I am ambivalent about non-philosophy and I find that it is only just beginning to become interesting, now that it has become “non-standard” philosophy. Even here sometimes I wonder “What! all this conceptual creation and analysis to get to the idea that we are Future Christs who can use philosophy as materials without believing in its structural founding principle? I already knew that with Feyerabend and Deleuze and Jung over 30 years ago”. Wittgenstein encouraged his disciples to quit philosophy and to take up some practically useful profession. Those who stayed behind got bogged down in exegesis and in linguistic analysis. Will non-philosophy win out over non-standard philosophy and create a new scholasticism based on a performative contradiction, that of those who remain behind in the “academic-bunker” while talking about the Great Outdoors.
I would like to quote Lyotard from the end of LIBIDINAL ECONOMY where he makes this same objection to himself, and refuses the dualism and the implied notion that there is some “good place” to be, superior to all the compromised intensities. There is no right place to be, there is only being open to the intensities that we encounter in us and around us, and refining ourselves to become ever better as conductors of intensities (and I would add to become ever more open to free exchange of intensities). This would correspond to non-standard philosophy winning out over non-philosophy:
“We need not leave the place where we are, we need not be ashamed to speak in a ‘state-funded’ university, write, get published, go commercial, love a woman, a man, and live together with them; there is no good place, the ‘private’ universities are like the others, savage publications like civilized ones, and no love can prevail over jealousy. Must our fear of sign-systems, and therefore, our investment in them, be still so immense that we search for these pure positions (from the heights of which we would not fail to give everyone everywhere lessons, and it will be a sinister paranoiacs’ revolution, once again)! What would be interesting would be to stay put, but quietly seize every chance to function as good intensity conducting bodies”.
I have constantly defended “diachronic” ontologies, claiming that they are processual, pluralist, and immanental. Yet I am also sensitive that such an immanent thought must produce a leap inside ourselves (the multiple is not just something to describe, you must do it). So without judging on the empirical question of persons, I think it is useful to examine the questions:
(1) when an academic philosopher thinks he is making the leap out of sufficient philosophy into immanence (remembering Deleuze’s expression of “making the movement” versus staying in reflection), is he necessarily deluding himself or is this, as both Deleuze and Guattari suggest, a real possibility? Is being critical and temporalising and democratic enough to make the leap?
(2) when a non-academic thinker thinks he has made the leap into immanence, is he being over-confident in his empirical intensities, or is he expressing and incarnating an important part of the immanental process?
Philosophy from the beginning is also and inseparably non-philosophy, edified on the basis of the struggle against other modes of relation to the real. According to Bernard Stiegler, Socrates as a non-metaphysical philosopher still belongs very much to the tragic mode of understanding, which is non-philosophical without being scientific, where the spirits come to us from under the ground, Hades, and so he is representative of bottom-up thinking that became lost to metaphysics. Plato too in his Socratic phase belonged to this tragic mode of relation, but later he suddenly reversed primacy and became the defender of top-down metaphysics in PHAEDRUS and in the REPUBLIC, imposing dualism and the concern with control.
Laruelle refuses all validity to philosophical critiques of his work, maintaining that they radically misunderstand it, mistakenly (or arrogantly) remaining blind to its difference and bringing it back under the hegemony of the principle of sufficient philosophy. Yet I think that Laruelle does the same thing in his reading of Deleuze, reading as philosophy what is already non-standard philosophy. Laruelle’s critique is one that Deleuze already made of himself with the notion of the Image of Thought. If one can claim that Laruelle’s brand of non-philosophy analyses objects in their immanence, citing as examples of these objects philosophy, marxism, psychoanalysis, religion, and photography, then Deleuze did this already with his analyses of philosophy, of psychoanalysis, of Bacon’s paintings, and of the cinema.
Freud and Lacan were true disasters to thought, extending and reinforcing the monist deadlock that confined and paralysed so much philosphy. Thinking that one has made a great advance because one has timidly criticised Lacan amounts to placing oneself in the same magisterial (and insular!) tradition as that of Badiou. That is non-philosophy rather than non-standard philosophy. Deleuze is very explicit in his intellectual autobiography in recounting how with his encounter Guattari everything changed in his thought, and how he passed from theorising an outside of philosophy to practising from outside philosophy both an analysis of philosophy and a freer use of its materials. Laruelle’s evolution seems to have been much more intra-philosophical, there is no Guattari in his development, so far as we know. So ANTI-OEDIPUS (1972) embodies a much more radical break with the French philosophical tradition than Laruelle’s THÉORIE DES ÉTRANGERS (1995), at least for the critique of psychoanalysis. Deleuze was constantly in struggle against himself, as was Lyotard who declared he was at war with the institutions of his own spirit.
Does Laruelle’s search for radical concepts reduced to their transcendental minimum and correlated to their source of immanence ultimately lead to the mystificatory conformism of post-secular society, as reflected in the so-called “religious turn” in some recent French philosophy? Certain signs, such as the Afterword (written by Gabriel Alkon and Boris Gunjevic) to THE NON-PHILOSPHY PROJECT, lead us to fear the worst. Laruelle’s insistence on immanence encapsulated in his notion of non-Christianity is compatible in the eyes of Alkon and Gunjevik with a form of “trust in an unknown God” (237), of “belief in an ultimate transcendence” (240).
It is Alkon and Gunjevik who pose very clearly the question: is the name “Christ” tied to a particular historical figure endowed with a transcendent primacy or “eminence” which relativises the immanence that Laruelle claims toplace at the source of his non-philosophy? Or is this name just one name amongst many possible, is it “simply a name for the life of generic scientific procedures that can arrive anytime and anywhere”? Gnosticism requires the second a-theological option, while Alkon and Gunjevic’s Christianity espouses the first. The answer to this question is central to evaluating the degree and type of radicality that is inherent to Laruelle’s project.
Everyone a Future Christ is acceptable as non-philosophical slogan if we take it in this second a-theological sense as meaning everyone a prophet of immanence. I am an atheist, and yet I am interested in Gnosticism. I consider P.K.Dick and Carl Jung to be our greatest modern gnostics, and both I would argue that they are atheists, albeit in a complex and unfamiliar sense. I also think that they give us a very good idea of what non-theology can be: using theological language as raw material, mixed with dreams and heresies and science-fiction. In fact I would prefer to talk in terms of non-religion. I can also invoke my namesake and perhaps ancestor William Blake:
“God appears and God is Light
to those poor souls who dwell in Night
but does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of Day”.