PLURALISM AND NON-LARUELLIAN NON-PHILOSOPHY

From a pluralist point of view, there is no intellectual center of the world, and so there are many important ways of philosophising. We can use this sort of decentred pluralism as a criterion for evaluating the worth of various philosophical positions. Badiou, for example, fails to convince us because despite his avowed theory of multiples his own practice is far from pluralist. A telling example is his relation to psychoanalysis and his inability to pluralise the unconscious. For Badiou Paris is the center, so Lacan is the center for the theory of the psyche. If he manages to “correct” Lacan a little he has made, in his own eyes, a world-historical contribution.

Using this decentred pluralism as a pragmatic criterion I think that Laruelle is far more satisfying intellectually than Badiou. His book on Badiou leaves no doubt about that. I think however that his thought must be generalised and de-centered even further. one superiority of Laruelle’s train of though has been his capacity to criticise his own ideas and to progress beyond them. Badiou has never truly criticised his lacanism and his maoism, and his “communist hypothesis” has just added epicycles on epicycles to an uninterrupted process of self-justification, where auto-critique is necessary. Badiou has never broken with scientism, regarding the “matheme” as the paradigm of knowledge. In contrast, Laruelle has analysed and critiqued his own former philosophism and scientism.

Laruelle has evolved over time, but coming as he does from the Ecole Normale Supérieure he has taken a long time to free himself from the limitations of his formative context and intellectual epoch. Deleuze and Feyerabend both declared that the academic philosopher is a “bureaucrat of thought” and Laruelle agrees. So he has had to fight hard against this bureaucratic side. The non-philosopher is not a bureaucrat but heretic and gnostic, i.e. he sees the shadow and the unconscious side in all things, including in himself. Badiou is a regression, but Laruelle is something else.

There was a very interesting analysis of the notion of “critique” in France in the wake of May 1968. Creative philosophers like Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault analysed the critical position itself, revealing the limits of its negativity i.e. its founding itself on notions of lack and negation and againstness, and of its “derivativity” i.e. its basic dependence on the problematics of those it criticised. Marxist dialectics, Lacanian analysis, deconstruction, were found to be fundamentally flawed approaches. The alternative that emerged was in each case a pluralism (of intensities, language games, force relations, assemblages, epistemes, modes of existence, processes of subjectivation. There was no attempt to eliminate negativity and critique, (this would have been too evident a pragmatic contradiction in those long lost times before OOO replaced argument with impudent bluff and hypocritical denial of the obvious) but only to dissipate its primacy.

Laruelle went through a long phase of apparent “critique” in his philosophy I, but only a naive reader blinded by Lacanism could fail to see the Nietzschean and Heideggerian positive terrain that underlies these investigations. Laruelle himself came to criticise this phase, not because of its supposed negativity, but because of its positivity. This positivity was still limited to the confines of the denegation of immanence constitutive of philosophy. Laruelle came to call this conformist conception of positivity “sufficiency”, and began to think outside of its confines.

Laruelle’s name, during the decade of his Philosophy II, for the positivity beyond critique was “science”. He came to see that this primacy accorded to science was yet another ruse of philosphical sufficiency and he broke with what he himself calls his “scientism”. He now affirms that the non-philosophical pairing of philosophy and science is just one possible way of doing non-standard philosophy, and that other pairings, e.g. philosophy and religion, philosophy and photography, are equally possible.

A consequent philosophical pluralism has its own dynamic of thought that leads from a pluralism inside philosophy (e.g. Feyerabend’s methodological pluralism), to a pluralising of philosophy itself as an ontological realm and a cognitive régime claiming completeness and universality (cf. Feyerabend’s Machian open “way of research” in opposition to the closed speculation of the “way of the philosophers”, and also his later ontological pluralism, whose target is the arrogant universalism of “philosophy as a discourse that covers everything … an all-encompassing synthetic view of the world and what it all means”. Here I think comes the move of putting philosophy in relation to a non-philosophical outside (non-philosophical not meaning a negation but a wider practice, as in non-Euclidean geometries). Laruelle has written on this sort of thing at length, but I don’t think he can claim exclusive ownership (nor even chronological priority) of this idea, nor is he even necessarily the best exemplar of the practice of such a non-philosophy. But at least his work is a gesture in the right direction. And so he can have the operator  “non-” applied to himself with as much justice as he applies it to philosophy. Thus a non-laruellian non-philosophy is a reasonable and even necessary prolongation of pluralism. Feyerabend, Deleuze and Guattari, and the post-Jungian analyst James Hillman, are good examples of such a pluralist non-laruellian non-philosophy.

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