Laruelle condemns both vitalism and nihilism along with all the other cases of philosophical sufficiency.It is not often remarked but one possible translation for « suffisance » is narcissism. I quote from an earlier blog post of mine:
« It is unfortunate that a choice has to be made between two senses of “suffisant” and “suffisance” when one translates Laruelle into English, as both are pertinent to Laruelle’s project. One sense is cognitive and ontological: whatever exists can be philosophised, philosophy is sufficient to cognize the world. But there is another, ethical, sense: philosophy has the pretention, the arrogance to presuppose and impose its epistemic and ontic adequacy, its epistemological and ontological sufficiency ».
Yet another sort of vitalism, not subject to the principle of sufficient (or narcissistic) philosophy, is imagined by Laruelle. In THE FUTURE CHRIST he first condemns the philosophical or « ontological » versions of vitalism and their aberrations:
« Most of the ‘philosophies of life’, not all, certain of them being more radical in immanence, offer nothing more than the ontological, either explicitly or at best by a residual presupposition. ‘The-life’ is then a unitary generality, the source of a facile pathos and of a philosophical biologism which carries in it future aberrations ». (p21-22).
However Laruelle finds in his concept of non-Christianity a vision of Life outside the limits of philosophy. This immanent concept leads him to a form of non-philosophical subtraction where he attempts to be close to the immanent source of our experience of life while subtracting the philosophical principle that imprisons itin the phantasms of transcendence. He declares:
« Being-in-Life as being the non-consistent Real is the rock of non-Christianity. But Life is not above all productive or auto-generative and so it is fi rst transcendental. The old problems of beginning and generation are for it not posed and we prefer to designate it by the paradoxical use of the term Living and even, according to our writing, Lived-without-life » (p22).
Laruelle is even willing to go as far as espousing a new vitalist cogito:
« ‘I (am) in-Life, therefore I am in it for-the-World,’ is the new cogito in which the Future Christ performs, that is to say every man or every Lived thing [Vécu] that becomes a subject » (23).
On the question of nihilism there is no such non-philosophical redemption of the concept. Graham Joncas took the trouble to transcribe some interesting passages from one of Anthony Paul Smith’s talks. I reproduce the passage on nihilism here:
« Now strangely, the main difference between this vision of nihilism represented by Brassier and Laruelle is that Brassier is, I think, all still too theological, rooting everything in a theory of value that is ultimately decided by its telos, its end. Now for Brassier that end is that everything will eventually be nothing during the heat-death of the universe, that all meaning is ultimately local, and so insignificant. For Laruelle this notion of death is itself secondary, it doesn’t touch on the radical autonomy of the One-in-One, which just is Lived. For Laruelle the issue of meaning is ultimately itself overdetermined by the philosophical decision, so the claim that Laruelle makes isn’t that meaning needs to be reasserted against nihilism, but that nihilism believes its ‘just is’ formalism sufficient to think the identity of something by ripping it out of illusion ». (note: I relistened to the talk and have slightly emended the end of the last sentence).
So while Laruelle condemns philosophical vitalism and nihilism as narcissistic projections, there is no real symmetry between the two concepts. One (nihilism) is lost in the nets of sufficiency and narcissism, the other (vitalism) can be brought into relation to its source in immanence and be allowed to describe a new non-narcissistic subjectivity designated « the-lived-without-life ».