Philosophy has its masses, they are humans in great number under the condition of psychological, political, and social servitude, and who must be taught, they are potential philosophers. They are exemplified for the best among them as subjects or models programmed by philosophy to teach the others and to elevate them to the practice and to the contemplation of concepts. The multiplicity of the subjected and the rarity of the model-subjects are distributed in hierarchies by the philosophical machine, double of the world, under the guard of the master-Philosopher who ceaselessly reprogrammes the machine and watches over its correct functioning (François Laruelle, LA PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, 149, my translation).
This is the state of standard philosophy, whether it be academic or “para-academic”. It is practiced by standardised experts, no matter how “wild and free” the long process of formatting and standardisation has seemed to them. This process of selection and standardisation knows nothing of what Laruelle calls “gnostic knowledge”, to distinguish it from expert competence in disciplinary domains. He declares that such gnostic knowledge is the attribute of the masses not as “amateurs” reduced to the state of passive lovers and consumers of the doxa, but as “the ignorant” who actively “seize philosophy and the sciences” (151), creating a generic science which is “intrinsically penetrated by philosophy, which in turn is intimately penetrated by science” (191). Not selection, but “superposition”.
Gnostic knowledge is spontaneously “revolutionary” … The immediate fusion by superposition of knowledge and of “simples”, of the subtilities of theory and of the vulgar of the lived, we know that this is the intimate adversary of States and Churches, but also of philosophical Systems and disciplinary Domains, of their specialists who fear above all this seizing of power, as they believe, by the ignorant” (151).
Expert philosophy fears the gnostic masses, those who are not mired in opinion but who practice the fusion of theory and the lived. The idea of the masses “seizing power” seems contradictory with Laruelle’s advocacy of weakness. But this is a problem of perspective. When Laruelle speaks from his own perspective, and thus from the perspective of the masses, he talks in terms of “seizing” or” taking hold of” (s’emparer de) theory. However, as the standard philosophers understand everything in terms of power and privilege, from their own perspective they see this taking theory into their own hands by the masses as a take over or seizing of power (prise de pouvoir).
Note: I am indebted to a discussion with Stephanie Hutchison for helping me get clear on the role of “power” in this analysis.