Laruelle’s style and the “syntax” of the Real: against reductionist readings

I admire François Laruelle’s thought, and I have been reading his work for over 30 years. In particular, I find his recent experiments in “non-standard philosophy” particularly stimulating. But his style has been problematic from the very beginning, i.e. from well before his turn to “non-philosophy”. Contrary to attempts to market his style by praising its new syntax dictated by the syntax of the real, I must object

1) Syntax: Laruelle’s syntax is, most of the time, pretty standard and straightforward. His works are obscure mainly because of his idiosyncratic vocabulary.

2) Real: there can be no syntax of the Real that we are obliged to transcribe in our non-philosophical writing. This would amount to the crudest form of philosophical paradigm of an a-theoretical correspondence with the syntaxic structure of the real;

3) Latinate vocabulary: the principle of style in English is whenever possible to prefer the Saxon word to the Latin. As an inflexible rule this can lead to ridiculous results and so it should be taken as a heuristic rule of thumb, not as an absolute principle. Laruelle’s style comes across as far more abstract in English than it does in French, and it is pretty abstract in French.

4) Religionist reductionism. Laruelle admits himself to having gone through a phase of scientism, and claims to have freed himself from that trap. However, in his non-standard philosophy Laruelle places great emphasis on science. Unfortunately this aspect of his work has not been discussed, or even clarified, very much as his work has often been presented in a reductive religionist context and agenda. This has led to the neglect in English of his most important work, PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD (2010), permeated by Laruelle’s own non-standard extrapolation of modes of thinking originating in quantum physics.

5) Marxist reductionism. In his book INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM (published in French in 2000), Laruelle proposes a concept of “determination-in-the-last-instance” freed from its Althusserian shackles. This has permitted a form of Marxising reading that conveniently forgets that this concept has been reworked by Laruelle in the light of his later non-standard philosophy. The last instance is “pre-primary” and it is not determinist but “quantum” indeterminatist. What the Marxists are doing with the religionists I have no idea. I “have no idea” because fundamental discussion on these points is simply avoided in the literature in English.

6) Lacanian reductionism. Laruelle has trouble freeing himself from the Lacanian and Althusserian vocabulary of his formative years, which perhaps explains his obsessive focus on “science” as a way out of that marasm. This has led to a Lacanian reading where Laruelle theorises a closure within philosophical worlds so absolute that the only contact with the “Real” can only be trauma. This hermetic separation between the diverse worlds, and between a particular world and the real, is totally rejected and rebutted by Laruelle’s appropriation of quantum thinking.

Note: I have tried to clarify some of these issues in a commentary on the first introduction (there are two) to PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD.

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