NON-PHILOSOPHY AS PROTECTIVE CARAPACE: Laruelle and Badiou on intellectual resistance

I think that it is significant that Laruelle introduced the term “non-philosophy” to describe his philosophical activity at the beginning of the 80s, despite its obvious limits (too negative, too binary, incorrect linguistic scope).

Note on linguistic scope: non-philosophy has the prefix “non” appended to the noun philosophy, and so its scope is philosophy. This is a very different case from that of “non-Euclidean geometry”, where the “non” is appended to the adjective “Euclidean” and its scope does not extend to the noun “geometry”. I do not think that this is specific to English, or to the way that “Anglo-Saxons” spontaneously understand these vocables and the scope of the negation.

The eighties is a period that many thinkers have seen as one of reaction and regression. In the introduction to his recently published seminar for the year 1985 – 1986 on Parmenides, Badiou talks of this period as one of the triumph of liberal ideology and of “capitalo-parliamentary” brutality and propaganda:

“It was necessary, starting from 1983, if not earlier, to defend oneself against all contagion by the deleterious atmosphere that was to mark the eighties. The activist hope of new forms of political emancipation retreated, everywhere in the world, under the pressure of an intellectual and material counter-revolution”.

Badiou’s reaction was to construct a protective shell, what he calls a “philosophical carapace”, to keep his philosophical passion and creativity alive despite the increasing hostility to philosophical reflection and to ideological struggle:

“I began to construct a philosophical carapace withhin which it would be impossible to allow oneself to be overcome by renunciation, and even less to become the accomplice of capitalo-parliamentarism”.

Badiou’s solution to the problem of philosophical sufficiency was to deny to philosophy its pretention to unconditional status, and to submit its conceptual creation to a set of “conditions” or “truth procedures”. Laruelle’s non-philosophy fulfilled a similar function.

Non-philosophy was Laruelle’s “carapace”, which explains the double function of the operator “non”, as both negative and pluralising. The negation of hegemonic sufficiency finds its sense in the pluralisation that it permits. The carapace is an alchemical vessel, it protects the material inside and allows it to go through a series of transformations. After a period of experimentation, Laruelle no longer needed the hermetic enclosure and began to move out into the world with a transformed thought. The term “non-standard philosophy” states clearly that he has not fallen into renunciation of philosophy, but has brought to it a heightened degree of intensity and passion.

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2 Responses to NON-PHILOSOPHY AS PROTECTIVE CARAPACE: Laruelle and Badiou on intellectual resistance

  1. landzek says:

    If one must make a ‘carapace’ then it shows that philosophy itself in a potential of able to account for all possibility, is played out in that form. Such that B and L in thier ways mark the end. In so much as people nevertheless see, and it thus does,continue, we have to describe just what exactly happened,and how such descriptions alwAys (still)fail. Thus the end will gain its ‘ending substance’. Thus we might make a mark so that in maybe another 100-200years they might begin to see the true outlines of humanity, to be able to use humanity (all toohuman) in its best capacity. But it wont. 😜


  2. terenceblake says:

    I see the carapace as more ambiguous: a protective shell or armor, and also an alchemical vessel of transformations. Sometimes we need to stick to our ideas to elaborate and articulate them without interference and dilution, sometimes we need to see our tenacity as obduracy and narrow-mindedness that needs to shed the shell and open to a more diverse world. Laruelle’s non-philosophy, Badiou’s subtractive ontology, Latour’s empirical metaphysics are such vessels, useful to some people and for a certain time, not universal and eternal prescriptions.


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