RADICALISING NON-PHILOSOPHY

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”.

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16 Responses to RADICALISING NON-PHILOSOPHY

  1. At least Lyotard entertained the idea, I think one of the first attempts to transcend correlationism, of the possibility of breaking the correlation between thought and the world in his later speculation on stellar death (The Inhuman)–this while staying within immanence as it is obligatory for thought to do so in the sense that thought itself is indexed to desire. And yet, Lyotard would also argue that thought is not a creature of this world. Thought, perhaps, is this future Christ that is not of this world, yet, having borne by desire (a symptom of its anomaly), wishes to stay in the world for lack of any true world. It stays by simulating, retroactively, the conditions that made it (thought) possible, by repeating the entire process of aleatory emergence, by cloning the world itself. It is of course impossible to clone the entire world (thought is differentiated as it is embedded in differential bodies) and for that cloning is strictly a local activity. That there is such thought as Future Christ is not independent of localization.

    To digress a bit, non-philosophy clones philosophy according to its true immanent activity not as philosophy as it has hitherto philosophized its own image, but philosophy in its immanent weakness. Non-philosophy “[plays] the dummy so that it can re-enact the speech of philosophy” (Laurelle and Non-philosophy, 5). Non-philosophy clones the immanent weakness of philosophy in the hope that philosophy will confess its pathology. Non-philosophy must of course be persistent vis-a-vis the self-denial of philosophy. It must persist as the ground of philosophy. In the same manner, philosophy must be consistently hallucinatory.

    Now, a picture of absolute correlationism comes up here. The correlation is indestructible that, as Lyotard had argued, only extinction (stellar death) can break. The final objective of the correlation therefore is to suppress the apocalypse, hence, Laruelle’s gnostic emphasis on resurrection except what will be resurrected are the clones of thought staying within immanence.

    Just a thought.

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    • terenceblake says:

      I think the omnipresence of correlationism in post-Kantian philosophy is a figment of Meillassoux’s imagination, a philosophical hallucination that he has persuaded some others to share. Even the more satisfactory account that Laruelle gives with his principle of sufficient philosophy is a monstrous travesty of the history of philosophy. The idea that Deleuze or Foucault or Lyotard were correlationist should have just been greeted with the indulgent laughter reserved for childish pranks.

      Lyotard transcended correlationism in DISCOURS, FIGURE and deepened his critique of the metaphysical enclosure and of the theatre of representation with every book after. I would single out his text “Notes on the Return and on Kapital”, and his two books LIBIDINAL ECONOMY and THE DIFFEREND. His pronouncements on entropy and stellar death etc. came at a time when he was experimentally giving primacy to science, and so constitute a relapse into scientism. Yet he was clear even during this phase that the scientistic process of complexification was the intolerable confinement, even worse than correlation because seemingly scientifically attested and confirmed, that required escape through Augustinian anamnesis.

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  2. I agree with you about Meillasoux on correlationism, except I think that the idea that there is a correlationist ‘principle’ at work in post-Kantian philosophy is not new. I’m thinking of Sellars here, and even as remote as Nietzsche. Regarding your point about relapsing into scientism, I’m of the opinion that not every kind of extrapolation of scientific values within philosophical discourses will always end up with scientism. I can’t think of any philosophy (beginning with Plato) in which this kind of extrapolation is absent (and I mean science correlated to its developmental achievements). Across the history of philosophy, extrapolations generate either scientism or dogmatic metaphysics or its lower intensities in mysticism or gnosticism (whatever applies). Of course, scientism gains much currency in the modern age and since then has shaped philosophical thinking. To insert Laruelle here, it is in the effort of resisting scientism that a science of philosophy has to be established to wrest science from scientism so that its value for philosophy can be made into a material (in the Laruellean sense of material).

    You might be referring to apocalypse as scientistic. But, again, as early as Plato the idea of a force that exceeds thought is now new. And my idea of apocalypse is such that thought’s correlation to the world is hystericized to the degree that it confronts the truth of its anomaly. We can draw lessons from science on how this apocalyptic confrontation happens, as Lacan did, even Laruelle (with his extrapolation of quantum theory). Deleuze is no exception. Who is? But there is a more robust sense of apocalypse that confronts the civilization of thought, and that is at this point of human existence familiar to us now.

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  3. terenceblake says:

    In Lyotard’s case the scientism does not come in with the extrapolation but with the giving of sole cognitive authority to the “phrase” of science. Nonetheless Lyotard emphasised that there were two instances of the “inhuman”: the scientific inhuman, which he assimilated to a confinement with pretention to exhausting the whole of existence, and so we are entitled to speak of scientistic correlation that he rejected, and another inhuman, the unconscious other, that could not be exhausted by any scientistic correlational universe.

    More generally, not only is the idea of correlationism not new, but any interesting philosophy of the 20th Century is not only non-correlationist but also a practice of non-philosophy: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Whitehead, Deleuze, Feyerabend.

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  4. There is somewhat an anti-philosophical pattern that sutures the projects of the philosophers you mentioned, a gesture that philosophy in fact encourages. In light of non-philosophy, anti-philosophy remains within the ambit of the figure-background pattern that gives primacy to figuration (philosophy or anti-philosophy) at the expense of the background, i.e., the non-philosophical. Non-philosophy reverses the pattern–it is the background that cognizes not the figure. The figure can only instrumentalize the background (ground or surface). Again, just a thought.

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    • terenceblake says:

      While I read Laruelle with great interest I do not agree with his self-evaluation of his accomplishment. He has proved that one can give a philosophical reading of philosophical texts, including those of his immediate predecessors. This is the reading that you quote. He has not proven that other readings are not possible. As an example, in his dialogue with Derrida he admits that a philosophical reading can be given of his own text, but affirms that a non-philosophical reading is also possible, and to be preferred. What is applicable for him is applicable for many other philosophers. Deleuze is a good example because he explicitly demands that his texts be read not as a system but as philosophical material to be used in relation to an outside. Whatever one may think of the case of DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION it is clear that ANTI-OEDIPUS goes far further outside, far closer to the source of immanence, than Laruelle’s THÉORIE DES ÉTRANGERS, just as A THOUSAND PLATEAUS goes further in non-standard philosophy than Laruelle’s book PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD. I see no anti-philosophy in Deleuze’s work, but the cry “everything is to be interpreted in terms of intensity” is precisely the reversion of background to cognize the figure. Laruelle is a good non-philosopher but he is not the first, nor does he go the closest to immanence.

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  5. Exactly. One can be a non-Laruellean reader of non-philosophy, as you expanded in your previous post.

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  6. P.S. Is there a moment in Deleuze where he speaks of the possibility of deterritorializing philosophy’s own production? If Deleuze argues to some extent that the line function, for instance, in his analysis of Bacon’s paintings, must be saved, or the contour must be saved, how about the idea that the non-philosophical must heed philosophy’s warning about the consequences of chaoticizing chaos? Does not Deleuze impose a figuralization on the non-philosophical in the sense of saving the line function (a new Figure, a non-philosophical figure of philosophy which extends philosophy’s plane of composition and therefore assures its continuity)? Are we seeing here the refusal of philosophy to deterritorialize itself because there is non-philosophy to perform it on its behalf? These are additional thoughts…

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  7. terenceblake says:

    This combines quite a lot of questions. On deterritorialising not just the reading of philosophy (as I discussed above) but the production of philosophy, a good text is the LETTER TO A SEVERE CRITIC where he talks about the depersonalisation of love and not of submission in his encounter with Nietzsche and being multiplied and singularised in his encounter with Guattari. The whole text is relevant because it replies to the accusation that he is blocked inside philosophy, recuperating the marginals for his own academic profit without taking any risks himself. Like Laruelle, Deleuze remarks that there are two possible readings of his texts and of his life; The reading that judges him locked inside philosophy (he calls this a malevolent reading based on resentment) and the reading that he is producing in relation to the immanent outside (he calls this a benevolent or “amorous” reading, based on intensity, and machinic function). Similarly for your other criticisms. The Figure is not the figure, but its decomposition and clonic reinjection. There is no dualism where philosophy “warns” and non-philosophy “performs”, this is precisely the malevolent reading rejected in the LETTER, and at the beginning of RHIZOME, the experimentation is inassignable

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  8. I can agree on this point that this is Deleuze performing non-standard philosophy or as-if non-philosophy. Yet it is not the background (non-philosophy) that cognizes of the limits of philosophy but the figure of philosophy, perhaps, exhausted; out of fatigue, philosophy comes to reflect on its limits, maybe, at the ready for self-decomposition. It is there where it performs a suspension of its activity, a Kantian typic, which no longer requires the intensity of its youth. It is in Kant where we get the first glimpse of the background cognizing for or on behalf of the figure (philosophy)–performance takes over knowing. But performance, in Kant or in Deleuze, is not deterritorialization. It is the insignification of the territory itself as-if nothing has ever taken place.

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    • terenceblake says:

      Deleuze’s LETTER where he replies to the accusation of enclosure within philosophy was published in 1973. It recounts the changes produced by his reading of Nietzsche outside of philosophy, and by his encounter with Guattari whom he met in 1969, when he was 44 and Guattari was 39. They published A THOUSAND PLATEAUS IN 1981, after KAFKA and RHIZOME, when Deleuze was 56, Guattari 51. These are not the works of old age and fatigue, but an explosion of vitality. Deleuze went on to revolutionise the approach to the cinema with his two cinema books. Their last book written together was WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? published in 1991, Deleuze 66 and Guattari 61. It is useful to recall that it is a collaborative work, and both voices together (the philosopher and the non-philosopher) reply to the question “what is it that I have been doing all my life?” The affect is not fatigue but “sobriety” and “concreteness”, the mood is not exhaustion but “grace”. It is not a reflection on limits, these are assigned to the history of philosophy, but a new creation of concepts outside the limits of philosophy (=the history of philosophy). Deleuze and Guattari have already when this book is published analysed for over 20 years the régimes of signs, and shown how signification is just one régime. They have shown how the philosophical book is based on codification and have written books outside this philosophical codification, where a-signifying particles are connected to the outside. Contrary to what you assert performance is deterritorialisation, as in their analysis the performative is the implementation of incorporeal transformations. Cognition is performance and transformation for them before it is codified into signification.

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  9. Sorry for the second paragraph.What i intended to mean there is how non-philosophy works, assuming non-philosophy works on behalf of philosophy. I said Deleuze is performing a non-standard philosophy which is not entirely non-philosophy (hence, my qualification as-if).Your comments though are I assume more directed to my comment on deterritorialization re the Kantian typic. Performance takes over knowing (I dont mean knowing as cognition but knowing that is denied of reason in Kant, hence the turn to performance which takes its place in the same manner virtuality takes the place of the actual).Im still of the opinion that performance is not deterritorialization, that is, given that the object of deterritorialization is you are right cognition and not knowing. That is where I think Deleuze privileges thinking most especially in DR which does not deterritorialize but rather stretches the Kantian critique from where Kant suspends cognition to make room for belief (belief as a true deterritorializing performance).

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    • terenceblake says:

      Some precisions: non-philosophy is the self-cancelling philosophical hallucination of Laruelle: he sees the philosophical decision everywhere as a universal structure until he realises that this very seeing is itself caught in the same structure and he passes on to the positive work of non-standard philosophy. This is by no means a final step. Having explored non-standard philosophy he will have to become able to detect it in past and rival thinkers, and see that philosophy was always coupled with non-philosophy and with non-standard philosophy, and that he was blind to this before.

      I used the word “cognition” out of intellectual courtesy to you, but my preferred term is noesis. Noesis is deterritorialisation and is tied to heuristics and performance where cognition narrowly conceived is the falling back of noesis into apodictics and signification. So suspending cognition does not necessarily leave us with belief as the only alternative, but also with performative leaps or paradigm-changing noesis.

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  10. When D&G proclaims that philosophy is concept-production the Kantian performance is deterritorialized in favor of a new kindof performance that gives cognition the radicality denied of it in Kant.I think in that sense non-philosophy is also deterritorialized so that philosophy can perform under a new configuration of intensity (not the intensity of the background or the non-philosophical). Just elaborating my rather limited understanding of this difficult complementarity between Kant and Deleuze as it may be extended to non-philosophy.

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  11. I got your point on noesis I guess.thanks fior your time Terence (as always).

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  12. Pingback: Thought for “Radicalising Non-Philosophy” | Into the Line

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