mere observation or affirmation of existence of various objects and so remains within the natural attitude. « While we are given a litany, we are rarely given an analysis beyond that litany » (46mins30). In non-philosophy there has been an intense analysis of particular objects, more abstract ones like thought, philosophy, science, and religion and also more corporeal ones photos and colours. So NP tries to bring out the identities of different objects in a way that OOO does not.

Anthony then goes on to talk about Ray Brassier’s scientistic version of SR, and then considers the example of the greenness of grass, which as a « secondary effect » is an illusion for Brassier, but for Laruelle, despite being secondary, is « relatively autonomous as rooted in its own radical immanence ». It is real because it is actual in the moment of its perception by an observer, it has some real effect. « This can be shown ecologically » affirms Anthony (52mins30). Conclusion: the actuality of the table is caught up in the human in a way such that it is not determined by the human and that it is not totally withdrawn and unknowable or incomprehensible either, but this imbrication with the human bears on its identity in the last instance.

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