FREEING MULTIPLICITIES FROM THE PRISON OF DIFFERENCE

I have been discussing Laruelle’s preface to THE PRINCIPLE OF MINORITY (one could also translate this title as THE MINORITY PRINCIPLE, on the analogy with the pleasure-principle and the reality-principle), a book which inaugurated a whole new phase in his philosophical practice. We are very lucky to have such a text as Laruelle is careful at the outset to specify the “emotion” that presided over the rupture not only with the philosophies of his contemporaries, but also with his own previous thought. The book came out in 1981, and the immediately preceding book, BEYOND THE POWER PRINCIPLE, was published in 1975. He came to call this new stage in his philosophical development “PHILOSOPHY II”. Measured in terms of his published books, his Philosophy II extended over a period of 14 years from THE PRINCIPLE OF MINORITY (1981) to the book that inaugurated a new phase (PHILOSOPHY III) in his thought, THEORY OF STRANGERS, published in 1995. The last book in his Philosophy II phase was THEORY OF IDENTITIES (1992).

The emotion described by Laruelle, what Deleuze would call the philosophical affect, is a composite of disappointment with the “contemporary problematic of Difference”, whose hopes he shared in what he will retroactively call his Philosophy I, and of being convinced, seized, enchanted and overwhelmed, by the “Absolute”. Laruelle combines both intellectual and affective predicates in the description of this emotion: conviction and enchantment, “breaking up Representation” and “irruption of the Absolute”, “born from … the encounter of a disappointment and of an as yet unknown demand” (7).

We have seen that this quasi-religious language of the Absolute corresponds to a concept of “the One without Unity”. This concept comes from the conviction that the philosophy of Difference has come to a dead end, that it has given all that it is capable of giving, and that this is not enough. Multiplicities remain imprisoned in the philosophies of Difference, and so remain merely relative. This is what Laruelle “continuous multiplicities”, which he declares to be “identical to the modern concept of Difference” (6). He distinguishes this relative concept, the “contemporary, Greco-contemporary concept of multiplicities” (5), from the

dispersive, unary Multiplicities or Minorities, which are the absolute concept or the essence of multiplicities (6).

This absolute concept of multiplicities is born from an encounter, both intellectual and emotional. But also from a sort of “immediate experience” (to be continued).

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