Laruelle’s critique of Deleuze can be seen in a strange document responding to Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, which was first published in French in 1991, i.e. well inside Laruelle’s “Philosophy II” phase (1981-1995), a period during which he has admitted he was still under the sway of the principle of sufficient philosophy in the form of a scientistic submission to the “authority” of science.
In PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY (page 34) Laruelle describes how his Philosophy II phase was “equivocal” in that it was
grounded on two axioms assumed to be complementary:
1) The One is immanent vision in-One.
2) There is a special affinity between the vision-in-One and the phenomenal experience of “scientific thought”
We learn that this strange mixture of immanence and scientism (which lasted 14 years!) was an “ultimate ruse of philosophy”. Scientism is a “philosophical” principle in the sense of the standard philosophy from which Laruelle was trying to break free, and as such it is a hindrance to thought:
“Philosophy III begins … by and with the suspension of this second axiom, already partially felt to be useless for
non-philosophy, and which had even prevented it from being deployed in its liberty and plasticity” (34).
Laruelle’s critique of Deleuze was published in French in 1995, in the same year as his THEORIE DES ETRANGERS, which is the book that Laruelle tells us inaugurates the third phase of his research, “Philosophy III”. Under the title “I, the Philosopher, Am Lying: A Response to Deleuze”, it published in English translation in THE NON-PHILOSOPHY PROJECT (2012). Yet this “response” bears all the signs of philosophical enclosure.
It is noteworthy that WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY is not just a work by Deleuze, as Laruelle’s “A Reply to Deleuze” would seem to imply. It was written in collaboration with Guattari, a non-philosopher, whose encounter with Deleuze allowed both of them to move outside the codes of standard philosophy, and to “practice immanence” as opposed to merely “saying immanence” . Laruelle gives a one-sided “philosophical” reading of the book, ignoring everything that Deleuze said over the preceding 14 years about his own break with standard philosophy, and comes to the predictable conclusion that Deleuze is still doing philosophy, i.e. “philosophy” in his Laruelle’s sense, which has next to nothing to do with Deleuze and Guattari’s sense as expounded in the book Laruelle is replying to.
Yet Deleuze had already replied to this critique of talking about an outside of philosophy while remaining firmly ensconced within its confines, in the role of a conformist spectator profiting from the experiences of those experimenting the real. In LETTER TO A SEVERE CRITIC, first published in French in 1973, Deleuze discusses his own non-philosophical production of philosophy. He talks about how he lived a depersonalisation of love and not of submission in his encounter with Nietzsche and how he was multiplied and singularised in his encounter with Guattari. The whole text is relevant because it is in the LETTER that he replies most clearly to the accusation that he is blocked inside philosophy, recuperating the marginals for his own academic profit without taking any risks himself.
Deleuze’s LETTER 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 are 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 essential to bear in mind 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 in this book is not that of fatigue, nor does it incarnate a sort of after-time of the zombie-like “survival” of philosophical abstraction. The affect is “sobriety” and the time is ripe for them to “speak concretely”, the mood is not one of exhaustion but of “grace”. The book is not centered on a reflection on limits, these limits are assigned to the history of philosophy, but on a new creation of concepts outside the limits of standard philosophy (=the history of philosophy). Deleuze and Guattari have already, when this book is published, analysed for over 20 years the different régimes of signs, and shown how signification is just one régime. They have shown how the standard philosophical book is based on the codification of fluxes, and have written together several books outside this philosophical codification, where a-signifying particles are connected to the outside. Philosophy is performance and transformation for them, before it is codified into signification.
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). For Deleuze there is no dualism where philosophy “observes” and “recuperates” while non-philosophy “lives” and “performs”, this is precisely the malevolent reading rejected in the LETTER, and at the beginning of RHIZOME, the experimentation is inassignable.
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 “Laruellians” (if such a thing can exist) tend to quote. Laruelle 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 case study for our evaluation of Laruelle’s own practice of reading, as Deleuze 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 call to the disorganization of all systems, their reduction to transcendental material to be used in non-standard ways, and the reversion to immanence that Laruelle invokes. Laruelle is a good non-philosopher but he is not the first, nor does he go the closest to immanence.
Laruelle’s Philosophy II was an incoherent phase of his research mixing immanence and scientism in a “non-philosophy” which 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 that he denounces, 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 its presence in the work of past and rival thinkers, and must learn to see that philosophy has always been coupled with non-philosophy and with non-standard philosophy, and that he was blind to this before.